The Cabinet of Curiosities
Jar of eyes

Your Secrets for a Storm

Miranda had been taught by her mother, and her mother had been taught by her mother, and so on, back for a hundred generations in the kingdom of Aurestra, that little girls must never tell the wind their secrets.

Boys were all right; boys could shout at the wind until their throats bled, and the wind of Aurestra would pay them no notice. Boys pretend to be wild, but they’re not very much, not truly, not where it counts, and the wind only deigns to pay attention to creatures like itself.

Wild creatures.

Girls. Not women, but girls. Girls, because they have fire in their blood and storms in their eyes—the old fire, the ancient storms, of the time before cities. Before schools and science and libraries. Before the king’s palace was built. But girls must not show it, they must not unleash themselves, no—because girls are meant to be soft. They are meant to be sweet, and pretty like rose petals, and quiet, above all else. Quiet, quiet as sleeping birds tucked up inside their feathers.

Women are all right, too. They live behind veils and inside windowless carriages. They are forces of nature—though you wouldn’t know it—for they carry the old fire as well. But they have learned how to tame their power, and how to set it loose. Mostly the former, though. Mostly, they keep it quiet and coiled tight inside them, and only let this power out when it is safe—when they are alone, or when they are with their sisters behind heavy closed doors.

Because that is the way it is supposed to be. So say the laws of Aurestra. So say the frowning men. So say the looks on boys’ faces, wide-eyed and fearful, because they have been taught by their fathers about the dangers of girls—if the girl has not been raised right, that is. A girl like that might give in to her power.

So the wind ignores women. The wind doesn’t have the patience for them, with their veils and their whispers, and how they have hidden themselves away.

Girls, though—girls are only just beginning to understand the power they carry inside them, and so they must be watched over, and taught carefully by their mothers. And though a girl might be bursting with secrets, she must never shout them, shriek them, howl them to the wind, even if that’s exactly what her blood and bones are telling her to do.

Because the wind cares nothing for the laws of Aurestra. Single-minded, the wind longs for the way things used to be, when the world was ruled by queens. When girls ran wild, without veils, with bare feet, with hair long and tangled, with hearts open and loving, wanting to be kissed.

For some time now, the wind has been waiting for a girl to come along—the right kind of girl for the wind; the wrong kind of girl for the grim, white-haired kings of Aurestra.

A girl with secrets on the tip of her tongue.

A girl with power at the tips of her fingers.

A girl like Miranda.


Miranda walks through Aurestra’s central market. She is only twelve years old, but she feels heavy and burdened like an old woman. For most girls, it isn’t so hard to stay quiet. Or it is hard, but manageable, at least.

Not so for Miranda.

Staying quiet, staying soft, staying still, still, still has been eating away at her since she reached the Age of Refinement and was given her first veil.

Miranda wants to run, but she doesn’t.

No. She wants to race, to tear along the cobbled pavement until her feet hurt. She wants to yell, and sing—not the lilting, warbling tunes her stiff-robed tutor forces her to learn. No, something else, something different. Something that would shock her fellow shoppers and bring the censors out from the courts to seize her. A howling, savage, discordant song.

Like the wind.

Like the wind gliding softly through the winding aisles of the marketplace—tickling her fingers when she reaches for an apple, a plum; her fingers are the only parts of her not covered in fabric.

Like the wind, but a hundred times stronger than it is right now.

A thunderstorm wind. A hurricane wind. A song like that.

Miranda saw a hurricane once. It was dreadful. She was safe in her father’s sturdy stone cottage, and from the attic window, she could see the southern bay. The water surged in waves, destroying the docks. The wind knocked the boats together like they were less than toys, tearing them apart into splinters and planks.

It was dreadful, yes—and beautiful, too. Miranda had watched, her nose pressed to the crack in the boarded-up window, and she had not been able to help it:

She had let out a horrible, soft, desperate cry.

These winds, these winds, this power—this was what lay cooped up inside her. This was what she was not allowed, never allowed, to touch. If she did, if she broke the law and let it loose, what would become of her? Of her mother?

