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. 

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: 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. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction. It can be your own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To sample different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For my own, Phaedra will tell us a little bit more about her universe’s herstory in A Symposium in Space

Doctors learned ways to cultivate and clone sperm from existing samples which had been carried from Ancient Earth. A brilliant young scientist created something called sohm, a substitute for sperm which could be used to create a fetus. 

Women could hand over their ova to a fetus creche, where it could be grown in warm fluid filled with all the essential nutrients needed to develop it. This was a much more comfortable way of having a child than going through pregnancy. 

I wondered if we hadn’t lost something in abandoning the rite of childbirth. I’d never known my mother, not really.

Intrigued by what you’re reading? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Symposium-Space-Feast-Words-ebook/dp/B07PGB15FY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3BPACY58MCCMV&keywords=a+symposium+in+space&qid=1552937461&s=digital-text&sprefix=A+Sympo%2Caps%2C239&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130883509?ean=2940161507872

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-symposium-in-space

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928136

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. 

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

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/

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)

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To sample various LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

For my own, Pausania will continue to rage in A Symposium in Space

They sliced her hand causing crimson wounds to bloom all over her smooth skin. “Men have committed crime after crime, started countless wars, preying upon one another along with us. We should never forget that, especially when we start considering offering them citizenship in the Intergalactic Democracy!”

Ah, so this was what bothered her. The possibility of men being able to vote once more in the Democracy, to have a voice in public assemblies. 

Official herstory (intergalactic schools no longer used the word ‘history’, just as they no longer used the word ‘patronizing’) taught young girls that the beginnings of our democracy started with the colonization of other planets. Many of these off-world settlements had been started by women, hoping to create separate cultures apart from the patriarchy we couldn’t seem to shake off back on Ancient Earth. 

Curious about what you’re reading? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Symposium-Space-Feast-Words-ebook/dp/B07PGB15FY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3BPACY58MCCMV&keywords=a+symposium+in+space&qid=1552937461&s=digital-text&sprefix=A+Sympo%2Caps%2C239&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130883509?ean=2940161507872

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-symposium-in-space

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928136

Lift Your Gaze to the Stars: A Party, A Trap Part 2

This is the second part of a freebie story for my Work in Progress Lift Your Gaze to the Stars, inspired by the prompts of P.T. Wyant at ptwyant.com

“Indeed, Ilona, I was pleasantly surprised by how well-bred your children are, judging from how muddle-headed and ill-mannered Dylan can be.” Evelyn nodded in Marchen’s direction. “I suppose I can blame Gino for some of that.”

“You insult your own flesh and blood in front of these strangers and have the nerve to accuse Dylan of being ill-mannered?” Aunt Illya let go of my hand, rose to look my mother right in the eye. 

They were almost the same height, Evelyn and Ilona.

Aunt Illya leaned a little closer to my mother. “You’re making it obvious to everyone, Evie, just who Dylan gets any ill-manners from!”

“Not that you’ve done anything to discourage those manners.” Evelyn didn’t flinch or move away. Her lips were inches from her former lover’s. “Not that I’m ungrateful. You’ve taken care of my son, even if that care was questionable. For that I’m grateful.”

My mother took a step back, raising her voice. “All things, however, must come to an end.”

Evelyn turned to me. She looked me up and down as if I was an unruly space beast she was considering buying. “Now that the war with the Ambience is over, I’ll be taking Dylan back.” 

“What?” I’m not sure if it was Aunt Illya or me who barked out that single word. 

I rose to my feet. I was a little taller than Evelyn. Only Marchen was taller than me, although she was doing her best to hunch her shoulders, making herself unseen.

“I’m almost legally an adult.” I crossed my arms, standing next to Aunt Illya. “You can’t take me back as if I was a child.”

“Until you’re legally of age, you are a child.” Evelyn wasn’t cowed by my height. A tiny smile played across her thin lips when she turned back to Aunt Illya. “I do appreciate the care you’ve given my son, Ilona. I truly do, but it’s over.” She gave me a little sideways glance. “It wasn’t as if I wasn’t paying for that care to begin with.”

Aunt Illya backed away. Her shoulders slumped. She wouldn’t look at me. 

“What?” I glanced from my mother to Aunt Illya.

