You are the wind’s interpreter. What is it saying?
Legends say that everything has a voice. If you only stop and listen, you can hear the earth speak to you. I don’t know how true that is, I’ve never heard of earth interpreters, but I know the wind can be understood. I come from a long line of wind interpreters. My name is Galin.
Kings and queens employ us as advisors in all matters, though I don’t really see why. They think our ability to interpret the winds is akin to reading omens and portents, in some cases even believing us to be divine messengers. I dunno. Maybe the wind is the voice of the gods, but I’ve never heard anything on the air to suggest that.
Still, it has its perks. The lord I currently serve gave me my own wing of the castle, with all the finest furnishings and servants. His last Windspeaker had grown deaf and could no longer fulfill his duties. As I understand it, the old man had gone mad as his hearing faded. People lose their hearing all the time as they age, but for a Windspeaker to no longer hear the wind? Tragic. Poor bastard.
I opened the window and looked out over the gardens. There was no rustling of leaves, no breathy kisses for the flowers. The air was still today. Reverent. Again.
I sighed. This made five days in a row. The wind could grow quiet at times, but I’d never felt the weight of the silence like now. My thoughts of my predecessor were the likely source of my rising anxiety. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the peace.
A knock at my door jolted me out of my mental quandary. “Yes?” My voice was steady, a relief since I’d nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound.
“Windspeaker Galin,” a servant, in livery such a dark shade of red as to be almost black, bowed as she entered. “The High Lord Rothmar requests your presence in his chambers.”
“Of course,” I answered. The summons was expected, but early today. “Wait, his chambers? Not the Hall?”
The dark-haired woman, I recalled her name to be Lani, nodded. “He wished to speak with you before his usual morning assemblage.”
In the month I’d been High Lord Rothmar’s Windspeaker, I had always been summoned to the Great Hall to provide guidance. I hoped my face didn’t betray my growing unease. “Was Aiolos often summoned to His Grace’s personal chambers?”
Lani’s motherly face softened, an understanding smile creased the wrinkles at the corners of her grey eyes. “It is not unheard of for the High Lord to take counsel in his quarters, particularly on days where his schedule is more demanding than others.”
“Naturally,” I agreed. So there was no cause for alarm. “Are you here as an escort or just a messenger?”
“Simply a messenger, Your Honor.” She bowed again. “Though if you require, I can certainly find you an escort.”
I waved that away. “No, I can find my own way.” The castle wasn’t that large, but it was important to inquire of, and follow, the formalities. “I will be along as soon as I have washed.”
“Very good, sir.” Lani bowed one final time and turned to leave.
Once the door had shut behind her, I let out my breath. I wasn’t even aware I had been holding it. The curtains barely twitched with my exhale, reminding me again of the absence of the wind. I glanced out the window to the azure sky, its cloudless expanse testament to the silence, and sighed.
I made my way to my bathing chambers and filled the washbasin with the pail that had been left for me by servants I never saw. I had tried to uncover their secret entrances by asking the air in the room, but it simply laughed its amusement. I wasn’t meant to know; it wasn’t how things were done.
I scrubbed the sleep from my eyes and washed yesterday’s grime from my hair. My image frowned back at me from the reflecting glass. Blond stubble had begun to sprout while I slept. I retrieved my shaving blade and took care of the unwanted growth. Beards were fashionable among the elite, but mine refused to grow even and so I kept my face smooth.
I toweled my face dry and returned to my sleeping chambers for my wardrobe. Normally I wore ceremonial robes for the meeting of the Council, but I wasn’t sure of the protocol for meeting the High Lord in private. He didn’t require it outside of the Hall, didn’t require it at all really, but it was customary for one of the Order such as myself to be seen in the robes.
I had several for all manner of occasions, some more formal than others. I closed my eyes and listened to the air in the castle. There were no notes of urgency, nothing to say I needed to stand on ceremony today. I grinned in relief. At least the castle was still speaking to me.
Passing over my usual crimson tunics which Rothmar had provided, I instead donned the forest green one my mother had made, with the fine cirrus clouds embroidered in a lighter green along the edges. The matching green robes settled on my shoulders as I tied them with the gold cord at my waist. The curved symbol of the Order of Windspeakers emblazoned on my left breast stood pale against the dark backdrop.
I admired my reflection as I slipped my feet into sturdy boots, tucking the legs of my trousers into their tops. My mother had chosen that shade of green for the effect it had on my eyes. She said it made them as crystal blue as the seas after a storm. I’ve never been to the ocean, so I take her word for it. Green is just my favorite color, and these robes fit me perfectly. Her skill with a needle is incomparable.
High Lord Rothmar’s chambers were in the east tower, and I quickly made my way to them. If his schedule was so packed he needed to speak with me early, it would not do to keep him waiting, esteemed guest or no.
His guards bowed as I walked up to them. Harmon and Chep, if my memory served me correctly. “Morning gents, His Grace sent for me early today,” I announced. My heart pounded in my ears, but my voice remained blessedly steady. They exchanged amused smirks. Of course, they knew why I was there. I bit my tongue to keep from blurting out a snarky retort. I was just trying to be friendly.
Harmon opened the door and waved me in. The small disturbance in the air laughed at my unease. I nodded my thanks to the guards and the door shut behind me.
Jorrick Rothmar lounged on a high-backed cushioned bench, a stack of papers in his hands that he pored over with the aid of spectacles. The graying hair at his temples signaled his age as well, but his mind was as sharp as ever.
I cleared my throat to make my presence known. “You requested to see me here, Your Grace?”
