Another day, another morning. A chorus of songbirds’ chatter roused him from his slumber. He slid his feet from under the covers, touching down on the rough, cool wooden floors. He shuffled forward, moving his feet out when they got caught on the woolen rug. As he neared the wall, he reached his hand out, running his fingers on the grooved wood until he reached the door. A few careful steps out the door and his feet crunched smoothed out gravel.
He stretched, a cool breeze passing through the hair on his thinning scalp and dancing around the loose edges of his clothes. It brought a chill with it, a blessing in this warming season. The wind picked up, carrying with it grains of dirt and sand from the nearby beach. This one hadn’t traveled far before it reached him. With a wave of his hands, he synced with the flow of the wind’s path and pointed up. It twisted upwards and away, billowing past him before receding to its original force.
The pitter patter of soles on gravel approached him as he continued to enjoy the playful breeze. His daughter huffed, and he could feel in the incoming lecture.
“Dad! How many times have I told you!”
“I know, I know,” he interrupted, waving in the direction of her voice. In mimicking tones, he said, “I can’t do that without your supervision.”
“Humph, if you knew, then why did you do it?” Valencia accused.
He flourished his arms, inciting the calm wind to rush past them both in a maddening flurry. “What kind of sorcerer would I be if I didn’t use this gift?”
“Dad!” his daughter shrieked instead. Her voice became muffled through the wind roaring in his ears. “You’re getting sand in the food!”
“Oh, oops.” He dropped his arms. The wind stopped.
“Hah, what am I supposed to do with you?” she grumbled.
He stood there, enduring the barrage of complaints.
“You can’t take care of yourself, yet you wanted to live by yourself! You couldn’t do anything back then, and you definitely can’t do anything by yourself now. You sucked at cooking, couldn’t do simple chores, your handwriting sucked! Dad, why can’t you just sit still?”
“Now, now, dear, surely I have some good points,” he said meekly.
“Sure, just two,” his daughter declared flatly.
“Just. Two. Your name and your magic. But even that’s nothing anymore since you’re re-tir-ed. Got it? Re-tir-ed!”
“Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I have to stop using magic,” he argued, crossing his arms.
“It does if it means you’re making a mess!” she screeched. “Now shoo. Go do what retired men do.”
“And what would that be?”
“How would I know? Do I look like a retired old man?”
“Oh... right. Um, yeah, just... If I catch you using magic without me again, you’re not eating!”
“Am I your son or are you my daughter?”
“Shoo! Stop bothering me!”
Valencia pushed him away before continuing to tend to whatever she was tending to. He waited for her footsteps to quiet. They were replaced with the sound of sizzling meat, and the fragrant scent of grilling fish.
He traveled down the gravel path, a path his daughter had created for him so he’d never get lost, that led from their little cabin down to the beach that encompassed this island. The sensation of smooth pebbles intermixed with coarse sand, gradually turning from gravel to sand. He reached the beach and the early sun rose to meet him, bearing its warmth on him. He shuffled around, sand sticking to him by the grain, as he searched for a rock or washed up log to sit upon and enjoy the weather.
The waves eased onto the shore, receding and returning in pulses. The beat of the sun warmed his head. Overhead the seagulls squawked as they flew out to fish for breakfast. It was calming here, a very different feeling from the rush of wind he used to experience on a daily basis. Until he retired down here, he had never heard the sound of water crashing onto sand before ebbing away in gentle strides, never smelt the overbearing salt, that signified the ocean, which lingered in the air and their hair and their clothes and their very beings. Never felt these warm ocean breezes that picked up everything and anything.
These breezes were young, inexperienced in the ways of the world. One day they would flow upward, rapidly rising to the glorious skies where they would meet their older peers. Only then would these small breezes be considered strong winds that could push even countries.
The sorcerer hummed at the thought. Oh, how he longed to accompany these winds on their journey. Alas, his daughter was rather adamant. She wasn’t one to kid about not letting him eat if she caught him “enjoying” the wind again. For now, he’ll just play along, until he finally had the chance to make these winds ascend.
“Dad! Food is ready!”
He was sitting by the seashore again. Valencia was elsewhere on the island searching for fruit for their dinner.
The afternoon waves differed from their morning cousins. The birds’ songs were a different arrangement as well, their melodious cries much clearer now and louder than earlier. Their cacophonous orchestra resounded through the trees, keeping him company no matter where he wandered on his gravel path. Out here, he could even faintly pick up the sounds of dolphin laughter where they played out in the open ocean. The splashing of a small stream cascading onto rocks and easing out into the ocean or the shrieking sound of someone screaming, their cries almost whistling as they hurtled themselves downward was also pleasant. Wait a second.
