It had only been a short time since I escaped from the cursed city that tried to destroy me; it had only been a short time since I fled from Temptress and returned to the wind. And in that short time, I have learned that even though I am in the wind again, I am not the same man I was. My heart feels different now. It is burdened and in a state of unrest.
I still follow the wind. It still rushes around me and dances with me. I still delight in its soft, comforting breeze, and its strong, passionate gales. It is still the air that breaths into me and gives me life. But although all these things remain, there is now something more in me that there had not been.
I fled the city in order to save myself and return to my love. I fled out of a desperate need to survive and not be consumed by the evil of that place. But I did not flee alone. A man who also lived in the city saved me. He warned me of the danger I was in. He begged me to leave the city while I still had a chance. It was by his encouragement that I was able to gather enough strength to leave. With him at my side, I returned to the wind.
That man was not the only one like me. I know that now. The city I hate is filled with people like him and I who were nearly consumed. Thousands who were born in the wind are trapped in that prison, and I left them in order to save myself.
This new burden inside of me is one that patience cannot diminish. The wind has saved me now, and now that I am safe, I am convinced it is time to use that gift for something more. I cannot allow those who the wind loves be trapped any longer. I have to go back to that city.
I was running with the wind one day as it pushed me through the hills in which I lived. It took me through the forest that I had always been delighted by. It then led me to a stream and stood still for a moment. I was thirsty so I knelt down and drank from the water then leaned against a tree as I let my thoughts drift.
Half consciously, I stared at a leaf and watched as it slowly accumulated a tiny mass of water that grew heavier and heavier until a single drop fell like a tear into the brook by which I sat. A sadness immediately grew inside of me as I watched the ripples in the water spread and fade. As soon as the ripple faded, the wind blew around me passionately, urging me to get up. When I stood, it blew against my back and led me further on through the forest.
I soon found myself passing through a clearing, which I immediately recognized as the place I first saw Temptress. My heart's unrest grew strong. I was led further still until the wind stopped me at the edge of the wood where I saw stumps of trees that I had cut down. My eyes filled with tears. I did not want to look beyond the wood because I knew what was there. But the wind blew gently against my face and lifted my head to see.
An abandoned cabin stood alone on a hill that sloped into a much larger hill—a hill that I recognized too well. This was the cabin I had built to live with Temptress. It was a structure I had made to keep me out of the reach of the wind. It was a monument to all the evils I had committed.
A passionate anger began to burn within me. I could not bear to see anyone else fall for the deceptions I fell for. I could not let the tempters from the city corrupt anyone else. I turned and re-entered the forest to find sticks and grass then took them to the cabin and set them on fire.
I stood and watched a short distance away as the cabin gradually became engulfed in flames. The wind spun around the cabin causing a tornado of flames to consume it. As I watched, the passion inside of me grew stronger.
Once the flames had extinguished and there was nothing left of the cabin but ashes and a few smoldering logs, I traveled beyond the hill on which I stood and to the top of the neighboring hill. When I looked down into the valley of that hill, I saw the cause of the burning passion inside of me. There stood the city that had once been my prison. It looked so cold and dark; with walls so high they blocked the sun from the inhabitants almost entirely. I wanted so badly in that moment to put an end to that wretched place.
For days I scouted the walls of the city and tried to find a way in. I quickly learned that I was not welcome to enter through the gate. When I had tried, the guards of the city quickly shut the gates and, with arrows aimed at me, demanded that I leave. After the fifth day of searching for a way in, I still had no success. But in the evening of the fifth day, I spotted a man coming toward me from the top of the hill.
When the man drew close enough to recognize him, I knew him as the one I had fled the city with before. Over his shoulder, he carried a coil of rope with metal hooks at the end of it. I greeted him with a hug and we smiled at each other joyfully.
“I didn't doubt the wind would have us meet again, my friend.” The man said as we sat down to talk.
“Then you were led here as well?”
