As Nolan and I walked towards home, the sky rumbled lowly, the first warning growls of an approaching storm. The wind had gradually grown as we walked, until it was whipping my hair across my face and making the feathers of Nolan’s cloak stand straight. There was a storm coming, and it was coming fast. We’d be lucky to get home before we got soaked by rain.
“Why did we take the long way home?” I asked, having to raise my voice above the thunder.
Nolan glanced anxiously over his shoulder, eyes fixed on the sky, and answered absently, “I need to get the timing right.”
He was being vague and it was bothering me. “Are you trying to get us wet?” I complained emptily, more focussed on the road ahead than what I was saying. We were nearing a small rise with a bare-branched tree standing stubbornly against the wind. It was an old tree that had once been marked with a memorial stone, but the inscription on the stone was in a different language that neither of us understood. We’d passed this spot many times, always in deference to the soul whose memory was planted there, and always with an unsettling feeling that we were being watched.
“The light’s fading,” Nolan muttered to himself, staring up at the dark clouds that were thinly covering the moon and stars. The wind was blowing them across the sky with furious speed, seeming determined to blot out all the night’s light in just a matter of minutes. Lightning flashed brightly directly above us and was followed by a peal of thunder so close, it shook the ground. “We’d better hurry,” Nolan called to me, jogging towards the memorial tree. I followed him without question, but my thoughts were with the thunder.
I remembered a story I’d once heard about thunderstorms. There was a war raging above the sky, I’d been told, where titanic beings charged across an otherworldly battlefield at one another. Their feet raised screens of dust so thick and grey, they became storm clouds, and the pounding of their feet could be heard as the lowest of the thunder. Every once in a while, a sword or an axe would swing wide and slice through the clouds, light reflecting off the blades so that we below the sky saw it for a split second as lightning. As the intensity of their fighting increased, so too did the thunder, becoming the booming crash of war drums, the rumbling, shouting voices of the warriors, and the lilting cadence of marching feet. Sometimes, the battle was so fierce, it shook the whole earth. Other times, it was so powerful, a steel blade shattered and sent shards of fire careening towards the ground. When the titans took to war, no one escaped the power of the storm.
More thunder cracked and I felt the vibrations under my feet. The clouds were going to break and let down the rain soon, I knew, and I ran a bit faster to catch up with Nolan. We stopped beside the dead tree, the wind tearing at our clothes as if warning us to find shelter before the storm unleashed its fury. “Get out your sketchbook,” Nolan called to me, the gale playing tricks with his voice.
“Are you crazy?” I shouted back, digging in my satchel nonetheless. In this wind, I would be lucky if the pages of the sketchbook weren’t all ripped out and cast to the sky, and I would be equally in trouble if it started to rain. But Nolan was looking around him in the familiar way–eyes half-closed, chin uplifted, ears flickering–that told me he was listening to the wind. I assumed that he wouldn’t be telling me to take out my sketchbook if he thought it would be ruined.
I pulled out the book and opened it to an empty page, fighting at first against the strong winds that chewed hungrily at the paper. Then Nolan said, “Leave it be,” in his sharp Wind-Voice, and the winds obeyed him, letting my pages fall still. I pulled out a pencil from the bottom of my bag and looked to Nolan for instructions. He was distracted looking up at the sky, but then he suddenly seemed to hear something and whispered, “Just draw what you see.”
I stared at him, but he was still absorbed in the sky. What was that supposed to mean? Did I start drawing right away, or was something supposed to happen? There was nothing unusual around me and so, uncertain, I glanced left and right, finding that the only subject to draw was the memorial tree. I put pencil to paper and was about to sketch out the first line when there was an unexpected burst of sound from above us.
My first instinct was to duck as something flew above my head, but I suppressed it and instead turned my head sharply to see what that flying something was. It was a pair of mourning doves, flapping desperately against the stormy gale, giving sharp, keening calls that were very unlike the low hum of doves. The flew a few metres away and then turned in the wind and came back in our direction, passing directly over our heads. I craned my neck to follow their movement and then understood what Nolan meant.
Just for a heartbeat, as the second dove’s shadow slid over me, I saw not a bird, but a sprite, wearing a cape of feathers, a headdress of pink and blue, a flowing tail streaming behind her…
I drew quickly, not wanting to lose a single detail, the image of the sprite burned into my mind–and I felt that familiar rush of warmth down my arms and back, the warmth that was the magic of the small folk. I had seen one, unexpectedly, and my heart was pounding with hope. If I could see one, maybe I could hear one, too.
Nolan looked over my shoulder at my sketch, nodding with satisfaction at what he saw. “I would have been really scared if you hadn’t seen that,” he confessed a bit worriedly. “But do you recognize her?”
I stared down at the picture, trying to absorb the magic through it, not wanting to lose it again, and said, “I do. She’s one of the gypsy sprites. Chieftain’s daughter. Why has she come so far?”
Nolan blinked slowly. “The North Wind called her here, to show her to you. There’s been trouble in the gypsy tribe and they want you to come help them.”
It was stormy yesterday, during my horseback riding lesson, and the horses were all caught up in the power of the storm. They spooked at the thunder and the wind and the rain, each of them full of more energy than usual. On one hand, it was a bit nerve-wracking to have to sit through that and not get as wound up as the horses, but on the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel the ground-shaking power of the thunderstorm getting inside me, too.
Storms are scary for a lot of reasons–the loudness, the lightning, the pounding rain–but I find them to be invigorating as well. The thunder rumbles in your core, the lightning flashes in your eyes, and you know that you’re feeling some of nature’s rawest, strongest power. It’s hard not to become a part of it, or else wish that you could.
And of course, storms provide a wonderful backdrop for many mysterious and suspenseful things. Just think of all that happens on a dark and stormy night…
How do you feel about storms?
May you carry a bit of the power of the storm with you so that you always have strength.