The air sparkles around Quartz, seated in his chair. Light reflects off dragon scales, dazzling our dwarf’s eyes into a squint while Prunella winds themselves around the misty spaces of the Cauldron, blocking out the sight of the red curtain.
Quartz: Eh, I’ve never liked that curtain anyway, even if I’ve used it myself a few times.
Prunella: We’d be tempted to snap our fingers if we had fingers. Reminds us of a television show once in the scribbler’s world, which involved red curtains and snapping fingers.
Quartz: I supposed you could snap other people’s fingers instead. Not that I’m offering mine.
Prunella: (They heave a sigh that makes the ground shake and the air stink of brimstone.) Always playing hard to get, aren’t you? Just as Nimmie Not often laments.
Quartz: Don’t start.
Prunella: Why not? We’re the one who has to listen to him cry every time you’re not impressed by his antics.
Quartz: Been listening to him for a long time, have you?
Prunella: We have, though we’re not sure how long. Nimmie Not may be old by your standards, but not ours.
Quartz: Been around a long time yourself, have you?
Prunella: We remember when the Queens of Dawn and Twilight used to come to us in secret, ask for advice on how to get the better of each other. It was quite apparent to us they were only trying to impress each other.
Quartz: Oh ho, was it now?
Prunella: We take a certain amount of pride in finally getting those two lovely, fractious rulers together, in forcing them to accept their feelings, which led to the union of their queendoms. That was when we had much better relations with humans.
Quartz: Soured a bit since, huh?
Prunella: When a pretty young knight looks up at us with dark, soulful eyes, expecting us to raze the countryside, how can we say no?
Quartz: I’m starting to see that you and Nimmie Not share some of the same oddball notions about romancing someone.
Prunella: Are those notions truly oddball?
Quartz: They are to me. Maybe not to everyone, but there are sure to be those who’ll find them oddball. How did your knight react to you razing the countryside?
Prunella: He gathered an army to fight us. We were hurt, deeply hurt. We thought it just be him and us. In the end, it was.
Quartz: Ate everyone else, did you?
Prunella: And they were quite tender for such well-done warriors.
Quartz: Right. And your knight?
Prunella: The tenderest of the lot.
Quartz: You ate him.
Prunella: He was human. He was mortal. Eventually his beauty and vitality would wither. Better to savour him while we still could.
Quartz: Right. Like I said, oddball, not to mention horrific.
Prunella: All right, little dwarf. Just how would you go about romancing someone in a less oddball, non-horrific way?
Quartz: I wouldn’t. Romance is nothing but trouble.
Prunella: Oh, really?
Quartz: Really. Your story about the knight just proves that. For every Queen of Dawn and Twilight with a happily together, there’s a tale like yours. Or my poor Fairest’s.
Prunella: Ah, the little princess with her passionate, deluded queen. Quite the sad little tale, that.
Quartz: Right and I mean it. It was sad. It is sad. Caused a lot of unnecessary pain, that romance.
Prunella: So you avoid romance yourself?
Quartz: Easy enough to do. Not much opportunity for romance as far as I’m concerned and I don’t go looking for it. I’ve got my brothers. And the rocks.
Prunella: Sounds lonely.
Quartz: Not at all. It’s loud. You try having six younger brothers, stomping all over the place. It would drown out the rocks, if I let them. And the rocks have voices, if you know how to listen.
Prunella: Which you do.
Quartz: I do indeed. (He strokes his beard.) Nothing quite like hearing their song in the stillness.
Prunella: Hrmmph. (They let out a belching snort which fills the air with the stench of brimstone.) Sounds like you’re having a romance with the rocks. Of sorts.
Quartz: Much more peaceful than your one-sided whatever with the knight.
Prunella: (They chuckle, the sound echoing off invisible stone walls) Don’t be so sure.
Quartz: What’s that supposed to mean?
Prunella: You’ll find out. (more chuckling) If you haven’t already.
Quartz: (mutters) Bloody enigmatic wyrms…
Prunella: That’s right. (continues to chuckle, stinking up the air with the odor of brimstone)