“I was. And I am relieved to see I am not alone.” I smiled in agreement. My friend looked down at the city solemnly. “It is a grave sight. It brings back so much pain I wish I could avoid feeling.”
“The torment of that place no longer rules us,” I said. “It is a part of our past that has been forgotten by the wind. We were not led here to be reminded of what we did wrong, but to help make things right.”
“Yes. That is true indeed. Thank you.”
The rope he had been carrying, which was now lying at his side, caught my attention and I asked, “Where did you get that?”
My friend smiled broadly. “It was a gift from the wind.”
“Well then, it is a gift that can certainly be of use.”
We talked for a while longer. I learned that he too remembered the ones in the city who we had left behind. But his memory was much more detailed, for he had spent many years in that city. He knew many of the captives by name. And as strong as my burden was for them, it seemed his was stronger.
When the night had grown late, my friend and I had completed our plans to get into the city and left immediately to do just that. When we reached the wall we found a part of it that was least lit by the torches that lined it and prepared the rope my friend had been given. As we were about to throw the hooks to the top of the wall, the wind blew violently, blowing out every last torch that stood on the wall. We could hear cries from the guards to get them re-lit.
My friend saw that as our chance and threw the rope. It seemed to float right into the perfect spot, where its hooks grabbed the edges of the wall firmly. We climbed.
After reaching the top, we unhooked the rope and set it on the opposite side. I climbed down into the city as my friend stood guard.
As soon as I was close enough to the ground to drop without injuring myself, I did so then immediately began my search. I ran through the empty streets, trying to find anyone who had hope to escape that prison. It did not take long before I heard the sound of someone crying softly. I sought out the source of that sound and soon encountered a young woman leaning against the wall of the city.
“Woman,” I said softly, “why are you crying.”
Immediately, she wiped her tears away, turned toward me, and stood with a countenance of false confidence. “Did you think I was crying?”
“I was nearly certain you were.”
Her voice became harder as she said, “Well then you were mistaken.”
In the darkness of the night I could not see her well so I drew closer to her until I could see her face. There was fear in her eyes.
“Do not be afraid of me. I am not from this city.”
“There are only two kinds of people that can be found here—those who rule the city and those who are captives of it. Neither can be trusted.”
“But I am neither a ruler nor a captive. I am a child of the wind. And I have come here to find you and to tell you that freedom is waiting for you.”
At this, she fell to her knees and wept. “For so long I have not heard the voice of the wind! For so long I have felt cold, abandoned, unloved, and unworthy! And now, after losing so much, you tell me that I can be free?”
My heart began to ache bitterly for her. I was very familiar with her pain. “The wind has not abandoned you, dear woman. It blows strongly against the walls of this city every night, calling out to you. It longs for you to find peace and rest again.”
“It is too late for that.”
“It is never too late. I, myself once was held captive by this city. I too lost everything. I felt alone, scared, and unworthy of redemption. But I was given a companion and together, we left this city and were welcomed with delight back into the embrace of the wind. And now I am here! I was led here by the wind to find you. Surely that is proof that you have not been abandoned!”
“I appreciate your concern. But I am broken now beyond repair. There is nothing left for me in this life.”
I was about to protest further, but a man's voice calling from a nearby house stopped me. “Forsaken! Get in here!”
The woman looked fearfully in the direction from which the call came.
“You don't have to go back to him. Flee with me! I have a way out!”
“Forsaken!” The man continued to call, “You worthless woman, where are you?”
“I'm sorry.” She whispered to me, “I cannot go with you.” And with that, she turned from me and walked back to her tempter.
I followed her at a distance until I saw her walk to a man who was standing in the doorway of his house. “Where were you?” he asked accusingly.
“I only needed some air.”
Without hesitation, he raised his hand and slapped her across the face. The blood within me burned with rage. “Don't lie to me, Forsaken! Out of my kindness, I have given you a place to sleep at night and clothes to cover the shame of your nakedness! If you don't want that, then sleep in the streets with the dogs! That's what you are anyways—a mutt.”
