Tigana, p432-434 "Did I ever tell you," said Brandin of Ygrath, very softly, "the legend my nurse used to tell me as a child about Finavir?" (...) "No," she said. She tried to think of something witty to add, but failed. "Finavir, or Finvair," he went on, not really waiting for her response, not looking over at her. "When I grew older and looked in the books of such tales it was written either way, and in one or two other fashions sometimes. (...) In Ygrath, the tale is sometimes told and sometimes believed that this world of ours, both here in the southern lands and north beyond the deserts and the rain forests - whatever lies there - is but one of many worlds the gods sent into Time. The others are said to be far off, scattered among the stars, invisible to us." "There has been such a belief here as well," Dianora said quietly when he paused. "In Certando. In the highlands they once had a teaching that was much the same." (...) Brandin said, (...) "What my nurse used to tell me was what her mother told her, and her mother's mother before, I have no doubt: that some of us are born over and again into various of these worlds until, at the last, if we have earned it by the manner of our lives, we are born a final time into Finavir or Finvair which is the nearest of all the worlds to where the gods dwell." "I never liked my nurse's legend of Finavir. There are other kinds of stories, some of them quite different and many of them I loved, but for some reason that one stayed with me." (...) "But why are you telling me this, if you never liked the story?" The simplest of questions. And Brandin said, "Because during the night this past year and more I have had recurring dreams of being reborn far away from all this, in Finavir." He looked straight at her then for the first time since beginning the tale, and his grey eyes were calm and his voice was steady as he said: "And in all of those dreams you have been at my side and nothing has held us apart, and no one has come between." Tigana, p673 "Oh, love," she heard him say. "It is as I told you. We should have met in Finavir." _____________________________________________________
"Did I ever tell you," said Brandin of Ygrath, very softly, "the legend my nurse used to tell me as a child about Finavir?" (...)
"No," she said. She tried to think of something witty to add, but failed.
"Finavir, or Finvair," he went on, not really waiting for her response, not looking over at her. "When I grew older and looked in the books of such tales it was written either way, and in one or two other fashions sometimes. (...) In Ygrath, the tale is sometimes told and sometimes believed that this world of ours, both here in the southern lands and north beyond the deserts and the rain forests - whatever lies there - is but one of many worlds the gods sent into Time. The others are said to be far off, scattered among the stars, invisible to us."
"There has been such a belief here as well," Dianora said quietly when he paused. "In Certando. In the highlands they once had a teaching that was much the same." (...)
Brandin said, (...) "What my nurse used to tell me was what her mother told her, and her mother's mother before, I have no doubt: that some of us are born over and again into various of these worlds until, at the last, if we have earned it by the manner of our lives, we are born a final time into Finavir or Finvair which is the nearest of all the worlds to where the gods dwell."
"I never liked my nurse's legend of Finavir. There are other kinds of stories, some of them quite different and many of them I loved, but for some reason that one stayed with me." (...)
"But why are you telling me this, if you never liked the story?"
The simplest of questions.
And Brandin said, "Because during the night this past year and more I have had recurring dreams of being reborn far away from all this, in Finavir." He looked straight at her then for the first time since beginning the tale, and his grey eyes were calm and his voice was steady as he said: "And in all of those dreams you have been at my side and nothing has held us apart, and no one has come between."
"Oh, love," she heard him say. "It is as I told you. We should have met in Finavir."
Dianan woke breathless from a dream of the sea. A not unusual occurrence, she lay there for a few moments to try to piece herself back together before she had to rise to help her mother get breakfast for the tribe. The dream was one of the old ones that she had had so many times before; waves sparkling in the noonday light, her own dive into the cold, green-blue water, following the sunbeams down into the dark depths, following a path that seemed to open up before her, following a misty figure further into the sea, fighting for breath, and losing. It was always at this point that she woke up. As a child the dreams had terrified her. The first time it happened she had woken screaming and sobbing, summoning her parents to her bedside and waking her little brother who cried frightened tears of his own. Mystified, her mother had stroked Dianan’s hair and promised that she need never be afraid of the sea; the Dalrei lived on the wide open Plains where the eltor ran, close to the woods. Dianan need never even see the sea in her lifetime. Most of the Dalrei did not.
