Friday, June 29, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Garnet

It's time for my not so dead dwarf to have his monthly interview...

Quartz: About time! How long did you intend to make me wait, scribbler?

Me: Well...

Quartz: Enough of this. Forget it. Forget the characters in other universes, other books. Time to get back to my world and my family.

Garnet: Sounds good-

Quartz: After all, Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins keeps getting pushed to the side for Aissa and Polyxena, A Symposium in Space, Wind Me Up, One More Time, not to mention the bloody, freaking Shadow Forest!

Garnet: Well-

Quartz: I ought to plant duck universes in whatever universe Damian Freaking Ashelocke is prancing around in. Serves him right for acting like the Spider Goddess’s gift to beardless boys-

Garnet: QUARTZ! I’m here, remember? Bewildered younger brother, still wondering if you’re a ghost or what-

Quartz: Eh? No, I’m not really dead. (nose turns red) Er, there’s a story behind it all. The way it looks like, err, my whole falling down dead may have been my fault.

Garnet: What?!

Quartz: The crystal coffin we put our girl in? The one I fused together, using my resonance with the stones? Ah, there might have been a few, er, complications with it. Complications which, ahem, may have, well, rebounded on me. 

Garnet: What?!

Quartz: Never mind that! (fingers his beard, looking highly embarrassed) I’ve already given you too many spoilers…I can’t go revealing too much. 

Garnet: (mutters) As if that wasn’t too much-

Quartz: Never you mind! I’m interviewing you, remember? Not the other way around!
Garnet: Hah, right!

Quartz: So garden gnomes-

Garnet: What?!  (leaps out of his seat, remaining whiskers standing on end) Where?!

Quartz: Heh, heh, no need to fret. Just wondered where you get this fear of garden gnomes from. 

Garnet: (returns to his seat, not smiling) Have you ever seen them move? 

Quartz: They’re garden gnomes. They don’t move. Hasn’t Opal told you that?

Garnet: That’s what they want you and Opal to think! They move when no one is looking. (shudders)

Quartz: Is that so?

Garnet: When they move, they show their true faces. Their sharp teeth hidden behind their jolly, red cheeked smiles. The bat wing ears hidden under their side whiskers and silly caps. The slitted pupils within their eyes no one ever notices under their thick eyelids and laugh lines. 

Quartz: Huh…

Garnet: Think they’re the representatives of the earth element. I say they’re the creations of some mad alchemist, trying to subvert the unwary and overthrow the kobolds with creatures even worse. At least kobolds are more honest in their deceitful behavior.

Quartz: Kobolds are not honest! They’re tricksters who slide up to you, tell you’re important, you’ve got a special place in their magic book, oh, here’s a cottage for your whole family, only to stalk you with marriage proposals and cuckoo clocks! 

Garnet: Huh?

Quartz: Never mind. Your older brother has a lot on his mind, so you pay it no mind. 

Garnet: Just what’s going on, Quartz? You always seemed so worried…I thought it was about our girl, how to undo her sleeping curse. Just what else was happening when you ‘died’? 

Quartz: Don’t trouble yourself about it. And don’t be so timid around garden gnomes. Remember, you’re bigger. 

Garnet: Not much bigger, but I’ll try to be brave. (tugs at his beard)

Quartz: And quit pulling at that! You’ve made a right mess of what were once fine ginger whiskers. Just look at you! I go away and you start developing all these bad habits!

Garnet: It’s because you went away I started developing bad habits! When I lost you and her!

Quartz: Well, she’s happy, now, isn’t she? Married a princess and invited you to the castle where you got to dress up and dance. Maybe it’s time you found some happiness of your own, hmm?

Garnet: Not with a garden gnome, please not with a garden gnome-

Quartz: Of course not with a garden gnome! Fool, don’t give the scribbler ideas! You know what a sadist she can be. (shudders) Ask her for a story and she creates that blasted Nimmie Not to torment me…

Nimmie Not: (from off stage) Hmmph! Some dwarves don’t know how lucky they are! 

Garnet: Yes, she had to come up with those terrifying images of garden gnomes-

Me: You can blame Critical Roll for that. They gave me the idea-

Quartz: Fire and brimstone, scribbler! Don’t go blaming others for your twisted imagination!


Quartz: And don’t forget your homework! Keep reading that book on stones!

