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.”
Nymph Goddess’s Garderobe
The sun rose to midday level. Froman sensed the trust of his companions dwindling. Upon his assurance that the tracking spell worked, they had followed him, pursuing a beast which they had yet to see. Many believed the Wolpertinger were extinct. A creature with the head of a rabbit, antlers of a deer, and wings of a pheasant was nothing most had seen. Enforcer Ivanna hiked alongside him, speaking firmly. “We have yet to visualize your Wolpertinger. I will not hesitate to shackle and haul you back to Caineann if this is a hoax.” She fingered her holstered dagger, threateningly. “If I were not immersed in this objective, I would have already. I cannot comprehend how a Wolpertinger leads us to answers.”
Froman remained sanguine, aware their hesitance was due to his terroristic Wolf Supremacist viewpoints, and history of treason. He would prove that they had released him from incarceration for good reasons. The Wolpertinger was making its pilgrimage to the tree. “Fret not, Ivanna,” Froman said. “We have caught up with it. It has arrived at our destination.” He lifted a tree limb and pointed beyond. They peered through a grove of berry bushes and ferns. There it stood grazing. Froman had seen the small hybrid animals before. Myria and Ivanna however, were mesmerized. The composite creature nibbled on grass, its pheasant wings folded in, under its long rabbit ears. The tiny antlers weighed its head as it ate. Froman knew Ivanna and Myria must also be amazed by the field. The Wandering Field was the most colorful and enchanting natural spectacle to be found on Fathach; and least seen. One of every species of flower, weed and shrub was immortalized within. They watched as birds averted their flight course. Even an assembly of ants marched around it. “They are respecting it,” Froman said. “We will do likewise.” Across the meadow, he saw the tree, the greenest and most beautiful to be seen. The last time Froman had laid eyes upon it, it had been halfway across Fathach, in this identical field. It traveled Fathach slowly and invisible, like a cloaked cloud. It could only be located by an individual in a particular way. One manner was to follow a Wolpertinger. These creatures were always allured to the Tree. He led them around the Field, approaching tree. “We have arrived,” Froman valiantly declared, indicating it. The large tree had an unusually thick trunk with a dense canopy of leaves covered the top branches like a hood.
After a moment of stunned silence, Myria glared at Froman, fists clench at her hips. “Ivanna broke Enforcer protocol, taking you from Caineann prison… You take us on a strenuous hike, following a bird across half the continent, to show us a tree?!”
Froman sighed, smile vanishing from his face. He knew this would be difficult. “Only frivolous humans would see this just as a tree.” Froman sensed his own arrogance, but did not care. “This is the tree.” Froman was now staring at the tree with commendation. “It epitomizes nature. Calling it a tree seems a great insult… It is more, the life tree.”
Ivanna stared at the tall tree, shaking her head. “It looks just like the other trees.”
“As it was intended,” Froman concurred with a nod. “The roots that burrow under the ground which we stand on are those that spawned The Fruition. If nature were an earthquake, this would be its epicenter.”
Ivanna and Myria looked at each other with identical blank expressions on their faces. “What fruition?” Ivanna asked, with a shake of her head.
“This Fruition,” Froman said, spreading his arms and gesturing at the deep woods all around them. “The fruition that we overlook, and blindly take for granted, daily. I mean the fruition manifesting through wind on our faces, trees providing shade and fruit, even vermin that eat our rubbish.” He saw the baffled looks of his female companions. “This Field is teems with that energy I mentioned before. We stand at the very center of it all. Faraoise lives below our feet. You are unaware of her, as the hairs on your head are unaware of you. Faraoise is a stranger to most. But she is our very foundation. Her home is where all begins and ends; where a root from every tree descends, and every stream flows to and from.”
“I find that difficult to entertain,” Ivanna said. “Faraoise was the nymph goddess worshipped by the Mount Glomodor woodsmen, before the pestilence overtook them, was it not? You claim she is real?”
Froman’s sensitive Wolf hearing detected the words Myria whispered into Ivanna’s ear. “I smell deception, milady.” Myria shook her head in irritation. “Even if this tree is… a tree of life, as you call it. How does that relate to use accessing the death realm?”
Froman surveyed the height and foliage of the tree with diction reminiscent of seeing his own mother. “Would you disagree that life and death go as hand-in-hand as notions are able?”
A creaking sound beside them caused Ivanna and Myria to gasp. The tree was quaking. The roots at the base opened. “Our hostess is admitting us.” Froman grinned.