It was this, Dianan remembered, that had puzzled her parents so. Of the children of the third tribe, of which her father Levon was Chieftain, only those Riders old enough to have taken part in the final battle at Andarien had seen the sea. True enough that they would have vivid memories of the waves rushing over the land, but it was not something that was much discussed. So where had she learned to fear the sea? Their shaiman, when consulted, had looked thoughtful and commented only that dreams could take dreamers to places they had not known they knew. True though this was, particularly helpful it was not. The following day Levon had taken his two younger children to the river closest to the camp and begun teaching them to swim. By the end of the summer both children were almost as confident in the water as they were on horseback and Dianan no longer woke up screaming.
Dressing quickly, Dianan remembered those early years, hugging the memories to her like a secret talisman against fear. For while the first dream had scared her, learning to swim had banished her fear of water and it seemed as though the dream would not return. When it did, it surprised her. Perhaps two years after the first dream, she had dreamt the same thing again, only this time she was not scared. Her dream-self was calm as she made the dive, following the watery path was easy, and the whole sequence of events seemed right in a way that she couldn’t quite fathom. She didn’t tell her parents about the second dream. She did tell Baird, her brother, who seemed somehow to understand. Later there were other dreams as well, that had the same vivid quality and rightness as the first, but by then Baird was spending more and more time walking alone or talking to Cabor, the shaiman. She spoke of them once, briefly, but though he watched her with the dark brown eyes that were the mirror to her own and listened carefully with the air he had of giving her his full attention, she knew that he had dreams and worries of his own and refused to burden him with hers. When at fifteen he left to begin to learn to become a shaiman in his own right, she was left behind. Brushing her long dark hair, she shivered as she remembered their last conversation before he left.
“Dianan,” he had said carefully, gazing out across the Plain bathed in the molten-gold light of the early fall sunset. “You know that I have to leave.”
“I know,” she had replied, her heart aching as she said the words he needed to hear. “You have been called to this, it has always been your path to take.”
He turned to face her at this, guarded hope in his eyes. “You knew, then? You expected this?”
Dianan smiled gently, “Yes, of course,” she lied, the last protection she could give him. “You were only staying for us anyway, even before Cabor dreamed your summons. You would have gone last spring, were it not for you not wanting to leave me and our parents before Lann got back from Brennin.”
The relief in his face and the sudden release of tension in his body gave her all the reward she needed for the white lie she had told. Then he had said, unexpectedly, “You still have those dreams, don’t you?”
Surprised, her throat dry, Dianan had been unable to do more than nod. In truth, the dreams were getting more vivid, not less. There was a man in them now. She did not know what that meant. He called her by another name, which should have been strange but somehow was as familiar to her as the wind blowing through the camp, or the thunder of the eltor swifts running by. She didn’t know what that meant either.
Baird studied her expression. Hesitantly but firmly, he said, “Be careful, Dianan. There is something in those dreams, something important. I don’t know what it is, I wish I did. But I’m afraid there is more to them than we know. There may be a danger in it.”
Dianan forced a laugh and a lightness of tone that she didn’t feel. “A danger? What do you think will happen? The sea will advance all the way to the Plain? Or perhaps you think I will echo Lisen of the Wood, and leap from a tower to my doom! Come now, how good do you think I am at leaping? I shall have to get into training if I want to reach the sea from here!”
Her last words seemed to echo oddly in the silence that followed. Baird had not so much as quirked a half smile; access to lightness seemed to be denied to him these days. Neither brother nor sister knew how to carry on, it seemed, in the fading light away from the place where the campfire was being stirred into life.
The next morning Baird had left for Celidon, without another word spoken on the subject of dreams. Trying not to cry as she watched her favourite brother ride away, she had to hope that he had understood the message in the extra-hard hug she had given him before he left.
With a quick shake of her head, she dismissed the memory. Today would be a busy day, busier than usual as the younger prince arrived for a month long visit this afternoon. Brandin and his elder brother had visited the Dalrei in the summer of the elder boy’s fourteenth birthday, as was traditional for the heirs to the throne of Brennin, but they had stayed with the third tribe for just two weeks before moving on and the younger son had not been back since. A couple of years before reaching his majority, the younger prince had started to train as a mage. Now that he was twenty-one, it was rumoured that his training had gone as far as it would go, at least unless and until he found a source. Popular gossip said that the king was just as concerned with finding him a wife, as with finding a person who would agree to source his magic, though the latter was likely to be a far more difficult matter, involving as it did a bonding of the soul and mind so complex and complete that both mage and source would be inextricably linked forever more. Mages and sources were the stuff of legend and most ordinary people were understandably wary of them. For every Loren Silvercloak and Matt Sö ren, that partnership of such strength and wisdom as would overshadow ten ordinary men, there was a Nilsom whose mind and powers twisted within themselves to provoke such darkness and destruction as could only be stopped by his source’s horrified realisation and eventual suicide.
