• A rooster crowed loudly in the distance. It was the first morning of spring, and the rooster had Mont waking up early. But the scent of fresh grain and the grinding of large millstones told him that he was not early enough. Work was hard for him and his family in the windmill. Just when the sun would rise over the golden peak, Mont and his younger siblings would meet their parents in the central core and begin their morning duties.
    But the sun was already above the southern fence, and much of the orange hue in the sky had faded. Mont knew this meant he was especially late. He cursed himself and sprung out of bed. Without even changing into his work clothes, he hastily slipped on his boots and ran into the core room.
    Two large millstones turned gradually, one on top of the other, driven by the force of the windmill the family lived in. A whiff of fresh grain filled the air. There were many smaller wooden gears there and some machinery to the side, all maintained by Mont's younger brother and sister.
    But the first thing that caught his eye was his father, who stood just before him. Black-bearded, hairy-chested, arms crossed with a look of disgust.
    "You're late," Mont's father said flatly. "I would've woke you up, but I thought you were already in here maintaining the gears, making sure the shaft doesn't crap out on us again. We gotta keep an eye on that thing, ya know."
    "Sorry I'm late, pa," he said apologetically. "I just overslept. It won't happen again."
    "Better not." his father said disappointedly. "If it breaks again, we can't grind the grain. And that means no money. No money means we can't put food on the table."
    "Got it," he nodded. He began by making sure the shaft fit perfectly in the hole in the ceiling, and examined the bad side.
    While walking into the kitchen, his father spoke. "This is one thing, but the wind outside just isn't blowing like it used to, which is the real problem with our windmill. Damn wind, why won't it blow for us? We need the force, doggonit! Can't do nothin' 'bout the wind, I guess..."
    Ignoring his father's rantings, Mont looked at the shaft. It looks good ever since we fixed it, he thought. So far so good, but how long is this piece of junk gonna last?

    Half an hour passed. Mont was growing tired of turning the large handle for the smaller gears, so he sat and took a breather. He looked at his little sister. "Gail," he called. "When's mom gonna cook us some breakfast?"
    The little blond girl just looked at him. "We already ate," she replied, swapping a grain-filled bowl with another empty one to catch the flow of crushed grain. "You were still snoozin' away."
    As if in response, Mont's stomach rumbled. He looked at her in slight fatigue and disappointment. "Ah, dammit…" he groaned, then stood up and continued turning the handle again. "It's just one thing after another in this place. What a drag…"

    Two hours later, Mont changed and stepped outside the shower stand beside the small cottage. Before he could come in for lunch he heard his father calling him.
    He came around the corner and met his father, holding a large wheelbarrow with two large burlap sacks. "Before you come in for lunch," he said, "I want you to deliver this back to the neighbors. We're long overdue in owing back the wheat we borrowed." He pointed to the south, at the cottages over a mile beyond the fence.
    Mont looked at the field over the horizon, then to the cottages beyond there. Then he stared at his father nervously. "All the way down there?"
    "Yep," the bearded man replied. "Down to the Cunningson's place. You know where they is, dont'cha?" He pulled up his suspenders, stepped away from the wheelbarrow and scratched his rump. "Just drop these off and come on back. Won't take ya too long."
    Mont started to complain, but halted in the middle of his sentence. He knew his family was poor, and that they were hurting badly. He also knew they needed all the help they could get, and this small favor was nothing compared to what he owed his folks for feeding and clothing him, and supporting the home he lived in.
    "Sure thing, pa," he replied, almost regrettably taking up the wheelbarrow.
    "Good boy," his father gave him a pat on the back and turned. "And if he asks us if we need anything," he spoke while walking away, "tell 'em no. We borrowed too much from them, and we got enough debts to pay as it is."
    "Sure thing, pa," Mont repeated, nodding. After he began pushing the wheelbarrow, a sack of wheat tumbled to the ground. Mont kicked the bag, then hauled it back up on the wheelbarrow. "What a drag..." he moaned, then he was off.