The Aurestran kings were not known for their mercy.

So Miranda cried, alone in the attic—but not the soft, delicate tears of a wounded damsel. Deep, wild sobs that wrenched her throat into knots, and the sounds of the hurricane drowned it out so that no one downstairs could hear her.

But the wind heard her. It heard her and thought, Ah. Could this be the girl? The wind thought it just might be, but it did nothing. The wind must wait for her to come to it. That was the way of things; a wind cannot just approach a girl and whisper terrible things across her skin, and coax her to tear down her kingdom.

The girl must find the wind herself. First, before anything else, the girl must tell the wind her secrets. That will be the invitation.

From then on, the wind watched Miranda.

It knocked against her window at night, and when she went to look out, she found no one there. And when she returned to bed, her skin was hot and itchy, and her dreams were restless.

When Miranda took her horse out to the fields to check on her father’s sheep, the wind chased at her heels, whipping her veil around her.

And when Miranda is twelve years old and in the market, when she brings her fingers out from beneath her cloak to grab a plum, the wind teases her skin.

And Miranda can bear it no longer.

She hurries as quickly as she dares to the outskirts, and then down the path leading north to the woods, and once she is out of sight, she runs. She runs, she tears, she flies. She drops her wrapped parcels from the market, and she tears her skirts on brambles. By the time she stops to catch her breath, she has reached one of the high meadows, in the foothills. She rips her veil from her head, and she falls to her knees, and screams.

Maybe there are farmers nearby, or shepherds, who happen to be close enough to hear her. They will report her to the censors, and she will be hanged in the square as people throw stones at her and scream for justice.

But Miranda doesn’t care.

“I have power inside me,” she whispers—to no one, she thinks. “And I am tired of hiding it. I don’t want to hide it. I shouldn’t have to hide it. It is me, and I am it, and this is how things are supposed to be. Girls are supposed to be wild. Women are not supposed to hide. There should be queens, not kings. I know the old stories. I know of the old country. I know about the old fire and the ancient storms. Why must I pretend that I don’t? Why must I lie? Why must I hide?”

The words spill out of her, held back too long, and the impact of hearing her own voice speaking treason is so tremendous that she begins to sob and laugh at the same time. Exhaustion claims her, and she lays back in the grasses and stares at the sky, knowing she must soon get dressed and return to town. Knowing her father will beat her for bruising the fruit she bought today.

And the wind watches, and is pleased. The invitation has been sent.

“You don’t have to hide,” it whispers to her.

Miranda shoots upright. “Who’s there?” She hadn’t cared, before—but now that she has calmed, the fear of being caught is like a wild animal in her chest. She finds her veil and tries to put it back on, but the wind tears it from her fingers and flings it into the mountains.

And without her veil, even though explaining how she lost it will be worse—much worse—than explaining the ruined fruit, Miranda feels taller, larger, stronger.

“Who’s there?” she demands. “Show yourself.”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” says the wind, “for I have no body. I have only an offer of friendship, and a proposal.”

Miranda’s eyes narrow. “What kind of a proposal? And why do you want to be friends with me?”

“I want to be friends with you,” the wind hisses through the meadow grasses, “because you are wild, like me.”

“I am not wild,” Miranda protests automatically.

The wind snaps at her furiously, flinging dirt into her eyes. “You can’t lie to me. You can lie to the others, but not to me. I know what you really are.”

Miranda licks her lips, though she doesn’t want to appear too interested. What if a shepherd is watching from the trees? A girl, talking to nothing? She would be hanged for madness. “And what is that?” she asks.

“You’re a girl. You’re a wild, wild girl. You have the old fire and the ancient storms in your blood. You have the power to raze mountains and part oceans. You have the power, but they have taken it from you, because they are afraid of what you could do to them. Too many years have passed between now and then, between now and the old world, when women wore the crowns and girls ran free. But it’s time, now.”

