Late summer, Year 763 OTNA
Windborne, Windwhisper Beach
The beach stretched as far left and right as far as anyone standing ten hands tall could see. The sand was as pure in tone as crushed pearls, and the water glistened like sapphires in the sunlight. The air was mild, with a sweetly restoring breeze rolling inland with the high tide. This far south in Windborne, the landscape participated in the glorious low air pressure along the equator. As a result, the wind was merely composed of gentle doldrums.
The sea was calm in the distance, and the surf did not beat the surface of the earth as they approached, but softly rocked in and out. The glassy waves gleamed in the heat of the day. Their light was reflected in the eyes of an onlooker. The beast’s four, dusky hooves were planted in the soft sand. The world behind him plagued his mind, as he hesitated on the shores of circumstance. His charisma, and thirst for knowledge and experience, had lead him here, as they had several years prior.
While Sparrow’s last trip had only brought him as far as the northern edge of Oakfern, he had learned to take caution on the road. His lifelong exploration around the extensive Windborne territory had helped prepare him as well. Yet, as he stood staring at the open ocean, his gaze venturing out to the strip of green that proved to be the counterpart of the east side of the Western Isles, the stag couldn’t suppress the hesitation that arose within him. First of all, he’d be leaving the oncoming rut behind him. The very thought of trying to woo the freakish, conniving spirit of an Oakfern doe made him shudder. There was no way! Not this year. He would also be delaying a new and powerful title—”stormbringer”. ‘Pteh, I’m certainly no religious leader . . . but it would suit me to hold a proper rank, and I know well I’m no soldier.’ Even so, with what he might learn from this journey, should he survive it, perhaps he would find himself with an even more impressive label.
He had been planning this trip for over a year now, so his intentions did carry weight. This was no spontaneous outing. Sparrow had even mapped it out in his head, and had decided to use the wonders of wind magic to help guide him directionally, and when there was no natural gale, he would use the stars. He would start by journeying west until he reached Shale Creek, then follow that south to the coast before he crossed. If he took a slight south by west angle from there, he would be able to bypass Gajun Swamp—a rather unfortunate location he had stumbled upon unaware last time. He would scavenge Highperch for goods, before following the coast into the Warren Mountains, which would spit him out in Blackwood territory. From there, his journey was far more unclear, since he was unfamiliar with the region, but Sparrow knew that he would want to march north, toward Glenmore.
What would he gain from this journey, should he choose to take the chance? He would be learning about the characteristics of wind in so many different environments! His studies would allow him to wield his magic in ways entirely unheard of within Windborne, he was sure of it! He would get the chance to be introduced to new cultures, and gain access to valuable trading merchandise. Was that not reason enough?
The danger, the excitement, the adventure—it was all at his fingertips; offered to him on a pale, sandy platter at low tide. Sparrow knew all this, and still . . . he held his breath. The winters would be frigid; the nights would be dark and starless; the days would be long and tiring. He would be lonely. Every turn held an unbearable amount of trouble. Was it really worth it?
As Sparrow teeter-tottered with his thoughts, the brute grew irritated. ‘Damn it all! I came here for a reason! How cowardly of me would it be to turn back now? Racdrops, when will the tide go out?’
A cool breeze combed of few of the fussy wisps of hair out of the stag’s face. Sparrow groaned as he stirred from his sleep. The stiff beachgrass that sheltered him whispered to the evening breeze, and bent to its touch like a lover. The moon and stars shimmered down from the heavens, dowsing the coastline in a pale effulgence. There wasn’t a sniff of rain on the wind. The night was perfect.
The lanky creature clambered to his feet, blinked the grogginess from his eyes, and yawned. The pale grullo then slunk down to the shore, and gazed across the vast expanse of open sand. The tide was out. It was time to move. With a last glance back at the life he may or may not be returning to, Sparrow began his trek across the strait.