Tales of the Navel: Voices in His Head

On November 3, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a spoon, spots, and a ringing bell.

This Tale of the Navel was the result…

Spots swam before Tayel’s vision. Every spot contained a different face swimming in color. 

A bell rang, tolling out each chime as every face began to sing:

Seraphix

Grant us our wish

We’ll give you our faith

Make us part of you

We’ll make you a god.

“Tayel!” 

Danyel’s voice, sharp with alarm, brought him back to the table, to the kitchen, to the here and now. 

Tayel gazed at the spoon in his hand. 

Below him lay a bowl filled with untouched broth. 

Map hadn’t given up on trying to get the twins to eat, even if it was just a sip of liquid. 

“Don’t drift off. Even if it’s just into your own thoughts.” Map stressed each word, hovering behind Danyel, trying to look as if she wasn’t hovering. “Eat a little more.”

It smelled good, the contents in the bowl. Perhaps the scent was simply Map’s concern wafting in the air.

Tayel picked up his spoon, stuck it in the bowl. He gathered a little of its contents into this curious curved utensil humans used for eating. This particular item seemed to work. 

Maybe he shouldn’t regard humans in such an otherly fashion. He and Danyel were human-shaped. They had mouths. If Map could eat, so could the twins.

He lifted the spoon to his lips. He managed a tiny sip. Before he could taste it, he started to cough. Tears gathered in his eyes. 

“It’s all right.” Leiwell turned his head toward Tayel. His older brother had been resting it on the table after another night away, “serving” his mysterious master. In spite of his weariness, Leiwell’s green eyes were clear and bright. “Just eat as much as you can for now. Eventually you’ll be able to eat more.”

Reflected in those dark pupils surrounded by emerald irises, Tayel could see the tower. Of course it was a tower. It always was the tower whether it wore a crown or rang a bell. He could almost hear the bell ringing, a faint echo anyone could easily explain away as imagination. 

He wished he could taste the soup or try to taste it. His throat burned. 

Danyel was not to be left behind by his twin. He picked up his spoon, filled it with brother. He took an even bigger sip than Tayel had. 

As one, the twins started coughing, gasping for air. 

“All right, that’s enough.” Map leaned over to rescue the bowls and the spoons from their careless wielders. “This will heat up easily enough. You can try again later.”

“Eating will get easier,” Leiwell reassured his brothers. “You’re growing. Maybe not quite like human children, but the longer you spend in this place, the more you’ll be able to eat and do other things they do.”

“Really?” Danyel turned to their older brother with a wide-eyed expression of hope. Unlike Tayel, his violet-blue eyes were innocent of any inhuman brightness. 

“I did,” Leiwell said with a mysterious, yet sad little smile. 

Curious how he both answered and didn’t answer Danyel’s question. Tayel’s admiration and mistrust for their elder brother grew. 

“What’s normal varies from person to person in this world,” Leiwell said in dreamy, speculative tone. “Just give yourself time to discover what’s normal for you.”

“I keep hearing a bell ringing and singing.” Danyel glanced from brother to brother. “Do you hear them, too? One voice is louder than the rest. A voice like mine, only slightly older and wiser. A beautiful voice.”

Tayel shut his eyes, belatedly realizing he shouldn’t have done that. He’d just given away the fact that he heard them, too. 

Leiwell lifted his weary head from the table to regard his brothers with alarm. 

Map stiffened where she stood at the cauldron, still holding the bowls. 

“What’s wrong?” Danyel, the innocent, as always had to ask the obvious questions. The wrong questions. The questions which opened doors to answers which were murky, dark, and filled with mysteries no one in this cottage wanted anything to do with. “What is this bell? Whose voice am I hearing?”

“The mind is mysterious, whispering things from dreams which trouble daylight and waking life,” Tayel murmured. “Best to leave them be.”

“That’s right,” Map said, a little too heartily, putting the bowls down with a thump. “Best not to worry about such things. Concentrate on being a part of this world.”

“Don’t let the tower distract you,” Leiwell murmured. “Ignore its whispers and enjoy being alive.”

“Wait, does it whisper to you, too?” Danyel pounced on this particular bit of information like an unwary cat leaping on a devilish mouse. Catch it with your claws and it catches you. “What does it say, Leiwell?”

“I don’t remember.” Leiwell leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. “It was a dream, I think.” 

This didn’t seem like a lie. Nor did it seem like the entire truth. 

