Ventus – Day 47 of 135


And yet, the irony was not lost on Armiger that on this world, stones did speak; that the very air sighed its voices in his ear. It was the humans who were deaf to the language of the Winds. Armiger, though he heard that language, did not understand it. The sound of his own words was quickly absorbed into the stone of the walls, the ancient tapestries, the lacquered wood cabinets. And in all these things the Winds resided.

Armiger knew they could listen if they chose; he suspected they did not care what he said. The masters of Ventus went on about their incomprehensible tasks, whispering and muttering all around him.

He had spoken half for their benefit, but they ignored him, as they had since he had arrived on Ventus. So, he thought, his words dissolved into the stone, into the carpets, into the wood. Save for the two women who stood with him, none heard his brave boast.

Yet, though none in the palace heard, still his voice went out. It penetrated the chambers and halls of the ancient building, and passed through the sand and stone of the earth as if they were an inch of air. In the high clouds from which the raindrop-dwelling Precip Winds gazed down, Armiger’s voice flickered as unread heat-lightning on a frequency they did not attend. Even the Diadem swans, swirling in a millenial dance among the van Allen belts, could have heard had they known to listen.

No swan heard, nor any stone-devouring mountain Wind, or any of the elemental and immortal spirits of the world. But a solitary youth, lonely and sad by a lonely campfire mouthed Armiger’s words, and sat up straight to listen.


Tamsin Germaix spotted the man by the road first. Her uncle was busy talking about some grand ball he’d been to in the capital. Her eyes and hands had been busy all morning on a new piece of embroidery, much more difficult than the last one Uncle had her do. But every now and then (and she hid this from him) she had to stop because her hands began to shake. Now was such a time: she frowned at them, betraying as they were, and looked up to see the man.

The figure was sitting on a rock by the road, hunched over. It would take them a few minutes to pass him, since uncle was more interested in his story than in speed, and anyway every jolt of the cart sent spikes of pain up Tamsin’s sprained ankle. She had the splinted shin encased in pillows, and wore a blanket over her lap against the chill morning air; still, she was far from comfortable.

Certainly they had passed farmers and other lowborn persons walking by the road. This track was what passed for a main road in this forsaken part of backward Memnonis. Why, in the past day alone, they’d met three cows and a whole flock of sheep!

“…hold your knife properly, not the way you did at dinner last night,” her uncle was saying. “Are you listening to me?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“There’ll be feasts like that again, once we’re back home. It’ll only be a few days now.” He scratched at the stubble on his chin uncertainly. “Things can’t have changed that much.”

She watched the seated figure over the rounded rump of one of their horses. He looked odd. Not like a farmer at all. First of all, he seemed to be dressed in red, a rare color for the lowborn. Secondly, she could see a fluff of gold around his collar, and at his waist.

“Uncle, there’s a strange man on the road ahead.”

“Huh?” He came instantly alert. “Only one? Is he waving to us? Ah, I see him.”

Uncle Suneil had told her about bandits, and how to identify them. This apparition certainly didn’t fit that mould.

As they drew closer Tamsin levered herself to her feet and looked down at the man. He seemed young, with black hair and dressed nattily. His clothes, though, were mud-spattered and torn, and he had a large leather knapsack over one shoulder. He held a knife in one hand and a piece of half-carved stick in the other. He was whittling.

He stood up suddenly as if in alarm, but he wasn’t look in their direction. He had dropped his knife, and now he picked it up again, and started walking away up the road. He seemed to be talking to himself.

“I still think he’s a bandit. Or crazy! He must have taken those clothes off of a victim.”

Her uncle shook his head. “A proper young lady knows fine tailoring. Look, you’ll see his clothes have been made to fit him nicely. Now sit down, before you fall off the wagon.”

She sat down. He certainly looked mysterious, but after all, they didn’t know who he was. She knew the mature thing to do would be pass him by; she knit her hands in her lap and waited for her uncle to prod the horses into a faster walk.

Uncle Suneil raised a hand. “Ho, traveller! Well met on the road to Iapysia!”


All he had done for two days was walk. Jordan was exhausted now and was beginning to think his journey to meet with Armiger might be impossible. Calandria had bundled food for several people into her saddle bags, but it weighed a lot. He rested when he needed, and carefully lit a fire before bedding down each night. Despite that, his feet hurt and his shoulders were strained from carrying the heavy bags. So, as midmorning burned away the cold of last night, he sat down on a stone by the side of the road to rest.

He would have given up walking, were it not that whenever he paused to rest, he saw visions of far-off places, and knew they were real. Knowing that fed his determination to keep going.

He needed an activity to keep the visions at bay. He had taken to whittling, and now he pulled out a stick he’d begun this morning, and began carving away at it, lips pursed.

Last night Jordan had sat rapt at his meagre fire as Armiger spoke to Queen Galas. “You wish to hear human speech issue from the inhuman, from the rocks and trees,” the general had said. “Could a stone speak, what would it say?” It was almost as though the general knew he was listening.

Armiger had not gone on to tell his story. It was late, and the queen had deferred the audience until some time today. Jordan was not disappointed; he had lain awake for hours, thinking about Armiger’s words. He had pushed aside his self-pity and exhaustion, and made himself come to a decision. It was time to take the step he had been avoiding.

Despite his private miseries and loneliness, Jordan had not forgotten for a moment that Armiger’s was not the only voice he could hear. On the evening when the Heaven hooks descended, Jordan had learned he could hear the voices of the Winds too. Until this morning he had deliberately tuned them out, because he’d been afraid that at any moment the Heaven hooks would rear out of the empty sky and grab him up.

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