Zwi’s laugh seemed to come from another world. Rashied had almost forgotten the man was there. The sound sent a start of surprise through him. He knew that laugh. “You’re the wind!”
The white-haired man beamed.
Rashied bit his lip. There were a thousand questions that he wanted to ask of the wind. It didn’t answer when it was a voice in his ear, but a man would be a different story. His eyes drifted back to the ropes. Frozen or not, this wasn’t the time. He would just have to hope for another. He looked back to Nissiana. “There’s one more thing.”
It was stupid, making demands of the gods. What it meant to be a Guardian varied by the tale and the one telling it, but everyone agreed it was about serving as the god’s will among mortals. He loved this goddess before him, but he was grossly unqualified for such a role. Starting off the relationship with a list of demands was just as foolish as if he’d done the same at a shipwright’s while trying to win himself a job there. But she was his goddess. How could she not enjoy him pressing his luck?
Indeed, rather than the irritation the statement deserved, she raised an amused eyebrow. Encouraged, Rashied barreled forward. “I want to see what’s past the barrier.”
She laughed and swept him up into her arms. The cloth of her dress was the softest he’d ever felt, but it was nothing to her skin. Just touching it sent a shiver of pleasure through him. She smelled of equal parts flowers and ocean. Rashied fought to control his arousal, but her titter of laughter told him she knew anyway.
“You are my favorite, Rashied. We are going to have so much fun together.”
Light seemed to poor out of Nissiana, blinding him. Rashied pressed his eyes closed, but it burned even from beneath the lids. He felt a powerful wind pounding against them, making his skin sting, but she held him against its force. As she did, he felt her strength pouring into him like he was a water skin being filled. He’d never felt so strong, so alive.
Then, without warning, it all disappeared. The light was gone, though it left colors floating across his eyelids. The feel of her pressed against him faded, and the wind stopped. Rashied opened his eyes, blinking and waiting for his vision to return. Nissiana and Zwi were gone.
The storm resumed with a crack of thunder. He could only gape, thrown for a beat as the world began moving again.
Chetana’s voice cut through the confusion. There was no time for that. He moved without thinking. He didn’t bother with the ladder as he threw himself over the railing and out into the open air. His eyes cut through the darkness with inhuman ease. It was disconcerting and exciting, and as much as he wanted to revel in it, he kept his mind on more pressing matters. Trusting his goddess, he threw his hands out. A rope was in them almost the second he did, as though it leapt into them. He gripped it tight and used the momentum to swing himself around. Before he could even see where he was going, he launched himself forward. He trusted another rope to be there, and it always was. He made his way to Chetana in seconds, moving faster than thought, and caught his friend’s hand just as the boy lost his hold.