Wind Walkers: Bethany Roon

Wind Walkers: Bethany Roon

A Chapter by J.A. Marquez
"

Bethany is in line to take over as chief, but when her father urges her to marry she questions her role in the tribe.

"
Crisp air flooded Bethany's lungs, stinging in her nostrils and the shallow grooves of her throat. She cast her eager gaze over the approaching earth as the pale glow of dawn broke the horizon. The familiar easence of dewey grasses was carried to her on the early morning gusts. With her thin, branch-like arms outstretched, she leaned against the firm weave of the basket, letting her pale hair fly around her even paler face. If she closed her eyes she could almost imagine that she were a bird gliding against the wind, defying the grip of death, which waited hungrily below.

"Brace for touchdown." The deep gravel of her father's authorotative voice, wrenched her from her fantasy.

They were a mere hundred feet off of the ground and rapidly descending. Bethany dropped herself against the wall and braced for impact. The basket lurched as it skidded over the grass, rebounding and dropping seven times before gliding to a full stop.


In the cover of night they had drifted for miles allowing the wind to carry them away from the previous day's camp. Now they skidded along the tall grass pressing down the blades so that ninety four distinct trails could be seen from above by the time they had come to a full stop. Eager to feel the earth Bethany leaned over the edge of her basket and reached her hands out so that the grass brushed the tips of her fingers.

"Papa, it's so beautiful here!" She exclaimed with breathless wonder.

Her father, Jonah Roon who was the chief of the wind walkers did not pay her any mind. Instead he set about organizing his ledgers and maps on a table crudely constructed of plywood and crates. Around them the others unloaded from their baskets and stretched their aching limbs. The balloons were secured to posts and small family camps were arranged in the wide circle they had formed. Soon the men would set out with their bows and blades and rifles for those who had them, and the women would prepare the last light feast.

During the day it was safe to hunt and to gather and to roam the ground. The infected shared a strange intolerance to the sun and would not be about until the wind walkers were long gone from their camps. So they used the daylight to eat and to wash and to get supplies and would gather an hour before nightfall for the last light feast.

Bethany tossed her sandals from her feet and sprinted across the common to one of the other balloons. Inside, Lydia, her best friend was basking in the morning heat. Bethany swung her legs over so that she fell in beside her.

"How was the ride for you?" She asked Lydia who lay still as an opossum.

The girl's nose twitched and then she sighed and rolled onto her side to face Bethany. In the glow of the sun her hair was a brilliant red that was cooled only by the spearmint green of her eyes.

"I barely slept." The dark circles beneath her eyes provided evidence of her claim.

"Maybe tonight you could stay with me."

Lydia's face lit up, but only for an instant.

"Bethany!" It was her father. "Where have you got to now?"

Cringing she rose from the deep well and peeked over the beige wicker. Her father was swiftly marching toward them with a stern scowl. Begrudgingly she went to him.

"You cannot be running off like that. Maybe when you were a child, but you will be eighteen tomorrow and you must start acting like the dignified woman you are." His tenor voice was frazzled.

"I'm sorry Papa. It's just been so long since we've been somewhere so warm and open."

"None the less, you are to be chief one day and a chief does not go missing on a whim."

Solemnly she returned to her own camp on the heels of her father. As they passed, the others nodded to them respectfully. Bethany felt silly being marched around camp like a prized pet, but she dared not to argue with her father. Not only was he the most powerful man in their tribe, but he had an unexpected temper that could turn sour with a changing breeze.

Back at the plywood table Bethany perched on one of the crates and waited to be reprimanded further. Instead Jonah knelt and took her hand in his.

"Bethy," he cooed as if talking to a newborn. "I know it isn't easy to have so many rules. Believe me, I was an only child as well. When there is only one successor they must be protected. You understand that don't you?"

Bethany squeezed her father's hand.

"Of course I do, but Lydia is a friend and nobody is going to hurt me here."

"We would like to believe that, but there will always be dissent where there is government. If someone desired to break our bloodline and end our rule it would be as easy as luring you away from the common. You cannot be so foolish."

"I can take care of myself." She insisted.

"No. You can't. Which is why I have decided to begin accepting proposals for your hand. Before the day is out tomorrow you will be betrothed. We will hold a wedding after you are made chief. Then it will be your duty not only to lead, but to continue our bloodline."