Watching from a distance became unbearable. I abandoned my cover in the shadows, ran to that house, and grabbed the tempter. “You wretched creature!” I cried, “Don't you dare touch her again!”
As I saw the look in the tempters eyes, I realized I had made a huge mistake. There was no fear in him, like I was hoping to induce. Rather, there was spite so deep that I could not match his gaze. “Guards! We have a guest!”
Immediately I heard the sound of men running in my direction. Fearfully, I let go of the tempter and backed away until I fled entirely. I hurried to the place where my friend had been keeping watch and climbed the rope as quickly as I could. As we began descending the outer side of the wall, guards discovered us. We were only half way down the wall when they cut our rope and we fell painfully to the ground.
We hardly had any time to recover when arrows began flying in our direction. My friend and I got up as quickly as we could and ran, but as we did so, an arrow sunk into the back of my leg. I cried out in pain and fell to the ground. At my cry, my friend ran back to me and lifted me back up to my feet and supported me as I limped out of reach of the arrows.
When we had gotten a safe distance from the city, my friend laid me down and tended to my wound as best he could. Even in my pain, sleep quickly overtook me.
I woke up to the wind brushing against my face. It was urging me to get up and so I did. The pain in my leg instantly reminded me of the sorrows of the night before. It was difficult not to grow depressed, but the wind kept urging me to move forward and not to look back.
My friend supported me to the best of his ability as we followed the wind as it led us out of that valley and back into the forest that I loved. When I felt I could go no further, I found myself at the stream I had rested at six days before. I went to it and dipped my wound in its soothing water.
“I did not expect such discouraging results,” My friend said as we rested.
“Nor did I. I fear I only caused more harm than good.” I waited for a response, but my friend knew not what to say, so I continued, “My intentions were right. I wanted to help that woman. But when I saw the look in that tempter's eyes, I knew he would harm her even more deeply because of me. And now I am here at a stream, sulking over my injuries while her life is only getting worse!”
“You did what you could.”
“No. I acted foolishly out of my anger, and because of that, I brought harm to the ones the wind loves.”
“There is nothing that happens that is outside of the wind's plan. Everything that happened last night, even if it seemed to be a mistake, happened for a reason. Even if it seems bad right now, it will ultimately be used for good.”
“I know you are right, but my heart is still tormented and my mind is still anxious. I want to make things right, but I know that only the wind can do that in its own time.”
“And for now, the wind has brought us to this brook to rest and restore our strength. Let us not waste the time it has given us worrying about what it already has under control.”
For the rest of that day and the day after, my friend and I continued to rest and enjoy the soft breeze of the wind. In that time, our passion for the captives of the city grew stronger, as did our trust in the wind. We knew it was our duty to wait on the wind and follow where it led us. Everything else was already taken care of.
Our time of resting was ended at sunrise on the following day. The wind led us once again back to the city. Again, I was unsure of how we would get in. Our rope was gone and the guards on the walls seemed greater in number. We felt discouraged, but still we waited on the wind.
When evening came, we noticed a stray dog wandering around the outer wall. It went aimlessly from place to place, sniffing the grass occasionally then perking up its ears as if listening for something. Presently, it began sniffing a part of the wall and examining it. Something about the wall seemed to catch its interest and soon it began clawing at the dirt beside it. I sat up in attention as I watched the dog dig a small hole under the wall. It soon got bored and moved on, but it had done its job in showing me what to do.
After the sun had set, the wind brought my friend and I to the place the dog had dug his tiny hole. Together, we spent many hours of the night digging further until the wind had us retreat back to a safe distance away from the city and rest.
For many days following, we spent our nights digging further under the wall. Our hole quickly became noticeable, however, so we made a mat of grasses and sticks to cover it up during the day. In time, we finally made our way through to the other side.
As we dug our way into the city that night, we found ourselves in a tiny alley between a house and the wall which was just wide enough for us to stand. Stacks of storage crates were piled on both sides of our hole as if they had been placed there specifically to keep our secret entrance hidden. By that time, there was not much of the night left, so my friend and I did our best to conceal our hole then retreated until the next evening.
