On December 1, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com involving a card, a red dress, and a diamond.
This Tale of the Navel was the result…
Aggie drove the cart over the dirt road, running over the rolling hill. She wasn’t entirely sure how she’d got here. She wasn’t entirely sure of anything. Everything she had was in the cart.
“I have to get somewhere,” she muttered out loud. “I have to get away.”
If she closed her eyes, she’d hear the angry voices surrounding her in the night. Hers had been one of them until an answering rage came in the form of a burning force, a force which made the voices scream.
She’d been one of them. The last thing she’d seen had been the man with silvery-white hair and pale skin. Cold and beautiful as a diamond or a statue and just as heartless. He’d been smiling, standing at her master’s side.
She couldn’t remember what happened after or how she’d gotten into this cart.
Only a man was standing in the middle of the road ahead. He was dressed in black velvet with long silvery-blond hair, waiting for her.
“You,” she hissed, recognizing that face. Yes, it was the same man she’d seen in the middle of the night, looking at her, listening to the screams of her sisters before they were reduced to piles of pink goo.
“Yes,” he said with a little bow, appearing right next the cart, taking one of the reins.
The horse stopped, showing no sign of discomfort at the stranger touching him.
Perhaps Aggie should do the same. Better not to remember how beautiful he’d been when Angharad wore a red dress, waving an extra pair of ghost arms, singing her praises to the spider web overhead.
Faugh, what a lot of nonsense popped into her head. It wasn’t like she was even sure if those memories were actually hers.
“I can see you remember me, Angharad of Arachne; Angharad, Sister of Seraphix.” He uttered those titles with utmost courtesy, yet still managed to make a mockery of them. “Do you hear my Voice this time?”
“Hard to miss it,” she growled with as little enthusiasm as she could muster. Once upon a nightmare this man had been a diamond, but that had been a lifetime ago and that version of herself was dead. Now he was a ruby, soaked blood-red with the lives he’d absorbed. “What do you want? Got to warn you, there’s not much left of your former victim.”
“You weren’t my victim.” He stroked the horse’s muzzle. “You were your our master’s when you turned her, forced her to flee, until she fought for her life. She won. You lost.”
“Like I’d ever forget.” Seraphix, he was beautiful. Whether he wore a crown of flowers or black velvet, the sight of him still made her breath catch in her throat. Not that Aggie had any desire to admire. “Do you wish to torment me with talk of the past? Or is there another reason you stopped me?”
“There is.” He let out a low sigh. “I bear you no ill will, Angharad. If it seemed I took delight in your pain, it’s because your master’s pain was my own. I shared her rage, her hunger for vengeance upon those she once called sisters.”
“Poetic,” she said with some dryness. “Sounds like you were one heart and mind with your master. Wish we could all be so close to our gods.”
“You can be, Angharad,” he corrected with the lift of an eyebrow. “You can be closer to Seraphix than you ever were. You and all of your Sisters.”
“Don’t talk about my Sisters!” Seraphix’s tits, how she hated the raw angry sob which came out with the words. “You don’t get to speak of them! Not after what you did to them!”
“Even if I told you I could bring them back?” His pale blue eyes glittered with an icy pink light, a touch of lavender. “What if I told you I’d already resurrected some of them?”
Oh, this stopped her. A memory flashed of Meggie’s rosy face, grinning, a custard tart crumb stuck to her cheek. One followed of Mel, scowling, trying so hard to look fierce, but her kittenish mouth and nose reduced the expression to something comedic and adorable.
Last there was the Master, her lined brown face so deceptively kind. That kindness couldn’t have all been a lie. Oh, how she hated the sob getting stuck in her throat.
Her Sisters. The Sisters of Seraphix. Seeking balance in seclusion. Until a monster upset the balance, using the flesh of one of their own.
She couldn’t stop the tear from welling up in the corner of her eye. It slid down her cheek with the weight of her memories.
The ruby caught it with one pale finger, letting it rest on the tip. It glittered like a diamond. “Yes, I can see you would.”
The tear solidified, becoming a tiny gem with a rune upon it. A symbol which had once meant Seraphix. “You haven’t forgotten your god, Angharad. Nor have They forgotten you.”
“Could have fooled me, considering that Seraphix let you kill so many of Their Followers,” Aggie growled with some bitterness.
