Paula’s Prompts: A Tale of Omphalos

On August 18, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a current dilemma, a new job, and an old song.

This made me think of Danyel and Tayel; their dilemma they faced in choosing to work for Gryluxx. Thus this freebie Tale of Omphalos was born…

“Passion is red

Yellow is sly

Blue lies in the deep

Brown is always dry.”

It was an old song. He and his twin sang, hummed, and muttered many versions of it. Right now Danyel couldn’t get out of his head. Especially with Tayel murmuring it under his breath. 

“I’m not sure about the new job either,” he said, spinning around to face a face exactly like his own from the shaggy golden waves falling around it to the stubborn pout. Only Tayel’s violet-blue eyes glittered more brightly. Literally. “Only we can’t let our impression of Gryluxx ruin it for us.”

“He has a dusty soul behind his toothy smile, creeping up on anyone fool enough to roll around, looking for treasures in his dirt.” Tayel crossed his arms, silver triangles vibrating in his eyes, bright enough to spit sparks. “Secrets are seldom offered by those who claim them.”

“Meaning he doesn’t know anything useful. He’s just pretending he has secrets to share.” Danyel heaved a sigh. “Why would anyone think we needed to seek him out? I’m wondering the same thing.”

Tayel’s eyes narrowed. He’d guessed Danyel wasn’t telling him everything. Only he wouldn’t ask. Tayel never asked. He hated questions. Once you ask a question, it must be answered, even if you try not to. 

Danyel, on the other hand, was always asking questions. He would have asked Tayel what he was hiding. Not that Tayel would have told him. 

“Gryluxx lacks the crimson intensity of passion or the depths of deepening blue.” Tayel fixed one of those unearthly eyes upon him. Why Tayel had them and Danyel didn’t was another one of the questions he had. Only Danyel wasn’t sure if anyone would answer it. “He takes advantage of the nurturing vitality of green. He’s puffed himself up with the yellow feathers of cleverness, but even that sinks into his inner murk.”

For the twins, different character traits had color. Red was the color of heroes, passion, and anger. Yellow was the color of cunning or cleverness. Tayel’s own favorite was blue. A blue person had depths of feeling and emotion no one else could understand. 

Danyel prefered green. It was the color of love, life, and rebirth. Tayel was quick to point out it was also the color of jealousy. 

 “At least Gryluxx is not part of your hungry darkness or pitiless light,” Danyel pointed out deciding to play his brother’s game. “He’s not trying to devour everyone else’s color or reject it.” 

“To do either would require paying attention to other people’s color. He’s too wrapped up in his own world, his own ambition.” Tayel wrinkled his nose. “Everyone becomes a muddy hue, closer to his own as they get closer to him.”

“This way we can all be part of his mud.” Only it wasn’t that simple. Not when it came to people. 

Lately Danyel had been wondering about the colors he and Tayel played with, the character types which went with him. Just how accurate were they? The twins were only just starting to meet other people besides Map, Leiwell, and each other. Everyone else had been just part of a story. 

All this changed when Omphalos began to rise around their formerly lonely cottage, a thriving village of like-minded souls. Or so their new neighbors claimed to be. 

“Self-doubt is a poison. Don’t let it in!” Tayel hissed with surprising directness. “Allow it to bubble and the raven will spot it.”

“You see Gryluxx as a raven.” This made sense. Given his beady black and acquisitive personality. Danyel could see him pecking at seeds, shining objects, or other people. 

“You can hear him caw.” Tayel lifted his chin, gave it a sharp jerk in the direction of the tailor’s front door. 

The cottage was no bigger than any other, but its door was painted black. An ostentatious golden knocker in the form of a gargoyle scowled at visitors. 

Danyel lifted a small hand and knocked. 

The door opened. The smiling round face of Meggie gazed at him with bright eyes through the crack. “Oh, you’ve come back. I, um, wasn’t sure you would.”

“I wasn’t either,” Danyel admitted, finding himself smiling. If only he and Tayel were working for Meggie. Perhaps he should be more uneasy about Gryluxx’s wife, but she seemed so relaxed and sleepy. She made him feel relaxed too.