He beckoned for Ivanna and Myria to accompany him, sensing their apprehension. Before he could provide encouraging words, he stopped. Froman felt his nostrils expand. His Wolf smelling had detected a familiar, undesired scent. He had not experienced that waft, reeking of dampened soil and flesh since before his incarceration. The smell of a Golem was unsavory to Wolf noses. The stoic, indifferent voice of Chliste emitted from behind them. “Might I request audience?” The two women gasped. Froman felt a churn in his stomach, seeing the guised batholith approach. Although he had whiffed the Golem’s presence, the sight of him was more hindering.
Ivanna stared. “Chliste, you startled us. We have not seen you since Mount Glomodor.”
Froman gaped. He was unaware it was Chliste who prevented them from being devoured by Lorne the Giant. He spat, glaring at Chliste. “This is the Sorcerer you spoke of, who saved you on the mountain? I am shocked you were capable of such compassion, Chliste.”
Ivanna looked back and forth between filthy, disarrayed Froman and the immaculate, impeccably clean Chliste, as if glancing freely between night and day. “You know one another?”
Chliste did not look at Ivanna, but kept his eyes fixated on Froman as he responded. “Oh, indeed, Froman the Extremist and I are old acquaintances.”
Froman returned the concentrated stare. He shrugged, causing his muck of hair to bounce. “Well,” Froman said with growling undertone. “That is dependent. If your definition of “acquaintance” is someone who causes your anus to clench with contempt at the sight of them, Chliste and I are the best of acquaintances.”
Chliste exhaled through his nostrils and shook his head. “Detainment has not altered your personality,” he said. “Still prompt to confront I see.”
Froman’s nostrils flared threateningly for a moment. “Do not analyze me!” Froman growled at Chliste. “I refuse to accept criticism on character from a Golem!”
Ivanna’s eyes widened upon Froman’s words. She stared at Chliste in befuddlement. “Wait,” she said slowly. “Chliste, you are a-?”
Chliste raised a hand in Ivanna’s direction to silence her. He shifted his gaze from Froman, onto Ivanna and Myria, standing beside one another. “I am afraid we have revealed too much in front of the two of you,” Chliste said. He gripped his slim fingers together, pointing in Froman’s direction with both hands. “Maiden, and Enforcer, my splenetic acquaintance and I need a moment’s privacy to discuss sensitive subjects.” He turned to face to Ivanna and Myria, raising both hands, palms down, one in Ivanna’s direction, the other in Myria’s. “I do apologize for the inconvenience,” Chliste said to both of them. He spoke a different tongue, and his fingertips glimmered blue. “Isteach Droim Ar Ais Am Luath Ais!” he bellowed. Froman recognized the spell accessing the flow of time. The tree branches above began to tremor. By the time Ivanna had registered that a spell being cast in their direction, and instinctively went to draw her sword, it was too late. She and Myria both dematerialized in a flash of blue light, and flutter of smoky residue in the air. Froman and Chliste were left alone in the clearing. They stared at one another unblinkingly. The wind, which had come in gusts through the Wandering Field subsided, due to the magical energy thick in the air.
Froman spoke first. “It has been a long time Chliste… You are looking well,” he forced the words.
Chliste pursed his lips defiantly and nodded, folding his hands behind his back and looking Froman up and down. “I would return the sentiment, Froman, but, unlike you, I am not the type to lie.” He glanced at the ragged robes and filthy skin. Froman was aware that the decades of compressed confinement in Caineann had inflicted his posture, causing him to appear like a hunchback.
Froman kept his arms folded as Chliste paced around him. Froman sucked at a gap in his teeth with his tongue, and gestured to the spot in the clearing where Ivanna and Myria had stood moments before. The shouted magic incantation still echoed loud within his sensitive Wolf eardrums. “Where did you send those two? Rather, when did you send them?”
Chliste shrugged. “Somewhere educational,” he said. “I will retrieve them soon. I do not wish any harm to befall them, and if I leave them where I transported them for long that may happen.”
Froman clawed at his greasy mop of hair to expel an itch. “Somewhere during The Days to Forsake, I presume,” he said. He scratched his patchy chin. “I thought The Grand Legion ruled that time travel magic was to be regulated?”
Chliste did not make eye contact as he paced. “That is refreshing, coming from Froman the Extremist, well-known for keeping the law, and The Legion in so high regard. I suppose that is why you led siege in effort to assassinate the lawmakers, who the imprisoned you for treason?” He reached pulled a green leaf down from a tree. As if bored by this interaction with Froman already, he nonchalantly changed the leaf into a blue and yellow moth and watched it flutter off with a grin.
