When The Hawk Flew Home
(fanfic: Earthsea Trilogy, Volume III: The Farthest Shore)
by Annasibs



Note:
As I have said on the note in my other Earthsea fanfic, The White Lady of the Ring, I am a huge fan of Ursula K. LeGuin, and of all her works that I have already read so far, I love the Earthsea Trilogy most. No matter how much I reread those three books, I always fall in love all over again with the characters Ged and Tenar. I especially worship Tenar.

In The Farthest Shore, the third volume of the Earthsea Trilogy, the night before Arren and Ged landed on Selidor, the farthest shore of Earthsea, Ged was thinking of Gont, his mentor Master Ogion, and Tenar, who was by then called the White Lady of Gont. Ged said then that it has been a long time since he last saw Tenar and wanted to see her again. He knew then that he may not emerge alive in this battle he was about to face with Arren against his archenemy (I forgot that mage's name) and he may never see Tenar again. And when the great dragon Kalessin dropped Arren off at Roke after that battle, Ged told Kalessin that his home is not on Roke island but on Gont. He bid the great dragon to take him home.

I was thinking then, where is Ged's home? Ogion's house or Tenar's? I really wanted Ged and Tenar to end up together and I have yet to get a-hold of a copy of Tehanu. But somehow, the idea of the greatest Archmage and Dragonlord settling down to a quiet life with a wife and children is unsettling. This may help explain the ending of this fanfic.

All characters in this story are properties of Ursula K. LeGuin, except for the little boy Duny. I have not asked permission to use them in writing this fic. However, if Ms. LeGuin would ever get hold of a copy of this fic, I hope she would not sue me for copyright infringement and view this as a homage of an obsessed fan. For that is what I am, really. An obsessed fan.

Admittedly, I am my own worst critic. This is the one of the very few fanfics I wrote that I did not hate. I hope you enjoy reading it and inspire you to get a copy of the Earthsea books.


oOo


I HAVE LEARNED, A LONG time ago, that the soul at times longs to see lands very far from the place it calls home. To spread its wings and fly like a hawk up in the sky and view those distant lands. Sometimes, it does get to fly and land on those places and live among the people dwelling there. But at the journey's end, after days, months, perhaps even years of voluntary exile, the soul becomes weary, and soon longs to return home.

It was a moonlit, starry night when the great dragon Kalessin brought Ged back to me in my house in Gont. I was enjoying the night on my porch when I saw the wide red wings of the old mighty dragon cast a shadow across the full moon. And then I saw him mounted high atop the dragon's rough-mailed neck, half-seated and half-lying without any pretense at dignity. The man who was Archmage and Warden of the Great House of Roke was a gruesome sight, a pitiful sight, against the ferocious image of the great Kalessin.

Despite his great bulk, Kalessin landed softly on the hill on which my house stood as if he was just a small sparrow. Then he folded his wings and crouched on the earth. Kalessin then turned his head a little and bespoke me.

"I have brought your husband to his home," Kalessin said in the speech of the Making.

I have understood every word the dragon uttered, for I myself have learned not so long ago the language of the Old. And yet, I stood there stupidly on my porch, unmoving, uncomprehending, numbed by surprise at Kalessin's words. I was aware that at that moment, Kalessin was laughing at me.

Swiftly, I collected myself and went to the dragon. The rider had woken up and clambered down that huge shoulder with great difficulty. I felt my heart squeeze at the sight of Ged. I have never seen him look so thin and weak, even on the day the two of us escaped from the Tombs of Atuan. Ged's hair was singed. His clothes were dirty and tattered. His shoulder sported a wound barely healed. Made foolish with worry, I was convinced that Ged had barely pulled himself this time from the clutches of death.

I placed my arm under his shoulder to help him stand upright. He was feverish to the touch.

"Tenar," he breathed my true name heavily. "I am home. I am home, Tenar."

"Hush," I told him. "Do not speak."

I looked up at Kalessin, avoiding his terrible dragon's eyes. But no matter how much I wanted to thank him for bringing Ged back, no words could be forced from my mouth. Again, I felt that eerie sensation that the dragon was laughing at me.

"You are welcome, Tenar of the Ring," the dragon said. Kalessin then lifted his wings and set out in flight, a red stream against the moonlight.