“You’re welcome, um, to come in.” The door swung open, revealing a table with a pile of what might have been swaths of silk lying upon it, shelves with thread, scissors, various rolls of velvet, wool, what might have been fur, and the scales from some beast.

Danyel felt his twin shiver at the sight of the latter, only to quiver himself. Just what living creatures died in order for Gryluxx to make clothes?

“We, um, have people bring us materials.” Meggie took a bite of the custard tart in her hand, dribbling crumbs all over the floor. She glanced into a corner and said, “Yes, that’s right.”

Tayel let out a hissing sound which perhaps only Danyel could hear. His twin stared with overly bright eyes into the same corner Meggie had addressed. “Right is relative to the creature in question.”

Meggie flinched a bit at the corner before shaking her head. “No, ah, he has a point. Something may well have died to provide the fur and feathers. Maybe more than one something.”

“Who are you talking to?” Danyel glanced from Meggie to his twin. The latter was shaking his head, warning him with his eyes to shut up. 

“Oh, just my dead aunts. They’re very difficult to please, being dead and unable to rest.” Meggie tapped a finger against her head, getting crumbs in her hair. “Guess that would make anyone difficult to please.”

“Talking to ghosts again, you addle-brained cow?” The sharp, nasally voice of the tailor filled the room. “Don’t pay her any attention, you wide-eyed brats. There’s nothing in the corner but Megan’s imaginary friends. They’re only as real as you think there are.”

“And the tower on the hill is a just a pile of rocks?” Danyel couldn’t help himself. Gryluxx’s dismissal of what his wife saw was too much like Map’s denial of anything lingering around the tower back when it was a ruin. 

It had just been wishful thinking on her part.

“Of course not!” Gryluxx did his best to glide into the room in his black robes tied with a golden cord, his nose held high. “The tower is the Temple of Seraphix! Where fools gather to worship a demon as a god!”

“What?” Danyel asked in astonishment, looking around. 

No seemed surprised other than him. Meggie blinked at him. “Well, of course it’s Seraphix’s temple. Didn’t you know?”

Tayel looked away, allowing his golden waves to sway, hiding whatever might be on his face.

Of course. His twin had known what was going on. Again. All the while keeping Danyel in the dark. Again. 

“Um, don’t let this silly bird scare you with his talk of demons.” Meggie blinked her sleepy eyes at her husband. “Of course Seraphix is a god. I’ve worshipped Them for years.”

“You have?” Danyel turned, his heart picking up speed. 

He remember a night of torches, running, screaming out curses, naming her monster. For Danyel hadn’t been himself at the time. He’d been someone else, a priestess at a temple. A priestess whose sisters at the temple turned against her. 

Someone who’d once been Map. 

“You weren’t a priestess or a Sister of Seraphix, were you?” It was a blind guess, plucked from a few words vaguely remembered from a dream.

“Huh, maybe I was.” Meggie scratched her head again, glanced in the corner. “Don’t shout. There’s lots of things I can’t remember.”

“Including what’s real and not,” Gryluxx sneered, stroking the silver coin around his neck with ringed fingers. “Seraphix is no god. There are no gods. They got weak and were overthrown. It’s a spiritual landscape of opportunity now, my chicks. You can seize a part of that for yourself.”

“Just what did you want us to do?” Danyel asked, lifting his head. Best to find out exactly what the tailor wanted of them.

“First off, sort through this silk.” Gryluxx gestured to the piles. “Fold them neatly, according to color. I’m overwhelmed here with everything our lord asks for.” He eyed the boys with sharp black eyes. “Some of what he asks for is for you.”

“For us?” Danyel squeaked, but he looked down at his light green vest over his white tunic. 

“Yes, I was the one who sewed that. Without you here for measurements, I might add.” The tailor puffed out his chest with some pride. “Our fine lord has instructed me to make two more for you. Blue and green again, only this time they’re to be silk.”

Danyel glanced down at his vest. “It is beautifully made.”

“Of course it is. Don’t act so surprised.” Gryluxx scowled at him. “You’ve been very spoiled, both of you. Do you know how many souls have been run off their feet, clothing and caring for you on our lord’s orders?”

