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The Wind

by Grace O'Neill

         The tent was still. Clean, bare, pure, plain—it was a brief home made safe for the sick. There a man lay on a cot and went slow to his end. The man knew he was on a long yet sure walk to death’s door, but his heart still had a soul. Kai sat with bent back next to the cot. The thin white sheets were too cool, too crisp. They kept no heat in. His kin's hand—numb, stiff, and weak—was held tight in his grip. His heart shook from the fear, his legs from the chill. Two chests with coats of mail rose and fell in the cloth walls—one full and strong, and one less than so. The wind blew in haste on all sides. It shrieked and cried like a bird in a fear-filled flight.

         Twice Kai had seen one he loved in such a fight. Twice he watched chain mail once worn with pride press down on a weak and slow chest. No more did it help them hide from death. A sword is quick to kill and quick to dodge, but the cold that sinks deep in the bones owns one's soul till their fate is made up on some sad, still night. A hoarse cough broke through the hushed air, and the wind quit its cry at the sound. Too cold, too weak, too sick to keep on—Kai saw it. He saw it clear in his kin’s eyes.

         The man had no strength to say the words he felt should be heard, so he prayed with all his hope and will, Let not my end leave ice in your heart, my kin.

         Two chests of chain mail rose and fell in the tent—one more, one less, and then less still. The thick of night had long been on them, and yet it drew near once more. A rush of wind blew. No noise came with the cold gust, but in a wisp, the light of a torch was put out.

         One chest rose and fell in the tent. A weak hand went limp. A cot was made a death bed, and so the wind sang a new song. It was low with woe like a hymn for the dawn sung too late in the night.

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