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Stone Heart

Stone Heart

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Published by Lea Costello

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Published by: Lea Costello on Apr 27, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“Those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and the natureswhich enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply”
Flashes of him disappeared and reappeared in her head like lightening in the darkesthours. She wanted to forget last night, but his hungry eyes, those bloodshot things stabbedinto her slumber. Every word, every threat, the very breath from his lips pounded through pained ears.“Did you enjoy the dinner?” King Aldrec asked when he entered her cell.Zaira only nodded.“Quiet again? You usually are. My son made it tonight. It’s his first time cooking.”Aldrec smiled at her, and she quickly looked away. “Yes, slightly different and better. He’sa great chef, isn’t he? I guess cooking is another of his talents. And he happens to only besixteen,” he boasted, forming another grin at the end.She glanced away again for she knew it was just an illusion. He had no heart. Heonly cared for his son, so any form of friendliness from him couldn’t be trusted. Hedemanded her to take a seat, so she settled at the edge of the bed.“Zaira, you know why I’m keeping you here,” he started, then knelt down beforeher, studying her face. Zaira’s eyes grew dim. “Now, don’t give me that look. You don’trealize how powerful you are, how much of a gift it is to have you here.”Zaira wanted to tell him that keeping her as a prisoner for his own benefit waswrong, but she remembered what happened the last time she told him something similar,that brutal blow across her face and the long-lasting pain afterwards.Aldrec sat close beside her and brought his palm up to her chin. “Such staggeringeyes…they always get to me…in all your twenty-seven years, not even the goddess of  beauty can compare. Unless you’re that goddess yourself come down here in human form.”Zaira pulled from his touch, and rolled her eyes. To think he can try cheap words onher. She rose from the bed, but Aldrec grabbed her arms and pinned her back down.And then it happened. He touched her.“Stop it! Let go!” she yelled, trying to push him away but wasn’t strong enough.“Somebody help!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.“That’s no use,” he said. “No one’s around. We’re the only ones here.”“Bastard!”His heavy rage struck across her face. Zaira struggled helplessly to break free as hesmothered her neck with wet, dirty kisses. His tongue felt like a poisonous snake, thick with icky slime. When he stopped, and she sat up and stared disgustingly into hisfrightening stones of utter wickedness, resentment sweltering through every vein in her  body. She wondered if he had any shame for what he just did. They looked at one anothein what seemed as forever. “Please, leave,” she finally said in the kindest manner, hoping asofter tone would make him do so. She couldn’t stand his presence. Instead, the kingroughly grabbed her by her chin and gazed deeply into her with a shadow of darknesslingering over him.He edged his face closer, their lips just an inch apart, but Zaira shoved him awaywith all her might. “Leave me alone!”“You dare yell at me?”She sunk down against the wall, drawing her knees to her chest and narrowed her eyes with hatred.“Don’t you look at me that way either,” added the king.Zahira kept her head down and ignored him.“Look up to me,” he commanded. And when she didn’t, he knelt before her.
“Those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and the natureswhich enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply”
Zaira thought he just wouldn’t give up. But she knew one thing, she won’t beforced by him to give in. She would never surrender even if he beat her for hours more.“Look up to me,” he repeated. Seconds passed and he roughly lifted her chin. “Thatwas an order. And, when you receive and order from the king, you follow them.” Another moment of silence passed until he spoke again. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”“While you touch me?” she sourly responded. Zaira rose up and continued. “If youlay a hand on me again, I’ll stop my predictions, then your enemies will come, and thiscastle will burn just like it should’ve done years ago.”King Aldrec chuckled. “I almost believed you there, but make one thing clear, if you do stop, you must realize the consequences.”“And what is that?” Zaira knew that it had nothing to do with her own mentioningof the castle burning in ruin. That was an exaggeration.“You don’t want to know,” he whispered into her ear after taking a step closer toher. “But if you obey me, you won’t have to worry about any such thing. Just follow myorders…” He firmly, yet gently, grabbed both her upper arms. “…and do as I tell you…And don’t be afraid.”And when his hand slid down to her waist, that was it. Zaira shoved him away for the last time. “I’m serious, damnit!”He struck her for the second time across the same left cheek where she received her first blow. For a moment, she held the side of her face in pain, then let go and confrontedhim with an impulsive vigor.