“No,” Danyel said with complete honesty. “Leiwell and Map brought us things. They only said they came from our lord.”

“Sheltered as well as spoiled.” Gryluxx made a harrumping sound. “If you two wish to survive in this wicked world, you’d better learn more about it!”

“That’s why we’re here.” Danyel lifted his chin with some pride and walked over to the piles of silk. 

Tayel let out a low angry sigh. His twin didn’t want to be here. He didn’t trust Gryluxx. Everything he’d said about the man had been the truth. 

At the same time he could leave his twin alone to learn about this wicked world alone. 

Tayel walked over to join Danyel in sorting. 

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Conversations with Christopher: Map Part 3

Christopher: Why wouldn’t I change? If I keep losing myslf in the Shadow Forest, wouldn’t parts of me fall away? Devoured by other shadows.

Map doesn’t answer for a long moment. The two of them sit at a round table in a warm kitchen, blue and white curtains drawn. 

It’s a safe place, a quiet place. At least it should be. Except Christopher can see the ruined tower, perched on top of the hill. 

Something looks back at them from that tower across the distance. Somehow seeing them through the glass. Seeing him. 

Christopher: You can feel it, too, can’t you? Something watching?

Map: It feeds on attention. The more you give it, the stronger it grows. The hungrier it becomes. Pay it no mind. 

Christopher: Does that really work?

Map shuts her eyes and presses her lips together.

Map: We’re able to live quietly in this cottage because of Leiwell. Because of what Leiwell does. (She gestures to the books on the shelf.) Everything we have is because of Leiwell.

Christopher: You’ve lived here longer than you’ve had Leiwell. 

Map: Aye, and I’ve been watched that entire time. I try not to look back, but when I brought Leiwell home, well, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to keep him. Just as I’ve a feeling I won’t be able to keep the twins. 

Christopher: What are you afraid of, Map?

Map: (shivering) Something happened to me beyond the Door. No. Something happened to me years ago, before I came to Omphalos. I let something free inside of me. It took on a life on its own. It stalks me, watches me, resents me. It wants my sons. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Map: I shouldn’t mean anything. Just talking about it gives it more life. Only he’s already loose in the world. He walks in the guise of a man, a lord.

Christopher: He?

Map: The one I didn’t take home. The one I turned away from. He’s been many people. I think he’s even been part of your Gardens of Arachne. 

Christopher freezes, thinking of a smiling youth with silvery-moon pale hair and glacier-like eyes. A youth who defied the rules of the Garden as Damian did, becoming a young man. Even though he should have been a statue, standing amidst the flowers. 

Christopher: Dyvian. You’re talking about Dyvian, aren’t you?

Map: Is that his name? I never asked. He never told me. Leiwell only refers to him as his lord. Somehow he’s become the lord of the land around this cottage, which includes this cottage. 

Christopher: How did he meet you?

Map: (shutting her eyes) He wouldn’t exist if not for me. He was born of my anger, my hunger for love, and rage at being denied it. 

Christopher: He was a lot more than that when I met him. He was capable of gentleness, and more than willing to follow the ways of the Garden. At least he seemed to. 

Map: He’s capable of being many things if people wish him to be them. He’s willing to be whatever Leiwell wants to be, if Leiwell will serve him.

For a moment an image of brilliant green eyes looking back at him from Damian’s face comes Christopher. He shuts his eyes against the vision, biting his lower lip. 

Christopher: Leiwell already serves Dyvian. Dyvian feeds him. 

Map: (gives Christopher a sharp look) How do you know that?

Christopher: I don’t have the connection with Leiwell I do with the twins, but I did have a strong bond with one of his victims. 

Map: Victims?

Christopher: Map, you know what I am. You know what Leiwell and the twins are, yet you still took us in. 

Map: It seems to me you’re all victims. You create more victims if someone doesn’t take you in, show you a better way. 

Christopher: (pauses, thinking of Damian and Gabrielle) That’s true. 

Map: Whatever Leiwell did in the Shadow Forest, he’s a part of this world now. I’m making him a part of it.