A large wave barreled into him, washing him off his log. It dragged him with it, pulling at his clothes. He bounced within its embrace, scraping along the sand sometimes or floating at others. He flailed wildly, trying to grip onto anything. The current tugged him deeper until all he felt around him was the cold ocean. All was silent. There was nothing down here. His lungs felt on fire. And then his hand broke through the waves and grabbed air.
He seized the chance, grasping for the closest winds before he went under again. They flew around his wrist, taking hold of him as he slipped back into the depths. A wall of warm winds circled his hand, then his arm, and eventually his elbow and arm. His shoulder and finally his head felt the air warmed by the sun.
The sorcerer took deep breaths, coughing up mouthfuls of salty water. With the wind circling his head, he swam the rest of the way to the surface. His other arm broke the barrier separating underwater and air. His collarbone followed, and he took deeper gulps of air. The sun warmed his cold self as he floated there, bouncing up and down with the treacherous waves.
Now, time to get back before his daughter did. Sending the winds ahead to scout, he followed the ones that brought back the sounds of life: the cries of panicked and wet birds, the sizzling of his home’s hearth, and the footfalls of his daughter as she hurried to see what the explosion of water had been. He splashed a bit, propelling himself forward with the winds swooping in behind him.
His hand hit sand, followed by a knee. The sorcerer stood and continued forward until he tripped on a sandbank. He fell back into the water with a splash. He spluttered wet sand and more salty water out as he crawled onto drier sand where he sprawled himself out.
There was coughing and choking and heaving, just as he had been doing moments earlier. The sorcerer sat up, staring in the direction of the suffering.
“Kak, ugh. Huh? Where is this?” the new arrival asked. “Is this... an island? Why isn’t it floating?”
Evidently this new person wasn’t paying attention. His voice sounded young, so it was no wonder, young and masculine and filled with wonder. The young man’s muttering came closer, and finally he heard an exclaim of shock.
“Dear heavens! Who? Who are you? Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Kuk. Um, then, do you perhaps know where we are, good sir?”
“We’re on the island of Vertruvia, I believe.”
“Vertruvia? Isn’t that?”
The sorcerer nodded, a small smile forming at the young man’s disbelief. “Yes, this is a broken island. According to my daughter, its wind collecting mechanisms are too damaged to take off again.”
“Ugh, how am I supposed to leave now?” the young man complained. Sand was kicked up into the air followed by something collapsing.
“We’ll think of a solution, son. Come, I believe that’s my daughter calling.”
And as he expected, Valencia’s voice hollered from the direction of their humble abode. “Dad?! Dad! Where are you?”
He stood, dusting himself off of sand. “Let’s hope she’s gotten some dinner ready. I’m hungry.”
“And who, is this?” Valencia interrogated once they sat themselves down around the dinner table.
“I am Rudolphis, a recruiter from Elton.”
“Elton? That’s nostalgic,” the old sorcerer chuckled, leaning back in his chair. “How’s the old king doing? The recent going ons in the kingdom?”
“Eh? Um, King Elliot the Fourth retired and his son, King Kain has been on the throne for five years now. It’s been relatively peaceful under his reign, although there’s a slight problem now.”
“Ah, it’s been that long, huh,” the sorcerer sighed with a shake of his head. His fingers tapped the edges of the smooth tabletop. “So? What’s this problem?”
“And? What is Mr. Recruiter from Elton doing here?” Valencia growled, slamming her palm on the dining table.
The sorcerer’s hand jolted in place, and he quickly retracted it. Chairs creaked as both men squirmed in their seats. The sorcerer sat straighter in his, clearing his throat. Across from him, the young man did the same.
“I was sent to search for the retired grand sorcerer, Sir Lucas. Might you two know where I can find him? King Kain has a message for him.”
“Tis I,” the sorcerer said, raising a brow. “What does the new king have to say to the old me?”
“Wait, what?! Excuse me, sir, but you don’t look like you’re his Excellency.”
“Did you assume I’d be more grand?” Lucas the sorcerer laughed, slapping the table until his palm stung. He chuckled as he shook his head at the audacity. “Come now, ask me the secret password for this message of yours.”
“Huh? Oh, um, on the day that you announced your retirement, what did you tell the court?”
“Hah, I told them to not look for me,” he snorted, a smile forcing itself onto his face. “And here you are.”
