On the Wind (Part One)
The stars shone brightly, and the moon was full. Lisha closed her eyes, feeling the breeze against her bare arms and cheeks. In her mind’s eye, she could see the grasses of the plains swaying on it. Yielding, but never breaking.
Feel the wind. His voice was always clear and strong. She smiled as her father’s words resonated within her. The wind is the Creator’s breath, he would often say. Life cannot be sustained without it. The rain is His tears. He weeps over us in joy and mourns with us in our sadness.
Her thoughts drifted; the wind remaining ever constant. Its cool touch like a gentle embrace. It flowed around her, parting with her body and thin coat, brushing through her tail.
A thunderous boom touched her ears. Lisha opened her eyes. Lightning flashed on the horizon. The storm clouds rolling in like a herd of buffalo.
It moved as if it were a living thing, yellow streaks of lighting lashing out from it like bestial claws. And where they touched, flames arose. Lisha watched it, fear and awe gripping her at the storm’s immense power.
She stepped closer, feeling the thunderous boom through her hooves and body. The storm wasn’t only in the sky. It moved across land like a stampede, forming an enormous wall of blackness, unstoppable and unyielding.
“Something comes,” she whispered reverently. The storm wasn’t natural. She could feel it. Within the darkness, something terrible lurked. She touched her breast, hands clasped, and closed her eyes.
Lisha opened herself up, feeling the wind, the ground beneath her hooves and everything around her. We are never alone, Lisha; he is always speaking. Simply listen and hear what is being said.
Within her spirit, Lisha felt a pull. A nudge so soft and gentle it would have been easy to miss. She embraced it, ‘grasping’ for it and suddenly, it transformed into a flood.
Lisha gasped, her eyes flinging open as she attempted to catch her breath. The storm loomed and fires raged around it. The plain was burning and the animals, who called Kerdash’s Plain home, were running in terror.
Some of them screamed in their death throes as the fire and storm overtook them. Lisha stepped back, overwhelmed by its immensity. “What are you?” she whispered fearfully.
As if aware of her, the thunderhead shifted, the lightning acting as if it were the storm’s limbs, pulling itself closer to her. The air turned frigid and Lisha wrapped her arms around herself, wishing her hide tunic wasn’t sleeveless.
No! I am the daughter of a Windrunner. My place is to defend my people, my tribe. She closed her eyes and took a breath, filling her lungs. Within her spirit, she felt the pull, but this time she cautiously drew it to her.
A coolness washed over her, like when she would bathe in the Navin River. It began at her hooves, then swelled to her ankles and up her four legs. Finally, it passed her lower body and rose to her chest.
The chill faded and the ‘water’ grew warm. With it came an inexplicable peace. “Run, Lisha,” a gentle voice whispered. “Run and tell your people. They will come soon!”
Startled, Lisha opened her eyes, her heart racing. The storm was upon her. She stared at it, panting for breath and mouth falling open. Within its deadly flames and murky blackness, ominous figures lurked. Their eyes burned like molten metal, showing through the storm cover.
From the gloom came an axe, hurtling toward her, and Lisha screamed as it embedded itself in her chest.
Lisha flung open her eyes, her father’s face slowly registering. He looked worried. His dark gray eyes screamed it. “Lisha! It’s just a dream!” he said.
Lisha touched her chest; her heart was racing. She felt spot where the axe struck her. There was no wound. Only the dull ache in her shoulder hinted at the experience.
She looked up and reached for her father, holding him tight. “Father! Kerdash’s Plain was burning!”
She felt his powerful arms envelope her, giving her a reassuring squeeze. “I’m here, daughter. Tell me what you saw.”
“It was cloudless night; the stars and moon were so beautiful. I let myself become lost in the wind, the Creator’s breath, but when I opened my eyes, I saw a terrible storm on the horizon. Under the pale moonlight, it seemed alive, blanketing the sky and the ground. The lightning acted like its limbs, pulling it across the plain and wherever it touched, the land burned, and animals died.”
His soft expression hardened, “Lisha, you had a vision,” he said. “The Creator has spoken. Tell me what else you saw?”