Christopher: What if Dyvian…his lord…wants him to be something else?

Map falls silent, gazes at her hands on the table. She won’t look at Christopher or the window. 

Map: Every night Leiwell disappears. He won’t tell any of us where he’s going. He returns in the morning. Often bearing gifts.

Christopher: Only he’s listless, pale. Like he’s still wandering in a dream or part of him is missing?

Map: You think he’s going to the Shadow Forest. Feeding that creature. 

Christopher: I don’t know. If his lord is being what Leiwell wants him to be, it’s possible Dyvian is feeding Leiwell, too. 

Map: Feeding him so he can feed off him. 

Christopher bows his head, thinking of Damian, of looking at the sky while listening to the dance of Damian’s brush, the soft sound of Damian’s movements. 

Christopher: This may be what Leiwell wants. 

Map: Leiwell has no idea what he wants. He’s an innocent creature, only too receptive to anyone who’s willing to love or guide him. 

Christopher: Aren’t we all at first?

There’s another long moment where they gaze at each other over the table. 

Map: You should go. 

Christopher: Why did you lead me here, Map?

Map: I wanted to see you, to talk to you. Even if you’re as big a danger as your lord.

Christopher: You’re living with dangerous creatures, Map. You’re a dangerous creature yourself, even if you try to live quietly. 

Map: Get out.

Christopher: How long do you think you can hide? Look the other way while someone is watching you? While he’s watching your children?

Map: Get out!

Christopher gets up and walks to the door. He opens it, turns around. 

Christopher: The next dangerous creature you invite in may not be as willing to leave as I am. 

He steps outside where the mist is rising, waiting for him. 

Map gets up and shuts the door behind him. She goes to the window and draws the curtains. 

#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of the Navel

On November 17, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a drawbridge, a comb, and a Help Wanted sign.

This bizarre Tale of the Navel, a prelude with Peter to Unwilling to Be Yours was the result…

How strange to see a Help Wanted sign just after Peter had crossed a drawbridge into a castle. 

He was carrying a comb. He’d intended to give it to Paul. Perhaps it had belonged to a famous vampire, still carrying traces of its previous owner’s dark energy. Perhaps a siren had used it to straighten her hair before singing below a bridge, convincing those ailing in their hearts to jump. 

This was how desperate Peter was, brandishing this comb and a likely fable just to get his former lover to talk to him. 

“Oh, what a lovely comb!” A mermaid popped her wet head out of the moat. Tresses of hair floated around her breasts. “Won’t you come down, handsome stranger, and give it to me?” 

She gave a fetching little wiggle which didn’t fool Peter. 

“I’m so sorry, my lovely.” He gave a half-bow and a wink, but never quite stopped walking, keeping a firm grip on the comb. “My assistance is needed elsewhere.”

He gave the sign a significant nod. 

“Such a shame. All that beauty of yours wasted on a heavenly direction and attempts to return what isn’t wanted.” The mermaid flicked her tail dismissively at the sign. “Come back when you tire of work and decide to play.”

She giggled and dove below the water of the moat. 

It was only when he was on the other side that Peter saw the bones lying in patches of land under the drawbridge. Human bones. 

Why was he not surprised playing with a mermaid could be fatal?

He looked around the castle courtyard. Birds chittered and took flight amidst the lords and ladies rushing in different directions. No one paid much attention except for one. 

“Why, that’s my comb!” A lady wearing a haughty scowl upon a long face under a coned headdress snapped her fingers under his nose. “Give it here, boy!”

Peter shook his head, smiled, and pressed the comb to his chest. “Forgive me, my lady, but this comb is for my former lover. I must woo him with lies in an attempt to win him back.”

“How brazen of you to admit that!” she scolded, but a smile softened her face. “All right, get along with you. Just remember, lies can be more costly than the truth.”

She raced after a distracted lord in black, no longer paying attention to Peter. Just why was everyone in a hurry? 

There was no point in hurrying, just as there was no point in telling him lies could be more costly than the truth. The truth had a way of popping out, regardless, like a hideous jack-in-the-box. 