“Dreams will lure you away from reality.” Map turned around, her brow furrowed. “Don’t let it trouble you.” 

Danyel opened his mouth and shut it. He gazed at Map, Leiwell, and Tayel himself frowning, a wrinkle in his forehead. 

It was clear his twin thought the rest of his family was privy to some great secret they were excluding him from.

If only Danyel knew. It was best he didn’t. The singing, the bells, they might be part of a dream, but they could turn into a future reality. 

Tayel mistrusted the song, the words. There was a darker meaning behind them, a dangerous selfishness to its desire. 

He didn’t want to be drawn into the song. What’s more, he didn’t want his family to be drawn it into it. 

This wouldn’t stop the song or the singers from drawing close to them. 

Like my style of writing? Want to read more? Here are buy links to my published works…

http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle Part 2

Gabrielle sighs, shaking her head, making the fishnet veil of shells sway over her fedora. 

Gabrielle: This is maddening. I still can’t find my sense of humor. Where could I have put it?

Christopher walks toward the front window of the Navel. One of Damian’s skulls, handcrafted out of clay, sits and grins at people passing by on the other side of the glass. Some of them stop, start, and stare. More than a few roll their eyes. They’ve seen weirder in the window of the Navel. One bold passerby grins back at the skull and waves. Or is she waving at Christopher?

Unsure, Christopher waves back. He walks toward the window. There’s a rack of robes nearby, black, dark blue, white, and green robes which can easily cover a person’s clothes. Every single robe has smiley faces all over them. 

Christopher: Maybe it’s here? (He gestures to the rack.)

Gabrielle looks up, brightens at the sight of the robes.

Gabrielle: Ah, the Navel’s special collection of robes! Start something with a smile. Or a lot of smiles.

Christopher: Just what sort of something did you have in mind? (Feeling a little annoyed, he glances at the robes, the unrepentent little circles grinning from them. It’s the sort of joke which would have made Damian roll his eyes at the very least.)

Gabrielle: (unruffled) Whatever the customer has in mind. Whatever they think the robes can be used for, even if it’s just a joke. It’s an old joke. (Her smile fades a bit.) Not as funny I used to think it was. Maybe my sense of humor used to be there, but I think it’s disappeared over time. Just what happened to it?

Christopher gazes at Gabrielle for a long moment, at her fedora with the veil covered with shells and fishnet. Yes, something appears to be missing from her. 

Christopher: Maybe you’re wearing the wrong hat?

Gabrielle: (brightening again) By the Directions, I believe you’re right! (She reaches up to touch her fedora.) I must have left my sense of humor in the other one!

Gabrielle walks over the golden circle right before the counter. There’s a silver circle right above her head. 

She raises her arms. A faint glow of dancing dust motes swirls around her, covering her fedora. Her veil disappeared. Her entire body blurs, becoming part of the shimmering dust. 

For a moment Christopher stares at the cloud of dust until it disappears, leaving a shining figure in a golden tuxedo with a golden top hat. 

Gabrielle strikes a pose. The chicken on top of her hat seems to cluck or chuckle. Yes, there is a chicken emerging the brim of the hat, one claw raised above the brim, her beak open. 

Gabrielle: Ah, I feel so much better!

She chuckles, tapping her cain against the floor. It’s a hen-headed cane. 

Gabrielle: Nothing like a change of clothes to refresh you! Especially a change of hat. Looks like my sense of humor was here all along. 

Christopher: I thought you preferred loose, flowing clothing. 

Gabrielle: I do, but every one in a while, even I need a change. (She taps her cane against the floor, taps the ground with her feet.) And now I’m ready for customers! Welcome to the Navel, center of all things bizarre!

She tap-dances her way across the floor into a row of shelves, laughing. 

Christopher watches her go with a bemused smile. 

Christopher: I suppose it will be as long as you’re here. 

#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of the Navel

On October 27, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a flickering light, a dream, dried herbs.

This Tale of the Navel was the result…

Sometimes the flickering light was green, sometimes it was blue. It fluttered in his hands, pulsing in his palms, warming him.

Nothing made Leiwell feel more tender and protective than the light. Dreaming of it effected him as much as the visions of his master. 

He’d awaken, breathe in the scent of dried herbs, hear Map humming under her breath through the cottage wall. 

Those smells and sounds grounded him in the here and now, reassuring him. There was no need to chase after the light. No need to go looking for his master. Map was here. She needed him. Sooner or later the light and his master would both find him. 

