[Vfw-times] Story:I am the Wind (2/2)

PhadinXR at aol.com PhadinXR at aol.com
Tue Apr 25 15:15:27 CDT 2000

I am the Wind: Part 2

    Randol had no reservations about Ariel coming along, as long as she 
helped out as well.  Surprisingly, Ariel was easily able to move the heavy 
bags of grain in loading the wagons.  She said they felt like they weighed no 
more then a feather.  Shun was surprised, having helped pack the bags he knew 
they were at least twenty pounds each.  Ariel carried them with ease anyway, 
and the wagons were quickly loaded with her help.
    The trip itself was rather dull.  Ariel’s company was helpful, and the 
two both pestered Randol with questions about Marlis.  Shun was just 
wondering what the city was like, while Ariel was more specific, even delving 
into questions about magic and people who would know it in the city.  Randol 
was curious as to the reason for the questions, so Shun went into an 
explanation of how he had met Ariel.  Randol claimed that magic was just a 
myth, and no such mystical power actually existed.  He was kind enough to 
gift the two with a story of the duke wielding such mystical powers.  He 
stressed they were just stories however.
    Both Randol and Shun spent time asking Ariel about her own past, but she 
was reluctant to divulge any information.  She explained that she was from a 
land far away, and was clueless as to how she got here.  Her own family was 
probably worried about her by now, and many people depended on her to be 
there, which is why she had to get back.

    When they wagon train finally pulled into the city of Marlis, Shun was in 
awe at the size and expanse of the city.  The city was huge, and bustling 
with people.  Merchants, artisans, farmers, everyone came here to sell their 
products.  Ever present within the crowd of people, however, were the guards 
who bore the symbol of the Duke of Marlis, an eagle talon on a green 
background.  They were supposed to protect from thieves and keep the general 
peace, but they seemed to do little other then watch and stare, occasionally 
picking out one of the poorer looking types and roughing him up a bit.  They 
hardly seemed to take their job seriously.
    Randol instructed both Shun and Ariel to stay near the wagons, and not 
wander while in the city.  There was a marketplace near the middle of town 
where they would set up their shop to sell the grain.  There were always a 
few empty stalls, which were used by different groups on temporary basis, 
loaned out by the merchant guild in town.  Their stall would be near the 
southeastern end of the marketplace.  Not the best position to get the rich 
northern customers, but it avoided the seedy west side.  
    Shun, Ariel, and the two others that had come along, helped to unload the 
grain while Randol started opening the stall.  Once the grain was unloaded, 
it would be Shun and Ariel’s job to separate and package the smaller portions 
of grain ordered by customers.  Although the job seemed tedious to Shun, he 
was still happy to help out, never having been to Marlis before.
    Randol was a quick merchant, as much as he was a miller.  Before long, 
they had already sold three bags of the grain with little work from Shun or 
Ariel.  Many people seemed to want to stock up this year, rather then buy a 
little at a time.  Shun quickly became more optimistic about the money they 
were receiving for the grain, that they might be able to pay the taxes 
    It was late in the afternoon, when customer activity was falling off, 
that the guards came over to the stall.  They approached Randol, and Shun 
could see a scar on the face of one of the guards.  They were speaking with a 
rough tone, and he could barely make out the words they were exchanging.  The 
exchange quickly heated to a shouting argument however, as more guards 
arrived, along with a more decorative guard with a cloak.  Shun quickly took 
this to be the captain of the guard, or at least someone in control.  He was 
hoping he would call his men off, but it went the other way.  He took out a 
set of manacles, and put them on Randol.  They then arrested the other two 
from the village, and came over to Shun and Ariel.  The captain looked at the 
two and nodded.  “This is her, take them both,” he said over his shoulder to 
the other guards.
    Shun grabbed Ariel’s hand and shouted, “Run!” pulling her away from the 
guards towards the back of the store.  Ariel was too startled, however, and 
was almost yanked off her feet by Shun.  The two were quickly tackled by the 
guards, who put them both in manacles.  “Now don’t you be going anywhere.  