    Mont was exhausted from his trip. On his way back home through town, he heard a woman call his name from across the street. He looked in that direction and saw a woman in a blue scarf and purple dress waving to him.
    He thought it was odd because he had never seen her before. How could she have known his name? Mont dropped the empty wheelbarrow and made his way over to her.
    Not quite a woman, not quite a girl, but she was beautiful. She looked about the same age as Mont, with piercing blue eyes, sweet smiling lips and a teal diamond in the middle of her forehead. She waved for him to come into her tent.
    Mont was not sure what to feel or what to expect. He was not sure if he liked the woman or not, but he followed.
    The place was beautiful inside. There was an alluring fragrance in the air. Probably some herbs or something, Mont figured. There were pretty glass potion bottles on the shelves, jewelry, books, a skull with a large ruby in its mouth and other mystical objects Mont did not quite recognize. It was the most bizarre shop he had ever seen.
    "Welcome," the woman said with a charming accent. "Your name is Mont, correct?"
    He held his breath and paused. "How did you know?"
    "Aryeh told me."
    Mont stared quizzically. "…Who?"
    "Aryeh. The Maiden of the Wind." She opened her purple fan and fanned herself lightly. As if in response, a sudden breeze came in through the folds in the front entrance, then she folded it back in with a sudden snap. To Mont's surprise, the breeze stopped just as instantly.
    "The winds have not been blowing in your favor, I see. You live in a windmill with a poor family, correct?" She smiled. "I can help you. Aryeh can help you. Her winds can blow in your favor and turn the tide of fate."
    Mont had never heard such rabble before, and the awkwardness of it all made him nervous. He stammered before speaking. "I-I'm sorry, I don't know what you're saying. Why did you even call me in here anyways?"
    She smiled again, Mont's naive tongue seeming to amuse her. "Aryeh can be at your service, Mont. And at a low cost, at that."
    Mont simply nodded, weirded out. "Riiiiiiight…"
    The woman laughed and clapped her hands together. "This will be perfect! Aryeh sees that you have a very good heart, young Mont. And she knows that you could really use her help." She took out the fan again. "She has chosen you, Mont." She handed it to him. "And she can be yours. For only fifteen silver."
    Mont stood in awkward silence. He was becoming curious and interested, but fifteen silver coins was a bit much to waste on a simple fan. He also liked the girl and wanted to trust her, but he did not want to waste any more money. He needed all he could get for his family.
    "I'm not really sure about this…"
    "Oh.. Then how about for thirty bronze?"
    Mont knew he could afford thirty bronze, and it was nothing compared to what the item must have actually been worth. Besides, he thought, for thirty bronze, I really have nothing to lose as it is…
    He paused to consider. "I'll take it!" he exclaimed. After digging through his pockets, he handed her thirty bronze tokens plus ten extra.
    She handed him the fan. When he took it, Mont felt a sudden breeze around him. It was faint, but refreshing. He did not know where it had come from, but he liked it.
    Just before he left, the woman put a hand on his shoulder. She looked concerned. "But be warned, young Mont. Aryeh does not take kindly to greed. She is willing to help you, but you must not misuse her." Then she began to sing.

    "When one's avarice creeps
    down to the core
    Aryeh's generous winds
    will blow for him no more."

    Her pretty voice unnerved Mont. Her words seemed to carry off in the light breeze that followed it, and Mont did not remember when the breeze began or where it came from.
    He did not know the meaning behind her song, but it was strangely beautiful. Boy, he thought, this is just getting weirder and weirder…
    Again he nodded, again weirded out. "Riiiiiiight…" And with that, he left.

    Moments later, Mont was back on the road with his empty wheelbarrow. He wiped sweat from his forehead and took out the fan. As soon as he opened the fan, he felt a little breeze.
    This surprised him. Not just because there had been no wind all day (aside from when he was with that woman), but because the wind came and went instantly. It was like someone had bown on him.
    He began to fan himself. The wind that came was very refreshing, but was much more than what should come from a small fan.
    Even more surprised, Mont fanned some more. More breeze came and went, refreshing him. It came from not the fan, but from all around. The wind seemed to come from everywhere.
    Mont loved the feeling. Hey, he mused, not only is this a great way of cooling off, but maybe.. just maybe…
    He had an idea. It sounded ridiculous, but if the wind from the fan was strong enough, it would be enough to solve all of his problems. And all of his family's problems.
    Mont smiled in excitement. He could not wait to bring it home.