“I don’t care what the punishment is. You gonna’ behead me? Or throw me to thesharks? Or do you plan to rape me first, then kill me? Huh? Nothing’s worse than where Iam now. I dare you, in whatever way—kill me.”Aldrec stood motionless, unable to respond to her unforeseen and mad demand. If she’s not afraid of death, then he would know she’s not afraid to withhold her premonitionsof enemy approach. Silence lingered between them for the longest time until he finallymade a decision. With a heavy grunt of frustration, he retreated out, slammed the gate,locked it, and left.***Prince Gabriel wanted nothing to do with the never-ending subject of war frominside the castle. So he hid, here in mother’s garden, here in the company of a thousand of her sweetest flowers. If it wasn’t for Gabriel’s maintenance of this haven since her deathyears ago, the flowers would all have died along with her. Tending this garden was a wayof keeping a part of her alive and still with him.Father was probably wondering where he was. And it’s always the same, how healways relied on Gabriel to formulate a quick military plan, either in the army’s defense or attack. But not today, not after what happened at breakfeast.Earlier this morning, Father waited for him in the dining room for breakfast, seatedat the end of the table and asked him where he’d been. Gabriel told him he’d simply wokenup late, then took a seat by him.“Are you and the princess undertaking preparations for the wedding?” Aldrec began.“Must it be next month? Can’t we postpone it?”
“Those who can soar to the highest heights can also plunge to the deepest depths, and the natureswhich enjoy most keenly are those which also suffer most sharply”
Aldrec leaned back as if he were stunned at Gabriel’s response. “What? I thoughtyou’d be eager to take her hand!”Fumbling with the soup before him, Gabriel couldn’t think of any reason why he’d be impatient, or even willing to marry her. “I have no affection for her.”“I’m sorry, my ears must be playing tricks? What did you say?”“I said I don’t love Ramona. I don’t want to marry her.”“How can that be?” he asked, watching Gabriel take in a spoonful of food.Gabriel thought long and hard. “I don’t know.”“Well…what does it matter? You will take her hand.”“I don’t wish to,” he hesitantly persisted.“You must. If you don’t marry her, we can’t gain full trust of her father, and if our forces don’t come together, my kingdom will lose this war. Your wisdom, Gabriel, is notenough. And that witch I told you of, her presentiments are not always right! Sometimes, Idon’t understand you. Your fiancée is rich, stunning, graceful, educated, soft-spoken, andwell mannered. What more could you ask for? What more could there be in a woman?”Gabriel didn’t want to hear it, shaking his head at his father’s words.“Well, neither did I love the queen.”He dropped his spoon and looked up at his father for the first time since theconversation began. “Mother loved
.” Gabriel remembered the countless times whenshe told him and father that she loved them.“And if it’s not sooner, you will eventually take Lady Ramona as your futurequeen, anyhow,” he added, ignoring Gabriel’s previous statement as if it meant nothing tohim.“Is that why you didn’t attend her funeral?” Gabriel asked, still talking aboutmother. Is that why you think it’s a waste a time when I tend to her garden for hours?”“And if the answer is yes, my dear son?...”Gabriel took in a deep breath, staring indignantly into his father’s dark, stone eyes.“Then why did you marry her?”Aldrec chuckled. “To bare me an heir. And for a sweet lady in the night bed. Whatelse?”Appalled and lost for words, Gabriel rose up from his seat and stormed towards thedining hall exit.“Gabriel!” his father called after him. He rushed out the castle and to mother’sgarden.And now, here he was. Gabriel couldn’t think of mother being used in the ways hisfather said, of living her marriage with father through a lie. He
shook his mind from allthat, as difficult as may be, and focused on the beauty of the garden. The sun manifestedeverything in a stunning microscopic level—the fine lines of the leaves like tiny capillaries,the tiny hairs covering the stems of the flowers, all magnified in detail, in essence. Thensuddenly, a crow called from a distance and snatched away his attention from everythingelse. A dead bird lay close to the tree, covered in something dark which Gabriel couldn’tmake out from the distance. Was it dirt?He immediately fled to the poor creature. It was a baby raven which must’ve fallenfrom its tree, and hundreds of stirring ants munched on its lifeless body. He nudged its body and the ants scattered in all directions. He kept doing that until the tiny army fledfrom the baby.

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