Talespinning Tuesday; Shard, Chapter one

Let’s go to where my heart truly lies in,
Over yonder, beyond the next horizon,
Somewhere we have not sacrificed our starry night,
Upon the alter made of artificial light,
I must go to see what waits beyond the rise,
Before this spirit within me finally dies.

Elsa sat, her head cocked back and a winsome smile on her face. A breeze played with her hair, bringing, making it dance and stream behind her. She could feel the grass beneath her feet, not hard and prickly but rubbery and ticklish where it insinuated itself between her toes. The ground under the grass was soft and lush with the fullness of life. Everywhere around her, the meadow was exploding with every sort of flowering plant imaginable.
Elsa sat and enjoyed the sensations, digging her toes in the earth, turning her face more fully into the sunlight. Her fingers brushed and stroked blades of grass within arms reach, reveling in their unique textures. She felt something tease her nose and opened her blue eyes to find herself face to face with a butterfly. It slowly flapped its wings, the extraordinarily vibrant whorls etched upon them mesmerizing Elsa for a moment. The meadow receded from her as her gaze was caught within the spiral of the butterfly’s wings.
A small, cherubic face gazes up at her. Eyes so very blue, much like her own meet hers. She feels her heart skip a beat. She feels something stir, an ophidian movement within the well of her memory, the vulnerability of that tiny, angelic countenance awakening it momentarily.
Elsa reeled back from the memory, both physically and mentally. The meadow snapped back into clarity, Elsa looking to and fro in frantic panic. Her head pistoned back and forth as she felt more than sees a blurring at the edge of her vision. A moment later, all motion ceased. Even the breeze paused, like the world was holding its breath. Then Elsa smoothed her dress and leaned back once more, turning her face into the sunlight. She dug her toes once more into the earth and ran her fingers through the grass. As she tilted her head back, the breeze rejoined her, dancing her hair behind her like a golden standard.
Elsa was startled but not unduly so, by a rough Texas drawl. “Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, but might you know whereabouts I am?”
Elsa opened her eyes slowly and drank in the man standing before her with a ravenous scrutiny. He was tall, topping six feet by an inch or two. The man wore chaps over rough spun trousers and a black button up shirt with a hat and boots to finish the ensemble. Saddlebags were slung over his shoulder with casual ease. Elsa considered his question for a moment then replied, “Why, you are here.”
“I had me an inkling that was where I was at. Crying yer pardon again, but do you happen to know what’s over that there hill?” the man said, pointing towards the hill in question.
Elsa pursed her lips as she followed the man’s pointing finger with her eyes. A storm of anxiety moved quickly across her features then was gone as quickly and she said in a diffident tone, “No, I do not. I’m quite happy right here.”
“Well, that’s is most likely because ye’ve got yerself a mighty fine place. You mind if a sit a spell while we palaver a bit more?” he said. At her nod, he sat down unceremoniously , all in one big huff, his legs crossed, Indian-style. “You sure you’ve never been over yon hill?”
“I think I would remember having been over there before,” Elsa said exasperatedly.
“Peace, little lady, I cry yer pardon!” the man said, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender, “I’m not meaning to ruffle any feathers.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get out of sorts that is so unlike me,” she said, looking somewhat confused and added, “I think.”
“No apologies necessary, little miss, I’m a tough old coot. So, don’t you go worryin’ on my account,” he said in his slow country rumble. They both sat in a cool companionable silence for a few moments before the man seemed to remember something and said, “Where are my manners? I plum forgot to introduce myself! They call me the Wanderer.”
Elsa found herself giggling despite herself. “The Wanderer? That is quite a silly name,” she said airily.
“You have the right of it, little miss. Not my given name but I misplaced that long ago on my ever-winding road,” the Wanderer said ruefully.