Yet Brennin’s mages were necessary and carried out much good work in peace time as well as in battle. It was said that Brandin was old for his years and exceptionally talented; it seemed likely that he would rise to the dizzy heights of First Mage if he ever found a source. For now it seemed he was travelling the kingdom, continuing his education of the land, getting to know the people better, seeing the traditions that differed from court ceremonies and absorbing the new experience that would in time make him a better mage and ruler.
Dianan was curious to meet the younger prince. He was a few years older than she and was said to be polite and cultured, yet serious for one so young. It seemed that while the older prince greatly resembled his uncle, Brandin himself favoured his father and grandfather in looks and to some extent in manner as well. It was said that he loved music and appreciated beauty in all its forms. The entertainment for the feast that evening had been arranged especially carefully in the hopes of impressing their visitor.
Thinking of this, Dianan hastily finished her toilet and went to find her mother to help with breakfast. The riders would want to leave soon to go hunting for eltor for the feast tonight. Between sorting out breakfast, helping to prepare the camp for the evening feast and arranging rehearsals for the evening entertainment, there would be little time for dawdling. Especially if she wanted to meet Brandin when he arrived.
In the end there was no opportunity to sneak off to catch a glimpse of the prince.
With her mother’s sharp eye on her, Dianan had been kept busy all morning making the camp as tidy as it could be for their guest’s arrival. Before she knew it, the men were back from the hunt and the prince had arrived, only to be immediately swept off by her father for a guided tour of the camp. Rushing between jobs and rehearsals, she thought she had once seen the back of his head as he and her father set off to explore the nearby wood. With that she had to be content until after the feast. She was the Chieftain’s daughter, so was sure to be introduced to him once the dancing was over. Hopefully he would enjoy watching the girls and the boys still too young to be Riders dance out the spectacle of today’s hunt.
Running off to change into the costume that she would wear for the dancing, Dianan promised herself that as soon as possible after it was over, she would find Brandin and make sure she was introduced to him. At the very least, he ought to be intelligent and would make for an interesting companion during the evening’s festivities. Shyness rarely troubled her and it would be good to see what he made of the camp and the feast compared to what he would be used to at home.
These pleasing thoughts carried her through the slight nerves she always felt before a performance. Standing on the side of the area by the biggest bonfire set aside for the dance, she emptied her head of everything but the terror and the pleasure of the hunt, the nervous tension that characterised the trembling grace of the eltor as they tried to escape the Riders and their knives. As always she became effortlessly absorbed in the dance, the music vibrating through her lithe frame, making her very heart-beat echo the rhythm as she felt her body respond to the abandon of the call. For the few minutes when she danced, the combination of movement, music, fire and moonlight transformed her into a creature of shadow and flame, mercurial in the quick lightening movements of the eltor, as wild and untamed as any creature on the Plain. Caught up in the motion, she saw a boy dancing the part of a Rider from the corner of her eye. She tried to swerve to avoid him, but somehow he had leapt into her path and then he was in front of her, and with a knife, and his aim was true, and she fell at his feet, hair streaming out behind her as she fell.
She was the last kill of the hunt, so had not long to lie on the dusty ground listening to the rhythmic sound of the other dancers’ feet before it was time to rise, curtsey and run off into the crowd. Still slightly lost in the dance, she nonetheless quickly spotted her brother signalling to her from near to the benches laid out for people to relax and eat. Standing up to be sure she noticed him, he beckoned her over.
“Dianan, I’ve been looking for you all evening but you were obviously busy with other things. Let me introduce you to Prince Brandin. I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that his appreciation for dance and music far outstrips mine!”
Turning with a polite smile on her lips, Dianan could never later have said just what she thought at that moment. But on meeting the deep grey eyes of the Prince her heart seemed to tremble, and something resembling a static shock made the hair on her arms stand on end as she perceived, incredibly, an echo of the same in his face and then in his voice as harshly he half-whispered, half cried out: “Dianora! Oh, my love!”
