A Crusading Heart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Stranded in a hospital bed and suffering from a cardiac tumour, Heart Nolastname is embracing death, waiting for it to come after her. But what happens when a mysterious someone approaches her one stormy night and turns her world upside down? What can she do when fate opens the window to an entire new life, a life of a hero that lives in the whispers and prayers of the ones pleading for salvation?

Submitted: September 26, 2015

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Submitted: September 26, 2015

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“...If the world is a violin and the bow – destiny’s hand, then I will be the ripped string it always gets stuck on. The string that ruins the harmonious melody of life. A painful screeching sound that no-one’s ears can bear. Not even my own mother’s.

“I was born like that. At least, according to Mrs Daisy from the orphanage I grew up in. Born with that devilish smile and venomous green eyes that never allowed anyone to get close to me. The same devilish grin that chased away children in the cafeteria and kept me locked up in the hideous room for days. The same venomous eyes that couldn’t get used to the pink walls painted with flowers, the pink bedsheets, the other five girls sleeping in the room and the annoying pink carpet with hearts and clouds all over it. Pink. Pink. Pink. Like everything was that easy. Like life wasn’t black already and needed colouring in light and hope. Like we weren’t left out in the streets to die by the people that called themselves our parents. I couldn’t stand it. None of it. My mother’s abandonment, the fake love of the child care workers, the other children’s neglect, my trapped feelings and tortured soul.

“I knew there must be something I could do with myself. Become something more than the kid that everyone despised. The odd one out. So I ran away on my twelfth birthday and left the cold walls of the orphanage as a dark smudge in my past. A smudge I wanted to scrub away so so badly. Forget about it and move on. For the first time in my life, play the violin by my own chords”.

I gulp a mouthful of water from the glass neatly laid out on the wooden table before me and sigh. I instinctively reach for my brown locks to chew on, but then my fingers curl back in my lap as fast as they went up.

There are no more locks. No more brown. Nothing. Just a bald egg-like head numbly placed on the shoulders of a miserable, forgotten-by-the-world, seventeen-about-to-be-eighteen-years-old girl.

“Tell me more, Heart. Come on, honey”, my psychiatrist encourages slightly, leaning across the table and staring at my eyes. I don’t want him to see the venom everyone else sees in them so I look away focusing on the white wall behind him instead. Everything is white in this phase of my life.

If you don’t believe in ironies, well, my friend, it’s about time you begin. What are the odds one’s name to be Heart and in the same time suffer from cardiac tumour in its last stage? Heart Nolastname is that zero point one percent.

What more can I tell to this nice guy with awesome coal-black hair and piercing blue eyes that can easily pass as a Burberry model? Ah. Burberry. Such nice bags to steal.

Should I tell him that I did drugs and lived in the streets? Should I tell him that the closest thing I had to a friend was a stripper with the lousiest name ever? That I drank water from the sewers and rummaged through the dump to find a hard, mouldy loaf of bread that not even a dog wanted for supper? That I kept up with glances full of loathing for a girl they didn’t even know, but nonetheless hid the children from? Run away, kids! Heart the Witch is coming!

No. I will keep what dignity I can muster and just say, “I was then diagnosed with cancer three years ago”. Oh, yes. That was when hatred was replaced by pity in the eyes, when the meals and the warm beds came, when people started to care about Heart Nolastname. Because she was ill. Because there was CANCER written on her forehead in big clumsy black letters.

“How did it happen?” The psychiatrist/model takes my hand in his and I flinch. His eyes are big and intent on mine, so I involuntarily gaze back feeling like a criminal being interrogated by a detective and every word I say is crucial for the case. Like this is not something that can supposedly help me get through it easily.

“The doctor came and said I have cancer. Period.”

“Please be more cooperative, Heart. You know it’s for your own-“

“I know. Can you leave?” I don’t care if I sound arrogant or ill-mannered. In fact, I don’t care for anything anymore. Can’t people just let me die?

He opens his mouth and then shuts it. And then he opens it again. “All right. See you tomorrow”, he says standing up.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Yet”, I say and lean my head against the cold white wall.

