Alissia stood upon a granite overhang, looking out over a vast green sea of fog-shrouded trees, stretching far to distant mountains and beyond that a wild untamed sky.
A cool breeze gently brushed her face, a lover longing to be held. Leaning out she embraced the wind and summoned its power and opened herself to the ever-changing tales in its song, for she was the Wind-Weaver, an enchantress to the skies.
She sensed it coming, soaring with the wind, an evil presence she’d never felt before. Leaning further to the point of falling to her death, she harnessed the wind, controlling its tainted flow and greeted its cool embrace, the smell of death and a whispered tale…
Far across the Silver Sea on foreign shores an ominous presence had begun to make itself known. It wasn’t the familiar smell of sulfur and gunpowder wafting over bloody battlefields. No she was expecting that. No, nor the blazing homes of innocent villagers raped of their land and possessions. No it, this evil, was something beneath it all, almost spiritual like the birth of a prophet. Yes, the birth or rebirth of something alien and yet a part of us all.
Somewhere a man is harvesting his wheat, preparing for an early winter. A child’s cry is heard, a birth, a new life. An old woman now crying softly lies over her son fallen in battle. Children are heard laughing as they chase each other through whistling fields and a dog in the distance yapping with glee. A preacher belts out his sermon. Men are heard screaming. Far across the sea on foreign shores, battlefields were piled with blood-soaked bodies while men fell from the skies and wings beating and burning on through endless nights.
The wind ripped from Alissia’s grasp and she fell. Trees like a hundred lances came rushing towards her. Her stomach leaped into her throat and her head spun with a blur of images and then a violent torrent rushed down the valley picking her up high into the air to leave her lying shaken on the ground where she had stood moments before.
This gift, this curse, was spawned through many generations of wind-weavers. Alissia was thirteen years of age when her gift was made known to her.
One storm-filled night she lay in bed reading stories by candlelight to her younger sister Juliette. At that age the tales were greatly exaggerated but well received with giggles and uncontrollable fits of laughter. That was when they heard the faint unwelcome footsteps at the bedroom door. Slowly the handle turned and they quickly blew out the light. The door swung open revealing the silhouette of a man backlit from the hallway behind. He raised a lantern. Shadows reached in all directions and they glimpsed the chiseled face of a huge unshaven man grinning back at them.
Alissia flew across the bed pulling Juliette off onto her feet and standing protectively in front of her began throwing anything within reach. First, her book and each of the two candleholders, then a heavy mug of spraying hot cocoa. That seemed to slow him down the most but he still advanced. They stared up at the man looming over them, their eyes wild with fear and their voices too terrified now to make a sound.
Outside lightning filled the sky.
The man grabbed Alissia by the throat and flung her to the bed. He turned his maniacal gaze to Juliette standing many feet below him, her back to a wall, her face snow white and her eyes fixed defiantly on his. He stepped within arm’s reach and she darted past him. His arms whirled as he spun and caught Juliette’s arm with such force she was flung to the ground.
Outside thunder shook the sky.
A surge of pure rage flowed through Alissia igniting every fiber of her being.
The man knelt down at Juliette’s still feet and ripped open her gown.
The energy coursed throughout Alissia, now a violent flood she could no longer contain. Thunder shook the heavens and the bedroom window burst open with a maddening howl throwing an assault of glass shards into his chest and like a rag doll he was hurtled at the bedroom door. A lantern exploded into flames and in its place above the door he hung lifeless, his head aflame and the iron hook that once held his lantern protruded from his neck.
Alissia picked herself up off the ledge she’d fallen from. Her knees shook profusely as she hobbled quickly to a patch of cool green grass where she threw herself down and lay curled up shaking in spasms while she wept.
The wind whispered soothingly, gently caressing her face. Minutes passed like hours as she relived the fleeting moments of her life’s story. Time slipped by and overhead the sky darkened as the clouds rolled in like the waves of a majestic sea. Alissia lifted her head off her folded arms to look up at the heavens.
A strange ring of dark clouds had formed directly above her and another encompassed the first and another like huge rings in a grey-brown pond stretching endlessly, each one larger than the next.
A shiver ran through her body. She stood gazing overhead, hugging herself and she turned around in wonder. This was like nothing she’d ever seen. It wasn’t possible. In the very center of the rings directly above were brilliant stars like a thousand candles flickering in a black sky. Something was happening. Some of the stars flickered brighter with every flicker then the others began to do the same, like thousands of fireflies attempting to light up the heavens. They flickered faster, brighter, until the hole in the sky became one white, blinding light shining directly on the very spot Alissia stood. She raised her arms to shield her eyes. The light softened, became like a sheet of glass. She lowered her arms, jaw dropped in amazement.
In the center an image appeared. It was herself, in a magnificent sky-mirror. Her jaw dropped further and so did her image looking back from the sky. She spun around and laughed with delight as her reflection in the sky spun with her. She threw out her arms spinning faster and her reflection did the same. Even faster they spun, then suddenly her image became smaller and the hill she stood on came into view, became smaller until she was looking down at the whole valley where she lived.
