When the wind speaks, you listen.
So it was, when, one inauspicious morning, a gust of wind whistled through an open window, tousling the hair of the sleeping figure within. The young man woke to a quiet whisper calling to the beach, to the beach as he slept alone. He rose quickly and dressed, following the command without hesitation.
One does not question the wind.
It was still cool as the sun rose, the grass beneath his bare-feet damp with dew. He padded silently along the path that led from his modest hut to the shore’s black sands. Wandering along, the young man was not sure what he sought—until there it lie—on the edge of the tide. A creature unlike any he had ever seen.
Drawing closer, the young man saw it a human’s shape, but its color…
Here—in the One World—lived men of all shapes and all shades. From those dark as rocks born in the belly of dying volcanos, to those the burnt red of the bark on God’s proudest trees, to those tone of a ripe, juicy peach, but never, the young man thought as he approached the—sleeping? dead?—figure, had he seen a man so pale. In the growing sunlight he appeared almost translucent. What little of the stranger’s skin that was visible outside his bulky, foreign dress seemed pale, unhealthy, like the ash that gathered in the pit of an untended fire. What little hair remained to him ringed his white, dome-like skull—like a shock of old yarn, fraying and molted. The stranger began to stir, eyelids fluttering as he blinked to wakefulness. He started at seeing the young man hovering over him, so the One Worlder crouched close and asked his pressing question:
“Are you… human?”
The strange, ashen-faced man furrowed his brow, before unleashing a bile of strange speech onto the young man’s ears. It was a harsh language, unpleasant to the ear and soul, but the young man forced himself to concentrate, to breath in the words. He mumbled a silent prayer for comprehension, and slowly, surely, he began to understand.
“-dashed upon the bloody rocks over there, I suppose the survivors will be along to deal with you savages. We didn’t expect anyone to be here in our new home. And you can’t even speak civilized tongue? It will be short work deali-”
The young man sighed, and interrupted the man in his own tongue with the same question.
“Are you human?”
At that, the pale-face grew even paler, if possible. “You… you understand? You speak our Queen’s tongue? How is that possible?”
The young man replied with the saying his teacher repeated often as he learned the tricks of the wind. “Words are nothing but air, breathe deeply and they will be revealed to you.”
Regaining composure, the stranger who still lay on the shore brushed the dark sand from his cumbersome coat. “Well, whatever that means, perhaps you may serve some use yet.” He lifted a hand to the young man without meeting his eyes. “Be a good boy and help me up?”
The young man stared at the hand unmoving, until the stranger rolled his eyes, apparently remembering the unanswered question. “Tch, of course I’m human. I’m more Man that your godless kind is like to be. Help me up!”
Muttering another silent prayer, words representing a call to truth that only the wind would know, the young man took the stranger’s hand and as they touched, the answer to his benediction came—a swift and painful premonition. An army of ships coming to the One World’s shores, on each ship a legion of ashy warriors bearing strange weapons and crying their guttural words of death. Their words promised an end to the One World’s way of life, a silencing of the wind. A whispered warning… all they bring are lies; their only truth is death.
The young man moved, again without hesitating, with the same hand he used to help the stranger up, he pulled him forward, unsteadying him.
“What are you do-” He interrupted the pale stranger with the dagger drawn with his other hand from the leather sheath at his hip, a quick swipe across the throat. From the red line gushed the dark crimson lifewater that filled every man.
“So, you are human,” He spoke the unclean pale-man’s language, though its words felt like pebbles choking his throat. Every human-being, despite their provenance, deserved to understand the words following them into death. “The wind says you are human, but that our death comes with you.”
The young man crouched again, as the stranger lay now on his back, eyes clouding, mouth wordlessly gaping—a fish flopping its last minutes upon a land it will never understand.
“It is as my teacher always said: ‘Death can beget only death’. My apologies for the violence, but it was a preventative measure.”
The stranger was gone, empty eyes staring up at the rising sun. His soul returned to whatever strange home had birthed him across the vast sea. Paying his final respect, the young man closed the stranger’s eyes for a last time. Whatever else he might have been; whatever threat he promised, there was no denying his humanity. As he did so, a gust of wind tumbled along the beach, bringing with it another vision. A shipwreck a little further along the beach, just around the head of a not-too-distant spit. The surviving ashy-ones dragged themselves from the maw of the sunken boat, dragging with them several chests. The wind showed him the contents of a few of that chests, strange weapons that looked like tubes with a small appendage at their base.
Death… this is the death. The wind whispered, and showed the young man the future that might be. The pale men drying these weapons with fire and the heat of the sun, then using those same weapons to raid his village and others like it, spitting that same fire into the face of men, women and innocent children. Burning the corpses of the young man and everyone he loved along the shore before carrying their death inward into the One World.
They must be stopped. Only you can stop them.
The young man, returned to the present from the unpleasant future, blinked the tears from his eyes. Gripping the hilt of his blade so tightly his palm turned the same pale sheen as the dead man at his feet, he began to jog down the beach. Faster and faster he ran until it was a full-blown sprint. As he ran, he offered a breathless plea to the wind.
“Call my mate,” He begged, “Warn my brothers and sisters. Bring them to my aid. Let them know what awaits should I fall. Let them know what has happened here. For… for…” His lungs had no space to finish his prayer as he rounded the beach’s sandy head, and saw the wood skeleton loom ominously in the distance.
For when the wind speaks…