Peter found the stairs leading up to one of the castle towers. He started climbing them, winding up the stone edifice, glancing down at the green countryside below. 

Some of it he’d passed through. There were a few cottages he hadn’t remembered seeing. How interesting. 

He reached the end of the stairs at a little wooden door in the stone wall. 

Uncertain, he tapped on the door.

“Come in, Peter.” The voice was soft, seductive, yet somehow deep and commanding. It tickled the insides of his ears, sending shivers all the way down to his groin. 

He opened the door, finding himself in small bedchamber. A great bed with long dark green hangings did nothing to conceal the occupant. 

A man with high-cheekbones rolled over amidst his own moonlight-colored hair, exposing bare shoulders slipping free of a robe the same hue as the bedcovers. The man fixed him with a searing gaze, his eye filled with prism-like light. 

“Shut the door behind you.” The man smiled the slow smile of a predator who’d just caught a particularly succulent squirrel in his claws. “We don’t want to be disturbed.”

“My lord,” Peter said, tasting the truth in every world. This man was the true lord of this place, no matter what title or lack of title he might have. 

He turned to shut the door behind him, knowing he risked being devoured, but so what? He’d come this far for his wish. Better to be eaten than to turn back. 

“So determined,” the man said softly. “Paul was a fool to discard you. He might follow gods, but you could become a god yourself.”

Honeyed words in which he might be stuck. 

“Not to waste such an opportunity,” Peter chose his own with care, doing a little spin to face the occupant of the bed. “I cannot help but wonder if you were looking and expecting someone else.”

“As you were?” The man raised himself from the bed, exposing more shoulder and chest as perfect as a marble statue’s. “This doesn’t mean we don’t have something to offer each other.”

“I saw the Help Wanted sign.” Peter sauntered toward the bed, yet stopped before getting too close. “Are you the one asking for it?”

“Yes and no. The Navel needs help.” The man leaned back to expose his own hairless navel and what lay beneath it. “The question is do you truly want to help? Or are you simply seeking your own path?”

Difficult to answer that question even with this man looking and smelling the way he did, distracting Peter with his ample charms. 

“I wished to see someone again.” Peter stood his ground, clutching his comb. “I may have to lie to do so.”

“You don’t have to lie to me. You won’t be able to.” The man reached and nudged Peter’s thigh. “Come closer. I have a message I want you to deliver.”

“What message?” Peter allowed himself to be drawn toward the bed, to lean over his occupant.

“This one.” The man reached out to seize Peter, claiming his lips with his own. “You’ll know who. You’ll find him as difficult to resist as I always have.”

Peter fell on top of the half-naked man, finding his own body very happy to be there. 

The man wrapped his robe which seemed to be growing around both of them. Darkness enveloped the two men. Peter tasted darkness, breathing in the shadows along with the taste of their master…

…only to find himself walking down a cobblestone path, clothes in disarray. 

“What happened?” The man, the bedchamber, the castle were retreating as if they’d been a dream. 

He glanced down at his empty hands. Somehow, somewhere, he’d lost his comb. 

Conversations with Christopher: Map Part 3

Images swim within Map’s eyes, images which not everyone can see. Flickers of torchlight, accompanied by angry cries, the heavy echo of footsteps, and labored breathing. All washed out in a crimson pool. 

Christopher sees himself rising from the pool. Its bloody hue softens, suffused by blue, green, and refracted light. It bubbles, the bubbles floating from the surface to pop around him while he clutches an egg to his chest. 

He sees himself again, leaning over the edge of another pool of water. Cooler, quieter, yet colors still float across the surface. A hand stretches out from the pool, beckoning with pale fingers. 

Christopher: Is this how you see me?

Map: I see another Omphalos reflected in your eyes. You were happy there, but you couldn’t help chasing after what you couldn’t have.

Christopher: I have no sense of direction. I needed my…Map. (He stares at her, eyes widening).

Map: (nods with a sad little smile) I’ve had many names, but I always been fond of Map. The name you and Ashleigh gave me. 

Christopher: You became our Map. You gave us direction, a place to go when we badly needed it. How could have I forgotten you?