He was content to wait here in this cottage. With Map. 

For now Leiwell would be content to dream. It wouldn’t last. Dreams gave way to waking reality or they drew you back in. 

He would enjoy the state he was in, this flesh and blood form for as long as he could. For as long as others needed him to wear it. 

Like my style of writing? Here are buy links to my published works…

http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

#QueerBlogWed: Seven Tricks Freebie Story

On October 20, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptywant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving sausage, a nose, and boxes. This Seven Tricks freebie story was the result…

A long nose poked its way out of a pile of boxes, whiskers twitching at the smell of sausage.

Only for a second nose attached to a muzzle to rise from the boxes, baring its teeth. Those teeth closed around the first muzzle, biting it. 

“Youch!” Cheesecurd whined. “Why’d you do that for?”

“Don’t go scurrying after the first sniff of sausage!” Madam Mousenip chittered at her subject. “Honestly! You only have a fraction of wit, not to mention charm that Mousetrick possessed!”

“Uh huh. And where’s Mousetrick?” Cheesecurd sniffed with some petulance. “Off with some human.”

“No, he’s not!” Madam Mousenip bared her teeth at this sullen substitute for a decent mouse, let alone a prince. “He’s following his dream, you hear me? No matter how cheese-curdled that dream might be.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a little curdled cheese,” the affronted mouse retorted. “Say what you like of me. I’m here. I haven’t abandoned you for sugar plums and a magician’s nephew.”

“No, you’d abandon me in an instant for cheese. Or gingerbread,” the queen asserted. “Stop trying to act like you’re any better than the rest of us. Mousetrick had finer feelings than you’ll ever know. Not to mention a finer coat. And far more expressive whiskers.” She sighed, wringing her paws against her chest.

“Hmph. If my feelings, coat, and whiskers are so disappointing, why are you scampering with me?” Cheesecurd demanded. “What’s the point?”

“Training!” Madam Mousenip snapped. “Uncouth and ruffled as your fur might be, you still faced a troupe of gingerbread soldiers, showing spunk. Only you gobbled your way straight into a human’s trap.”

“How can you blame me? They smelled too delicious to resist.” Cheescurd drooped his whiskers in a sulky fashion. “How was to know I should have?”

“Exactly. You should know better. You need to learn how to know better. This is why I’m scampering with you.” Madam Mousenip flickered her tail in a meaningful manner. “I’m offering you knowledge. It’s up to you whether you decide to gain it. To think before scampering after anything that smells delicious. It might help you survive.”

“Or it might mean someone else will rush in and eat the delicious thing while we wait!” Cheesecurd whined. “I want that sausage!”

“Yes, and you might scamper straight into a trap if you don’t think when you sniff!” The queen flicked her tail in the direction of the kitchen. “Look!”

A giant human, dragging the cloth of its skirts across the floor plodded her way past the boxes in the kitchen. 

Madam Mousenip and Cheesecurd barely had time to dive beneath the boxes before hiding. 

“I’m bored!” The human’s shrill voice pierced the air. If the mice hadn’t taken cover, it might have knocked them over. “Where is Cracktooth?”

“He’s gone.” Another human’s voice rang out, softer, yet more dangerous. “I told you, Prissipat. He’s not here any more.”

Cheesecurd felt his fur stand on end. It was her. The human who’d drugged him, who’d set the gingerbread trap. What had that shrieking doll called her? Marchen. 

“Why? Why isn’t he here?” The one human whirled to face the other. “He was just starting to get a little less annoying and he just disappears! What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Marchen sounded a bit defensive as well as sad. “He wanted to go. That’s all.”

“That’s not all. You’re hiding something, both you and your godfather. Why won’t you tell me?” Prissipat turned again, stamping her foot. 

The mice under the boxes covered.

“Come. Come have some sausage.” Marchen took her arm, coaxing her away. “You’ll feel better if you eat.”

“I don’t want to eat.” In spite of her petulant reply, Prissipat let herself be led away. 

The mice cautiously peeked out from beneath the boxes.

“You see?” Madam Mousenip chittered. “We would have been caught if we’d scampered after the sausage.”

“Now the humans are going to eat it,” Cheesecurd grumbled. “Cracktooth…Cracktooth. Isn’t that the one Mousetrick kept carrying on about? Wouldn’t let us eat any gingerbread until we’d saved his beloved Cracktooth. Wouldn’t give up that doll either. Nearly led us all into a trap.”

