Felix felt the invitation.
It was like the first scent of a storm on the wind. A note of music that stirs the soul to vibrating anticipation.
It crashed over him like a single wave from a mighty, endless ocean.
He’d been found worthy.
The Gale wanted him for itself.
As a boy growing up in the castle of Evenheim, he’d read all the books he could find on the unknown and – they said – unknowable wind daemon. The great and terrible presence that touched all of the Dusk, and bestowed its own power to command upon the ones it had found worthy.
The more he read about its awesome mystery and majesty, the more his heart and soul burned to know it, to touch it, and to be known by it.
But history was also filled with the rivers of blood spilled at the command of Nobles. Commands that the Gale decreed must be obeyed to completion. Commands the Gale itself empowered.
And so, he’d reached the conclusion he must. Death and suffering was the will of the Gale.
And if its will, then if he was to win its gaze, and – dare he even think it? – its approval, then he had to pursue that course with all his power.
And so he’d cut a bloody path through Iridesa – seeking out Magicians to command so that he might experience for the first time, how the Gale would embrace his words, enfolding them within its own will.
One powerful family who commanded respect of the guilds had offered him anything to leave them in peace. He’d demanded their daughter Celia in marriage, and a hundred pounds of gold a year. Their daughter would be surety to ensure they pay.
And if they refused, Felix had threatened, he’d use the remaining Magicians to rain down such destruction on their city that none would remain.
It had been Celia herself, who’d begged her city to take the offer, lest more die.
Strangely, she’d managed to even capture Felix’s heart for a time so that he forgot about his first love
But then the summons had come.
Now he had to cover his tracks forever. None must remember Felix the man. He would be Felix the myth. Felix, the Nobleman who’d become one with the Gale.
The last thing he’d demanded from one of the remaining Magicians in Iridesa was a potion – brewed from he knew not what. The man had promised – under Obligation to speak truthfully – that it would lock most memories away forever, in the one who drank it.
His son was in bed with a fever when he gave half the potion to Celia – telling her it was a tonic to help her relax as she cared for their son – and placed the other half in a medicine bottle for the boy.
Celia, too exhausted to ask questions, nodded and put the “tonic” aside for later. Then Felix stooped and offered her a kiss. “Will you be okay, here, my dear – with Conan? I need to head to the next town over and see about a horse.”
She nodded and kissed him.
Her kiss had no appeal for him anymore – not after the very Gale had called to him. He forced a smile, and took his leave, stopping to call over his shoulder. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
He took Asphodel – his best horse in the stables and set out, north toward the land bridge he’d cross to reach the Galelands. Once he passed the mapped places, he’d have to find his own way around the ocean. But the Gale was patient. It would wait.
Felix’s heart, on the other hand, grudged every second and every meter separating him from his destiny.
Days passed. The air grew warmer and the wind was always on his face, caressing him with the Gale’s touch.
Soon, he thought. Soon we will be together.
The Gale, too, was eager for him to come. It wanted him.
Eventually, one dark hour, he noticed the air never cooled, and only felt warmer after the sun reappeared. He struggled on, now drawn inexplicably onward. He’d used up the last of his water a day ago, but he barely felt that thirst.
All he knew was the hot wind blasting his face – a glorious contradiction – how it seemed to clutch now at his soul, drawing him in, even as it blew against him.
Asphodel fell some time the next day, and he left her there without a glance. His lips were cracked and bleeding. Every breath was an agony.
But now he could not have turned back if he put every ounce of his life and strength into that.
And why would he? The Gale itself was drawing him in. It wanted him.
Did he feel it? Or did he see it? The incredible mass of spinning blackness filling the sky before him.
The raw power of this daemon cast a thrill through his soul so that he found he was running – stumbling, falling, and running again.
Desperate to step into its embrace.
And then he was there.
It wrapped burning fingers around him, through him.
And he screamed with horror, pulling back.
This was no meeting of hearts and wills.
He screamed, not hearing his own voice. No! It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The voice laughed at him from his very soul. “What did you expect, human? You wanted to know death and pain, so know it, and join me.“
It laughed. And he shattered into a thousand shards.
It spread him out over the Dusk – knowing what it knew, feeling what it felt.
Millions of souls – daemons, humans, pyre flowers. He felt the Gale touch their minds, enforce its will on them.
He felt their pain. And he knew the gnawing despair of regret. But the Gale laughed at him. No – he was within the Gale, and he was the Gale.
“This is what you craved human. I granted it. Are you not content?”
He willed the shards of himself to disappear. To melt fully into the Gale.
To be gone.
To stop the pain.
For a time – he knew not how long – he watched without hope – as life moved forward across the Gale.
He hid from the parts of himself that he knew neared his city or his family.
He couldn’t bear to see them – the ones he’d tossed away like rubbish, for this.
And then the one whose life was linked to his own, screamed out. Somewhere, his son – Conan – was in deadly peril. Felix felt it. It recalled a small sense of himself – the man he’d been – back to his awareness.
Scattered through the Dusk, all of him felt it, and he begged the Gale to help.
It laughed. “This is of your making. Are you not content? I will not stop this.”
“No!” Felix screamed back at the Gale with every part of himself. “You must help Conan!”
It did not care.
And then, clarity came, and Felix’s soul smiled. “You have consumed me. But that also means I am a part of you. My will is a part of yours.”
“The depth of your arrogance, even now, astounds me, human.”
“No,” Felix whispered. “In your arrogance, you let me into your own soul and mind. I’ve seen your core, and I know your weakness. You desire the Shadow above all else, but it is the one thing you cannot have. That you cannot control, and you cannot consume. You long for it, you reach for it.” He laughed, and the Gale screamed. “It’s the closest thing to love that you know. I understand. Because we are alike, you and I.”
Now that he reached all his mind and will for Conan, Felix knew there was a flower who’d taken on Celia’s soul. He’d tried to possess her, as a weak substitute for love. And he’d lost her forever.
But not Conan.
He could still save Conan. Not for himself. Only because he was his son, and Felix loved him.
He felt the Gale try to pull away from him, to separate itself from him.
Felix laughed. “ You wanted this. Are you not content?”
It screamed at him. And he drew all of himself to fight for that one hope.
Undo the horror Felix had created with his life.
Atone for his crimes.
Every breath of the Gale screamed at him. It was agony, and then it yielded. Its will flowed into his own.
He reached out.
“Conan, what can I do?”
He searched the mind and heart of his son. What did Conan desire, beyond even his own life and safety?
End the geas. End this power one man has over another. End the Obligation.
He felt the Gale weakly protest, but Felix ignored it. Enough pain. Enough cruelty.
Felix felt that command flow across the Dusk, touching the minds and souls of Magicians in every place. Liegeoaths melted away. He felt the wonder and confusion filling the minds of Magicians.
But Felix’s soul paid them little heed, still focused on one young Nobleman.
He reached out, sending the words as clearly as he could to the boy’s mind and heart. “This is your father. I will never stop regretting the day I left you. I love you.”
Elsewhere, he rustled through the leaves of a special bunch of flowers in Norin. “My love. I did not deserve you.”
He’d burned to become one with the Gale.
Now he’d guard the Dusk with and from the Gale. Every second of every day until the stars went dark and this world ended, the Gale would fight him. And he would fight back.
This was his task. This was his penance.
This was how he atoned for his sins, and the sins of his fathers.