Map: You keep opening Doors, getting lost in gardens, or other people. You and Ashleigh both.

Christopher: You didn’t forget us. 

Map: I try not to open Doors. I stay right here, even when another Omphalos vanishes or burns down around me. 

Christopher: I’m sure I’ve seen you on the other side of the Door. Even if I no longer recognized you. 

Map: I said I try not to. I never said I didn’t. There’s a part of me that wants to chase after you. To find everyone else I’ve lost. 

Christopher: Have you?

Map: I found Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel. You and Ashleigh for brief moments, but I’ve never been able to hold onto you. Sometimes others. My boys are the only ones I’ve managed to bring back. 

Christopher: Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel.

Map: Yes. They’ve become my children. Drawn to dangerous things, all of them, but we’ve managed to form a family here.

Christopher: Where did you find them?

Map: I already told you. On the other side of the Door.

Christopher: That’s a big place. The Shadow Forest is huge and it’s always changing.

Map: Aye, and it’s not always a Forest.

Christopher: And you managed to bring these children back. 

Map: Not without help.

Christopher: Whose help?

Map: You’ll find out soon enough. 

Christopher: You’re very mysterious. 

Map: There’s too much to reveal you’re not ready for yet. I just wanted to show you this cottage. To see you, sitting here once more. 

She bows her head. Christopher can feel the grief, pulling down her shoulders, hanging in the air. 

He reaches for her hand. 

Christopher: I’m sorry, Map. I’m sorry you’ve had to bear this alone.

Map: (lifting his head, managing a grim smile) It’s not like I didn’t chose bear it. Someone has to take care of the cottage. Make certain there’s a home to return to. 

Christopher: I think in a way you’re like Gabrielle. She’s doing what you’re doing. Waiting in the Navel for people to come to her. 

Map: Is she, now? (Her smile broadens a bit.) I’m glad you’ve found someone solid to ground you. You kept attaching yourself to people who disappear. 

Christopher: (it’s his turn to smile sadly) I’m afraid that hasn’t changed. 

Map: No, it wouldn’t, would it? 

(To be continued Monday) 

Tales of the Navel: A Fresh Start

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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Conversations with Christopher: Map Part 2

Grass crunched under Christopher’s feet as he approached the vine-covered cottage. There’s nothing but the fields and the distant forest. The garden at the foot of the hill is behind them. 

He can’t risk a glance over his shoulder.

A ruined tower perched upon the top of the hill. 

Christopher feels the hairs rise on the back of his neck at invisible eyes looking back at him. The breeze whispers and murmurs, tugging at his hair, his clothes. 

Map: Pay it no mind. Don’t let it do anything more than watch and whisper. It’ll feed on your attention. 

Christopher: What?

Map doesn’t answer. She marches up to the door of the cottage and opens it. She glances back. 

Map: You coming inside or not?

She enters. Christopher follows. 

Once he crosses the threshold, the whispering stops. He looks around at the sunlight streaming in the kitchen window, illuminating the wood of the long table. Five chairs are arranged around it. 

Map toward the table, dumping her bag of vegetables upon it. 

Christopher begins to follow, but pauses at the sight of a familar golden disc upon the floor. Directly above, a silver circle mirrors it. There are cushions upon the floor, a couple of comfortable chairs. The walls are covered with book shelves. 

Christopher: Is this the Navel?

Map: Like I said, this was Omphalos. Omphalos is another word for navel. Some believe the navel is the center of one’s being. (She turns her back to the hearth, to a row of knives and spoons hanging from the wall.) I suppose you could consider it my center. It’s always been my home, even as the village around me comes and goes. Right now it’s gone. 

Christopher: You said it would return because of folly. 

Map: Folly, greed, loneliness, the need to create a community, to draw back those who’ve wandered from the fold. They’ll return with their taverns, their shops, and their temples. (She scowls.) Your Navel wasn’t a shop or a temple, was it?

Christopher: It was a shop. An unusual shop. Nothing like this place except for these discs.

Perhaps he shouldn’t but he’s curious. Christopher steps into the golden disc. 

