With a passion for storytelling spawning before he even could write, Pete Cotsalas, a Massachusetts native, does not feel accomplished unless he has written daily. Fiction is his passion. With a BA in English/Creative Writing he hopes to milk all the use possible out of this basic credential, and dreams of the world reading and enjoying his work. He is an avid reader and researcher in his spare time. To inspire himself, he often contemplates “If it exists, I can write about it.”
Heart of a Stone
Continuation of Nymph Goddess’s Garderobe
Opening the bloodstained sack, Froman saw in amazement that the stolen heart beat. Without a body to generate, it palpated. Valves flexed. Blue veins pulsed. His fingers felt the rise and fall of the organ’s exterior. “Why does it beat?”
“The heart is close to the nectar,” said Faraoise. She indicated the liquid essence in the Knothole. “It makes the lifeless, viable. Move it away, it shall stop.”
Indeed, the dead organ ceased its function, when Froman stepped back a number of paces. This heart was activated by the purest of nature. Sneering, Froman basked in this evidence that the heart was indeed natural. “Ooh, I wish that Golem were in here to see this.”
With a sigh, Faraoise mused “Pride and arrogance. That is more hominid nonsense.”
Sneering with yellow teeth, Froman retorted “A natural element it must be. I exercise it freely in your domain.”
“Instinct is natural.” Growing weary of the conversation, Faraoise moved toward the exit. “If you still insist upon showing your company the realm of death, I shall guide you. You have had your say. I expressed my position. I will not have to open a vortex for you this time. You will be able to cross yourself. I will tell you where to do so of your own accord, if still you insist.”
“But I cannot muster that type of power. Only you can. No spell available to worldly sorcerers can open the veil.”
“That used to be. A shift has commenced in fundament. There has been a breech, leakage in the veil. I know not why, or what has caused it. I sense it however. For the last moon cycle, I have pinpointed abnormality across the span of my creation: souls reappearing that have been long departed, more ghosts than normal. I detect it as a mother hominid detects illness in her child. I can show you where the most vulnerable area is to cross.”
Froman was puzzled. “Such a breech must inspire concern. Perhaps it has something to do with the answers they seek.”
“Yes, I believe so. Take time. I ask you to contemplate on this exchange, while I speak to Chliste.”
Wood creaked, and sunlight greeted them, as the roots parted. They ascended the passageway out of Faraoise’s domain. Chliste stood with his back turned, in the clearing before the Life Tree. With a wave of her hand, Faraoise sealed the roots over her doorway. She nodded to Chliste, like an apothecarian admitting their next appointment. “If you wish to converse with me Chliste, I am through with Froman.”
Chliste turned emotionless eyes on Froman. “Do not think me excluding you. I need a moment to consult Faraoise. And I would prefer it to be in privacy.
Hesitantly, Froman approached the trees. “I will wait by the creek until Ivanna and Myria are returned.” He nodded to Faraoise, and glared at Chliste. “I dislike rocks, when I stub my toe on them,” he growled. “But I prefer those, now that I see what happens when they are man-sized, with huge superiority complex, and pretentious white robes.”
“Froman, please,” said Faraoise, closing her eyes, and raising her hand. “Give us a moment!” She waited to address the Golem until Froman’s footfalls became faint. “Chliste, I overheard what you said about heart. I dared not divulge my feelings to Froman, but I believe your lack of understanding influences your disdain. Emboldening of a heart is lost on you. I do not intend belittlement. However, you should not argue without experience or reference.”
“This only illuminates my thesis.” Chliste said, robes dragging across the grass, as he strode, keeping eye contact with Faraoise all the while. “Your heart interjects causing you to say that. You are in error, Faraoise. Heart does not enlighten you living creatures, it taxes you. You are blinded to this, because you are the heart’s creator.”
Faraoise’s mouth fell agape in shock and the brightness of her eyes flickered like a lantern in the rain. “I did not think it possible. I have witnessed an uncanny reproduction of The Knower of All speaking wrongfully… The heart is essential. I should know, and I do. Heart and love, and every emotion are natural!”
“It is natural instinct for some animals to eat feces. Natural hardly proves necessity.” Chliste stared at her. “Did you manufacture your own heart, Faraoise?” he asked slowly.
She nodded. “I did, as a matter of fact.” She looked at her reflection in the puddle nearby. “This very form which I take, and all which comprises it, are of my own development. The only reason I appear the same way as a thousand years before, and not as a decrepit old crone, is I could not allow age to weaken myself. Therefore, I did not instill it within me. I experimented with it with the rest of my flesh creations. I suppose next you will accuse my heart of causing vanity. Vanity and positive reflection differ. Before I conceived life, I knew that positive energy would be essential. This continent was a barren wasteland of nothingness, somehow negativity could still be sensed all around. I initiated animals, and creatures, providing them with capability and instinct, to love and be compassionate. Positive charge validated the entire being of my Fathach. That is why every creature in my creation, whether it beats under the softest flesh, or most impregnable exoskeleton, is better for having a heart. Chliste, you are mistaken.”
