I decided to ask Dionus to explain his expression to me today. There are currently no Walkers among the Tetrarch that I know of, and few among us who know the expression of the Wind at all. My basic assumption was that it was a system of pushes and pulls, much like Telekenetics, but Dionus explained that the mechanics are vastly different.
Wind is ancient, he explained, the first expression to be formed all the way back in the Golden Era (one of only two existing schools of magic to be founded in that time). It is also the only expression for which there is no opposite. Where each expression has a balancing rival, wind finds itself alone without any counter. For this reason it is known widely as the “neutral” expression.
It is also the most difficult elemental expression to master, and its offensive capabilities are only unlocked at higher levels of mastery. Thus it is not one that has been broadly adopted by the civilizations of the world. This also has led to the idea that it is a peaceful expression. Indeed, I grew up with the impression that all Wind expressionists were kindly old men who spent more time meditating than sleeping.
This is why the Walkers were such a shock to the world when they first arrived. It’s also why their name has survived to present day.
Hundreds of years ago, a band of Wind expressionists took to banditry and were incredibly effective at it. They eventually took over a large portion of one of the southern provinces in the First Empire and ruled over it as tyrants. They were vicious, and nearly impossible to withstand. It took an army and a concerted effort to defeat them.
Their name derived from the idea that they could walk upon the wind, and they claimed that they were in every way superior to those they subjugated. Each wore an eagle’s feather on his breast, and together they were a force with which to be reckoned. The general populace has given their name to Wind expressionists at large ever since.
Within the expression itself the term “Walker” is used in reference only to an elite Master, and only those who take the aggressor’s path.
I asked about the feather, for though I knew it to be the symbol of a Walker I did not know its significance. Dionus told me that it takes little skill to call up a gust of wind, or even many violent attacks. What takes skill, he said, is finesse. The ability to manipulate cuts of the wind or small objects with tactile precision is extremely difficult. Thus, the ancient test has always been the eagle’s feather.
To be considered a Master of the expression, an individual is expected control a feather to the point that he can not only make it dance and move as he wishes, but can make it stand absolutely still on its tip. If he can do this, he is permitted to wear the feather on his breast. It is a badge of office, but also an invitation to challenge.
He demonstrated by unpinning the feather from his cloak and dancing it out and away from us. Then there were a series of snaps. With the speed of an arrow from the string the feather shot down until it struck a log immediately below it. There it stopped and rotated slowly in place on its point until it fell utterly still.
Dionus smiled, then recalled the feather to his hand as if it were an obedient pet.
As with any expression, he said, there are two dominant skills that play off each other. The first he called “Pressurize,” which is his ability to pick a point and repel the air from it. This causes a rapid pressurization of the gas around it and pushes objects away. The other he called “Evacuate,” and said that it was the opposite. With it he can compress the air rapidly to a single point, causing a local implosion. He said the names were confusing, because they could go either way, but that they were generally accepted as he had described them.
Of the Four Known Skills, he said, meditation was the predominant choice within the expression. It is another reason that so few Walkers exist, for expressionistic meditation is one of the most difficult skills to teach. But there are a few hand motions as well, which he took a moment to try and teach me.
The trick, then, is to understand how pressurizing and evacuating points of air affects the gasses around them. He said that it was much like understanding the dynamics of water, only more subtle and far more difficult to see. The snaps and pops we hear, he said, are the more instantaneous pressurizations or evacuations. The more of those you hear, he said, the quicker you need to look for cover.
The more sudden and precise attacks he knows, he said, rely on thousands of small influences on the air. If he wanted to call up a whip of the wind, named for its effect as much as the sound, he said that there are over three thousand individual points that must be pressurized or expanded. Creating a shield, as he had done to defend us from the darts of the KoraKora, could take three times as many.
I asked how he kept it all straight and he just smiled. You build over time, he said, and eventually you release entire chain reactions without having to think about it. The bigger manifestations of power are even easier.
He said that with the proper application of pressure on the air he is able to draw up gusts of wind, replicate storms, and even fly. He paused for a while after saying that, looking up at the canopy like it served as some sort of cage. Flying was the single greatest privilege of his power, he said after some time. It also posed the only real threat to him as an expressionist.
I knew what he was referring to, but I didn’t dare ask then. I still can’t bring myself to ask him if the winds are calling him. For where all other expressionists eventually succumb to the corrupting influence of their magic, Walkers face only the freedom of flight. Once they’ve tasted it, the legends say, it is only a matter of time before it whisks them away forever.
What I fear is that that freedom will take Dionus away from me before we can finish our task together.