"So did 1, Dorn Brinroyan, so did I. But it turns out I am not, and I have been given a nickname, a thing I never had before.... I am Ablo Binigan!"
This was a name that suited him very well, for it meant Ablo the Fixer, the Helper, the one who picks up dropped stitches.
I saw that Onnar was there, waiting for Vel Ragan; a Wentroy house servant brought a luck skein from Guno Deg. The Wentroy pilot came up and shook Diver by the hands and presented several grandees of other clans, who spoke curiously to him and asked more impertinent ques-( 221 ).
tions. He answered them all with good humor.
I felt a dig in the ribs and spun round to see an omor in crimson livery. "Not so cold here, mountain child!"
"Burn me," said the Harper, at my elbow, "it is Tsam- met!"
"The same," she grinned. "You had us fooled, Harper, with this fine devil of yours!"
"I hope your lieges have no trouble on our account," I said.
"Winds forbid!" said Tsammet. "It will blow over. Do you not know that Tewl is the Pentroy's near kin?
Ah, but to think that I have ridden on the devil's back! I could hire out as a Luck myself on the strength of it." She winked at the crowd of servants and porters and swaggered up to Diver who recognized her at once.
Then she shook his hands proudly and went back to her fellows.
Brin and Mamor gathered us up then, and we went through the thinning ranks of the crowd to the canal steps where a pay-boat was waiting, among the boats of the grandees. As Old Gwin went down the broad steps she faltered and almost fell; the Harper caught her in his arms.
"All right?" he asked.
"I am tired," she said impatiently. "Let me into the boat." Then we all went aboard, with Vel Ragan and Onnar, and the rower took us swiftly through the crowded waterway.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To the delta," said Mamor. He spoke up to the rower.
"Be sure you are not followed. Remember your charge."
"I will, Excellence!"
We sat there in silence under the awning as the pay-boat twisted and turned through the sunlit canal. All the fountains were playing that day, but I felt that my Family were anxious to leave the city. I saw Gordo Beethan sitting( 222 ).t I.astern, gaping at the sights of Rintoul just as he was about to leave. High up to the west, among the skyhouses, I could see golden globules that caught the light.
Diver sat in our midst talking to Brin and Vel Ragan about his captivity.
"Diver, have you given the stun-gun to the Great Elder?"
"Yes," he said, "and it should be very useful if he wants to swat insects."
"What have you been up to?" said Mamor. "Have you broken the setting lever?"
"It is fused into the light setting," said Diver.
"Diver," said Narneen, "now that Tiath Gargan has your shaving-engine, will you shave with a knife?"
"Winds forbid!" said Old Gwin, leaning against Brin's shoulder. "Don't lay metal to your face, young Luck. Let that devilish black face hair grow to your knees if it will."
"If you say so, dear Gwin," said Diver, "for I have nothing to hide now."
So from this time Diver went about as a Man, black- bearded, and when the bleach grew out, black-haired. It made him look not so much more foreign but simply older, as if he had aged with the adventurous life we had been leading. I saw in my mind, and I still see, two Divers, the pale young shaven Luck we rescued from the Warm Lake and the black-bearded man who led us on to even stranger adventures.
We came through the streams of the delta, far beyond the city, to an ancient backwater. There were thriving bird farms with rows of cages, netted trees and egg houses on all sides; but the place to which we came was disused and overgrown. We went ash.o.r.e at a crumbling jetty and saw a large fixed house, its thatched roof newly patched, and the remains of a glebe fence. I stepped onto rough grass and turned back to help Gordo. Narneen took us by the hand.t( 223 ).
"Come," she said. "Come and see!" She smiled at Gordo, and I knew they could speak to each other in their minds, both being Witnesses. We wandered off, while the rest were coming ash.o.r.e, past cage rows, old and overgrown, and flowering vines, and came to a promontory overlooking the main stream of the Troon. There, on a circle of rough-clipped grass stood a little tree, filled with our spinners; a chair and a lace frame told me that Old Gwin must sit here. Further off, there were four brown basket hives for honeybees and a row of old stones half buried in the grass; beside these stones sat a Moruian in a farmer's tunic and leggings.
"Are you rescued then, Dorn Brinroyan?" said Fer Utovangan.
"So is Diver!" I blurted out. "We are free and clear." We clasped hands and were immensely pleased to see each other. Gordo Beethan stared curiously as we sat on the grass.
