Ventus – Day 97 of 135


Armiger rolled the larger rocks off Lavin, and checked his pulse. “He is alive,” he said.

Galas stared at the fallen general, her old friend and betrayer. She didn’t know what she felt now. Rage, yes, and resentment. Fear, perhaps, of a man so obsessed as this, and so clever in his obsession. She could almost believe in his plan to deceive Parliament. Almost–but would Lavin ever be content to let her free, if once he possessed her? At one time, perhaps, she would have held faith with him.

Megan untied Galas. Ahead of them, an old man stood patiently in the light of a lantern he had placed on the floor. “Come along,” he said. “Or go back. Which is it to be?”

Armiger walked up to him. “We go forward,” he said. “Will you help us?”

Enneas shrugged. “It seems to be my lot in life to shepherd the damned into the underworld. Thief, general or queen, what the hell difference should it make to me? Come along then.”

Galas relit Lavin’s lantern, which had fallen, and placed it near his outflung arm. Then, looking back only once, she followed the others into the darkness.


Jordan was puzzled. He had seen Armiger take down the other man with some kind of weapon. He knew the general was somewhere underground, heading away from the palace. It must be a tunnel of some kind–but where did it let out?

He left Armiger’s perspective and returned to Ka. “Ka, leave the tower,” he said. “Fly up, as high as you can.” The little Wind obliged, spiralling out and up at a giddying rate. Soon the entire palace was laid out below Jordan, like an architect’s model.

Familiar skills came to his aid now. He could see the different layers and periods of construction of the place; as at Castor’s or the Boros manor, the history of the Summer Palace was written in its stones. Armiger kept his eyes on the task at hand, which was negotiating the narrow way, so Jordan had ample time to contemplate his surroundings. He saw the type of stone in the passage Armiger was walking through, and had judged its age in the glow of the lantern held by Armiger’s guide. That style of construction was used in particular types of wall or embrasure… He stared down from Ka’s height, looking for the structure he knew must be there.

“Jordan, we’re out of time.”

Opening his eyes, he looked up to see white branches, like frozen lightning, gently touching down at points in the nearby hills.

He felt the stirring of the Swans’ attention. They had not spotted him yet; it seemed they were here for another reason. Beyond the pressure of their searching gazes, he something else as well–a deep murmuring from underground.

Mediation,” he said, “we need shelter from the swans. Disguise us, or create a diversion–something, anything!

“Come on,” said Tamsin. “We’ve got to hide!” She pointed to the palace, where forms like living flames were rising into the air.

“Just one minute more.” He clenched his eyes shut, and reentered Ka’s perspective. There had to be something…

There it was: a long, faint line in the sand, the crumbled remains of a causeway that extended all the way from the central buildings of the palace past its walls. And at its terminus in the desert…

“I’ve got it!” That knot of men and horses, surrounding a tumble of stones, must be the end of the tunnel. It only remained for Jordan to orient himself, open his eyes, and find the distant smudge of figures with his own vision. Then he was up and running.

He went back down the hillside, out of sight of the palace and the now abandoned, smoking siege engines. An eery silence was descending as the Swans touched down in the valley. He couldn’t see what was happening there, unless he went back into Ka’s perspective. That might be too dangerous at this point. But for all he knew, the swans were killing everyone.

When he estimated they were near the causeway, Jordan jogged cautiously up the hillside again. The long causeway was visible below them. It ended well outside the tents of Lavin’s encampment, in the tumble of ruins Jordan had seen from above.


Tamsin was pointing at the palace. Jordan was afraid to look. Reluctantly, he turned his head, expecting to see the Swans descending on them.

Something huge was rising out of the earth near the palace’s main gate. It was as big as one of the towers, rounded, and colored in mottled rust and beige shades. The Swans were darting around it like flies. A low drone carried from that direction.

“Our distraction,” said Jordan. “Mediation was listening after all!”

A troop of nervous soldiers crouched at the ruins. They were watching the living flames walk the palace walls, but duty or fear kept them at their posts around the entrance to the tunnel. One stood to challenge Jordan as he led the horses between the jumbled stones.