The following night, we sneaked back into the city and split up to try to find anyone who we might be able to help. As I searched I purposely passed by the house the woman I had met before was living in. I tried to look inside, but my caution prevented me from being able to see much of anything. I continued on, turning down a path on the side of the house.
I passed the back of the house and noticed a shadowed shape lying on the ground. It looked similar to the shape of a body so I went over to see it more clearly. When I was close enough, I saw Forsaken lying asleep on the ground. She looked malnourished and filthy. A pain rose up in my heart that was nearly unbearable. Silently, I knelt down next to her and rested my hand on her arm to wake her. She jumped awake and immediately cowered from me.
“You,” was her only response.
The pain inside of me grew deeper when I heard the resentment in her voice. I remained silent for a moment in an attempt to compose myself and finally said, “What happened to you?”
“Are you asking because you really don’t know?—because that would make you a fool.”
“I meant it to show my sympathy.”
“Sympathy? I am in a worse state now than ever before because of you. My torment is deeper, my pain is stronger, and any strength I had before is no more.”
“I am so sorry I made things worse. If I could change how I reacted that night, I would give up my life to do so.”
“Is an apology meant to make everything better?”
I felt now that I was doing nothing more than enduring punch after punch in my gut. Everything seemed to be against me. I was, of course, in enemy territory, but I previously was naïve about how difficult it would really be to be there.
“Woman,” I said softly, “My heart will not rest until I see you free.”
She paused. “I am sorry, child of the wind. The truth is I am terrified. I fear this city, but I fear leaving it even more. I desire to be free, but that desire only deepens my sorrow, so I try not to wish for it.”
“Then let me help you,” I pleaded.
“I cannot stop you from trying, but do not expect your efforts to amount to anything. I am lost to this city now; you should not put any hope in me.”
I was too overwhelmed by my emotions to speak any more so I left her and made my way back to our secret hole and waited for my friend to meet me. When he came, he had with him a young man. The boy seemed to be so caught up with the conflict inside of him that he did not say anything until we had fled the city.
The wind welcomed him back into its presence with torrents of joy. He laughed and wept and danced and fell to his face and my friend and I did the same things with him. We were exhausted, however, so we all quickly fell asleep.
For many days after, we continued to sneak into the city and do what we could to help. Sometimes more people would return to the wind, but sometimes it seemed like our efforts were in vain.
Forsaken was often on my mind, though. Whenever I could, I brought her food that the wind provided. Sometimes she was grateful. Other times she made a point to remind me that she could not leave the city. But even when I felt most discouraged, I continued visiting her with the hope that she would feel the wind again.
In time, there were over a hundred of us who had escaped the city and lived again with the wind. The rulers of the city now saw us as a deadly threat and made every attempt to keep us away. But even as they tried harder to keep us out, the wind always gave us a way in.
One day, the rulers of the city sent a messenger to us. I was informed that the messenger wanted to speak to me specifically so I went to meet her a little ways away from the city and the campsite my companions had made. I recognized her immediately as Temptress—my temptress.
“Gullible! It is so strange that I am talking to you here under these circumstances!” She said to me as I drew close enough to her to converse.
“Why did you ask for me?”
“You’ve grown colder since you left me, dear Gullible. I’m sorry to see you in this state. Your heart is anxious and your mind is never at rest. You left me to be free, but now you are a slave to the burden on your heart.”
“Is that the message you came here to send? Do not waste my time with your treachery. I know you too well and I have no desire to know you anymore.”
I turned and began walking away, but Temptress called out to me. “No, Gullible, my message is this: For every slave you try to free, we will torture all of our captives five times more. And if we ever find you in our city, we will kill you.”
“The day is quickly approaching, Temptress, when your city will be laid to waste. Your army cannot fight us outside your walls because the wind would destroy you, but soon, not even your city will be a refuge from its wrath against you. This is our declaration of war. We will lay siege to your city and we will watch it fall.”
