Monday, December 31, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Ashleigh

Quartz: Another year and I’m feeling younger all the time. (grumbles) Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out all these young looking things telling me how much older than are than me at

Speaking of people who don’t look their age, I’ve got Ashleigh here. The other mum to Leiwell and the twin besides that cranky Map. 

Ashleigh: Also known as Ashleigh Beyond the Door, at your service. Have a care how you speak of my Map. It’s not everyone who could stick around a single cottage in a single world, raising some of the creepiest, most disturbing children imaginable. 

Quartz: Eh? These are your children you’re talking about. Aren’t they?

Ashleigh: You sound like Map. Maybe she can just pretend they’re real children, but I’m the one who laid the bloody egg they hatched out of.

Quartz: What? (tries to keep his mouth from falling open and fails) You laid an egg? Which your children hatched out? All of them?

Ashleigh: I was in the Shadow Forest at the time, all right? The impossible is possible there. And no, it wasn’t all of my children. Just Danyel and Tayel. It was actually Christopher who hatched the egg which I laid. Map and Leiwell raised them. (mutters under her breath) Just because the egg came from me doesn’t make them my children. 

Quartz: Ah, so the ones you find creepy and disturbing are the twins. Who hatched from an egg. Did Leiwell hatch from an egg, too?

Ashleigh: Who knows? Dyvian just gave him to me. Told me to take Leiwell to Map and raise him. Yes, Map might call him our son, but he’s Dyvian’s creature. We can’t realy trust him. 

Quartz: So you ran away, afraid of the children who were asked to raise or whom were hatched out of egg you laid, leaving Map to raise them. (strokes his beard) No wonder she’s cranky. 

Ashleigh: Don’t get judgmental. I am what I am, or what’s left of me. Perhaps there was a part of me who could have been a good mother to the boys, but I lost her.

Quartz: Lost her?

Ashleigh: Lost her beyond the Door. I keep opening Doors to other places, other worlds. Every time I do, I lose myself. Or part of myself. It’s hard to remember. 

Quartz: How so?

Ashleigh: It’s hard to explain. I tried to in a collection of stories I wrote called Ashleigh Beyond the Door. I left them in a book for my children, so they’d have something, some part of me. Or perhaps a reason why I wasn’t there. 

Quartz: I thought you left because you found your children too creepy and disturbing to be around.

Ashleigh: I do, but I wouldn’t leave them just because of that. I would have tried harder to be a mother to them. I certainly wouldn’t have left the whole task to Map. (sighs) Who am I trying to fool? It was unforgiveable. I’m trying to make it up to them. At least I’ve been trying since the twins found some of the lost pieces of me. 

Quartz: I’m not sure if I’m following this at all. 

Ashleigh: Look, my family has been alone, isolated from the world for most of their lives. Except for Map who’s chosen to isolate them. What I’ve done is trying to make Map and my sons part of a community. I’m bringing the world to them, neighbors, shops, a tavern, all the things they’ve never had. 

Quartz: This could be another problem if they’re not used to being around people

Ashleigh: It’s better than being alone. A community is being formed whether they like it or not. I’m just going to have the waggons all come and start building. Map and the boys will get used to it. Things will be happier. 

Quartz: For you, perhaps. 

Ashleigh: Are you saying I’m being selfish? 

Quartz: You said it. Not me. 

Ashleigh: Rebuilding Omphalos is the most unselfish thing I’ve ever done!

Quartz: Did you talk to your family about your plans to rebuild before doing it?

Ashleigh: Well, no. I thought this way, there would be less fuss. 

Quartz: In other words, you had a bunch of strangers in waggons show up on the land around your family’s home and said, “Guess what? You’re going to be part of a village! Here are your new neighbors!”

Ashleigh: (slumping) You make it sound so inconsiderate. 

Quartz: I’m feeling more and more for Map. She really is the mother in the family. You’re more like one of the children, running into things without about the consequences. 

Ashleigh: I’ve thought long and hard about this! And what’s wrong with being childlike? It makes me able to relate to my own children more! Share their enthusiasm for everything!

Quartz: Do you? Share their enthusiasm?

Ashleigh: Well…no. They haven’t been that enthusiastic about the growing village. They haven’t really talked to me about it. 

Quartz: Really. 

Ashleigh: Don’t give me that look. My family just needs time to get used to the village…and me. 

Quartz: I’m sure they do. 

Ashleigh: We’ll get to know each other. Given time. 

Quartz: Right. (sighs) Good luck with that. 

Ashleigh: You’re giving me the look again! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Paula's Prompt: A Mantis's Vigil

On November 14, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a praying mantis, a dog, and steps.