Froman rolled his eyes. “Did you appear to enlighten me of something, or to patronize and show off mundane trickery?”
“You were taking them to see Faraoise,” Chliste said, not as question, but statement. “What I do not know is why you are taking them to see her, and why you are taking such unnecessarily excessive lengths.” He watched the moth flutter around his palm. “The Tree of Life has no finite location. It appears wherever one wishes it. Yet you have led these women to believe it arrived here, at your destination randomly?”
“I have been imprisoned for quite a long time, Chliste,” Froman said, nonchalantly looking down at his arms, particularly at the bones, standing pronounced within his flesh from malnutrition. “Did it not occur to you perhaps I seized this opportunity because I miss the beautiful Fathach scenery?” A sneer flickered on his face.
“It occurs to me that you are megalomaniacal, Froman,” Chliste replied, looking his fugitive acquaintance in the face again. “You always have been. I agree you must be seizing opportunity for something. But of what, I am unclear of.” His blue eyes illuminated. Chliste stepped closer, blueness of his irises intensifying. “I find this puzzling… Whenever I try to delve into your mind to ascertain your ulterior motive for visiting this discreet area, I hit a wall. It seems you are purposefully not keeping it at the forefront of your thoughts.” The color in his eyes subsided.
Froman smirked. Upon Chliste’s initial approach, he had activated a mental cloaking technique. He had mastered the ability to isolate a thought in his mind, and shift it to store within the Wolf component of his psyche. Chliste could not read animal minds: too convoluted and primal. To a mind-reader they were cryptic. “The Enforcer and handmaiden wish to investigate the realm of death to satisfy curiosity. I am simply assisting them. I am the lone available escort. They granted temporary amnesty.”
Some of Chliste’s courage replenished, now they were speaking of something which he was aware of. He nodded, and began to pace again. “Yes, that much I have concluded. You do intend to allow them to access the realm of the death. Your hidden motives not withstanding Froman, I came because I highly advise against that.”
Froman chuckled. “Pardon me if that holds little weight,” he replied. “I theorize had you been here when Faraoise formulated conceiving nature, you would have advised against that.”
As he replied, Chliste kept his gaze once again at an arbitrary point up in the trees. “You are saying I am a pessimist, or a contrarian, perhaps?”
Froman closed his eyes with his arms still folded. “I am saying you are artificial. I never know why I waste my time telling you this. It will not change anything.” He turned his back, to enter the gateway at the tree’s base.
“I suspect it is similar to why I continuously try to rationalize with you,” Chliste said, causing the former to halt. “I know from experience, you will disregard my advice, and bury it under skepticism. My persistence does not falter, hoping that you may eventually see truth.”
Froman paced as well, as if he and Chliste were two Griffins preparing for a battle in a Warlock Arena. They stood on opposite sides of the clearing, glaring upon one another. “I question your definition of truth, Chliste,” Froman said.
“I doubt you hold any definition,” said Chliste. “That is the difference between you and Lucano. He had questionable tactics, and motives. At least he had valid grasp of practicality and nonsense.” The moth flew back and landed on Chliste’s hand. “There are some things that mere humans, such as that Dlidean princess and handmaiden, simply are not meant to understand. I am even skeptical of whether the likes of you should be permitted to grasp it. The blood of your mystical mother flows in your veins among the Wolf blood, but you are no Sorcerer.”
Froman growled. “Oh do not dare peddle that self-righteous “Sorcerers are superior” dung Chliste!” he bellowed. He felt his descending fangs stab at his tongue. He took a deep breath and they receded. He stifled the howl, eager to escape his vocal cords. Keeping his own Wolf-side tethered was sometimes contending.
Chliste paused, and shook his head with folded arms. “I see a great deal of your father Druck in you, Froman,” he said.
Froman was finding urges to turn very difficult to repress now. He felt the hair on his back and shoulders thickening. His claws sprang out from his fingertips as well, but he quickly retracted them. “I loathe when you discuss my father with me,” he said to Chliste in a controlled voice. “You know nothing of him. You are not even a Sorcerer! You are a Golem! You replicate The Knower of All.”
Chliste sighed and straightened the sleeves of his white robe. “We have had this debate before. I reincarnate The Knower of All. Therefore I possess all of his powers, intelligence, and memories.”
“You are a walking clay statue.” Froman spat, “a mud-pie with a vocabulary.”
Chliste chuckled. “Quick wit and fondness of insults are further testimony to your father’s memory… also deceit.”
