On July 3, 2019, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com
a Wednesday Words prompt involving a celebration, fear, and bright lights.
This freebie story for A Godling for Your Thoughts?
(the third in my planned novels for Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest,
currently under revision) was the result. Actually it felt more like it could have been a segment within the novel itself. I wonder if there might be an opportunity to insert the main body of the novel itself?
The lights from the torches and candles sitting on top of the benches, blazing from the posts along the street dazzled his eyes. Neighbors laughed in hearty voices, but there was an edge buried within their merriment.
Tayel shut his eyes and clapped his hands over his ears, willing it all to hurt a little less. A leaf might as well have asked a fierce wind not to blow it about.
“This is so…” Danyel shivered, as overwhelmed and unused to so many people in one place as he was. “I never realized this much noise was possible.” Wonder mingled with his fear even as he gazed from face to face.
“How nice or you, even if it’s painful for me.” Tayel shut his eyes, light and noise pushing against his closed eyelids. “Everyone’s desires come together in a chaotic cauldron, threatneing to boil over.”
“I think they’re just enjoying themselves.” Danyel frowned and looked around at the villagers, the residents of Omphalos.
Maggie was doing a crazy jig with a mug of ale in one hand. Jupitre caught her around the waist and planted a wet kiss on her cheek. This should have drawn the ire of Jupitre’s wife, but no, Juno was busy laughing and chattering non-stop to Leiwell, the twins’ older brother, her round face flushed. She kept moving her hand up Leiwell’s arm and reaching for his leg. Leiwell managed to dodge her and distract her with a mug of ale he held ready for her like an attentive servant. It was impossible to tell what he’s thinking. Leiwell allowed this noisy neighbor to paw at him, keeping a bright smile on his face and offering her the goblet from time at time, but he kept his eyelashes lowered, until Tayel caught his gaze. Green eyes flickered with a reflection of the same discomfort and fear Tayel felt before vanishing, retreating behind a mask of charm and courtesy.
Map sat on a bench nearby, scowling, arms folded in front of her, not even pretending to have fun. Drink after drink was placed before her by an attentive Melyssa, as eager to please her as Leiwell pretended to please Juno. Meggie sat next to Map, entirely too close, nudging the older woman, and filching the drinks which were in front of her.
Tayel glanced around the lights for Ashleigh, to see how she was reacting to all this. Her laughter should have been the loudest of all, for she’d had a hand in building this tavern. Instead she was off to the side, engaged in intent conversation with Gryluxx of all people. The tailor wore a nasy grin, lifting his beringed hands in a description perhaps of a bird in flight, parodying its collision with some sort of predator.
Ashleigh didn’t smile back. From time to time, she glanced at Map, at Leiwell and Juno, at the twins themselves. Tayel caught her eye when it turned his way. It glittered with silvery distress.
“Fear stalks the festivities, radiating from other sources than our hearts.” Tayel crossed his arms. “Only two have truly given themselves up to revelry.”
“Huh?” Danyel might act like an idiot much of the time, but he wasn’t one, not really. He glanced around, noting their oldest brother with Juno and their unhappy mothers. “All right, Leiwell is being too charming, Juno is enjoying it too much, Mel is wishing Map would be more charming, and Map is having none of that, but what in the solid world would Ashleigh want with Gryluxx?” Danyel frowned, studying the more wayward of their mothers with Omphalos’s most unpleasant resident, except for maybe Thomas. “What’s worse, what does Gryluxx want with her? His intentions are never pleasant.”
“Nothing remains hidden for long in a small place like a village with fewer spots to hide away in.” Tayel studied the grim face of the woman, who’d been a missing enigma for too long in the twins’ lives. “Ashleigh has secrets. The two of us are among those secrets, secrets a rude raven is determined to peck at.”
“The rude raven being Gryluxx.” Danyel let out a long, shuddering sigh. “I guess it’s been fairly obvious we’re hiding things. Gryluxx thinks all secrets are his to find out and expose.”
“Don’t underestimate Ashleigh.” Tayel lowered his head, even as the woman in question lifted her chin. “She changed, diminished, yet continued to exist for a long time beyond the Door, never losing sight of her goal. Gryluxx won’t find her easy prey.”
“Gryluxx is determined to make everyone his prey.” Danyel bit his lower lip. “Look at the glee on his face. He only gets that happy when he’s doing something hurtful.”
Gryluxx grinned at Ashleigh like a sadistic tom cat from a faerie tale who’d caught a pixie in his paw, only to start tormenting her as if she were a fat, juicy mouse.
Tayel scowled. He didn’t care much for Ashleigh or her plans for Omphalos. At the same time, it bothered him to see her cheerful confidence being shredded. Especially when Gryluxx was doing the shredding.
“That’s right.” Danyel reacted as if Tayel had said all of these things out loud. He glanced at his twin’s face and began walking towards the tailor and their mother.
A bit surprised, yet touched, Tayel stepped in time with his brother. The two of them walked over to Ashleigh.
“Ah, here come my pretty little servants.” Gryluxx bared his teeth at the twins in a yellow grin. “Enjoying the festivities, are you? I was just having a chat with your mother.” He gave Ashleigh a mocking bow. “Tonight is bringing back so many lost memories from a past she’d almost forgotten. Particularly with the people here.”
Ashleigh looked down and trembled, unable to look at either of her sons.
“Beware of looking too closely at what was lost.” Tayel crossed his arms and allowed his chill power to flare within. “They may have menace for more than their former owner.”