Me: (sighs) Never a moment’s peace, even in my own head…

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Pride

On June 6, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving yarn, pride, and a book.

This domestic little tale about Map, Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel from my Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest series was the result.

“Read me a story, Danyel.” Leiwell lay upon the floor at Map’s feets, not moving any part of his body other than his lips.

“You should eat something to recover your strength,” Map scolded, letting a ball of yarn fall from her lap to unroll across the floor. She continued to work her needles, never pausing. “None of you boys eat enough. It’s not healthy.”

“Nor do we need to use the privy,” Danyel pointed out. He walked over to the book shelf. “I thought you’d be pleased that we make less of a stinky mess to clean up than regular people.”

“Being tidy is well and good, but there’s being neat and there’s being a ghost of a human.” Map clacked her needles in an ominous rattle. “You’ve got to eat what grows in the soil to truly ground yourselves in this world.”

“Otherwise a Door might open and we’ll be sucked in by shadows on the wind.” Leiwell opened one green eye and offered his little brothers a sly grin.

“Or you’ll slip through a crack when you’re not watchful,” Tayel muttered. He sat up a cushion, close to Leiwell, yet keeping a certain amount of space between himself and his eldest brother. 

“Don’t talk nonsense!” Map barked, pausing in her knitting to scowl at Tayel. 

“Still there is something to be said for being light on your feet, like Ashleigh when she’s opening Doors.” Danyel took Beyond the Door from its prized place on the shelf. “Imagine drifting between worlds, able to visit as many you wish.”

“Ashleigh is able to do it because she opens Doors, not because she gets drawn through them.” Tayel wrinkled his nose. “Choosing to step into a realm of shadow to reach a new world isn’t the same as being swept off your feet.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Leiwell closed both of his eyes. “Being swept off my feet might be romantic if it’s by the right breeze.”

“It’s not romantic!” Map turned her scowl on her eldest. “Letting yourself be swept off your feet is passive and indecisive!”

“It might be romantic for you, Leiwell.” Tayel rested his chin against his knees. “For Danyel and myself, it would be a nightmarish folly.”

“Why’s that?” Danyel demanded, hugging the book to his chest. “Why must it be folly to let the forces beyond the Door dictate your direction for a change?” He dug his fingers into the cover. “Dreamers use Doors to take them to their heart’s desire. Why not go where the Door wants instead?”

“Anywhere a Door takes you is bound to perilous.” Leiwell opened his eye again to fix it upon his younger brother. “If you let yourself be overwhelmed by forces beyond the Door, you could lose yourself.”

“Only we’re speaking of the Door itself, not the forces beyond it,” Danyel argued. “What exactly is a Door other than a portal to the Shadow Forest or another world?”

“A creation of someone’s desire strong enough to breach a hole between realities.” Tayel hunched forward, hiding his face in his knees. “Only that desire has been touched and painted over by others, every wish that ever opened it.”

“A Door becomes an entity in its own right over time.” Leiwell’s gaze shifted inward to places unknown, focusing on something only he could see. “Who knows what such an entity might want or take pride in? Where would it take you if you offered it that much power?”

“Or choice.” Danyel sat down at Tayel’s side and opened the book. “I’d like to ask a Door if I could. It sounds similar to us in some ways.”

“What do you mean?” Map knotted her thick eyebrows together in concern. 

“Well, we sort of just appeared, didn’t we? Perhaps we, too, were created by people’s desires, Leiwell, Tayel, and I.” Danyel studied the leaflet of the book. “We’d be kin in Doors…huh?” 

Writing he’d never seen before gleamed along the inside of the cover. 

“What is it?” Leiwell opened his other eye. 

“Script materializing across the surface.” Tayel leaned over the book to frown at it. “Once invisible, now revealed.”

“Old writers like Ashleigh Beyond the Door had lots of tricks like that.” Map let out an uneasy chuckle. “Always hiding secret messages within a book’s pages to be revealed at a specific time. What does she have to say?”

Danyel began to read, hearing his own voice drop to a lower, more melodic timber.

“Take pride in who you are
For only you can choose
What form you’ll ultimately take
And what that being will do

Other may try to color you form
Forcing your shape according to their love or hate
To accept their feelings or not is up to you
Your choice will always be your fate.”

“Trust Ashleigh to have that bad bit of poetical wisdom reveal itself at this exact moment.” Map let out a low laugh, which came out a bit choked. 

