Mistress Goha, for all that she was uncanny, was always welcome in a home when a baby was coming. She wasn't a midwife—she said where she came from there wasn't a lot of birthing, one of the many uncanny things about her—but she didn't get in a midwife's way, and she knew how to sit, and be calm, and wait, until the room was filled with the baby's cries.
Fairly soon there grew a small tradition that when the babe was born at night, as they so often are, and the mother had fed the child and was sleeping, Goha would take the child out before the dawn. To introduce it to the sun, as she said. Some of them heard what she said to the baby but none understood it: foreign talk said some, Kargish replied others. From where she came from, where she left her witchcraft behind her. Some of the women muttered that she had best have left the words there too, no good would come of foreign spellwords in Gont. But less would say this after Goha had sat with them in their labour, whether for hours or a day or more, holding the storm back with her calm.
It was near two years of marriage before Goha's own belly swelled, just in time to stop the idle speculation in the village that a Gontish man and Kargish woman couldn't make a child from intensifying into constant chatter. For a time the chatter morphed into other promising avenues. Had the old mage had to say spells over Flint? Would the baby be red, or white, or halfway between, or red and white in patches? But when it turned out that Goha grew larger much as any woman did, and she continued to work and keep house as long as she could, as any woman would do, the talk died down. She became swollen and complained of headaches near the end, and the witch Flax frowned, and waited, and frowned, and then brewed the first of the potions to try and bring the baby early. The women, even the gossips, understood what was needed, and one by one they went by Flint's kitchen daily to see to his meals, and to the mistress and the baby when the time came.
It seemed to the women, Flax as much as any of them, that for one who understood birth so well as Goha did, that it would go easy. And certainly she never complained, but as the sun rose and set and rose again, her calmness became less like a refuge in a storm and more like a stone cast into it. She would not break, she did not break. She breathed, she did not scream. Flax started to wish she would: it seemed to her that the woman was pulling away from the world when she should be pushing the baby towards it. The sun was low in the sky when at last Flax felt the baby coming, buttocks first, and mercifully it came swiftly at the end, Goha's body finally doing what her will could not.
It was a bad business, they all knew and did not say, and they all understood what it meant when the old mage came down from the hills that evening and asked at Shorn's farmhouse whether he could still find Mistress Tenar at Oak Farm, and whether he might have a bed for a night or two. They knew he had come to say the words over Goha, or the baby, or both, when they died.
Two days after her daughter was born, Tenar opened her eyes to find herself upstairs in her own room with the baby asleep on her chest and Ogion looking at her. It was only when he evenly said "Good morning daughter," and nothing else, that she understood that she was not to die after all.
She smiled and lay for a while feeling her baby's breaths, and then she said to him "It doesn't seem right to me that I don't know her name." She knew that if he was to offer his thoughts that it was more likely he would do so after the next year than the next breath and so she continued as if talking to herself. "I've named her Apple—look at her, rosy red—and it doesn't seem to me that, that, whatever her name is will be more her name than Apple. My mother named me Tenar after all, and I am still Tenar, I have returned to being Tenar. But she is Apple now, and then she won't be Apple later. Not, ha, not right at her core." She felt a little light-headed, and stopped talking.
"It is a mystery," Ogion agreed, surprising her. "I thought it myself, when Sparrowhawk came to me in that form, so very nearly having become that name, and yet that is not his name. And yet, it is."
"That wasn't the name his mother gave him," Tenar said, although she wasn't sure whether she was disagreeing with him or not, or what about. He said nothing and after a time she said "I can't see clear to leaving the farm very often and bringing her up to you, but you will come down to us, sometimes?" He only smiled, and stood and left, and she knew he would.
These were questions that the Wise considered deeply many years later, after the sorcerer Hara and the dragons Orm Irian and Tehanu broke the wall that had held the dead, a wall that some said had been made of names.
Some forty-odd years after she had first asked them, Tenar returned to the question of names as well.
Ged died some years after the wall fell and sunlight drove away the cities of the dead. After his death Tenar took ship to Havnor, to bring the news in person and to be with the king as he grieved the beloved friend whom he had never seen again after their farewell in Roke. But while his grief was acute, Lebannen could not truly give way to grieving long. Soon, Tenar's and Lebannen's private grief became public, formal, and Ged became history; at last the deeds of the Archmage and the King, and indeed the Archmage and the White Lady, called Ged by that name, which had always been her name for him.
Tenar found she could not bear to stay in Havnor to hear the deeds and lays sung. She was no longer the White Lady and there was no longer an Archmage: she was twice-widowed, she was old, and Havnor was not her home.