    It took Mont a half hour to get back to the windmill. Even after walking under the hot sun, he had not broken a sweat thanks to the cool breeze he had been conjuring with the mysterious purple fan.
    He looked at the windmill. The device was tall and powerful, but motionless. It provided his family with income, but it was not enough. It was powered by the wind, but the winds were not enough.
    As Mont's father had always said, that was the problem. Mont and his family had to turn the millstones and operate the machinery manually because the wind did not seem to blow hard enough to provide enough force.
    Until now.
    Smiling with opportunity, Mont fanned toward the windmill.
    The mill turned.
    He fanned some more. The mill continued turning. He fanned harder, and the windmill spun even faster. He fanned harder and harder, and before he knew it the mill was spinning like a pinwheel.
    Mont laughed. He came inside to tell his family that the wind was propelling the mill, but they were already in the central core room staring in awe at the fast-rolling millstones. They had not turned like this in decades.
    Mont and his siblings had never seen them turn like this before, but their parents remembered back in the days where it would at least come close to this flow at least once in a while.
    His mother and father could not believe their eyes. It was a miracle. The whole family began to celebrate and dance joyfully, even knowing the force would not last.
    That is, if it were an ordinary wind.
    Mont's siblings collected the grain as it poured, each smiling delightfully. His mother, father and himself manned the machines and equipment. They worked harder and happier than ever before.

    Mont and his family were exhausted the next day. The family had produced more than just enough grain to put food on the table, but plenty for three more days plus the next week.
    That morning, before the rest of his family had awoken, Mont took his new fan outside and faced the windmill. He unfolded it and fanned toward the windmill, which conjured a strong breeze. The mill turned. Mont continued to fan and the mill was spinning just as fast as it had the day before.
    His family awoke to the sound of grinding stone, and were so astounded that they had decided to begin work early. That day, Mont and his family worked like never before.
    As the day continued, Mont had to frequently step outside to make the mill turn again and again. Each time would mean more work for him and his family, but it was definitely worth it.
    Wow! Mont thought. Thanks to this little fan, our troubles are over! If this keeps up, we'll be able to eat every day from now on! Breakfast, lunch AND dinner!

    For the past few days, Mont was as overwhelmed with joy as the rest of his family had been. Yet he never told them about the fan. He kept the secret of the fan to himself, not that he did not trust his family but it was to make sure they did not spread the word and let it fall into the hands, like, perhaps, someone else who owned a windmill.
    A week later, a knock came at the door. Mont's father answered it, greeted the man outside and let him in. The guest had sun-tanned skin, a mustache, baggy brown pants and a grey stained shirt.
    "Mont," his father called, "I want you to meet Todd. He'll be workin' with us today."
    Mont looked at the man and smiled. "Howdy do!"
    Todd nodded and smiled back.
    "I hired Todd here to work with us at the mill, so your brother and sister can just run along and play. Hear that, kids?" he called down to the other room. "There'll be no need for ya to work today. We gots new help."
    The brother and sister walked out into Todd's view. "No work?" the sister asked, disappointed.
    "Nope," the father answered proudly. "You and yer brother can rung along and play. I hired someone to help us out here at the mill anyways."
    The little brother and sister cheered and darted out the door to play. It had been a long time since they had had any free time.
    "Kids…" Todd laughed. "Gotta love 'em."
    "But pa," Mont asked, concerned, "Can we really afford to hire someone for help? I mean, how we gonna pay the man?"
    "No worries, m'boy!" the father laughed. "With these new winds a-blowin', we gonna rake in lotsa new dough anyways! Now go on outside and take a shower so you can help us out."
    "Sure thing, pa." Mont walked outside to the shower. After he got out, he used his fan to summon more wind currents to turn the mill.
    Before he was finished propelling the mill, his father called out to him. "Hey! Boy!" he shouted. "The mill's a-turnin!' C'mon out and give a hand, would ya!" Mont withdrew his fan just before his father saw when he poked his head around the corner. "Sure thing," he replied, "I'll be right there!" He put the fan away and helped Todd and his parents in the mill.

