Monday, September 30, 2019

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz vs. Rolf, Alf, and Leif

Quartz sits in front of a red curtain facing three little old men, even smaller than himself with long gray beards, tall, pointed red caps, and striped red and white stockings. 

One is a little stouter than the others and smiles a little more. The second peeks out with wrinkles around his own bright, mischievous eyes from beneath his cap. The third has no eyes, since the brim of his cap covers them and exceptionally long legs. 
Quartz: So it’s you three. You’re back. 
Rolf: (He’s the stout, smiling one) Yes. We’ve returned. 

Alf: (He’s the one with the bright eyes peeking out beneath the brim of his cap.) With names. 

Leif: (He’s the one with no eyes and the longest legs, not to mention the longest gray beard.) Not to mention a more defined sense of self. 

Quartz: Huh, that’s why you three look different than when I last saw you.

Rolf: Character development is a wondrous thing. 

Alf: Not to mention story revision. 

Leif: We still love cats, though. Are Sage and Cinnamon around? (He sniffs the air.)

Quartz: I certainly hope not. Bloody attention grabbers, or perhaps I should say clawers. Particularly that Sage. Enough about the cats. Tell me about you.

Rolf: We’re nisse. 

Alf: A sort of sprite or elf from Danish and Norwegian folklore. 

Leif: Not that we’re naming any nations in Wind Me Up, One More Time. 

Rolf: Not unless our editor wishes us to. 

Alf: We have other names in other places. 

Rolf: We help with the household chores.
Leif: We don’t like gray caps. 

Rolf: We take offense sometimes over matters humans sometimes find strange. 

Alf: We tend to be helpful, though.

Leif: We like rice pudding. You didn’t forget the rice pudding again, did you?

Rolf: Don’t worry. Someone will offer us rice pudding if our host doesn’t. 

Quartz: Right. I remember that you like your rice pudding only too well, along with cats. So you’re sprites. That makes you Nimmie Not’s cousins. (mutters to himself) That explains a lot. 

Rolf: Well, sort of. 

Alf: We’re actually dolls. 

Leif: Toy reproductions of nisse. 

Rolf: Sold in a shop. 

Alf: Only we weren’t sold. We were left on a shelf. After Christmas. 

Leif: With gray caps! 

Rolf: Until we were rescued. 

Alf: Spoilers!

Leif: No spoilers. 

All three nisse shut up, reach out to pull down their caps and stare at Quartz, except for Leif, who has no eyes. 

Quartz: Er, no, you don’t want to give away any spoilers. Is there anything you can give away? I mean say. 

Nimmie Not: (his voice comes from behind the curtain) Stop flirting with other sprites!

Quartz: (his nose turns bright red) I’m not!

Rolf: (He smiles at readers) Our story is great for children!

Alf: LGBTQIA+ friendly and G-rated! 

Rolf: Read our story for Christmas!

Leif: And try to do something for nisse forced to wear gray caps. 

Rolf: Please. It depresses our brethren. 

Alf: It isn’t very festive.

Leif: And pet your cats!

Rolf: That’s right!

Alf: Right now!

All three nisse: Pet your cats!

Quartz: Right. I think that’s enough. (He coughs)

Nimmie Not: (A small sprite, yet taller than any of the nisse appears in a cloud of yellow smoke) Now, now, my dear Quartz, be nice to my kinsmen. After all they’re related to me. Sort of.

Quartz: What’s that supposed to mean?

Nimmie Not: Pay no attention to him, good sirs. (He speaks to the three nisse.) Here. A little token of our appreciation and hospitality. (He snaps his fingers.)

Three bowls of rice pudding appear at the feet of each nisse. 

Rolf: Now that’s more like it!

Alf: I call that classy!

Leif: Your husband has style, Quartz.

Quartz: He’s not my husband!

Nimmie Not: Now, now, don’t be shy, my dear Quartz! Pay him no mind, gentlemen. Please enjoy your rice pudding. (He rubs his spindly hands together.) 

Quartz: Now you just wait one moment-

No one waits. The guests are all too busy lifting their bowls to their mouths and slurping down rice pudding. 

Quartz: (grumbling) Can toys actually eat?