The wind sighs across Miranda’s bare legs, comforting her, enticing her. “It’s time now,” the wind continues, “don’t you see? That is my proposal. It’s time to change things. Do you know, you are the first girl in a thousand years to spill her secrets to the wind? It had to be you, coming to me. I cannot do it on my own. That is the way of things. The girl must come to me, and realize who she is—what she is—and then, only then, can I help her.”

The wind is lonely—frustrated and mighty and dangerous. Mischievous. Not entirely trustworthy, perhaps. Miranda can hear these things in its voice. But Miranda isn’t afraid. This is what she has been waiting for, even if she didn’t know it would be exactly this. This is what she has prayed for. This is what she has been secretly thinking during her lessons, while her tutor drones on and on with his watery eyes on her—like she is a bug and he is a bird who might crush her if he decides he is hungry.

“If you tell me what to do,” the wind continues, shishing and shushing across the meadow, “I will do it. No one else can tell the wind what to do but a wild girl. No one else can change things but me—and you.”

“Will it hurt people?” asks Miranda. “Will it hurt people, what we do?”

“Some. Not all, but some. Some hurt is necessary, for the kind of change we need. Don’t you see that, Miranda? Don’t you think it is so?”

Miranda thinks for a long time, sitting there, bare-legged and barefooted in the meadow, until the sun sets and the sky is awash with flame. She will have some serious explaining to do when she gets home. Some girls might throw themselves in the river instead of face their father’s wrath.

But Miranda is not one of them.

And it isn’t like she wants to hurt people, but . . . but . . . haven’t they hurt her? How many hangings has she been forced to attend? How many stones has her father forced her to throw?

Too many.

Miranda’s hands curl into fists, and a spark lights inside her.

“All right,” she tells the wind at last, “all right, I will do it.”

Then she begins the journey back to town, not bothering to find her shoes, not bothering to search for her veil or her parcels. The more steps she takes, the faster she walks, until she is running, racing, tearing down the path to her gleaming city, with fire in her blood and storms in her eyes.

And the wind churns after her, laughing at her heels.


The grocer—he’s the one who triggers it.

Unfortunate enough to be nearest the outskirts when Miranda comes running.

Shocked enough to drop his armful of vegetables at the sight of this girl—without her veil, barefoot, her skirts torn.

Foolish enough to seize her arm as she races by, and scold her for her impropriety.

“I’ll ring for the censors,” he shouts. “Have you lost your mind, girl?”

Miranda is used to being grabbed, used to being struck and scolded and ordered about—but that was before, and this is now. Now, she has a wind at her back. Now, her fingers are on fire with something she will no longer contain.

Truly—her fingers are on fire.

The grocer sees the sparks erupting from her hands and releases her, tries to run—but Miranda is too quick for that.

Go inside him,” she hisses, in a voice that would scandalize her tutor, for it is coarse and lacks any sort of decorum.

And the wind obeys.

It shoots past Miranda, gathering up all her fire, stretching it out from her fingers into the air, down the grocer’s throat, down his nose, up his fingernails, into his eyes.

The power is Miranda’s—old and immense. But the wind takes it to where it needs to be, like an invisible chariot. The wind, who knows Miranda’s secrets. The wind, who, like her, is tired and angry. The wind, who, unlike her, will take much pleasure in the days to come—days of fire and storms and pain.

In truth, it would not take more than this—this one man, this one burst of fire—to change things. It is enough, this one death, to get the attention of Aurestra’s kings.

But Miranda doesn’t know that. And the wind is not going to tell her.

Instead it will race along at her heels, whispering encouragement, as she tears through the city, and the palace, and the calloused flesh of her father’s cruel, meaty fists.

And then what? When all is ash and Miranda’s fire dims, and she understands, exhausted, streaked with strangers’ blood, what she has done?

The wind considers that, for a fleeting moment, as it brings Miranda’s storms crashing through the windows of the censors’ courts—but then, as is the way with wind, as soon as the thought has come, it has gone, and all it knows is its own laughter.

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