"I cannot believe what Narneen tells me," he said. "This is your bird farm, as the Harper sings? You are Antho!"
"I was once," smiled Fer. He pointed sadly to the stones, and we recognized them for what they were ... memorial stones for that Family he had lost, drowned in the river more than twenty springs ago.
I wondered then what was legend and what was truth, and it was a long time before I found the full answer. But sitting there, with Fer, in that quiet place, before we went back to the house and the great talk going on there, I saw that the legend was not a lie. The winds had taken Antho, the poor distracted bird farmer; Fer was a different person, whose destiny was to design engines.
"Will Brin's Five live here?" I asked.
"If they will do me so much honor," said Fer.
"But surely it could not be a bird farm again?"
"I would prefer it to be used for bees and flowers," he said.( 224 ).I.I-.
L."Tell me," I asked, "how have you come to help us? I had thought the Maker of Engines would be displeased with Diver."
"Do not think of Nantgeeb bearing a grudge," said Fer, laughing. "When Narneen and Onnar sent out their prayers, there was no thought in the Eastern Retreat but to rescue and help our friends."In the fixed house, which was old and s.p.a.cious and comfortable, we all lived in an enforced calm. The talk, the endless talk, went on; quietly in corners or in a ring at night, under the rack of candlecones hanging from the ceiling. Diver and Ablo went out with Fer every morning and inspected their pet, the Tomarvan, which had a launch- ing catapult in the glebe. Diver took several flights and was glad to have his bird back again.
Old Gwin was tired. When she woke, she was taken out every morning to her place under the spinners' tree, and she would sit, by the hour, too weary to work at her lace. I took my turn to sit with her, and I understood why she had picked this place, for it was the only spot where one could look to the north, up the river.
I was with Vel Ragan there one morning, and Old Gwin said to the scribe, "There is something that I think you know, young scribe."
"What is that, good Mother?"
"The Harper had it from our good Diviner, the Ulgan of Cullin," she said. "One of our kin was well-known in the Fire-Town. Lhave my ideas about this. Will you say the name?"
Vel Ragan looked a little unwilling. "You speak your thought, Gwin," he said.
"It is Arn Tarroyan," she said. "Roneen's eldest pouch- child. He was a well-grown outclip, and he went to Cullin fair and we saw him no more. But there was a recruiting call for the Fire-Town at that fair.( 225 ).
"Right," said Vel Ragan. "Arn was my good friend and the friend of my liege, the Deputy. His name was Arn Lorgan, the Bridgemaker, a proud name."
"Well, I can tell he is dead," sighed Gwin, "but I am glad to have heard the story."
I felt a p.r.i.c.kle of fear, like a cold wind on the back of my neck, for I knew it was a harbinger of death to hear that one younger had died. But Old Gwin sat calmly looking to the north up the gray river and made no averting sign.
It was not two days more, another sweet morning, summer on the delta; I sat in the cook-room of the fixed house playing hold-stone with Narneen and Gordo. All was quiet, with Ablo stirring the cooking pots; Diver had Tomar out by the Tomarvan; the Harper and Mamor were repairing more of the roof. Brin was by the river, sitting with Gwin. Suddenly Narneen lifted her head, then Gordo. They both jumped up from the mat with the same look of fear and rushed from the house, and I rushed after them. I followed down the grassy track to the promontory, and as we came in sight of the spinners' tree, we stopped, all three. We saw Brin rise up slowly from beside the chair where Old Gwin lay.
"Gwin has flown to the north," she said. "Do not be afraid."
So Old Gwin died, looking towards Hingstull, and was buried on that promontory and a stone raised to her, beside the stones of Antho's Family. We did not speak of it, but from this time we were a Five no more; we could have taken another ancient, according to the old threads, but we had come too far. We were not bush weavers or mountain folk any longer.
Vel Ragan and Onnar came and went to the city, bringing us news and continuing their search for Tsorl-U- Tsorl. Diver had helped them in this, for he had spoken to his Pentroy jailers in those dark floors below the Sea Flower Room. He learned that a group of prisoners under Secret( 226 ).
I.Hand, had been brought in, and one had had a stormy interview with Tiath Gargan himself and had struck at the Great Elder and cried for justice. There had been talk, the jailers said, of fire-metal-magic; and the Great Elder's rage was terrible, because he thought he had been betrayed.
This violent prisoner had been sent to Itsik; Vel Ragan planned to visit this foul place to continue the search.