“Those are dangerous words, Gullible. You are a fool to speak them.”
I had nothing more to say so I ignored her and went back to my companions. As I approached my campsite, my closest friend met me. “Do not heed anything the messenger said. They are afraid of us. But no matter what they try to do in their desperation, the wind will not allow anything to happen that is outside of its plan.”
“Why, even now, are her words so powerful against me?”
“Yes. I thought I had rid myself of her, but her poison has again quickly sunk into my heart. I am afraid. I fear her deception can easily overcome me again, and I am worried that I do not have the strength to withstand it.”
“Do not think low of yourself. Deception is what she is. She has mastered the art of it. No man on his own strength can stand against her. But we were never meant to rely on our own strength. I am here by your side, my friend. I will stand with you against all who come against you. But more, the wind is here. Follow it, and you will not fall. Only, let nothing hold your attention from it—not even the cause we are fighting for. Even our acts of honor can draw us away from the wind if we allow it to.”
“You speak with much wisdom. Thank you.”
For the next few days, the wind did not lead any of us back into the city. We waited anxiously—sometimes wishing we could be doing more; other times trusting the wind to move us in the right time. Then one morning came when the wind began to move. It began as a soft breeze circling the whole city, and then gradually grew stronger and stronger until its strength was on the verge of knocking us off of our feet. All of our hearts were stirred and our uncertainties were diminished as we stood at the gates of the city with the wind gushing around us.
The guards on the walls of the city gathered by the gate, but any who tried to raise a weapon against us were thrown immediately to the ground by the wind. The captives of the city noticed the commotion and gradually congregated at the gate on the inside of the city. When nearly all of the people of the city had gathered together, my friend stepped forward and cried out with a powerful voice, “The wind has a message for everyone in this city! To those who call themselves rulers and master—to those who devour the ones whom the wind loves, hear what I say! You are creatures of evil—devoid of anything good. You have corrupted what was pure and brought torment upon the children of the wind. And you do so unrepentantly! But soon your power will be stripped from you. Your city will fall and you will have nowhere to dwell but the pits of torment prepared for you.
“To those who are slaves, hear me! Freedom is here! You have suffered for too long under the tyranny of evil, but its hold on you is only as strong as your pride. The wind is Love! Grace is offered to those who ask for it. Do not harden your hearts against what will save you. Return to your Love for it longs to hold you and provide for you. It longs for you to be free! Do not live in fear anymore. Return to the wind!”
Chaos quickly erupted within the city. Guards and tempters were screaming curses at us and their slaves. Captives began pressing against the city gates, trying to force it open, while other guards tried to stop them. But they were all quickly silenced and stilled by a violent trembling in the earth. The walls of the city began to crack; guards fell from the battlements to their deaths, and the gates were broken from their hinges and toppled.
As soon as the gates fell, the earthquake stopped and captives of the city ran into the freedom of the wind—but only some. Other captives began to leave, but guards or their tempters yelled threats and temptations at them, causing them to return to their prison. And still others only stood and watched until they turned and walked miserably back to their homes.
I was delighted to see so many more captives returning to the wind, but even in my delight, restlessness remained. I looked at the faces of everyone who ran through the gates, hoping to see one in particular. But the face I sought, I did not find.
Even through all of the excitement around me, I felt the wind press gently against my back, urging me toward the city, and so I ran against the crowds into the territory of my enemies. When I had forced my way in I quickly looked around, trying to spot the one I sought. Soon, I saw her. She was walking slowly away from the gate, downcast, with tears dripping from her cheeks.
“Woman,” I cried out as I ran to her. She was already a good distance from the gate, so by the time I reached her the sound of the excitement at the gate was only a soft din.
As I caught up to her, she looked at me for only a brief moment then turned away and quickened her pace. I gently laid my hand on her arm to ask her to wait. “Child of the wind,” she said, “Why do you insist on concerning yourself with me? How can I make you understand that I am already lost and gone?
