On February 2, 2022, P.T. Wyant offered at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a shadow, a superstition, a tradition.
I do love it whenever she does a prompt involving shadows and nothing too clearly tied in this particular world. (heart) It’s an excuse to head for Omphalos. Any of the versions of Omphalos which you might find behind a Door. Or a place where an Omphalos was or is going to be.
Like the lonely cottage Tayel lives in, trying to pretend things aren’t going to change. Trying to pretend he can’t sense things in the shadows reaching out for him.
He’s not fooling anyone.
Seeing things in the shadows was just superstition.
“From superstition comes tradition.” Map muttered this between her pipe, puffing on it. A faint scent of rose petals, cloves, and something else rose in the air along with a hint of color only Tayel could see. “Bad tradition.”
“What do you mean?” Danyel had to ask. Had to look closely at Map’s tunic, the grayish-green, high collared garment with its half-silver, half-gold clasp of two dragons circling each other. A tunic she always wore over her homespun skirts.
“You start seeing things in the shadows, you start chanting things to keep them away.” Map fixed her fathomless dark eyes, gleaming out of her weathered face upon Tayel, not Danyel. “Before you know it, it’ll become a prayer. A ritual you use to keep whatever you fear at bay. That prayer will feed your fear.”
Tayel flushed. Map knew. Somehow she knew about the little chant he’d started saying whenever the shadows started to move in the bedroom. Especially when they crept closer to Danyel and himself.
“Light of the moon
Keep them at bay
Smile bright and broad
Keep the shadows at bay.”
The crescent moon did look like a smile. A slightly mocking grin which might grace a handsome face very like their brother, Leiwell’s.
“I thought prayers were meant to summon something which would chase away what we fear?” Danyel crossed his arms, gave Map’s clasp a pointed look. “Even if it’s just our own courage?”
“Hah!” Map snorted, removing her pipe. “Your courage doesn’t need to be summoned. It’s already part of yourself. Anything else you might summon is more trouble than he’s worth.”
Tayel swallowed, dropping his head, allowing his hair to fall forward in a wave to shield his expression from scrutiny.
He’d revealed too much already. He didn’t want Map or even Danyel to guess his fancies about the man in the moon.
“He?” Danyel leaned forward, intent on that slip. “Is there someone in particular you’re worried we’ll summon, Map?”
“Just be careful.” The problem with pinning your hair up in an untidy bun was Map couldn’t hide her expression. The way her mouth turned down, her gaze shifted away to avoid Danyel’s. “Words have power. You never know you might be listening.”
“We’d know more if you’d tell us.” Danyel wasn’t about to let go of this. “Who might be listening, Map? Who are you afraid of?”
“There’s nothing or no one to be afraid of. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.” Map got up, moving away from the table, turning her back to the twins.
“Don’t offer my imagination a carrot, encouraging it to run!” Danyel retorted, standing up from the table.
Tayel couldn’t help but giggle. They’d seen a picture of a horse in book recently, a horse with a carrot. How the horse strained after the fat vegetable dangled in front of it. The idea of Danyel’s imagination being that horse, trying to get to that carrot was only too apt.
“Here I thought I was offering it a stick.” Tayel heard the smile in Map’s voice, even if she didn’t turn around. “Trust you to see it as a carrot. I’m going to bed.”
She trudged across the floor in the direction of her bedroom, never looking back until she’d opened the door. She offered the twins a tired, almost sad smile before shutting the door behind her.
Danyel gazed at the door with an open mouth. “She didn’t even try to pretend she was hiding something.”
“It’s tiring, holding up a mask when you constantly seek to knock it off.” Tayel shook his head, pushing his hair out of his face. “Map has reasons for not explaining herself.”
“Why did she try to warn us against praying?” Danyel shook his head. “Map was herself part of a religious order. She’s never pretended she wasn’t.”
“Maybe that’s why.” Tayel shifted, glancing at the closed curtains. “Warnings about superstitions becoming traditions soften tragic truths.”
“You know what she meant.” It wasn’t a question. Danyel gazed at him, a troubled frown tugging at his lower lip. “You’re keeping secrets again. From me.”
“Superstitions become traditions. Traditions become a thicket of thorns.” Tayel wouldn’t look at his twin’s pleading face. “We may bleed if we brush our hands against them, but they’ll keep peril out.”
“Or you could stop the superstition from becoming a tradition.” Danyel reached out to take his twin’s hand. “You could tell me what’s making you superstitious. We could face it together.”
Yes. This would be the most direct way to face the problem. Only Tayel was afraid. Not just for himself, but for his brothers. Especially Danyel.
He didn’t want Danyel to see what lay in the shadows. He didn’t want him to reach out for them, to try to get to know them.
No, better to keep them away. Even if it meant embracing superstition instead. At least it was just Tayel.
“Tradition becomes superstition when infused with too much fear.” Tayel shrugged, allowed himself to press his twin’s hands. “Summoning courage may be exactly what I need to do.”
“Do you really need to summon it?” Danyel studied his face intently. “Is there a particular source of courage you need to draw upon? Outside of yourself?”
Tayel cursed himself for being a fool. All this talk of summoning courage had aroused his twin’s curiosity.
“No.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. “I shouldn’t need to.”
Danyel studied him and nodded slightly. It wasn’t clear if his twin believed him or not.
Too many things lay unsaid between them.