Mind still half in fog, stunned and shocked and unutterably confused, Dianan felt stars in her eyes before the world went misty and she almost fell.
When her eyes and head cleared, it was to hear her brother’s voice above her and feel his arms around her as he lifted and carried her away from the feast. She groaned.
“Don’t move.” Lann’s voice came from above her. “I’m taking you back to our tent.”
Still faintly muzzy, she decided not to argue and submitted to being taken into the tent and laid on her bed. She could see the worried frown on her brother’s face as he looked down at her. She and Lann were not as close as she and Baird, but they were still brother and sister.
“I’m going to get Mum,” he said. “She and Dad will know what to do.”
“No,” she protested. “I’ll be okay in a minute. I don‘t know what came over me”
“You almost fainted,” he said shortly and rose. “I’m going to find Mum.”
“Wait a minute!” she begged, struggling to sit up amongst the soft brown furs. “There’s no need to worry Mum! I was just dancing and then...”
He looked back at her. “You danced, then you came over to talk to me and I was just introducing you to Brandin when you suddenly went really pale and almost collapsed. I’m fetching Mum.”
Dianan almost didn’t see him walk out of the door. Head completely clear now, her brother out of the room, the memory came back. Dianora, my love! Dianora. Her name but not her name. That was what He called her. The man in the dreams.
Ever since the dreams had started becoming more frequent, they had begun to change. No longer did she dream of the sea and of drowning, or not often. Now she saw a palace and a court, and a tall man with deep grey eyes who called her Dianora and said that he loved her. When she dreamed of the sea, he was there too, and there was a ring and she knew, somehow, that she had to follow that ring down, down as far as it went into the deep blue sea, and bring it back for him. Because he needed her to do it. Because he needed her.
And now, somehow, it seemed that she had been dreaming of Brandin all along. In the heartbeat between turning to look at him and his words being spoken, a shock of recognition had run through her like a stream of ice-cold water in her veins. But how could it possibly be him? Be careful, Dianan. There is something in those dreams. There may be a danger in it.
Thinking about it was making her head hurt. She would think that she had imagined it, except that he had clearly felt something too. He had looked almost as stunned as she felt. He had called her Dianora.
At this point a bustling outside the room disturbed her thoughts. Clearly Lann had managed to find their mother; it was her voice that was coming from the entrance.
With a worried frown creasing her forehead, Rhian looked over her daughter, lying prone on the bed. “Lann said you fainted. Are you feeling okay now? What happened?”
Dianan shrugged and lied. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t get enough to drink today or something?”
Mothers have an instinct for knowing when their children lie. Rhian studied her daughter thoughtfully. There was more to this than lack of water. On the other hand, Dianan did look slightly pale and it had been hot today, especially with all the rushing around they had been doing to prepare for the evening. Seventeen was a difficult age sometimes; it was not unknown for girls to faint from overexcitement. Perhaps she was just overtired and dehydrated. She would need to be kept an eye on, but it would do her no harm to miss the rest of the feast and take it easy tomorrow. If she still felt faint then, Levon could be persuaded to ask the shaiman to look her over for illness.
“All right,” she said brusquely. “I’ll go and fetch you a jug of fruit juice and I think you had better stay here until tomorrow. Don’t get up until I’ve come to see you, and tell me if you feel any worse. We’ll see what Cabor says tomorrow if necessary.” Her actions were gentler than her words, as she helped her daughter into bed and smoothed her dark hair away from her face while Lann went to get the jug.
Dianan submitted willingly enough to the ministrations of her mother and elder brother. She needed time to herself to think, though she felt guilty for worrying them. Reassuring them that she would be fine, she pulled the covers up around her shoulders and obediently closed her eyes. She thought it unlikely that she would sleep though. There was far too much to think about.
The next morning dawned too early for Dianan’s liking. Sleep had indeed proved to be elusive as thoughts and dreams whirled in her brain keeping her awake until the early hours. When Rhian came to check on her daughter, it was to find a heavy-eyed girl who made no protest at being told to stay in bed and try to rest.