“That is something I can never understand because it is not true. Your tears are evidence that this city has not destroyed your heart. You may be broken. you may feel dead, but you are not beyond redemption.”
“I have been given so many chances to leave. The gates of the city were thrown down before my very eyes yet I still could not return to the wind. Is that not enough proof that there is no hope for me?”
“No. The wind put you in my mind and on my heart. As I watched thousands of people make their way out of the city, you were the one I was most concerned about. Then the wind told me to seek you, and I found you. I don’t believe this passion I have is for nothing.”
“But you always have been such a fool, Gullible.” Temptress’s voice came from behind me. I turned and saw her standing with the tempter who had hit the woman I was talking to. “Don’t you remember what brought you to our city in the first place? We were able to offer so much more than the wind could. We offered comfort, security, and pleasures of every kind.”
“No,” I replied, “you offered slavery and death. There is nothing you can give that would benefit anyone.”
“What I offered you, you accepted. And you want to accept it again. I know you do. Why would you judge this poor woman for doing the same thing you did? Why are you so determined to make her feel miserable about who she is? Do you enjoy bringing her so much pain?”
I opened my mouth to defend myself, but I stopped myself as I remembered who temptress was. She was a master of deceit. There was no way to debate against her and win. So instead I turned back to the girl next to me and said, “Woman, take heart. You are loved and you are worth saving. The wind has declared that. Come with me. Let us leave this wretched place.”
“Forsaken,” the woman’s tempter now spoke. “Don’t forget how you came to be here. The wind abandoned you. You sought it, but you did not find it. It left you in the cold of the night, and had I not found you, you would have had no place to stay. I clothed you and kept you warm. I fed you and cared for you. I gave you all the things you desired. Would you repay me now by turning against me?”
The woman stood silently, hugging her arms and staring at the ground. I longed to help her. I would have died in that moment to have her return to the wind, but even that would not have helped. The only idea I had left was to whisper, “Dearest wind, call your children.”
As I spoke, the wind came upon the city and rushed through the streets, singing as it passed the houses and other buildings. Its melody touched a depth of my heart in a way I had never known before. The rulers of the city cried out curses and rushed inside. Temptress and the other tempter also fled and hid inside of the nearest house.
As the wind blew through the hair of the woman next to me, she lifted up her head, shut her eyes, and breathed deeply as she listened to the many things the wind sang to her. When the wind died down, I took her hands in mine and looked her in the eyes. “You are loved.” A tear rolled down her cheek. But this time, it was not a tear of sorrow or regret; it was a tear of joy. “I am leaving this city for the last time. Will you come with me?”
The woman smiled faintly then nodded. And so, together we left that place and joined the thousands of people who were children of the wind.
That evening was filled with rejoicing among us all. We danced and sang with more fervor than we ever had before. At one point, I could not help but stop and observe the scene around me. I saw smiles everywhere I looked. I heard laughter that never ceased. This is what we have all been waiting for. I thought to myself. This is paradise.
But there was one last thing that had to be done.
The following morning, we were all awakened by crashes of thunder. We jumped up and looked beyond the city where dark clouds were gathering quickly. The wind blew strongly against us, so we turned and gathered at the top of the hill we were on. From there, the city was distant, but we could still see its gloomy walls and houses.
The thunder grew stronger and more frequent. The earth trembled at its might. And the wind grew ever stronger—no longer telling us to move, but blowing mightily as if declaring its glory.
Soon, we spotted dust rising from the ground near the city, spinning quickly in circles. The dust rose higher and higher until it reached the clouds and formed a dark pillar that broke through the city’s walls. The cyclone continued through the city for hours until it decimated everything that stood or lived there.
When the wind had done its work, it stilled. The dark clouds broke apart and the sun rained down on us. The evil that warred against us was no more, and with its vanishing all of our pains and sorrows and regrets went with it. We were all finally free—for good.
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