Warmth fills his hands. He looks down at them, sees them glowing with a green light. He sees Danyel, cocking his head, looking at him in enquiry. 

A chill runs down his back. Danyel is no longer there. Tayel gazes at him, violet-blues glimmering with silver triangles, fierce in their brightness. 

Tayel dissolves into light and color. Christopher feels himself rise into the air. Shadows swallow the light, enveloping the color. 

He stands in a a dark little bedroom. The only illumination is from a dim little window. Stray beams gleam upon the golden waves of hair of the two boys sleeping upon the bed. Their eyes are closed, their mouths are open. It’s Danyel and Tayel.

Christopher doesn’t have a chance to even say their names before he’s sucked into the silver disc upon the floor. Once again he stands in the gold disc, stinging pains prickling through his body, surrounded by cushions and book shelves. 

He steps out of the circle. The pains stop. 

Christopher: So this is where Danyel and Tayel live. Don’t they?

Map is now chopping vegetables at the table. She doesn’t even look up at him. 

Map: You would have found them, even if I tried to hide them from you. Don’t disturb them any more than you already have. 

Christopher: I wouldn’t dream of disturbing them. 

Map snorts and continues to chop. 

Christopher: (moving toward the table) This place seems so familiar yet it’s unfamiliar. 

Map: You used to live here, Christopher. As uneasy as you make me around the twins, this is still your home. 

Christopher: Was this cottage once the Navel? Or will it someday be?

Map: There you go talking about navels again. Get your mind out of your belly button. If you have one. I told you. It’s my home.

Christopher: The Navel is…was…my home. It may have been a shop as I said, but it was also my home. 

Map: It’s good to have a home. A place where you can settle down and grow roots. Makes you more attached to the world around you. 

Christopher: How long has this place been your home?

Map: I’m not sure. Time has a way of slipping away in this place.

Christopher: Have you lived anywhere else?

Map: I’ve tried. It never ends well. Not that things always end well here. Not when people come bringing their folly and their greed.

Christopher: You keep mentioning that. 

Map: It’s not a bad thing to build a village, but they keep wanting to get bigger and bigger. To become something they’re not. To make other people something they’re not. Eventually they disappear. 

Christopher: What happened to them?

Map: You tell me. (She pauses in her chopping to look at him.) What happened to you when we lost you?

For a moment Christopher recalls a hand holding his, only to release it. Two women walking away from him into the mists. 

He thinks about calling out to them, but Damian’s rose-purple eyes fix upon him. He cannot look away from them. 

Christopher: I found someone. Someone who needed me. 

Map: Hmph. We’ve got that in common. We keep finding people who need us. They break our hearts. Every time. Only we can’t turn away. Can we?

For a moment she looks up at Christopher with those dark eyes. He can see the green glimmer within them. He feels a warmth, swimming up from within him. 

When he meets Map’s gaze, the same green light flickers within the many colors caught within his own. 

(To be continued next Monday)

Conversations with Christopher: Peter

Hands reach out to grab Christopher’s feet from the glowing silver disc beneath him, Some of them climb up his legs with roving fingers pulling him down and through a now insubstantial floor. 

He slides down into a sea of hands, carrying him down the ceiling to the waiting golden disc on the ground. 

The hands release the slender youth with slow reluctance, disappearing into the golden disc on the Navel’s floor. 

Christopher: Every time it’s different. (He steps out of the golden circle in a hurry to glance up at the silver one upon the ceiling.)

A moan comes from above, a young man’s groan filled with frustrated longing.

Christopher: Peter?

The silver disc glows, becoming misty. Two slippered feet attached to slim, wiry legs in hose emerge from the mist, followed by a pelvis thust out, a torso quivering. Peter’s head is thrown back while he floats from the ceiling.

The golden disc below brightens, pulsing with an almost seductive rhythm. Peter’s eyelids flutter, his lips parted in a dreamy little smile. 

Christopher: Peter?

Peter: (not opening his eyes) Yes. Yes, that’s me. I’m all yours. 

His feet hit the circle. The glow disappears. 

Peter opens his eyes, stands up straight. His mouth closes. 

