Lord Lewis peered through the rosy glow of the weirding wall, out a narrow parlor window, and into the growing windstorm outside. When Mr. Teague came to collect him, Lord Lewis dismissed the fury of the windstorm. But now a second storm front had blown in and was colliding with the first. When they met, they made a crash of dry thunder so ear-splitting that even the dead cringed. 

Even as the windstorm grew more intense, it seemed to Charles that it also grew more…angry…if such a thing was possible. Charles told himself to ignore his unease. He told himself he was a logical man, and that the notion of an inanimate storm growing angry was sheer folly. And yet, his logical mind could not dispel the growing sense of dread that consumed him. There was something fearsome in the air tonight, and no amount of logical naysaying could make it otherwise.

The Ethereal Legion came riding hard and fast across the sky over Lord Lewis’s barony. The riders’s destriers snorted clouds of fog from their nostrils, and drummed doom-doom-doom with their hooves. The riders came like the sudden, palpable change in the atmosphere before a summer storm.

Duke Northstorm and his troops were both in essence and in fact, a cold, dry, heartless wind blowing towards the Ethereal Legion, which was approaching from the opposite direction.

Those on Land who saw where the fronts met could only perceive two massive storm clouds rushing in, each as gray as soot beneath the starlight, and churning like a witch’s cauldron.

King Cirrus cried fiercely across the evolving battlefront, “Duke Northstorm, surrender now or suffer our wrath!” There was confidence in his demand, even though he knew Duke Northstorm’s forces outnumbered his small squad of a few Legionnaires, two trackers, and one surly mage.

“Have at it then,” shouted Northstorm across a battlefield of roiling indigo clouds. “We surrender not!”

Then the two opposing forces, one of cold villainy; and the other of hot justice; unloosed their weapons, spurred their mounts, and charged.

In Lord Lewis’s peel tower, a new breeze gusted through the narrow west window, and then swirled around in Lord Lewis’s sitting room like a dust devil. Charles wondered what new meteorological anomaly was assaulting him when he heard a voice say, “Go back, Aaron, they need you. And don’t worry so. I’ll be fine here.”

At first, Charles thought the voice he heard belonged to Duke Northstorm, come back to torment him once more. But the timbre of this voice was not so treacly-sweet. Charles was still puzzling over whether there really was someone there he could not see, or whether his fits of madness had taken a devious turn, when he saw a vague shape in the whirlwind before him. 

After three heartbeats, the whirlwind acquired a steady outline. After six heartbeats, it possessed the form of a roundish human being, a male, although he was as bereft of color as a chalk portrait on gray parchment. By his bearing, the apparition seemed to be placing an amulet or a necklace in his pocket. Charles gasped. After nine heartbeats, the air in front of Lord Lewis had condensed and colored into the form of a distinguished, middle-aged, and very disgruntled man. 

Master Galwynn had to take a moment to reacclimate himself to the constant proportions and limited vistas of the Land Domain. He perused the sitting room he was in, and thought it to be in such disarray that it must have been hit by a tornado—which it probably had, more or less, if Duke Northstorm had been here before him. Kevin blinked and then craned his head to examine the shimmering, rose-colored wall of necromancy separating him from the rest of the tower floor and the workroom beyond. 

The workroom was illuminated by a brilliant glow emanating from a huge glass lantern box. But oddly enough, Kevin couldn’t see what was inside the box unless he stared directly into its glare. “A glamor enchantment,” Galwynn harrumphed, dissatisfiedly; “deceitful camouflage.”

Dry thunder boomed outside, and Kevin turned with a start toward the small window he had entered. Outside, he could see the turbulent night sky that was lit, now and then, by flashes of lightning that backlit mountains of indigo clouds. But now that he was part of Land again, Kevin could no longer see the denizens of Sky, nor comprehend their ever-changing proportions, as he had when he too was pure vapor. All he could see of the battlefield high overhead, where his comrades were fighting and perhaps dying, was vast ranges of indigo thunderheads limned with starlight and lightning. 

So be it, Galwynn thought, there was nothing to be done about the battle in Sky. Best that he attend to matters in the here and now. And yet, despite himself, Kevin could not help but look up to the heavens from time to time, and wonder about the fate of his friends.

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