For a long time, she knows only the glorious madness of flying and not falling to earth. Yet to call it only flying, to reduce it to mechanics, a way of travelling, would be to cheapen it. To fly is all Tehanu knows now; there is only and forever the present. The old histories and the shifts in tide and land and people that may yet come to pass are all bound up within this one incandescent joy. She does not own the long winds of the west for what creature can own those? And yet they are hers, and all the air of all the worlds as well. Segoy once flew as she does now, calling everything into being, but those were the things of Earthsea. She is, she thinks, beyond Earthsea and its familiarities now. What are the blocks of matter to her, tables, boats, shifts, books, towers, loaves, when she has the wind and the sunlight? Her life before seems no more than one of those melodramatic illusions played out by the player-troupes that journey from village to village, terrifying but insubstantial when reached for.
She flies over land and vaulting sea, through clouds and light so bright she feels it like flame against her hide, redoubling itself within her so that she glimmers in the dusk, burns on high like the summer star for which she is named. The land of the dragons, now that it is theirs again, is green and soft and fresh; it rises up and up into mountains that spill light like fountains do water, and dragons dance upon the wind there, delighting in the cold air and brilliant sunrises. The fire in the land that, before, had burned and scarred now nourishes them. It is more of beauty, wildness and freedom than Tehanu had ever thought she could be allowed, but the wind still calls to her and she flies further out than her brothers and sisters. When the joy of flight subsides, she finds herself over places that bear no relation to the archipelago in which she grew up. The only constant is the wind singing softly.
She'd been closer to the ground back in that rocky scatter of islands. As a child and one that even at a young age knew better than to draw the eye lest it result in being borne to the soil by a blow or the awful weight of a man's body and foul intent, she'd tracked the places they'd gone by her own stumbling feet, the time it took for her to heal, the farmers' wives who had been contemptuous but who had slipped her mother a heel of bread when her belly started to show. In her time of freedom, since her second mother came for her, she'd seen maps spread like fallen leaves on the tables of the palace in Havnor Great Port. Before the King had asked for her mother's counsel, Tehanu had never left Gont, and matching the sea-routes and the major islands to the swells and stones she had seen on their way had been like a flowering, a confirmation of wonder. She had struggled to unfurl the scrolls further with her clawed right hand, but once she managed it, she had seen, for the first time, the Archipelago in its unassuming beauty. Sharing her isolation within Lebannen's Court, Seppel had shown her the blue-veined expanse of Paln to the west, and she had followed the line of his finger out to the passage between Dragons' Run, known to her from her father's stories, and her heart had given a hard, queer beat. It had not been so moved by studying the far-off Whale Isles or the distant Kargad Lands, or the islets that looked like little more than scattered crumbs on the curling vellum.
The world that she flies over now look nothing like those careful ink drawings. It is not neat; it does not stay still. Instead it is vast, endless troughs and peaks of sunshot ocean, or tower-cities of alabaster reaching towards the sky; rippling hides of continents that twitch underneath the incursions of the breeze; shining nebulae of clouds full of strange noises; and huge green rivers that writhe back upon themselves. It is not a monolithic world, it is patchworked and darned over with its annexation and its restoration. The mountains have healed themselves from the pain that was inflicted upon them, but the scattered stones of the accursed wall still lie where they were thrown down. She likes that best, that this world bears its scars proudly.
She is not scared by this new world as she used to be scared of anything unfamiliar; she is enchanted. How can humans think to contain this, contain themselves? It is incomprehensible to her, the way they pen themselves into possessing and the desire to possess, the terrible need to twist freedom into hard-edged, hard-tongued patterns. In defiance, in delight, she flies, and thinks to never leave the land that shines beneath her until she comes back to herself, exhausted and with exaltation lodged hard under her ribs, and sees before her the Dragon's Run.
