The Elves sent them off with a good deal of circumstance; far more than Callindra guessed they would normally have given to a group of humans. The goddess herself escorting them to the edge of the clearing around the Grandfather Tree.
“You go forth with my blessings.” Jorda said, her voice clear and confident. “I know that you will find what you need, if you look carefully enough. Remember to trust your instincts and each other.”
This was followed by a strange, sad song that was raised from many throats all around although she couldn’t see who was singing. Callindra didn’t understand the words, but the melody stirred something inside her and she had to fight to keep the tears at bay. As the ethereal notes faded, an entire company of Elven warriors melted from the trees dressed in full war harness.
Callindra looked back and she thought she saw Edelweiss standing on a limb high above them. When she waved he didn’t wave back, but that didn’t surprise her; Elves were a reserved people. The next time she saw him, the Elf boy would likely look exactly the same but she would have aged. Perhaps that was one of the reasons the song that had made her feel sad.
As they exited the forest, their honor guard split off and headed back into the shelter of the trees after a brief salute. She felt she would miss their stolid presence, even if it had seemed mildly unfriendly. The remainder of the wilderness was hardly less hostile; especially with the threat of Onde’s Abyssal infection out there.
“Do you think we’ll run into more trouble?” She asked, immediately feeling foolish. “I mean from the Abyssal spawn that is.”
“Of course.” Tryst said, his voice grim, “That’s why Jorda couldn’t simply send her people off to accomplish this task.”
Callindra shook her head, feeling the braid she had twisted her still growing hair into swinging against her back and pulling on her head with unfamiliar weight. “I don’t think that’s all there is to it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cronos asked, raising an eyebrow.
“She gave us gifts. She didn’t punish us for bringing evil into her domain.” Callindra was ticking points off on her fingers, “Even though her followers were unreceptive, hostile even she showed us nothing but friendliness and open arms. I think she was planning for us to work for her from the beginning.”
“But why would she entrust such an important task to us?” Vilhylm asked.
“Why would Tryst’s Biscop send us?” Callindra countered, “I think… maybe we’re making more of this than we need to. There’s just no way people like us would be sent on a mission that was actually as important as we’re pretending this one is.”
“You’re missing something Callindra.” Tryst said, his eyes shining with the light of true knowledge. “It’s not that she is taking advantage of us, or that we are fulfilling a task that is mere drudgery. She has seen what is inside of each of us. Jorda has named us her champions. Her heroes.”
“Heroes?” Callindra asked incredulously, “I’m no damn hero.”
“No.” Tryst whispered, “None of us are, and that’s a fact. Not yet. Jorda did not give this task to us, but to the ones we will become.”
He could feel Jorda smile as the seed can feel the sun shining on it through the soil, and knew in his heart of hearts that this was only the beginning.
End of Book One.
A wind blew across the expanse of the Ingurma desert, carrying with it the scent of dry, hot sand. It was Austri, the warm and clever East Wind, and she was searching for something she had lost. Rolling over lands usually outside her purview, she began exploring some of the cooler areas, her warm breath thawing the snows and making the rivers hurry toward the sea.
Njordi frowned in disgruntled anger, demanding what she was doing in his domain. With a laugh and a mischievous gust of dry hot breath she swirled away, leaving the stern North wind with a bemused flutter and the desire to misbehave trickling through his being. Reaching out with his long, cold fingers, Njordi found the restrictions that kept him locked in his northerly domain were no longer in place. Having always wanted to see the ocean, he headed South.
Sujordi met him halfway across the wide space that existed between their domains. She was excited and smelling of the seaweed, of salt, of fish and of the great storms that could brew over the swell and roll of the ocean. He found her fascinating, the way her winds could go from calm to suddenly destructive without warning and the way she caused him to swirl about in vast circles that gained force and life of their own. After dancing with him for a time, Sujordi turned to the West, seeking the place where the sun hid at night.
Upon exceeding her borders, she encountered Vestri. His passion was storms, the great building thunderheads that would sweep down onto the plains, shattering them with lightning and flattening them with hail. Violent and blustery, he had a tremendously loud booming voice. Vestri alone had no desire to leave his domain, however he sent messages to the other Great Winds, using zephyrs now that they were conscious and able to exert their authority over the air once again.
His messages were short and blunt. The Windfather was in trouble; either missing or dead. His followers were scattered like dust before a gale and there was no clear replacement. They must have a care, they must stay within their proscribed domains and they must mind their flocks of winds, otherwise he knew disaster would follow.
Njordi ignored his flatly stern words, instead allowing his newfound ability to create breezes to run wild over some of the lands. Austri found that it was difficult for her playful nature to keep itself from spreading mischief, and many winds, large and small broke away from her to run rampant over the world. Sujordi had strict holds over her vassals, however some of the ones who had mingled with Vestri became too powerful for her to exert direct control over and began to wreak havoc upon ocean and land.
All it could feel was hunger. The hunger inside of it burned and in spite of all it had consumed, the hunger remained. It did not feel anger or happiness or fear. It did not long to procreate or to curry favor or be accepted by others of its kind. All it wanted was to eat, to feast upon the essence of the living. It saw motion and turned its head hungrily, emerald fire burning behind its eyes.