On June 3, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving sneaking in late.
This freebie story for The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, one of the novels in progress for Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest was the result…
Leiwell opened the door of the cottage as slowly as possible, wincing as it creaked. Hopefully no one would notice him sneaking inside during the early hours of dawn.
He took slow, shuffling steps in the direction of the cushions scattered on the floor, more than willing to simply collapse there, only he stumbled across a warm body waiting for him.
“Leiwell?” Danyel’s sleepy voice greeted him as his little brother sat up from the pillows. Unlike his twin, Danyel had no silvery illumination in his eyes, just the normal gleam of reflected light. “Is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me.” Leiwell sat down on the rug, wincing at how stiff he felt. “What are you doing down here?”
“Waiting for you.” Danyel ducked his head, curls falling in his face. “Tayel thought I shouldn’t but I was worried.”
“There’s no need to worry.” Leiwell reached out to brush back the stray hairs falling over his brother’s face. Stretching out his arm ached, but contact with Danyel’s skin made the pain retreat.
For a moment he saw countless shadows gaining vibrancy, remembering their faces, places they’d known being reborn around them. The last thing Leiwell saw was the tender, approving expression on his master’s right before he caught his servant before he fell…
…Leiwell was feeding them, all those creatures on the other side of the Door his master cared for. They fed off his energy, his vitality, and in return his master cared for Leiwell and his family, letting them want for nothing. More than that, keeping the shadows strong kept the outside world at bay, kept others from finding his family.
Only Leiwell was like them, wasn’t he? The shadows. He’d spent so much time in the cottage with Map and his little brothers, pretending he was a real boy, he sometimes forgot this.
Did it mean Leiwell could feel off others as the shadows off him? Was he actually drinking Danyel’s vitality?
No! Leiwell snatched his fingers away from his brother, clutching them to his chest.
“Leiwell, what’s wrong?” The hurt in his brother’s voice stung as much as his sudden revelation that he himself might be as great a danger to his family as the outside world. “It’s hard not to worry when you act like this.”
“I’m not worried.” Leiwell forced himself to smile a smile that didn’t quite feel like his own. “I’m just tired. And sick. You shouldn’t get too close to me right now, Danyel. You should go back upstairs. Tayel is probably awake, waiting for you.”
“I don’t want to leave you.” The tremoulous loyalty in that small voice made him want to weep.
“I appreciate that,” Leiwell whispered. “I really do. I don’t want you to catch whatever I have. I need you to be safe, Danyel. Both you and your brother. Please. I just need to lie down and be alone. To rest a while. I’ll rest easier if I know you’re upstairs with your brother.”
“If that’s what you wish.” Slowly, reluctantly, Danyel withdrew from Leiwell and moved to the ladder leading up to the attic. “If you’ll rest easier.”
His brother began to climb up to the room he shared with his twin, but not before Leiwell caught that gleam in his eye. Danyel’s eyes were nothing like Tayel, no, they didn’t sparkle with silvery light. Instead they shone with questions.
Those questions could lead to trouble. Someday Leiwell would have to answer them.
For now he just wanted to sleep, to let go. If it was possible to forget the fear bubbling inside him, generated from an additional touch.
What if, Leiwell, was as big a threat to Danyel and Tayel as any outsiders who might sniff out their differences and try to hurt them? As big as any shadow which might hunger to take them back in the darkness?
All the more reason for Leiwell to work hard to create an oasis for them and to stay away from that oasis himself. No matter how much he might crave it.