Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 241

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The Wind Is Itself

Juleidah stood at her full height and the pile of skins that covered her swayed, a column of tanned and worn leather, its frayed edges flapping gently in the fierce winds. No one saw her. “Cover yourselves!” she told them when it became clear the power that she would have to summon, and they listened, even the great gray wolf. The company huddled together as small as they could be while desert winds from far-flung places gathered around them. She cradled four tokens in her arms while Alexander crouched before her, wavering some ten feet in the air, his feet braced against nothing, one hand pressed down against the nothing, the other hand clutching to his chest the spiky red flower that Haraka had once carried, the token stolen by Hyena.

No wind disturbed Alexander’s face or hair, but it was so thick at his feet that Ivan, had he been able to watch, would have sworn that he saw earth, or water, or something solid. “I am ready,” Alexander shouted.

She did not respond with words, but she heard what he said. Her feet shuffled wider and she squared her shoulders and the dry winds shrieked violent joy. And Alexander rose higher into the air. He kept himself low so as not to fall. The air beneath him whipped and spun and pushed him left and right and back again, but always, always up, always higher.

“I have never done this before, but I see no reason why it should not work,” Juleidah had said. She removed herself to experiment with a heavy stone and returned to report her success. “But to keep the wind from your face so that you may work, I will have to direct it elsewhere. The rest of you should leave.” When the company refused to abandon her and Alexander, with Ivan pointing out that she would at least need Kou Ke and that Yi Min would not leave her husband’s side again in any case, Juleidah allowed that they could stay. “But you must protect yourselves. Cover your eyes, your ears, your mouths. The wind is not malicious, but it seeks any and all places to go. It is curious by nature, and the winds that I am calling do not know their own strength.”

The memory of her words played out before her as her companions shielded themselves while she directed Alexander above and beyond the reach of the giant, who flung himself from side to side, crushing trees and rocks. The wind bent the air before her face and suddenly the distant face of the giant seemed closer to her eyes, an idea the great gray wolf had suggested she try.

It seemed to Juleidah that she was as tall as the giant, equal in stature, and in a way she was. The winds bent a vision of the giant before her, while her winds created a larger version of herself that stood tall, enormous, and quick in a way that no living creature could ever be. Alexander was a speck, a tiny figure floating above, beyond the reach of the blind giant’s arms.

“It does not have to be for long,” she said when she told the wind to bind the giant’s hands, but as little time as she desired for Alexander, the wind was not able to stop the giant from moving. But the wind had another idea.

“Then do that,” said Juleidah. “Be yourself.”

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