The High Lord glanced up from his reports and frowned. “Yes, Galin.” He leaned forward and dropped the stack on another pile on the low table in front of him. The absence of my title set my heart racing yet again. Had I done something wrong? “Sit, boy.” He gestured to the bench opposite him with his spectacles as he reclined.
I bristled at being called “boy,” a designation typically reserved for youths, not accomplished young men of twenty-two years, but did as ordered. Lord Jorrick was known for being stern but fair, yet I had never actually encountered this side of him before. My mind raced trying to remember everything I had said or done since our last meeting at the evening meal. What sleight had I inadvertently made?
The old general studied me with an unreadable expression. I wanted to apologize, to soothe his anger, anything to make him stop looking at me with such… what was it, disappointment? Shame? It took all I had not to squirm under that gaze.
“Galin.” Again he dropped the formality of my title. “It’s been, what, a month now that you’ve been in my service?” I nodded. “I’ve never had such a young Windspeaker, but when I needed a new one the Order assured me that you were the best and the brightest. Beloved of the Winds. Up until now you have proven your worth.”
Until now? “Sir?”
He leaned his elbows on his knees and interlaced his fingers as he pierced me with a hard stare. “You’ve heard nothing on the wind for almost a week now.”
I balled my fists in my lap. The lack of wind wasn’t an indictment of my abilities, I wanted to say. “Apologies, Your Grace. I report what the wind has to say, but there has been no wind to speak of this week.”
I blinked back my shock. He was firm in his accusation, but I had no reason to lie. “Sir, I assure you, there is nothing to report.”
He placed a hand on top of his stack of papers. “Then you are not as good as they promised you to be.”
Rage rose in my throat, threatening to burst. The wind had always spoken to me, had provided me with answers when I asked of it. It had never been this silent to me before. If he refused to believe it, how could I convince him otherwise?
“Galin, you aren’t listening.” Suddenly his face softened.
My eyes were hot with wet. “You are saying I do not hear the wind. You think I’ve gone deaf like my distant uncle.”
“No.” His voice was soft now too. He glanced down at my green attire and pointed to it. “Those robes are lovely. They really suit you.” The change in topic nearly gave me whiplash.
“Yes,” I whispered. “My mother made them when I finished my studies.” My voice quavered. Why did my heart ache so?
“Why did you accept my offer?” he asked. “You could have gone to the Grand City and served King Lobrez, made your fortune with your talent. We both know I only pay you a tenth of what you could earn there.”
His questions made my head spin. Why? The pay was more than enough for me, and it was an honor to serve. My mother had spent several years with him, had always spoken highly of him. His offer made sense. “The Grand City is so far away,” I said. “I prefer the countryside.”
“The wind blows more frequently here,” he offered.
I nodded. “Too many voices in the city to drown it out.”
His stare did not waver. “Closer to home.” I nodded again. Home was still some distance away, but it was not half the distance it would have been if I was working for the king. It was only a couple days ride by carriage from here.
Rothmar stood and walked to the window. The dark hair atop his head swayed gently. There was finally a breath of air from the outside. The High Lord smiled, his dark eyes sad. “Are you listening now?”
I swallowed hard. Tears blurred my vision as the air caressed my face. I had heard it five days ago, I just didn’t want to accept it. And out of respect for my pain, the wind had ceased to speak to me. “How did you know?” I asked.
He chuckled. “The wind isn’t the only one that can carry messages,” he said, pointing to the stack of reports on the table. “Anila had been my most trusted Windspeaker, and as such she kept in touch after leaving my service to have you. She spoke of you often. She was very proud of you.
“I wrote to her when you arrived. She was elated, and relieved. She thought for sure you would go to the king.” His smile wavered. “It was the last letter I received from her. A couple weeks ago, a letter arrived from the Order informing me she had taken ill. Yesterday, I learned she had not recovered.”
My heart was in my stomach, and from the shine of Rothmar’s eyes I thought his might be, too. “That’s the reason I could not interpret the rain last week,” I admitted softly. I had reported there was nothing in the rain, because I would not hear the message on the wind. “I should have gone to my mother’s side when I learned she was unwell, but I was new to my role here. I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
Lord Rothmar came to my side and placed a strong hand on my shoulder. “I should have realized something was amiss when the wind died. The only other time I recall that happening here, I was still a boy, and our Windspeaker took a nasty fall from his horse. He died of his injuries a few days later and the wind was still for several days.” He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Whatever you need, you will have it.”
He promised to have a carriage ready to take me home to my sister and brothers with the fastest horses he had stabled. He would cover the costs of the funeral as well, and he assured me I still had the job if and when I returned. It was more than generous, but he had loved my mother that much.
I nodded my thanks and returned to my quarters to pack my things. As I walked the high-windowed corridors I saw dark clouds gather on the horizon and remembered my folly. It didn’t do to be selfish. After all, I wasn’t the only one grieving. I couldn’t leave just yet. First things first, I needed to go apologize to the wind.
Notes: Can you tell that fantasy is my favorite genre? What a fun prompt! This story took on a life of its own as I wrote it. Galin popped into my head when I started sketching out ideas for this one. I wondered what might happen if the wind was sulking, and why it might, and Galin’s sad tale began. I might revisit him in the future. I’m curious about the Order after all.
Fun fact: Jorrick Rothmar is an amalgam of George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Because I am so good at naming, I look at my bookshelf to steal and splice names. *big grin*
Anyway. What do you think the wind might say? Is it always speaking or only with big storms? Get something to write on and hop to it!
Wednesday’s Prompt: Come up with a mathematical formula to express something you know/believe. (Example: Long Saturday run + Frappucino = Happiness)
Hmmm… what to do with that one? Come back tomorrow and find out! Have a great night!