Chapter 26 - A Test

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Cliffs loomed overhead to the west. Eirek had been heading for them ever since he received his riddle:

Wind lacks emotion when air is at rest;

When not, it blows north, perhaps east, south, or west.

Capture emotion by following its path,

Leading you to a face that is now cracked,

Now scarred by the very creatures they keep.

Pass their test to receive the orb which you seek.

As soon as he stepped outside, gusts of wind told him where to go. When he noticed that he was being led to giant cliffs, he was even more confident of the answer to his riddle. The face now cracked suggested that Eirek should look for the face of a mountain—cracked and scarred by years of wind. Eirek changed direction with different slaps of wind, continuing to follow it southwest for another thirty paces. Then the wind stopped.

What is going on? I just felt it.

A gust caught him on the right side of the face and then the left, and then it seemed to even blow up from underneath him. He closed his eyes as dust and dirt was kicked up with the unexplainable breeze. The wind intensified and swirled around him. Before too long, Eirek twirled in its might, flailing and screaming as it carried him off the ground. How am I flying? What's going on? Eirek tried rolling. Little vibrations shook his body and kept him in place. Fifty feet above the ground. Seventy-five feet. One hundred. He closed his eyes.

His back slammed up against the cliff face, causing him to groan. He looked down, seeing boulders and ground and certain death if he were to fall. Shouldn't have looked. He twisted his head, searching for the source of his captivity. Then he saw them. Light-blue things, as small as the gnats that plagued farms in Cresica during the warmer months, stood out against his white crushed-leather tailcoat.

"What . . . what are you?" Eirek kicked and flailed his arms.

A thousand tiny, high-pitched squeals, in unison, said, "We're windies."

"What?" Eirek shook his head in distress.

"We're windies. What's your business here, human?" asked a new singular voice.

Eirek squinted and saw a fairy—twice the size of the others—land on his nose. Is that the leader? "I'm following the wind. I was sent by the conseleigh."

A strange buzzing of whispers followed. Did I say something wrong? He doubted their tiny arms could pummel him very hard—but they could drop him. That would be fatal.

"What do you want?" asked the same faint voice.

Eirek went cross-eyed, refocusing on the leader, who wore a thin strip of wire that crossed his chest like a toga and a miniature crown on his brown head. He stared at Eirek with black eyes and straddled Eirek's nose, awaiting his answer while twirling a baton half the creature's size.

"I'm here because of Eska's Trials. My task was to find the orb."

"You will need to pass our test first."

Slowly he was carried down and set on one of the huge boulders that functioned as a perimeter for a small clearing approximately fifteen paces in diameter that lead into a cavern. A gust of wind lifted him down from the rock. When on the cracked earth once again, free from the windies' hold, Eirek breathed a sigh of relief. Quickly he half-walked, and was half-shoved, into the cave.  

A cool, blue-walled cavern—littered with sand and plagued with bits of fungi—swallowed his presence. It was colder here. And the air was thinner. To compensate, Eirek staggered his breathing. From within the center, he waited. In front of him, the windies gathered themselves and took the form of a large face with pale-blue skin and sullen eyes. Eirek's eyes widened. What kind of power is this? 

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