In a second, the nurse comes in and the room where I meet my psychiatrist transforms into the familiar room with the single bed and the smashed bug on the wall right above it. The room I live in while the hospital waits for the breath to leave my body and put another desperate soul here in my stead. I’m grateful for that. At least, I don’t have to worry about where to pass the night or the rain or the food. Here, the only thing left for me to wonder about is whether the light in the hospital room comes from the sun or the end of the tunnel.

My cheeks meet the pillow and I don’t feel like doing anything at all. The sky is grey outside. Heavy with clouds that threaten rain. My lungs sense the humidity in the air as I struggle for breath.

The corner of my eye sees Moby Dick placed neatly on the nightstand. Its letters remind me of the time when a kind black-skinned nurse read it to me while my chest was on fire and I thought that each drawn breath was my last. Only in my case I am the whale that Ahab chases. And Ahab is Death.

I suddenly feel my heart racing. Lub-dub. What is happening? Lub-dub. I sit straight, gritting my teeth. Lub-dub. It will wash away. It will disappear. Lub-dub. Big beads of sweat stand out on my forehead. Lub-dub. I clench my fists. Lub-dub. A moment. Two.

It’s 13th September. I don’t want to die on 13th September. I don’t.

“Please”, I say aloud for the first time addressing whoever stands behind the clouds. God. Angels. Destiny. Mama.

The door bolts open and two nurses hasten to my bed. I can feel them injecting something in my hand and my body becomes limp. I drift away into darkness.

 

***

 

Thunders. Loud sounds come to my ears like the sky is ripping itself apart. For a moment they flash so bright I think it’s day; almost like a canon blast. And amidst them fat raindrops patter on the heavy glass. The windows are crying, I think, the sleep still not leaving my eyes. I can feel my head full of cotton and I am not aware what time it is or which day. Only this familiar daze I am engulfed in. Somehow I find myself not wanting to leave it. It’s personal, a part of Heart Nolastname.

Despite my brain’s objections, my eyelids flutter open. I fix my pupils on the ceiling. The low lights from outside reflect from the glass window in such a strange and in the same time wonderful way that I am a witness to an aurora borealis just for me. I smile at this unexpected joy, locking my hands over my heart. I feel its slow and steady rhythm. I am –

“Alive”. A dark feminine silhouette stands next to my bed. She’s soaked to the bone, water dripping from her arms and the long hair. I can see that her face is hidden with a hoodie. “You’re alive!” She chuckles. I sense relief and gladness in her voice.

My thoughts start to race as I quickly try to reach the red button for emergencies next to my bed. This is definitely an emergency.

“Who are you?” I ask.

She leans towards my face as if checking one last time if I am the person she is seeking. “The one I need”, she says. Her voice is husky. The one that would make you stop searching for another radio station when heard, thinking you’ve found what you’ve been looking for.

“What?” My voice is barely audible above the storm.

In a second she grabs my wrist. I am hauled from my bed, the dizziness still nestled in me. Then I run. She pulls me with her and I run. I run. The corridors are dark and empty; not even a shadow disturbs the eerie silence.

Adrenaline hits me and I forget about all the pain. I am light-headed once again.

“Where are we going?” I think to ask.

“Shh…” She whispers.

I decide to follow her lead. We go straight ahead then turn a sharp right as if chased by the devil. A few more turns and a backdoor zooms in. Her hand is on the metal knob, turning it slightly. There is a soft click and I see that the streets of London are damp and lonely.

We leave the cold hospital walls behind us and in a flash my feet cross the street towards Bedford Square Garden or that’s what I was told the park is called. The rain is still pouring over us, sticking my hospital robes to my body. I hear thunder striking somewhere above us and my body winces for a moment. I struggle to catch my breath as I feel my heart betraying me.

“Hold on!” I shout after the stranger. “I cannot –“. I pant; the words are not leaving my mouth.

“Yes, you can”, she says. “You are meant for this, Traeh. This is what you are supposed to do. This is where you are supposed to go”.

My hands are on my knees, my teeth chattering. The raindrops fall straight on my bald head and into my eyes and I curse under my breath. “I-I don’t want this”, I say. A second ago I was ready to leave this place for good, to escape my cruel reality or swap it for something better. Something more promising. But right now I just want to go back to my hospital bed. I want to go back to my white soft blanket and huddle underneath it waiting for my heart to stop. Waiting for my last heartbeat. I realise now that I am afraid.