While in Havnor, Tenar had left a clever kind young mage, Pine, with the house on the cliff, explaining that the lore books passed down to her by Aihal the Silent should by all means be left with someone who could make use of them while she was away. They both tacitly understood that he was to remain there; she and Ged had needed more and more help with it in his last few years, and it was clear that she could not live there alone. So when she returned, she returned to Valmouth in Middle Valley, to the household of her granddaughter Pippin, Apple's daughter, married and soon to have a baby of her own. Pippin lived so close to Apple's own house that it was almost as if they lived all together.
"Is it true that the mages say not to name us any more?" Apple asked her one evening as she and Tenar worked in the kitchen and Pippin rested her swollen feet. "I always liked having a name that was me, you know."
"I always liked that you were Apple," Tenar said. "You were born in autumn like this child will be, and you looked just like—"
"A rosy red apple," chanted her daughter and her granddaughter along with the oft-told story.
"A rosy red apple," Tenar agreed. She tried to recall what the mages had told her in Havnor, what Pine had said of current thinking on Roke. "I think the mages don't know what to say," she said. "The names are still there. When the child comes of age, a mage or a witch or a sorcerer takes them into the water, and there's the name. They say that's still true. But that the name isn't as much of a name as it used to be. It doesn't call you, it doesn't bind you. Not necessarily. If I was a great mage, Pippin, trying to summon your mother—if I wanted to do such a thing—Apple would be the name I would call her by, because it is my name for her. And if anything worked, that would."
"So now Apple really is my name?" her daughter asked.
"To me," Tenar said. "To Pippin, well, I don't know how she thinks of you. If you were a mage, Pippin, perhaps you would call Apple simply with 'Mother'."
"Horrible to think," said Apple firmly. "At least one used to have to go to Roke, to learn all the names, to be able to call others to them. Now that 'Apple' and 'Mother' can summon me, I'm surprised I am not the servant of some two-bit sorceror who took it into his head to call me in the street and bind me to him."
"Not at all," Tenar explained. "Summoning has changed. The mages think that the summoner can only call those that he knows truly. Or she knows truly. It is not the name now, but the knowing. Perhaps I know you that well, I don't know. The two-bit sorceror will have his work cut out for him though."
Apple smiled at the last. "That's a relief. I've never trusted Master Evergreen down at the village, "
"I know what you mean about names, Grandmother" Pippin said unexpectedly, rising to finish the dishes and determinedly nudging Tenar to take her place in her chair. "I still think of—of him—as Hawk you know. Not as Ged."
Tenar smiled sadly. "I always knew him as Ged," she said. "From when we met on Atuan. And I trapped him in my labrynith. How odd that sounds, now. He told me his name then."
Apple frowned. She loved stories of her mother's past as a Kargish priestess and she basked in her mother's heroic status as the White Lady and as the king's confidante. But while the stories were lovely, they made her mother seem so thoroughly strange to her. For one thing, she had never really understood how it was that her mother wasn't a witch. Most witches looked askance at her and treated her with cautious respect but did not seem to regard her as a witch herself.
And for all that she wasn't a witch or a she-mage Apple's mother had all but been Aihal's apprentice, his very last apprentice, after even Ged. The same Ged who had been the Archmage, the same Ged who had saved the world and then come home and married her mother and lived with her and raised goats, and had been known as Hawk the failed sorceror, and who had seemed so content to be a goatherd and husband and father. Every part of Apple's mother and her life was a puzzle, if she thought about it too much.
"Could you, could you summon him?" she asked her mother abruptly. "Summon Ged? As the one who knew him?"
Tenar didn't meet her eyes for a moment, and when she did, she was crying silently. "No," she said, after a minute. "No, that is gone. That is certain. The dead are gone where the summons cannot reach them, even from those who knew them best." She had been there on Roke, that night, when the sorceror Alder had died to join his beloved, and he and Orm Irian and Tehanu had destroyed the wall. None of them had returned, and now none returned from death or could be called from it. "They've gone into the light. They are gone."
Apple felt her tears start as well, and she sat down and took her mother's hand, and asked the question that was even harder. "What about Tehanu?" she asked.
Tenar placed her other hand on top of Apple's for a moment, but all she said was "For heaven's sake, Pippin! The baby is coming any day. Rest your feet. While you can." And she left the room and went to bed.
Two weeks later, Apple sat with her mother outside looking over Valmouth Bay in the late afternoon, both of them admiring Pippin's baby son as Apple rocked his cradle with her foot. Tenar talked for a while about the Kargish rituals she spoke over babies, introducing them to the sun, introducing the sun to them. "I think it makes even more sense now," she concluded. "If in the end we go into the light, we'd best get to know it as soon as we can."