“My father was not deceitful, he was resourceful, you heartless rock!” Froman protested. He turned his back, trembling and repressing the Wolf emergence.
“Cease your fruitless rock fleers. As you relentlessly indicate I have no feelings to hurt in any case. Froman, why will you not heed my warning?” Chliste threw up his hands in astonishment, his mouth agape. “Why do you respond to my words as if they are lies from a frightened child?”
Froman stopped walking, but kept his back to Chliste. “Same reason I refused the last time. I have qualms about taking consultation from someone who used to be rocks on a beach.”
Froman walked toward the tree again. He heard a whooshing, like wind assaulting the trees and Chliste appeared in front of him, blocking Froman’s route. “You epitomize stubborn,” he said. “The few occasions I met your mother, she showed similar-.”
“Hold your tongue, Golem!” Froman roared pointing a finger at Chliste’s nose. “Speaking ill of my mother I will not tolerate! I will you throw into the depths of the Juniean Sea, and watch you sink like the stone you are, and get urinated on by Selkies!” Froman gripped the bark of the tree next to him with such frustrated force, two of his elongated nails broke off. He growled, and pointed at Chliste again. “I have made this clear on numerous occasions. I do not trust you, Chliste! Since I discovered your true material, I find you unworthy of confidence.” He looked Chliste up and down again. “Golems were created to be nothing more than obedient man-servants. The design of your kind is without emotion. No emotion means heartless. No heart means clouded judgment, due to elusive love and compassion!”
“And Wolf-Sorcerers are more altruistic, I suppose?” Chliste said, solemnly. “You are mistaken. Possession of heart causes prioritizing feelings over rationale. My lack of emotional connection is a blessing… Speaking of hearts, where is Skyro’s?”
Froman narrowed his eyes. “You meddlesome statue, have you been following me since I left Caineann?” he sneered. He took the bag from the sycamore tree.
Precisely what component of “Knower of All” seems to constantly escape your comprehension?”
"Enough bickering,” a monotone voice announced. Faraoise appeared at the entrance to her domain at the base of the tree. She pet the Wolpertinger nestled in her arms. “Apparently etiquette is not yet a natural element.” She nodded her white head toward the gateway. “It is ill-mannered to ignore an open door from the dweller.”
Froman followed Faraoise, but Chliste remained where he was, extremely hesitant. “Are Golems devoid of manners as well as emotion?” Froman daunted.
“Chliste cannot enter,” Faraoise said, stroking the calmed Wolpertinger. “If he does, he will transform into lifeless mass of rocks and sand.” Froman had forgotten that in her centerfold of essence, everything reverted to base of natural design. Chliste released the moth from his hand. It flew over the mouth of Faraoise’s doorway, and turned back into a leaf. The three watched it float down into natal abyss. “Your Wolf powers will not function either, as they are the product of an ancient curse. I shall return to the surface soon to speak with you, Chliste.” Faraoise looked at Froman as they descended into her abode. The roots closed behind them. “I know why you are here. You want to see her.”
“See who?” Froman asked, folding his arms.
“Spare me the drivel. You know who,” Faraoise said with testiness.” She led the way down the passageway, flapping her hair of pure light behind her back. “Do not insult the power of my aura, Froman. You did not follow this Wolpertinger all the way to my abode merely to assist in an exploration. You want to see Betinda. Just like you wanted to see your mother and father the last time you approached me to guide you through the veil.”
“I miss her,” Froman confessed. “Do not try to make me feel like there is error in that.”
“This is your folly,” Faraoise said, scooping up a handful of seeds from the earthy ground, and feeding the Wolpertinger. “You always assume motivation to antagonize. Betinda was one of select few whom you allowed to grow close. You have never felt as strong emotion as the way you miss her gaze and touch. The thought of being without that for the remainder of your life frightens you.” She indicated the bag with Skyro’s heart. “When will you tell your friends what that heart is really for? You said it was for the spell to cross the veil. Although the heart of ruthless King Skyro does meet the meticulous criteria of the heart of one delighted by Death, it also coincidentally, fits another description. You and I are both aware of what you truly intend to use the heart of the fugitive King for. The requirements for the spell to revive a murdered individual are threefold: a vessel for the life-force to occupy, an item belonging to the person, and the heart of they who ended their life. Then it is just a matter of location. You have the heart of the man who killed her. I have no doubt you have been carrying around a momentum of Betinda, something she owned. Do not think that I have not found familiarity in the area of the forest where you led that princess and handmaiden to, in order to find the Tree of Life. In order for the spell to be ritualized, it must be executed in the vicinity of where the intended necromancer was born. This is Betinda’s home province.”