By early afternoon, Dianan was decidedly sick of the sight of her tent and was granted permission to go outside. Claiming a tree for her own, far enough away from camp that she was unlikely to be bothered by people constantly walking past yet close enough that she could see everything that was going on, she sat quietly in the dappled shade it provided. She occupied herself alternately gazing at the camp and trying to lose herself in thrilling tales of the Warrior and his beloved companions, Lancelot and Guinevere.
She succeeded to such an extent that footsteps and a voice coming from behind her almost made her jump.
“May I join you? I do not want to disturb your reading.”
Her blood seemed to spark again at the simultaneously unfamiliar yet well-known voice. She tried to answer lightly. “Of course you may, though if you did not wish to disturb my reading, perhaps it would have been best not to speak?”
She could hear a smile in his tone as he replied, “Perhaps you are right, but I fear it is impolite to say so.”
Dianan looked up at Brandin as he spoke. That same shiver of tension and static was running up her spine again. “Then you must forgive, my Prince. I did not mean to speak rudely. My parents would be very angry with me if they knew that my manners had deserted me.”
The Prince smiled back at her. “I would not say that. You need not stand on ceremony with me. Court manners seem to be out of place here anyway. In any case…” Here he hesitated briefly, a strange expression fleeting across his face so quickly that Dianan almost thought she had imagined it.
“You are clearly unwell. May I ask, are you feeling better today? Your brother was very worried yesterday, as indeed was I.”
“I am feeling much better now, thank you.”
“I’m glad of that,” Brandin replied courteously.
Both were silent for a moment. Dianan was confused. She had been so certain yesterday that Brandin had called her by that other name. Yet suddenly he was behaving like any newly met acquaintance. All her life, Dianan had been told that she was too impulsive, too forward, too imaginative and too inclined to feel things far too deeply. Yet surely this was not one of these times?
Quickly she made up her mind. “I hope that you don’t think me rude,” she began strongly, before pausing again.
Brandin looked at her curiously. “I don’t,” he said simply, “Should I?”
Dianan felt her lips quirk into a quick smile. “I don’t think so.”
Brandin returned the smile warmly. He smiled with his eyes, she noticed. They seemed a lighter shade of grey than they had done before. Smiling suited him, she decided whimsically. He had looked too serious before. “But others perhaps might?” he returned.
“Perhaps,” she said, tossing her hair back behind her right shoulder. “They say I should think more before I speak.”
“And should you?” He asked, trying to hide his amusement.
“Perhaps,” she said again. “But where would be the fun in that?”
His laughter rang out across the Plain. He had a nice laugh, she decided, conscious of feeling far too giddy in his presence. “Where indeed?” he remarked rhetorically. “But what was it that you wanted to say that I might consider to be rude?”
Dianan frowned at the grass that she was twisting in her hands. How could she say it? After a moment, she spoke. “When Lann introduced us yesterday, before I fainted, I think you called me by another name.” Had she found the courage to look in his eyes, she would have seen him still suddenly. “What was it?”
Brandin hesitated for a few seconds before he replied. “I apologise. I… You look very much like someone. I called you by her name. I was wrong to do so.”
Pulling the grass taut around her fingers so that they turned white, she pressed: “Why, who do I look like?”
Again, the slight pause. “You look like someone I have… thought of often. A girl who does not live here.”
“And what is her name?”
“Dianora. Her name is Dianora.”
Swallowing hard, Dianan forced herself to unwind the grass from her finger and look up at the Prince, who was watching her closely, though her face as she looked up at him was in shadow. “And how do you know she does not live here?” Seeing him watching her, she hurried on. “I mean, who is she? Is it not possible that she could be here? Does she have to live by the sea-” She pulled herself up short with a gasp. She risked looking up at him. He looked thoughtful, focussed.
“Why would you say that?” he asked quietly. “What do you know of the sea?”
Looking into his slate-grey eyes, Dianan felt pinned by his gaze, as gentle as it was. Slightly flustered, she said: “Oh, nothing really. Just... just a thought I had. If she doesn’t live here then there must be a place where you think she does live and... the sea is far from here so...” the sentence petered out in a half shrug.
Looking as collected as ever, Brandin considered her closely. “Shall I tell you what I know of her?” he asked in a measured tone.
“Yes, please,” Dianan returned quietly, dark brown eyes flickering to the grass once more and then up again.
Brandin paused a moment to collect his thoughts. “Do you know what a searching is?” he asked, apparently apropos of nothing.
