"There is only one who can beseech the weather and it is certianly not me." Elder Fala's voice echoed through Winna's mind as she traced the decent of a rain drop on the spotted window.Six years had passed since she spoke those words and the budding teenager tried desperately to think of who in their world could be more powerful than her teacher and mentor. The elderly woman had been a constant reminder of the power locked away in a single being charged with keeping the balance of nature. It had been said that Winna would join the ranks of the Whisperers when she came of age and found her affinity, but lately this seemed to be proving more and more difficult with each day.
"Winna dear, please come away from the window. It's almost time." The kind, but insistent voice of her mother reached the pondering girl's ears as she sighed dramatically, "I don't see why this is so important to everyone. The harvest happens every year, why is this particular time so different?" Fussing hands found the girl's chestnut mane and pulled a brush through it as her mother gently squeezed Winna's arm, "Please don't be stubborn today. We don't want to be late."
"Late for what?!" Winna demanded, frusterated as a familiar bass voice drifted into the room, "Are we having a bad hair day?" Glancing in the window's spotted reflection, Winna's dark eyes rested on the broad chest, wide shoulders and field worn arms of thehead of their home. "We are having a communication problem, father," the annoyed teen grumbled as the leathered skin of the patientman pulled back slightly in an amused smile, "Today is a very special harvest, Winna. You won't want to miss this."
A knowing look passed between the two parents as Winna managed to pry the brush from her mother's hand and attempt to tame the waves of unruliness that was her hair, "Why won't either of you tell me what's going on?" The pleasant smile on Lena's face was comforting as she bent down and squeezed her daughter's shoulders, "We don't want to ruin the surprise, love. This is something you must experience on your own and if we say anything, you will be waiting for a reaction that won't really be your's."
Not quite liking how cryptic her normally straight-forward parents had become, the suspicious girl slid off the window sill and began to follow them out the door. Before she left though, Winna took a step back and glanced in the standing mirror angled from her parent's bedroom and sighed, "It's bad enough I can't seem to find my affinity, would some breasts really be so great a request to compensate?" The regretfully flat girl flipped back a rebellious strand of hair and stepped through the carved doorway and onto the streets of Rinsha where other families were already emerging from their homes.
The harvest was a yearly event that had been repeated the same way since the thirteen-year-old girl could remember. It was the day that Elder Falajoined the village together to call upon their affinities to help the land grow. While only a few members of the village were actual Whisperers, everyone had something they could give to the land in exchange for its fruit. Winna had been joining her parents in this ritual for years, but this would be the first time she was allowed to participate with them. The children were often ushered to the back of the crowd and given pre-made tasks so they could feel included in the process. But on the year they turned thirteen, everyone was expected to fall in with the adults.
"Winna....." A quiet voice pulled her from her thoughts as the distracted girl turned her ocean colored eyes to a much smaller teen, "Oh Mie, I didn't see you there." The shy girl came up beside her and took her hand quickly. This was normal for Winna though; it seemed that the only time Mie was ever calm was when she was clinging to her best friend in some way. Mie's violet eyes stared at the growing crowd of adults and giggling children curling around the mountain side, "What do you think is going to happen?"
"I'm not sure, my parents won't say anything. Apparently it will be something we don't want to miss. Nervous?" This was a silly question as Mie was always nervous. The sparrow looking girl had such a petite way to her that most the adults worried she would break with the slightest breeze. They called her frightened and mousy, but Winna always imagined her to be like a blossom from the mordian tree; fragile, small and preciously beautiful with the promise of spring in her smile. Even though they were the same age, Winna had taken the role of big sister to the quivering girl; ajob she took very seriously.
"Hey look! It's a mouse out of her hole!" The mean voice reminded Winna of exactly why she needed to defend Mie so often as she turned sharply, "Back off worm breath!" The trio of bullies leaned against each other snickering and spitting rudely. Skyner, Liwe and of course their appointed leader, Seto, sneered at the adolescent girls before he looked her up and down, "Who are you calling worm breath? Sea slug!" Winna glared at the nasty boy coldly. He had been calling her that since Elder Fala took them to the Glyreck Sea shore five years ago. Winna had been particularly fascinated by the glowing bodies of the invertebrate living in the shimmering pools of water by the cliff face and Seto was quick to tease her about being spineless herself since she had yet to make any momentum on gaining her affinity.
"Where's your snappy comeback, slug face?" Seto asked narrowing his green eyes and turning his freckled nose up in disgust. Winna spun around and pulled Mie with her spitting over her shoulder, "I don't want to waste it on someone as pathetic as you!" This of course recieved barrels of laughter from the mean boys as Winna silently fummed. The crisp, soprano call of the reakame birds lifted on the breeze, summoning the begining of the harvest season and harmonizing with the resonating bass of the muloki stork picking his way through the stream. His inky black eyes took in the two girls as they pushed their way through the reeds of the Treshnion river. Once they had traveled so far that the mocking snickers were mostly lost, Mie caught up to the angry girl and stroked her arm gently, "Don't let them get you so mad, Winna. I know you will find your affinity soon."