She stood there, head thrown back and her mouth wide open as she stared in awe of this miracle spinning from her dizziness. She stepped to regain her balance but could not help falling on her back where she still gazed at her valley in the sky spinning slower now. Tears formed in her eyes. Someone was watching over her. The spinning stopped and the image dimmed and brightened into a white light again, then flickered into hundreds then thousands of stars, evermore and through the clouds they shown, millions of flickering stars. And the clouds parted leaving a magnificent star-filled sky.
A cold wind nipped at her as she stood; her arms wrapped around herself for warmth. She’d tried to channel the wind around her but could not find the energy for such a simple task. In a slow dream-like state she walked down a path leading to her mountain home. What was this sky-mirror thing, she thought. How did it get there; was it I who put it there? Her mind was fluttering with questions she hoped her grandmother could answer.
She made her way to her house nestled between three huge oaks towering over it. The smell of burning pine welcomed her home. A gorgeous woman in her middle years with flowing blonde hair sat in a rocking chair by the fire with a book in her lap. She was fast asleep. Alissia sat across from her grandmother and soaked up warmth radiating from the hearth.
In all her life she’d never heard of this sky-mirror. Neither her grandmother, nor her mother had ever mentioned such a thing. When she was nearing adulthood, her mother had taught Alissia how to harness the wind and after her mother’s death she felt an over-powering responsibility for her sister and her gift she now kept hidden from the coldhearted world which misunderstood such rare talents as acts of witchery. Her grandmother Nora had taken her into hiding at the feet of the Mountains of Mist in the Valley of the Winds where she would further her training as a wind-weaver. As far as she knew the two of them were the only wind-weavers in existence. So, at the age of nineteen Alissia began the final stages as an apprentice, summoning the wind when there was none and learning how to listen to the soft, whispered stories of the wind’s journeys.
“You’re finally back! Why the serious face?” Alissia turned to see Juliette standing near the steps down to the gathering room.
“Umm…” she smoothed her skirts before replying. “I cannot quite explain it but I think I’ve found my calling.”
Juliette smiled and clasped her hands in delight. “Well, that is wonderful news! The three of us have been waiting years for it to come to you but…I can see you are not too excited about it.”
Alissia looked up from the floor and met her kid sister’s sparkling eyes. “No, it is an enigma to me. Usually the stories I gather from the wind make more sense. This time I felt more a sense of impending evil than anything else. It has never seemed so much like riddles before.”
Juliette frowned. “But you’ve found your calling?”
Alissia stared through her sister to a far off place where men fell from the skies and lay bleeding, dying among their brothers. “Yes,” she replied, “but I have many questions to ask of Grandmother.”
“And I have answers.”
The two turned their heads as if broken from a trance and saw Nora in her soft velvet robes looking straight at Alissia with a grin from cheek to cheek.
Alissia explained as best she could of the feelings she had had while the wind told its broken, ever-changing tale. She choked back tears when telling how she almost died.
“That,” Nora said, “tells me you have indeed met your calling!”
“But I was almost killed!” Alissia had a look of confusion mixed with anger.
“Yes, you were and that is why I am sure you’ve finally found it!”
“So you knew I could die and didn’t tell me!?” She was shocked, hurt.
“Please, listen to what I have to say.” Alissia sat back in a chair opposite her grandmother, folded her arms and did a poor job of trying not to pout.
“Every wind-weaver eventually finds her calling,” Nora continued, “but not all of them survive. In fact, very few survive. You see, in order to inherit this incredible gift one must give themselves over entirely to the wind, and not only trust it with their life but be able to hold on to the flow when it tries to break away for one last time. If I had told you of this, your training would have been in vain. You might have panicked and I would not be sitting here defending myself to my granddaughter.”
“I am sorry…I had no idea.” Alissia stood up and walked over to her grandmother, bent down and embraced her.
Nora smiled and patted her comfortingly. “There are many things we don’t understand my child. We must see them for what they are and except them; else we are no different than the ones who slew your mother.”
“There is one more thing I haven’t told you,” Alissia said over Nora’s delicate shoulder. “After I had calmed down from almost dying, I looked up and saw this sky-mirror thing with me in it.”
Nora’s eyes sprung wide open and she pushed Alissia off her and held her tight by each shoulder, their eyes as one. “You saw, a sky-mirror?”
“Yes, and I was reflected in it, then my image shrank as it showed more and more of the valley.”
“And what happened next?” Nora asked.
“Then it disappeared and the rings of clouds along with it…what?”
Nora had dropped her arms and folded them in her lap, a blank stare on her face. “The time has come, the legends are springing from the sky and I in my old age have been blind to them.”
“What legends? What are you talking about?” Alissia was clearly confused, but excited moreover.
“She shall gather her power over the winds and fell the children from her skies and only then will the one master, creator of life determine their fate.”
“What does that mean, the children and who is she?” Alissia was now sitting on the floor along with her sister at their grandmother’s feet, awaiting a fanciful tale perhaps.