When the dragon was gone, I helped Ged to my house. He groaned with every step; he was weary and he was ill. I lay him on my bed and brought him water. He drank every drop. I offered him food, which he refused. I washed him and dressed his wound with the most potent of my powdered herbs. Then I whispered to his ear a spell of deep healing sleep.

As the spell slowly took effect, Ged's face softened and lost some of its tired lines. Even his old scar wore off some of its grayness. Tears came to my eyes unbidden as I watched him drift off. All these eighteen years I have received him after his quests, sometimes nursing him back to health as I have begun nursing him now. But never has he come to me as he did now, as ill as this and so close to death.

I greatly hoped that this time, he did not come home to me to die.


oOo

GED DID NOT DIE. HE fought against death, and with his will, my herbs and the healing spells Master Ogion taught me, he won the fight. In a few days, Ged's strength gradually returned. Soon, he was well enough to take care of himself.

Upon recovery, Ged spent most of his time helping me with the house chores. In the afternoons, he would visit Master Ogion, the old and ailing mage who lives not far from my house, and see how the Silent One is getting by. In the evenings he would return to eat his supper in silence and to stare moodily at the fire in the hearth before retiring to bed.

Ever was I used to his silence, which was a thing in itself, not merely the absence of speech. I respected his silence and let him be. I did not draw him out, although in my heart I burned with curiosity and never ceased worrying over him. He has changed, this Ged. Whatever his last quest was, it had altered him considerably. He was not the same as the Ged I knew before.

One evening, I asked him where his staff was and why he did not have it with him. He was slow to turn at me and reply, as if he had forgotten where he was and who he was with. He almost terrified me with the graveness in his eyes, but I kept my face blank. The piercing quality of his gaze never left him.

"My staff?" he replied. "I threw it away in the sands of Selidor. I am through with magery. I have no need of it anymore."

For a while I was silent.

"What does Master Ogion say?" I asked him again.

"What should he say? I have done what I am supposed to do. Now that I have, I am free to do what I wish to."

Ged's words felt strange, more so since his old mentor must have heard them and did not say anything else. Suddenly, my thoughts shifted to the old ailing Mage who lived alone in his own house. Of all my worries, he comes foremost into my mind.

"I worry about him," I whispered, almost to myself.

The fire crackled as Ged poked at the hearth with a dry stick. "Of whom?"

"The Master."

"He is as he should be."

"He is ill. I want to heal him. But he wouldn't even let me near his house if I seek to nurse him. He only wants my company, occasionally."

Ged did not reply. He went on stoking the fire in the hearth.

"I can't see why he refuses to let me heal him," I went on, almost doggedly, not really caring if my silent companion is listening. "Can I not give back even a part of what he has given me?"

Eighteen years ago, Ged left me in the care of the old Mage. Ogion welcomed me with open arms and treated me as if I was his own daughter. He taught me the magic of healing and gave me a new life to lead as a healing sorceress in Re Albi. I have always felt gratitude for him, as well as a kind of affection I would have felt for my own father had I known him.

"So it is true," Ged finally said. "Love blinds us all. Don't worry about Ogion, Tenar. He is as he should be."

I did not question him any further. He returned his gaze to the fire, as if his thoughts were never disturbed, and as if I never spoke a word. We did not talk about Master Ogion anymore.

His gloominess, however, did not last. Soon enough, he began telling me tales and deeds done by other people in the evenings after dinner, as I did my sewing by the light of the fire in the hearth. I found some of his stories funny and it made me smile just to see the light glowing in his eyes. Sometimes, I even heard him sing some nonsense songs while tending to my goats, songs I often heard the goatherds in the village sing.

But he never told me what he had done in Selidor and why he threw his staff away. Nor why was he here with me when he should be at the School of Wizards in Roke.


oOo

THE ANSWERS CAME OF their own volition one rainy morning. I woke up early and found that Ged had already risen and gone. To check on the goats, perhaps. I dressed and went to prepare our breakfast, as well as the meal I would take to Master Ogion's house.

A little later, I braved the rain and trudged the path from my small house that led to the dwelling of the old master. When I came to Ogion's house, I saw Ged standing by the doorway, leaning his head against the frame. He looked pale and cold. Sorrow carved two deep lines at the sides of his mouth and in his eyes returned the gloom.

"Ged," I greeted him.

He raised his head and turned to me eyes brimming with grief. "Tenar."

Something, I felt, was wrong. The place was too quiet, too still. Even the rain stopped falling.

