Ventus – Day 48 of 135

Despite his private miseries and loneliness, Jordan had not forgotten for a moment that Armiger’s was not the only voice he could hear. On the evening when the Heaven hooks descended, Jordan had learned he could hear the voices of the Winds too. Until this morning he had deliberately tuned them out, because he’d been afraid that at any moment the Heaven hooks would rear out of the empty sky and grab him up.

He had bundled Calandria May’s golden gauze into a kind of poncho, then awkwardly buttoned his jacket over that. The gold stuff stuck out behind him like a bird’s tail, and up around his neck like a dandy’s ruff. But he was pretty sure it was still doing its duty. The Winds did not know where he was.

As the Heaven hooks descended on the Boros estate, Jordan had learned that he could hear the little voices of inanimate and animate things. Each object within his sight had a voice, he now knew. Each thing proclaimed its identity, over and over, the way a bird calls its name all day for no reason but the joy in its own voice. Now that he knew they were there, Jordan could attune himself to the sound of that endless murmur. Last night and this morning, he had worked at tuning into and out of that listening stance as he walked.

If he closed his eyes, he could see a ghostly landscape, mostly made up of words hovering over indistinct objects. He could make little sense of that, so he left that avenue alone.

It seemed that he could focus his inner hearing on individual objects, if he concentrated hard enough.

He held up the knife he had been whittling with, and concentrated on it. After a few minutes he began to hear its voice. “Steel,” it said. “A steel blade. Carbon steel, a knife.

At the Boros estate, Jordan had spoken to a little soul like this, and it had answered. I am stone, a doorway arch had said to him. This ability to speak to things didn’t surprise him as much as it might have, considering everything that had happened. According to the priest Allegri, some people had visions of the Winds, and the Winds didn’t punish them for this. Allegri had told Jordan that he might be one of those with such a talent. He had been wrong at the time; what Jordan had been experiencing then was visions of Armiger–and those, the Winds surely disliked.

But this? This communion with a simple object seemed to have nothing to do with Armiger. Maybe it had been enabled by whatever Calandria May had done to Jordan’s head. But was it forbidden by the Winds?

Well, he had Calandria’s protective gauze. Jordan was confident he could hear the approach of the greater Winds in time to don it and escape.

It came down, then, to a matter of courage.

“What are you?” he asked the knife.

I am knife,” said the knife.

Even though he was expecting it, Jordan was so startled he dropped the thing.

He picked it up, and began nervously walking. “Knife, what are you made of?”

The voice in his head was clear, neutral, neither male nor female: “I am a combination of iron and carbon. The carbon is a hardening agent.

He nodded, wondering what else to ask it. The obvious question was, “How is that you can speak?”

I am broadcasting a combined fractal signal on visible frequencies of radiation.

The answer had made no sense. “Why can’t other people hear you?”

They are not equipped to receive.

That was kind of a restatement of the question, he thought. How will I get anywhere if I don’t know what to ask?

He thought for a moment, shrugged, and said, “Who made you?”

“Ho, traveller! Well met on the road to Iapysia!”

For just a split second he thought the knife had said that. Then Jordan looked behind him. A large covered wagon drawn by two horses was coming up the road. Two people sat at the front. The driver was waving to him.

Suddenly very self-conscious, he slipped the knife into his belt. He knew the gold gauze was sticking out at his collar and waist, but there was no time to do anything about that.

“Uh, hello.” The man’s accent had been foreign. He was middle aged, almost elderly, with a fringe of white hair around his sunburnt skull. He was dressed in new-looking townsman’s clothes.

The other passenger was a woman. She looked to be about Jordan’s age. She was dressed in frills and wore a sun hat, but her face under it was tanned, the one whisp of stray hair sunbleached. She held a embroidery ring in strong, calloused hands. She was scowling at Jordan.

“Where are you bound, son?” asked the man.

Jordan gestured. “South. Iapysia.”

“Ah. So are we. Returning home?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“But your accent is Memnonian,” said the old man.

“Um, uh. We have houses in both countries,” he said, mindful of the Boros example. He was itching to listen in to the voices again; he had to know if his dialogue with the knife had alerted the Winds. At the Boros manor, the whole landscape had come alert, almost overwhelming his senses. That wasn’t happening now. But he couldn’t be sure without checking.

“My name’s Milo Suneil,” said the man. “And this is–”

“Excuse me,” gritted the young woman. She stood abruptly and climbed into the covered back of the wagon.

“…My niece, Tamsin,” finished Suneil. “Who is not herself today. And you are?”

“Jordan Mason.” He affected the half-bow that the highborn Boros had used on one another. It was harder to perform while walking, though.

“Pleased to meet you.” There was a momentary silence. The cart was moving at just the pace Jordan was walking, so he remained abreast of Suneil. From the back of the wagon came the sound of things being tossed about.

“Calm weather, for autumn,” said Suneil. Jordan agreed that it was. “Clouds moving in, though. Not good–clouds could hide things in the sky, don’t you think?”

“What do you mean?”

“News travels slowly, I see!” Suneil laughed. “You’re dressed like a highborn lad, surely you’ve heard the news about the destruction of the Boros household!”

“Ah, that. Yes. I did hear about it,” he said uncomfortably.

“I’m itching to find out what really happened,” said Suneil. “We’ve had ten versions of the story from ten different people. When I saw you walking by the road, coming from the direction of the estate, I thought, could it be? A refugee from our little disaster?”

Jordan, unsure of himself in this situation, merely shrugged.

Suneil was silent for a while, staring ahead. “The fact is,” he said at last, “that my curiosity has gotten the best of me. If we were to run into someone who actually knew what had happened at the estate–or Winds forbid, someone who was actually there!–then I might be inclined to give that person a ride with us, provided they told their story.”

“I see,” said Jordan neutrally.

“My niece has sprained her leg,” added Suneil. “And I’m not as young as I used to be. We’ll need someone to gather firewood, the next day or so.”

Jordan was very surprised. People didn’t trust strangers on the open road. Then again, one never travelled alone, either.

Do I look that harmless? he wondered.

“It’s all right,” said Suneil reasonably. “I’m not a Heaven hook, nor am I in league with them. I just deduced that you were at the Boros place, because you’re walking from that direction, and you’re dressed well, except for the mud stains and wild hair. Actually, you look like you fled somewhere in a hurry. We’ve passed a couple of people who looked like that–only none would talk to us.”

Jordan eyed the cart greedily. He was very tired. A few days ride in return for some carefully edited storytelling couldn’t hurt anything. In fact, it might be the only way he’d get to Iapysia.

“All right,” he said. “I’m your man.”

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