This poem was the result...

She sits upon the steps
Claws folded in prayer
The dog barks at her through the window
Not fooled by her display of piety
She might seem small, easy to crush
Yet her claws bring an end to her tiny paramours
Ready to decaptitate any lovers
Not that this matters to the dog
A bug’s love life is of no concern to her
Just that this creature insists on hunting on her porch
This porch belongs to the dog 
Along with all her humans inside
Only a door stops her 
She cannot run this murderous lover off
All she can do is voice her disapproval
A growling chorus of one
Meant to scare off the amourous
Alas, the mantis isn’t frightened off by such sounds
She continues to sit on the steps
Relishing her power as she waits
Until an unwary foot comes down and squashing her

Putting an end to her bold vigil. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Scamper Along with Seven Tricks

Mousetrick: Hello, all you enormous humans and other enterprising individuals who managed to read this blog! Got any cheese with you? Perhaps a little gingerbread?

No? Well, perhaps you'd like a little holiday read? You can scamper along with me in this particular adventure if you click on the buy links below...what adventure? Why, this one!

Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong. A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but I’ve got my whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for me under the holiday shrub. I caught his scent in a dream, which I’ve been sniffing after ever since. Scamper with me through my adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while I win a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Drink Up, Boys, Part 2

On October 24, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving cider, a rug, and a day.

This Tale of the Navel: The Shadow Forest story was the result. I posted Part 2 last Wednesday. Now here is Part 2...

“Maybe that’s enough.” Map lowered her head. Her shoulders drooped, the tension leaving her in a defeated slump. 

“No, I can keep drinking.” Danyel couldn’t disappoint her. He willed himself to stop wheezing, ready to lift the cup once more…

…only to have it snatched from his hands. 

“What are you doing?” Danyel stared at his twin, who now held the mug in his hands. 

Tayel ignored him. He took a huge swig, only to start coughing, dropping the cup…

…which was caught by a slim, pale hand. 

“Leiwell.” Danyel blinked at his oldest brother. He hadn’t even heard him enter the room. 

“It’s not wise to drink too much cider if your body isn’t used to it.” Leiwell shot a stern glance at their mother, even though his voice was soft and gentle. “You shouldn’t rush eating and drinking. It’s not good for you.”

Leiwell lifted the cup to his lips and quaffed the same amount Tayel had without coughing. “I can swallow this much, but I couldn’t at your age.”

“I didn’t mean to rush them.” Map let out a sigh, the wrinkles returning to her brow. “I just want all three of you to be as part of this world.” She shuffled toward the window to look out at the garden. “Eating and drinking are vital in anchoring you to this time and place.”

Danyel dropped his head, unable to look at her. It was bad enough hearing the heartache in her voice. 

He’d failed. He’d failed as Map’s son. He couldn’t drink, not like a real boy could. 

“We’re here, aren’t we?” Lewiell’s gentle tone softened the shame, parting the disappointment thick in the air. “We can’t eat or drink very much. Not at first. Not for a while.” Map’s oldest son moved closer to their mother. “The longer we’re in your world, the more we’ll be able to. Just give us time.” Leiwell glanced down at the mug in his hands. “I couldn’t eat or drink much when I first came to live with you.” He raised the vessel to his lips and took another hearty swallow. “Look at me now.”

Danyel, Tayel, and Map all watched, holding their breath while Leiwell drained half the mug. Once more he lowered it without coughing. 

“You see?” He smiled at this brothers. “Just give yourself time. Go at your own pace, eating and drinking a little at a time.” He winked at Danyel.

How did Leiwell do it? Just a few words and a smile and everything was all right. Or it felt like it was going to be. 

Danyel hoped he would be like his oldest brother one day. Confident. Able to truly drink cider. Capable of reassuring others they could do the same. It was like magic. A magic which could work on either side of the Door. 

He just needed to learn how to do it. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Drink Up, Boys, Part 1

On October 24, 3018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving cider, a rug, and a day.

This Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest story was the result. It's about Danyel and Tayel, encountering cider, which they have a harder time drinking than someone else might.

Once again, I ended up with a huge story. I decided to split it in two. Here's the first part...

The contents bubbled with the pot with an angry energy, warning Danyel to keep his distance from the fire. At the same time, the alluring aroma of cinnamon, cloves, and apples drew him closer. 

The golden liquid simmered, demanding attention, ready to spill over. Danyel seized Map’s hook hanging on the wall and lifted from the pot from the flames, trying not to tremble, to spill it over. 

The fire crackled, deprived of its object. 