I placed a hand on Ged's arm and asked him the matter. He looked at me for a long, long time before he made his reply.

"It is too cold out here," he said. "Come inside."

And come I did. But it was also cold there inside the house. The rain had seeped in through the windows. No fire burned at the hearth. I lay the basket of food I had brought on the table near the door and followed Ged into the little alcove-room wherein I slept when I was still under Master Ogion's wing.

Master Ogion lay on the straw pallet, very sound asleep. He was smiling in his sleep. How sweet and serene he looked. I knelt beside him and found myself smiling at the old mage's serenity as he lay there.

There is nothing wrong with him, I thought. Why is Ged so sad? Why does the house seem so cold and still? I turned to Ged to tell him that the master was only sleeping, that nothing is the matter. But something in Ged's face made my smile freeze. I looked again at Master Ogion.

And then I saw Master Ogion's face, paler than usual. I have seen that kind of paleness countless times before, in my fifteen years as a healing witch here in Re Albi, in my thousand lifetimes far elsewhere. I felt his hand; it was heavy and limp. I cannot feel the pulse. I lay my palm on his forehead; not satisfied, I touched it with my lips, and felt the cold.

I let my hand drop heavily on my lap. Suddenly, a numbness, a kind of void I have never felt before, fell on me like the heavy old velvet drapes in the Hall of the Throne. There lay beside me Master Ogion, the silent mage who showed kindness to a pallid former priestess, a foreigner from the accursed Kargad lands, a kindness that knew no end. Who sheltered her and gave her a new life to lead. Who cared for her and treated her as his own daughter, she who had forgotten her own father, who had no family of her own.

I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to keep away the numbness that crept along my body. I tried to push it away, but it will not go. Master Ogion is dead. Master Ogion is dead. I am now alone. The pain would not go.

A pair of arms went around me, and I heard a deep, sad voice calling my true name, telling me to let go. That someone feels the same pain that I bear. I am not alone. I fell against Ged, limp, weak and helpless, my eyes tearless, staring into nothingness. We held each other and consoled each other, for we share the same loss, Ged and I. We lost a master, a friend, a father and a mentor.

We spent the night in the old house and watched over Master Ogion. The following morning, we bid farewell to the old wizard as his soul wafted high with the smoke of his funeral pyre. His ashes were scattered to gentlewind of Earthsea.

For the first time since his return, Ged used his magery and made a Sending to all the wizards on Gont, informing them of the Closed-Mouth's death. The news, I guess, would be met by grief by whoever receives it and will speed its way to the Masters of Roke. Master Ogion, after all, is a mage respected by all. We all grieved his passing in silence.


oOo


SEVERAL NIGHTS AFTER the death, on another night of the full moon, I sat by the fire in my own hearth, sewing some new clothes for Ged and myself. Ged sat on the floor facing the fire, his spirit off once more to that place secret to all but himself. It was already very late. I was about to put my sewing away and retire for the night when Ged came back.

"Have I ever told you anything about the last quest I made, Tenar?" he asked of me.

"Nay," I replied, "never."

He turned away and threw a piece of wood to the fire.

"I took with me to the farthest shore he who is to be the new King of All Isles, the descendant of Morred who sat on the throne last. Prince Arren of Enlad. A fine young lad, that one. He would make us a good king."

"I believe he will," I nodded.

Ged stirred. "Aye, little one, he will. But that quest taught me something else that I had not expected, something about myself."

I put my sewing away and began to listen with all attentiveness.

"Tenar, I have told the lad to make his choices carefully and wisely," said Ged, "for once his choices are already made, there is no turning back. In the future, I do not want him to regret whatever deeds he has done. Neither do I want him to lay the blame on me for bringing him closer to his destiny. For I myself have my own regrets about my own life."

Ged turned to me and stared at me long. His eyes were bright and sad.

"Don't you think it was unfair for you, Tenar, to wait for me to come home to you after every quest and undertaking, only almost always to find me ailing and nurse me back to health?"

I admit, the waiting is agony. But the agony is nothing compared to the hopelessness brought by the thought that Ged will never come home. I would rather wait knowing he would one day come home, even if he returns to me broken and beaten and I have to fight against death for him every inch of the way. It is the one joy I have greatly cherished and held on to for the past eighteen years: for Ged to come home.

"I did not think it was unfair, Ged," I replied. "You did what you had to do."

"Yes, I did. I sailed off to other places, even to the ends of the earth, to put to right what I thought was wrong. But never, I think, have I done right by you."

