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Shenanigans
A place of thoughts n' conundrums and speculations.
Cocklebur King Part VII: A Battle of Wills
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Harte lay prone upon the blood soaked ground, calloused hands digging into the earth till his knuckles turned white. He could hear his heartbeat drown out the other night sounds of the forest as his mental anguish screamed across the planes, begging and praying for the goddess of the woods to come to him. He silently added that he was not here to ask for her blessings of protection or for guidance on a hunt, but yearned for his love, the canid that he cared deeply for. Whispered words of longing escaped from his cracked, bloodied lips as he continued to pray, rocking back and forth as the stars twinkled merrily in the cold night sky.

“I hear your voice deep within…It’s you, the sound of my husband; a feeling so strong…Darling, it is to you I’ll always belong….”
All that replied to his desperate plea was silence. Even the crickets had gone silent. Not even a whisper of a breeze rustled the leaves nor animals treading upon broken branches and dead undergrowth could be heard. It was unsettling; an unnatural quietness seemed to surround Harte like a stifling blanket.

A sharp poke in his shoulder jerked Harte out of his fervently praying state. He glanced up expectantly, hoping it was his beloved. Instead he was treated to the impressive sight of the wild goddess, who had heard his cries. Most prayers by humans she paid little heed too, but this…this was most unexpected. Her curiosity had gotten the better of her; she had expected the man to leave the forest and forget the Cocklebur King entirely. And now she found herself poking at him with her long and ancient antler. Covered in moss and vines, the goddess of the wilds looked more like a living tree than the primitive deities humans had envisioned for worship.

“What do you want?”

Her voice was gravely and curt in tone, though it gave the impression that several centuries weighed within those few words. The goddess was not a particularly chatty type, and Harte would do well to keep brief in his exchanges, lest she be provoked—or worse, ignore his plea.

The human stood up, gritting his teeth and looked straight into the goddess’s liquid grey eyes. “I want him to come back to me.” His amber eyes narrowed as she stood silent and tall. In an antagonizingly slow response, she replied, fiddling with a loose piece of vine on her horn.

“It cannot be done.”

Harte opened his mouth to speak, but she held up a twiggy hand to stop him. Once again, her reply seemed to take ages, almost as if she was deliberately trying to test the human’s patience. She would not be rushed, no matter how dire the circumstances.

“You cannot change his nature. He is beast that feeds on manflesh.”
“Bu--”
“It cannot be done.”

She turned away from Harte, ready to disappear to the secret paths that only the gods knew as her curiosity waned. How boring. This was a waste of her time after all.

“Then change me, instead!” Harte blurted out, nearly grabbing her arm to halt her progress before thinking better of it.

“No.” The finality of her words could have been carved in stone. Still, the human persisted, running in front of her, looking straight into her mirror-like eyes. “He is not the only killer of men.” Harte hated the tremble in his voice, the quivering fear in his heart, but he stood tall, puffing out his chest. She stopped, drawn by the blatant arrogance of this man and her insatiable curiosity to see how he’d plead his case.

“Explain.”

Harte inwardly sighed with relief as he tried to appeal to the goddess’s concept of understanding natures. “He—he is not the only killer of men. I am a soldier, a fearsome fighter in an armed guard and have taken many lives. I have slaughtered--”

“No. It is not the same.” She interrupted Harte, talking slightly faster than normal, which was generally at glacier speed to begin with. “Killing does not make human nature comparable to an animal.”

Spots of red flushed on Harte’s cheeks as he faced the goddess, who currently looked monumentally unimpressed at the current discussion. “You don’t understand!” He snarled, not caring if it elicited disrespect, he just had to make her listen.

“I knew exactly what I was getting into. He told me what he truly was—of course I didn’t believe him until now…” Harte spoke faster, forcefully, taking a cue from the moderate flash of surprise crossing the goddess’s face.

“He never once lied to me, and was---no, is the most honest creature on God’s green earth that showed me how raw truths can bind a soul more closely than consummation of marriage or lifelong friends. He told me his true name, the name used by beasts of the old woods and a jealously guarded secret.” Harte took a moment to pause for breath as his throat wheezed and crackled, emotion setting in from the intensity of his words.

“The canid shared his true name…with you?” There was a faint note of disbelief from the goddess as she scrutinized Harte, staring straight into his heart of hearts, his soul. No human could lie or hide falsehoods from her when she searched. It was true! Disbelief and skepticism still was scrawled over her face as Harte continued, encouraged by her stunned silence.

“His desire for me to know everything, the honesty behind it all, he gave me a most precious treasure that most humans could never even hope to replicate. I love him, through and through, even though I didn’t believe him at first, I still love everything about him. I will shed my humanity for him. Let me give you my sword for claws and teeth, my clothing for fur, and bare naked my nature so that we can be reunited as one…”

The goddess cocked her head, her antler-horn touching his forehead. It was startlingly cool and refreshing against his fiery range of emotions. Her face regained its signature impassive look as she spoke, though whether it was to him, or to his husband, or out loud, Harte never knew.

“A man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night,
May still become a wolf when the autumn moon is bright…”


Slick Southpaw
Community Member
Slick Southpaw
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