Peter: Well. (He allows one hand to slightly cover his groin in a gesture that’s almost demure for Peter.) I’m not sure, but going down is always more pleasant than going up to Gabrielle’s sanctum above the Navel. Wherever that is.

Christopher: (averting his eyes) I’m not sure either. I always thought it was part of the Navel. The private part for those who’ve become part of it.

Peter: Is that so? (He fixes his soft brown eyes upon Christopher.) Am I part of the Navel, Christopher?

Christopher: You’ve been a part from the moment you were able to enter. (He gestures up toward the silver disc.) To rise, to enter Gabrielle’s sanctum, is to become one of us. 

Peter: (glancing up in the direction of Christopher’s finger, one hand on his hip) Is it really Gabrielle’s? Or simply part of the Navel as you say?

Christopher: I’m not sure if ‘Brie sees a difference between herself and the Navel. 

Peter: She belongs as much to the shop as it does to her, eh? No escape now. She’s bound to its walls and boundaried by them.

Christopher: Now you sound like Damian. If ‘Brie is bound to the Navel, it’s because she wants to be. She loves her work here. 

Peter: Or she’s hiding, avoiding something or someone. Like all of us. 

Christopher: Gabrielle is the last person in the world who would hide. You’ve seen what she’s like.

Peter: I have. The hearty manner, the odd hats, the way she proudly welcomes visitors to the center of all things bizarre. She wraps these things around herself like a loud cloak, distracting everyone. No one will look too close. 

Christopher: (lowers his head) I never thought of it that way. 

Peter: Yes, you have. (He takes a step closer to the younger boy, so he’s right in front of him.) You’re just too polite to allow yourself to dwell on your mother’s vulnerability. After all you have plenty of your own. 

Christopher: (raises his chin only to find Peter’s face is too close) What of it?

Peter: I’ll wager Damian noticed this vulnerability and picked at it. 

Christopher: He didn’t see ‘Brie’s reasons for being here as vulnerabilities. He thought she was wasting her strength. 

Peter: (leaning back, giving Christopher space) Perhaps he was right. 

Christopher: (raising an eyebrow) I never thought I’d see the day you’d agree with Damian. On anything. 

Peter: Just because he was right doesn’t mean he wasn’t a prick. He used ‘Brie to hide from whatever awaited him until he decided to leave, using everyone else to make his exit. Including your need to hide. 

Christopher: He offered me the Navel in return for the Shadow Forest.

Peter: Yes, definitely a prick. As if the Navel was his to offer. 

Christopher: Do you think the Navel is anyone’s to offer? Even Gabrielle’s?

Peter: A fair question. I’m not sure how Gabrielle and the Navel have become one even if I’m certain they were very different entities once upon a time. I could speculate quite a bit about this. Clever distraction on your part.

Christopher: Distraction? (He backs up another step.)

Peter: Yes. You distracted me completely from the topic of what you’re hiding from.

Christopher: (raising his chin) I might ask you the same. Since you’re convinced we’re all hiding from something. 

Peter: What am I hiding from? (He backs up a step, lets out what might have been intended to be a hearty laugh, but it comes out weak.) I would have that was obvious. My own broken heart and frustrated desires. (He shrugs as if it doesn’t matter.) I suppose I need you, you and ‘Brie. Perhaps I need the Navel, too, and its customers. You’re a haven from everything I’ve been through. 

Christopher: (softening) We need you, too.

Peter: If only you needed me, Christopher. (He takes a few steps forward, closing the distance betweeen them.) If only I could satsify that hunger of yours.

He reaches out to touch Christopher’s lips.

Christopher reaches up to remove Peter’s hand, but he doesn’t let go of it. 

Christopher: You do. 

Peter: (sighing) Not in the way I’d hoped to.

He drops Christopher’s hand and shrugs, offering him a smile. 

Peter: Ah, well, all I can do is keep on hoping.

Christopher: Peter…

Peter: Never mind! Perhaps there’s time for a little walk through Omphalos before the Navel opens, hmm?

Without looking back, Peter marches toward the Navel door.

More slowly, Christopher follows. 

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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. 

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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. 

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