If it had been Ashleigh. For a moment, Danyel visualized a boy’s heart shaped face with eyes shimmering with different colors. 
“Pride,” he said, tasting the word on his lips. “We’re to take pride in who we are, hmm? If only I knew who I was.”

“It’s every person’s quest to find out.” Tayel lifted his head from his knees. “Search and you will find yourself.”

“Right.” Danyel smiled at his twin and turned the page. “Now which story shall I read?”

“The one about the lost children,” Leiwell murmured, barely moving his lips. 

“Again?” Map groaned. “How about the one where Ashleigh meets the dragon?”

“Happily it’s the same story.” Leiwell grinned at his mother from the floor. 

“All right.” Danyel shook his head and began to read. “‘Once there were children unlike any others…’”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Laurel and Palm

On May 30, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at, featuring the phrase "Gawd, I hate this weather!"

I don't have a lot of characters who talk like that. This brought back memories of my old, forgotten pair of ill-matched dryads, Laurel and Palm. I'd started a story back in the 1990s featuring the two of them. It was put aside, unfinished, and forgotten.

The sentence brought Palm back in all of her brash, loudmouthed glory, along with ability to drive Laurel crazy...:)

“Gawd, I hate this weather!” Palm bared her yellow teeth in the direction of the wind whipping through the trees. Real trees with leaves and foilages, not the monstrous shrubs Palm preferred. 

I breathed in their scent, delighted to hear the murmur of my lost sisters in the wind. Even if they were just ghosts, echoes of a long, forgotten past. 

“It’s gods, not gawd, Palm,” I said, disliking the prim note of disapproval which entered my voice. It was a habitual occurrance whenever I spoke to this unconventional nymph. “We are dryads, remember? Tree nymphs. Lesser deities of nature.”

“Yeah, like I can wrap my head around that fossilized myth crap.” Palm scratched the top of her spiky head. “Live for the now and keep up with the times, I say.”

“We are part of that ‘fossilized myth crap’, you idiot!” I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself at Palm’s brazen challenge to our existence. 

Lack of faith was nothing for a goddess or a demigoddess to laugh about. It brings us as close as we can ever come to death. 

I softened my tone, trying to make it something more reasonable. “If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect others to believe in us?”

“Oh, Laurel, you’re such a scaredy cat! Or maybe I should say scaredly scrub?” Palm dropped a spindly around my shoulders. “Maybe too much weight is, like weighing you down? I’d say you’re way too fat, only we’re not supposed to say fat any more.”

“I happen to have the ideal classical figure, thank you very much!” I slipped around from under her arm. “It’s you who’s too skinny.”

“Ooo, you’re not supposed to say that! Am I, though?” Palm cast a critical look down at her tank top which exposed a flat stomach and cut off jeans. “Has the ideal body type changed? Again?” She chewed on her bright red lower lip. “It’s about time I updated my look. Got to keep up with the times.”

Palm pulled a device out of her pocket, one mortals everywhere were carrying. “Got to keep up with the latest fashions, too.”

“It’s not like dryads even need to wear clothing.” I eyed the small, metallic rectangle. It lit up, flashing tiny icons in her hand. “What’s that? It looks like a cross between a tiny computer and a cell phone.”

“Laurel, Laurel, how many times do I have to tell you to get with the times?” Palm brandished the flashing object in my face. “This happens to be a smart phone! It does the work of a computer and a phone alike, because, like, it’s smart!”

“A smart phone?” I eyed the small device with a sinking sense of unease. Once more, mortals had come up with something which could challenge the gods. Gods took exception to that sort of thing. They always did. 

Only I hadn’t heard from the gods in a long time. Too long. 

Once Artemis had roamed the woods beneath our trees with her band of nymphs. Her brother often lurked behind her, hoping to catch the unwary straggler in an embrace. I used to see muses and graces resting beneath our leaves, inspiring mortal artists who wandered into nature, seeking that creative touch. 

Goddess and god, nymph and grace, muse and their chosen, they’d stopped coming. At first it had been a blessing, to be left in peace. Too much time had passed. I was starting to worry. 

“Don’t worry about it!” Palm grinned in brash ignorance of serious matters to concern herself with, other than what was trendy. “As long as I have this, we’ll never be alone.” She stroked her smart phone. “This connects us to people and faith, all we need to survive.”