Her titter turned into a full, delighted laugh. “Well then, Wanderer, my name is Elsa. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Elsa said with true joy, turning a radiant smile upon the Wanderer.
“With a smile like that, it just may be that this old man is getting a better end of this bargain. Truthfully, the pleasure is mine,” he said with a grin.
“Why, sir, you are a most brazen man!” she said, giggling once more.
“Well, I’ve definitely been called worse. I’m a shameless flatterer. But then, you are definitely someone who should be flattered,” he responded jovially, giving Elsa a sly wink.
The laughter flowed so hard from Elsa that she struggled to wipe the tears from her eyes. She looked the Wanderer over with a kinder eye and, between bouts of mirth, asked, “You have saddlebags but wherever is your horse.”
He snorted disgustedly. “That low-down dirty son of the backside of a donkey took it upon himself to go and get himself lost. So, he’s somewhere,” he said with a vague gesture around, “He’ll show up before too long, he’s like that.”
“Oh, you are truly a sad sight, a cowboy bereft of his horse. Whatever shall you do?”
“Well, I figure I’ll do what I did before I got that damnable excuse for an animal, excusin’ the coarse tongue, I’ll put one boot behind t'other til I make it somewhere I want to be,” he said with a friendly smile.
“That doesn’t sound at all pleasant,” Elsa rejoined.
“Well that’s only because you think that the point of an adventure is where yer going. I know it’s the getting there that’s the real prize.”
“You are a strange, strange man!” Elsa exclaimed, laughing heartily, “To think that the point of going somewhere is something other than getting there.”
“So tell me true,” the Wanderer asked slowly, as if chewing on each word carefully to ascertain they tasted just right, “you never felt the need to catch yerself a gander from atop them there hills?”
Elsa turned a suddenly sober eye to him, her humor of but moments ago fled, and remarked, “Heavens, no. Why must one always wonder when they have such bounty?”
“All this is fine,” the Wanderer answered, waving his hand in an ambiguously encircling gesture, whistling in amazement for added effect, “I’ve never been one myself to do nothin’ but wonder. Before I know it my boots are movin’ then there I am up over yonder,” he shrugs, “I don’t mind none, though, because my mammy told me God put many fine places upon this green earth and it would be a shame not to give each a taste.” He nodded sagely while delivering mammy’s piece of homespun wisdom.
Her icy blue eyes crystallized into gem hardness and declared icily, “I don’t believe in God.”
“Well, I’ll share a little secret between you, me and the wind, little lady,” the Wanderer said, his eyes veritably twinkling mischievously, “I don’t think my mammy believed in God, either. She just wasn’t the type of person to let a little quibble over something the likes of a belief in the Almighty to keep her from a great turn of phrase.” Elsa responded to his jest with silence. When it was obvious she would not speak, he added, “So, I’m thinkin’, and I’m not a man with much cause to do so, but I’m thinkin’ that you once did believe in God, just like I think once you might have wondered what was over that hill.”
Elsa looked at the Wanderer sharply. She felt him brush dangerously close to something. She didn’t know what because it resided behind a wall and she just knew that the wall had to stand. She felt a kernel of panic begin to form in her gut. She was seized with indecision.
“But I’m not one for pryin’ and these boots never grew no roots, so I’ll be finding what’s over that hill,” the Wanderer said, standing up, brushing his pants off.
With his words, Elsa felt the knot in her guts unwind, the crisis averted. With the calamity over, she found that she did not wish for him to go. “Do you have to leave?”
“It’s who I am. Now don’t look so downtrodden. You just aren’t ready yet. But we’ll meet again, over there,” he said, pointing in the distance.
“What’s there?” Elsa said, feeling a tiny bit of excitement, despite herself.
The Wanderer gave her an enigmatic smile. “Can’t rightly say. That’s the point. But mark my words, that’s where we’ll meet, over that next horizon. Til then,” he finished, tilting his hat to her and throwing his saddlebags over his shoulder.

Elsa watched him walk away, feeling the tiniest bit despondent, like she just lost something but she didn’t know what. He waved once before cresting the hill and disappeared from sight.