“I think so,” Dianan replied. “A mage’s searching you mean? The way that a mage can look briefly at your soul and see what is at the heart of you.”
“Yes, that’s close enough. It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea. Usually the searching produces no effects on the person being searched. In fact, the person may not even realise what the mage has done. For some people, however, there are side effects. Occasionally a person will see visions while the searching takes place. That happens to me.”
Dianan looked at him curiously. She had heard of this phenomenon but never met someone who had endured a mage’s searching, let alone one who had had visions as a result of it. Hurriedly, she put this aside for later consideration as Brandin continued speaking.
“When I was about fifteen, the First Mage of Brennin, your Uncle Tabor, suggested to myself and my father that I be trained as a mage. He thought that I might have talent. He asked permission to do a searching on me, and of course permission was granted him. The searching proved to both of us that I had potential. It was the first time that I saw the girl you resemble: Dianora. She appeared in many of the scenes in that first sequence of visions, though I had no idea at the time who she was.
“Later, I asked Tabor about the girl I had seen. He could not help me greatly, saying only that if I did not know her, it was likely that she was a girl I would meet in my future. It was also possible that she was someone I had known in a past life. I don’t know if you are aware, but there are many worlds that exist apart from Fionavar. It is said that people may be reborn many times into different worlds until that last time they come to Fionavar and when we die here, we go to live forever at the Weaver’s side on the other side of night.
“As I advanced in my training, I explored this idea further. I began to dream of her as well, and of my life somewhere that isn’t here. Studying my dreams, trying to induce visions, I learned a few things. It seems that I was some kind of ruler in a former life. Dianora, I believe, is the woman that I came to love. I married her, but then something went wrong. I have a recurring vision of a ceremony where she wears a pale green gown and dives into the sea, in search of something. When she surfaces, it seems that my heart will explode with joy, and she comes to me with something in her hand, the thing that she brought from the sea. I don’t know what it is but-“
Brandin’s eyes, which had had a far away expression in them as though he could see the vision he described, abruptly snapped back into focus. “What did you say?”
Dianan flushed red to her fingertips. “It was a ring,” she said simply, over a rising tide in her heart. “You threw it into the sea and she... I... Dianora dived in after it. A path opens up before her and she thinks that it will take her to the god, but then the ring is sparkling in the sunlight that filters down beneath the waves and she puts it on her finger, and then she swims to the surface where he... you... are waiting.” She felt almost as if she were drowning now, in his eyes, which weren’t just grey after all but dark and sparkling like water on the riverbed on a cloudy day. She heard her own breathing, uneven as if she was gasping for air. “I too have dreamed that scene. I have dreamed it for years. I never knew what it meant.” She laughed breathlessly. “My brother, Baird, told me there was some power in it but he thought it meant danger! Last night... I was not ill. I saw you and thought it was him-“
“And it was,” Brandin said roughly. “The power is real, the visions were true. Never doubt it. Dianora.”
It was impossible to say who moved first, but somehow she was in his arms and being held as they cried and laughed and reached and needed, and felt some nameless thing connect and fall into place, where always before something had been found lacking.
Eventually the storm calmed. Dianan looked over at the camp. “We ought to be getting back,” she said.
Brandin agreed, shifting her gently off of him so that he could stand up, before offering her his hand to help pull her to her feet. “You have some grass on your dress,” he commented dryly.
“You can talk,” she said archly. “I think you’re beginning to sprout.”
Hastily they both brushed themselves down. Dianan hesitated.
“What is it?” Brandin asked, seeing her pause.
Dianan looked conscious. “Only... I was wondering, what should we tell everyone? This... Between us it makes sense. But it’s hard to explain.”
Brandin looked at her seriously. “I will leave that decision up to you for the moment. This is your home, these are your family and friends. You know better than I who we can trust to understand.”
She looked at him gratefully. “I would like to talk to Cabor, if you don’t mind, Our shaiman, that is. He will understand and know what to do. And later...”
“Later can be dealt with when we come to it,” Brandin said firmly. “This... Yesterday, today, meeting you, finding that you are real has all been a miracle, and a bit of a shock. I think we both need a bit of time. And we have it. I will be here for a month still. Plenty of time to sort out what we need to sort.”
Smiling, Dianan was happy to agree.