There were dragons here always. Since before the time of Erreth-Akbe, they haunted the West Reach in lieu of their lost land: prowling these skies, sunning themselves on the rock spires and slabs that escape the brisk slap of the waves. She cannot see any now, and does not look for them. They may not even be here at all, but revelling in the restoration of the land they had lost, which gleams forever golden and green under a wind which carries moisture and fragrance and hope. So many of them had taken to the other wind when the wall fell; perhaps she is the only dragon left in Earthsea. She alights on a pinnacle and latches onto the brine-carved crenels, and settling, lets Earthsea settle back into her. It is sweeter somehow than she had anticipated.
In the stories told to her by both her mothers, happiness had been a recurring motif and an end in itself, but of the two of them only Tenar had thought it something real, to be grasped and enjoyed and shared. Senini had pined after it hopelessly, that bright, incomprehensible idea of being free and full of joy, but had been beaten down too far to believe in it any more strongly than she believed in the drowning of Soléa: proven to others' satisfaction perhaps but utterly remote from her own experience. Tehanu too in those years had never felt happiness, but neither had she so fervently romanticised it, so that when it came as a slow, safe contentment with Tenar and Ged, and Auntie Moss and Heather and those wretched cats that had grown and interbred and been always underfoot, and all of them regarded with yellow-eyed and dispassionate contempt by the goats, it had taken her some time to reconcile it. It had not been until the tearing down of the wall in that land of dust and emptiness, and the wind that had cleansed the stain of corruption, that she had realised there could be even more than that small, domestic contentment. It had been almost too much to comprehend, that, while she had been happy enough, there could be this too, this tearing asunder of all the patterns she had suffered and had hidden behind. Tehanu knows that, in training her to be a farm-girl, Tenar had been trying to give her a shield, the only counter-pattern that she could safely think of under Aspen's spell: the slow weep of the cheese press, the rise of bread under cloth, milking goats in the cold breaking dawn. But Tehanu has new patterns now, makes her own patterns out on the wind. It is not a spell of making and owning, but of seeing and recognition. She sees where every fat salted droplet rolls in the sea beneath her, each with its own name, its own shifting nature, and she soars over the beautiful, disorderly brokenness of the Archipelago itself, seeing where Éa rose and old maps and kingdoms crumbled only for new ages and new cities to arise: Dragon's Run to the west, Karego-At rattling with swords and shouts of worship, and the Great Port of Havnor, always sunlit, flags waving bravely and the sword of Erreth-Akbe shining atop the highest tower. There, Roke, like the centre of a storm, silent, windless, trapped forever under a spell. Gont. Gont, which pulls at her heart like a song of a home that has been left, but not outgrown altogether, sad and hopeful, full of remembered pain, and horror, and love. Gont will always be a raw place in her heart.
She re-acquaints herself with the seas and winds of Earthsea in isolation and silence, and is not unhappy with it. She finds herself dropping from the sky sometimes to the dark, knife-stoned islets where she settles, and almost unconsciously shifts to her old body to pace out the spaces of the islands, scrambling breathlessly and awkwardly with her burned hand over sharp, slippery rock, splashed with guano and scuffed with rushgrass. She always returns to the skies, though, too drawn by the sweetness of the winds of this world, the promise of the wind to other worlds, to ever truly come down for long. Sea-winds let her quarter and re-quarter the rock spindles and arches: she sees no other dragons. Until one day, the same treacherous sea-winds cant her towards the basalt fortress of the Keep, and there is Kalessin. It would be folly to assume that he was waiting for her, Tehanu reasons, and folly to speculate why he was there at all: Kalessin's motives are fathomless. Nevertheless she hovers just off the island and waits for him to acknowledge her.
'Daughter,' he greets, his voice still rattling like brass, 'I had not thought to see you here again. Aissadan verw nadannan.'
'I do not think I can be so easily divided, Eldest,' says Tehanu, warily.
