Fortress Fantasy

Elise of the Storm

In the centre, where the four fields met, the house stood in the darkness, a single candle in the window the only sign of life. Ten paces beyond the front door the house was undetectable, the wind picked up all the dust on the road and danced an impressive eternal waltz as it swirled and howled around the farmland, picking up the remains of equipment previously hammered to the ground by this very storm minutes, hours, days ago. It was noon, but you couldn’t tell.

Though the storm staggered a figure. Dressed in leathers against the wind, her slim frame little help against the gusts and dust. The wind blew across the path, and she walked at a diagonal against it, each step a victory against the air itself, a step towards the house. She hammered on the door, trying to hear the noise above the relentless noise of the wind. The door was opened soon enough by a tanned giant of a man who let her inside before slamming and baring the door behind her.

“Who are y’?” he demanded, not unkindly.
The girl, who seemed to be somewhere around eighteen, drifted to a chair and fell on it heavily, out of wind.
“I am Elise.” she managed, “You sent a letter to the Academy.”
“I did. This storm is unnat’ral. It’s been like this for somewhere near a week, not that y’ can tell inside this damned cloud. If I don’t get the corn in soon, it’ll spoil. My family’il starve.”
“Family?” the man appeared to be living alone.
“At another farm some miles away.” the Farmer pointed vaguely in a direction.
“My son was hit by the blunt end of a hoe the second day. After that they took anything they could. Will y’ help me? Can y’?”
“I have been sent to.”
“I don’t mean to doubt y’, miss, but you don’t look like y’ could lift a log. ‘ven if y’ can, what’ll it cost me?”
Dark clouds crossed Elise’s expression
“I would recommend not doubting me. It will cost you nothing. The academy will do this for free.” Elise summoned her last reserves of strength and stood up. “Please open the door.”

Elise walked calmly into the storm and walked around the house, occasionally ducking and weaving to avoid flying tools and plants, until she reached a calmer point deep into one of the fields, the central eye of the storm. There she sat cross-legged, invisible under the waving stalks of corn, very still for a minute or so.

Eventually, she breathed in, slowly, but without pause. On the outside edge of the farmland the cloud began to fade and shrink, and the circular spin of air around the storm’s border began to shift and redirect, not around its well-worn whirlpool, but towards the centre, towards Elise.

The storm howled and fought, desperately resisting the centre, but it had now turned from a stable, albeit large scale, tornado into something subtly different, a whirlpool spinning into the central void, a black hole with the slim mage at the centre, still inhaling the storm.

Light broke though as the storm dropped the dust, and a gentle dawn broke on the farmland, travelling from the very borders in towards the centre, as the farmer gazed in amazement at his ravaged – but now calm – lands and the ever-shrinking storm, now only a few metres across, centring in on Elise’s button nose. With a final howl, the storm was gone, and his nightmare over.

Showing nothing of the fatigue she had exhibited moments before, Elise strode though the corn – which seemed to bend out of her way – towards the house. The farmer watched with increasing amazement as she looked at her dusty, dirty leathers, turned up her nose, and summoned a dainty rain cloud which proceeded to rinse them off. A heavy, sustained gust of wind that didn’t affect anything within half a metre of her then dried her off. She approached the house and knocked.

“Thank y’, Miss Elise.
“It was no problem” said Elise somewhat breathlessly. Her eyes sparkled like lightening, “I really needed the power boost. But you were right, that storm was not natural. Someone set you up for that. I would recommend finding out who. If you can not salvage enough from this” she indicated the wind-torn fields around them, “I have been told to recommend you ask the Academy, and they will ensure you don’t starve merely because we did not arrive fast enough.”
“I can’t thank y’ enough.”
“Then do not. I shall go tell your family it is safe to return. This way, was it not?”
The farmer nodded.
“Then farewell.” and Elise sprinted off, her ponytail streaming ahead of her, as if she was being pushed by some huge tailwind, down the road though the fields and towards his neighbours lands.

Within moments, the mage of storms was gone.

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