“Because you turned on one of your own, but Seraphix would never have let you stay dead.” The ruby fixed his prism-like eyes upon her, holding out the tear to her. “Seraphix forgives Their own. It was Seraphix who sent me to you, allowing you to hear my call.”
“Why?” Aggie muttered, feeling too tired and weary to be angry. “What do you want?”
“It’s what you want, Aggie, that’s important.” He smiled, using her nickname as if they were old friends. “I am the Voice of Seraphix, chosen by our god to gather Their Followers, granting their desires to return for their faith.”
“Of course you are.” She let out a weary sigh. “I’ll admit, that’s a pretty trick with my tear, but you’ll need to do better than that to convince me you’re in league with my former god.”
“That’s just the problem. Seraphix is your former god.” The supposed “Voice” leaned closer. “They want you back, Aggie. Seraphix wants you to believe in Them. Believe in Them and They’ll grant you anything you desire.”
“All I want to do is run a small tavern,” she muttered. “Brew beer, bake tarts for a small number of people, and lead a simple life. I’ve had it with gods and greatness.”
“What if you could have all that, only your Sisters would be among that small number of people, visiting your tavern?” The “Voice” smiled slightly, lowering their eyelashes almost coyly. “If Seraphix did that for you, would you believe in Them?”
“I have a hard time believing in anything these days.” Aggie took a deep breath and released. “Yes, if Seraphix did all that, I’d give Them a second chance. They weren’t the worst god I served.”
“No, They weren’t.” The smile disappeared from the ruby’s lips. “There’s a red gown in the back of your cart. You think the life you lived when you wore it was a dream or a nightmare, but the gown is there.”
“What?” She turned to the back on the cart, the blankets and ropes covering her few possesions.
Lying on top of the blankets was a crimson dress with slits for more arms than any human woman possessed. Oh, this garment was richer than anything she’d worn as a Sister of Seraphix, but the arachnocrats of the Gardens lived far more luxuriously. Lived and great fat on the life force of the beautiful boys they raised.
She shuddered, turning back to the man, only she remembered when he’d been much younger. A beautiful youth with his hair crowned with flowers before rising into the web.
“We killed you first, didn’t we?” she murmured. She could almost hear the singing of the other arachnocrats, echoing in the domed temple. “We killed you. You killed us.”
No. The Sisters of Seraphix had been innocent. They hadn’t been life-force sucking monsters, turning beautiful youths to stone. Ah, but she remembered some of her Sisters from the garden, didn’t she? Like Mel. Only she’d only had two arms, but so did Angharad.
Aggie shuddered, covered her face with her hands.
“Aggie.” The “Voice”, only hadn’t his name been Dyvian back then? Yes, Dyvian Ashelocke. Kin to the Lady Duessa herself. Only now he reached up to gently lower her hands, to force her to meet her gaze.
No boy from the Gardens of Arachne would ever dare such a thing. Nor could Dyvian have grown up to manhood. The boys blossoming in the gardens were plucked before they could over-ripen. This one had been drained of his life during a Marriage Feast. Dyvian Ashelocke should be a statue, standing eternally young and beautiful in his bride’s garden. Eternally still.
Only he’d come back to take his revenge upon her Sisters and herself by using one of their own. Why did he speak so kindly to her now?
“This is our chance for a fresh start, Aggie.” How beautiful those prismatic eyes were, reflecting her back. “Yours, mine, and your Sisters. In the village of Omphalos with Seraphix. It could happen, Aggie, if you trust in us. If you trust in yourself.”
“Too good to be true,” she muttered, looking down at their hands. Somehow he’d place the tear gem back in hers. “I don’t believe in things too good to be true.”
“You will, if a miracle happens.” He smiled and released her fingers. Stepped back from the cart and the horse. “And it will, Aggie. Just keep following this road to Omphalos. You’ll see.”
Mists rose the ground and the sides of the road. He smiled, giving one sideways glance before he headed off into them.
“Guess I will,” she muttered, feeling her heart lighten just a bit even though she should know better. She picked up the reins with one hand, still clenching the jewel in the other.
For a moment she saw Meggie’s round face, smiling back at her. Almost as if her former Sister was promising they would meet again.
Aggie didn’t know if she believed if they would, but she wanted to.
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