    The days passed on likewise; Mont blowing more currents to propel the mill, his family making more money. In addition to Todd, his family had hired two extra people to work at the mill. They were able to afford it, thanks to Mont's fan, but still, he never told them its secret.
    Eventually, Mont had earned a weekly allowance from his father. One day, Mont had made enough money to begin his own business with a small lemonade stand. Him and his siblings would work at the roadside near town to make and sell drinks to customers that would walk by, each of them earning more money of their own.
    The next day, Mont was at his lemonade stand again. A pretty girl walked up to him, looked him in the eye and smiled. She wore a purple dress and blue scarf. He noticed a teal diamond embedded in her forehead.
    "Hello, Mont." she said quietly but cheerfully. "The Maiden treats you well, I see."
    Mont remembered her. It was the same woman that sold him the purple fan. And her dialogue still confused him. "…The Maiden?" he asked.
    "Aryeh." A short silence followed.
    Mont changed the subject. "Well, I like the fan you sold me. It has… served me well, miss." He did not want to reveal the secret of the fan in front of his siblings. They were busy making more lemonade, but Mont did not want to take the chance of them overhearing.
    She giggled and sighed. "And I see you are sharing the wealth, which is generous. Aryeh likes generosity." And with that, she bought a cup of lemonade from them and left.
    Suddenly, the wind picked up. Not harshly, but enough to billow up the woman's dress. It made her laugh.
    Mont held back a smile at what he saw. Apparently, he thought mischievously, the fan has plenty of uses.

    All of a sudden, he woke up in bed. Wow, he thought, was all that really just a dream? Then he continued his work at the mill, then again at the lemonade stand. But this time he decided to help himself to more of the profits of the stand before his brother and sister were there to see. He kept more of the copper coins to himself and some silver, but not too much to be sure the siblings would not notice.

    But that night, Mont had the same dream again. The woman appeared again, but when she approached, she frowned instead of smiled. "Stealing from your siblings…" she shook her head in disappointment. "What happened, Mont? You were being so good to your family. So generous…"
    Mont was impassive. "What's it matter to you, lady? And hey, how'd you know anyways?"
    "I saw," she said.
    "Through Aryeh, I saw."
    "Just who is this Aryeh you keep babbling about?"
    "I had already told you," she said, "Aryeh is the Maiden of the Wind." she paused. "Be sure not to take her blessings for granted."

    "When one's avarice creeps
    down to the core
    Aryeh's generous winds
    will blow for him no more."

    Mont heard the song again. This time, it sounded like it came from everywhere. And as the woman sung, the wind picked up faster and stronger than last time.
    After the song ended, the woman left and Mont awoke in bed again. The day continued as normal, except Mont had stolen even more for himself.
    That night he had a similar dream, only the woman reacted slightly more harsh. "Aryeh does not like thieves, young Mont. So why steal?"
    Mont just looked at her. "It's none of your business, lady!" he said with an annoyed grunt to follow.
    The woman looked down and shook her head. She repeated her song, and bluntly left. Mont could not figure out what the song meant, but he continued his greedy ways each day. Again and again, he would cheat, steal and take more and more from his family and others. All just to feed his own selfish desires.
    Things continued this way for months. Mont having the same recurring dreams, the woman in the dream becoming more and more angry with his selfishness, the song becoming stronger. But despite it all, Mont ignored all of her warnings and advice.

    Eventually, Mont had raised enough money to build his own windmill. He used his purple fan to propel the new mill, but he tended to that more than to his family's mill. Or his family.
    Mont's family had grown frustrated with him due to him not tending to them as much as he had been. He helped them less and less, and soon enough he outright refused to help them altogether. He was focused more on himself and his own profits.
    The extra money had made life easier for Mont, but still he was not content. After all, there was more he could do with a simple fan.

