The Story of a Girl Who Heard
The Sway of the Westwind
by Jana Winston
For the Sun and Moon Contest
“See the branches waving?” Westwind’s mother stroked the child’s head softly.
“Trees don’t wave,” the girl stepped out from under her mother. “That’s just the breeze.”
“And what is the breeze?” answered her mother. “But the speech of distant things.”
A crooked man who was called Ambilon sat at in the inn and ordered another drink. Five times he would ask for a beer and five times he would receive the cheapest ale in the county. On the sixth, Mrs Sway would cut him off and tell him “That’s enough Ambi.”
So it was every night.
Ambilon thought Mrs Sway very beautiful, and drank his fifth beer much slower than the others.
A time came when Westwind left her Mother for good, to make her way north to the place under jagged rocks and find a bone to carve into a speartip. She would be a hunter, like her mother. She would be the fifth of their line to do so.
Westwind would find a large mammoth and kill it and the meat would be dried to keep from spoiling.
A strong man from another tribe would come forward to put a child in her and that child would be a man, and he would become a hunter like her, for every fifth the cycle must change. So it was told.
“I met a girl she gave me a smile,” sang Ambilon. “The prettiest smile I’ve seen in a while.”
Mrs Sway helped him from his seat to the door. “You shouldn’t be helping me,” cried the drunk Ambilon. “Not with your leg.”
“You need to dry out, Ambi,” she said, limping with him.
“So I’ve been told.”
The mammoth had fought well, but died to Westwind’s spear. And true to the words on the wind a man had come to give her a baby, and she came to live with his tribe. But when Westwind gave birth there had been not a boy but two boys, and the other tribespeople looked at Westwind with disdain when she refused to part with one.
Her Mother came then, from her birthtribe, and sat with her.
“You must take one to the place of bone,” she said. Or be forever cast down by the tribes. I did as much with your sister. For two born is a bad omen.”
Westwind did not know of her sister. She thought of the bones beneath her feet when she crafted her speartip, many moons ago, and wondered now what her spear was made from.
“How did you choose?” she asked. “Between us.”
“You had the good leg, she did not.” Westwind’s mother wiped a tear from her eye. “Such is the way of things.”
But Westwind could not bring herself to choose. So she packed what she had and left with two boys pressed to her teats.
For many days she travelled until the savannah became the grass and she saw the smoke of the farming peoples who sometimes traded with the tribes for mammoth meat. But her boys were ill and milk no longer flowed from her breasts. By the new moon she howled, and the trees waved back.
Together Mrs Sway and Ambilon left the inn, and she let him go outside, watching him stumble home.Poor Ambi’s wife had abandoned him some time ago, as she had been abandoned, until old Moot had come to care for her. So she would care for Ambi.
The inn faced the town square where several trees were left to flourish in the central garden. Mrs Sway watched the trees shifting in the breeze and felt a shiver up her spine. There were words on this wind. She knew what this meant even if nobody else in this town could hear.
“It’s your birthgift,” Old Moot would say.
She touched her bad leg before she went back inside to pack her things.