“Who do you think paid for your clothes and education, Dylan? Gino?” Evelyn shook her head, the corner of her mouth twisting at the mention of Gino. “Not to mention that of Ilona’s own children. Along with all the booze Ilona has managed to consume over the years.”

Aunt Illya flinched at the cruelty of those words. Too often when she drank heavily, it was when she’d been reminded of close she and “Evie” used to be. When she’d just seen a news clip or gotten a message from my mother. The latter were always cold and abrupt. 

For the two of them had been very close. Aunt Illya had never taken the pictures of my mother down from her home. 

Those pictures were from a time before I’d been born. A time before Evelyn Stuart got a taste for power and started discarding everyone she regarded as dead weight. Including Ilona Gambretti. 

She’d broken Aunt Illya’s heart, just as she’d broken my father’s. Only Gino Bodacci could at least talk about it or rant to St. Cecilia of the Stars about his feelings. I wasn’t sure if Aunt Illya had ever found a way to purge herself of the pain besides the bottle. 

This was just another one of her wounds I’d never dared to probe too deeply. 

Deep probing had never bothered Evelyn Stuart. 

She marched forward, seized Aunt Illya’s chin, forcing her to meet my mother’s eyes. 

“Look at you. Once I thought you were stronger than anyone. Only when the chance came for you to shine, you hid. You crawled into the bottle.”

“Some chances aren’t worth the devil’s glitter they give off!” Aunt Illya slapped Evelyn’s hand away from her face. 

A shocked murmur ran through the crowd. 

Aunt Illya seemed oblivious to them. Her attention was completely focused on my mother. “Some things are just wrong, Evie! No matter how well they turned out!”

“You’re the one who’s wrong.” For a moment, a hint of softness came over my mother’s lips, reaching her eyes. “I’m going to prove it to you. Dylan is going to prove it to you. You’re relieved of the burden you’ve been carrying for too long. Crawl back into the bottle. No one will disturb you, least of all my child.”

Evelyn gave Aunt Illya a tiny shove. She stumbled. I caught her before she could fall. 

“Be prepared to pack up and leave this sorry life behind, Dylan.” Evelyn flicked a contemptuous glance at me. “You’re still my son. You’re meant for greater things than being your drunken guardian’s caretaker.”

She turned her back and stalked away. Her lackeys and would-be lackeys stumbled over each other, trying to follow her. 

All except for Marchen. She glanced at me. Concern, worry, and sorrow sparkled in eyes the same gray as her mother’s. Until those eyes moved to her mother, hardening. 

The look in them reminded me of the ice which sometimes clung to our home on Juno 4. 

I wondered how much Marchen agreed with what Evelyn had said. Too often had she found her mother passed on the kitchen floor. Too often had she helped me carry her mother to bed. Even though it was I who usually cleaned the vomit up. 

I found my free hand reaching for the cross around my neck. God help me, I understood Marchen’s anger. 

Don’t be that person, Dylan, I told myself sternly. You promised not to give into your anger. Not toward Aunt Illya. Not toward your mother. Regard weakness with a forgiving eye. Remember, you’ve got plenty of weaknesses of your own. 

Aunt Illya looked up with wide eyes and trembling lips at her daughter. She smoothed the lapels of her uniform. “Marchen-“

Marchen turned her back on both of us with an abrupt violence which startled me. She walked after my mother.

“She hates me.” Aunt Illya stared miserably at her daughter’s stiff departing back. “I can’t really blame her. What a sad excuse for a mother I am. What a sad excuse for a soldier.”

She reached into the lapel of her jacket. Of course her silver flask was there. She uncorked it. I could smell the whiskey. 

She tipped the contents of her flask into her quivering mouth. 

I wanted to take it from her and empty it, but there was no point. She would just refill it. Or buy another flask.

Aunt Illya lowered the flask with some reluctance, gazing at it. “I’ve turned my little girl against me.”

“You could go after her. You could talk to her. Try to talk to her.” I didn’t look at my reflection in the silver.

Aunt Illya didn’t resond. She screwed the cap back on the flask, hid it within her lapel. Only then did she attempt to smile at me.

“You’re too good for the Gambretti family, Dylan. Definitely too good for me.” She folded her trembling hands in her lap. “Evelyn is right to take you back. A smart, capable young man like you will have opportunities at her side I could never give you.”