'Perhaps you are not the only one,' Kalessin says. 'Your sister, Orm Irian, has lately also returned to these islands.' He indicates by the shifting of his thorned head that she should land, and once she has done so, says to her, 'Tell me what you have seen on the other wind.'
Tehanu dips her head in respect, but says, 'There's no telling of it, Segoy, it was - too large to tell.'
'There is nothing too large to tell, daughter. Look around you; see the truth of my words.'
She does so obediently, and notices something that itches at her. 'The sun goes north. It was summer when I left.'
'There's no time upon the other wind, daughter, but here the ages creep on. It has been four years since you left these shores.'
'Four years!' Tehanu thinks of those waiting on Gont, hoping for a word, a sign, and feels anguish like a blade beneath her breastbone. 'My parents must be so worried.'
'Hmm,' says Kalessin, and looks at her with his cold, yellow gaze so that she feels, almost, the raw, burned seam where Tehanu becomes Therru. She is grateful when there is a long, hoarse cry from the west, and Irian drops from the sky to land neatly and gracefully on the pillars of the Keep.
'Medeu,' Irian greets her, with sober affection, and Tehanu returns the gesture with sincerity, before Kalessin says to them, 'It seems that you are the children of two worlds more than I had realised, and since you are both here in the same time, you must go on in the same way for a while. Should you remain here alone, I fear you would eventually lose all sense of yourselves, and end by merely wheeling and screaming wordlessly like seabirds.'
'And where should we go, Eldest?' Tehanu says, the thought of losing all speech like Orm Embar and so many before him striking cold at her heart.
'Back to the beginning,' says Kalessin, his iron-lidded eyes narrow and distant.
Irian erupts out of her self-possession, rearing back to sit on her haunches and mantling her massive red wings. 'Whose beginning?' she asks, her words not quite a hiss. 'There are places I will not go.'Kalessin laughs, a sound like a maelstrom of rusted metal. 'Are there so? A dragon fears no rebuff, child, and we go where we will. And where we will not. Yes, even there we will go, in order that we can say truly that we are free; free from fear, free from pain.'
'I do not fear for myself,' Irian says, coldly.
'Then for those who hurt you? They will be dead soon enough, and you will fly on the other wind forever. But you will not be called upon to test that strength against so much of your past. I had thought that this world would be sundered from our own, and yet now I think it is not so easy, nor so complete. The making from the unmaking, the ending from the beginning, who shall know surely? You should go to Gont. If you do not find answers there, you will at least find a welcome; go to the Archmage and his White Lady.'
The town of Kemay lies on the headland of the bay that bears the same name. They reach the cliffs as the fishing fleet comes into the harbour below; the same wind carries them all in. They sweep around the town in the lowering evening, and landing on the broad, rabbit-nibbled down walk down to the town as unusual but recognisably human travellers. Kemay has always been an odd kind of port, a greater than usual allotment of outsiders in the small, cobbled town, so they attract less attention than they otherwise might have. Tehanu wanders the twilit streets, hoping to find the house of the fisherwoman her father had told her of. She finds no sign of it. Perhaps the old woman is dead, and dancing on the other wind. Tehanu may see her there one day when she returns, a blaze of scales and fire upon the wind, incandescent with freedom. Irian goes looking to see how much credit is carried by claiming they are personally acquainted with King Lebannen. Little enough, it turns out: a small bag of barley, a quantity of dried haddock, and five withered apples, still sweet and sound. Returning with her spoils, Irian says, 'The woman I talked to said I could have them for the laugh I gave her.'
Tehanu nods, and says soberly, 'Freedom is all well and good, but there's something to be said for the possession of coin, and pockets to carry it in.'
Irian's mouth curls very slightly. 'I confess I do miss the cheese money,' she says.