“Really.” Madam Mousenip looked down her snout at him. “From what I’ve heard, it was you who gobbled your way right into a gingerbread trap.”

“No!” Cheesecurd protested. “It was Mousetrick! He was your prince! We had no choice but to follow him! All he cared about was rescuing his precious Cracktooth!”

“Save the excuses,” Madam Mousenip sighed. “Scamper now. You may let learn something…and how to find the right opportunity to steal sausage.” 

Cheesecurd let out a sulky chitter, but he obeyed. He followed his queen as she raced across the floor to under a chair. 

As if he didn’t know about finding opportunities. He was a lot better at this than Mousetrick who did nothing but smooth his fine fur and twirl his whiskers. 

Eventually his queen would understand this. 

Wonder what this was about? Here are buy links to Seven Tricks…

Nine Star Press: 

https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon:

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

Z is for Zenobia

We came to the scribbler while she was Blogging From AZ as an idea. An idea for the representative of another power in the World of the Ouroborous, the power of the Kalanthian Empire. Unlike Serena Jasior’s empire, Kalanthia still exists at the time of Trouble at Caerac Keep. Even if it is smaller, much smaller than it was when we lived and reigned. Our nation still kept some of its power. Without that power, Serena Jasior never could have crushed the Serpent and declared herself Imperatrix. Not that she shows any gratitude for it. By all rights, she should have offered her brother’s hand in marriage to us, creating a single empire. Instead she allows the prince to engage in destructive duels, encouraging a kind of matrimonial free-for-all, dangling him in front of potential suits. We don’t play such stupid games. To make this self-made Imperatrix even more insulting, she keeps the choicest Serpent-Born slaves to herself. She would never have been able to keep them, if we hadn’t provided the collars which she could control their power. We have done so much for this world and Serena Jasior, yet she rewards us with ingratitude. We bring so much to the scribbler’s stories, yet she denies us our rightful place at the center of all things in A Suitor’s Challenge. The situation is intolerable. Dead dwarves aren’t the only one who can demand their share of attention. The scribbler is going to find this out, mark our words. 

X is for Xian

I came into being during this Blogging From AZ April Project, the first time the scribbler participated. 

We’d been around for years before that as Serena Jasior. We were inspired by one of the scribbler’s favorite celebrities, a particular part she played. Only we changed into something completely different in the scribbler’s imagination. We became a queen, an empress, an imperatrix uniting a beleagered fantasy land against an army of monsters. 

This fantasy land became the World of Ouroborous. 

I, Xian, former student of the Serpent Herself was born during this Project as part of Serena’s past. The Serpent was the intelligence behind the monsters. I turned against my master to save the world She threatened. 

Why shouldn’t we reinvent ourselves afterwards as Serena Jasior? Why shouldn’t we claim that same world as our prize and rule it? Just as we’re claiming Kyra Nevalyn.

This may seem sinister, but both the world and Kyra require guidance. Which is why I’m leaving Serena and the royal we behind. Once again I don the mask of Xian in order to earn Kyra’s trust. I needed to become a private individual to do so. Xian is a private individual and a private person. Serena Jasior is not. Sometimes I see them as two different people, even if they’re both roles I play. 

Hopefully we will get a chance to play both roles for you, dear readers, once the scribbler finishes A Suitor’s Challenge. 

R is for Rhodry

I was the first. The scribbler’s first character to emerge from a roleplaying game. 

I’d been in many. A table-top campaign and one-shots, inspiring fanfic on the part of our scribbler. Years later, I and my entire family were revised and transported to The Keep; an interactive writing/online roleplaying project. House Mavelyne went from being a noble family of blood mages to a branch in a powerful dynasty, entwining itself with other player’s noble houses and bloodlines. Ours was ruled and guided by a single vampire against Unicorn clerics and a dragon enemy (created and controlled by another player). Caught in the middle, I became one of several youths who took place in the Keep’s Library, a neutral institution. At The Keep, I became Rhodry Mavelyne.

Yes, that’s where our scribbler’s nickname and handle, rhodrymavelyne comes from. It comes from me. Once upon a time, I was a major part of her life. 

Sadly that has changed when I changed again. 

I’ve transformed into Rhodry Nevalyn, one of the Serpent-Born descendents of Nevalyn herself in Trouble at Caerac Keep. Our story is a fantasy mystery work in progress, taking place in the Worlds of Ouroborous centuries after A Suitor’s Challenge. Some of my original conception has been revised, including a special familar. Our scribbler is revising some of her oldest materal for this project. 