“Exactly! What are you looking for Dad for?” Valencia asked. “He’s retired. We’ve got nothing to do with Elton anymore.”
“Well, the king’s asking for you.”
“He’s re-tir-ed!” Valencia hissed, the table creaking. Lucas could feel the table strain beneath his hand as it groaned in protest against his daughter.
“Now hold on, dear. Let’s see what he has to say.”
The intense creaking eased up, followed by the clattering of wood.
“Fine. Come on, spit it out.”
“Um, the king wants you to your original post...”
“No!” Valencia argued. Her chair scraped against the floor before clattering to the ground. “No! You can’t!”
Lucas shook his head, smiling as he sighed. “Ah, so that’s the problem the home country is having. Has no one filled my post as wind steerer?”
There was a moment of silence, a bit longer than a pause. The sorcerer raised a brow as he cajoled.
“I won’t know your answer until you tell me, son.”
“Oh! Umm, I’m sorry. I forgot. But, uh, yes, no one was able to read the wind as well as you, sir. All the sorcerers in the country combined have more than enough power to fly through the skies, but without someone like you, we haven’t been able to traverse as smoothly as we used to.”
“It saddens me to hear that, but as you can see, ha ha, I won’t be able to answer his Majesty’s summons. He should know why.” He paused, a plan forming. His smile widened. “But Valencia can take my place.”
“Wait, what? Dad!”
“If she can steer the continent along the winds as you could in your prime, then she’s more than welcome!”
The old sorcerer cackled. “She’s my daughter. She’ll live up to my name and more.”
Hands slammed against the table again. “Dad!”
“You’re being rude, Valencia. Sit down.”
“Dad! I can’t! I won’t leave you here by yourself.”
He shooed her concerns away. “I’ll be fine. You should take this opportunity. Go see the world. Take to the skies. Ride the winds.”
“But, Dad, what are you going to do?”
“I’ll do as I’ve always done. Don’t worry about me.” Lucas paused, adding one more nail to the coffin. “Besides, I don’t believe this man has a way to get home without someone sending him back.”
His daughter didn’t retort back. Silence filled the room. The afternoon birdsong outside had been replaced by the earlier waking nightsongs. Any longer and the crickets would come out to add their music to the song. Rudolphis squeaked out a confirmation after a few long moments.
“I am not a sorcerer.”
“There’s your answer, dear. Go.”
The room simmered. A quiet breeze snuck in, licking Lucas’ face as it came by before whisking away toward his daughter. He raised a finger, twirling its tail around before releasing its entirety on the other two inhabitants of the room. The simmering room cooled.
“Sir, Miss, please don’t mind me. Elton will send people to pick me up when they realize I’ve been down here too long.”
Valencia heaved a sigh. “No. I’ll go. Elton was, is, my home too. I’d rather not see it fall if I can help.” She paused, sighing once again. “Especially if I can replace Dad.”
“Then it’s settled,” Lucas said, clapping his hands.
He stood, sliding his feet against the wooden floor. As he got close to a wall, he reached out, running his fingers along the grooves until he reached the door.
“Wait, Dad, now?”
“Why not? Elton is just above us, no? Sorcerers of the wind are impatient, dear. We’re a capricious lot, you know that. If you don’t hurry, they’ll leave soon. And if this young man is correct, it’ll be a long time before they figure out where this place is again.”
The wind around them picked up as if in agreement. Lucas nodded along, smiling. “Go, dear. Young man, you’ll be safe in my daughter’s hands.”
“Ah, um, thank you, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s all in due course. Just come back occasionally to tell me the latest news.”
As he was about to muster a farewell to his daughter, someone tackled him into a forceful hug. Valencia cried, “I’m sorry, Dad! I’ll be back! I promise!”
He patted her back, running his hands through her long hair. It was longer than he remembered it. Her shoulders were higher than he realized. He had to lift his arms higher to touch her face, her nose and eyes.
“Go, dear. Prove the strength of my name. Your name.”
She nodded, tightening her hug once more. The wind around them swirled around fiercer than before, twisting into one strand with his daughter at the core.
“Come along, Mister. Let’s go see the King.”
The windy strand shot upwards, a clutter of gravel and grass pulled along with their ascent. Lucas remained where he stood, his face to the skies. He closed his eyes, not that it mattered, and raised his hand, spreading his fingers. The wide smile he had presented his daughter released a pent up sigh. The remaining wind danced around him, catching what had remained. All was silent.