The duke wants to see you,” the guard said, looking at Ariel.  He wondered 
what the duke wanted with this girl, and quickly remembered Randol’s story 
about the duke having mystic powers of some sort.  He hoped it wasn’t true, 
but it might be that the duke was responsible for Ariel being here as well.  
The question then was why.  Who was she and why was she so important to the 
duke.  Shun had little time to contemplate the questions however, as the 
captain ordered the guards to subdue the prisoners.  Shun was wondering what 
he meant, since none were causing any trouble, but then someone hit him on 
the back of the head, and everything went black.

    Shun groaned as he tossed his aching head, trying to refocus his 
thoughts.  The back of his head ached, and he felt like he was stretched in 
two directions at once.  He slowly opened his eyes to blurry images and 
faces.  Spending a few moments to clear his vision and his head, he made out 
words and sight.  It was Randol, who was chained up on the wall across from 
him.  To the right of Shun was one of the other members of the village, 
Horace, and left of Randol was the other, Kline.  He let loose another groan 
as he turned his head, which still ached.  He, too, was shackled to the wall.
    He looked back at Randol, who was watching him from the other side of the 
room.  “Randol, what is going on?  Why did they arrest us, and where is 
    Randol shook his head slowly, speaking softly,  “I’m not sure where Ariel 
is, but apparently the duke wanted her for something.  They tagged us when we 
rode into town.  I guess the duke has something against us, or at least her 
anyway.  She wasn’t brought down here, so I would guess she is with the duke.”
    “She is,” came a voice from beyond the bars of the dungeon cell.  Shun 
recognized the voice as his brother, Toran.  “She is upstairs with the duke 
    “Toran, is that you?” Shun shouted.  “What are you doing here, where have 
you been?”
    “Shun… I’m sorry.  I haven’t talked to you or mother in so long, but I 
couldn’t give the duke any hint as to my family.  Please, for give me.”
    “Toran, what’s the problem?  I don’t understand.”
    “I came here to work as a merchant under the elder Duke Marlis, for the 
village.  When the duke passed away and his son ascended the throne, I found 
myself out of work as the laws suddenly kept changing.  I enrolled in the 
city guard as a way to earn money, but quickly found what a stranglehold the 
duke kept on his own guard.  Many of the higher officials are corrupt 
bastards, and the duke tries to find out everything about those who work for 
him.  You step out of line, and he makes sure someone you care about gets 
hurt.  That’s why I couldn’t come back, I couldn’t tell you.  I didn’t want 
to risk you or mother getting hurt.”
    Shun was silent as he took this in.  He had been worried his brother had 
come upon hard times, and started working for the duke.  He didn’t know what 
to think now that his fears were confirmed.  As he thought about it, he heard 
the cell door unlock, and open.  The man standing there, his brother, stood 
in the same outfit as the captain who had arrested him earlier.
    Toran stepped into the cell, looking around at everyone.  “Shun, Randol, 
everyone, please listen to me.  Most of the people here are afraid of the 
duke, and none like the way he rules.  Most are ready to revolt, but none can 
take the first step.  I am willing to, though, if you are willing to come 
with me. We must take the duke out now, while we can.  He has become obsessed 
these last few days with finding this girl who was with you, Ariel.  I want 
your help to rescue her, all of you.”
    “If Ariel is in the hands of the duke, I have to help her,” Shun said 
bravely, hopping he sounded a lot braver then he felt.  Again he thought back 
to the stories of magic that had been circulating the last few days.  He 
wondered briefly what sort of power the duke actually held.
    “The boy is right,” Randol spoke up suddenly.  This surprised him given 
the number of times Randol had told him to believe in the duke.  “I trusted 
in the system of government that we have clung to for so many seasons, but 
this duke is evil.  I don’t think any of us will last much longer under the 
duke’s rule.  Even Heron Village suffers now.”
