Ventus – Day 60 of 135

I remembered the look their priestess had sent me and now realized what it had meant. Although she was little seen I would contrive to be seen by her. Too I knew it was approaching the day appointed by the desal to explode its nuclear charge underneath the mainland. I was not sure, but hoped there would be some effect felt here.

I was able to ascertain that this woman was very superstitious, believing in her role as mediator to the Wind. I let myself be visible to her, and when she cast a look I cast back. We were separated by her requirement to remain at all times in the priest’s house, or to be at the desal, but this to me was an advantage.

Having some freedom, more so as I instructed my master and he saw more profit to be had in my good will, I managed to dally several days in a row behind the priest’s house, making my desire clear to the priestess as she sat by her window. As the day dawned when the Wind would cause its explosion, I rose early and crept up to the house. Tapping lightly on her shutter until she opened it, I made myself known to her. She at once invited me in but I balked, whispering about the old men who kept her here. What if they should discover us?

She nodded, frustrated. The stricture that she remain here or at the Wind was, she said, merely a ruse by means of which the old men kept her for themselves. She had never had the attentions of a young man and wanted them a great deal. She at once agreed when I suggested she retire to consult with the desal that evening, and meet me in the woods.

I had no idea what to expect. Tradition said the Wind killed all women who came within its bounds, save for the particular one it chose as mediator. I believed this to be a superstition, but one I could use. I worked hard that day so that my master could find no fault with me, and when he gave me my leave to go I gathered up my knife and the matches and headed for the woods.

As night was falling she appeared, walking hesitantly into the woods, perfumed in her finest. I appeared on the path before her and bowed, but as she rushed to me I withdrew, saying we were too close to the town, I was afraid of discovery. It was, after all, a small island.

She agreed, but where could we go? There was one place, I advanced, where no one else would go, where in fact no one else was safe. The desal.

She demurred. The idea of having relations in her own shrine appalled her. I however was not to be put off and with a few caresses and murmured entreaties, let her chase me deeper into the woods, until we were close upon the desal itself. Then I renewed my requests. By now she would in no ways refuse me.

We approached the desal as the sun set behind it. It looked as most desals look: a wide expanse of white stone-like material, sloping upwards over many meters to a spire that rose nearly fifty meters above the surrounding forest. Smaller spires stood sentinel around the outskirts of the paving. Forest had made inroads onto it, but only so far. Past the sentinel spires the material was clean and clear of debris, even pebbles. Most of the desals appear this way, whether they be sunken in a lake, on a mountain top, or (as in eastern lands) at the center of a city.

Their chief discriminating feature is the faint etching on their surface: rectangles, octagons or other shapes, always in different configuration. These lines represent openings or at least potential openings. Some will open themselves in response to particular conditions; others may be opened by enterprising human beings, if they possess the cleverness or technology to do so. In Iapysia we are always studying the desals with an eye to opening all their doors, but it is always an occasion when one is unlocked. Then too the doors sometimes close again, and can not afterwards be opened by any means.

It has always been this way. The desals predate our earliest records, and those stretch back a thousand years. They seem to stem from the very beginning of the world. We do not know what their origin is, although I believe you know. How could you not know? You are older than even they, you say.

They have guided us in the development of our civilization. As I outlined, they find minerals for us, and also cure plagues and have been known to cultivate new breeds of plants for our food. We take these as gifts. They are given us out of those doors, when men or women with courage enter to find what they might. Each door typically reveals one thing, but some have walls upon which frescoes and other symbolic expressions appear. It is by these that they communicate.

As I said, they sometimes employ agents. A door may be seen to open at the apex of a spire, and a flock of birds issue from it. Or night beasts may nest in opened doors too small for human ingress. The Winds minister to more than Man, we know this. Those cultures that worship them claim they are the creators of this world and everything in it. The Winds deny this. Although they deny, they do not enlighten us as to their real nature, beyond the simple statement that they are exactly what they appear to be. They are themselves, they are Winds.

As the priestess clasped my hand and drew me onto the blank white plain, I half-expected to be immediately struck down. The Wind’s misogyny might not be just a legend. I was not killed however and took heart, even laughing and running with her as I spied the hexagonal opening she aimed at.

It was about two meters across, opening just where the slope of the Wind became too steep to climb. I paused for just a moment to look back, and found myself level with the tree tops, the entire island spread out below. Only a glimpse was allowed me, as I was yanked in by the priestess.

She embraced me right there, but I struggled free and lit a match. She pouted, standing very close, and let me look around. This room was like another I had seen in my own country, round and with domed ceiling and floor, about ten meters across. In the center of the floor was a raised pillar with an open top. I went down to the pillar and gazed into the opening. A black fathomlessness. Who knew what might emerge from it? It was no wonder it bred religious awe in these people.

“Come.” She was very insistent now, taking hold of my arm to draw me down beside her. I was out of time.

I stepped back, around the other side of the open dais. Lighting another match and applying it to a small torch I had brought, I said to her, “I am sorry to have deceived you, lady, but it was commanded of me.”

“Commanded?” She stood up. “What are you talking about?”

“I am not as I appear. I am not from the wrecked ship.” This statement halted her as she began to come around the dais. She instead moved to put it between us again. She looked her question at me.

The hour was right. I nodded to her. “You have served the desal well. I do not doubt you have taken pride in it, but I also know you wish sometimes you were ordinary, living with the others with a husband, maybe children?”

“Where are you from?” she whispered, eyes wide in the shaking light.

I lay down the torch and unlaced my jerkin, showing her my breasts. “I am as you. I am here and alive. The Wind has chosen me as your successor.” I was certain I could handle those old men who had ruled her. They would be the first to go once I was in command. I smiled. “You are free.”

“No! This is some cheap trick.” Her desire was extinguished, but she was angry now. I had anticipated that.

“We knew you would not believe easily, which is good”, I said. “You were not chosen to be gullible. This being the case, however, do you need a demonstration that what I say is true?”

She nodded guardedly.

“Good. We shall have one.” If the demonstration was not forthcoming, I might be forced to murder this girl if we could not work out our differences. I would then simply await the priests here in the morning, and take over from her that way. I had no stomach for that method, however, and counted on the fact that when one desal acts, all others within a hundred kilometers react.

We did not have to wait long. First there was a faint thumping below our feet. The girl cried out and backed away from the open dais. Although I had been expecting something, I was now very afraid. There is no knowing what a Wind may do.

Suddenly there was a violent shudder through the bedrock-solid desal. Outside a gale blew up from nowhere, and we heard trees cracking and leaves roaring. A faint white glow ensconced the top of a sentinel spire visible through the doorway.

She screamed. “Stop it, please! I believe!”

“All right,” I said although in truth I had no idea how or if this manifestation would cease.

Then the door closed.

She and I bolted for it in one motion, I waving the torch as though it were a talisman to open it again. There was no sign that there had ever been a door there, save for half a windblown stick that had been caught as it closed, and snipped through. We looked at one another, she realizing at last that I had no more control over the desal than she did.

The dais in the center of the floor suddenly dropped out of sight, leaving a black hole. The floor of the desal distorted, lowered to form a funnel. There was nothing to hang onto. First she with a despairing cry, then I slid down and into that dark opening.

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