Chapter One: Black Wind
Waking from a deep slumber, Black Wind opens his eyes. Looking around he notices that he is in a forest and has a layer of dirt and leaves partially covering him, as though he had been in this spot for a long time. Puzzled, Black Wind closes his eyes. How did he get here? Where is this? Why? Any time he thought too deeply about any of these questions, a dull headache gnawed at his consciousness. Deciding that was a futile endeavour, Black Wind stands up, brushing the dirt and leaves off of himself.
Next to where he lay is a thin black sword. Picking it up, a memory returns to him. This is why he was called Black Wind, because of his skill with the sword that was as swift as the wind. He came from a small village in the Middle Mountains, son of the village chief but long since feared throughout the whole continent as one of the youngest genius experts in the last thousand years.
Feeling a bit comforted with remembering who he was, Black Wind takes a moment to cleanse his clothes of dirt and grime using his inner energy. As his qi expands outward, it expels the dirt from his clothes, although they still look faded from being outside for who knows how long. Black Wind stretches, extending his arms high above his head, and a series of cracks is heard running down his back as loud as a firing squad in the silent forest. Sighing, Black Wind chooses a direction and starts walking.
After walking for a few hours, it starts to get dark and Black Wind is still unable to see if he is any closer to the edge of the forest. He quickly leaps up a tree, each stride skipping over multiple branches, and stands at the very top. Surprisingly, not only do the branches he stand on not sway with his weight, he is even able to stand on the thinnest branches that even a falcon would have trouble sitting on. As Black Wind looks around, he sees a boundless sea of green, continuing as far as the eye can see. Focusing his qi into his eyes, Black Wind is able to see a whopping 50(80km) miles in every direction. This surprises him, because no matter how good his eyesight, the horizon should stop him from seeing further than 15(24km) miles, even if he is absurdly high up. Although this puzzles him, Black Wind pushes it to the back of his mind for now and continues searching. He sees that behind him, towards the direction he came from, is a mountain range that disappears into clouds. In the other direction is a river, winding through the forest and out into a plains.
Knowing that people will need water to live and that where there’s a river, there will often be a city too, Black Wind jumps down from the tree and heads in that direction. No longer walking, he runs quickly, dodging trees as they appear in front of him. Black Wind quickly reaches the river which was 40(64km) miles away within 10 minutes. Not even panting, he comes to a stop upon reaching the river. The only reason he previously walked while in the forest was because he wanted some time to think and collect his thoughts. However, having decided that more thought was useless without first finding out more information, Black Wind is now taking action.
Once again leaping atop a tree, Black Wind follows the river with his eyes and notices that it leads out of the forest and into a grassy plain. After another dozen miles from where he stands, there is a small town at a bend in the river just as he predicted. However, the buildings look nothing like he is used to. Instead of the delicately sloping tile roofs of his homeland, these huts are much more crudely made, made mostly of earth and straw. Strangely, none are made of lumber despite being so close to such a large forest. As there is no where else for him to go at the moment, Black Wind decides to head to this village before it becomes night. Even though he could, he doesn’t wish to spend the night outside in this unknown place. Although he hasn’t seen any magical beasts yet, it’s always good to be cautious in case a magical beast attacks, especially at night.
Black Wind runs along the river bank until the village is within view to the common eye, and then slows down, walking at a normal pace so as not to startle his potential hosts. As he gets closer to the village, he notices that a male youth fishing at the river has stopped what he was doing and is staring at him, mouth hanging open. Black Wind waves at the youth, which seems to get him out of his shock. The youth quickly grabs his fishing pole and bucket and runs back to the village. Surprised at such a cold greeting, Black Wind raises his guard and approaches the village slightly more cautiously.
A few minutes later, Black Wind reaches the village and passes through the village gates. There is a short stone wall surrounding the village, although it can barely be called a wall. It’s height only reaches about 3.5 feet. It’s certainly not for any defensive purpose, and yes, as Black Wind passes into the village he can see that ducks roam around, waddling on their feet. Their wings were probably clipped and the wall is to keep them and other livestock in. As Black Wind is walking through the village, trying to find an inn or lodging he can stay at, he notices various people peeking out of their doorways or windows to stare at him. Kids even quickly run into shelter upon seeing him walking in their general direction. Puzzling over why this could be, Black Wind notices that the clothes of the villagers are much different than his. Instead of wearing a robe made of one piece of cloth like him, their clothes are sewn together from multiple pieces of fabric, as well as wearing trousers and shirt as different pieces of their outfit. He can tell that this is a poor, working village, since the majority of their clothes look the same and are all faded, dirty, and patched where worn through. However, the fishing youth he saw earlier had more colorful, newer clothes in comparison. Perhaps he was the son of someone important in the village?
