Ventus – Day 111 of 135


Jordan had asked Ka to summon two horses, and the little Wind had done so quickly and discreetly. Mediation provided a decoy: a line of disturbances in the desert, leading the other way. It was a simple matter to mount their backs and cluck, sending them into the starlit desert. The apparent ease of their escape didn’t inspire either Jordan or Tamsin with confidence; after an hour of grim riding he confided in her that he was remembering their other horses–the ones that had split open like ripe pears to disgorge hostile morphs at Desal 447. Despite Ka’s assurances that the swans were looking in the wrong place for them, they both rode with shoulders hunched that first night. Only when the sky remained empty in the following days did they begin to relax.

When they stopped to rest, Jordan summoned heat and commanded Ka to tell them stories. Jordan himself could lean back and close his eyes, and with some effort navigate the ghostly landscape inside his head to where Mediation’s library resided. He could make a book twirl up in his imagination, and in seconds it would appear as vididly as the real thing before him; but only he could see it. Tamsin was a much better reader than he, so it was a shame that he could not show her the books. Ka was willing and able to read them aloud to both of them.

They learned more about Ventus–its geography and history, and just what the Winds had done to make it habitable. Jordan drew maps from the pictures in his mind.

They learned what nanotechnology was; what computers were; how the mecha truly differed from evolved life. Jordan wanted to know how Armiger intended to conquer the Winds, so over and over he asked about how the Winds issued their commands, and how they were ruled. The swans were not the ultimate power, it seemed–Diadem itself gave the highest decrees, but in time of emergency the swans could act on their own. Armiger probably intended to cut Diadem off somehow, or take its place in the hierarchy. Questions about how led to discussions about codes and keys, radio, electromagnetism, electrons and atoms. Jordan’s mind was whirling, but a desperate feeling that he was making up for lost time kept him asking questions.

It wasn’t fair. The whole world was a giant library. Knowledge didn’t just reside in the manse libraries–it was embedded in every stone and grain of sand. For all of history, men had starved and died amongst untold riches, surrounded by an environment that could cater to their every whim if they could but talk to it. Jordan alternated between horror at the waste of the past centuries, and an equal feeling of disquiet as he contemplated the things he could do now. For commanding the elements and even living things, like these docile horses, seemed somehow wrong–a violation, maybe, of things’ right to simply be.

Mediation fed him updates on the movements of Thalience, and had given him huge resources he had not had time to catalog. Jordan could close his eyes and see banks of glowing numbers, each representing some vast mechanism that helped control the world’s climate. With a single command he could affect things on a giant scale now: cause storms, floods, or reverse the course of winter itself. It seemed Mediation had thrown its fortunes in Jordan’s lap, because it regarded him as a link to its original programming’.

Mediation told him that vagabond moons were converging on this continent from all over the world, and gigantic orbiting mirrors were changing their orbits to track this way. (The idea of these mirrors was one more concept he could barely encompass, but he needed to accept it.) Diadem was in a ferment, but the swans weren’t telling the desals what was going on up there. The swans themselves were converging on a spot almost directly over Jordan’s head. They were marshalling vast energies, for what purpose no one yet knew.

Relations were strained along the hierarchy of the Winds; it was impossible for any Wind to refuse an order that preserved the integrity of the commonly-accessible and unchangeable ecological template of the world. Once those conditions were fulfilled, however, the Winds could do whatever they pleased. If the swans had found an ecologically safe way of obliterating the desals, or even all human life on Ventus, they could try it.

At times Jordan tuned out whatever discussion Tamsin was having with Ka, and monitored Armiger’s progress. Armiger had set a punishing pace, and his party was a days’s ride ahead now, steadily moving southwest. He wasn’t sure, but he guessed the general was making for the nexus of Winds’ power at the Titans’ Gates. Mediation had shown the place to him, and Jordan was eager to see it with his own eyes.

As they stopped for another rest, Tamsin waved away Ka’s offer to read to her and went to lie on the sand. “Oh,” she groaned. “I’m so stiff I’m going to crack like a twig.”

“I know,” he said. “I feel the same way.”

“Can’t your precious Mediation fix us, the way morphs fix animals?”

“I asked it yesterday,” he said as he awkwardly sat next to her. The horses were looking tired too. They wouldn’t last much longer at this pace. “Mediation said that it can heal those who can talk to it–meaning me. But not you, because you can’t.”

“So? Have you gotten it to heal you?”

He shook his head. “That wouldn’t be fair. More to the point, how would I know when you were at the end of your strength if I felt perfectly fine all the time?”

She laughed humorlessly and shook her head. “Oh, what are we doing? What in the world are we doing?”

He hung his head. “I’ve been trying to come up with a plan.”

“Yeah? Tell me.”

“We’re following Armiger. Well, everybody’s following Armiger. It’s like he’s is a boat in a stream, and the Winds and everybody else are swept up in his wake. Thalience is after him; I think they were only after me because I was a clue to his existence. Now they seem to know about him, they’re not so interested in me anymore. Calandria and Axel are after him too. So everyone is converging on him. And he’s making for the Titans’ Gates.

“They’ve all forgotten about me. Armiger doesn’t need me now that he can command the Winds himself. The hooks and swans don’t care about me now that they know about him. And Calandria and Axel… well, I was just a way for them to find him, too.” It hurt to say that. He shrugged. “The swans seem to have forgotten about Mediation too–and the others never knew about it. But the Titans’ Gates are the stronghold of Mediation.

“For some reason Armiger hasn’t spoken to Mediation yet. So at least for now, I’m in command of it, if I want to be.”

“In command…” She shook her head. “It’s hard to believe.”

He snorted. “I wouldn’t get too excited. I’ve only got this power as long as everybody ignores me. Armiger knows about Mediation, since I told him about it, but he hasn’t even contacted the geophysical Winds yet. I can’t figure out why. He must be waiting until he reaches the Gates before revealing himself.”


“Well,” said Jordan. “This is the question: do we just let things unfold? After all, who are we to interfere in a war between the gods?”

“Of course we just let things unfold,” said Tamsin. “What other choice do we have? I thought we were going to rendezvous with Armiger. Then he takes over the Winds, and that’s that.”

He shook his head. “But what if he fails? If Thalience kills him… well, you heard it yourself in the desal: Thalience thinks of humans as vermin. Who’ll defend us against it then?”

“I don’t know.”

“And lastly I’ve been wondering about Armiger himself. Does he really mean to conquer the Winds? And if so, what is he going to replace them with? Do we have any say in what he does? It sure doesn’t look like it.”

He stood up, straining into a stretch. “Armiger hasn’t contact Mediation. That worries me. I can see all sorts of things that the geophysical Winds should be doing to prepare a defence against the swans. They’re not doing anything–at least in any organized way.”

She looked up. “But you could order them to.”

He nodded. “I’ve been getting Mediation to tell me what the Titans’ Gates do, and how they work. Right now it treats me like an equal, so it’s giving me access to all the systems. Now, do you remember yesterday, when Ka told us about codes? –About how everything the Winds do is controlled through them? Well, that’s not quite true. They often use passwords, like the sentries in an army camp. The Winds use them when one of them wants to lock something for its own exclusive use. Well, I asked Mediation if the Titans’ Gates could be locked by passwords…”

When Jordan told Tamsin what he had decided to do, he had the great pleasure of seeing her smile for the first time in days.

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