Setting off down the coastal road towards Up Selt and the long, slow trek around the slopes of Gont Mountain, they catch up with a drover's train of sheep. Most of the men are small, dark and dour, disinclined to conversation, but over the following nights at the fireside, one fellow persists in trying to make their acquaintance, marvelling slyly at two women brave enough to travel alone. Tehanu finds herself unafraid. She ignores his attempts to patronise her, and eventually he gives up, secretly afraid of her twisted hand and sealed eye. After that, he redoubles his attentions towards Irian, who disregards him until one night he pries into her parentage and origins, wheedling for information. When he asks again, 'Tell me, where do you hail from?', she tells him, 'Belilo' and smiles with all her teeth. Tehanu laughs aloud, a rough caw of amusement. He goes far away from them after that and they see him making the sign to avert evil at them, but the other men pay him no attention either and it comes to nothing.
Dark has already fallen when they reach the turning for Re Albi. They leave the road that drops further down the mountain to Gont Port, and pass quietly through the village to the steep pastures below the Old Mage's House. They pick their way through the dark, as silently and yellow-eyed as the goats, and are not afraid of tumbling from the cliffs.
Ged's house is dimly but welcomingly lit. Tenar stares them in incomprehension when she amswers their knock on the door, before her eyes fill and her mouth trembles and she reaches for Tehanu.
'Oh, my star,' gasps Tenar, clearly trying not to cry. 'My heart of fire, let me look at you.' Ged likewise has tears standing in his eyes, but does not try to hide them, instead cupping Tehanu's scarred cheek and smiling at her with love. They welcome Irian with almost the same joy, urging them into the house so they may look at them properly.
The rest of the evening passes in a bustle of airing the spare bedding and cleaning the house, despite the protests of both travellers. Little seems to have changed to Tehanu's eyes, the orchard as crabbed and fruitful as ever, the little alcove of the house that had been hers as warm and dusty, and the wooden floor still oiled and shining in the shadowed house after all these years. And yet, as she looks across the table after a hastily-prepared supper of soup, bread and goats' cheese, she thinks her parents' faces show the years of her absence.
'What is it like where you have been?' her mother asks them, not without some element of yearning in her voice. It has been so long for Tenar since she talked with the Dark Ones under the earth.
'There's room for glory,' says Tehanu, slowly. 'There's room for joy.'
'You are all the joy I need,' her mother tells her, and perhaps it is true. That all Tenar needs to touch the sky is the way she loves her burned child, and Ged, and the farm at Re Albi, the patterns of which she has slowly learned after so many years in the softer, dark-loamed lowlands.
The conversation turns to what happened after the wall had fallen, and Tehanu and Irian had caught the wind. Lebannen and Seserakh's wedding was a joy not only to those who knew them but to the whole Archipelago, apparently, but the news of Alder's death is a more privately shared grief: unwelcome but not a shock. Tehanu, unable still to cry, nevertheless feels her eye burn with grief but says stoutly, 'He will be happier there. Here, it was as though he were already in the Dry Lands.'
'He was another wound in the world,' Ged says, softly, regretfully. 'To look at him was to hurt.' He looks at Tenar, covers her hand on the table with his, and falls silent until Irian asks, diffidently, about the affairs of Roke.
'It is still- uncertain,' he says, frowning. 'Fewer come to the School than we thought would once the doors were opened; scared, perhaps, or distrustful of Roke after the return of the King and the falling of the wall. It does not seem so sure a route to knowledge as it once did. Of course, it no longer seems so attractive a route to power either, which is all to the good.'
Irian gives a small, private smile at that, obviously remembering something or someone.
'Still, the fact that there are so few and with so little belief, not only in the reponsibilities but the very powers of magery, within Roke itself worries me,' says Ged. 'We have lost so much.'
'Yes,' said Irian, her eyes fixed upon the ceiling, and then with brusque politeness, 'Shall you do something about that, do you think?'
'We thought that perhaps you could,' Tenar interjected, as Ged's thin, brown face creased in thought. 'You or Tehanu. I think you always wanted to go to Roke.'