“When I spoke, asking it what the storm was, it became aware of me and changed direction. So, I did as you taught me and focused on the wind. I wanted to know what I saw. It was then I heard someone speak. The voice said to run, to warn our people. The storm is coming, and it will destroy everything in its wake.”
He pulled away, worry written on his face. “There may be nothing we can do.”
“But why, father? We need to warn them!”
“Lisha, do you know why we live apart from the tribe?” he asked. “Why we raise our tents last and are the first to leave when the tribe migrates south for the winter?”
“Because we are Windrunners, we go before to lead the way and wait after to see everyone safe.”
His gray eyes watered. “No Lisha. It is because we are outcasts. We are of the Wildmane, but apart from them. It is my shame to bear.”
“But why, father? What did we do?”
“Before you were born, when your mother was still with us, I had a vision,” he replied. “In my pride, I misread it and didn’t heed the vision’s warning. Many of our centaur brothers and sisters lost their lives that day. Both from our tribe and our neighbors.”
“Were you not meant to fight?”
He shook his head. “A battle was inevitable, but it was the time and place. We were instructed to wait for the enemy. A sign would show itself when the time to strike came. I, however, grew too eager believing victory our was guaranteed.”
Lisha strode closer, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head against his chest. “Enough, father. Your eyes tell of your pain, she said. “You told me that our mistakes fade on the wind and are remembered no more. That, in his grace, the Creator blows them away on the wind, so the burdens of the past can no longer haunt us.”
His embrace was firm and reassuring. “I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter,” he replied.
“I only speak what my heart tells me.”
He pulled away, wiping his eyes. “Get some sleep. We have much to do in the morning.”
Though his demeanor appeared lighter, Lisha could tell by the subtle shift of his tail that her father still carried some of his regrets. He was a centaur, a strong hunter and tracker.
Things however had begun making sense. Their tribesmen were always cordial and polite whenever she walked through the the tents or came to launder their garments in the river. But toward father, they were silent and pretended not to see him. It wasn’t out of respect.
At the ceremonies, it was Shoshen who led the dances and offerings. He wasn’t a Windrunner, but played the part. Deep down, Lisha had always felt soemthing was wrong, even as a young foal. Perhaps his knowledge of herbs was the reason he was so accepted?
Lisha turned her thoughts to the dream and the storm. She imagined the ‘beasts’ within its shadows. They were like nothing she had known. Their eyes especially. I should tell father about them. He might know what they are.
Something felt out of place, their tribesmen were taking notice. They weren’t looking away. Their stares were chiseled, stern and full of disdain.
Lisha drifted closer to her father. He held his head high, determination showing on his face. He didn’t look away from them whenever his gaze met with theirs. His bow was slung over his shoulder and from his belt hung his quiver.
Across his back lay a great boar. They were known to roam the plains. He had said the boar was a peace offering. That it was the only way an outcast could speak with the chief and elders. It was the only way he could speak with Shoshen.
‘Shoshen is clever, daughter,” he explained before the hunt. ‘He is full of envy and has coveted my position since we were foals. Now that he has it, he will not give it up.’
Seeing Shoshen’s eyes, and the envy writhing within them, Lisha understood. She touched her chest, a warmth filling it. Her hands shook, just seeing him. Why am I angry? A soft wind blew and the feeling of being immersed in water returned. No, I’m not the one who is angry…
As they approached so did their tribesmen. Lisha eyed the two bowmen and three glaive bearers. Behind them stood, Coyate, their chieftain.
“You come bearing an offering, Hotah,” he said. “State your business, then leave, and return to your tent.”
“I come with a warning. Lisha had a vision.”
Coyate cheeks flushed, his eyes narrowing showing his age lines. “You are forbidden to speak of visions!” he said. “Your words have cost us enough! It has taken ten years for us to recover a scrap of the respect our nieghbors once held for us. Our foals have grown and have families, but they remember losing their fathers and mothers!”
“I have paid for my arrogance and pride, Coyate, but do not punish my daughter! I have taught her the ways of a Windrunner. She knows how to listen and has heeded my warnings.”
“Lies!” Shoshen shouted. “You are still full of pride and arrogance, but now instead of braving us, you use your daughter as a carefully crafted tool to regain our favor. To regain a position you have long coveted to return to these past ten years!”