“I was planning on going to the Academy.” Only my education would be paid for by Evelyn’s money. 

Nor had I been sure if I’d be able to leave. Not if it meant leaving Sasha or Aunt Illya on their own. 

“Child, you’ve got to stop thinking of everyone else and think of yourself.” Tired gray eyes fixed upon me with especial tenderness. “You’ve only got one life unless those crazy experiments Evie is funding work. No one can live your life other than you.”

I smiled. I took her hand again. We sat in silence. 

I wasn’t convinced Evelyn’s reasons for taking me back had anything to do with my life or any opportunities for me. For herself, yes. They might have everything to do with the experiments Aunt Illya mentioned. 

I didn’t trust my mother, but it didn’t look like I could resist her. At least not too directly. Plus I was worried about whatever hold she might have over Marchen. 

This was my chance to find out. 

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

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/

Conversations with Christopher: Map Part 1

Sunshine and flowers peek through patches of mist. Pebbles on a familar garden path crunch beneath Christopher’s feet. He knows this path, this garden, yet it winds into a less trodden area, at least for him.

The mist clears, revealing rows of leafy green and fern-like fronds of ripening carrots in the ground. A stout woman with a dusty scarf wrapped around her head and long skirts tugs, pulling one of the carrots out of the earth. 

Map: (for it is Map) There. Not too much. Just enough to stay solid. To stay real. 

She drops the carrot in a waiting bag at her feet, wipes her dusky face. Wrinkles line her brow, reminding Christopher of the grooves in trees. Eyes as dark as the hollow of a trees filled with hidden sprigs of green fix themselves upon him. 

Map: Oh, it’s you. Gotten lost again, have you?

Christopher: I’m not sure. Do I know you? 

Map: (snorts) Forgot me again, did you? After all the time I spend looking after what you leave behind. 

Christopher: What are you talking about?

Map: Danyel and Tayel. You’d better not have forgotten about them. 

Christopher: No! Of course I haven’t, but how do you know them?

Map: How do I know them? Hmph! (She picks up the bag of carrots at her feet and starts trudging down the path.) Must be nice, being able to walk down any road, find any world you want. No worries, no responsibilities. 

Christopher: (hurrying after that her) That’s not true!

Map: No? You do just enough to stay solid, never enough to stay in one place. 

Christopher: I have a place!

He pauses to look at the roses blooming around them, a gazebo nearby. Yes, this part of the path is more familiar. 

Map: Sure. Sure you spent a lot of time here. Basking in the beauty of the flowers while they basked in you. 

Christopher: (brindling) Just what is wrong with that?

Map: Ever dig for vegetables in this garden?

Christopher: No. I don’t eat much. 

Map: You should eat more. Dig more. I’m trying to get my boys to that, but they’re too much like you. Wandering around the pretty flowers. Starting at shadows. Getting lost. 

Christopher: I’m not exactly…wait. Your boys. Are you talking about Danyel and Tayel?

Map: And their older brother.

Christopher: Have you become their mother?

Map: They already have a mother. Or they should. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Map doesn’t answer at first. She keeps walking down the path, past the roses, past the tall rows of foxglove to a familar wooden gate. Christopher recognizes it from Omphalos.

Map: Too many people get lost among the flowers and shadows. Someone has to look after those left behind. 

She opens the gate. 

Christopher stops, expecting the familar street lined with dwellings up the cobblestone path. There is no cobblestone path. No dwellings except for a single cottage in a field dotten with flowers below an incline. Forest borders the field on either side. 

Christopher: I thought I recognize this place, but I don’t. 

Map: Yes, you did. This was Omphalos. And it will be Omphalos again, given time, villagers, and folly. 

Christopher: How is that?

Map doesn’t answer. She just passes through the gate and heads for the cottage. 

Curious, Christopher follows her. 

(To be continued next Monday)

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

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

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To sample different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

For my own, Pausania will answer the question Phaedra asked her in last weekend’s from A Symposium in Space

“If you feel the word is wrong, why do you keep using it?”

“Because I can’t forget it!” Pausania slammed the glass into the wall, heedless of the broken shards. They sliced her hand causing crimson wounds to bloom all over her smooth skin. “Men have committed crime after crime, started countless wars, preying upon one another along with us. We should never forget that, especially when we start considering offering them citizenship in the Intergalactic Democracy!”

