Wings of the Maelstrom
Descendeth upon the living
Encompass the earth in darkness
Let fertile ground turneth unto dust
When mortal souls turneth to rotting flesh
Its unbeating heart taketh thy soul
And it awakens
Dragon of the Roaring Winds
"Will it really happen? Will Gurētosutōmu really come down and destroy the world?" an eager student asked. The class sat cross-legged on the wooden floor, their bright and excited eyes gazing attentively at their teacher from the hoods of their green robes.
"That's what the poem says. But it has been reiterated and interpreted in many ways. Some believe Gurētosutōmu to be an omen of destruction, whereas others believe it to be a benevolent deity that rewards the strong of heart." Sensei Arashi mused. "Here in Hyoku, we believe the latter. One day, the beast will descend from the skies in a time of great peril, and lend its power to the strong. That's why a lot of the villagers will be called Arashi, like me, or Kaze, and other wind related names."
"Like me, Sensei?" one student asked, excitement in her voice.
"Yes, Gale, exactly like you," Arashi answered, beaming at her as he did.
Sensei Arashi was a short, frail, and elderly man, with pale blue eyes and long wisps of grey hair, which had settled at the back of his otherwise bald head as his hairline receded with age. He enjoyed teaching his students about Hyoku's history, and always rewarded a keen mind.
Every child in the village wanted to be in his class. He was always hunched over, holding a knobbly old walking stick to support his weak legs (many locals believed the stick to be made of a special type of Dragonwood). He always dressed in the same blue robe, every day of every year. The robe was a traditional Sensei robe (student robes were green, to represent the wind), and lined with the prized golden silk of a Golden Rajang. The blue robe showed mastery of the scrolls and the history they contained, but the golden silk was awarded once the Scrollmaster retired and became a teacher, passing on his knowledge to young children.
"Ok, children, that's enough stories for today. You may go." he told the class, an almost musical tone in his voice.
Most children pouted as they left, because no one ever wanted the lesson to end. Sensei Arashi could weave a story together like silk, keeping everyone entertained at every moment, whether it was just an old poem or an ancient legend full of monstrous beasts. Gale, Arashi's favorite student, gazed back from under her hood at Arashi. He caught her gaze, and smiled at her. She returned his smile, turned on her heel and left.
The schoolhouse in the village of Hyoku was fairly basic. A rectangular building made of Dragonwood with low foundations and carbalite enforced support beams holding up the roof. Inside was the most pleasant aromatic scent of sunset herbs and old wood, and the smell of Sensei's favourite green tea. There were no chairs or tables, and behind the schoolhouse was the gap in the hedge that lead to a lovely grove, where the children could be surrounded on all sides by lush, green plant life and hedges, with the blue sky above their heads. In the very dead centre of the grove was a small, circular pool of fresh water, which beautiful hornflies circled regularly for the medicinal moss that grew around the edges. There was a myth that the miniscule pond had been blessed, so each lunchtime the children took Dragonwood drinking cups (Dragonwood was used for most things in the village), and filled them with water from the pond. It tasted pure and sweet, and had a strange, almost rosy aftertaste. Sensei Arashi never drank from the pond, but used the water for making his green tea. It was a blessing in the ever-warm days of the village.
As Gale walked the dusty peach-coloured path through the middle of the village, she passed the market, the tavern and the houses of her friends, leading directly to the farm, which was owned by Gale's parents, who grew crops, collected eggs, honey and other food, to provide for themselves and the whole of Hyoku. She loved it there. She enjoyed helping her parents with the Popos, which they bred until adolescence, then killed and sold their meat to the market. She liked helping her mother collect honey, although she once forgot to wear the old leather hunter suit she had sewed for her to protect her from the bees, and got stung multiple times. But what she loved most of all was when she got to use her bugnet. She loved to catch Yambugs, which they sent to the blacksmith to have their bodily fluids sqeezed out (an ingredient for an essential adhesive). Although she sometimes let one or two go. But only when she wasn't being observed; her mother would shout if she caught her.
Gale Kaze loved her life. And she wanted it to stay the way it was. Forever.
But everything was about to change.
To Be Continued in: The White Star Chronicles II: The Great Storm