Nimmie Not: Oh hush. As you yourself say, all things are possible on the Fourth Wall. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On July 10, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a mess, snoring, and a cookie.

This Tale of Omphalos freebie story about Danyel and Tayel was the result...

Danyel reached out for one of the freshly baked cookies cooling on the kitchen table. Not that he normally craved food, but the smell of ginger and cinnamon tickled his nostrils, awakening his stomach. 

Was he actually hungry?

Map would have been delighted at his desire to eat. Only she’d warned him to wait until they cooled down. Surely she’d understand. Right now she was sitting on her chair, snoring with her mouth open. 

She wouldn’t miss just one. 
He reached out to grab a particularly large one which had rippled and puffed out in a particularly tempting manner…

…only for a painful, burning sensation to bite his fingers. 

“Ow!” Danyel withdrew his stinging hand in a hurry, knocking over the rack of cooling cookies. 

“Oh, no!” He managed to right the tray, saving several of the sweets from falling. This didn’t stop four of them from hitting the floor. They crumbled, sending chunks and crumbs in every direction on the stone ground. 

“Greed doesn’t pay.”

Danyel looked up from the mess to see his twin gazing at him with solemn, reproachful eyes. “Neither does stealing sweets from the rest of your family.” 

Tayel knelt and began grabbing chunks of warm crumbs off the floor, shoving them into his mouth.

“You’re eating?” For a moment Danyel could only stare in shock at his twin, who didn’t usually want food any more than he did. “That’s disgusting, picking stuff off the floor like that!” He knelt down next to his twin and started to collect the pieces. “Save some for me!” 

“Greed reflects greed. Map likes a clean kitchen,” Tayel observed with his mouth full. “I’m just helping out.”

The twins chewed, swallowed, grabbing as much of the mess on the floor as they could. Yes, it was disgusting. It smelled delicious. It tasted delicious. They were eating, they were actually eating more than a tiny amount, and it was good! No wonder Map wanted them to do this…

…only their stomachs rolled over with a painful lurch, reacting to the food they’d eaten. 

The twins spared each other a glance before cupping a hand over their mouths. It was another race, this time to the door and the flower beds outside the window where they vomited up everything which they’d eaten.

“Ugh.” Danyel wiped his mouth, looking at the mess in guilty shame. “That truly was disgusting, yet somehow a relief.”

“Not human enough to handle that much solid food, yet human enough to try.” Tayel stood up on wobbly legs. “I agree. Disgusting.” 

Still feeling shaky, they headed back into the cottage, only to find Map awake, in the kitchen, standing with her arms crossed over the mess. 

Danyel and Tayel shrank back from the severe look of bristling eyebrows she gave them. 

“Well, I should be angry.” Her lips twitched in spite of her scowl. “I think you’ve just been punished enough, though.”

The twins exchanged guilty glances. 

“Sorry. The cookies smelled so good. You’re always wanting us to eat. I thought you wouldn’t miss just one.” Danyel scuffed the floor with his toe.

“Where Danyel goes, I can’t help but follow.” Tayel peeked out at their mother from behind golden eyelashes. “When one is tempted, the other can’t help but give in.”

“I see.” Map’s lips were definitely twitching.

“I guess we just proved we’re not much like real boys.” Danyel gazed at the few remaining crumbs on the floor. His stomach lurched in a grumpy fashion before quieting down. “Eating all that and being unable to keep it down.”

“On the contrary.” Map finally allowed the grin creeping over her mouth to show itself. “You acted exactly like real boys. Stealing and making yourself sick is quite normal.”

The twins exchanged startled glances.

“What I’m going to have you do about it, however, is also normal for mothers who’ve caught their sons doing such a thing.” Map pointed a finger in the direction of the broom in the corner. “Sweep up the rest of the mess. Now.”

Danyel and Tayel hung their heads before heading where she pointed. 

Map covered her mouth, stiffling a little chuckle, watching them go. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On July 31, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a loaf of bread, sun, and a corn-husk doll.

I'd never heard of corn-husk dolls before. I needed to look them up. I found this public domain picture of one, which goes along with the poem which came to me in response to this prompt...