“What makes you think that?” Tiny images of women in loose clothing once favored by goddesses danced across the tiny screen. “Wait, how did all of that get there?”

“Awesome, isn’t it? I can see what models are wearing in Paris and Milan with this!” Palm squinted at the screen. “Best keep an eye on Shanghai, too. I get the feeling a lot of fashion will be up and coming from there.”

“Palm, what are you talking about?” I gazed at the proud, self declared modern dryad, bent over her ‘smart phone’. 

“The future, of course! A future without gods.” Palm shook her head, short fonds of hair flying across her face. “Better be ready for it, Laurel. Trends are the new gods.” She leaned closer to the girls on the tiny screen. “They dominate the world, chasing out all that opposes them. Mortals may cry about them, yet they’re at the mercy of them.” She winked at me. “Just as we were once at the mercy of the gods.”

“I don’t believe you.” I shut my eyes, pressed my hands against the sides of my head. “Something so frivolous wouldn’t replace the gods. They couldn’t.” My fingers might splinter if I wasn’t careful. “The gods were too powerful!”

“Well, where, like, did you think they got their power from? Mortals! Faith and worship, girlfriend.” Palm waved her smart phone at me. “Don’t see too many humans offering sacrifices to the gods these days, do you?” She ran her thin fingers across the tiny screen, making the women vanish. “This is the sort of thing they worship now.”

She held up an image of a scowling, orange-haired man. 

“No.” I backed away. “Mortals aren’t that foolish. I refuse to believe they are!” 

I turned my back and fled from Palm and her ‘smart phone’ with its substitute gods. 

“It doesn’t matter what you or I believe in, Laurel!” Palm called after me. “What matters is what humans believe in. They shape our world, like it or not. You’d better find a way to exist in it if you want to survive.” 

I retreated into my tree, losing my human shape, not wanting to listen to any more. 

The world was changing whether I liked it or not. Palm tree nymphs. Smart phones. Trends and orange haired men where the gods had once been. 

Palm was right. I had to find a way to exist in their world if I wanted to survive. 

May the lost gods curse her for forcing me to acknowledge this. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Reflections of Her

On May 23, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted as her Wednesday Words prompt at a duck, someone is late, and a change of plans.

I already knew Damian Ashelocke didn't like chickens or the fowl deities Gabrielle decided to have at the Navel. I've just found out he's not too fond of ducks either in this flashback tale of back when it was just 'Brie and himself at the Navel...

Warning, this story contains what appears to be non consensual actions between ducks. I used to see this myself on a semi-regular basis when I lived in an apartment on a duck pond. Often I'd shake my head, thinking, "If you were humans, you'd be in jail."
 Go figure. (another wry grin)

The bird’s bill was rounded, less ferocious. His green and black feathers were muted, sleek, and tapered. The duck paddled across the pond, seeming more mild mannered and easy going than any chicken. 

Until he mounted another duck with the same green and black feathers, holding him under the water. 

The other bird struggled, but his captor held him fast. 

“Duck on duck rape,” Gabrielle observed, utterly unfazed by the attack on the pond. 

“You’re late,” Damian muttered, glancing at his master out of the corner of his eye. 

‘Brie leaned forward to press her hands upon her knees under her full skirt. Feathers hung down from a girdle around her waist. 

“Ah, well, I made you wait in a lovely spot.” Gabrielle glanced the water. 

The two ducks surfaced. The victim spluttered, shaking water off his back. The attacker swam away, looking entirely too satisfied. 

“Both males.” Gabrielle lifted a hand to cover her twitching lips. “To think there are those whom think this is against nature.” She raised an eyebrow at Damian. “Spoken like someone who knows nothing of nature.”

“How can you be so calm?” Damian pointed a shaky finger at the damp duck. “This poor creature was just violated! We ought to…” He trailed off at the sight of the violated creature in question, paddling after his attacker with a coy quack. 

“What ought we do?” ‘Brie cocked her head in her protege’s direction. “Just what should we do?”

The victim continued to swim, side by side with the duck who despoiled him. The guilty bird held his feathered head high, without a care in the world. Nor did he turn back to look at the one who followed him. 

“This isn’t right. He shouldn’t get away with it,” Damian muttered. “Birds are trouble. Almost as bad as spiders.”

