Ventus – Day 125 of 135


“What are they doing? I gave no orders for them to move!”

Lavin stood perilously near the open door of the vagabond moon. He needed this vantage point to watch the proceedings below. It was obvious from here that three of the other moons had broken formation and were moving, like ponderous floating islands, to cover the valley.

Lavin’s own moon had sailed south and swept around behind the Titan’s Peaks. For a while as the moon rotated he had seen nothing but ocean, sunlit for a few kilometers then abruptly plunged in darkness. Then the Titans’ Gates had appeared again, very close.

The moon had been moving with frightening speed. Although the wind didn’t penetrate the doors, somehow, he could hear it roaring, and all across the floor of the moon the guy wires popped and groaned as the great craft strove to keep its shape. Almost continuous flashes of lightning lit its interior, and the smell of ozone was overpowering. Once or twice as they passed the lower peaks south of the Gates, brilliant bolts had shot down, apparently from right under Lavin’s feet, shattering wind-sculpted pine trees on the tops of the mountains below.

A different Lavin would have found the experience thrilling, as many of his men obviously did. They were keyed up to an almost intolerable degree, waiting in their ranks for the order to move.

A bast sauntered over to Lavin and turned its amber eyes to where he pointed. “We move to obliterate a threat in the valley,” it said. “It is not your concern.”

“A goodly portion of my army is in that valley.”

The bast shook its head. “They have been pulled back, except for a few squads that are nearing the stairways. Your suggestion to attack from this direction was heeded and acted upon. Your army is not threatened.”

“Then you have no need for it anymore?”

The bast shrugged. “For the moment, no.”

And if we succeed here, not at all. Lavin glanced past the bast. Far up the distant curve of the moon’s floor, two men were discreetly clamping something to one of the guy wires that crisscrossed the interior of the moon. Four other squads were returning from doing the same thing at various levels up and down the slopes. The basts had been distracted by questions and deliberate mistakes these last few minutes; all was nearly in place.

Lavin nodded curtly to the creature. “Nonetheless you’re forcing our hand. Moving on the valley looks a lot like moving against the Gates. They’re going to expect an attack from above now.”

“We are in position. It is no longer a concern.”

Lavin resisted a very real urge to push the bast out the door. Instead, he took a deep breath and looked down. If he had faith in his own body and ignored the suggestion that the world was turning in two diametrically opposed directions at the same time, he had found he could look down through the doors quite safely.

The northernmost Gate lay directly below. The moon had slowed dramatically, and was also rising. They were a good two hundred meters above the flat top of the peak. He could see their shadow slide across the grey stone tables with their dotted pine trees. Vapour rose from a number of suspiciously round pits there. There were also a surprising number of buildings; as he watched, tiny running figures appeared around several of them.

“We’re rising, not descending,” Lavin pointed out. “Are you proposing we jump?”

The bast shook its long head. “The wind gusts here are strong and unpredictable. It would also be bad if we shorted out on the Gate machinery. We will lower your men using the Heaven hooks.”

Even as it said this, something huge and black appeared below, blotting out the view. It took a few seconds for Lavin to realize what it was: a large railed platform, pinioned at the sides by huge metal arms. The arms extended off somewhere underneath the moon. In consternation and awe he watched it rise smoothly and silently until it blocked the door with a deep thump that he felt through his feet.

He turned and waved at the marshalls. The moon’s other doors were blocked too, he saw. The Hooks should be able to lower a couple hundred men at a time to the peak. That should be enough, depending on how quickly they did it.

“Move out!” The men had been champing at the bit for some action; now they surged forward, and didn’t have to be prompted to leap off the stable black surface of the moon onto the metal platforms below. When the platforms were full the marshalls whistled and the surge stopped. Immediately there was a lurch and the platforms began to drop away. The men on the one below Lavin started shouting and most fell to their hands and knees–but the descent was smooth and except for the icy wind that now whirled through the doors as well, he was sure it would be painless.

For all that he mistrusted the Winds, he knew they were efficient. They would not waste his men in the descent.


Jordan had been anticipating this moment for days. What he hadn’t imagined was that he would be completely soaking wet and freezing cold when it came.