The corn-husk doll stands in the sun
Guarding a loaf of bread
Waiting for someone to return
Unable to recall the one who abandoned her
Left her standing in the sunlight
In a silent vigil over an abandoned lunch
Wondering what happened to the owner of the table
Alone with the silence filling the kitchen
The only sound is the rustle of the field outside
The tall stalks swallow all movement, all noise
Leaving the doll to the quiet of the empty room
Faceless, unable to see the bread or anything else
Even so, she keeps watch
Waiting to a footstep to return
For a beloved shadow to block out the sun
A familar warm hand to pick her up
Listening for that one special voice

Reminding her of her forgotten name. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On July 17, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving solid brass statuary guarding a door.

This poem was the result...

Half man, half monster
All gleaming tarnished brass
He stands watch before the gates
His twin at his side
His exact likeness in metal
Possessing the same distorted beauty
Showing the beast in a half smile
Exposing fangs and snake-like tongue
Never looking at each other
Never directly meeting anyone’s gaze
Heavy-lidden glances and snarls quickly hidden
Only the intruder sees the truth behind their faces
The menace lurking behind the metal
The nightmare only peeking from within the brass
It’s the last thing trespassers ever see
Right before they flee in terror 
Trying to escape from the horror encased
Something far worse than each growling visage
No one else sees that terrible truth
Which only the guilty behold
The innocent don’t even know it’s there
Those invited barely give the guardians a glance

Noting only that they could use a polish. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On July 3, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a celebration, fear, and bright lights.

This freebie story for A Godling for Your Thoughts? (the third in my planned novels for Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest, currently under revision) was the result. Actually it felt more like it could have been a segment within the novel itself. I wonder if there might be an opportunity to insert the main body of the novel itself?

The lights from the torches and candles sitting on top of the benches, blazing from the posts along the street dazzled his eyes. Neighbors laughed in hearty voices, but there was an edge buried within their merriment. 

Tayel shut his eyes and clapped his hands over his ears, willing it all to hurt a little less. A leaf might as well have asked a fierce wind not to blow it about. 

“This is so…” Danyel shivered, as overwhelmed and unused to so many people in one place as he was. “I never realized this much noise was possible.” Wonder mingled with his fear even as he gazed from face to face. 

“How nice or you, even if it’s painful for me.” Tayel shut his eyes, light and noise pushing against his closed eyelids. “Everyone’s desires come together in a chaotic cauldron, threatneing to boil over.”

“I think they’re just enjoying themselves.” Danyel frowned and looked around at the villagers, the residents of Omphalos. 

Maggie was doing a crazy jig with a mug of ale in one hand. Jupitre caught her around the waist and planted a wet kiss on her cheek. This should have drawn the ire of Jupitre’s wife, but no, Juno was busy laughing and chattering non-stop to Leiwell, the twins’ older brother, her round face flushed. She kept moving her hand up Leiwell’s arm and reaching for his leg. Leiwell managed to dodge her and distract her with a mug of ale he held ready for her like an attentive servant. It was impossible to tell what he’s thinking. Leiwell allowed this noisy neighbor to paw at him, keeping a bright smile on his face and offering her the goblet from time at time, but he kept his eyelashes lowered, until Tayel caught his gaze. Green eyes flickered with a reflection of the same discomfort and fear Tayel felt before vanishing, retreating behind a mask of charm and courtesy. 

Map sat on a bench nearby, scowling, arms folded in front of her, not even pretending to have fun. Drink after drink was placed before her by an attentive Melyssa, as eager to please her as Leiwell pretended to please Juno. Meggie sat next to Map, entirely too close, nudging the older woman, and filching the drinks which were in front of her. 

Tayel glanced around the lights for Ashleigh, to see how she was reacting to all this. Her laughter should have been the loudest of all, for she’d had a hand in building this tavern. Instead she was off to the side, engaged in intent conversation with Gryluxx of all people. The tailor wore a nasy grin, lifting his beringed hands in a description perhaps of a bird in flight, parodying its collision with some sort of predator. 

Ashleigh didn’t smile back. From time to time, she glanced at Map, at Leiwell and Juno, at the twins themselves. Tayel caught her eye when it turned his way. It glittered with silvery distress. 