“Now what?” hissed Tamsin.

Jordan was still covered with dust from their walk across the desert. In the desert he had been able to create heat from the mecha in dust. Could he do something else with them now? The only way to find out was to try.

He commanded the mecha in the dust covering him to make light. Tamsin gasped as Jordan’s body began to glow.

“Take me to the underground way,” Jordan commanded the terrified sentry. “And don’t challenge me again.” The sentry fell back, stammering apologies. Tamsin stared at Jordan in wonder as they followed him into the camp.

Before they got to the tumbled stones, a brilliant flash lit the sky from horizon to horizon. Moments later a deep and sustained rolling thunder fell across the ruins. Looking back, Jordan saw a tall spire of smoke and flame where the subterranean Wind had been. The Swans were spiralling up and away from the rubble.

He felt the searchlight gazes of the Swans. They were looking for something now; he was pretty sure he knew what–or rather, whom. “We need to get underground,” he told Tamsin. “And stay there for a while.”

The soldiers around the tunnel entrance scrambled out of the way of the glowing boy and the girl leading their horses. Jordan motioned for a man to take the reins of the mounts, then walked into the dark niche that housed the tunnel mouth.

“I’d love to do this to the guys at home,” Jordan said. His glow lit up the entire chamber, showing clearly the dark slot of the tunnel. The glow was fading slowly as the mecha lost power.

They waited, while the Swans passed to and fro overhead. The Winds of Insolation, as Mediation had called them, could not see through the stone. The mecha of the soil were loyal to Mediation, and although Jordan heard the hurricane voices of the Swans demanding to know where the abomination that was Jordan Mason had gone, nothing answered. At least for now, they were safe.

After a long while the sound of scraping and footsteps came from the slot, and one after another, weary soldiers popped out and blinked at the afternoon sunlight. Jordan’s glow had faded, and the soldiers were apathetic and ignored him. After the last one, an old man with a lantern emerged. Jordan’s heart was in his mouth. He knew what he was going to see next, but he could scarcely believe it. When a man stepped into the light whose face he had only seen in mirrors, Jordan found himself tongue-tied. He simply stood there, as Armiger helped Megan, then Galas, out of the tunnel. Galas was dressed in tattered finery, Armiger in splendid armor. They looked like creatures of legend.

Armiger waved some device in his hands at the assembled soldiers. “Begone,” he said. Jordan knew the voice, and yet he didn’t; he had never heard it save from within his own skull.

“You too,” said Armiger to Jordan.

“I, I brought horses.”

“Good. Now go.”

“No. I, I’ve got information for you.”

“For me? What are you talking about?”

“I’m Jordan Mason. I’ve been watching you for months. Ever since… you came at night and put something in my skull, mecha or something, and then the others came and changed it–I can see through your eyes, hear through your ears. I’ve been watching! I know it all.”

“Wait, stop.” Armiger held up a hand. He seemed to be having trouble with his eyes; he focussed on Jordan only with great difficulty. “You’re one of my remotes. I thought I’d lost you.”

“Yes, sir, I mean no. The woman who attacked you just now, Calandria May–she wanted to use your implants to track you down, only something happened, I was able to see everything you saw…”

“What is this?” Megan took Armiger’s arm. “We have no time for this.”

Armiger nodded, and turned away.

“Wait!” The three people Jordan had watched in waking dreams for weeks were walking away. This wasn’t turning out at all the way he had expected.

Tamsin elbowed him. “Come on!

He blushed, then cleared his throat. They were nearly at the entrance now.

This was too much. After everything he’d been through…

Hey! Armiger, you’re going to listen to me! I know why you came to Ventus. I know what you’re after. You want the secret of the Winds. Well, guess what, I have it!”

That stopped them. Armiger turned, and Megan turned with him, scowling. The queen merely sat down on a tumbled stone, and stared.

Jordan bowed. “‘That a stone should speak, as you speak.’ I think you told Queen Galas once that that was our deepest wish. You craved permission to speak. Well, now it’s my turn. You want to know what the Winds are after, and what their alliances are. With your permission, I will tell you.”

Finally I will speak, and you will listen.

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