Chliste sighed and folded his arms. “I had such high hopes,” he turned to face the opposite side of the clearing. “I expected that the powerful creator of the natural would be more attentive to the epitome of intellect.”
“You dare speak to me that way?” Faraoise snapped, in awe. “You mock I, who breathed air into all that flourishes, now, past, and future? It was I who oversaw the blood lineage which comprised The Knower of All himself, who in turn gave you life, Chliste. You have only me to thank for your vast intellect.” Whipping her hair behind her dismissively she sighed “Indubitably there is no agreement reachable here. Neither one of us will convince the other. This argument is futile.”
Evidently, Chliste did not wish to acknowledge the futility yet. He turned to face her. “It was also you who provided for the formulation of the warlock scum which enslaved all that which you created,” he retorted. He watched Faraoise’s pointed ears twitch with irritation. He pointed at her. “We have only you to thank for that. Warlocks were able to take over because your heart ensured that you were so indulged in all of your love and passion for your conceptions that you were blind to the parasitic oppressors, until it was too late. Is your refusal to admit wrong denial, or penance? Seemingly, Froman misaimed his comment regarding superiority complexes.”
With responsive force, Faraoise thrust her fist against Chliste’s chest. Fingernails buried into his hand-crafted flesh, once sediment. There was a bursting flash of red light. Chliste grunted, and fell backward onto the ground. Seeing him clutch at his chest, Faraoise knew he was feeling a tingling sensation. “What is this?!” he demanded of Faraoise, leaping to his feet. “What have you done to me?”
Faraoise shrugged, nonchalantly turning her back. “I merely saw necessity to prove my claim. You shall experience the validity of emotion firsthand, Chliste.”
“You… do you mean you have given me a heart?!” Chliste bellowed, grasping at his chest, as if a parasite was within him.
Faraoise nodded. “Yes, indeed, it was not difficult. Not to offend, but you are basically raw material held together by a spell. It was similar to filling a knothole in a tree.”
“Remove it, I beg of you!” Chliste shouted. He tore open his robes revealing his bare chest. “I cannot operate without flaw while it beats!” Walking bowlegged toward Faraoise, he thrust his chest outward, grasping his shredded toggery in both hands. “Its presence writhes through me, I feel it. Please, expel it before it obstructs my judgment!”
Knowing it useless, she did not attempt to explain to Chliste that flawlessness did not exist. Her arms folded in silent refusal Faraoise said. “There is nothing to be removed. You misunderstand me. I did not insert a beating red organ into your chest. I gave you heart, in a sense, more concentrated spiritually. All I did was give your soul further empowerment.”
“I have no soul either,” Chliste said, his fear now replaced with curiosity. “No golems exist in the Death Realm. Therefore, they have no souls which can migrate there.”
Sighing Faraoise watched him quiver. “I console your ignorance Chliste, and hope the gift I bestowed helps it. Everything on Fathach possess some life-force.” She touched his cheek tenderly. “This includes stones… As these spiritual attachments appear in the realm of death, or other varying lights, is dependent on how the soul was utilized. Here is one of the lessons you must learn, while carrying this “burden” as you say. You seem to not comprehend this. Many do not. Slim difference exists between a soul and heart. The defining instance is that a heart physically beats dispensing blood. A soul thrives, contributing warmth and validity.” With a graceful gesture of her shining hand, she indicated the stream passing around the Wandering Field. “A heart is the geographic river system, and the soul the water. I merely rectified drought within you. This may be difficult to fathom until you experience the effects.”
Chliste staggered a few steps, before collapsing to his knees, as if trapped in an imploding chamber. He looked around with his mouth agape, appearing overwhelmed at the simple vegetation and atmosphere of the Wandering Field. Not a single leaf or blade of grass changed since he entered. Soft wind ruffled branches. He touched his cheek. “The air, it never felt so cool. It relaxes.” In awe, he gazed at a cup-shaped pink flower growing on a nearby bush. Reaching and touching it, he said “The colors, I have never seen them so prominent, alluring. I cannot look away.” In the distance, a loud Hercinia in a tree chirped several times. Chliste’s neck stiffened and he cupped his palm around his ear. “And the noise that songbird makes, it is harmonious, peaceful like the Hercinia itself. I must have heard that same birdcall thousands of times and ignored it.”
A glimmer of a smile crossed Faraoise, as she rested her hand on his shoulder. “You experience beauty, for the first time since your creation. I doubt if you knew that concept’s meaning until this day. You will adapt to it. Now, retrieve the Dlidean princess and handmaiden from whence you sent them. Otherwise Froman may be tempted to tear open your chest, and remove what I just have instilled there.”
