Journey of the Heart
by Rob Wieland
The tower of the monastery jutted out of the horizon. A trail forged by hearty merchants and reluctant soldiers bled towards it. Two tiny smudges drifted toward the tower on this moonless night. The only sounds for miles were the sounds of two pairs of boots on snow and two sets of breaths.
"This will never work," Alicia Granjero said as she gulped down a breath. The tall fur hat she was wearing kept slipping over her eyes and her coat smelled of cheap liquor and expensive dreams. Her sister finally stopped and spun.
"Silencio, Alicia," whispered Margaretta. "Enjoy the scenery. Keep a watch out for this 'Matushka' everyone mentions. If you spent as much time walking as you have telling me how foolish I am, we would be halfway back to
"Foolish doesn't even to begin what I think of you. I'm surprised he didn't give you a map where X marks the spot."
"Then why are you here? If you don't think your husband is here, why did you bluster your way on board the Corazon?"
Alicia stepped forward. "I was hoping to convince you of your folly before you sailed through Montaigne waters and got yourself killed."
"Is that so?" said Margaretta. "Or is it because you can't sit around San Cristobal and wait for things to settle themselves? Just like your sister that associates with rough men from the sea?"
Aliica's face shifted slightly. Margaretta knew the look well. She had put her sister in her place. It was a feat that did not last long. Margaretta turned and began to walk again. After a moment, Alicia began trying to catch up to her sister. She still thought it was a terrible idea.
you know who I am? I am King Leon Alexandre, L'Emperuer of Montaigne!
demand to be released at once! Where is my Lightning Guard? Release me!"
The heavy wooden door shuddered against the prisoner's protesting fists. The sisters made their way down the hall, the sound of their heavy boots drowned by the screams of the mad.
"I think I would have preferred any one of the four Leons we've passed in here to the one that was the head of the country," whispered Alicia. They turned a corner and passed through another hallway.
"How will we know where he is?" asked Alicia.
"He is here."
"What? Can you see him? How can you tell?"
Amidst the distant screams of madmen and kings, a lone voice was quietly praying. The voice felt tired and worn like a familiar cloak worn until threadbare.
"Theus," Margaretta whispered. They quickly made their way to the end of the hall. The door to the cell hung slightly open. Magaretta pushed it with her left hand, her right curling around the hilt of her sword.
He hung from the chains like a bag of bones. His clothes were torn and deep scars laced his body underneath. His hair blasted away from his head in every direction. It was a hurricane of grey and white, masking his face and washing against his beard.
"Is it really--" asked Alicia.
"Stay back," Margaretta said. "Something's not..."
"Right," he said, tilting his head back. Through the hair on his face, Margaretta could make out intense eyes.
"Felipe? Is that you?"
"One of many who have died for the cause. Have you come to fight? I can hear your sword rattle."
Margaretta entered the room cautiously and drew her blade. He lunged forward, straining the chains and causing bits of the wall to rain down upon him.
"Such a fine weapon. It has been so long since I held something so beautiful. Since I saved your life, senora. Have you come to take mine?"
"He is mad," Margaretta whispered to herself.
Felipe turned towards her with bulging eyes and in a conspiratorial whisper said, "I am not mad, my dear. I am better than that."
"We've come to bring you home, Felipe."
"I can taste when you're lying, my dear. Even if you don't know it yet. I'm not going home. Not as long as I can lead you to Enrique."
"You know where he is? But how?"
"The sea of souls imparted many secrets in me before I saved your life, my dear. They lie beyond Cabora, to the west. But I know where they are exactly..."
She reached under her coat and produced a small green vial. Joseph Gallegos had given it to her for this occasion. She pulled the cork out and poured the liquid on the chains. They began to smoke and dissolve. Alicia burst into the room. "Guards are coming! What will we..."
She locked eyes with him. The strange grin faded from his face.
"Where am...Alicia...By Theus's grace..."
The chains snapped suddenly and he sank into her arms.
had spent much of the sled right back to the port either weeping or telling
Alicia how much he loved her.
"You remember nothing?"
"The sorcerors ripped a hole big enough for the Grace to fit through. The General started screaming for everyone to shut their eyes. I have heard terrible tales of the things that happen to those who forget to shut their eyes. Then...then I saw you..."