Cold sweat seeped from Bethany's pores. She knew this day was coming. Most of the girls her age were already wedded with children on the way. Lydia was betrothed herself. Bethany was one of few who had managed to stay unclaimed for so long and now even her freedom would be lost.

"Papa, please." She wished she could dissuade him.

"No, this is how it must be. We will discuss this no further. The hunt is soon to commence and you must oversee the women while I am gone."

"Yes Papa." Bethany felt her brow furrow, but she kept her eyes forward.

Jonah slung his knapsack over his shoulders and took up his rifle. Before gathering with the other men on the common he hesitated.

"You will have some say in who your husband will be and it will be a year before you are married. Life will go on, Bethy, you'll see."

Not convinced, Bethany waited until her father was standing before the gathered men to let out a stifled sob. Her body convulsed as she choked her emotions down. A chief could not give way to matters of the heart. On the contrary she allowed her bitterness at her father to harden her.

As the men marched out of the common and into the open land the women were drawn together. Before long the cooking fires were ablaze and the pots were set to boiling. They would have five hours to prepare the last light feast before the men returned with their catch.

It was Bethany's job to oversee the women and their work. Before her mother had died she had taken the time to teach Bethany all of the skills of womanhood -gathering plants and cooking and tending to children. Sometimes Bethany wished she could hunt with her father and for a time she thought that this would be pary of her role as chief. Only now her father planned to marry her off and this meant that she would be provided for. She wondered if her father had taken this into consideration. Any man that his daughter married would surely be a major influence in the running of the tribe. In fact he may as well be named chief himself.

Inspiration put a kick in her step as Bethany realized what this meant. Her father wanted to keep their bloodline at the head of the tribe, but in forcing her to marry he would be handing his power to another. If she were to convince him of his mistake then perhaps she would not have to be married after all.

With a scheming grin she found her way back to Lydia who was now seated on a tree stump lazily peeling the husks off of a mountain of corn ears. She dropped herself next to her friend and took a cob in her own hand. The husks were like a thick ribbed paper and felt almost alien between her fingers.

"Why so quiet?" Asked Lydia who was not in the least bit misled by her friends smile.

Bethany gritted her teeth and contemplated an answer. She knew Lydia would be excited for her and did not want to be a killjoy. However Lydia's gaze did not break and the pressure to confess was unrelenting.

"The chief is going to marry me off." She sighed.

"Oh," squealed Lydia, "aren't you excited?"

Bethany tried at any expression better than disgust.

"You don't want to get married." Lydia guessed. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I just assumed-"

"It's fine. I guess it came as something of a surprise to me. I always thought that when I took over it would be as the highest authority among our people. I wasn't counting on having a husband looming over me all the time."

"I'm sure it isn't so bad." Lydia tried to console her. "The young men are well behaved and your father would only give you to the best of them."

"That's what worries me. If I am the wife of the strongest and noblest of our men, then how could I keep him from taking the power that was meant for me?"

Both girls tossed their cleaned ears into the large cooking pot. Lydia seemed to be as disenchanted now as Bethany. She rested a moist hand on the bare shoulder of her friend.

"Isn't there someone you would have as the father of your children? You can't refuse to be married. The survival of the tribe depends on your success."

Bethany rolled her eyes and took up more corn. She grew weary of Lydia's wisdoms, but it was her job. All of the women in Lydia's family were advisors to the chief from the time that John Roon invited them to join him in the sky. Whether she liked to or not Bethany had to hold dear Lydia's advice.

"But what if I had a child without being married?" Her eyes were wide and sparkling.

"Bethany!" Lydia's disgust was evident on her face. "It isn't allowed and for good reason."

"I know, but what if?" She was determined to outsmart fate.

"When you are chief if you should choose to change the law it will be your will, but you must do as your father commands until that day comes."

Defeat was clear on Bethany's visage. It was true that she could not disobey her father, lest she be cast out among the blood hunters. Then her purpose would be lost entirely. There had to be some way out of this knot. She tossed away her clean corn and picked another.

"When I'm in charge I won't force girls to be wives. Why shouldn't a woman be able able to hunt like the men and see the world outside of the camps?"

"It's for the best interest of the people. I know it isn't fair, but would you rather we go extinct?"