Chliste pressed his hand to his forehead. Grunting, the blue flashes of his irises seeped through his closed eyelids. He struggled. “I cannot reach them. I feel them in the timeline, but cannot reach. Why can I not? Ooh, what was that?” His free hand grasped at his chest as his eyelids widened, dumbfounded. “Ugh, that damnable sensation,” he groaned, bending slightly in agony. “Upon my realizing I could not bring them, it struck me. What was it?!”
Shrugging, Faraoise crossed her arms. “Sorrow, remorse, sadness, fear, I could list dozens of further terms. They are all varying levels of heartache.”
Forcing himself upright, Chliste moaned, rubbing his chest. “It was painful, unpleasant. I did not… wait, that was it!” He pointed to his chest. “Was it not? That was the determent to reason I have observed all this time. That is the cause of which I spoke. I deduce it is also the reason my ability to retrieve the women has been impeded.”
Brushing dirt off his robes, Faraoise said “It is only a determent if you allow it to be. Coping is the preferred technique. As for your inability to recall Froman’s friends, it is likely there is some magical warding where they are. Go now. Adjust to your new appendage. I shall call Froman back. I will locate his company.”
Halfway across the clearing, Chliste fell to a sitting position on a rock. “I have never felt anything like this. My mind has never felt more active… or less sure.”
Had Faraoise not already begun her search through time for Ivanna and Myria, she would answer him. Sitting and crossing her legs on the grass, she sent her vibes backward, through centuries. She sifted through years, like a scholar through scrolls. After several minutes, she located the women. Something was awry. Echoing in her head, Ivanna’s voice screamed at Myria to run faster. Flashes of imagery in Faraoise’s mind showed dense woods, and hulking creatures in the distance. A snarling voice gave orders. “The time-travelers have gone this way. The Masters demand their audience. Catch them!” Faraoise gasped. Maintaining her hold on the on the time period, she recalled her sight and hearing from the moment. That male voice frightened her. All sinister unnatural beings not created by her took her aback, especially those as sinister as those pursuing Froman’s accomplices. “Rakshasa,” she whispered. “Minions of the Days to Forsake chase them.” She called toward the creek. “Froman, come! I have found your escorts. They are in danger.”
Galloping back to the clearing, Froman stood before her, his claws partially extended and bodily wolf hair thickening. “Where are they Faraoise? What is happening?”
“Abominable creations of the Warlocks pursue them through a forest.” Faraoise gazed at Chliste, seated on the rock. He was gripping at his chest again, listening to her intently. Her eyes narrowed, staring at Chliste. He felt the magical energy she unleashed overtaking him. “You and your burdensome gift will stand a test now,” she informed him. With a lurch of her neck, Chliste disappeared in a flash of blue and a crackling sound.
Staring at the rock where the Golem sat, bemused, Froman asked “Where has he gone.”
“I sent him to rectify his mess,” Faraoise said. “He will go back and retrieve the Princess and Handmaiden himself.”
“What did you mean his burdensome gift?” Froman inquired.
As she stood, recomposing herself after searching through the past, Faraoise patted Froman’s hairy hand. “All you need know is that the test Chliste embarks upon now, shall decide who is correct in our heart debate.”
A bushy eyebrow raised on Froman’s confused face. Lips pulled back over rotted teeth for inquisition. Before he could ask, the same crackle indicating Chliste’s departure rang through the clearing again. Both Froman and Faraoise looked around. They remained alone in the clearing. “Have… they returned?” Froman asked. A nonverbal answer presented itself. The same tone of blue hue reappeared, although not in the large flash as when Chliste departed. A small sliver of the blue light illuminated through the roots beneath the Tree of Life, from under the ground.
“Yes, they have returned,” Faraoise confirmed, looking at the base of her tree. “All three of them, I can sense their presence back in my domain. Somehow Chliste’s returning incantation teleported them into my garderobe.” She closed her eyes. “As I suspected, although mere seconds passed to us, Chliste was in the past liberating Ivanna and Myria for nearly three full hours.” Waving her hand in a wiping motion, the roots parted revealing the doorway. “Shall we assess their conditions?”
As she led the way into the passageway, smelling of soil and tree sap, Froman followed, inquisitively. “All three of them are in your lair? I thought Chliste would turn into rocks if he entered? You said that yourself.” Descending the tunnel, Faraoise gave no acknowledgement to the question. Echoing through the narrow passage came Froman’s next question from behind. “What happened to him, Faraoise? What happened while I was waiting beside the creek?” In silence, Faraoise led the way down to her lair. She dared not enable Froman’s arrogance further with a response.
To Be Continued