Ventus – Day 102 of 135


“Thalience rules the world, but thalience is mad.”

Jordan had told his tale, and his audience had listened attentively, all save the queen who seemed listless and distracted. Jordan knew Armiger, Megan and Galas well; he could read their expressions and body language, and knew their interests. He knew what they wanted to hear, and he had been rehearsing this tale for weeks, all save the climax which he had just learned himself. He shouldn’t have been surprised that they would listen.

Armiger’s keen eyes bored into him, and about halfway through his recitation Jordan began to feel the familiar sensation of Vision come over him. He let it happen without interrupting his narrative, although what he saw astonished him.

He saw a youth, sunburnt and dusty, gripping the hand of a slim frank-eyed young woman in the amber light of late afternoon that bathed the cave. He watched his own mouth move as he spoke, and saw his unfocused eyes–for the first time he saw himself as others saw him, and also as he was when in the grip of Vision. And the young man he saw bore no resemblance to the person he had thought he was.

In his state of trance, Jordan’s face became a calm mask. His eyes gazed ahead like a prophet’s, open to hidden vistas. He was bigger than he’d thought; he supposed he’d been growing in the past few months, but hadn’t paid attention. His hair had become a mane that swirled around his shoulders, and the beginnings of a beard speckled his chin. New angles made his cheekbones stand out. Half-starved, but lean and fit, he no longer resembled the youth whom Calandria May had kidnapped.

With a start that put a noticeable pause into his storytelling, he had realized that he might go home now, and not even be recognized in Castor’s villa.

Deliberately, he pulled himself back from Vision, until he could see Armiger and the others as they sat in silence. They were all watching him save Megan, whose gaze lingered on the horses outside.

“Thalience,” murmured Armiger.

“Do you know what that is, sir?” Jordan asked.

Armiger laughed humourlessly. “Yes. It’s just not what I expected. Not at all.”

“We must go,” said Megan. “If we are to escape…”

Galas knuckled at her eyes like a child. She ignored everyone else.

“Sir,” said Jordan. “The Winds are mad. They have to be cured. Or stopped. Can you do it?”

Armiger crossed his arms. “Why should I?”

Very slowly, Galas raised her head to stare at him.

“I was sent here to conquer them,” said Armiger. “And by doing so, to end the world. Do you want me to end the world?”

Jordan was unimpressed. He knew Armiger’s style; the man was stonewalling, as he often did when someone touched a nerve. “All I want is for the Winds to listen to us,” he countered.

“You think I can do that?”

Jordan looked Armiger in the eye. “I ask you to try.”

The general held his gaze for a moment, then looked down. “You’ve been pursued by the Winds because of what I did to you,” he said. “I apologize. And I’m flattered that you sought me out. But as long as you are with me, the Winds can find you–and me as well. Had you considered that in your grand scheme?”

Jordan shrugged. “When I came to find you, it was to get you to remove the implants. With them gone, the Winds wouldn’t seek me anymore, right?”

“Is that what you want?” asked Armiger.

Thinking about it, Jordan realized that it wasn’t, not any more. He had gained far more than he had lost from his maddening and unpredictable ability to see through Armiger’s eyes. Reluctantly, he shook his head.

“Then you cannot travel with me, I’m afraid,” said the general. “They will find us both that way.”

Jordan scowled. He hadn’t planned on things working out this way. But now that he could converse with Mediation–had traveled the desal highways and commanded the mecha–to go back to what he had been would feel like having a limb amputated.

“Mediation can hide us,” he said. “Or at least protect us from Thalience.”

“You don’t know that for sure,” said Armiger. “If as you say, Mediation and Thalience are two factions in a civil war, then we are pawns in that war. Pawns can be traded or sacrificed.”

“Let’s go,” insisted Megan. She seemed reluctant to look at Jordan.

“Yes.” Armiger crossed his arms and frowned at Jordan. “If you found me once, you can find me again. I need to get well away from here–somewhere the Winds aren’t looking. To do that, I’m afraid we have to leave you behind for a while. You seem to have eluded them in the past. If you can do it again, you can join us in a few days. Fair?”

Jordan bowed. He didn’t like it, but it was the sort of thing Armiger would command. And Jordan knew that there was no bending Armiger’s will away from a plan.

“First, though, you can give me the secret you found.”

Jordan looked up, surprised. “I told you all I know.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Armiger reached out.

A tickle of shock ran up Jordan’s spine as the general’s fingers touched his face. Armiger turned Jordan’s head from side to side, running his fingers along the angle of his jaw and into his hair.

“Hold still.”

He felt a tingle spread from where Armiger touched him, and Tamsin gasped. Sparklight lit the ceiling of the cave. Jordan felt the world recede suddenly, as it had once when as a young boy he had fallen and cracked his elbow, and fainted from the pain. He heard voices, but they joined together in an amorphous roaring that seemed to come from inside his own skull. Then he felt himself shudder, and light and coherence came back.

He lay in Tamsin’s lap. She was spitting some very inventive curses at Armiger; Megan scowled, Galas looked interested. Armiger himself stood back, hands on his hips.

“I have given myself a duplicate of your damaged implants,” said the general as Jordan sat up. He felt no pain or disorientation. It was as if the incident of a few seconds ago had not even occurred. “If you truly have the power to command the Winds, Mason, now I have it too.”

With a gesture to the ladies, the general turned on his heel and left the cave. The two women rose to follow. Megan hesitated, then curtsied gravely. Galas paused at the doorway and looked back searchingly. Her eyes were still dazed, as they had been ever since the fight in the tower.

She seemed to think she should say something, but in the end she shook her head in confusion and turned away.

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