5.2.13

A Zephyr Song - Part 2

(ii)

vayu of the east

It was a new moon’s night, the night he came to Sapphire’s town. She had heard of men like him. Travellers, gypsies, vagabonds. People without homes. She had always wondered what one of them looked like. Of course, she had been warned against talking to them. Her mother told her all about them. They tell you stories about beautiful things, then put you in a sack and take you away. “I’m warning you, Saf,” her mother always told her, “Never talk to strangers who aren’t from this town.”

But this man looked harmless. He was old, and many of his teeth were missing. He knocked on their door that night asking for warmth and shelter. He was wearing a shawl around his shirt, and his shoes hardly looked hardy. His teeth were chattering, and as he was talking, it was clear that he was frozen to the bone. Her mother had always been wary of layabouts, but on that night, even she couldn’t have said no.

He sat with them around their fire and ate whatever their mother had cooked. There was simply soup for dinner that night. Tamarind and tomatoes, cheese and garlic. They ate it with much enthusiasm. If not for anything else, it kept the cold at bay. Her brothers were telling them about the bandits on the northern road. Their neighbours had lost some cattle to them. Soon after dinner, the stranger offered to tell them a story. Her brothers couldn’t wait to get to bed, but Sapphire wanted to hear it. For her, they stayed. For her, they listened.

“There was once a storm by the Northern Sea that lasted twelve days and twelve nights. It was as if the sea and the storms had become one and wanted to ravage every land it could. They say it is the greatest storm that ever set its eyes upon the world. They say the Sea knew no mercy then. They say they have never called the Sea their mother since. They have a different God now: one whose name they had never known, one who came to them only to save them.

He came to them from the East on a day that was unremarkable and calm. He had no name when he came to them, they say. He was lost and confused and the air of the sea had made him sick. So they nursed him and cared for him and taught him their tongue. He had no name when he came to them, so they gave him a name of their own, they say. He came to them from the East, they say, so Vayu they named him. The Wanderer from the East. I have never known a name so fitting.

Three years and twelve days, he stayed with them. He made their home his home and their songs his songs. He could read the tides as well as any of their own. He could read the winds even better. He never set sail in a single ship or wet his toes in the foam of the sea; but he knew the seas as well as any of their own. Twelve days and three years, he stayed with them, but his skin was as burnt by the sun as any of their own.

The storm began with the setting of the sun. The storm began in the North. The storm began with a call of thunder and a clap of lightning. The storm began with no ceremony. The storm began when the skies darkened to grey and black and the moon was in the sky. The storm began in the sea.

For twelve days and twelve nights, the storm was the sea and the sea was the storm. For twelve days, the storm crashed homes and drowned crop. For twelve nights, the sea crashed homes and drowned people. For twelve nights, the storm moved from town to town bringing them rage and despair. For twelve days and twelve nights, neither sea nor storm abated.

On the morning of the thirteenth day, Vayu could watch no more. Emerging from his broken home, he walked to the sea. Wearing nothing at all but the rain, he walked into the storm. Into the eye of the storm he looked, and with the anguish of his loss and the anger of his people, he confronted them both.

“It is I you are looking for, so take me and leave the rest,” he said.

The sea only darkened in response, and the storm became rougher.

“It is I you want vengeance from, so TAKE ME IF YOU DARE!” he bellowed to the sea.

The storm was now him and he was the storm. He called to storm like a father to a son, and the storm could do nothing but answer.

The tide was now rising and the waves were as high as houses. But the storm belonged to the sea no more.

In his anger, in the storm, he called to the wind and the wind could do nothing but answer. The storm was now him and he was the storm.

He took the storm on the eastern wind, leaving his people behind. The storm died away with the eastern wind, taking the Wanderer from the East with it.

He walks with the Keeper of the Winds now, they say. Not like a servant or a captive, but like a friend.

He wanders now, they say, with the Wind itself.“

When the story ended, the house was still. Sapphire’s eyes were bright as fire and her brothers were stunned into silence. Their mother, the only one with a sense of propriety, thanked the man and escorted him to his room. She handed him a bottle of water and wished him a good night.

The Moon was full and high in the sky.

Fate stands still in the shadows, afraid to make his move.

The Wind laughs, for the night was not over yet. 

** 

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