The wind whispered in his ear as he tried to pull his cloak tighter against the cold. Had he imagined the voice? Or were they really here?
The sky was clear, and the late autumn pattern of stars shine down brightly. A burst of wind tried to knock him over and another one pushed him up. The voices grew clearer as the winds strengthened. Soon a cacophony of voices overwhelmed him.
Just as suddenly as they arrived, they were silenced. A much stronger presence surrounded him, swirling without knocking him over. A lone voice reached him from this solitary wind. Greetings were exchanged, and then conversation began in earnest. The winter winds had returned.
Later, he returned to his home. Inside, the glow and warmth of the fire eased his chill as he worked to loosen his wraps. His partner, the mother of his new-born child, looked up at him from the table. “They have come back?” The apprehension was evident in her voice.
“And they repeated the message from the end of last winter. This season will be harsher.”
“So the council was wrong.”
“Yes. The people will not have enough food or wood to see all of them through.”
“What will we do?”
He already knew the answer. There was only one way.
“You and our boy must stay inside. No one has seen you in months. I have already told everyone you have returned to your family for a visit, and they do not know he exists. Keep him secure in the cellar. Our supplies down there will last. But if anyone finds out, they will take them from us. You both will die. So stay here. Hide in the cellar when you must.”
“And you?” But her tone said she already knew.
“I must be seen. And all must believe I suffer as they do.”
She bit her lip, presumably to keep from objecting.
“It is the only way go keep him safe. And he will need at least one of his parents to guide him. I have been too vocal to disappear now. If I… do not survive the winter, you must tell him about the winds. He will need to know.”
They sat next one another, embracing, for some time. He winds howled past outside, but left their home untouched.