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The Heart Always Knows

by Quest

The heart always knows. Before the head, before the light of intellect illuminates the dark corners of the subconscious, the heart has been there, waiting in still waters for the storm to come.

I put down my pen, wondering what I meant by that precisely. Oh, the meaning was fairly obvious. But why had I written it here, sitting under this tree, watching the warrior woman practice? Was there something she was hiding from herself? Something I kept buried in my psyche, that the sight of her triggered? Maybe it had to do with the beautiful redhead that sat off to one side of the meadow, fiddling with her staff and watching the warrior with thinly veiled adulation.

I knew they'd seen me, when they set up camp. Obviously I posed little threat. A lone figure perched under a tree, scribbling away. No one fears a scribe. They don't usually bother them, either. Mad poets, divine lunatics . . . Perhaps it's some kind of superstition, a tickling in the race memory, a little voice that puts us mostly out of harm's way, sacred. Or maybe it's just that we're not worth the bother.

The warrior woman was good. I'd seen my share of battles, and duels. At least, I thought I had. I couldn't quite seem to remember them, now. But I knew she was one of the best I'd ever seen. Maybe the best. I could see why the redheaded girl would adore her. She was marvelous to watch. The blade whirled through the air in complicated patterns, cutting the wind and shattering the late afternoon sunlight with brilliant reflections. Her muscles bunched and flowed, even at this distance I could see how well proportioned she was. She finished her dance, steel singing home into it's sheath, finally at rest. I thought about applauding, but that would only shatter my anonymity. Invite trouble. Attention.

I went back to my scribbling.

Though one might think that it is impossible to hide from what your heart knows, the truth is that nothing is easier. We practice hiding our feelings from ourselves, almost from the moment of our birth.

The crunch of boots on stone pulls me out of my deep reverie. My gaze travels up dark boots, muscled legs, armored chest. The warrior woman stands on the turf before me, looking suspicious. "Why are you sitting up here watching this valley?"

I shrug. "I was here. It seemed like the thing to do. . ." She narrows her eyes, looking down at my sheaf of parchment. "Where are you from? I don't recognize your accent . . ."

I ponder a moment, shaking my head. "It seems as though I have always been here, looking at this valley, contemplating the drift of the wind and the growing of trees. Does it matter so much, the origin of a thing? Is it not enough that it exists, here and now?" I can see she is confused by my answer. But not angered. Perhaps she believes I am simple minded. Perhaps I am. Indeed, it begins to seem odd to me, that I don't really understand why I'm here. As though I should have more purpose. A sense of where I'm going. But it only bothers me in an intellectual sort of way. There is little feeling attached, and no urgency.

The warrior walks around me, looking for a pack, a horse, any sign of a camp. But all I have is with me. The parchment, the pen, and the light cotton shirt and breeches that cover my spare frame. The redhead walks up the hill, leaning on her staff, looking at me curiously. "I'm Gabrielle. What's your name?"

I set my parchment and pen aside, pulling my knees up to my chest, looking out over the rolling hills. No answer wafts in on the wind, or grows like a weed between the rocks. This is not part of my writings. I do not know. "Who can name a thing? I am neither stone, nor earth, nor sky. I merely am. Nothing more." Gabrielle looks as confused as the warrior woman now, and they turn to walk away. But something about me has piqued the girl's curiosity. She stops, then looks at me again, trying to unravel a mystery that has no center. "Are you hungry? We have some food, down at our camp, if you'd like to share a meal . . . " The warrior scowls, but doesn't object, and I can feel a growling in my stomach that was not there moments before.

"Yes, thank you." I gather my parchment from where it has fallen, disturbed by the breeze. Standing, I feel as though there is something else I should say. "I'm sorry, I don't have any food to share with you. I guess I travel light . . ."

Gabrielle smiles and shakes her head. "Don't worry about it. We've got plenty." Moving down the hillside, I admire the swing of her gait, the form of her muscles sliding along. I feel the first stirrings of desire, and wonder that I had not felt this before, yet should recognize it so instantly. The warrior looks at me, almost forcing eye contact, and it is as though she can read my soul. I wonder what she finds there, but she reveals nothing in return.

. . .I wake, rolling over and clutching my pillow tighter. What an odd dream. Look at the clock: 3:00 am, and the sky is dark with rain. Lightning crosses the sky, but the thunder never rolls. I drift off, waiting for the sound of hammers falling . . .

The soul is too dark, to deep to stand exposed. Our fears run rampant, dependent on us to disguise them. And also our hopes, our dreams. Even more than our fears they need protection from the harsh light of day. But once you bury a gem beneath a mountain, how much harder then, to find it again?

The two start as I walk into their camp, and the warrior puts a hand on her sword. "You disappeared." I shake my head, unable to explain. Already I hold no answers in my mind, fading to a clean slate, grey and empty.

Gabrielle looks at me as though I were ephemeral, about to evaporate. "Xena looked everywhere for you. We just turned around, and you were gone. No tracks, no cover, nothing. Are you a god, that you can disappear like that?"

I crouch down at the edge of the circle, setting my pen and parchment down next to me. "Are we not all gods of some small realm? Within or without, above or below, the truth is our kingdom and to disguise it in shadow and substance our only decree."

The warrior woman, Xena, raises an eyebrow and snorts in disgust. "She's no god, Gabrielle. Just a lunatic who's good at covering her tracks." Gabrielle offers me a crust of bread, rich and brown, like loam and sand and the bones of the earth. I touch it, take it into my hands, bite down. The flavor is a dream of horses running, and I loose myself in it for a pounding eon.

When I waken, the two are wrapped in their bedrolls. The redhead sleeps soundly, but the warrior watches me still. Looking at her, I see a maze of walls within walls, obsidian mirrors gravely staring at me with my own face, and yet reflecting only starlight and a desert wind. Gravely I set my parchments on the ground in front of her, stopping to write one more line by the light of a pale crescent moon.

Perhaps we sleep, and dream of crystal caverns. Or perhaps the caverns, waking, dream of us. But whether there is light or shadow in the depths of the empty spaces, the heart always knows.


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