Ventus – Day 126 of 135


It will not happen again. Galas slipped out the gates of the monastery, grabbed a pike that a harried monk handed her without looking, and raced after the line of men heading south along the plateau. She had entered the monastery on Armiger’s orders; he wanted her safe. At her first opportunity she had raided a closet and stolen a robe, and with this as her disguise she had slipped out again.

They will not die for me.

She knew that the Heaven hooks were after Armiger, and that they were using the soldiers of Parliament’s army as their own. The army was obviously decapitated; she couldn’t imagine Lavin agreeing to place his men in such jeopardy. If he had he was a fool.

Galas knew she could not compel the Winds to retreat. The men who had once been her loyal followers however, were another matter.

Sore as she was, she forced herself to keep up with the monks as they raced around the southern curve of the mountain. Here the ledge opened out into a vast grassy plateau encircled by spires of stone. Pyramids of mist stood beyond these, permanent residents of the space between the two Gates. As she ran the sound of roaring water became louder, and Galas remembered the first time she had come here. She had gone to stand on the edge of the plateau, and peered down into mist and the vision of a hundred waterfalls that plummeted into bottomless shafts below, or exploded hissing off rounded, red-hot domes in the saddle between the peaks. There was no way down to that inferno; it was entirely a place of the Winds. Behind her and above, on the south face of the Gate, other apertures opened, venting steam or small trickles of water that could become torrents that arced out and into the gulf below. There was so much sound here that she had sometimes been sure she heard muttering voices under it all–an effect the monks sadly assured her was an illusion.

Galas had been a young queen then. Flushed with the success of her communication with the desals, she had imagined herself the goddess her people claimed she was. When she came here she had felt ownership, not fear, and she had stood upon a stone here and preached a sermon to the monks and the Winds. Her own words returned to her with ironic pain–she had spoken breathlessly of a new age for Man and Wind. Her own sincerity returned to her now like the remembrance of a crime.

The monks were forming up into columns, preparing for the great run up the stairs. Far up there, she could see a column of men on their way down. There was no time to think.

She raced past the head of the line, ignoring the shouts that followed her, and started up the steps. One of the monks came after her, and when he laid a hand on her sleeve she turned and shouted, “Get back to the line! I have to do this alone.”

He stammered something and let go. She ran on, trying with little success to ignore the daggers of pain in her thighs from days of riding combined with her recent climb. After only a few meters she was gasping, her legs wobbly beneath her, but she kept on.

Men were shouting above her. She flipped back the cowl of her robe and looked up into a bristling mass of men and weapons. “Halt!” shouted the one in the lead, who was young enough to be the son she had never had.

She stopped, panting. They came down, slowly, and she had to smile at their caution. These were the veterans of Lavin’s army–men who had committed atrocities in her experimental towns, and had cursed her every day for the past year. They were little more than boys, and were visibly scared. And they were her people, whether they wanted to admit it or not.

Drawing herself up to her full height, Galas wiped her tangled hair away from her forehead, and said, “This attack will not happen.”

The leader gaped at her. “Who are you to tell us that?” Somebody laughed behind him.

She raised her voice, letting it echo off the mountainside. “I am the one you pursued over leagues of charred ground, and over the bodies of thousands. I am the one you obeyed as a child, and feared as a soldier. I am your sovereign, your compass and your ultimate meaning. I am she who spoke to the oceans and commanded rain for your fields. I am Galas, your queen, and I am the only hope any of you have of living to see another day.

“When you moved to destroy me you set in motion terrible events that threaten the very world itself. You know that now, but you do not know what to do about it. You desperately wish to turn back the hands of time, I can see it in your eyes. I am the one who knows what has happened, and why. Only I have the key to halting the advance of the vengeful Winds across our land.

“So you will kneel to me now, and when you rise you will be mine and I will lead you out of this nightmare into which you have fallen.”

At her words they stopped.

They stared in silence at her, then beyond her to the turmoil in the skies.

Then they knelt before her.


Armiger stood on the edge of a cliff. Three hundred meters below and kilometers away, his mecha were dying under the lightning bolts of the Heaven hooks–all save one, a thing like a great metal tree that had begun in the past hour to sprout strange multilimbed animalcules, which were harvesting minerals and ores from the rocky terrain around it. This abomination fended off the lightning as if it were rain. He could see it from here, for it glowed a dull red now from its internal furnaces. The forest around it was burning.

He could hear it, too, chuckling inside his head.

You did well, Armiger. This place is perfectly suited to our task.

He shuddered. If he probed deep inside himself, he knew he would find that the strange repository of nanomemory, which he had calculated could hold centuries of vast experience, was gone. It had slipped out of him on its own accord when he began creating mecha. It had been a resurrection seed, and he had unwittingly set it free.

Feel the energy under us! These local beings have tapped geothermal potentials of magnificent power. When my roots have reached deep enough, my growth will be geometric. You could not have chosen a better ground in which to seed me.

3340’s voice alone was enough to freeze Armiger in his tracks. He felt pinioned as by a giant searchlight–the attention of a god was on him. Compared to it, the wrath of the Winds seemed trivial.

We will eat this world in no time.

He tore his gaze away from the red spot and the lightning flickering around it. The Winds would not be able to stop 3340. Maybe the human fleet that he knew waited in orbit could–but their methods would guarantee the deaths of every living being on this continent. There had to be another solution.

The monks and even the army marching down from the mountain’s peak were forgotten. Armiger stood still, frowning into the false day, wracking his brains for a way out of the trap he had himself set and sprung.

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