"Ged--" I began to protest but Ged silenced me with his stare. I looked at him, greatly puzzled, and my look was met with eyes burning with life and passion that never before have I seen in him, nor in anyone else. Turning away, I blushed as if I was sixteen and not thirty-four.

"You have always been wise and strong, Tenar," he said. "You withstood all the dangers that you faced by my side and emerged still standing despite your scars. Foolishness was never your way; you have always let wisdom be your guide."

Ged paused, thinking what it is he had to say. His eyes never left my face.

"Tenar, in those days back in Atuan, we made a promise by the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. All these eighteen years, I have honored and respected that vow. And I am very glad that you have stayed faithful as well, when you could have changed your mind and set the vow aside.

"In my last quest, I found myself wishing that I chose a life of being instead of a life of doing. All my life I have been a wandering mage, sailing alone on the high seas, doing deeds that I am certain will live in songs long after I die. It gives me joy to think that I have served my fellowmen well by these deeds. And yet, of the simple pleasures enjoyed by simple men, the pleasures of being, I have but few and known but few.

"What if I never became a mage, Tenar? Would I still be in Ten Alders, tending a forge that had belonged to my father? Would I now have sons going away to live their own lives, as my older brothers had even before I was born? Perhaps so.

"And then, what of you, Tenar? You may not believe it, but I think of you always. I see you alone, sewing by the fire, or reading, or pounding and mixing your herbs. You heal strangers of their illnesses and care for children not your own. All these eighteen years you had no one, save for Master Ogion. I know, in a way, you are happy, but I think, not as happy as you ought to be."

"Ged, there is no need for saying this," I said. "What are you trying to tell me?"

Ged stood up and knelt before me and took my hands in his. He looked so grave and solemn I dared not smile at him. Rarely does he ever talk to me this much, and I wondered what prompted him.

"I want to become a proper husband to you, Tenar, as I should have been eighteen years ago. I promise to never leave you anymore, and, with all the strength left in me, I will strive to make you happy, as happy as you should be."

My heart grew still. I could not believe what I had heard. For so long I have wished for Ged to say the words he had just uttered, and yet, I could not believe what I had heard. For Ged to stay home for good is the answer to all my fervent prayers.

But that, I had thought, was too much to ask. No one can try to cage a hawk when he wants to fly, and Ged is a hawk that never stayed long in any one place. It was much too impossible to be true. The offer seemed too good, too beautiful, to be true.

Perhaps Ged sensed my doubts, for his hold on my hands felt more tight. "Tenar--"

"I will not hold you to that promise," I told him. "It's too great a sacrifice for you. I cannot accept it."

" 'Tis no sacrifice, Tenar," he replied. "To call you wife, knowing I have truly done right by you as my wife, and to hear myself called husband without feeling ill and lacking. Nay, it is no sacrifice, my beloved, but my most fervent wish."

He raised my hands to his lips and kissed my fingertips. I could feel the gentle pressure of the love and tenderness he must have felt for me all these years. But still, I could not believe. It was a dream, a sweet, beautiful dream, but nevertheless only a dream.

I turned away from him. I did not want him to see the tears welling in my eyes. He traced with his fingers the course my tears have taken on my face and forced me to look at him.

I felt fear, fear that if I looked into his eyes, I would wake up and the dream would end. I do not want to find myself alone in the dark, longing for him who is not always there, as I have had all these past eighteen years.

But his eyes told me to believe, that I am not dreaming, that he is right there before me. I began to sob, with joy, knowing that my wish had finally come true; with doubt, still aware that all of this was still too good, too beautiful to be true. Ged pulled me to his lap and held me, showering my face with soft, gentle kisses, telling me he loved me, telling me not to cry.

That night, we renewed the vows we made by Erreth-Akbe's Ring, vows we made eighteen years ago beneath the Tombs of Atuan. I have never felt more alive until that night, and never before have I felt that I was the only concern Ged had in his mind. On that night, he was never an Archmage nor Dragonlord, and I was never Priestess nor village sorceress. It was only him and I, a husband and his wife.


oOo


IT WAS SPRING WHEN Ged came home. On that night, it was already winter. Since then, the two of us lived the seasons that followed just like any ordinary, long-married couple. I tended house and saw to the villagers who send for me to heal their illnesses, while he tended our gardens and our goats, and sometimes wandered the forests at the break of dawn. But we saw our life and each other with new eyes and savored every moment of our happiness as if it will never last.