Irian's straight glance and the faint suggestion of anger around her mouth make Tenar sit more straight-backed in her chair, notices Tehanu. Perhaps her mother thinks she has overstepped herself, but for all she faces a dragon's wrath, Tenar has often said that things don't change if no one sets their hand to the yoke, and she holds firm.
In the end, it is Tehanu herself who breaks the silence, saying with a dryness that seems to please her mother, 'I think Irian achieved Roke, Mother. I do not know that we could go there anyway, not to argue a case. Not anymore.'
'The winds would be fair to Roke. They'd let you into the town.'
'And no further,' Irian states, her voice still bitter with remembered anger. 'They'd not let us into their thoughts.'
'In fairness, women were not allowed into their thoughts before,' Tenar says with wry amusement. 'They have trouble understanding the language and the magic of women.'
'And of dragons,' says Tehanu. 'And we are both, among other things. Translation would be- difficult.'
'But necessary, maybe,' says Ged thoughtfully.
'Maybe,' echoes Tehanu, more doubtfully.
The tension of that exchange is lost in the bustle of making ready for bed. It is later than the household's usual bedtime, but not so much later; this is still a farm, and animals always need tending, and dawn always comes. Tenar and Ged retire to the bed far back in the single room, and the two travellers to share the alcove. Outside the stars are white and sharp, but the darkness inside the house is warm and sweet with the scent of white hallows and homecoming.
In the morning, the sun washes the cliffs with a winter-gold light, and the wind bounds up the pastures as slyly as a goat itself. Irian stretches among the sheepskins in the alcove and blinks across the pallet: Tehanu is long gone. When Irian gets up, she finds the small house empty, and the door open to the air that carries the scent of the grass of the high down.
Defying the morning chill, Tenar is sitting on a bench that runs along the side of the house, her hands idle upon a drop spindle lying in her lap. Her eyes are closed, but she is smiling into the sun.
'Where is Ged?' Irian asks.
'Your father's up at the Dark Pond,' says Tenar absently. 'Something about mud for a poultice for that blasted goat. Oh,' she says, suddenly opening her eyes and looking up, 'I am sorry, Irian, I thought you were Tehanu.'
'No, says Irian, her voice almost as rusty as her sister's, and turns to leave.
The pond is far enough up the mountain that she considers shifting skins and flying up there. She thinks however that would be lazy and the day is dry enough, even if the sky has become the colour of old iron and the thin breeze needles through her clothes. She finds Ged flat on his stomach beside a small, reed-straggled pool that glowers back up at the sky, scooping dark, silky handfuls from the pond's base; the mud drops from his hands to the rush basket with a wet glop. Two small boys, dirty, rough-headed and like enough to be brothers, are copying him gleefully. They look like they are making mudpies, two little goatherds and the Archmage of Roke. He smiles at her as she approaches, thin, brown face creased in welcome even though it must be plain as she approaches that she is neither Tenar nor Tehanu.
'Orm Irian,' he says, as he stands slowly and wipes his hands. 'Thank you, boys,' he says gravely and seriously to them, inclining his head. They giggle and run off, shy of him now that he is a man again and not a fellow mudlark. 'Would you like to walk with me?' he says to Irian, but she stares past him at the pond.
'I was named in a pond like this,' she says, abruptly. 'At midnight, and in secret.'
'That is a very great shame,' says Ged. 'But it is not your shame to carry. For all that a true name is every person's secret, a naming's a thing to be witnessed and celebrated.'
'Not for me,' says Irian. 'It was always a thing I came to sideways.'
'I went forward,' says Ged, reminiscently, 'fording a river in all my youth and arrogance.' He points down to a thin shining thread on the plain. 'There, you see, the Ar: not quite as cold as death,' he says reflectively, 'but it came close. And when I came out, I was still Sparrowhawk but something else as well. Just as you were always Dragonfly and something besides. The magic came to me and the other wind to you, and who is to say it could have ended any differently.'