Ravager and victim let out a series of derisive quacks as if they were laughing at the fool arachnocratic boy. The two ducks paddled away from Damian on webbed feet. 

“Every animal can be bad, including the human shaped ones.” Gabrielle tilted her face up in the direction of the setting sun. “I considered collecting wooden ducks for the Navel, only their feathers and bills are too subdued. Chicken deities are much more fitting for my shop.”

“Why?” Damian studied the purple and rose clouds, swimming across the sky. “Why do you like about them?”

The question lay between mentor and student, heavy with double meaning. 

For a moment, Damian fancied the colors in the heavens were swimming in his aunt’s irises. The ones closest in hue to his own. 

Was there any place in this world where she wasn’t watching, waiting? Somewhere he wouldn’t see a reflection of her predatory attitude acted out by a bird or a beast? 
“Maybe a better question is why don’t you like them?” ‘Brie turned to gaze at her protege from beneath lowered eyelashes. “Think about it, Damian.”

Damian bit his lower lip and looked down at the ducks. 

They drifted over water dappled with light, all conflict forgotten. 

If only Damian could do the same. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Tale of the Navel: Fowl Images

On May 9, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at involving a chicken, a fever, and a cold night.

A huge Tale of the Navel was inspired, involving Damian Ashelocke. I posted the first part last week. Picking up right where we left off, here's the next part...

Juno guided Damian through the stuffy warm of narrow aisles, looming shelves, and dim candlelight. Every tiny flame reflected off the gleaming metal statue perched on the counter. 

To Damian, it was like a nightmare come to life. It had the same head as the bird in the window, rendered in tarnished metal. The head was attached with steel feathered neck to a muscular human torso with ample breasts. Giant wings stretched out of its forearms. Feathers stuck out of its legs, which ended in claws, crushing the stiff remains of what might have been an eggshell. 

Juno gazed at the statue, mouth hanging open. For the first time, she was at a complete loss for words. 

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Gabrielle’s voice floated out from the darkness behind the counter. “That is the question.”

As if to punctuate that question, an enormous brown hen, all angry beak and open wings perched upon Gabrielle’s hat, which might have once been a top hat. ‘Brie wore a long brown vest over a loose, long sleeved white tunic. Her full skirts matched the hen’s feathers perfectly. 

The chicken itself sparkled. Its feathers were covered with sequins. 

“‘Brie, dear.” Juno regained her voice. “What is all this?”

“This, my dear Juno, is me taking your advice.” ‘Brie spun around in a surprisingly graceful pirouette in spite of the poultry. “I’m expressing a touch of me, previously missing in the Navel.” 

Gabrielle stopped twirling to offer the statue a bow. “Isn’t she exquisitely bizarre?”

“Err, well, she is bizarre, for sure, dear.” Juno glanced at the statue, only to look down with flushed cheeks. “Exactly how is this, well, you?”

“Why, it’s a paradox, isn’t it?” Gabrielle beamed at Juno, delighting in the question. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Some may find the question silly unless they examine it any depth.” ‘Brie grinned and rubbed her hands together. “Rather like the Navel and myself.”

“Ah, yes. I see what you mean, dear.” It was obvious from Juno’s wrinkled nose that she didn’t or didn’t care to. “While you were getting in touch with you, err, fowl side, your lovely boy here got chilled, wandering about at night. I fear he has a fever.”

“What?” All levity left ‘Brie. She leaned forward to eye Damian, moving to his side. “I didn’t think you could get sick.”

“I didn’t either.” Damian attempted to smile and failed. “Guess there’s still a lot for me to learn.”

Gabrielle’s hand shot out to cover his forehead. Unlike Juno’s, her touch was light and sure. “You’re burning up.”

“Not so much.” ‘Brie’s fingers seemed to absorb some of the heat, bringing him down to something cool and reasonable. The counter, Juno, and the statue all became more solid and focused. 

A shame about the statue. It appeared even more menacing when his fever cooled. 

“If you’re going to look after a delicate sweetmeat like this, ‘Brie, you should truly look after him.” Juno waved a finger with some severity at Damian’s master. “It’s quite careless of you, allowing him to wander around by himself. Someone might steal him away.”

For a moment, a predatory gleam sparkled in Juno’s eyes. It was similar to the look his aunt got when she found a prospective Valentine, or how Vanessa always looked at him. 