“That’s right,” Danyel chimed in, letting a little of the drama he showed when reading a story enter his voice. “Many a door once opened may have been shut for a good reason.”
It was exactly the sort of thing Tayel himself would have said. He shot his twin a startled glance.
Danyel winked at him, lips twitching with a grin he held back.
Tayel felt his cheeks redden.
“What’s all that supposed to mean?” Gryluxx looked from face to face. “Have you seen something about me? Has she?” He turned a scowl with hairy black eyebrows kniting together in Ashleigh’s direction. “Just what have you remembered?”
“Why, you were the one telling me about all the things I’d forgotten.” Ashleigh crossed her arms and grinned. “It’s bringing back a few things about you. A few interesting things.”
“Don’t try to threaten me!” Gryluxx’s nostrils flared as he quivered all over, glaring from face to face. “You need me in Omphalos. I won’t be bullied or pushed around!”
“What a curious coincidence. Neither will I.” Ashleigh’s grin turned wicked as she held out her hand. “I’m so glad we understand each other.”
Gryluxx stalked away from Ashleigh, shoving Danyel away, marching over to where his wife sat, drinking Map’s ales. He starked barking at her.
“What are you doing, you lazy cow? You think you can drink yourself into a stupor, forgetting your husband? Pull yourself together!”
“Now, no need to lose your temper,” Map looked up at him with fearless, dark eyes. “She was just having a drink with me during a celebration. Surely you have no objection to your wife taking part in this celebration?”
“I don’t need to be lectured by you.” Gryluxx glowered at Map. “I’ve had just enough out of you, your freakish woman, and your harlot sons. Why don’t you get out of Omphalos and return to whatever hole you crawled out of?”
“I lived here long before there was an Omphalos.” Map rose her feet. She was shorter than Gryluxx, yet she gave off a strong, menacing vibe which thrummed in the air. “Maybe it’s you who should get out and return to your hole, hmm?”
“Now, now, don’t fight.” Meggie glanced with bleary eyes at Map. “Master, violence has never suited you.”
“Meggie, don’t call me that.” Map took a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m not your master.”
“That’s right!” Gryluxx pulled his wife off the bench to her feet. “If there’s anyone you should be calling master, it’s me! I’m your husband!”
“Oh, does being my husband make you my master?” Meggie cocked her head to one side in drunken thoughtfulness. “I thought there was, um, more involved in being a master. Like a genuine compulsion to obey you.”
Her words carried across the party, distracting everyone.
Maggie turned towards her sister and grinned in shocked delight at her words. Jupitre scowled, as if he’d been the one insulted. Melyssa grinned right along with Maggie. Juno lifted a hand to cover her twitching lips. Leiwell glanced at Meggie with a hint of admiration sparkling in his eye.
Map crossed her arms and gave Gryluxx a meaningful look. “She has a point.”
“Just shut up. Shut up and stop poisoning my wife against me. Stop ruining everything.” Gryluxx grabbed Meggie’s arm. “We’re going home. This company is a foul influence on you. You’ve had enough to drink for one night.”
He began dragging Meggie back to his cottage. Meggie let herself be dragged, her blouse sliding down to expose a little more cleavage.
Jupitre eyed her cleavage, her ample hips with an interested eye. “That man should appreciate his good fortune more than he does. Sure, that wench has a saucy tongue, but I’m betting she can find other uses for it.”
“That wench is my sister.” Maggie cuffed Jupitre across her head. “Put your eyes back in your head and pick your thoughts out of the gutter.”
“Meggie has a sound wit, even if it takes her a while to figure out what she has to say.” Melyssa began to picking up the mugs. “I’m not sure why she ever married that man.”
“Well, perhaps Gryluxx has other uses for his tongue as well, other than insulting everyone with it.” Maggie winked at Melyssa, who flushed. “We’ll have to ask Meggie some time.”
Tayel felt himself colour, unsure why, but this made him think of the phrase Map and Ashleigh had used a few times. Spicy talk.
“Is the party over?” Jupitre followed Maggie, keeping his gray eyes on her breasts and bum. “I was hoping it was just getting started.”
“Oh, you can hope for many things, dear, but it’s time for you to go home and have your tea.” Juno marched over towards her husband to seize his chin. “I think you’re getting a wee bit too frisky.”
“You’re a fine one to talk, considering how much you were enjoying that pretty youth’s company.” Jupitre nodded in a sharp way towards Leiwell.
“And it’s time pretty youths went and found their beauty sleep.” Leiwell walked over to where his two brothers stood and put an arm around both. “Not to mention their elders, who might have enjoyed the new ale a bit too much.” He gave Map a meaningful glance.
“Don’t look at me. I haven’t touched a drop, which actually I should.” Map lifted a mug to her lips and drank. She set it down immediately afterwards. “It’s good stuff, Maggie.”
“I’m so glad you find it irresistible, Map.” Maggie raised an eyebow. “I have this horrible vision of my sister being the main visitor to The Tipsy Hedgehog.”
“Well, at least she had somewhere to go.” Ashleigh strolled up to the other women. “Your brother-in-law is quite a challenge, Maggie.”
“Yes, I know. Believe me, I know.” Maggie threw her hands in the air. “As always he manages to ruin the party.”
“Don’t worry.” Leiwell smiled at Maggie. “There will be other parties. Many more.”
“I hope so.” Maggie glanced away for one moment before looking down at her feet.
Tayel didn’t miss the direction she’d been staring. Up at the hill which overlooked Omphalos. In the direction where the tower had once been.
He shivered in the air which felt suddenly far too cold.