"No, but shouldn't we have a right to choose our own fate?"

"Choice is a privilege that died with our ancestors." Lydia warned.

A crashing boom broke the stillness in the meadow and a flock of birds burst forth from the trees beyond the common. The girls jumped and waited to hear the shrill of Jonah's whistle. There was a pause, but then the sound came and all of the women seemed to let out a breath as one. The whistle blew a second time and like clockwork a loud cheer rose up from the camp. The hunt was a success. Perhaps the men would even return early and there would be time for idleness. This was a rare treat that they had learned never to expect. Then there was a third trill and all of the cheer and excitement that had flooded the meadow ebbed just as suddenly. Someone was hurt.

In a blur of movement the womenfolk began to prepare a sick bed in one of the spare baskets. One fetched hot water and another fetched towels and a sewing kit. Bethany rushed to the scene, her skirt blowing in the wind behind her like flowing white wings. There was a break in the trees and through it she could see three men hobbling back to camp like contestants in a relay race. They were too far to assess yet so Bethany turned her attention to the frantic crowd of ladies and children.

"Everybody be calm." She called out. "Where is the healer?"

She scanned the crowd of distraught faces until she found the middle aged woman known as Clementine. The woman stepped forward.

"Take your girl and go to them. They are there at the edge of the clearing." She pointed to the trio. "Take a weapon with you."

The woman gestured to her apprentice who reluctantly plucked a machete from the weapons store. Together they started in the direction of the injured man. Without thinking Bethany followed after them. What if it was her father?

When they got to the edge of the camp common the women paused and peeked out into the open land. There were no threats in sight, but something had hurt a man and they were on edge. Bethany crouched low by the basket of one of the balloons and watched as the other two stepped onto open ground. She herself had rarely left the safety of the common. That was a privelege only for the hunters and the healers. The open land was not safe.

Slowly the distance between the healers and their patient closed and Bethany waited to see the extent of the injury. Apparently it was decided that the man would survive until he got to the camp. The group of five, four supporting the one, cautiously tread back to the meadow.

Behind her Bethany heard the rustling of the grass and she spun on her heels.

"It's just me." Lydia held up her hands. "I was curious."

Bethany allowed her self a giggle. For all of her insight and wisdom Lydia could be surprisingly mischevious.

"Come on."

Bethany waved her friend forward and they inched along the perimeter of the camp so that they could see the injured man when he was brought in. To her shock Bethany did not recognize him. He was different from the men of her tribe who were mostly fair skinned and stout. She did not get a close look at his face, but she knew that this man was not a wind walker.


© 2015 J.A. Marquez


Author's Note

J.A. Marquez
Second draft of this chapter. I made a few edits for clarity and consistency.

My Review

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Featured Review

As for this chapter...a bit longer of a read...then the others so far...I do still see the need for commas in areas and breaking the sentences...the "opossum" can be fix to "possum"...but as for the story line...its a go...it ends with the reader wanting to know what happened to this outcast...and where this goes...with Bethany and her future as a chief and marriage...and a little introduction into some of the characters...

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.A. Marquez

6 Years Ago

Yes, from here all of the chapters will be relatively long. Everything up to this point was not the .. read more



Reviews

Yeah! i love this story from the start! i can't wait to read more. Maybe i wont review every chapter, and maybe I'll take a few days to read it all the way cause i'm working on my story... But you've gotta continue writing this story. Brilliant.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

As for this chapter...a bit longer of a read...then the others so far...I do still see the need for commas in areas and breaking the sentences...the "opossum" can be fix to "possum"...but as for the story line...its a go...it ends with the reader wanting to know what happened to this outcast...and where this goes...with Bethany and her future as a chief and marriage...and a little introduction into some of the characters...

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.A. Marquez

6 Years Ago

Yes, from here all of the chapters will be relatively long. Everything up to this point was not the .. read more

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Added on April 1, 2015
Last Updated on August 30, 2015
Tags: adventure, dystopia, coming of age, fiction


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J.A. Marquez
J.A. Marquez

South Lake Tahoe, CA



About
If you want to know who I am, read my stories. Many are works in progress, and many are just a few sentences, but each one is a piece of my soul. more..

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Unbroken Unbroken

A Story by J.A. Marquez