“When I was a child,” began Banarat, “there was no Order.”
“What storm sages, weather witches, wind wizards, and rain workers there were lived spread out across all the lands inhabited by people. A family, clan, or village would naturally produce a few sensitives who could intuitively tune in to the weather, sensing changes coming from far off, interpreting signs and omens, and to some degree directing and controlling meteorological conditions and outcomes.
“But we were scattered and isolated, one from another. We worked for our clan, family, or village. We worked for their interests, for our own, and for mutual survival. For the most part, we did not share our knowledge outside our families, and we did not pool our efforts together for the larger good.
“For most of us, outside a few savants, our magic was not complex. A few simple charms, songs, rhymes, and primitive rites. There was, I’ll admit, a certain amount of showmanship to it all, mixed with half-remembered bits of the old songs and the Whistled Language (which they say was taught to man by the birds), passed on through family lineages, with which we did our summoning.
“And so it had gone for countless generations before, at least since the People of the Four Ships left us, but my father always said our tradition stretched back well before that. Back to the dawn of time. It’s certain much of the lore passed down through family lines went back to the Four Ships people — the ones you call Quatrians. Their music was said to unite the people to the landscape, the beasts and birds, seas and trees, the winds, and the rains.
“On the eve of my quaranteenth birthday, when I was to become a man, my father who was also a weather worker, and from whom I had learned what lore I knew, was killed in a freak thunderstorm. We had been working together in the field that afternoon, when from afar off, we saw a darkening sky gathering. He instructed me to put the animals away up into the barn, and I obeyed dutifully.
“Meanwhile, he went up to the high place, atop a craggy hill which looked out over most of the homesteads in the area. Our grains were not yet ripe, but this late in the season, we knew all too well how easily devastated the harvest could be by the likes of the type of hard rain which would surely follow these dark heavy clouds which hung like anvils in the sky.
“It was a rite he had performed countless times before: a storm splitting. He’d taught me these simple techniques when I was young, and we’d worked together on many occasions there on that same hill to diverge oncoming tempests so that they would flow around our region without harming us. It was neither a new, nor a particularly dangerous operation.
“Having put up the animals, I turned from the barn to join him, and as I strode out of the yard toward the on-coming wind, the hill was illuminated by a great flash, against which my father was silhouetted, his arms raised up against the coming storm in a gesture of warding. I saw the bolt that killed him outlined perfectly, burned into my eyes’ memory for all my days after. I ran to him crying, until I came to the place, taking up his smoking body. With his dying breath, he said, “My beloved son, I pass my legacy on to you. Take up my work, and take care of the family.”
“These words hardened my resolve, in the now torrential rain which was falling. I laid his body gently back down onto a pillow of rock. From his belt, I took the short thunder-stone dagger, and whirled around to face the wind. I jutted and jabbed the dagger up into the air, again, and again, to cut the wind. To kill it in revenge for my father’s death. I shouted out obscenities in my rage and grief, and words in a language I knew not, but which spontaneously burst forth from my mouth. Lightning flashed around me, and I was certain I would die there too, beside my father. And this thought comforted me.
“Until suddenly, the storm broke. The hard driving rain turned to a light drizzle, and the thunderheads began to part and went on their way, like frightened sheep. I crumpled beside my father, and feel into a deep unconsciousness, not awakening until later that evening.
“When I woke, I lay in a pallet of straw, carefully wrapped in a blanket. I was no longer shivering, but my body was weak from it still. My brother had gone out to search when neither I nor my father had come home after the storm had abated. Trampling across the ruined grain fields, he had found me crumpled on the hill over our father’s body.
“That night, I was in and out of a feverish sleep, in which I was immediately back in the storm on the hilltop. But amidst the cracking of thunder and flashes of lightning, I heard and saw luminous beings, who seemed to dance and swirl between the rain drops, bolts, and gusts of wind. They spoke to me in song. They calmed my rage and terror, and assuaged my grief. As if from outside myself, I saw them usher the soul of my father, radiant, upwards into the halls of the sky lords.
“In my dream, then, the storm calmed and the luminous beings returned, to flit and float about in the air. One among them took the form of a white bird, descended to the lower airs, and alighting to the ground, transformed into a woman of remarkable beauty, dressed all in white, who stood before me on the hill.
“Without speaking, she conveyed words directly through the window of my heart. I heard as though spoken in the language of not just my people, but my family. ‘Fear not,’ she said. ‘He goes to the place prepared for him. As you must now too.’
“I told her I didn’t understand. That my place was there with my family, even more-so now that my father was gone. She stilled my heart, and said, ‘To protect what is close, we may be called to journey far. The hour is nigh. The call has gone out. You must join the convocation.’
“Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw an isle far off in the sea, and on it a great fertile plain, and the tallest mountain I’d ever seen, its crown lost in clouds. From all directions, I could see — as from a great height — tiny ships scurrying to reach this place. I knew that if I could see this place and this gathering with such clarity, than my future was fore-ordained, and for the rest of the night, I slept soundly.
“In the morning, I related my vision before the council of my mother and brother, who were both much grieved by what I told them, and by the sudden death of my father. ‘I cannot lose you both, all in one stroke,’ my mother cried out, stricken. But in time, and under the gentle caress and reassurance of my brother, she eventually changed her mind on the matter. For even my father, in all his years as a well-respected weather worker had never been visited by the luminous sky people, had never spoken with them, and had never received a charge such as this. She relented, agreeing at long last, ‘When the gods speak, we must listen.’
“And so it was decided, that to protect what was close, I would venture afar to seek my vision. If I found nothing in a year and a day, I would return and take my place beside my brother to work the land of our ancestors. This I had full resolve to do. I set out with a pack, some provisions, a cloak, strong boots, the clothes on my back, and the thunder-stone dagger of my father in a sheath on my belt. And I never saw my mother or my brother again. For this, I am much aggrieved.
“Now pray you, dear king, to re-fill this goblet so that, refreshed, I may to you relate the rest.”