“Angry tongues may scorch and destroy, yet it may calm if you don’t feed the flames.” Tayel glanced up from the rug he lay upon, right in the middle of a scaled dragon and a rampant unicorn within the pattern, covering the sinister woman with snake-like auburn tresses. 

It was a relief not to see her hungry, knowing smile, yet it was disturbing seeing his twin resting upon her. At any moment, she might reach out of the weave and drag Tayel into the depths of the cloth. 

Don’t be fanciful. The memory of Map’s repeated admonition rang through his head. You’ll create monsters out of nothing if you do. 

“What burns warms, offering protection from the cold whiteness of the day waiting outside.” Tayel glanced in the direction of the round window. Unlike Danyel, he suffered no doubts about being fanciful. Reality and fancy were one and the same for Tayel, judging from the way he spoke. 

Perhaps he had a point. Danyel glanced in the direction of the garden, concealed by white mist. Only the tower was visible through the haze, its weathered stone peeking out of the pale curtain. Waiting. 

“Yes.” Tayel reacted to Danyel’s thoughts as if his twin spoken out loud. “Mist creeps unseen, delighting in this icy day as much as it does the night.”

“Perhaps the cider will take some of the chill away.” Danyel crept towards the hearth, breathing in the spicy warm scent. 

Tayel rose to his feet, stepping on the head of a smirking woman, ah, there she was, hiding in the rug. 

The twins both approached the pot with trepidation. Neither Danyel nor Tayel ever ate or drank very much. Only a tiny amount was necessary to satisfy them. Smells, though, they often lived on smells. 

Such as this one. 

Each boy stopped within reach of the bubbling cider. For a moment, the two of them just stood. Danyel inhaled at the exact same moment Tayel did. 

The scent of apples, cinnamon, and close, comforting warmth of the hearth stroked their skin, tickled their nostrils, crept down their throats, and filled their bellies. 

Was there any need to drink any of this concoction?

“Don’t just stand there.” Map waddled into the kitchen, offering the solid comfort of her presence to the homey scents. “Get yourself a cup. Cider was meant to be drunk.”

Feeling shy and a little embarassed, Danyel turned toward the cupboard and its chipped, earthenware mugs. 

One of them had a slight golden gleam to its sides. Danyel brushed his fingers against the side. Laughter ran in his head, clear and bell-like, thumping against his temples with insistent cheer. 

“Was this Ashleigh’s?” Danyel peeked out from beneath his eyelashes, not daring to look directly at Map. 

Ashleigh could be a touchy subject for Map. She’d been a missing part of their lives for so long that he and Tayel took her absence for granted. For Ashleigh had departed long before Leiwell showed up. As for the twins, they’d never met her. She simply a household legend, one which continued to haunt Map. 

“Call her Mother. Not Ashleigh.” Map’s voice was gruff, yet gentle in its rebuke. “You boys are very like her with your fair hair and your violet blue eyes.”

“May I use Mother’s cup…Mother?” Danyel kept his head bowed, his own manner soft and unchallenging. 

“Don’t go giving me titles I haven’t earned. Aye, I’ve tried to be your mother. I doubt I’d measure up to a real one.” Map heaved a sigh, which made her heavy torso quiver. She moved closer to the pot in a swish of skirts and thighs, accompanied by the heavy plot of her feet. Everything about Map was solid, compact. As if she’d squeezed herself into a squat, dense shape rather let herself tower over everyone. 

And Map could tower if she chose. She’d coiled her being up, trying to become as thick and efficient as she could, a rock solid woman no one could dislodge. 

“Go ahead and drink from her cup.” Map studied the cup in Danyel’s hand, lifting her own callused palm to the level of her eyes. “It’s not like she’s using it. Not right now.”

“Yes, she is.” Danyel put as much conviction into his voice as he could. “We’re part of Ashleigh, Tayel and I. Or we used to be.” It was a small comfort to offer, but the words tasted true on his tongue. “If I use this mug, it’s like a fragment of Ashleigh is.”

Map dropped her eyes to the floor. A tremour ran through her frame. 

“Idiot.” Tayel’s thought slapped the inside of his head in reproval. *It’s not the same thing. Not to Map.*

Maybe not. The lines on their mother face’s eased. She allowed a smile to ease the wrinkles around her mouth into something less mournful.

“Aye, there’s some truth to that.” Map nodded and waved in the direction of the pot. “Drink for her as well as yourself.”

A difficult request to grant. Danyel was seldom able to drink very much. How could finish Ashleigh’s portion as well as his own?

He’d just have to. Wouldn’t he? 

Resolute, Danyel advanced on the pot, mug in hand. 