They sat enjoying the last warmth of the day for some time, and then: "You asked about Tehanu," Tenar said to Apple abruptly. "Before."
"I didn't mean—" Apple said. "I didn't mean to hurt you. But we so seldom speak of her, and I loved her too and—"
Tenar nodded. "I don't know," she said, very pale even for her, but not crying. "I don't know the answer. She lives, I am sure of it. Dragons live a very very long time. And Azver—did I ever tell you of the Pattener?"
Apple nodded. "The mage in the forest."
"Yes," Tenar said. "Azver thought, and Ged thought too, that there might be a way back, if the dragons chose to take it. Perhaps through the forest, perhaps through the air. That the dragons who, who loved us might come back that way."
"But there isn't?"
"I don't know," Tenar said. "I had a letter from him, the Patterner, when I was in Havnor. He wrote of Ged mostly, but I asked him, and he thinks still that the other dragon—Irian, Orm Irian—will come through the forest if he calls her."
"Are you afraid to call Tehanu?" Apple asked.
"I did call her!" Tenar replied, shaking her head. "I did! But she didn't come."
Apple was silent with her hand over her mouth, and Tenar continued. "For Ged, when he was dying. He said that there were two things he wished for, and both were impossible. He wished to walk in the Grove one last time, and he wanted to see his daughter flying, on the winds of morning.
"But I thought perhaps not so impossible, that last. If anyone could call to anyone else, now, it would be a lover to their beloved, or a mother to their child. And I did call to her, and I think it was more than just thoughts. I don't—I've never wanted to use magic, like an Archipeligan, Apple—but I think I did."
"But she didn't come," said Apple, aghast.
"But she didn't come," Tenar agreed. "And Ged died without seeing her again. On the winds of morning, or anywhere else."
Neither of them said anything else. The baby woke after a time and his mouth opened and closed silently, searching for his mother. "Oh, let me take him in," Tenar said eagerly to Apple when she reached for him. "It's not fair, that I am only the third most important woman in his life. I shall at least try and ascend in rank to the second. Have care!"
Apple laughed, and put the boy into his great-grandmother's arms. But she couldn't help but watch Tenar go into the house with him, not from jealousy, but concern. Her mother was quite old now. Young enough still for the trip to Havnor, with the King's people looking to her, young enough that everyone concerned pretended that she might travel so again. In fact she could still carry a newborn baby's weight and a water pail besides, if not easily. Apple's concern was most unwelcome, she knew, and she tried not to feel it. But feel it she did.
Apple thought on the problem for a long time. She had loved little Therru — Tehanu — and the awkward teenager she had grown into, always so aware of the eyes on her scars, always so aware that she couldn't fly. She hadn't known her, really, but who had? Her mother? Hawk? They had known she was a dragon-woman as Apple had not, but what did that signify?
Apple considered what she would do, what call she would answer, if she was both a dragon and her mother's daughter. Eventually she shared the only conclusion she had come to with Tenar.
Each year, as children in Pippin's Valmouth neighbourhood reached the age where they should join in the singing of the Deed of the Young King at sunreturn, they were sent around to different households in the guise of teaching the Deed to still younger children, and, in doing so, learning it all the better themselves.
Pippin's little son was still in his cradle, but the proud children included him in their rounds nevertheless, and as they sang the Deed softly over the sleeping baby with Pippin notionally admiring their performance and in reality monitoring it, the two older women talked. Tenar had spoken more of Tehanu since she had told Apple that her summoning attempt had failed, but only of the time when Tehanu had lived on Gont, not of where or how she might live now. On this evening, Tenar spoke of being in Havnor with her, of Tehanu talking to the young dragon there, and how she had called him, and later Irian, medeu, brother and sister. It was by far the closest she had come to talking of Tehanu leaving her, and Apple saw her chance.
"I thought about why she didn't come," said Apple softly. "Just a thought."
Tenar paused a moment, and then gripped her daughter's hand. "Tell me," she said.
"You didn't call her to yourself," Apple replied, still in a low voice. "You called her to him."
"I've thought that," her mother replied. "But… now, after she didn't come to him, I can't ask her to come to me."
"He didn't want her to come to him," Apple pointed out. "He wanted to see her fly on the winds of morning, and who is to say he didn't, in the end?"
"I wanted her to come to him," Tenar told her.
"Well, when you want her to come to you, ask her again," Apple said, with more certainty than she felt. "For yourself. Not for anyone else. Here's what I know: she's your daughter. I'm your daughter. We've been daughtering much longer than you ever did, us two. And so I'm telling you: ask her to come to you."
Tenar shook her head. "I'm not ready. It may not work."
"When you are, then," Apple said. "When you are ready, ask her to come to you. And see if it works, Mother."
Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.