If Juno wasn’t an arachnocrat, she was something very like one. 

Gabrielle was not. She raised an eyebrow at Juno, removing her hand from Damian’s forehead. 

“I don’t allow Damian to do anything.” ‘Brie’s gaze were bright, blue, and clear, filled with a quiet pride which made Damian’s chest ache. 

There she was. This was the woman he’d chosen to leave his aunt for. This was the master he’d decided to serve. 

“He makes his own choices while under this roof and living in Omphalos.” Gabrielle cocked her head, a small smile playing about her lips. “I just hope he’ll show some consideration for my feelings when he does.” She fixed her cerulean gaze upon him. “I worry when you stay out in the cold and catch a fever.”

Damian dropped his head, unable to face the anxiety within those blue orbs. 

“Such an odd idea! Well, I’ve said what meant to say, dear. I shan’t bother you since Damian needs to rest and recover.” Juno pivoted toward the door, nearly knocking over a box on one of the shelves. 

“Only remember this.” She arched her double neck to regard both of them. “A boy like Damian Ashelocke always has someone keeping an eye on him. Since you’ve involved yourself in his life, they’re now watching you.” One of the wrinkles on her face quivered. “Take care, my dear.”

With that warning, Juno waddled toward the door, opened it, setting the door chimes to tingling once more. They continued to ring after she’d departed.

“Well, ‘dear’, you’ve just met one of our regulars.” ‘Brie heaved a sigh and lifted a hand to scratch the chicken’s claw on her hat. “Happily she seems to have taken a liking to you.”

“I’m not sure if the feeling is mutual,” Damian muttered, delighting in being able to shape his words in a more coherent fashion. Whatever daze he’d been in, ‘Brie had drawn it out of him with her magical fingers.
“Just smile at her.” ‘Brie dropped her hand to smooth the front of his black vest. “A smile is a powerful weapon, capable of confusing and distracting the most grabby of customers. Looking troubled may only encourage her to pinch your cheeks and hug you.”

“While I might stop her in her tracks with a smile.” Damian considered her words. “Thank you, master.”

“You don’t need to call me master. ‘Brie is fine.” Gabrielle withdrew her hand. “Yes, it should stop any unwelcome touching and fondling.” She raised an eyebrow. “Unless it isn’t unwelcome.”

“It is. Unwelcome, that is.” Damian shivered. “I think she may be a spy for my aunt.”

“She might be,’ ‘Brie agreed, sounding completely unsurprised by this idea. “All the more reason to keep all eyes on her, while keeping her at a distance.”

“I doubt nothing will succeed in keeping her at a distance than these…chickens.” Damian tried to keep the revulsion out of his voice and failed. “Not to mention any other customers.”

“Don’t you like them?” Gabrielle sounded a bit aggrieved. “They liven the place up like nothing else.”

“Liven up is not how I’d describe the effect they have.” Damian eyed the metal monstrosity once more. “They’re just plain disturbing.”

“Oh, good!” ‘Brie grinned at him. “Something that disturbs arachnocrats could be very useful if you truly want to keep your aunt at a distance.”

She had a point. This made Damian give the chicken statue a considering glance. 

It appeared to leer at him, while still menacing with its beak. 

No. An alliance with this thing, even against Duessa would never work. 

“You’re forgetting that I’m an arachnocrat,” he grumbled, looking down at his feet. 

“Not anymore.” Gabrielle winked at him. “Is that the entire point to you’re being with me?”

Damian couldn’t answer. 

Yes, it was. At the same time, it wasn’t. 

He was with ‘Brie to learn. It was the next step of a journey he was taking, one he never thought he dared to take. 

At first, he’d thought he’d serve the power he’d seen within her, worship it, do whatever he could to reflect it. 

A daring, almost unheard of ambition was taking shape in his heart, one he didn’t dare admit, not even to himself. 

To nourish his own light. To feed it. To let it grow.

Ashelockes never used light. They were weavers of web, darkness, and shadow, taking pride in their sinister deeds. For an Ashelocke to use light was perverse, obscene. 

Only Damian was no longer an Ashelocke. Here he had a chance to decide for himself what his future would be. 

Only Duessa might be watching his every move, through this regular customer he’d just met. 

If he wanted to truly try this deviant notion, he’d need to go somewhere out of Duessa’s reach. 

Somewhere beyond the Door.