I have just enough time to steal a short glimpse of the moon, shining between the clouds when the girl pulls my hand and brings me closer to her. I hear her whisper in my ear, “Do you want to be cured?”

Do I want to be cured? What kind of a question is that? How can a jog in the park make my heart stronger? I start to doubt her and I say out loud, “Did you escape a mental institution perchance? You know, being near the hospital and that kind of stuff”.

“A mental what?”

Oh my! I am led by a lunatic and I didn’t realise it. Oh my!

“Never mind”, I say. “I’ll go to my room now and you can run on your own. London’s long and wide and you can run all you want”.

The girl makes a sound near to a sigh. “What’s London?”

This is getting alarming. I take a few steps backwards and a sensation of rage and fear comes from my toes and into my head and I shout at her. “Shut up with those whats of yours! What’s this, what’s that! Leave me alone, looneybin!”

She just shrugs and ducks her head into the bushes.

Seriously? You’re pulling the ostrich card on me?

Then she locks her grip on my wrist. I writhe and struggle, but in vain. And I notice something strange. Her hand is glowing bright yellow. I blink once. Twice. It still glows.

“What the –“

She pulls me with her and… and I’m falling. My body is falling into a deep hole with no bottom. I feel my heart in my throat. My lungs are on fire as I muster a scream. Everything around me is a mess of blurs. Now I know how Alice must have felt down the rabbit hole.

All of a sudden my naked feet touch a solid ground. The sky above me is pink and with stars. The grass tickles my toes and a loud buzz fills my ears. I finally feel at peace. My eyes dart around me. I realise I fell into another world. Everything is so strange and yet familiar. The scent of flowers, the breeze, the trees with yellow crowns and finally my companion standing a few steps ahead. Her back is turned to me. “This place… it’s magical“, I say.

“It’s home”, she utters in the same time. Her hood slowly falls back revealing long blonde-going-to-white hair and pointy ears.

A crease forms between my eyebrows as I try to explain what my eyes are seeing. “Who are you?” I ask.

“I am Aelthuin, daughter of Krythluin, Lieutenant of the First Order of Elves. And your name is Traeh, The Crusader Of The Worlds”, she says slowly.

“Nope”.

“Yes, you are, Traeh”, she says again.

“Nope. You brought the wrong person, girl”. I try to hide my bewilderment, but I think it shows. I am Heart. Heart Nolastname. Heart brought up by drug-addicts and mean social workers. Heart is… Heart is no-one.

“Traeh, this is not Earth. You are not from Earth”, she tells me, approaching.

“No! Stop!” I shout. “I’m not Traeh! I can’t take it. Don’t play with me! Didn’t they teach you not to mock girls who suffer from cancer, huh?” I am furious and tears begin to well up in my eyes. “Didn’t they tell you that you were supposed to pity them and give them kind looks when in reality you want to get away from them as fast as you can?”

“Traeh –“

“Don’t play with me”, I finally breathe out and drop on the ground like a useless sack of potatoes. I can’t stop the tears from sliding down my cheeks as I drown in sobs.

I hear Aelthuin crouch next to me. She flings her arm around my shoulders and whispers in my ear as if someone might overhear, “If you don’t believe me, then look at yourself and tell me in my face that you’re this Heart from Earth”.

I sniff and look up at her eyes, but now she is holding a lock of brown curly hair between her fingers. My brown hair. Chestnut with auburn tones on the edges. I quickly grab it and stuff as much as I can in my mouth. It tastes nice. It tastes like my hair.

A small tear escapes the green pools of my eyes and falls down. What is happening to me?

“You didn’t belong on Earth. Your heart… your heart stayed too long in a foreign place. It yearned for home and for other worlds. It wants to fix other worlds just as it did Earth”. Her voice is gentle like a summer breeze blowing through the tall pine trees.

I spit my hair out. “How? I did nothing to repair Earth”, I say.

“You did. Of course, you did, my dear Traeh. The strip club girl you helped to escape from her molesting husband; she was going to assassinate the Queen if she remained in that place. You made her see the good side of life. Then, the boy who was nearly hit by one of your metal vehicles… If you didn’t take him with you to the doors of the orphanage, he’d never live to be the General Secretary of the organisation you call UN… There is a reason those people crossed your path. The worlds revolve around you”, Aelthuin explains.