“Fear stalks the festivities, radiating from other sources than our hearts.” Tayel crossed his arms. “Only two have truly given themselves up to revelry.”

“Huh?” Danyel might act like an idiot much of the time, but he wasn’t one, not really. He glanced around, noting their oldest brother with Juno and their unhappy mothers. “All right, Leiwell is being too charming, Juno is enjoying it too much, Mel is wishing Map would be more charming, and Map is having none of that, but what in the solid world would Ashleigh want with Gryluxx?” Danyel frowned, studying the more wayward of their mothers with Omphalos’s most unpleasant resident, except for maybe Thomas. “What’s worse, what does Gryluxx want with her? His intentions are never pleasant.”

“Nothing remains hidden for long in a small place like a village with fewer spots to hide away in.” Tayel studied the grim face of the woman, who’d been a missing enigma for too long in the twins’ lives. “Ashleigh has secrets. The two of us are among those secrets, secrets a rude raven is determined to peck at.” 

“The rude raven being Gryluxx.” Danyel let out a long, shuddering sigh. “I guess it’s been fairly obvious we’re hiding things. Gryluxx thinks all secrets are his to find out and expose.”

“Don’t underestimate Ashleigh.” Tayel lowered his head, even as the woman in question lifted her chin. “She changed, diminished, yet continued to exist for a long time beyond the Door, never losing sight of her goal. Gryluxx won’t find her easy prey.”

“Gryluxx is determined to make everyone his prey.” Danyel bit his lower lip. “Look at the glee on his face. He only gets that happy when he’s doing something hurtful.”

Gryluxx grinned at Ashleigh like a sadistic tom cat from a faerie tale who’d caught a pixie in his paw, only to start tormenting her as if she were a fat, juicy mouse. 

Tayel scowled. He didn’t care much for Ashleigh or her plans for Omphalos. At the same time, it bothered him to see her cheerful confidence being shredded. Especially when Gryluxx was doing the shredding.

“That’s right.” Danyel reacted as if Tayel had said all of these things out loud. He glanced at his twin’s face and began walking towards the tailor and their mother. 

A bit surprised, yet touched, Tayel stepped in time with his brother. The two of them walked over to Ashleigh. 

“Ah, here come my pretty little servants.” Gryluxx bared his teeth at the twins in a yellow grin. “Enjoying the festivities, are you? I was just having a chat with your mother.” He gave Ashleigh a mocking bow. “Tonight is bringing back so many lost memories from a past she’d almost forgotten. Particularly with the people here.”

Ashleigh looked down and trembled, unable to look at either of her sons. 

“Beware of looking too closely at what was lost.” Tayel crossed his arms and allowed his chill power to flare within. “They may have menace for more than their former owner.”

“That’s right,” Danyel chimed in, letting a little of the drama he showed when reading a story enter his voice. “Many a door once opened may have been shut for a good reason.”

It was exactly the sort of thing Tayel himself would have said. He shot his twin a startled glance. 

Danyel winked at him, lips twitching with a grin he held back.

Tayel felt his cheeks redden. 

“What’s all that supposed to mean?” Gryluxx looked from face to face. “Have you seen something about me? Has she?” He turned a scowl with hairy black eyebrows kniting together in Ashleigh’s direction. “Just what have you remembered?”

“Why, you were the one telling me about all the things I’d forgotten.” Ashleigh crossed her arms and grinned. “It’s bringing back a few things about you. A few interesting things.”

“Don’t try to threaten me!” Gryluxx’s nostrils flared as he quivered all over, glaring from face to face. “You need me in Omphalos. I won’t be bullied or pushed around!”

“What a curious coincidence. Neither will I.” Ashleigh’s grin turned wicked as she held out her hand. “I’m so glad we understand each other.”

Gryluxx stalked away from Ashleigh, shoving Danyel away, marching over to where his wife sat, drinking Map’s ales. He starked barking at her.

“What are you doing, you lazy cow? You think you can drink yourself into a stupor, forgetting your husband? Pull yourself together!” 

“Now, no need to lose your temper,” Map looked up at him with fearless, dark eyes. “She was just having a drink with me during a celebration. Surely you have no objection to your wife taking part in this celebration?”