Winna sighed, defeated as her blue eyes searched the sparkling violet gaze of her truest friend, "You've been saying that for the past three years and still nothing." Mie's auburn eye brows came together slightly as a gentle breeze picked up her strawberry hair lightly, "You are just a late bloomer, that's all. The elders sensed the power in you, so you much have faith in that. I know you will be an amazing Whisperer someday, Winna." That's what everyone said to her. The same excuse over and over again and yet, Mie had already discovered her affinity with birds two years ago. Even that worm breath Seto had found his affinity to communicate with insects; hence the very clever nickname Winna had bestowed upon him.
Every single person in her class of Whisperers had either begun the process or were already working to master their specific affinity that connected them with nature. Skyner discovered in the middle of a meditation lesson that he could mold and twist sand to his liking and Liwe was busy trying to learn how to better communicate with the live stock of Rinsha. These seemed like small victories to the untrained eye, but with the right amount of training and years of developing one's skill, a Whisperer could take their particular talent and stretch it out for a much wider cast. If Seto was able to commune with insects, he could convince the honey bees to pollunate and give their treats to the people of the village. If Liwe mastered his skill with live stock, he could know what would break a wild horse or how to coax more milk from a stubborn cow.
"Good evening, Winna."
And of course, there was Kaden. Winna instinctively pulled Mie to her side as she took in the small smile of the dark haired boy. He stood eye level with her, his strange, golden eyes catching the setting sun as Winna found herself staring, "Hi Kaden.....what happened to your lip?" The once smooth eyes widened slightly as an involuntary hand raised to the split in his lower lip, "Oh....I....um.....just training I guess. Things happen, you know?"
Mie tighened her grasp on Winna's hand as she nodded slightly, "Yeah, I guess." Of course neither girl believed the gangly youth for a moment. It was nothing new for Kaden to come to class with fresh cuts or blackining bruises which always came with a quick explianation, usually involving training. It was no secret to them about the cruelty ofhis mother, Jessah, who had secluded herself from everyone in the crowd of people. Winna's eyes turned from Kaden, to the frozen beauty that was his mother. She watched as the woman's dark hair lifted in the evening breeze, curling around her shoulders like the many serpants which seemed to flock to her presence whenever she did leave the house. It seemed strange that someone so beautiful could be so angry as Winna watched her carefully.
"So, you have any idea what this whole thing is about?" Kaden asked, trying his best to stay away Winna's curious eyes. Grasping the hint, the embarrassed girl shrugged, "I don't know. My parents won't tell me either." Mie pulled on Winna's arm softly, "I think I see my family, I'll catch up to you when the harvest starts." Before Winna could protest, Mie flittered her way through the gathering crowd of people, stopping to peek back at the two awkward youths, before sliding effortlessly into her mother's arm.
"How is your training coming?" Kaden asked, trying to be poliet and break the heavy silence between them as Winna scuffed her boot forward slightly, "The same as ever." The answer must have sounded as miserable as she felt because Kaden's golden eyes softened and his voice was encouraging, "You just have to be patient. Your affinity will come in its own time, but trying to rush it will be pointless." Even though the words were the same she had heard for years now, somehow whenever Kaden spoke them, they seemed to actually make her feel just a little better.
"That's easy for you to say. You discovered your affinity when you were only nine. That's unheard of." A stream of setting sunlight broke through the trees and cast an orange hue on the boy prodigy, softening his features as he smiled, "I am far from the skill level of some. I still have plenty left to learn and I'm sure that when you do discover your affinity, it will be no time before you master it. You've always been the sharpest girl in our class and Elder Fala's lessons come quickly to you. Remember how you made that herbal concoction last month? The one for burns? That took me weeks to get just right."
Winna found herself smiling, embarrassed. Concoctions were easy for her, it was just finding the right balance. But Kaden was being kind as she knew for a fact he was indeed the first person to get it right. He always seemed to be doing that, trying his best to be kind to everyone no matter if they deserved it or not. Kaden had discovered his affinity very early and it was an exceptionally powerful one. Winna remembered the day they came into the class circle and found the young boy with impossibly dark hair holding his pale hands up and coaxing the small flame flickering in his grasp. She remembered how they all stood amazed at the way he twisted and pulled it through his fingers and how his golden eyes seemed more lively than ever before. But mostly, she remembered the look of concern in Elder Fala's gray eyes.