They arrived in Faraoise’s home. The walls and ceiling were comprised of tree branches and roots of infinite variegated colors. Thousands of streams trickled from every direction, collecting in an immense lake in the middle. Nestled upon a rock in the middle of the lack, was a stone goblet. A translucent liquid shimmered in the goblet: Faraoise’s nectar. She called the goblet The Knothole. “It is time I made more,” she said, cradling the Wopertinger. “Extinction is on the horizon. My final major flock in Eon has been experiencing genocide at the hands of the hobgoblins nearby.” She reached into the nectar, extracting a coeval female Wopertinger. She let the male and female scamper, flapping their wings along one of the brooks to procreate.
“I have always assumed drinking of this nectar provided eternal life. Is that true?”
Faraoise scoffed. “Immortality and death were conceptualized by you hominids, the same as weaponry and warfare. They were never a fruit of my design. However, nothing is eternal. I created it as such. Just as these tree roots lead my home, so does the life of a Fathach individual or creature lead somewhere. No passageway ends, and water perpetually flows. When one reign of life ends, another begins elsewhere. As one who has seen the surrogate realm, you know this. The nectar of The Knothole contains insight, creational fluid.”
Froman stared into the swirling mass of colors in the Knothole. “So, you will die, or recreate someday?”
“Although I exist, I am unsure if it can be deemed life.” Faraoise looked at Froman as his back was facing her. “Froman, realize that if you do resurrect Betinda, and retrieve her from the dead, there can be almost no insurance or guarantee that what steps back into our realm will purely be her. She has been dead for four decades. Chances are immense that being in the realm of the dead for such a long time will have caused her some disrepair. She might not be the same Betinda that you knew and loved… You must be conscious of that.”
“You do not know that! You cannot factually know that!” Froman shouted.
Faraoise became agile. “Do you believe I have existed this long without a perpetual certainty?!” she shouted. “I set foot on this continent three centuries before even Shrewn crossed the veil from his realm. I know!” She settled down again and peered at Froman. “You can receive this as cautionary advice, or however else you wish to assess. I do not know if the spell you intend to use to revive Betinda will work for her. It was designed to resurrect humans. Betinda, like all Wolf Folk, contained humanity… But she was not entirely human. You do not need to cross the barrier to the side of death to see her. You have been in the company of Betinda for quite some time now. Myria,” Faraoise simply said.
Froman was confused. “What about Myria?” he asked.
“I have clarity in nearly all aspects of nature,” Faraoise said. “It is enhanced sense, of my own, very much like your heightened smell, hearing, and sight accuracy. Every organism in this realm is a product of something I originated. In the presence of a human, dwarf, elf, even imp, or elk, I can instantly see in my psyche the details of their lineage, branching back multiple generations. It can often be overwhelming, even for me. From the moment Myria approached my lair, I sensed she and Betinda share blood.”
Froman shook his head. “I fail to see the relevance,” he said. “The populace is finite. I have no doubt that I share blood with hundreds more than I am aware of.”
Faraoise shook her head. “Do you believe I would call attention, if I were uncertain that the bond between Betinda and Myria is dense?”
“I find your arrogance sickening, Faraoise,” Froman grumbled. “Have you and Chliste been conspiring over mead in my absence, discussing ways to irritate me? You sound like him,” he roared.
“I am glad to hear I am sounding rational,” Faraoise said. “You would benefit from being attentive to Chliste and myself. I was first to utter the word Fathach, and as for Chliste, they do not call him The Knower of All for nothing. I have explained to you where his graced intelligence originally came from.”
Froman punched a root in anger. “That Golem is not the Knower of all!” he yelled. “I have said this right to his sedimentary face! The Knower of All has been dead for years. He is an abomination! And he has delayed any accomplishments by banishing the Enforcer and handmaiden to the Days to Forsake.”
Faraoise indicated the Knothole. “My nectar gives me clairvoyance into every aspect of Fathach. I can visualize time through it, like counting the rings on a tree stump. I can locate your friends and pull them back, just like finding a hair on your back and plucking it off. Shall I?”
Froman agreed. They approached the Knothole, and Faraoise began to stare into it. As he stood alongside her, Froman felt the bag in his hand shift. Although his Wolf senses were dormant in Faraoise’s lair, he felt he would sense hatred. “It beats,” he said, staring at the bag. “The heart of Skyro is beating…”
To be Continued…