He stood shivering with the others at one end of a gigantic chamber that must penetrate deep into the mountain. It must be at least a hundred meters broad, and as high. It didn’t really have a floor, more a lattice of pipes both mammoth and small. They were all uniformly grey and unmarked. The tangle was so complex that the eye lost itself in detail after only a few meters. Jordan had just spent the past few minutes trying to figure out a way across the vast maze, but every route he traced either got lost or ended in an impassable drop or roll under a bigger pipe.

“I have our route,” said the woman whom the others called the Voice. “Follow me.” She stepped out confidently onto a pipe as broad as a house and began walking.

Axel and Marya followed without hesitation. Tamsin shrugged, and went too. After a moment Jordan followed.

He had envisioned this space in his mind, but the reality was nothing like the vision. There was something called a conveyor at the far end of this chamber, he knew, and it would deposit them far above, near the peak of the mountain. Mediation had told him it was safe. On the other hand, Mediation had not told him about this daunting labyrinth, and that was unsettling.

Biting his lip he hurried after the others. In Vision he could see Armiger issuing orders as men in dark robes rushed back and forth along a broad ledge. Some men were passing out weapons, chiefly pikes and bows, and nearby Galas was pleading with a grey-eyed man. She wanted them to retreat into the monastery, Jordan knew. Armiger disagreed, and so did the abbot.

Mediation said that the Heaven hooks had dropped part of Parliament’s army on the peak of the mountain. They were on their way down, using numerous paths and stairs. Armiger knew it too; the plateau lay in shadow and once when the general looked up Jordan too could see the vast swell of the vagabond moon that perched like some mythical bird atop the mountain.

Human soldiers would be just the first gambit by the Winds. If Armiger resisted this onslaught, they would escalate things, and Jordan knew by now that they would not stop until they had levelled the mountain if need be. He also finally knew why Armiger had not acted–it was because he could not. The general was helpless until he knew the final secret.

Ka had been lost in the attack on the basts that had surrounded Axel, as had many of their animals. Jordan felt the loss of the little Wind keenly; he hadn’t told Tamsin yet, and wasn’t sure how he would. Ka had been a friend of sorts, and now he wished he had protected it, not sent it into danger.

It was too late now. Ka was dead, and there were no Mediation Winds capable of speech near the surface of the mountain. If he was going to contact Armiger, Jordan would have to get there himself.

The Voice took to the maze of pipes confidently–hopping from high ones down to broad lower ones, zig-zagging, doubling back without hesitation. Several times it looked like she was leading them into cul de sacs, but every time a surprising new avenue opened up, and after only a few minutes they emerged on a single straight pipe that ran a full kilometer straight to the end of the chamber. Tamsin began running the instant they reached it, and Jordan took off after her. He could hear her laughing ahead of him, and he grinned too. The others followed more quietly.

She was waiting at the small square chamber at the end. She kissed him then said, “is that our way up?”

Where she pointed, a black hole opened into a rattling space where every now and then a large metal bin or bucket would slide up and past.

“You’re not afraid?” he asked her.

She shook her head. “You’re not, so I’m not.”

Jordan’s heart managed to miss a beat. He was saved from having to say something in return (his mind had gone blank) by the arrival of the others.

“Oh no,” said Marya, when she saw the opening. “I’m not going in there.”

“Fine,” said Axel. “We’ll leave you here then.”

“It’s perfectly safe,” said Jordan, striving to make his voice sound confident. “Just wait for a bucket to go by and climb in. You’ll just slide into the next bucket in line.”

“Okay, if you’re so smart, demonstrate,” said Marya.

I hate being the leader, thought Jordan as he waited for one of the big metal bins to go past. He felt himself hesitate, felt a sudden surge of fear at the thought that he might wait too long and get crimped by the next bucket in line while only halfway through the opening–so he jumped.

There was a moment of blackness and falling, then he was in a bucket, banging his elbow and hitting his head. “Ouch!”

A square opening came into view. Several silhouetted heads were blocking what little light tried to come through it.

“It’s fine!” he shouted cheerfully. His heart was still racing. “Just follow along.”

I’d better be right about this. The light cut off below him, and then he was rising in darkness, supported apparently only by faith.

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