“I can only point you in a direction you need to take,” spoke an elderly gentleman. “Unfortunately, I can neither guide you or tell you what to expect. My time is coming soon upon me, I’ll not be here when or if you decide to return.” Hannah knew her grandfather was telling her what he knew to be true. He had grown old with a grace envied by most, but recently, the years had been catching up to him. “I want you to take this when you go,” he said as he handed her a large, crudely hewn rock. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but where you’re going, you will need this. This is the Constellation’s Heart, and it is very precious.”
Hannah nodded slowly as she fondled the rock. It seemed like any other stone except for a few peculiar differences. Regardless of which angle she observed it from, the stone appeared as though all that had moved was her hand. She was confused by its look as opposed to what she felt. For something that looked like it had only recently been unearthed and briefly washed, it was smooth as well as warm to the touch. It was heavier than she expected it to be, which surprised her. Her grandfather smiled softly as he watched her try to unravel the mystery behind the artifact.
“You must go now. Seek out the garden guarded by the great Lupus. He will show you where you need to go, so long as you still have the Heart.” He paused for a moment, hugging Hannah close to him, a tear streaming down his wrinkled cheek before getting lost in the forest of his peppered grey beard. “Now go! This place can no longer be home for you. The Lupus will reveal to you the truth. Let the Heart and the stars guide you.”
With one last, long, tearful embrace, Hannah turned and left. She couldn’t look back as much as she wanted to. She knew if she looked back she wouldn’t leave. The path before her was what mattered most; her grandfather taught her that and to only look back once she reached her destination.
The journey had taken her across the world. She had met many people who provided direction when she was feeling lost. Some acted as her guides across dangerous terrains and protected her from ferocious creatures. Having crossed untold miles of grassland, sea, mountains, desert, and deep, dark forests, Hannah came to a garden of flowers, shrubs, and trees that seemed to stretch on as far as she could see.
As she stepped foot into the clearing she felt a pulse ripple through her, and she stopped mid-step. Reaching into her knapsack, she withdrew the Heart. As she held it in front of her for the first time since her grandfather gave it to her, she noticed that the stone was heavier and had started glowing. She waved it in front of her slowly and discovered that the stone would glow brightly in a specific direction. She tied a long string around the stone and wore it like a pendant. Hannah stepped into the clearing as a sudden gust of wind broke against her, carrying with it smells she did not know but seemed familiar. The strong breeze worked against her in all directions but for where she came from.
Through the rustling grass, leaves, and limbs, Hannah heard on the wind the voice of her grandfather, “Let the Heart and the Stars guide you.” With tears in her eyes, she looked up at the sky to the stars dancing in their playground of eternity. Then they appeared, eyes that looked right back at her. Eyes as large as mountains. A brilliant light radiated from her chest, and she realized it was the Heart she carried. The eyes focused on the Heart and then ascended into the sky.
The overwhelming fear she felt caused Hannah to stumble, falling onto her back. As she looked toward the eyes again, she realized that she hadn’t been looking at the sky, but the body of a great beast whose fur glistened in the reflection of the stars. The sky was blue and full of light now that it had moved, uncovering the sky. The creature stood and began walking to her. She expected it to only get larger but as it approached its size reduced until it stood right in front of her at the size of a small house.
“That on your chest,” Hannah heard the words all around her without seeing the creature move it’s mouth. “Where did you get it?”
“M-my grandfather gave it to me as he sent me on my journey. Are y-y-you the Great L-l-lupus?” She asked, stuttering in fear that her assumption was wrong.
“I am, dear child. You have nothing to fear,” the voice boomed and echoed again from every direction. Hannah closed her eyes and covered her ears from pain, but it didn’t help. The voice was also inside her head just as loud. Sensing its mistake, the Great Lupus took a few more steps toward Hannah. He lifted his right paw to her and nudged her arms down. As she opened her eyes, she saw that the wolf was now of a normal size. “My sincerest apologies. I haven’t spoken to anyone in a very long time.” He paused for a moment, returning his gaze to the Heart. “Did your grandfather tell you what this was?”
“He told me it was the Constellation’s Heart, and that the Great Lupus would guide me to where I needed to go, revealing the truth,” she trailed off, sounding confused as to what the Truth meant.
The Wolf’s eyes told of it’s sorrow. “Then, he is no longer of this world. I will show you what he intended you to know. Once I do, I require that object.”
“What is it, exactly?” She begged, wanting to know why it was so important. “What is it for?”
“The Constellation’s Heart. It is exactly as it sounds, child. It is the Heart of the Constellation of Lupus. It is my heart, taken from me eons ago by a young boy who wanted to join the constellations in their eternal dance among the stars.” The wolf’s expressions softening from his hardened sorrow. “Your grandfather was that boy, but he wasn’t your grandfather.”
Hannah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How could this thing be telling her the truth? Her grandfather trusted her future to it? She stood there, her mind racing to find a foothold on her thoughts. “I don’t believe you,” she spoke with defiance. “My grandfather wouldn’t lie to me, but he trusted you. I don’t know what to think right now.”
“I didn’t expect you to believe me right away,” the beast confessed. “Would you have believed your grandfather if he had told you? The flowers here, they smell familiar even though you have no idea why, correct?” He prodded gently, trying to stir memories. “Your grandfather still looked like he was full of youth and vigor when you left, as though he had only just reached the age of fifty, right? Your bloodline is blessed with long lives as keepers of the constellations.”
“How do you know these things?” Hannah sat down, baffled at how this wolf could know so much having just met her. Was he being truthful? Was her grandfather really not what he seemed to be? “I don’t know what to believe anymore, Great Lupus. I’m so tired from my travels looking for my place, where grandfather told me I needed to go.” She picked up the Constellation’s Heart and fondled it as she did that first day. This time she was surprised to see it transform from such a crude state into a brilliant gemstone. It radiated a warmth and light that reminded her of a summer’s twilight.
“The Heart is revealing itself to you? Then, it cannot be denied any further. Come with me, your kingdom awaits, child.” The wolf stood and began to walk away, growing ever larger. It’s fur again reflecting the heavens as he began to run into the distance. “Your kingdom awaits you, princess.” For all the distance, she could hear him as though he were right beside her. “Your father, the one you called Grandfather, was once the king here. They have waited long for his return, for your return.” He turned back to look at Hannah, his body wrapping around a large castle. “Well, princess, are you coming?”
© T.A. Rindler The Constellation’s Heart 2015
© T.A. Rindler Short Stack Story Time 2015