Right as Black Wind was remembering the male youth from the river, a well dressed middle aged man approaches him, followed by the youth in tow. Seeing them, Black Wind stops and waits for their approach. The man eyes him up and down, lingering on his clothes and especially the sword at his waist. Opening his mouth to speak, the well dressed man starts talking gibberish. Well, it sounded like gibberish to Black Wind. It certainly wasn’t the language he expected to hear. Puzzled, Black Wind waits for him to stop talking and then tries to introduce himself in his own language, wanting to see if they would understand. “Hello. My name is Black Wind. Can you understand me?” Seeing the man and youth glance at each other with a clueless look on their faces, Black Wind tries his introduction again in the language of the northern barbarian tribes. However, the two look just as bewildered. The man says something to the youth, and the youth quickly runs off, leaving the middle aged man here with Black Wind.
By this time, various villagers have come out of their houses, judging the situation to not be dangerous, and are watching at a slight distance. This kind of occurrence must be something that they are not used to. The man in front of Black Wind stands there a bit, looking at him and occasionally opening his mouth before closing it again. After a while of this laughable scene repeating itself, he finally opens his mouth and points to himself saying, “Jim Abney.”
Realizing that this must be his name, Black Wind in turn points to himself and proclaims, “Black Wind.” Now that some progress has finally been made in the communication between them, Black Wind and Jim Abney share a smug smile, seeming to say, see, we can do it! Shortly after this small victory, the youth runs back and says something to this Jim Abney. After exchanging a few more words in their strange language which included Black Wind’s name, the boy turns towards Black Wind and points to himself saying, “Antero Abney.” Realizing that the two of them share the same part of the name as well as wearing nicer clothes than the rest of the villagers, Black Wind deducts that they must be family and likely the chief of the village.
A little while after the boy Antero Abney ran back to them, an old, white haired man hobbles over with a long stick at least 5 feet long used as a cane. Seeing him, Black Wind can sense that this man is out of the ordinary, and raises his perception to sense anything extra in case something happens. It perplexes him, though, since he can’t feel any qi emanating from this old man, nor can he see any sign of him having the fit body of a fighter. But something in his instincts tells him not to relax.
The old man stares at him and raises an eyebrow upon seeing his reaction. He then looks into Black Wind’s eyes, and Black Wind is drawn into them before catching himself and quickly waking his consciousness up. This all happened in the blink of an eye, but it makes Black Wind break out into a cold sweat as he quickly jumps backward and puts his hand on the hilt of his sword. This action once again causes amusement to this mysterious old man, who starts laughing. However, to the villagers around them, once they realize that Black Wind is starting to show hostility, they panic and quickly head back indoors, ushering the children watching with rapt curiosity back, away from this dangerous stranger. The old man says something to Jim Abney and Jim Abney calls out, “Black Wind!” He then walks towards Black Wind with his arms held up, showing no hostility. Trusting this Jim Abney, Black Wind decides to head back towards them, although he keeps his attention glued to the old man. Jim Abney holds out his right hand and looks at Black Wind. Realizing this is a universal symbol for a handshake, Black Wind grasps it, being careful to control his strength. Jim Abney guides him back to where the old man is standing and pats Black Wind’s back. Although he is still cautious, Black Wind decides to put his trust in this Jim Abney and looks back to the old man.
The old man raises his staff up a few inches before slamming it back into the ground with strength unexpected from such an old body. The ground in the surrounding area lights up in geometric patterns with various symbols surrounding it in a circle. While this is happening, the old man’s eyes glow with the same type of light that is being emitted from this circle on the ground. He brings his finger up and touches it to Black Wind’s forehead. A quick burning sensation is felt, followed by a small headache. Black Wind winces, and by the time he opens his eyes, the mysterious formation is gone.
The old man stands there still, but this time looking tired and even older than before. He quietly says, “My name is George Winston. You should be able to understand me now, correct?”