    The others were quick to give their support as well.  Toran, smiling, 
started to unlock the chain that held Shun and the others to the wall.  “It’s 
good to have you on my side.  I have at least a hundred men in the castle who 
would join us if they knew what we were doing.”  Toran said as the group 
walked down the dungeon hall towards the stairs.  “However, I think it best 
if we go strait up to the duke himself.  He ordered most of the guards away 
from his private tower while Ariel is there.  There should be little 
As they reached the stairs, Shun noticed a sword rack nearby, which Toran was 
taking swords from as he spoke.  He handed swords to Randol, Horace, and 
Kline, and then handed one to Shun as well.  “You will need this to defend 
yourself Shun.  Be careful,” he said as he held out the sword, hilt first.
Shun nodded, taking the sword.  It felt strange in his hands, much heavier 
then the hunting knife he had used before.  He had never actually used a 
weapon to kill, and the thought almost sickened him.  He backed up, taking a 
few practice swings with the weapon, and almost fell over from the weight.  
Toran was quick to support him, holding him steady and talking quietly,  
“Careful where you swing that Shun.  It’s fairly heavy, but otherwise just 
think of it as an oversized knife.”  Shun nodded, quickly noting that both 
Kline and Horace seemed just as new to the weapon as he was.  Toran didn’t 
have time to teach them however, as the group went up the stairs in search of 
the duke.

Moving through the castle was much smoother then Shun expected.  Toran seemed 
to have quite a bit of authority with the guards, and a few even came with 
the group as they headed for the duke’s chamber.  It was only when they 
reached the base of the duke’s tower that they encountered a problem.  Having 
heard of their movements from a few of the other guards, one of the other 
captains came up from behind, a group of eight or nine guards with him.
“I should have expected something like this from you, Toran,” the captain 
said.  “You never seemed right to me.  Turning on the duke like this, how 
crazy.  You and all you hold dear shall die because of this.”  The captain 
seemed quite confident of his claim, but Toran was unmoved by the speech.  
It was Randol who spoke before Toran could, however.  “Horace, Kline, and I 
can hold these fools off Toran.  Go up and do what you can to the duke.  He 
is the one who matters.”
“Randol, are you sure?” Toran asked, sounding worried.
“Hey, you don’t think you’re the only one who has worked for the duke’s 
guards before, do you?  I’ll be ok, there is no one who was ever able to beat 
Shun remembered then that Randol did not seem to have any problem wielding 
the sword, even with one broken arm.  He held it in a manner unlike the other 
two, professional, and similar to the guards who were there.  Shun could tell 
he knew what he was doing, and apparently, so could Toran.  “Ok, Randol, but 
be careful, and watch out for the others.” Toran said as he opened the door 
to the tower.  “Shun, you come with me.”
Shun was quick to follow as Toran went through the door.  He felt a tingle, 
like something had sparked every nerve in his skin, as he walked through the 
door.  He could hear Ariel screaming for help echoing through the tower.  It 
was odd that he had not heard anything outside of the door, but now could 
hear it perfectly.  His thoughts returned to their previous discussion of 
magic, but he discarded it for now.  She was in trouble, and he was 
determined to help her, no matter what stood in his way.
The two ascended the stairs to the duke’s chambers. There was no door, as the 
stairs were built into the floor of the room above.  Shun was amazed as he 
entered at the stench of the room.  He wasn’t sure where it came from, but it 
was like nothing he had smelled before.  Different herbs, incense, and 
perfumes were scattered or burning throughout the darkened room.  The windows 
were shut, and the only light was given off by the multitude of candles.  
Bookcases lined the walls, with the exceptions of a desk and a bed.  The duke 
sat at the desk reading a strange book, and muttering words Shun didn’t 
understand.  Ariel sat in a strange diagram on the floor, crying out for help.
Toran was quick to charge the duke, trying to end the man’s life quickly, but 
the duke seemed all too aware of Toran.  He turned aside the charge, and sent 
Toran slamming into the desk headfirst.  The duke grabbed a sword off of the 
desk, and as Toran was stunned by the sudden reversal, and the duke pressed 
the advantage.  Shun responded by charging in to stab at the duke as well.  
