Part 40 of Quest
& Part 4 of Istan’s Solo Quest: Chasing the Cross
~ ~ ~
His life’s a suitcase,
not filled with luxury goods–
those he jettisoned.
~ ~ ~
Chiron’s son, the hierophant, saw the sign
he’d waited for and left his monast’ry.
Strange that stalled storm counted as the sign
but strange were the times and temerity
was called for, not caution, so he shifted.
Humanity spiraled inwards as equine
flesh robed his body while his mind drifted.
Muscle flowed, bones reshaped, changing his shrine’s
shape until a stallion reared up where man
had stood moments before and the wind chased
him across the plain but caught neither man
nor the horse he’d changed into not ’till haste
brought the village he’d sought in sight and change
once more swarmed o’er the man to rearrange…
~ ~ ~
“Why do stare at those cards?” Istan asked as he set the empty bowl aside. “What more do they say?”
The Painted Man seated cross-legged by the pallet started. Setting the deck down, he glanced at his guest. Wrapped in his contemplation, he had forgotten he was not alone. Istan reached across the blanket mountain created by his knees and turned over the topmost card of the tarot deck his host had set down. The Hierophant card lay between them, face up for the Painted Man and reversed for Istan.
Face up hierophant,
in tradition wisdom’s found;
challenges the status quo,
opens mind to truth.
Istan nodded and grabbed a handful of blanket to pull it back. The cards had handed him further proof that he needed to get moving. Recuperation could be handled on the road north as he sought out this “hierophant” character who might hold the key. Let that key unlock knowledge about the Emperor or the Maelstrom creature stalking the north not something darker.
“You must rest. You gave too much to save us. Rest now.” The Painted Man set his hand on Istan’s shoulder and arrested his rising with ease.
Not that Istan would have gotten far; dizziness had dropped blurry curtains around the world narrowing his vision down to the pallet and its rumpled blankets. Subsiding back to supine took more energy that it should have.
“What’s your name? I told you mine but I don’t know yours..” Bloodloss parched his throat, drying up his voice until his host held out an earthen vessel as dark as his skin. Istan accepted it and the help offered to raise him so he could drink instead of choke.
“My name’s Zallev,” he touched his chest, fingers splayed to keep his name from escaping and to hold its power over him in his heart, where it belonged. For the giving of a true name gave the knower power.
Istan swallowed the last sip of water touched by the gesture. He had given his true name but he was the son of an old god; his name on the tongues of mortals gave him power rather than reverse.
Zallev grinned at his reaction. “My name’s safe with you, saver of villages, staller of storms.”
Istan caught his grin and shared it. “My new title, eh?”
It sounded better than former Storm King or son of a broken pantheon that had long ago faded to dust and memory. Both their grins faded as their gazes fell to the tarot deck and the truth that stared up at them with raptorial eyes. What rough beast slouched towards them now?
The hut’s door flew open and in burst a boy, bright of eye, bursting with excitement and news. He gesticulated as he related his news:
“It’s racing the wind,
kicking up dust in its wake,
arrowing straight here.”
A wind followed the boy in. It played with the hierophant card, lifting it, turning it and flinging it down near the threshold as it departed. Zallev’s eyes stayed riveted to the card as it danced with the wind, noting its position when it came to rest again. Shooting to his feet, he hurried to the door.
“Show me,” he said to the boy.
Istan pushed himself to a sit, tipped forward onto his knees and crawled to a wall. Digging his fingers into the hides that comprised the yert, he pulled himself up, one handful of fur at a time. He wavered for a moment, clinging to the buffalo hide that stank of smoke and the brain oil used to tan it. Holding on to the hide, he reached the door and stepped out of the stale air and into the fresh.
Something or someone rushed across the plain from the opposite direction of the storm squatting just beyond the cross-hatched white glow of the crude blood ward he’d set. Or maybe ichor ward was more apt since his blood resembled liquid silver more than the crimson of mortal blood. Frequent spilling of that potent blood only made it regenerate with more power to feed his magic-famished body.
The wind blew past him tangling his white-blond hair as it dove into the yert. Picking up the hierophant card, it carried it and laid it, like an obedient dog, at its former master’s feet.
“Are you what’s coming?” Istan asked the card as he picked it up. He felt Zallev’s eyes on him, ready to rescue him if he fell. “What trouble do you foretell?” Istan’s thumb tapped the card, which had landed perpendicular to him. Neither face up nor reversed, like the truth it conveyed, its meaning lay in the gray between prediction and fact.
At the junction of truth and foresight lay
the tarot; its deck’s ruffled by fate’s hands.
Its cards scattering in the wind that flays,
falling like shards of truth that cut the hands
that shuffle the deck and prick the eyes that see.
Open the mouth of the fortune teller
to speak the words seekers sought over tea.
Do as the cards decree, beware stellar
influences that disrupt our senses;
Kinesthesia’s the key to all movement,
all action that we take; cards make fences,
dictate our lives, drop them, live attachment
free, unbound from fate, in truth’s sunlight stand,
worry not if your destiny is grand.
~ ~ ~
Hierophant card slips
from fingers, fate’s lost its hold–
future’s a surprise.
~ ~ ~
Istan’s Quest continues in Hierophant’s Quest Part 2.
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Hierophant’s Quest employed the following prompts: Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle #99 & Writing Prompt #148 “The Hierophant”; Color Your World: Meadow Blue, Neon Carrot & Navy Blue; Daily Post: Inevitable.