Tayel fixed bright eyes upon, watching his every move. Expecting him to fail. Expecting him to be delicate to drink that much liquid. 

Danyel would show him. He lifted the ladle, pouring some of the golden liquid into Ashleigh’s vessel. Steam rose up to his nostrils, delivering the scent of apple, cloves, and cinnamon. 

He didn’t need to drink anything. This was enough. 

No. He was doing this in Ashleigh’s place, not just for himself. 

He took a tiny sip. His tongue burned with the taste. 

“Go on.” Raw hope glistened in Map’s eyes, roughening her voice. “Drink some more.” Her hands trembled. “It’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” He’d had a sip. He didn’t want any more. 

Map, however, wanted him to drink more. Badly. 

Danyel swallowed a much larger amount. This time it scorched his throat, even as the sweetness overpowered his mouth. 

He started coughing, trying to hold the mug steady in his hand. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Let's Game, Part 3

On July 18, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving demons, a pizza party, and a missing key.

Let's Game, a monster freebie story for my Work in Progress, The Players Are the Thing was the result. Here's the third and final part...

Memories returned to Amberwyne of a bedchamber, a symbol of the hangings while her spirits ebbed, leaving her more and more lifeless. Sometimes her eyes would fix upon that symbol, contemplating in her languid, dreamy state. 

“The resident of this crypt was one of your victims.” Amber blinked back tears, swallowing the bitterness of that old betrayal. “She didn’t know what you were either.”

“She didn’t have the power of the summer to revive her.” A sly note entered her former lover’s voice. “I was able to keep her, only she escaped.”

Amber blinked at this when a hard hand slapped the side of her face. Hard. 

“Depart, foul temptress!” Isolde roared, showing all her sharp teeth. “Get out of her now!”

“All right!” Mona clenched a hand into a fist and smirked at Beatrix. “Take that!”

“Right.” Beatrix shrugged and chewed. “Amberwyne, you feel the light searing through you, sent by your knight’s hand. Fidessa is literally sent flying out of your head.”

“Are you all right?” Isolde leaned close, peering into the other woman’s face. 

“Yes, although I was about to learn more.” Amber rubbed her cheek. “Our mystery key is connected to Fidessa.”

“What a surprise,” Isolde growled. “We cannot trust in Rhiannon. I’ve told you this before.”

“No, we can’t, but I am curious why she, the demon in this tomb, and Fidessa all want it.” Amber glanced around. “It doesn’t appear to be here any more.”

“Maybe that’s for the best.” Isolde lay a hand upon her companion’s arm. “Treasures with a connection to your former mistress bring us bad luck.” She scowled at their surroundings. “Let’s get out of here.”

“And this seems like the right moment to end the game.” Beatrix stretched. She didn’t ask if her players enjoyed the game. She never did. 

Rhane glanced over at Mona. They would be both be back the following week. They couldn’t just leave Amber and Isolde in that tomb. 

Both players gathered their scattered dice together from where they’d rolled across the table. Rhane breathed on her bag, murmuring a silent prayer they’d show her more favor the next time Amberwyne needed them.

Until next week. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Let's Game, Part 2

On July 18, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving demons, a pizza party, and a missing key.

Let's Game, a monster freebie story for my Work In Progress, The Players Are the Thing was the result. I posted Part 1 last Wednesday. Here is Part 2...

“What?” Amber drew her blade, ready to attack her invisible enemy, only this enemy was inside a friend. “I can’t leave you here!” 

“You must!” Isolde barred her teeth, thrusting her hands forward. Her fingers elongated, becoming talons. “I can’t hold her back!”

“No, you can’t!” the demon hissed with Isolde’s voice. “If you wish your friend returned to you, you’ll find this key of mine.” It turned sly and mocking. “Or do you intend to abandon her, Knight of the Eternal Summer?”

Amber gritted her teeth at the sound of a title which felt like it fitted her less and less as time passed. She couldn’t make the summer eternal any more than she could stop the seasons from changing. “We’ve looked. It’s not here.” 

“Perhaps you’re not looking hard enough, eh?” The demon tilted Isolde’s head in a gesture her friend never made. “Perhaps I need to motivate you by snapping this one’s neck?”

“Do that and I’ll never give you your key.” Amberwyne felt the rage stirring within. 

“I’m going to roll to activate Amberwyne’s power.” Rhane shuffled her dice over each over as if they were tiles. “As Knight of the Eternal Summer, she has the power to banish creatures of winter. If this demon resides in this crypt, she should be vulnerable to this.”

The smile vanished from Beatrix’s face, pulling the corners of her lips down. “Go ahead and try.”