He quickly realized that, although Toran had advised using the sword as a 
large hunting knife, it was more then that, and the duke knew how to use the 
sword better then he did.  He easily turned Shun aside as well, forcing him 
to stumble into a bookcase, and sending his sword flying from his hand.  Duke 
Marlis then returned his attention to Toran, who had recovered his senses.
Shun steadied himself, a number of the books having fallen to the ground 
around him.  He could read none of them, as that was a skill he had never 
learned.  They all had dark covers however, and most seemed quite old.  He 
felt a pull, a temptation, to pick one up and look at it, but Ariel’s cries 
for help broke him out of the trance.  He looked around, and saw his brother 
being forced to give ground to the advancing duke.  Ariel pounded on thin air 
within the odd circle on the floor, crying for help.
The duke was on the attack again, and Toran seemed to be failing in his 
defense.  Shun saw a few nicks on the Toran’s armor, and blood seeped from a 
cut on one arm.  He looked around for his own sword so he could go back to 
help, but it was nowhere in sight.  He thought it must have been knocked down 
the stairs by the duke.  A scream echoed from Toran as the duke finally 
penetrated his defenses, and had jabbed his sword halfway into Toran’s chest. 
Ariel and Shun screamed in unison as the duke took glee in twisting the sword 
within Toran.  Drawing upon the strength within, Shun’s brother pushed the 
duke off of him, the sword sliding out, and he stumbled back to catch his 
breath.  He quickly shouted, “He’s too strong.  Get Ariel and go Shun!” as he 
once again raised his sword on the advancing duke.
Shun ran over to the strange design which held Ariel.  He knew now that there 
had to be some mystic power at work, for though it seemed to have no walls or 
barriers, Ariel could not move past the circle no matter how hard she tried.  
Tentatively, he passed his own hand over the circle, and he felt a tingling 
sensation, the hairs on his arm standing on end.  It seemed similar to the 
sensation he had when he entered the tower bellow.  He pulled his arm out, 
and the sensation fled.  
“Shun, you have to break the circle, erase it or cover it with something,” 
Ariel told him.  He nodded, looking around.  The circle was painted on the 
ground, so erasing it was not going to be easy, but he could cover it with 
something.  Plenty of books on the bookshelves around the room were the 
perfect material.  He grabbed a few, and tossed them onto the circle.  As 
they landed, a crackling sound accompanied an electrifying of the air, and 
the invisible wall Ariel was pounding wasn’t there any more.  She fell 
forward, catching herself on the floor, and stood up.
“Come on, we have to go!” Shun shouted at her, then turned back to look for 
his brother, hoping he was well enough to come as well.  Instead, he almost 
bumped right into the duke himself.  He never bothered to look the man over 
before, but now he was standing face to face with him.  The duke did not seem 
that strong.  He was only a few inches taller then Shun, and certainly not 
much wider.  There was an aura of strength, of invincibility, around him 
though.  A feeling that this man could not be defeated.  Shun felt fear in 
the pit of his stomach as the duke sneered at him.
“Going somewhere?  I think not,” Duke Marlis said in a snide tone.  “Except 
perhaps where I just sent your brother.  Join him in hell boy,” he continued 
as he brought his sword up.  Shun was frightened, backpedaling away from the 
man.  He caught a glimpse of Toran’s body lying in a heap on the other side 
of the room, at the foot of the bed.  He tripped over a book, and landed on 
his back next to the wall, the shuttered window of the room above him.
The duke towered over him, sword point down, and ready to plunge the weapon 
into him, when he heard Ariel’s scream of defiance.  The duke looked up as 
Shun did, shock and fear registering on his face as he saw Ariel.  She was 
unlike the kind girl Shun knew, her hair flowed around her, supported by some 
unknown force, a breeze like the wind, and her blue eyes seemed to glow on 
their own.  She raised her hand, palms out, and a forceful gust of wind blew 
forth, slamming into Shun and the duke.  He closed his eyes, braced against 
the wall of the room, fear for what was happening, both to him and to Ariel.  