“Mickey’ll become the General Secretary of the UN?” My mouth agape, I stare wide-eyed at her narrow face.

“Well, as you see, yes. Please don’t ask me how I know all of this”, she says the last quite fast that I struggle to hear her.

“I won’t… No... I won’t… Never… Seriously do you have a crystal ball or something?” I mutter.

“Told you”, Aelthuin says and mimics zipping her mouth.

“Oh, right. Too bad”. I sigh while my mind races to process everything that has happened up until this moment. “If, but only if, I am what you say I am, why did you bring me here?” I ask her.

Her look is focused somewhere behind my shoulder and into the horizon. I can see her purple eyes changing colour, deepening. She clears her throat and begins, “I wouldn’t if the trolls didn’t breach the gates and invade our lands. They’ve slaughtered villages, killed innocent beings and now they’re marching for the king’s castle”.

“You have a king?” I blurt out.

“Yes, and a very fine one indeed. He united the men and the elves and the dwarves and the waterpeople and even the mountain clans under one banner”, she says.

“But what can I do? He seems like a nice guy. He can defend you”, I say and stand up.

“We need the Crusader Of The Worlds. We need someone to lead us”. Aelthuin is on her feet and smiles at me. She steps away and suddenly all I see of her is her running silhouette down the hill.

I haven’t noticed we were standing on a hill until now. At better thought, I haven’t noticed a bunch of things since we arrived. Like the fact that the sun has a white glow to it. My hospital robes are now a linen dress with flowers and the balls on my feet are hidden in cream sandals. And inside my chest, my heart is strong and steady for the first time in forever. I am strong and healthy for the first time in forever.

I feel my pace quicken and for a mere second I think that I run parallel with Aelthuin. I give in to the wind. The rush engulfs me and I do what seems has grown dear to me – I run. The hill and the pink sky and the trees are now long streaks around me. I’m running with the speed of light.

A strange humming noise makes my eardrums tremble accompanied by loud shouts and what appear to be the song of battle. Clash. Clink. Boom. I don’t remember when I’ve last heard it. I guess it was in the times when I used to sneak in the director’s office to watch TV back in the orphanage. Somehow I always found some channel (probably History Channel) broadcasting battles and wars to which I developed a certain attraction and fondness. I wanted to watch those people fighting for what they believed in. Despite the blood, the victims and death, war for me was a way to stop tyranny. A way to win your freedom. And who knew that I will get to be in the middle of one?

I run after Aelthuin and in no time I’m sucked in the crowd of soldiers flocking the valley. I look around in search for my companion, but she is nowhere to be found. Next to me are creatures and beings all clad in armour, long spears in their hands, edgy swords on their waists. They shout and thump their feet like challenging a beast out of its lair, their eyes glittering in determination, their hands clenched in fists. As I poke my way through the smell of soil and sweat, feeling the excitement and adrenaline among the lines of soldiers like a real visible current running between us, I see that the sun is eclipsed.

I fling my head in that direction almost at once as if someone pulled a string in my neck. I gasp and cover my mouth. Hundreds, no, thousands trolls – in Aelthuin’s words – line the horizon, covering the sun with their huge ugly heads. (I hope no troll takes offence.) They are the size of a pine tree, the ones they show on National Geographic, and they are coming towards us. The army of the king, as I like to call it, doesn’t wait and plunges into a war cry; the sound of the horns is almost deafening to my ears. For awhile I think that I can’t listen but then a rough hand grabs my shoulder and his rusty voice growls in my ear.

“Better use your spells, kid. It’s going to be a bloodbath ‘till the day’s done”, he says. Yellow eyes lock with mine and a few sharp teeth escape his tightly-closed lips.

“Well, you better give me a weapon, mister, because I don’t have magic”, I shout to make sure he hears me over the war cries.

“Why, of course you do. This is no place for magicnones”, he replies and hurries forward before I can pour a thousand questions over him.

Magic. Right. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. No. Me and magic? No. Never. But what if –

BOOM! The first metal on metal kisses overwhelm me as the fighting commences. My eyes spot Aelthuin gracefully flying from troll to troll and working her magic, the glow not leaving her hands. The same glow she used to pull me into the bushes the night before. At first, I think of running to her asking for an explanation and instructions on what to do, but I’m a hundred percent positive she’d tell me “You’re the Crusader Of The Worlds, you have to know”. Well, guess what? I don’t. Heart Nolastname doesn’t know what to do.

