On September 23, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a brisk wind, a staircase, and tears.
This prompted an entire potential rewrite of the beginning of The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, the second book in my Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest, one I’m seriously thinking of using.
Enjoy this potential taste of one of my novels under revision. 😉
A brisk wind sliced through the cracks in the stone walls, following Danyel up the spiral staircase, leading to the rooms, to the doors above.
What was behind those doors? He wiped the tears away with an impatient hand. Something wonderful. Something which would explain everything, answer all the questions his twin was so afraid of. Why did Danyel, his mother, and his brothers live alone in a empty field near a garden between forests in the shadow of a ruined tower, away from all the major roads? Who was the mysterious lord his eldest brother served and why was Leiwell so reluctant to speak of him? Why was Leiwell becoming so pale and sickly, drained of all his strength each time he visited his master? Above all, what could Danyel do to help his brother recover his strength?
All of the answers lay above. Danyel knew even as he knew he lay dreaming, dreaming of climbing the stairs. All he had to do was reach the top and find the doors. Behind them lay the answers to everything. For those doors were actual Doors, portals to other worlds, the likes of which Ashleigh Beyond the Door was always searching for. Open door after door, you’d eventually find a Door. Open a Door and it would lead to your heart’s desire. Not that his heart’s desire would be cheap, judging from what he’d read of Ashleigh’s adventures. Ashleigh was always leaving pieces of herself behind in one form or another. Danyel would need to give something up in return for answers.
If Tayel was aware of what he was doing, planning, he’d try to stop Danyel. All he had to do was pause for a moment on the staircase and listen. His twin’s warnings would echo in his head.
What you offer must be of equal value to what you’re asking for. Greed kindles in the heart at the presence of willing need. You’re making the Door hungry with yours.
As far as Tayel was concerned, Danyel was poking the darkness, a hungry darkness with teeth in asking questions and reeking with the desire for answers.
How could Danyel stop asking questions? How could he not wonder about all the mysteries in thier lives? How could he let Leiwell go on suffering, getting paler and weaker if there was something, anything he could do about it?
No matter how much Tayel begged him not to ask questions, Danyel couldn’t stop thinking about these things anymore than he could dismiss the tower whose stairs he climbed as a pile of rocks! The stones breathed, whispered, and begged for him to listen. To help them. To remember.
Please, we hunger for half-life, any life, and you, you who stand, dream, and breathe, you whom were given such a half-life, you give us hope. Bring us more.
The pleas didn’t just carry upon the brisk wind from the rocks, they crept into his fingers from the railing he clung to, sucking at his fingers with tiny, greedy invisible mouths.
Danyel woke up, sweating. He gazed up at the ceiling of the attic, felt the sweat-stained blankets of the bed beneath him, listened to the soft breathing of Tayel lying beside him.
He sat up in the darkness. It was just beginning to give way to the faint glow of morning light coming through the single attic window.
“I have to go to the tower,” he murmured, not sure if his twin heard him.
Danyel stopped at that soft plea filled with bleak sorrow and a hint of fear.
Tayel turned over in bed to face him with eyes gleaming with silver light, brighter than any coming from the window.
“Why?” He couldn’t help asking even though he knew his twin despised questions. “If that tower is just a pile of rocks, why shouldn’t I go there?”
“Rock and stone breathe purpose and intention, hungering for the warm and headstrong.” Tayel rose slowly from the bed. “Don’t feed the rocks, Danyel.”
“Meaning the tower is more than a pile of rocks or will be if I get too close to them.” Danyel drew a slow, shuddering breath. “Maybe whatever is in those rocks is reaching out to me in my dreams. Making me an offer of some sort.”
“Offers hide true intentions as mist hide shape and form.” Tayel fixed his glittering eyes upon his brother, violet-blue irises filled with tiny silver triangles. “Dreams draw mist around thought, concealing shape.”
“I think I see the shape of this particular offer.” Danyel reached out to touch his brother’s cheek. “If I go to the tower, find the doors on the upper floor, see what lies behind them, whatever waits for me will show me a way to help Leiwell.”
“The price of opening a Door exceeds the value of what lies beyond.” Tayel leaned into his brother’s caress. “Leiwell is following his own path, his chosen destiny. No one has the right to hinder him.” He closed his eyes, shutting off the light, hiding whatever lurked behind it. “No matter how much we might want to.”
“We? Are you saying you want to stop him?” Danyel dropped his hand from his brother’s cheek to his shoulder.
Tayel didn’t answer. He sucked in a slow, shuddering breath, only to release it, trembling while he did.
“Please, Tayel.” Danyel lifted his other hand to take his twin’s other shoulder, making his brother face him, even if he wouldn’t look at him. “Help me stop Leiwell. Whatever he’s doing is sucking the life out of him.”
“A life offered to spare others, yet no one is spared.” Tayel opened his eyes. They glistening with unshed tears, sparkling in the strange light. “Such devotion only summons tragedy.”
“My devotion or Leiwell’s?” Danyel swallowed an answering lump rising in his throat in response to his twin’s tears. “Please, Tayel. Help me save Leiwell.”
Tayel met his eyes, the strange glow dying within them so all that were left were tears. “This is such a bad idea.”
“Does that mean you agree?” Danyel dropped his hands, hopeful pixies fluttering about in his stomach.
Tayel responded by sliding out of bed. He didn’t look at his twin. He just headed to the chest of drawers on his side, pulled one open.
Danyel followed, having to circle the bed, his path lit by the early rays of the sun. “Thank you.”
“Thanking me for whatever lies ahead would be unwise.” Tayel rummaged through the clothing to pull out a tunic. “Save your thanks for something worthy.”
The ominous ring in his twin’s tone made Danyel shiver.