Ventus – Day 135 of 135


Snow was falling like some herald of mystery on the day Jordan finally reached his home. White were the distant hills, and white the sky into which their outlines faded. The forest, strong and brooding in summer, was now a delicate thatch of bare trunks, brown and empty. The air was still, clear and fresh; Jordan’s face was teased by settling flakes. For hours now the world had seemed very far away, like a half-recovered memory. If he chose to listen with all his senses, he could hear the mecha in the snowflakes singing their questions and speculations–am I a feather? –am I air?–and in deeper and broader distances, the faint chorus-voices of the Winds who worked to heal the wounds they had inflicted on Ventus in their frenzy to destroy Armiger. Jordan had no desire to listen to them; he spent the hours drinking in the silence and the beauty of the innocent snow. His companions too were silent.

As they crossed the border into Castor’s lands, Jordan found his serene mood waning. Here were the same signs of human upheaval that they had seen elsewhere on their journey. Violence seemed rare, but they passed an entire village that was empty, another where the inhabitants peeked out from behind boarded up doors and windows. Once, they came upon the abandoned clothing of a man and a woman, lying by the road. Even the shoes were there. Bare footprints led away into the maze of the forest.

Much of the country was paralyzed. The more orthodox folk could not cope with the sudden presence of the Winds in their daily lives. They were cracking under the change, some slowly, others immediately.

Jordan was afraid of how his parents, so delicate in their fears, had reacted to the change. Would he arrive home to find an empty house-or a burnt one? And would Emmy be waiting? Or, free spirit that she was, had she run into the woods like so many others?

About mid-afternoon he suddenly recognized a stand of trees in the distance, and then he knew exactly where he was, and everything in sight became at once familiar and strange.

He stood in the stirrups and said, “There. Beyond those trees.”

The town had gone to winter’s rest under a blanket of white. Smoke rose lazily from the chimneys, and tentative sounds began to emerge as they reached the outskirts: the barking of a dog, lowing of cattle, the limpid clarity of a distant clanging bell. A few human figures moved down the street, their footfalls inaudible in the snow. There were no signs of violence. The only indication here of the great change that had come over the world was that two of the figures seemed to be talking to themselves. Everyone looked like that, these days, as they conversed with the Winds.

He found he’d been holding his breath, and let it out in a heavy sigh. Maybe things would work out. He would know soon.

“Will they like me?,” asked Tamsin. He turned.

She sat astride her mare, wrapped in furs with a fine cape around her shoulders. Two soldiers of Galas’ honour guard waited patiently on horses nearby–as did the Voice, who smiled at her now.

“They are family,” said the Voice. “It is infinitely more important that they merely exist.”

Tamsin shook her head and laughed. “Yes. You’re right.”

“Are you sure you won’t stay and help us weather the Change?” Jordan asked the Voice for the hundredth time. The newborn AI smiled, and shook her head.

“You need your people, Jordan, Tamsin. But they are your people. They would just remind me that I am different, and I don’t desire that now. Tamsin understands. No, I need to travel by myself for a time. I want to know the mysteries of thalience, so that I can learn more about how I am different–and how I am myself.

“But this is the right place for you. Tamsin needs a family. And you–you told me yourself, all you really want is to settle down and become–“

“–‘A man of good character.’ I know, I know.” He grinned at her. “Truth is, I’m envious. You’ll be seeing the world transform itself into something new.”

“And all you have to do is close your eyes, and you’ll see it too. I’ll be back, Jordan. You know that. And if you want to talk to me meantime, you know what to do.”

He nodded. The Winds would carry his words anywhere–to the Voice, to Armiger and Galas, August Ostler and, maybe, even to Calandria May, if she was listening.

“This is what you wanted,” she said. “Now go on.”

He and Tamsin dismounted, and started walking hand in hand. They got all of twenty paces before both turned to look back. The honor guard saluted, and the Voice waved brightly before turning her horse towards the road that led to Castor’s manor and the inn there.

They watched her go, then started walking again. Neither spoke.

There was his house; he stopped to examine it closely. No signs of fire, the roof was still on it–and there, suddenly, was Emmy. She screamed when she saw him, and started running. Jordan grinned and just stood there, opening his arms when she reached him and hugged him and spun him around.

“You’re back and you’re safe safe safe!” She nearly crushed him and he laughed, hugging her close.

“We’re safe,” he said. “We’re all safe now.”

“Oh, Jordan.” She started to cry. “You’ve come back. After everything–the Change, and the Winds coming to speak to us, and hearing what you did to bring it all about–I thought you’d go away to some castle somewhere and never come home.”

“I don’t want any of that,” he said. “I never did.”

“And who’s this? Could it be that my baby brother is growing up?” She smiled at Tamsin, who blushed. “So introduce me.”

He did, and they stood in the middle of the road and talked about everything all at once, laughing all the while. Finally Emmy grabbed his hand and tugged. “Come. They’re waiting.”

He stopped. Two people–a man and a woman–stood at the door of his parents’ house. He knew them, had always known them, though they had aged a bit, and looked apprehensive now as they stood close together: his parents, his people.

He had feared that when this moment came, either he or they would turn away. He hadn’t been sure he could forgive them their weaknesses. But as he looked at them, they stood waiting. His mother twisted her hands together, but neither moved, or said anything. It was they who were waiting for him to decide.

We need each other, he reminded himself.

Then he set his shoulders, smiled, and walked up the road to his home.


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