"It looks like the ceremony is going to start soon." Kaden mused, breaking the blushing girl's concentration as she stammered, "Y...yes, I guess you're right. Um, I'll see you later, Kaden." He nodded gracefully to her and proceeded to his place beside Jessah, her essence freezing everyone around her. Winna scooted her way to her parents who were speaking to their neighbors as Lena absently placed her arm around her daughter who was annoyed that her heart seemed to beat far too fast. Glancing behind a few chatting adults, Winna's eyes rested on Mie who was clinging to her father's arm and even to Seto who smiled at his elder brother's antics. They all seemed to be happy and loved until her wandering gaze rested on the dark mother and son who stood at least six inches from each other, neither conversing or laughing as the rest of the villagers.
Winna felt apang in her heart as Kaden smiled and waved softly to her, sending a fresh blush to her sun-kissed cheeks as she quickly twisted around. The strange feeling disturbed the thirteen-year-old girl and she was truly grateful when Elder Fala took her place ontop of the large stone face above them. The aging woman smiled warmly and held up her frail arms, "Grace the morning,"
"Embrace the evening." The crowd replied in unison as was the greeting in Rinsha. Winna smiled at her mentor who had commanded the harvest years before she was born and took in her words as her voice resonated, "The world has turned another year and our lives were blessed. It is time for us to give back to the land to recieve the gifts she has to offer. Everyone here is connected; we are part of the ground, the water, the sky, the blossoming sun and the drizzling rain. It is in every one of us to keep the balance and the Whisperers recieve your energies to beseech the land for another prosperous year. My children of Rinsha, the harvest has begun......"
Winna glanced around at the faces circling her. Most every one had closed their eyes as if waiting for some grand event as Winna's brow furlled, was she supposed to do this as well? The silence draped across the crowd like a stiffiling blanket until the shuffling of feet drew the puzzled girl's attention.Four individuals emerged from the group of villagers and stood facing different directions with an expectant aura about them. Winna recognized them all; Yion, the butcher, who's affinity was over the beasts of the forests. Rita, the flute and harp instructor, who could just as easily she sing with the river's melodies she communed with. Vicmen, the tailor, who's affinity was with the bats and winged creatures of the air. And of course, Jessah, who stood just as snake like as the serpants who did her bidding.
"What the?" Winna breathed as all four of the Whisperers raised their hands up to Elder Fala who raised her arms to the sky, forming a living pentagon with their bodies. Suddenly, it felt as if a light began to blossom within the young girl as she gasped lightly.A hand clutched her's as her mother's eyes, still closed, began to water slightly, the smile never leaving her graceful face.Winna breathed heavily against the invading light that seemed to cloud her vision until her resisting eyes closed.
"Hello, young Whisperer." The voice was gentle and amused as Winna jumped at the intrusion of her body. In her mind's eye, she watched through the seemingly blinding light as it dimmed to a glow until a figure began to appear before her. "Who are you?" Winna asked without words as the light molded and twisted until the shape was as clear to her as it would have been if her eyes were opened. The shimmering dragon of light watched her patiently as she tried her best to stay standing.
"I am Leafwood, your guide for this harvest. I've come to absorb your energy for the land and to thank you for taking care of our home. The people of Rinsha have always been faithful in keeping the balance and that is why the world we live in flourishes. I expect a great future for you, young one. You have a heart I have not seen for many cycles."
"What will my future be? I can't even find my affinity!" Winna's voice was desperate as she saw the dragon's light fading away from her mind. Before he was completely gone, a voice, as soft as a feather against her soul replied, "Great things need timeto make ready. Your affinity will be something of legends, young Whisperer. Wait and see....."
And then he was gone, leaving her mind to her own sacred privacy again. The voices around her woke the now exhausted girl as her blue eyes took in the sky above her. "Winna, are you all right? Can you stand yet?" It took a moment before her mind gathered who was asking the question. When everything clicked, Winna discovered that she had fallen to the ground and her parents were trying to rouse her from her encounter with Leafwood. Blushing slightly, the bewildered girl sat up and glanced around at the other sets of families who were comparing experiences and branching out from the circle.
"What happened?" Winna asked, breathless as Lena smiled and embraced hertightly, "You experienced the harvest, my love. The Whisperers channel our energy and beseech the land to accept it. The being you saw was accepting your gift. Even if we have no other power than being human, every one of us who gives a little energy to the land is thanked by it's protectors. Oh, sweet heart, I'm so happy for you!" Winna continued to stare out at her classmates who were all just as wide-eyed as she was.
"Leafwood, that's what his name was." Winna mused as her father grinned, "Impressive, Leafwood only comes to those who will be very influential in their lives. I believe the last one to recieve his thanks was Elder Fala." The news hit the awed girl as she glanced over to Elder Fala who seemed to be much older than she was a moment earlier. "Leafwood..." she whispered as a small smile came to her face, "Leafwood....."