“I don’t need to be lectured by you.” Gryluxx glowered at Map. “I’ve had just enough out of you, your freakish woman, and your harlot sons. Why don’t you get out of Omphalos and return to whatever hole you crawled out of?”

“I lived here long before there was an Omphalos.” Map rose her feet. She was shorter than Gryluxx, yet she gave off a strong, menacing vibe which thrummed in the air. “Maybe it’s you who should get out and return to your hole, hmm?”

“Now, now, don’t fight.” Meggie glanced with bleary eyes at Map. “Master, violence has never suited you.”

“Meggie, don’t call me that.” Map took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m not your master.”

“That’s right!” Gryluxx pulled his wife off the bench to her feet. “If there’s anyone you should be calling master, it’s me! I’m your husband!”

“Oh, does being my husband make you my master?” Meggie cocked her head to one side in drunken thoughtfulness. “I thought there was, um, more involved in being a master. Like a genuine compulsion to obey you.” 

Her words carried across the party, distracting everyone. 

Maggie turned towards her sister and grinned in shocked delight at her words. Jupitre scowled, as if he’d been the one insulted. Melyssa grinned right along with Maggie. Juno lifted a hand to cover her twitching lips. Leiwell glanced at Meggie with a hint of admiration sparkling in his eye. 

Map crossed her arms and gave Gryluxx a meaningful look. “She has a point.”

“Just shut up. Shut up and stop poisoning my wife against me. Stop ruining everything.” Gryluxx grabbed Meggie’s arm. “We’re going home. This company is a foul influence on you. You’ve had enough to drink for one night.”

He began dragging Meggie back to his cottage. Meggie let herself be dragged, her blouse sliding down to expose a little more cleavage. 

Jupitre eyed her cleavage, her ample hips with an interested eye. “That man should appreciate his good fortune more than he does. Sure, that wench has a saucy tongue, but I’m betting she can find other uses for it.”

“That wench is my sister.” Maggie cuffed Jupitre across her head. “Put your eyes back in your head and pick your thoughts out of the gutter.”

“Meggie has a sound wit, even if it takes her a while to figure out what she has to say.” Melyssa began to picking up the mugs. “I’m not sure why she ever married that man.”

“Well, perhaps Gryluxx has other uses for his tongue as well, other than insulting everyone with it.” Maggie winked at Melyssa, who flushed. “We’ll have to ask Meggie some time.”

Tayel felt himself colour, unsure why, but this made him think of the phrase Map and Ashleigh had used a few times. Spicy talk. 

“Is the party over?” Jupitre followed Maggie, keeping his gray eyes on her breasts and bum. “I was hoping it was just getting started.”

“Oh, you can hope for many things, dear, but it’s time for you to go home and have your tea.” Juno marched over towards her husband to seize his chin. “I think you’re getting a wee bit too frisky.”

“You’re a fine one to talk, considering how much you were enjoying that pretty youth’s company.” Jupitre nodded in a sharp way towards Leiwell.

“And it’s time pretty youths went and found their beauty sleep.” Leiwell walked over to where his two brothers stood and put an arm around both. “Not to mention their elders, who might have enjoyed the new ale a bit too much.” He gave Map a meaningful glance. 

“Don’t look at me. I haven’t touched a drop, which actually I should.” Map lifted a mug to her lips and drank. She set it down immediately afterwards. “It’s good stuff, Maggie.” 

“I’m so glad you find it irresistible, Map.” Maggie raised an eyebow. “I have this horrible vision of my sister being the main visitor to The Tipsy Hedgehog.”

“Well, at least she had somewhere to go.” Ashleigh strolled up to the other women. “Your brother-in-law is quite a challenge, Maggie.”

“Yes, I know. Believe me, I know.” Maggie threw her hands in the air. “As always he manages to ruin the party.”

“Don’t worry.” Leiwell smiled at Maggie. “There will be other parties. Many more.”

“I hope so.” Maggie glanced away for one moment before looking down at her feet.

Tayel didn’t miss the direction she’d been staring. Up at the hill which overlooked Omphalos. In the direction where the tower had once been. 

He shivered in the air which felt suddenly far too cold.