On May 16, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com involving a bully, lace, and a fence.
This spawned a huge Tale of the Navel/The Shadow Forest or rather Tale of Omphalos. For this takes place in another Omphalos, different than the one Damian brought Christopher to, waiting behind another Door…
Due to the size of this story, it’s going to be broken into parts. Here’s the first…
Danyel tugged at the lace at his throat. It scratched his skin, a constricting collar. He peeked at Tayel, whom tried to keep his face impassive, only he kept darting his gaze down at the tight little bow at his neck, grimacing.
“Ah, don’t you both look adorable!” Juno cooed, clasping her hands together.
“They do, don’t they?” Ashleigh looked her sons up and down, entirely too pleased with herself. She wore the same tunic, only her cravat was untied, allowing her to breathe. “It’s clear they take after me.”
“Danyel and Tayel remind me of the gentle youths in a civilized land filled with gardens.” Juno pressed her hands against her lips, gray eyes moist. “The loveliest among them always dressed this way.”
“Always?” Danyel yipped, wiggling with the confines of the frilly prison. “How do they manage to bear it?”
“Like that.” Ashleigh shot a meaningful glance in the direction of her eldest.
Leiwell glided up to them, head held high, neck held at a graceful arc which emphasized the snowy lace against his fair skin. He didn’t squirm or show any sign of discomfort, breathing with perfect ease.
“Leiwell, you look so handsome!” Juno almost swooned in admiration while Maggie and Meggie gaped at him, mouths dropping.
“Ah, here I thought this tunic was a bit uncomfortable,” Meggie recovered her voice. “You wear it with such grace.”
“No question about it.” Maggie looked Leiwell up and down, admiring every inch of him. “I’m with Danyel…how do you do it?”
“By lying with elegance and a mask of serenity,” Tayel growled, shooting their older brother a sullen glance.
“No question about that.” Leiwell winked at Danyel. “I’m not comfortable in this, either.” Sweat beaded his forehead in tiny droplets. “I’m just more accustomed to keeping still.”
“How?” Danyel looked Leiwell up and down with worshipful envy. “It feels as if my own clothes were trying to strangle me.”
“Decaying fingers, scratching our skin with their tiny bones.” Tayel pointed at his own collar. “It’s letting us know it’ll never be our own.”
“Now, Tayel!” Ashleigh scolded, waving a reproving finger. “You shouldn’t speak of the lovely clothing Meggie designed for you in such a fashion.”
“Actually, that’s oddly poetic.” Meggie clapped a hand to one flushed cheek. “I have created an undead tunic.”
“You have a charitable heart.” Ashleigh laid a hand upon her own.
“Which we appreciate, in spite of our reaction.” Leiwell offered Meggie a charming smile and a half bow.
“You’re even stupider than I thought if you do.”
Everyone turned toward the fence separating Juno’s garden from the flowers, trees, and tables outside the Tipsy Hedgehog. Danyel swallowed an uncomfortable lump in his throat at the sight at the bulbous nose peeking over the pence.
Thomas looked down at them all, thick lips curled into a sneer. “Lace is ridiculous on a boy.” He darted malicious gray eyes in Leiwell’s direction. “Making it perfect for girly boys like Leiwell and the twins.” He snickered. “Why don’t you put on some ruffled skirts? Maybe add a little rouge to your cheeks?”
“What’s so funny about it?” Danyel asked, not understanding Thomas or what he was talking about.
“A little lesson about girly boys.” Leiwell smiled, narrowing his eyes. “Rosebuds coming into full flower have sharp thorns.” He took a step toward Thomas, his shadow creeping forward to loom over the fence.
“Mother!” Thomas squealed, darting a terrified glance at Juno. “Are you going to let him bully me?”
“He’s not the one you have to worry about.”
Thomas didn’t have time to do more than squawk when Maggie hauled him up by the scruff of the neck.
Only to reveal that, he, too wore the same tight lace shirt with ruffles, a collar fastened with a cravat tied in a puffy bow.
“Hah, Thomas, you must not dislike our tunics too much!” Meggie blinked in the direction of the spluttering boy. “You’re wearing it yourself.”
“Shut up!” Thomas pointed a stubby finger at Juno. “She forced me to!”
“Why don’t you join us, Thomas?” Maggie smiled with friendly malevolence at the boy in her grip.
“Since we’re all wearing the same tunic,” Leiwell added with a grin.
“Oh, Thomas, dear!” Juno tittered, a bit embarassed. “You look even more uncomfortable than the twins! I truly hoped to pretty you up a teensy bit.”
“Like that would ever work, you stupid cow!” Thomas struggled, tried to bite Maggie’s hand.
Maggie let go.
Thomas fell on the other side of the fence. Everyone could hear him spluttering and cursing.
“This outfit is stupid, hideous, girly, and wrong! No real man would wear it!”
“Ah, no, I wouldn’t say it’s hideous,” Meggie protested. “It does, ah, suit Ashleigh’s sons a bit better than you, Thomas.”
“Well, of course it does, you fat idiot!” Thomas kicked the fence, making it vibrate. No one saw it, although Danyel felt the wood quivering with the blow. “Unlike those fairies, I’m a real boy.”
“I doubt that.” Leiwell spoke in a soft manner, yet the conviction of his words carried in the air. “No one living in Omphalos is completely real. Not even you.”
“What would know about that?” Thomas banged against the fence once more for good measure. “You’re all stupid and ugly!”
With those words, Thomas stomped away, making as much noise as possible.
“Boys are such savages unless something is done to curb that ugly masculine urge to bully others.” Juno clucked her tongue in disapproval, only to remember there were three boys present. “Not that I see any sign of such violence in any of you, oh, no!” She tittered, an uneasy warble. “You’re a credit to mothers everywhere, Ashleigh.”
“I can’t really take any credit.” Ashleigh raised a mug filled with ale. “It was all Map’s doing, bless her steady ways.”
“Indeed.” Maggie raised her own mug to clink it against Ashleigh. “Where is your wife, by the way? I was hoping she’d join us.”
“Map was ill at ease in the tunic, I fear.” Ashleigh made an apologetic half bow to Meggie. “She feared she’d shame your work, if she attempted to wear it.”
“Well, I won’t wear it either.” Maggie glanced down at her loose shirt and laced vest, which was much closer to what Danyel and Tayel usually wore. “It’s just not me.”
“It’s not us, either.” Danyel raised a hand to finger his cravat.
No, it wasn’t. Why should he, Tayel, or Leiwell pretend to be something they weren’t?
He began to untie the bow, loosening the collar.