'Was I always that something else?' Irian says with an urgency she did not anticipate within herself. 'Could it have ended differently? Do things ever change?'
Ged blinks. 'Some things,' he says slowly, 'are unchanging, I thought: the sea, the sun, the wind that moves the grass around us. And yet, the sea moved and Soléa was lost, the dry land is green once more, and the doors of Roke are open. And that, I am told, was your doing. Yes, Irian, I think things change, but we must husband that change along. Little use if we plant the seed and fail to tend to it.'
'And must I be the seed and the farmer too then?'
'Orm Irian, I am an old man on a farm that yields nothing but hard work and rebellious goats. It is not for me to tell you what you should do: a Dragon Lord is one whom dragons will speak with, not someone who can command dragons, eh? A pretty fix we'd be in if some fool tried to leash dragons.'
'And if I were to ask your counsel, Archmage?'
'Possibly you missed the part where I am an old man on a farm with the work and the goats,' Ged says dryly. 'But I will gladly give you some advice as a friend, if you wish it.'
'You are very powerful and you are wild and free and beautiful,' says Ged. 'And that scares people in women as much as it does in dragons, maybe more. And you cannot lie. All of Roke knows that of dragons. Oh, you're quick-tongued but the speech of the dragon is the dragon. And without that truth being spoken as well as power, I am afraid that the changes made in this world will slip away from us.'
'Why should I have to?'
'Because you changed the world, Irian, by being brave and truthful. You can be brave and true for all those who cannot, and perhaps this is the price that you must pay for being brave and true: that you cannot be otherwise.'
'Let us say that, against my own judgement and inclination, I go to Roke, and, against their judgement and inclination, they let me into the School there,' she says, openly sceptical. 'What would you have me tell your Masters and your little scholars?'
'Tell them the truth: beginning and end. Tell them how the world began and how it will continue. You open doors, you always have. Open this one, too; you and Tehanu.'
She goes with him to the village to see whether the animal-curer will come by before the snows; Ged thinks that the poultice will not draw the infection, and wants to make sure that it will not cost them the goat. The village men call him Hawk and treat him with suspicion and reserve.
She mentions it as they walk back, and he laughs. 'Well, I grew up here, you see,' he says, a little embarrassed, 'and I left, and then I came back. At least two of those are unprecedented around here. From goatherd to Archmage to goatherd again, and I, at least, am not unhappy that it is so.'
'But you were Archmage,' says Irian, testing for she knows not what. 'You still have that power.'
He looks at her sharply. 'I have no power left,' he tells her. 'Nor do I wish it back, if that is what worries you.'
'You've power enough,' Irian says, and says nothing for the rest of the walk back. Ged either takes no notice or no offence, and peaceably strides along beside her.
'Will you stay?' says Tenar over their dinner that night. Her tone is polite but her eyes, resting mostly upon Tehanu, are hopeful. 'Not on Gont, necessarily, but at least in the Archipelago?'
Tehanu looks first to Ged and then to Irian before she says softly, 'I cannot. But I promise that I will not stay away. I cannot be so easily divided from this world.'
'And you, Irian?' asks Tenar. 'We would not like to lose you either.'
Irian looks for that same politeness in Tenar's question but can find nothing but sincerity and honest affection in the large, grey eyes that watch her.
'I will come back,' she says gruffly. 'After all, you will want to know what happens on Roke.'
They take their leave of Ged and Tenar, and an inquisitive hen who intrudes upon the farewells. Tenar laughs down at it through her tears, and calls it a busy, old fool as it preens and echoes their every word with a ribald mutter.
'I will come back,' says Tehanu, softly, and her mother replies, 'I know, my love,' and smiles bravely. They stand close together, their hands caught up with each others', and Tehanu's eye burns with the ghosts of tears again. She laughs a little. 'So much of me is thwarted water that someday my fire will go out,' she says and regretfully lets go of her mother's hands.'That will never happen,' her mother says, fiercely. 'You burn too bright to ever be extinguished.'
