It's The Little Things
What happened to the great revolutionary leader, Marcus Irriss?
What happened to the great revolutionary leader, Marcus Irriss? Decades after the tumultuous Sybilen conflict, his name was still spoken with reverence. There were many theories.
The practical ones believed he’d died in a fatal collision with his fighter and the enemy’s.
He controlled the government behind closed doors according to the paranoid ones.
The hopeful ones dreamed he was alive, living under an assumed name on his home planet.
Alas, these rumors were wrong.
Old Man Windtaker stared over the thriving produce forest, sipping his morning beverage. The lonely planet of Kmil was simple. He’d learned to appreciate this as the years wore on him.
It stole life from his limbs, brown from his dreadlocks, and youth from his scarred face. He liked the clarity. Young minds searched for meaning. He’d found purpose in the simplest things.
This morning, he’d head down the hill to cook the communal breakfast and eat among the laughter of his community.
Windtaker looked up in disbelief as he heard a starship engine thrumming. A newcomer! They were rare, but he welcomed them, provided they mean no harm.
He seized his trusty carved walking cane, his knee implants whirring.
A crowd gathered around the converted freighter. It had utilitarian silver paintwork, and green bars circling the nose.
The gathering parted to let Windtaker inspect the vessel. No sign of the occupants. Familiar worry tightened his chest.
The door crashed open, revealing a young Atolian woman, excitement fighting her nervous expression.
“Excuse me!” she called in the common tongue. It was a strain on an Atolian’s vocal cords, so she slumped in relief when Windtaker replied in her dialect.
“What brings you here?”
She gathered herself. “Is this the Whispering Winds settlement?”
He nodded, and she grew more excited. “Wonders! I wasn't sure if it was real.”
“What are you running from?” he asked, and she flinched, her fleshy cheek tendrils twitching.
He asked every newcomer that. Everyone there had something they’d escaped. If anyone needed a haven, Windtaker would provide.
Most people’s issues were only in their heads. That was Whispering Wind’s purpose. The landscape soothed the troubled soul.
The Atolian hung her head. “I have nothing left.”
Old Man Windtaker had seen her in many others, including himself. “Not anymore. You have us.”
Her eyes widened with fragile hope.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“They call me Old Man Windtaker. Let me show you around.”
Kayla never expressed a desire to leave, developing a lighter way of being.
Windtaker knew she would come to him with questions. He would answer each, as he’d always done.
That day dawned, dampened by the perpetual haze. Windtaker stumbled outside to find Kayla waiting on his doorstep.
Her tendrils twitched, hands a mess of apologetic gestures. “I didn’t mean to startle you!”
Windtaker shook his head. “I’m always awake at this hour.”
He adored the morning quiet, and how time stopped for a few hours.
“Why did you start this?” Kayla asked, sitting on the stone steps overlooking the valley below.
He joined her, implants whining.
Was it too good to be true? He’d had many falling outs, but they looked after themselves.
“I arrived here a few decades ago to start a peaceful life. It became a haven for the lost.”
She digested this before asking, “What do you get out of it?”
Windtaker laughed, the breeze carrying his merriment down the hillside. “We got so large we had to build a meeting hall to decide on any issues. I mediate the discussion, but I have no say.”
Kayla lifted her head. “Why did you let me in?”
Old Man Windtaker smiled. “They take anyone who needs a home.”
Kayla drooped with shame, as if burdened by a secret. “I came here because I’ve heard stories of Marcus Irriss living here in exile.”
“Did you find him?”
She shook her head.
“You’re welcome to stay, or leave.”
Kayla considered this. “I’m staying.”
Windtaker smiled. “I’m glad to have you here.”
She gazed at him. “What were you running from?”
He hesitated, the memories of pain wanting to tear through the surface. “A lifetime of failure, and the entire galaxy’s judgment.”
Her eyes widened, and he nodded, giving her the answer.
Kayla smiled, appreciating the weight of the secret. “I see. I’m glad you’re alive.”
Windtaker nodded. She took off down the path towards the peaceful future, waiting for her with open arms.
Old Man Windtaker watched her go. Most rumors, no matter how ridiculous, had truth. Marcus Irriss had lived here once.
Windtaker whispered the name, unfamiliar syllables bittersweet on his tongue. In his youthful optimism, he thought he’d change the galaxy.
As the decades wore on, he realized you could only change yourself.
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