“That was a quote from the book of Oracles. There is quite a long unfinished story tied in with that quote, but it is one you must hear.” Nora set her book aside and the girls positioned themselves on their stomachs and lay on the floor while their Grandmother began her story.
“Long ago, in the heavens of Azuria there was an angel. Daemon was his name and he guarded the land south of the mountain Amon Ra called Destinia. For many years there was peace and plentitude in the land. But one day there came a beggar who carried with him a pestilence that spread like wild-fire throughout Destinia. Thousands fell and many hundreds lay dying in their beds.
“The compassionate Daemon beseeched the god Amon Ra to visit Aridea and rid his people of this pestilence. He was given permission to visit but walk in secret, invisible to their eyes.
“For many days and nights he walked the streets unseen, touching the people with his power and curing them of the disease. Then one day he came upon a woman who held a dying child. Her beauty was beyond any he had ever seen. As he gazed upon her, the little child died in her arms and as tears streamed down her cheeks, Daemon revealed himself to the woman and he enchanted her with his beauty. The child slipped from her arms and she stood and he embraced her and made her his own. He was immediately enamored of her and delighted in the power he had over the woman. And, against the wishes of Amon Ra, he left the house with the woman at his side and walked the streets unveiled, revered as a god.
“In his wrath, Amon Ra stripped him of his wings and made Daemon walk in the light of the moons, never again able to feel the light of Azuria. His people too who had thought him a god, had the pestilence visited upon them yet again and this time Daemon had not the power to cure them. One by one, they fell to the plague and he and his queen watched as their people died around them. The ones that did survive began to doubt their chosen god.
“The loss of his follower’s faith in him brought out a dark and twisted side to him. The ‘mourners’ was his name for the living. He had said that god had cursed man and made him mortal. He would change all that. During the fall alignment of the sister moons, he denounced Amon Ra and the people who still revered him soon began to change. They too walked in the light of the moons and carried with them a semblance of Daemon’s power and feasted upon the blood of the living and became known as the Children of the Night. The beautiful city Destinia that he had so beloved was now a place of bloodshed and terror, known now as Gogotha.
“During the years of his reign, he was known as Daemon the Impaler because of his penchant for impalement as a means of punishing his enemies. He would routinely order a banquet table set up in front of his victims and enjoy a leisurely supper amid the dying while they slowly met their deaths through a slow, torturous impalement.”
Alissia and Juliette made noises of disgust and scrunched their faces. It was like being children again, sitting by the fire and listening to Nora’s stories.
“In addition to his title of ‘Impaler’,” Nora continued, “Daemon was also known as Hethraxim which means ‘son of death’ or ‘son of the Devourer’ and the Devourer he became. They say the same moment he denounced the gods he also made a pact with the Devourer and traded his soul for eternal life.
“Then was the first noted time of the curse. Four great cities Queen Illyena had ruled and all four fell under this curse; the people dwelling in the dark, for sunlight killed all who felt it. The Queen died on her throne they say; none left to the light to serve her in her dying need.
“The King Thames heard of this and drove the Children of the Night to their tombs. It is said he had tried to build huge underground roads to link all God’s houses, for the last battle would come and those would be the only place safe from the plague.
“In 1476 Daemon was slain by the hand of an assassin and his body was spirited away and buried with his followers in a secret tomb in order to contain their souls. What most have forgotten or chose to ignore is that Daemon had no soul, he’d traded it away and so he slept, healing his wounds, waiting for the night he would rise again and reunite with his love.
“The first publications of Daemon and his followers circulated like wild-fire throughout Illian. It seemed in the following years to be an exaggerated tale with fantastical creatures. Many forget the true story and the prophecy it foretells.”
“So what of the children in the book of Oracles and the women it tells of?” Juliette asked.
“I was coming to that,” Nora went on to say. “Some thirty years ago a prophet named Emanuel was discovered in North Haven’s very own asylum for the insane. At first the warden had thought his talk to be the ranting of a mad man but he soon began to see signs coinciding with Emanuel’s prophecy. One example is the unexplained slaughter of cattle throughout Illian and the lands abroad. In the prophecy it is said the Children of the Night would come again and feed upon cattle before they were strong again.”
“So the Children of the Night are Daemon’s followers?” Alissia asked.
“And the woman who has the power over the winds?” asked Juliette.
“The woman…” Nora took a deep breath. “…the woman my children, is you, Alissia.”
The girls gasped and stared blankly into the hearth. She shall gather her power over the winds and fell the children from her skies and only then will the one master, creator of life determine their fate.
Minutes passed until Alissia finally spoke: “So the children are the winged beasts I saw dropping men from the sky, some with wings on fire?”
“Yes, some have the power of flight,” Nora replied.
Juliette was now looking sideways at her older sister as if for the first time.
“But how do you know she means me? I mean it is obvious she must be a wind-weaver but it could be another.”
“It could be,” replied Nora, “but it spoke of a hole in the sky, much like your sky-mirror. I can’t remember it all now but I know you are the one that the Oracle speaks of. You are the enchantress to the skies and possibly the only being capable of preventing Daemon’s curse from destroying life as we know it.”
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