Christopher walks through the mists of the Cauldron, waiting for them to part. Waiting to see what they’ll reveal to him.
Wispy tendrils of gray creep away from a familiar cobblestone path leading through Omphalos. On either side are cottages, quaint structures with pointed roofs. One of these structures has a swinging sign over the door, painted with an image of a flat stomach and a belly button.
Christopher: (stopping under the sign) The Navel. Center of all things bizarre. Quite a boast, to claim all bizarre things.
He glanced at the window. A muscular human statue with the head of a chicken lowers their beak menacingly at him.
Christopher: Perhaps ‘Brie wants to talk to me.
He opened the door of the dwelling. He enters the darker interior of a shop filled with shelves covered with crystals, candles, boxes, skulls, cups, and statues of squat smiling humanoids among stranger items. Racks of bright-colors robes are tucked away in another corner.
Christopher almost stumbled down the slight slope into the shop which replaced the stairs.
Gabrielle: Welcome to the Navel, center of all things bizarre. (She says her usual greeting, but not with the usual boisterous enthusiasm. She’s too busy searching the shelves in a bustle of skirts and clattering shells.) For the sanity of me, I cannot find my sense of humor! Help me search for it? It’s got to be around here somewhere.
Christopher: Your sense of humor?
He approaches the woman who’s become his mother, who accepted him into her home and Place of Power as her son. Her request isn’t nearly as odd as it might be to a lot of people. Lost memories, wayward ideas, and forgotten dreams find their way into the Navel, manifesting as cups, skulls, or statues. Why not a sense of humor?
What’s stranger is that Gabrielle should lose hers. She’s always smiling or laughing. From the time Christopher first met her, she’s had a strong sense of the wacky.
Take those chicken-headed gods similar to the ones in the window. They’re taking up an entire shelf. Some are made of porcelain. Some are made of metal. Some of models made with actual chicken feathers. They all have human male torsos and the heads of hens.
Inspired by the sight of them, Christopher heads to the shelf where those gods await.
Christopher: It wouldn’t happen to be here, by any chance? Your sense of humor?
Gabrielle turns to glance at the deities only she seems to appreciate. A smile starts to brighten up her face, lifting the lines from it.
Gabrielle: You might say so, yes. How those chickens annoyed Damian! Almost as much as the chicken representations her father collected annoyed our scribbler. Only her father was trying to be Country French. I collected these in an attempt to protect Damian with a joke.
Christopher: Protect him? How?
Gabrielle: Well, chickens have been known to gobble up spiders along with insects and worms. One could consider an arachnocrat a type of spider.
Christopher: The Lady Duessa seemed more amused and scornful at the sight of them along with everything else in the Navel than afraid.
Gabrielle: That was Duessa. She wasn’t the only arachnocrat that wanted Damian. Others might come calling. These deities could be a form of protection.
Christopher: I’m not sure if they ever protected Damian or me. They seemed as eager to get us as any other arachnocrat.
Gabrielle: Maybe I should get rid of them. (She gives the chicken gods a sad look.) No one seems to like them other than me.
Christopher: (waves a hand in protest) Don’t worry about. I’ve grown accustomed to them. They’re part of what makes the Navel bizarre.
Gabrielle: They are, aren’t they? (She perks up a bit.) They still make me smile, but no. They’re not what I’m looking for.
Christopher: We’ll keep looking.
(To be continued next Monday…)