Ventus – Day 41 of 135


“Goodbye, August,” said Jordan. They shook hands. August looked grim.

“I think I’ll see you again, Jordan,” he said. “You’re a mad fool, and such people have a way of surviving.”

Jordan laughed. His heart was hammering. “I hope you’re right!” He turned and stepped out the servant’s door.

The grounds of the estate were lit by fires and the savage beams of lantern light cast by the Hooks. Jordan ran with Calandria’s magic gauze wrapped about himself, and though he passed close to several of the vast armatures, none moved in his direction. They continued pounding at the ruins of the manor. He could see very few people. Only here and there survivors huddled under the shelter of trees, or in archways. They watched the approach of the metal arms of the Hooks with increasing apathy.

Jordan tripped through deep gouges, and ran around uprooted trees and fallen blocks until he reached the middle of the field, where he had first stopped to look up at the Hooks. There was rubble all the way out here, a hundred meters from the house.

He didn’t give himself time to think, just threw aside the gauze and screamed at the sky, “Here I am, you bastards!”

For a moment nothing happened. Then he saw the great arms that had buried themselves in the manor were lifting up and out. And above him, a pinpoint of light began to grow into a beacon, as something new fell towards him.

“Oh, shit,” he whispered. He had been hoping he was wrong, that the Hooks were here to avenge someone else’s transgression.

A wind blew up suddenly, carrying with it a strong smell like air after a thunderstorm. Dust and smoke swirled up, and began to wrap around the base of the vagabond moon.

Certain he had their attention, Jordan wrapped himself in the gauze again, and ran for the trees.

A big metal crane slammed into the spot where he had been standing. The impact threw Jordan off his feet, but he was up and running again in a second. He heard the thing thrashing and digging behind him, but though his shoulders itched with expectation, nothing grabbed him. He made it to the edge of the forest, and paused to look back.

Several arms now hunted over the grass. None were coming after him. Better yet, those limbs that had been demolishing the manor were gone, lifted back up into the belly of the moon. The thunderstorm smell was stronger, though, and fierce, conflicing gusts of wind blew across the treetops. The moon seemed to be hanging lower and lower in the sky.

Jordan had run for the screen of trees that separated the road from the grounds. He stood at the entrance to a pathway that he knew led to the stone trough at the side of the road.

He unwound the gauze. “Hey!” he shouted, waving his arms over his head. “Over here!”

The questing arms rose into the air, and silently swung in his direction.

He covered up and stepped into the shelter of the trees.


“It’s moving away,” Axel observed. He and Calandria stood with some others watching the departure of the arms that had harried the manor. In the sudden silence he could hear the shouts and screams of trapped and injured people. Blocks of stone still fell from the sky at intervals, so everyone’s attention was directed upwards; few people were moving to help the injured.

It did seem like the aerostat was moving away, and the strong winds were probably the reason. Along with the smoke Axel smelled ozone. Electrostatic propulsion? Probably.

“Think the Voice scared it?”

Calandria shook her head. “I doubt it. Anyway, we’ve seen no sign, except that one faint flash. Maybe it decapitated the aerostat, though; we might not know until it hit the ground. As soon as it’s far enough away I’ll call the Voice and check.”

Axel nodded. He returned his attention to ground level. A shame. A real shame. “Our first priority is to help these people,” he said. “There’s still some trapped in the rubble.”

“I’ll dig,” she said. “You’d better sit down.”

He looked down at himself. He was covered in blood, with open cuts up and down his torso. He hurt all over, too.

“Yes,” he said as he lowered himself onto a stone. “I think I’d better.”


Jordan made it to the highway. He was out of breath and covered in sweat, but the Hooks hadn’t caught him yet. From here on the countryside was open, which could pose a problem; but he remembered the golden monster in the manse reaching around him to pick up shattered wood after he had merely raised the gauze in front of it. It had not seen him even though he was right in front of it. By now he was fairly sure the Hooks would not spot him even in open country, as long as he had this protection.

He would make for the forest. It was a day or two’s travel away, but he wouldn’t feel he could rest until he was under the trees, gauze or no gauze. And then, if he survived, he would try to find his way home.

Or would he? He had started walking, and paused now. He might lose the Heaven hooks for a while, but something else would come after him in time. The Winds were everywhere. He had only delayed the inevitable–unless he were to wear this accursed cloth for the rest of his life, and shun any community that the Hooks might dismantle to reach him.

Jordan realized that if he survived, it was going to be as an outcast, unless he was willing to risk everyone around him. Was that how he was going to end his days? Hiding from god and man alike in the forest?

He lowered his head, and wept as he ran.


A few minutes later there was a brilliant flash of light in the sky, like sheet lightning but as bright as the sun. A few seconds later, a violent bang and grumble of thunder sounded.

The vagabond moon had lit up like a lantern in the flash. In the aftermath of the thunder, Calandria and Axel stood from their digging to watch as the moon dipped lower, until its base disappeared behind the trees. Then it seemed to crumple like the finest tissue, even as it continued to move east. Over the next few minutes it spent itself across the fields, in a trail of girders and torn skin many miles long. There were no fires, no explosions, and only faint distant rumblings as it fell.

It came down closer to Jordan, and he saw the bottom ring with its mouth full of hooks touch the earth and shatter, spilling stone blocks, trees and human figures. Many of those figures lived, and struggled free of the wreckage; the moon had not fallen straight down, but glided slowly into the earth at an angle. Most of those alive when it hit were still alive afterward.

Jordan saw this, but he could not stop, because he could not be sure some new horror would not follow. He continued walking, nursing a stitch in his side. If he could not go home because of the voices in his head; and if Calandria May was wrong about Armiger, as he had begun to suspect; and if even she could not prevent the Heaven hooks from coming after him; then he would have to find help elsewhere.

He was no longer walking east. His goal now lay to the southwest.

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