"You remember nothing of speaking with me?"
"No, Margaretta," said Felipe with tired eyes.
"No matter, Felipe. We will return to Castille immediately. Good King Sandoval will be thrilled to see you have survived?"
"But what about the General and Admiral Orduno?"
Margaretta looked to her boots.
"They are still missing," said Alicia softly.
"I sent two men to their deaths instead of one," said Margaretta.
"She saved the capital from being burned by Valoix and she still feels as if she's failed," chuckled Alicia as she shook her head.
Felipe sat forward.
"Both men are men of their word. The General gave me his word that you would see your husband again. I don't believe Theus would allow your husband to escape death spectacularily one moment to walk blindly into it shortly thereafter. If I can survive the sorcery of the Montaigne, certainly they can."
Margaretta looked at her old teacher. She could see the resolve flooding back into his cheeks.
"Once I regain my strength, I will do everything I can to help you."
Alicia had cocked her head suddenly.
"Have we stopped?" she asked.
Margaretta flipped over the furs dangling from the roof. The driver was nowhere to be found. The trees seemed to loom overhead, blotting out the light from the moon except from a single approaching torch.
"Stay here," Margaretta said as she leapt from the sled. Her sword was in her hand in a flash.
"Identify yourself," she shouted into the night.
"A merchant and his two assistants," came the reply.
She began to make out the features of the approaching figures. The torch bearer was a plump man that came up to her shoulders. He was flanked by two larger men holding long wood axes in their hands.
"I'm glad you speak Castillian," she said.
The middle man laughed. "I learned as many languages as I could so I would not have to listen to people from other countries butcher my own."
"We seem to be stranded," Margaretta said cautiously.
"Unfortunate. There are many tales we tell our children about the things Matushka has made to wander the forests at night to keep wayward children in their beds. Perhaps I can help."
Alicia stepped from the sled. The stranger smiled and doffed his cap.
"I don't accept help from strangers," Margaretta said.
"Then allow me to introduce myself. My name in Castillian would be Miguel."
He smiled a smile that reminded her of Cardinal Verdugo.
"Which would make your Ussuran name..." began Alicia
"Mikhail. I'm more well-known as Mikhail the Tsar but I felt that such an introduction would be as ludicrous as introducing myself as the Fourth Prophet."
Margaretta leapt forward at one of the ax men. She'd raised her sword but before it could cut into her foe, a loud crack rang in the silence of the night. Alicia screamed and fell to the ground.
"No!" wailed Margaretta. She withdrew from the ax man and attended to her sister.
"I have stelets with rifles in the woods," chuckled Mikhail. "While my men are strong, it would be unwise of me to try and outfight one of Castille's greatest warriors."
"How about two?"
Felipe stepped from the sled with predatory grace. Margaretta looked up at his face. His eyes burned with the same intensity they had shown when she had found him.
"Ah, yes, the madman. The perfect bait for the Ordunos. How will you be able to do anything when you have no weapon to fight my men with?"
A low, raspy laugh came from Felipe.
"How will your men be able to shoot me with the lights out?"
Before Mikhail could answer, Felipe leapt toward him with amazing speed. He snatched the torch away from him and smashed it into the face of one of the ax man. The other bellowed and swung the heavy axe down towards Felipe's head. He caught it with his free hand and drove the torch into his attacker's stomach. He crumpled to the ground, burning. There was another crack and Felipe whirled the blade of the ax around him. A spark rang out from the blade as the bullet bounced harmlessly to the snowy ground. Felipe looked into the darkness.
"Answer me this question," he said in perfect Ussuran, "can you reload your rifle before I find you and your friend?"
Felipe charged into the darkness. Margaretta sat in awe as the quiet night exploded in the anguished cries of battle. Alicia stirred.
"You are alright?"
"I heard a gunshot and then fainted...what's going on?"
"Mikhail tried to kidnap us. Felipe leapt out of the sled and is...I don't know how to describe it exactly..."
"Finished," he said, standing at the corner of the sled. Alicia sat up suddenly.
"Mikhail has agreed to drive us to town and formally apologize for his...unsuccessful business venture. We will get on the Corazon and set sail."
Felipe turned and smiled, and then got in the sled.
No-one spoke until they were greeted by the crew.