Second Battle of Jent
“Windraes,” Avanian whispered again, running her hand against the smooth stone pillar. “How did you know that naming this place would tame it?”
“A guess,” Findian said honestly, taking a few hesitant steps toward the inner circle. “Many of the old names live on as whispered imprecations of the common folk, lost words of an earlier age, an age of gods forgotten and shrines abandoned. The literal translations of the names and places may long ago have been lost, but the strength of the words lives on in the many daily curses and supplications of common folk.”
Avanian gave her a queer look, dawning respect lighting up her face.
“Much knowledge never written still lives in the fears and superstitions of the people,” Findian said in response to the look. “Open ears and eyes often teach more than decaying volumes gathering dust in forgotten libraries. The myths of ages past do not disappear once they become unspoken and dismissed by the Ealders. You should never forget this if you wish to truly preserve our history.”
“Even Triumon forgets,” Avanian said to herself, although her voice was carried across stone upon the quiet serenity that had settled on the ancient shrine. “We forget as the endless cycles of the Darkenings push the memory of our ancestors into the black void of ages past.”
It was Findian’s turn to return the queer look; so young in appearance, Findian thought, yet so old in demeanor. The Houses would be wise to be wary of this one should she ever ascend to the Triumon throne; Fayersae in particular would do well to remain on guard should this young girl ever become Councilor of the realm. A mild gust of wind seemed to confirm Findian’s musings before it interrupted her thoughts.
“It grows late,” she said, circling the seven stones before moving to the edge of the ring opposite the cliff-face. Another gust stirred the cold winter air. “We should not linger here after dark.”
“It is enough to have come here and walked unhindered,” Avanian said. “Knowing of this place is enough. We will leave with a portion of its power forever entwined in our fates.”
Findian stopped at the edge of the cliff and turned from the view of the shrouded windswept rocks below her, looking over her shoulder at the girl who now stood in the center of the circle between the stone pillars. Findian’s vision, often keen and portentous, crystallized on an invigorated gust of wind, and it was much more vivid than her insight a few moments ago.
For a moment, she no longer saw a young girl standing in front of her, but the hard edges of a woman grown ruthless with her unrelenting pursuit of knowledge, a woman grown ruthless with the power that would come with the acquisition of that knowledge. Gone were any vestiges of youthful exuberance that still lay within the bounds of innocence. In its place was a cold calculating maturity; in its place was the full embodiment of Triumon.
Findian then saw the blood of the innocent written into both of their futures. She looked at her own hands, knowing they would be tainted by the blood that would be shed preserving the secrecy of this place. She knew Triumon would go to any lengths to retain sole possession of the power that this ancient circle of stones bestowed upon those strong enough to wrestle its secrets from the earth. With this understanding, the vision snapped shut, and a young Avanian once more stood in front of her.
Unshaken, Findian again repeated their need to leave before nightfall.
“Our descent will be swift,” she said, cutting her sentence short as she realized those words were as tied to her previous vision as they were to their present need to start the climb off the mountain. She immediately saw that Avanian also recognized the double meaning; the girl had experienced her own revelation, much of it transferred from Findian on the fingers of the wind that had started to swirl about their feet.
“Our descent will be swifter than the climb,” Findian repeated, choosing to ignore that presentment for now. “However, we will need to keep a brisk pace if we are to return to the tree line before it grows dark. I do not think spending the night without a fire, with only the shelter of cold rocks to thwart the winter winds, would be wise right now. We have stirred an old power today, and it will slowly awaken to blanket this mountainside with a winter storm, such is its desire to proclaim its release from a long slumber.”
Avanian shot her a hard look, as if she were trying to assimilate the words that were being spoken aloud and the unspoken words carried on the wind. She ran her hand over the smooth stone of the pillar again, and her jaw set in acceptance of Findian’s request to leave and the vision brought on the voice of the wind. What was revealed to her, she forever kept to herself, and Findian’s sight was unable to penetrate the wall that was forming around the young girl’s mind; the girl was now thoroughly Triumon, and even though her destiny was now inexorably linked to Findian’s by the sharing of this secret, a cautious calculating reticence would now forever cloud their relationship.
“It is time to leave,” Avanian said, reestablishing her command. She turned to take the lead, walking to the two stones marking the pathway down the mountainside.
Findian smiled at the girl’s back and allowed her to take the lead, letting her think it was she who controlled the means to come or to leave Windraes. Findian stopped in the center of pillars as Avanian’s head disappeared down the slope, and a renewed gust of wind buffeted her face before it swirled, gaining strength and growing more violent. Findian smiled again as the power of Windraes fully engulfed her; Avanian might not have fully understood what they awakened here, and although Triumon would claim Windraes as their own, and the young girl may learn the true power that resided here with time, it was she who would leave with the greater portion of its power.
Findian stooped before dropping to one knee, accepting that here, she was the servant and the wind was the master. She ran her hand across a darker circle of stones that lay in the center of the ring of pillars, the discoloration of this inner ring barely perceptible against the uniform gray of the surrounding rock. The ground was flat, except for a slight nearly imperceptible depression inside that discolored ring. It reminded Findian of a fire-ring, and when that thought occurred to her, a violent gust of wind nearly blew her over, confirming her supposition. She accepted the command of the wind; the long dormant power of Windraes was stirring, but until a permanent fire was rekindled here, it would not fully awaken from its long slumber.
She knew that someday she would reveal the truth of Windraes to another, and that this ancient fire-ring would be excavated anew and a permanent flame would once again bind this ancient place to the earth. She thought about the vision that still lingered in her mind, and the blood and the words regarding their decline that had ominously been revealed to her. Despite the foreboding, she knew there was a deeper more powerful truth to this discovery; just as the fates of her and Avanian had been entwined today, she knew the fates of all the Houses lay bound to the power of this place. Windraes, long silent and forgotten, bound them all together, tying them forever to this land. Their survival as a people and the survival of this land depended upon Windraes; it depended upon the power of this place and upon the power of those like her that were wise enough to serve it.
She pulled her flint and stone from a small pouch at her belt. Until the day came to bring permanent fire to Windraes, she knew a small recognition of what this place really was would suffice. She bent to the center of the ring, holding the flint and stone steady as the wind swirled and encircled her in a tornadic pillar, anticipating her token of understanding. She struck the flint and a spark flashed against the gray stone. The wind vanished as quickly as the spark, the vacuum of its banishment imploding inside her head; the ultimate power and knowledge of Windraes was now hers to serve.
She stood and returned the flint and stone to her pouch, knowing it was time to leave Windraes and follow Avanian off the mountain. The wind resumed swirling, gently at first, accepting that someday she would return to finish what she had begun. The gusts grew stronger, again calling forth a winter storm to proclaim its arrival, but Findian knew she left with the power to keep her and Avanian safe as they retraced their steps back to Spirit and resumed their hunt for an elusive hart of Triumon.
For information on Heart of Hauden, Book One of the Harmony of the Othar Saga, please visit www.heartofhauden.com.