Curious about what you’ve read? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Symposium-Space-Feast-Words-ebook/dp/B07PGB15FY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3BPACY58MCCMV&keywords=a+symposium+in+space&qid=1552937461&s=digital-text&sprefix=A+Sympo%2Caps%2C239&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130883509?ean=2940161507872

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-symposium-in-space

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928136

Lift Your Gaze to the Stars: A Party, A Trap Part 1

On November 10, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving an old woman in uniform, a peace treaty, and a party.

This involved a freebie story in a work in progress I haven’t thought of in a long time, Lift Your Gaze to the Stars. I started writing this and it swelled to the point where I had to break it in two. This is Part 1.

The elderly woman sat at the fringe of the party. Not looking at anyone, Keeping her gnarled hands folded even as she clutched her knuckles. 

Few would have noticed her agitation. I was one of the few. Not to mention I was shocked by how much she’d aged in my absence. 

I sat down next to her. Not wanting to touch her. Not wanting to abandon. “Hello, Aunt Illya.”

“Hello, Dylan.” She glanced in my direction, allowing her weathered features to soften a bit. “Have a nice visit with your father and his mad Italian relatives?”

“Nice and yes, utterly mad. Of course they obsess over how to grow the best tomatoes while on a floating chiesa.” I smiled a little at the memory of La Madonna della Universa and the nuns who ran it. All of whom were my father’s cousins. “I only just got back.”

“Of course you did.” She smiled a little out of the corner of her mouth. “You always tried to take care of us. All of us.”

Her smile faded at the sound of silvery laughter drifting from the center of the party. 

“Aunt Illya, don’t do this.” I almost reached out for her hand. “We can go-“

“No.” She pressed her lips together in a thin line. “This is Marchen and Sasha’s chance to meet people. Yours, too, Dylan.” She fixed a watery gray eye upon me. “You should be saying hello to your mother. This peace treaty is her triumph.”

Bitterness laced each word as she gazed at the gleaming white figure, the center of attention for the crowd. 

Yes, Evelyn Stuart had engineered a peace treaty with the Ambience, brokering a new understanding with the alien race Aunt Illya, a.k.a. Captain Ilona Gambretti dedicated her life to fighting. Peace was like a slap in her face. 

Peace sounded well and good, but I didn’t trust my mother. She was up to something. Aunt Illya didn’t trust the Ambience. Their motivations for anything was murky. 

Inviting an old soldier like Ilona Gambretti, one who had once been Evelyn’s friend and lover was offering an olive branch exuding a stinging sap. 

“You should speak to her,” Aunt Illya said again, but her hands began to tremble. 

“If Evelyn Stuart feels a need to talk to me, she can come over here. This will force her to talk to you as well, Aunt Illya.” I locked my gaze with Ilona’s, forced her to look at me. 

I decided to reach out. 

I took one of her hands, pressed it gently. “Besides you’re my true mother, Aunt Illya. All Evelyn Stuart ever did was give birth to me. I’m half-convinced that in itself was an experiment. To see if she possessed any maternal feelings. Or any feelings at all.”

“Dylan!” Aunt Ilya scolded, but her gray eyes twinkled. She was amused by my words even if she wouldn’t admit it. “No matter what else Evie might be, she’s still your mother. Show a little respect.” 

“Delighted to see you’re at least attempting to teach my son manners, Ilona, even if he stubbornly refuses to learn.”

I froze in the shadow which fell over us, the shadow of many people looming over us. In the forefront was my mother. 

Her silvery-blonde hair was swept up on the top of her head by ambience diamonds. They lined her white cowled tunic. Not a line touched her smooth brow. Evelyn Stuart refused to show any touch of weakness or humanity, including age. 

No one else dared to wear white, although almost everyone around her dressed in similar tunics of dove-gray. They gazed at Aunt Illya and myself with wide, eager eyes. Just waiting to see what the outsiders might do. 

One of Evelyn’s lackeys, standing slightly behind her was Marchen Gambretti, Aunt Illya’s own daughter. She ducked her head, avoiding looking directly at her mother or me. 

Evelyn gazed at us both in slow appraisal. It was like being caught in the gaze of a space serpent.

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

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

Nine Star Press Author Page: https://ninestarpress.com/authors/k-s-trenten/