    One year later, Mont had bought several windmills of his own - including his family's mill - and used his fan to propel all of them. He even locked his family and many other workers into a contract working for him. They worked many hours of hard labor for Mont without being allowed any break times in between, no benefits, and they all worked for minimum wage. No raises, no fringe benefits, just a salary that decreased each time one of them made a complaint to Mont.
    But then, Mont had decided one day that he was better off without them. He not only laid them off, but he laid off more than half of his work force (nearly two hundred people) and replaced as many of them as he could with more machines that could do the job on their own. In addition to being laid off, he had sold his family to an even cheaper labor industry that paid them even less than before.

    After the day he had sold his family, Mont had one last dream. But this one was not like the others. Mont was standing in the eye of a tornado. The winds held his family, each of the workers he had wronged and all of the people he had wronged and stolen from.
    Each of the previous dreams gave him an uneasy feeling that nagged at the back of his mind, but he always ignored them as each day went on. But Mont had an especially unnerving feeling about this one. The memories haunted him and pounded at his conscience all at once, the people's voices coming and going in the winds faster than Mont could comprehend. He could not keep up with the whispers in the wind, but he understood that he had wronged every one of these people.
    But then, something descended from the sky. No, not something. Someone. It was a woman dressed in sheer blue and purple robes, floating above him and slowly making her dissent. A small diamond radiated in the middle of her forehead, and her long, raven black hair flowed freely in the wind.
    She was beautiful. Mont looked up at her spiritual form in awe, squinting at the rays of light beaming down on him. He was not sure if the light was coming from the woman herself or from behind her. She looked like a figure descended from the heavens.
    "Mont!" she called, in a sweet but serious voice. "Mont! What have you done?"
    The young man did not answer. He could not believe what he was seeing. She was very beautiful. She looked like the young woman in the rest of his dreams, only older and prettier. Could this have been her mother?
    "All of these people, you have wronged," she bellowed. "So much you have taken from them. So much greed… so much corruption has filled your heart…"
    "Who are you!?" Mont shouted.
    The woman paused. It seemed as though time had stopped if not for the tornado, which sounded so distant to him at the time. "I am Aryeh. The Maiden of the Wind."
    Mont's eyes bulged. "Riiiiiight…" he replied.
    "And you have let your greed get the better for you! Oh, Mont! Oh, for shame…"

    "When one's avarice creeps
    down to the core,
    my generous winds
    will blow for him no more!"

    Then, Mont could not take it any more. He had decided that he had had enough. He took out the purple fan and swung it at the lady as hard as he could. "Get away from me!" he shouted. Then everything fell into darkness. The wind consumed everything until there was nothing.

    Mont woke up. It was morning. He came out of bed and heard lots of people shouting from outside his door. He answered, and saw all of his workers there. On strike.
    They had abandoned Mont. No one worked for him anymore. This frustrated Mont. He decided that he would try and run the mills himself.
    But first, he would have to propel them. He took out the purple fan, and fanned at the windmills.
    But nothing happened.
    annoyed, he tried again.
    He fanned harder, but still no winds blew for him.
    All of a sudden, he remembered the song.

    "When one's avarice creeps
    down to the core
    Aryeh's generous winds
    will blow for him no more."

    He heard it one more time, not in the wind but in his mind. But then, Mont saw a faint glimpse of the Maiden of the Wind in the sky. He called to her, but she did not respond. She floated there, arms crossed and frowning. She shook her head in pity, then vanished.
    Mont looked quizzically at the sky where the maiden had been, then he took out the fan. A small breeze drifted by and part of the handle blew from the fan. Mont saw the engraving that had been revealed.
    It read: "Aryeh, the Maiden of the Wind."
    Mont had become furious. He cursed the Maiden and swung the fan with all his might.
    But then, to his surprise, there was wind. Lots of wind.
    Too much. Mont heard a loud crashing, creaking in the distance. He turned and saw all of his windmills crumbling to the ground. The towers came down heavily and in pieces, their huge fan blades being shredded by the current.
    It was all gone. His workers, his money, his windmills, his home, his family. Gone with the wind. And Mont had no one but himself to blame. Cursed with greed, he wailed at the sky in sorrow.
    Mont had a long way to go to rebuild a new life and start from scratch. And he knew the fan would not help him ever again. Never again did Mont allow his greed get the better of him.