I was not there when the plan for the ship was first raised, but Diver spoke to me by the Tomarvan the same day. "Would you sail the Great Ocean Sea?" he asked. "Or was the keel boat enough for you?"
I took it in at once. "To the islands? I will go! Will Brin let me? Which ones of us?"
"Steady," he said, "it would be a hazardous journey."
"Would Mamor be captain?"
"Of course. But he would take a sailing guide, for he has not be n far on the ocean. I think Brin would let you go along."
"Did Vel Ragan find us this ship?"
"He helped to find it," said Diver, "and the reason for my going. Guno Deg sends word that I should make myself scarce. Tiath Gargan does not give up easily."( 227 ).
THE TIME TO START A VOYAGE on the Great Ocean Sea is in the first light of Esto, when the waters are turned to gold.
The air was warm, at the third wharf in Rintoul, but I thought of that other wharf in Cullin, where I had waited with Diver in the cold. Gordo Beethan, who came to us that day, had already sailed off again; he was being borne away in a bird-boat up the Troon ... back to Cullin, back to the Ulgan, back to our own country, where the moun- tains reared into the sky. We had seen him go as bravely as we could; I did not weep for the north because of the new excitement behind my eyes. I was for the Great Ocean Sea, for the waves, for the sea birds and giant fish and the sea-sunners. I was for the fire islands, where Diver's people might still be waiting.
Now, at Rintoul wharf, the ship looked clumsy as a fixed house ill-made. It was a pot-bellied ship with a green sail, and it was called Beldan or Green Wheel; Mamor stood on the high bridge, by the chart tent, and next to him the sailing guide. Ablo Binigan was fussing about on the deck with our gear, getting in the way of the fifteen sailors in the crew. I settled beside the rail in the waist of the ship and watched the sail warden, a tall omor, setting in order the thick new yellow ropes. The ship smelled of salt and dried( 228 ).I.
sunner meat and rope, both old and new. It was not a new ship; it had sailed back and forth to Tsagul and eastward to the Salthaven; it had sailed among the islands and returned with a hold full of tree-flax and rare woods . . . the official reason for our voyage this time. The Green Wheel had been further than the islands, to the blue ice, far to the south, and to the north, where the ice is green. As it rode at anchor, its timbers creaked, its rigging sang, as if it were talking to the ocean, eager to set sail again. The ocean,which I expected to talk back pretty loudly once we had set sail as calm in the light of Esder flat and silken bevondthe harbor mouth.Diver was the last of our party to come aboard; he stood on the wharf with Brin and the Harper, Narneen and Tomar I looked at them all throu h the rail and ied to fixthem in my mind; the sailors set up a chant, and the shadow of the green sail fell across my face. I turned my head and saw it unfurled; a wide-open eye was worked in colored cord upon the sail, as a charm for seafarers. There was a regular thump, beating a new rhythm for the chant, as the anchor was raised by its capstan and the metal-bound rope, thick as a tree branch, slithered into its locker in wet coils.
Diver swung lightly up the narrow gangplank and came to stand by me. I stood up; and by the time I had done so, there was already a widening trough of water between the ship and the wharf. Brin stood on the wharf, all the others were there, and I was being moved away from them. Yet I had borne much worse than this; I swallowed hard and waved both hands, but I could hardly hear their voices raised or the Harper's song of farewell. We waved and waited until the blue thread'that Mamor had thro n toNarneen from the high bridge drew taut and snappecWe had moved out into the stream, giving way to other vessels as we approached the harbor mouth. Rintoul rose above us, never more beautiful, in ladders and racks of white and silver. The crew were busv_- Diver nut me ahead of him on the narrow steps to the bridge, and we went up.
When I looked again, I could hardly make out the wharf and the dark knot of figures. I looked at Mamor's face and the face of the ancient sailing guide and the bearded face of Diver, and I felt secure, but not in the old way, as I had done in the warmth of the tent.
I was among them, but I was myself, Dorn-U-Dorn, stepping off the edge of the world in brave company. The ship cleared the harbor mouth, and we felt at once the roll and surge under the Beldan ~ keel as it was taken back by the Great Ocean Sea. A rim of light grew in the distant east, but our way was to the southwest. A stiff breeze filled the green sail, and we sailed on so fast we seemed to draw the light of the Great Sun across the sea, turning it to gold.( 230 ).