'Safe voyage,' Ged says to them. 'And swift return.' He embraces Tehanu and then Irian fiercely, and then they turn to face the cliffs that overhang the muttering sea and launch themselves outwards, two climbing flames of red and gold.
The winds are fair for them over Oranéa and Ebéa but they circumscribe Havnor, remembering the attacks by dragons on the west of that island. Four years is not so long a time that people will have forgotten what happened when they last saw dragons in the sky. The circuitous route takes them by Taon.
'A good man,' says Irian, and Tehanu knows she is thinking of Alder. She makes a noise of agreement, and knows that he and Lily are together and joyful in that endless light.
Despite their care, trumpets sound urgently from Havnor South Port as they tack on the chancy winds off that coast, and alarums on Hosk begin to sound when fishermen at sea catch sight of them, flying low over the waves. Orrimy has its own wizard who snarls up the air above the city in an unnecessary attempt at defense, so that they are thrown a little off course. The mage down on the ground, concentrating hard on knotting up the skies, might have been annoyed to know that neither of them is disturbed by the squall; in fact, catching a sudden updraft that drops out as abruptly from beneath her makes Irian huff with amusement as she snaps her wings open to break her descent.
It comes as a surprise though to find the way into Roke as fair a one as could be hoped; no magewind circles the island, and no alarms are sounded as they approach the town of Thwil. The people there, accustomed to the unusual through years of exposure to magery and the schoolboys of Roke, do not blink an eye as two dragons land outside the town walls and transform into young women. Nor do Tehanu and Irian meet opposition when they have climbed through the crooked town streets and reach the door to the School; they do not knock on the door of horn and dragon's tooth but lay their hands upon it so that it booms sharply, like recognising like, and moments later the Doorkeeper opens it, his old-ivory face creased in a smile.
'Welcome back,' he says to them simply, and leads them towards the Garden Door. They are not even halfway there when they hear hurrying footsteps, and then a sharp intake of breath. The Master Patterner stands at the end of the corridor and has eyes only for Irian and she for him. Tehanu and the Doorkeeper smile faintly at each other as dragon and barbarian stare at each other without a word.
'Master Patterner,' says the Doorkeeper, not without a little amusement. 'You remember Tehanu and Orm Irian.'
'Yes,' says the Master Patterner, hoarsely, 'of course. Where are you going to?'
'Where things are what they are,' says Tehanu. 'To Roke Knoll. We have come to celebrate the Festival of Sunreturn with you, Master Patterner.'
Irian smiles at him, and it is like the dawning of that new land over again. Here perhaps, thinks Tehan, is another love that will endure, like Tenar and Ged, like Alder and Lily: a love that gives and does not wound except in its absence. Azver falls into step beside Irian and they walk together towards the Garden Door and the hill, not touching at all.
There is no great tumult behind them, no shouting or commotion, but by the time they are climbing the slopes of the Knoll, there is a crowd of students and Masters accompanying them, and more spilling from the school to gather on the grass in the winter sunlight. Tehanu looks at them carefully: the school is still mostly made up of boys, but there are some girls here, defensive and defiant, but still here where they were told they could not go. The boys mill around, talking loudly, but she sees in their glances at both herself and Irian curiosity, suspicion, speculation, and most importantly, hope. Irian bgins to tell them The Deed of the Young King. She does not raise her voice, but the crowd quietens out of deference to the rituals of Sunreturn and to Irian's thinly-veiled power. When she finishes, there is an almost universal exhalation and the sun strikes gold and smoking on the cold grass of the hill. Standing, Tehanu remains unflinching when everyone's attention turns to her, takes a breath and says in a voice that rings like a cracked bell, 'For a long time, we knew only the glorious madness of flying and not falling to earth-'