The next month went by in a whir. Once the initial awkwardness was out of the way Dianan found that she had been right from the start, Brandin was an interesting companion: a serious young man who felt music and poetry very deeply and seemed to have an instinct for knowing her mind, in a way that she laughingly protested must be magical, though he assured her that it was not. They soon almost forgot about the dreams in the pleasure of each other’s company.
Two days before Brandin was due to leave, the two of them were once more lying under the tree that had come to be known as their own. They had not really discussed his departure, not wishing to think about it before time, but now Dianan felt it approaching with astonishing rapidity. She had become used to his presence. It was not pleasant to think that the day after tomorrow would be the final time that they could lie together like this. The day after tomorrow, he would leave and she would be left here, in a place made empty by his absence. Thinking of this, she stifled a sob, not wanting him to see her cry.
“What’s wrong?” Brandin asked immediately, quick as always to sense her change in mood.
“Nothing,” she choked.
He gently turned her face to look at him. “Now, what’s wrong?”
Dianan looked at him with eyes brighter than usual. “I was just thinking that in two days you will go, and I don’t want you to. I’m sorry.”
Brandin studied her face, looking thoughtful. “That is nothing to apologise for.”
“No,” Dianan agreed. “But it’s silly. I always knew that you would be leaving at the end of the month and I- I would stay here,” she ended with a slight hiccough.
It was Brandin’s turn to look away briefly. Then he turned back to look at her straight on. “I wanted to talk to you about that, actually,” he said. “Before I go, I need to tell you something.”
Dianan almost felt her heart stop. “What did you need to tell me?” she asked, fighting to hide the tremor in her voice.
A slight pause. Then Brandin said: “I never expected to find you here, you know. I never thought that I would find you. I came travelling to see the country and its people, to further my education, to find a source, and because I needed to start thinking about marriage, and I knew I could never marry one of the butterflies at court.”
Dianan’s heart started beating again, far too fast. She fought to concentrate on his words.
“Dianora, Dianan. I don’t care what your name is. My heart is yours. If you will have me then I will say to your father tomorrow what I would say to you now: Dianan, my love, the sun rises in your eyes.”
The words of the formal proposal. As the words sunk in, Dianan feared that her chest might burst, that her mouth might split from smiling, that the tears once more falling from her eyes might drown them both. It was a time for superlatives. Then she realised that he was still looking at her; she had not yet given her answer. “Oh, my love. Was there ever any doubt?”
At these words her joy overflowed and mingled with his, so that she again found herself in his arms and it seemed incredible, when they were once more lying quietly, that the tree had not suddenly burst into bloom, or the sun come down from the sky to see what had caused the shift in the world. But there was yet one more thing. One more step on the sea-path that she could see clearly before her. One thing more to lead them both home.
“You said that you were also travelling to find a source. Will you continue searching after you leave here?”
Brandin frowned slightly. “I must continue travelling to see the people that I am beginning already to work with and may one day rule. You understand that?”
“Yes, yes of course.” Dianan hastened to reassure him on that point. “But you still need a source if you are to be a mage. Will you find that person on your travels?”
He hesitated. “I hope to do so. But it is difficult. I make friends easily with men, but I do not share myself with them easily. I know that I could choose someone in Brennin who I have grown up with; most would consider it an honour. I went away in part because I could not find it within myself to share my soul with anyone there.”
So. “Does your source have to be male?”
That surprised him. “No, I suppose not. But would you not find it strange if I were to choose another woman as my source?”
“Yes, that would be hard. But it is necessary that you find one, is it? It is necessary that you become a mage?”
“Yes, it is necessary. We need more mages. Hopefully it will not, but if another war comes we cannot be left with just two, as we were last time. And if the royal family encourages magic using, then so much the better.” Here he broke off to look at her again and awkwardly take her hand. “Dianan, I have to do this. I don’t know how, and I know it will be hard for you to understand, but I will have to do this.”
“I know,” she said simply. The inevitable thing. The path in the sea. “I understand. If you need to do this, then I will support you. If you need this, then let me help you. Let me do it. Let me be your source.”
If she needed proof that this was indeed where her sea-path was to lead her, then she found it there in his eyes. Shock, relief, joy and pride mingled there and she knew without a doubt in her mind that here, in Fionavar, this was her ring from the sea brought to him because he needed her to do so. Because he needed her. And this time nothing would hold them apart and no one would come between.