The North Wind – Part 2
Hana stared in disbelief. “The… what?” she asked.
The woman gave a huff as if Hana should know. She stood about the same height as Hana, looking human, aside from an indigo-blue tint on her wrinkled skin. With her arms on her hips, she shuffled closer. Hana gulped, aware she was in some sort of trouble. She couldn’t help glancing again at the pillars. But when she did this time, wind-swept trees greeted her. Leaning oaks and craggy pines stacked on top of each other blocked out the sun with their branches. Hana shook her head, dumbfounded.
“What happened to the pillars?” she cried, “Now, where am I?” Under her feet, dry grass crunched. The chill autumn air clung to her skin, making her shiver. In the branches above, birds with calls Hana didn’t recognize squawked. They flapped their broad multi-colored wings before lifting into the air.
The woman started. “Pillars?” she barked, “You mean you—?”
She whipped out what appeared to Hana to be a notebook from one of her thick coat pockets. Reaching into her other pocket, the woman pulled out an elongated black pen as thin as string. When she let one end of it go, the pen unfolded itself like a door hinge then straightened itself out. She scratched something onto the paper with a grimace before ripping the sheet out. Hana waited, unsure whether to ask where she was. Then a thought occurred to her that sent a shock through her limbs.
“I know I’m probably not supposed to be here, but can you tell me how to get back to…” Hana thought for a minute, “How to get home? My brother is coming home—at least I think. He has to come home anyway. But—”
“Do you know where you are?” snapped the woman. Hana threw a quick glance at the trees again. A raven, the size of Hana herself, poked its wide head out from the branches and blinked its obsidian eyes. Its feathers glistened with a rich teal color as it spread its wings and scrambled out of the leaves. As it dashed over the woman’s head, Hana watched it with her mouth open.
“No.” Hana found another bird, then another tree. More and more that resembled her backyard at home but were still unearthly and strange. The grasses seemed to grow in layers, patches slanted one way, and others slanted another. Their shadows formed blocks like a checkerboard along the trees. There were oaks and pines, but their branches curved and looped, tangling together. When she squinted, Hana noticed a purple-hued river trickling through the trees.
“Girl, I’m talking to you! This is serious!” The woman’s voice came behind Hana, so close Hana jumped and whirled back around.
“Do you know where you are and how you got here?”
“No! Where am I? And what were those pillars?”
“Never mind the pillars! You—oh!” The woman noticed the crumbled piece of paper in her hand, the sheet she had torn earlier. With a huff she threw it aside, where it disappeared into thin air.
“You’re in the Beyond. You don’t understand. You’re the first human—”
“You said that!” Hana grew impatient, “What is the Beyond?”
“This! All this!” The woman gestured to the forest around them. “This forest and the mountains and the Northeast Kingdom and all the other lands! It’s the Beyond to you. For us, it’s called Denfyron. The name of this forest and surrounding area to you is the Southernmost Land.”
“Well, do you… do you know how I can leave?” Hana bit her lip.
“Of course not!” The woman folded her pen together and stuffed it into her pocket.
“Because no human has ever gotten here in the first place! I just sent a message to Brev, however. He’ll know who can help. There are many more powerful than me, girl, with a better idea of how the Great Arts work. Now, what’s your name?”
“Sayrin,” the woman gave a curt nod, “Now, listen—”
Another bird chirped. The first familiar bird Hana had heard since getting to the Beyond. Hana recognized the sound as a mockingbird’s call.
Sayrin started. “Did you hear that?” she hissed, hunching her shoulders.
“It sounded like a mockingbird. We have those all the time back home in our backyard,” Hana shrugged.
“Yes, otherwise known as a human sound!”
Hana flinched as the mockingbird call swooped near her ear. A half-second later, the school bell rang over her head.
“Hey!” she shouted, ducking, “That’s the—”
“You!” Sayrin pointed an accusing finger up at the sky, then at the ground, then up at a tree branch hanging above them. “I knew you had something to do with this! Get down here, you little devil! Come along, or I’ll call the Posdin on you!”
The Ghost faded into view, crouching on a branch, his features difficult to make out. When Hana’s eyes adjusted, she noticed a wide grin across his face and crinkled eyes. The Ghost put his smooth ivory hands to his smiling mouth and gave another mockingbird call.
“Little sprite!” snapped Sayrin. “You had something to do with this, didn’t you?”
“That’s the Ghost that kept following me at school!” Hana pointed, “He must have been the one who sent me to the—the—whatever this place is.”
“Denfyron,” Sayrin corrected, “And I seriously doubt that. There’s only a handful of beings and people in this world who could send you. And they have been practicing this type of Great Art for years. Trust me. This isn’t one of them. Until now, anyway, the handful I mentioned haven’t even been successful anyway. I guess something finally worked.” Sayrin stared back up at the Ghost then gave a little huff. The Ghost straightened up and leaped into the sky, blending into the graying clouds above. A rumble of thunder shuddered from beyond the trees.
“Still,” said Sayrin, “It must have had something to do with this. You said it was following you?”
Hana nodded. She turned in circles, searching for the Ghost, but only the trees were left. The once-glistening leaves darkened, and the birds silenced themselves. Hana shivered again. A sudden feeling of homesickness fell over her, and the urge to get home to Marcus returned.
“He was, I guess. I kept hearing him, and then I was in that other place all of a sudden. Then—”
A ball of white zipped through the trees. Sayrin caught onto the paper without looking. She uncrumpled the paper, scanned its contents, then huffed again. “That was the Posdin. He says we must go to the North Wind. He would know what to do.”
“He would know how you got here—who sent you. And he would know what to make of what you saw upon entering the Beyond.”
Hana blinked, “But I don’t need to know how I got here! I need to know how to get—”
“Now come!” Sayrin bustled toward the edge of the clearing ahead, “We must head North! But to the Posdin first. He’s the closest, and he will know the best route for going around the Northwest Kingdom—”
“But what about Marcus?”
stopped in her tracks and gave her a bewildered look, “Who?”
“My brother! He—” Hana stopped, another dreaded thought slamming into her. Something she never wanted to feel but something that felt more possible now than at any other moment.
“He might be coming home,” she said, “But… he might not. I need to know if he is or not. It’s been two years since he went missing, but he might have been found. And he might be safe, and he has to be safe, so I need to get home in time because Mom wouldn’t let me go with her and—” Hana felt her throat constrict. Her face immediately grew hot.
“All right, all right,” Sayrin raised her hands to calm Hana down. “Trust me, girl, we’re going to get you to the right people who can help. I promise. The Posdin will know best how to get you to the North Wind. And perhaps he’ll know how to get you home too. That’s the trouble. I don’t know…. And I don’t suppose you have any good ideas?” Sayrin turned her attention back to the branch, where the Ghost had reclaimed its seat.
“You were there! And as much as I don’t want to admit it, it looks as if you helped her get to the right place. Well?”
The Ghost put his hands to his mouth again. Just then, a shrill horn sounded through the air, loud and long, coupled with the thunder. Hana covered her ears, “What is that?”
“Come,” Sayrin’s voice trembled, “We need to run. Get to the Posdin.”
“What’s coming?” Sayrin grabbed at Hana’s arm and began dragging her along toward the west. Soft orange and white streaks glowed through the trees, warning of a deepening evening and distance from the storm. The Ghost pounced out of the branches and disappeared into the thinning air. Hana picked up her pace as another horn sounded, closer than the one before.
“That’s one of the Joondin.”
“You call them demons.”