The problem is I have to compete with Christopher and Tales of the Navel for her attention. Christopher took Danyel, Tayel (who used to be Dayel), and Leiwell away from me, making them part of his Shadow Forest. I can’t help being resentful of that. His story took on a deeper meaning for the scribbler. Mine isn’t nearly as strange or complex. 

Not that it’s all bad. I have companions in Trouble at Caerac Keep I didn’t. Only I don’t trust them. They don’t trust me either. At least one of them despises me. It’s hard not to miss The Keep sometimes. It’s hard when my story keeps getting put aside. At least I know the scribbler won’t forget Trouble at Caerac Keep or me. 

Q is for Questioning

Someone like me was always part of Kyra’s story, Daeric’s story, and the Serpent’s story. Someone as old as the Serpent Herself, old enough to advise Kyra as she matured into the fantasy story which would become the work in progress; A Suitor’s Challenge.

I snapped into focus when our scribbler first Blogged From AZ, right after she came up with the title A Suitor’s Challenge for Kyra’s story. I became not only Kyra and Stefan’s mentor, but instrumental in the overthrow of the Dragon and the rise of the Unicorn. The Unicorn’s power was the one thing which could counter Nevalyn, Serena, and Zenobia’s ambitions, checking them. She seemed stronger and less morally ambiguous than the Dragon or the World Serpent, more likely to champion the innocent. There was a terrible judgmental cruelty underlying her protectiveness, leading the world to feel the stamp of her hooves and the painful thrust of her horn. I feel guilty thinking of the Unicorn. Her conviction was the answer to my questions and I was questioning everything. I abandoned my former name and chose this one. I stopped pretending to be a human woman, allowing myself to become myself. At the same time I didn’t know what that self was or what I believed in. All I am certain of is that I want Kyra to win in A Suitor’s Challenge. Pray that she and I succeed. 

O is for Ouroborous

We came with Tarot imagery into the scribbler’s imagination. We were always there, the world that her characters struggled against each other within. The idea that we might be the world itself, the voice and soul of the world bubbled to the surface of the scribbler’s imagination during this very Blogging From AZ April Project, the first time she took part in it. 

Thus Ouroborous, the World Serpent was born. Thus World of Ouroborous along with us were born. 

We are what Nevalyn yearns to be, the Dragon a clerical order formed to worship. Our followers strive to keep the light from withering the world, even as we stop ourselves from swallowing it, plunging it into darkness. We are the Unicorn’s temptation, that which she’d rather trample and gore than accept and embrace. We were the reason she could not stay pure. We are what she blames for the impurity in others. 

All of these ideas simmered in the scribbler’s imagination for years. They came to a boil here during the Blogging From AZ April Project. We’ve been here for ages, yet we were born here. It’s a paradox we’re well aware of and amused by. Paradoxes too often amuse us. 

K is for Kyra

My name is an homage to a character played by the very first pop singer the scribbler ever loved, spelled differently. Our scribbler being our scribbler took this early version of me, threw me in a fantasy setting with a bunch of other revised characters from TV shows or movies she loved, reinventing them so they became something completely different. Originally it was fanfic. The characters they’d been died in their worlds, only to remember who really were in the fantasy world. Eventually the fanfic elements, the notions of death and re-awakening were dropped since she wanted to get away from material which didn’t belong to her. Our vague fantasy setting eventually became the World of Ouroborous. I eventually became me. There were two noble houses warring against each other; the Jasior and the Izior. I was Izior, but didn’t realize it. I fell in love with a Jasior prince who was cursed. I had to free him from his curse. 

Some of these elements stayed. I am trying to save a Jasior prince who’s an old friend I was separated from as a child. He saved me from the Serpent, the powerful entity that took residence in my head and heart by inviting Her into his. We’re born descended from Nevalyn, the Serpent. People in our world call us the Serpent-Born. They fear us, try to enslave us, chain us up, and use us. Only Stefan was adopted by Serena Jasior, Imperatrix of the United Lands, becoming a prince and her heir. He’s challenging all of his suitors to magical duels, not leaving anything left of them if they use. 

I’m certain this is behavior is because of Nevalyn inside him. He’s feeding his victims to the Serpent. I want to stop him, yet save him. The only way I can get close to him is by becoming a suitor to the prince myself. 

This is where my story, A Suitor’s Challenge, comes into play.