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WEIRD TALES MAY, 1936

Child of the Winds

By EDMOND HAMILTON

 A tender and fascinating story about a strange plateau in Turkic tan where the winds from all over Earth converge 

BRENT was drawn by the strong lure of gold to that legended tableland in innermost Turkistan called the Plateau of the Winds. There was an old rumor that lodes of unparalleled richness existed on that unvisited and almost unknown plateau.

Brent knew the place was supposed to lie more than a hundred miles west of the little village Yurgan, so he went to Yurgan and tried to hire camels and drivers with which to cross the desert. There he learned that it was not going to be easy to reach the plateau.

One man he found, a young Turki named Dasan An, who had traveled just enough as the servant of other white men to make him contemptuous of his fellow-villagers. He affected white-man's clothes, spoke execrable English, and talked to Brent as though they were the only two civilized people in the place.

"Very afraid these ignorant people will not go with us as drivers," he told Brent confidentially. "They too afraid of the Plateau of the Winds."

"What is there there for them to be afraid of?" Brent demanded, and Dasan An smiled in superior fashion.

'They very ignorant people, sir. They afraid of the winds—they say that the Plateau of the Winds is the winds' sacred place and that the winds kill all people who try to go there. You see, they think winds are living things, not just air but alive. They say winds not bother men anywhere else but kill any men who go to their sacred plateau, so they not go there."

"Offer them more money," Brent told him irritably. "Tell them I'll give them double pay."

Dasan An held colloquy for a little with his swart-skinned fellows and then turned back to Brent. The cocksure contempt on his face deepened.

"They not go, sir. They say double money no use to a man after the winds kill him."

Brent swore. For a little time he pondered and then he made his resolution and turned back to Dasan An.

"Very well, we'll go without them," he informed him. "We can each ride a camel and lead one, and four camels will carry all the water and supplies we'll need."

"You mean we go just ourselves without anybody else drivers?" asked the Turki, his confidence a little dashed.

"That's what I mean," Brent said, and added, "Why not? You're not afraid of the winds too, are you?"

The Turki laughed noisily. "You are pleased make joke. Dasan An is not ignorant villager like these. I have been servant of white men and have been to Tehran."

"All right; see to getting the camels,'* Brent told him. "We'll start as soon as the outfit's ready."

That was in two days. In the already brassy glare of the rising sun they rode out of Yurgan with their stalking, sneering camels and pointed due west into the white wastes of salt desert.

FOUR days later the great, horizon-stretching wall of the Plateau of the Winds rose dimly in the distance ahead of them. That night they camped under it, a steep wall of brown rock a thousand feet high, extending north and south for many miles. And that night they heard winds blowing up there on the plateau.

They looked up into the darkness toward the plateau as they heard the distant tumult.

"Winds blowing very strong up there," said Dasan An, and Brent nodded.

"No doubt this plateau is the center of air-currents that meet and form constant winds, and that would explain why your people think it a sacred place where the winds gather."

"Listen to them blowing up there!" he added. "I'm glad we're not up there tonight."

For the winds they heard up on the plateau were strong. Their distant bellowing, shouting tumult came down through the night to Brent like a hubbub of great voices calling to each other, good-humored, rollicking shouts of jovially brawling wind-giants.

They heard winds of all kinds in that moving uproar high on the plateau: winds that trumpeted and others that wailed and others that shrieked, winds so small that their passage was a whisper and winds so great that they roared; as though winds of all kinds had gathered there and were racing, rollicking, rushing together across the plateau. And as Brent and Dasan An listened they heard over the frolicking wind-voices a different sound. It was a high, silvery whistling, shrill and stabbing and joyous. It was almost the whistle of a screaming wind, yet there was a strange qualitative difference. It rose, fell, rose again and fell again, and as it ceased the wild wind-chorus stormed louder.

They listened until the uproar of winds had receded northward, died out of hearing. Then all was very still.

"Plenty windy up there, all right," Brent repeated, breaking the silence. "I hope it's not that bad tomorrow."

"Maybe better to wait until not so much wind before we try to climb plateau?" Dasan An suggested quickly.

"Nonsense, we're not going to let a little wind hold us back," Brent told him. "The sooner we get up onto the plateau, the better."

"That quite right, quite right," the Turki agreed hastily. "We not ignorant people to be afraid of winds."

Next morning they found a zigzag path up the plateau's side less than a mile from their camp, and started the climb. As they dragged the camels up from ledge to ledge, Brent saw that his companion looked constantly up toward the nearing rim.

IT WAS late afternoon by the time they scaled the last ledge and stood panting on the rim. The Plateau of the Winds lay before them, a brown, barren plain. Miles in toward its center rose two tall pinnacles of rock, but all the rest was level, dusty, bare.

There were no winds blowing where they stood. The only visible sign of winds was a few thousand feet across the plateau where a group of little winds were moving, visible by the sand-whirls they raised from the plain, whisking and scurrying this way and that.

"There ought to be water at those rockpinnacles," said Brent, gazing against the sun. "We could use it."

But Dasan An was staring at the distant sand-whirls. "See—small winds. Let us hope they not come near."

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