Rhane grabbed a handful of dice, breathed on them, and tossed them, praying for success.

Amberwyne opened herself up to the light, burning within her, capable of driving out the force within her friend…

…Rhane gazed down at her dice with dismay. 

Beatrix grinned in her sadistic element as the one overseeing the game. “Well, the good news is you succeeded in freeing your friend. In doing so, you opened yourself up to an old friend of yours.”

“Oh, no.” Rhane gulped, raising a hand to cover her throat.

Isolde shook her head, able to speak and move, no longer controlled by the presence in her head. “Amber, thank you,” she began…

…only to see Amber clinging to her head. 

“Hello, my lovely.” Fidessa whispered within her mind. “So kind of you to have banished the pesky guardian of this place. Have you found my key yet?”

“Your key?” Amberwyne swallowed along with her player. “It belonged to you?”

“Make a perception roll.” Beatrix abandoned the table to go get another piece of pizza. 

Rhane abandoned the dice she’d been using, since they didn’t seem to like her this evening. At all. 

She dug into her gargoyle shaped container to remove seven pale lavender ten sided beauties along with two deep purple ones. 

“Treat me better,” she murmured before shaking them. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and...Christopher?!

Quartz: What in the flaming devils are you doing here?! This blog is for secondary characters only!

Christopher: Remember your role in Fairest?

Quartz: Bah! Stupid scribbler reduced me to a secondary character. A deceased secondary character no less! I decided to start this monthly article and stand up for other secondary characters…which you’ve never been, oh, lead in weekly preludes at the Cauldron. Hmph! 

Christoper: Only now you’re the main character in Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins. 

Quartz: If she ever finishes it, let alone convinces Nine Star Press to publish it. I wasn’t about to allow that scribbler to end things like that for me or Briar. Hmmph! 

Christopher: Things changed for me as well. I went from being the main character in Stealing Myself From Shadows and its preludes to a secondary character in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, A Godling for Your Thoughts? Not to mention she’s shown just how ruthless she can be toward me in My Tool, My Treasure.

Quartz: She didn’t kill you off, did she?

Christopher: That is the question. I’m not sure if I ever was truly alive as you were…are. Not this particular version of me, who’s speaking to you now?

Quartz: What?

Christopher: Damian visualized me and wished me into being. He drew this form from the shadows. He offered me his life in return for the Shadow Forest. Now that I’ve abandoned that life to chase Damian beyond the Door, I may have lost whatever existence in Damian’s world which I possessed.

Quartz: Lad, that isn’t just utter madness, that’s messed up madness. 

Christopher: I sometimes think I’m all about messed up madness.

Quartz: So you’re not sure if you’re real because you walked through a Door? Flimsy existence you’ve got if that’s true.

Christopher: My existence may well have been flimsy. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t precious to me.

Quartz: Well, if it wasn’t precious to you, you shouldn’t just let it go.

Christopher: If letting go brings Damian back, I’ll do it. Not to mention I’m responsible for other lives as well. Half lives, visualized from dreams as I was, yet no less precious. If I went back to my old existence, would Danyel and Tayel lose theirs? This is something else to worry about. 

Quartz: Danyel, Tayel, and their family…you can’t go back to your life without destoying theirs?Sounds like quite the conflict of existence. 

Christopher: Not just for me. (sighs)

Quartz: Right. Damian gave up his existence for you. I doubt he’s happy that you walked through this Door, and threw it all away. Not to mention less than pleased with these twins of yours for taking part of the life he sacrificed for you.

Christopher: I…it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t…I didn’t think-

Quartz: No, you didn’t! Not that your irresponsible mageling has any right to judge. I doubt Damian Ashelocke thinks about what he’s doing either…or how anyone is going to react to what he does .

Christopher: I can’t really argue with any of that. (sad smile) I fear we’ll only begin to understand when it’s too late. Both of us.

Quartz: The two of you may have a lot to answer for in the end.

Christopher: Oh, we’ll answer for a lot long before the end. We are what we are, after all.

Quartz: Just what are you, Christopher? You’ve referred to yourself as a shadow in posts past, but what does that mean?

Christopher: I was born fully formed from the darkness. I feed on the emotions, sentiments, and memories of others. I’m hoping I don’t have to be a predator, who only steals these things. I’d like to give and share them if possible. 

Quartz: What does that mean?

Christopher: I’m only just beginning to figure that out myself. There’s so much more to learn.

Quartz: Right. All this time, talking to you, bonding over our mutual frustration with the scribbler, and you’re still a bloody enigma. 

Christopher: It bothers me, too. Believe me.