“Watch out!” Someone bellows from behind me. A thought springs up in my mind that I’m grateful these guys speak English, for I would be toast until now.

I am often told that my instinct works better than my reason, so I listen to that feeling in my gut even now and step aside. The ground beneath me trembles as an enormous fist bangs it a few inches away from my head. A loud scream escapes my mouth.

The troll that wanted to smash me falls on the ground with Aelthuin on his back.

“You should seriously consider doing some spells now”, she says, all breathless and panting. Her gold-white hair is sweaty and matted to her scalp.

Everything is bits and flashes from then on. My blood is hitting in my head. My temples are throbbing as if ready to explode in three… two… one… and they kind of do. I feel a surge of energy pulsing through every fibre of what I am and I realise that that is the same surge of energy I felt while I was running with Aelthuin to get here. And it flows and flows until it reaches my hands, then my fingertips and out of my body. Magic. I AM DOING MAGIC!

The first spell goes towards the cloudless sky, but I make sure the next ones find their targets. I don’t know how to control them. They seem to come out of me in all colours without ending, hitting the trolls in their chests and their heads, tripping them over, stupefying them, pushing them. For the first time in my life I feel like a person to be written about, like a heroine in a novel that would inspire little girls and boys alike while they sit on a bench in the park or in the empty classroom while the rest of the children are out in the cafeteria or in the schoolyard or maybe even before bed. My life has a meaning.

“Troll down!” I yell with excitement and hasten towards the epicentre of the battle. Swords are dancing around me, spells are cast, people from both sides fall on their knees and then flat on the dusty ground that soon becomes dark scarlet.

“The Crusader Of The Worlds is here!” Someone roars from the bottom of his lungs. The others pick it up and soon the whole valley is repeating that seven-word sentence. I see it gives people hope, it lightens up their faces, it sharpens their eyesight, it makes them hold the hilts of the swords tighter.

“The Crusader Of The Worlds is here”, I chime in as a smile makes its way to my face and slowly turns into a grin. I cannot feel anything from the adrenaline buzzing in my ears. Anything except the surge of magic in my veins and the sweet smell of victory as the number of trolls recedes.

We fight until the sky turns ruby and it completely blends in with the ground. We have won. Oh, yes we did! But somehow I cannot sense the jubilance a victor should. I am utterly exhausted and unbelievably sad for the people that won’t live to see the dawn break another time. With the iron taste on my tongue and the small red rivulet oozing down from the left corner of my mouth, I’m aware of the blood they spilled to defend their world until they drew their last breaths. I doubt with a dull ache in my heart if the spoils of the war are worth the high toll it craves. A toll all of us pay. In every world. At every time.

I’m crouching, panting, my hands trembling and badly scratched. The skin on my knees is completely peeled off and I am almost sure that my left wrist is sprained and I have a broken rib. I grit my teeth to prevent a grunt from escaping.

Suddenly someone taps my shoulder. I look up. It’s actually something. A rope. I slant my eyes to see better and spot a black rectangle in the sky. My eyes make out a beak and then a hull and a bowsprit.

“A ship”, I whisper to myself, not able to gather strength for more. A ship bringing new travels, scratching new destinies and shaping my own uncertain one. A line from a film I forgot comes to mind. I’m going on an adventure.

My fingers lock around the rope and I climb up. Up and up, until I’m far above the ground and the valley is just a scarlet tapestry with black dots all over it.

The next thing I remember my feet are on a deck and a young man offers his hand in greeting.

“Welcome, Crusader Of The Worlds”, he says with an ear-to-ear grin. I blush. “Welcome aboard the Sky’s Daughter”.

A random fact. I find out that the Sky’s Daughter is made of spruce and maple. And guess what? Violins are made mainly of spruce and maple. I believe I finally met the violin that is about to repair me and put me together with the other strings in the right place. No longer ripped. No longer screeching, but in harmony with the others.

Low notes of a violin trickle my eardrums and I chuckle.

Welcome indeed, Crusader Of The Worlds.


© Copyright 2017 B I Smith. All rights reserved.

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