He heard the duke scream, and felt the man trip over him.  The shutters of 
the window were forced open, and he heard the duke’s scream trail off as he 
fell out.  Only after the scream was silenced by a dull and distant thud did 
the wind subside.
Shun glanced up to see Ariel collapsed on the ground.  He quickly crawled 
over to her, helping her up.  She was weak, but alive.  “Ariel, what was 
that.  What happened?” he asked, still bewildered.
“Shun, I told you I wasn’t from around here.  The duke summoned me here, so 
he could use me, so he could harness my power to use for his own ends.  Shun, 
I’m sorry if I deceived you.  I enjoyed our time together, but I have to 
return now.  With the duke gone, I can finally go back.”  Even as she spoke, 
Ariel seemed to be getting more transparent.  Shun could feel a light breeze 
within the room, and the pages of the book the duke was reading fluttered and 
turned in the wind.
“Go back?  But you still haven’t told me where.  Who are you Ariel?  Why do 
you have to go?” Shun said, grasping and holding on to the ever-vanishing 
“I’m sorry Shun, but others depend on me as well.  I am what has comforted 
you for so long, and I will continue to.  You will know me when you see the 
clouds, feel the rain, and listen to the trees,” Ariel spoke as she 
disappeared completely.  Shun waved his hands around where she was, trying to 
find her in vain.  He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up to see his 
brother.  Toran was clutching his wound with his other hand, but was still 
alive.  He smiled down on Shun.
“She will always be here Shun.  Remember that,” his brother said.  Shun 
nodded, standing.  He heard footsteps coming up the stairs.  Randol poked his 
head up from the stairwell, and two soldiers arrived with him.
“Captain Toran!  We saw the duke’s body in the garden below.  The duke is 
dead, and with his death, all those who would side with him have either 
surrendered or fled,” one of the guards said.
“We have won the day.  At last we are free of this tyranny.  Too bad I’ll not 
live too long after,” Toran replied calmly.  He grunted a bit and clutched 
his wound again.  Randol pushed past the guards and lay Toran down on the 
bed, striping off the armor and using the bed’s sheets to bind the wound.
“I’m no doctor, Toran,” Randol said as he bandaged the wound, “But the wound 
does not seem mortal.  You shall live, and much to the pleasure of the 
others.  I can’t think of anyone else they would have lead them now.”
Shun stared in shock at Randol’s words, but the expression on both the 
soldier and Randol spoke of the sincerity.  Toran had made a startlingly 
favorable impression upon the men in the duke’s army apparently, and they 
were more then willing to have him as their ruler.  Toran seemed to take it 
well enough, rising slowly after Randol had finished, and nodding.  “I don’t 
suppose I have much of a choice.  I certainly don’t want to be repeating this 
three seasons from now.  I accept.”
The soldiers cheered as Toran accepted their offer, and together the three 
went downstairs.  Randol walked over to Shun, kneeling by him.  He seemed to 
already understand what had happened as he spoke quietly.  “Don’t worry Shun. 
 Wherever she is, I’m sure she is always watching over you.  Keep her close 
to your heart.”  With those words, Randol headed down the stairs himself, 
leaving Shun alone in the duke’s chambers.
Shun sat there for a minute, letting everything that had just happened sink 
in.  He felt the wind from the open window blow his hair, and glanced up.  
The wind had returned at last, and with it, a smile broke on Shun’s face.  
Everything would be okay now.  He rose and walked over to the window, looking 
outside into the sky.  Sparse clouds blew across the sky.  Shun could almost 
see Ariel’s face in one of them, and he sighed.  At least, when she left, she 
seemed happy.
As he headed for the stairs, he could hear cheering from down below.  His 
brother was being received by the guards of the keep, and undoubtedly, would 
be well received by the city and the villagers.  The duke was gone, and 
everything seemed perfect, except that Ariel was missing.  As Shun headed 
downstairs to join the party, one last breeze blew his hair, and he heard 
Ariel’s voice in his head.  “Remember me, Shun.  I am the wind.”

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