“The only one who covets, is the one who cannot even listen, Shoshen.”
Lisha felt the venom in her father’s words, but it was Shoshen who he had pierced with them. He curled his lip, his expression twisting with indignation. “I hear the wind as easily you, Hotah. Better even. Have we not prospered under my guidance? Under the visions that I have spoken?” he said. “Tell me, when was the last time we suffered from a shadow orc raid? Or wait, that was when you were still Windrunner, Hotah.”
“Even the clever, can read signs and use wise judgement to advise, Shoshen,” her father replied. “But clever can’t always save you.”
Lisha felt a chill overtake her. This is who Shoshen is. An envious fool.
“Then humor us, Lisha,” he said. “Tell our chieftain and people of your Vision.”
Her father nodded, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Lisha fumbled her fingers together, her heart racing as all eyes were on her. “I…I saw a great storm coming in the night. It covered Kerdash’s Plain, spreading throughout the ground and sky. Yellow lightning arced from it, acting like limbs pulling it across the ground. Wherever the lightning touched, fires burned, and animals died.”
“The storm seemed alive and aware of me. It came for me. When it close enough, I saw creatures lurking within it. They had eyes that burned like molten metal and one of them threw an axe at me. I thought I had died, but I awoke to see my father shaking me awake.”
Shoshen’s face became a mask, but she shifted his wieght ever so slightly. He was angry. Coyate appeared concerned. His gray eyebrows were drawn together as he eyed her.
“Return to your tents,” he said. “I will speak to the elders at the evening gathering. You will have my answer afterward.”
Lisha looked around. Worry registered on the faces of their tribesmen. Some of the younger foals were clinging to their mothers.
“Lisha,” Shoshen said. “Did anything else happen?”
His tone was curious, as if he were hiding something, or prying. “I was told to warn the tribe and to run.”
The mask returned, but something about him pricked her senses. He’s dangerous. Lisha wasn’t certain how she knew, but the feeling of water washing over her had returned.
“Come daughter, we have said our peace.”
Lisha turned from them, following behind him. She cast a glance over her shoulder at Shoshen. He gave a slight smile, the plodded toward the chieftain, whispering something into his ear.
Coyate frowned and turned away, the warriors with him following behind. I want to be wrong more than anything, but I know something is coming. I can feel it.
“Fools!” he shouted, bursting through the tent flap. “Bitter old fools!”
Lisha looked up, dropping the last of the rabbit she had hunted into the stewpot. “Father what happened.”
He looked exasperated and begun pacing in the tent. “They say you are too young to proeprly understand what you have seen! They say your vision may have been a dream influenced by my stories of shadow orcs!”
Shadow orcs? Was that what they were?
“I them I have never spoken of the orcs to you, though I should have. Still, they refused to listen. Shoshen seems to have preyed on their fears well!”
The feeling of being immersed returned, a sense of urgency following it. “What can we do?”
“I don’t know, Lisha,” he replied. “Some wounds don’t heal well for others. Sometimes they create fears and illusions.”
“Calm yourself and come eat. You’ll think better than way.”
His frustration broke and he nodded.
They ate in silence, her father’s expression showing he was deep in thought. Lisha found it hard to think about the stew. The sense of urgency had grown while they ate. Why can’t they listen? Why can’t Shoshen understand?
“Lisha,” her father said, setting his wooden bowl aside. “In the morning we will meditate and seek guidence on what to do. I will gather the herbs nessasary. I want you to prepare the tent.”
She nodded and he handed her the bowl. “I’m going to get some rest. It may take time to find everything we will need in the morning. Don’t stay up too late.” He turned away, plodding toward the tent door, then paused, looking back with a smile on his face. “Your mother would be proud, you know.”
“I know, I wish she were here, maybe then Coyate would listen.”
“Your grandfather is a good centaur, Lisha, don’t judge him too harshly.”
He exited the tent and Lisha found herself staring at the leftover stew and the coals keeping it warm. “Grandfather, you said it took us this long to gain some of the respect of our neighbors once had for us. Maybe I should go to them and tell them what I saw.”