Spring came and another winter passed. Later, on the following summer, I gave Ged his firstborn son. It was a very hard and very painful birth, for, as the midwife said, I was already too old to be bringing forth firstborns. I gave all my strength and almost my very life in this birthing. So great was the pain. But the moment I heard the loud yell of my newborn babe, all pain and suffering were forgotten. I knew on that moment that I would have gladly given my life to have this child, Ged's child.

The birthing was also the only time I ever saw fear in his eyes. I was used to his always being so calm and serene that the look of fear felt strange there. But when he saw me, he gave me a smile of utmost relief.

"I was afraid for you all that time, little one," he told me, his voice somewhat shaking. "I resented the midwife for not letting me near you. Although you did not make any sound, I could feel your pain. I wanted to take the pain from you. I thought you would die."

Feeling so weak and spent, I still managed to smile at him reassuringly and squeeze his hand. "I'm still here, Ged, I'm still here."

"Aye, you are."

"Our son is a handsome babe, isn't he?" I asked him, looking down at the little bundle sleeping by my side. Ged gently stroked the dark down on the babe's head.

"He looks like you," he replied.

"In fairness only. I think he takes more after his father."

"Perhaps, but I hope not in stubbornness, nor in pride. What shall you name him?"

"I? You name him."

"In Gont, Tenar, it is the mother who gives the newborn babe the name it shall use until it reaches the age of Passage. So, it is you who must give our boy his name."

I merely stared at him. I have lived here in Gont long enough, but I never heard that such a custom exists. But then, I am merely a healer, not a midwife.

Ged laughed softly at me. "Don't worry. You surely will be able to give him a good name."

"Very well, he shall be called Duny."

Ged's face suddenly fell.

"Why?" I asked him, alarmed. "Is it an unsuitable name?"

"No, no," Ged smiled at me once more and kissed the tip of my nose. "It is a good name. It's just that, it was the same name my own mother gave me when I was born. I never knew her. She died soon after my birth."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to."

"Nothing to worry about. I never told you anything about my mother."

He ran a hand through my long, still black hair. "Sleep, my little love. You look so pale. Rest and regain your strength."


oOo


I DID. I NEVER HAD anything to worry about. Ged took care of all my needs.

Ged afterwards told me the story of his own childhood. He told me about his mother, who died bringing him to the world, his father, who never liked him, and his aunt, who never really cared for him until she discovered that he had power born in him. He also told me of the boy who was so stubborn and full of pride, the boy who could not accept that he was not the best, the cleverest boy there is, in Gont or in Roke. Ged said he used to hate his father, and swore to never to have anything to do with him again. But in time, he said, he learned to forgive him, as he had learned to forgive everyone else.

But Ged loved our son. He played with him and cleaned him and made sure he was comfortable. Sometimes, when little Duny cried at night, it was Ged who gets up and croons him back to sleep.

Our life was as happy as I had dreamed it would be. Our son grew up to be a healthy, handsome child, plump and sparkling-eyed, clever like his father and fair like his mother, always asking questions and always moving about. Ged seemed to have forgotten that he was a man of Power, that he was once Archmage and Dragonlord. Never have I seen him sit alone and silent, off to that secret place where his soul roams, since Duny was born. And I, I learned to smile freely and no longer felt lonely, for laughter now filled my once empty house.

But still, deep in my heart, I believed that my life had become too happy, that the fact that Ged stayed home was still too beautiful to be real. I could not help feeling that someday, I will wake up from this dream and find that Ged is no longer with me.


oOo


LATE ONE AUTUMN afternoon, when Duny was four years old, we had a visitor from faraway. He was a handsome young man. But for all his youth, he looked wise, as if he had been to the farthest shore of Earthsea and had seen there the greatest truth that man can ever know. Somehow, he reminded me of Ged when I first saw him in the huge Undertomb in Atuan.

He said his name is Arren and that he had come to see the lord mage Sparrowhawk. He seemed to look surprised to see me there. Ged was out in the woods at that time and took Duny with him. Young Arren said he would like to wait for him if I would permit him to.

The days had begun to grow colder. I bade my guest to sit by the hearth and offered him some food and wine. He refused my offer, telling me not to mind him and continue my tasks as if he was not there. I did, but I could not keep myself from watching him as he watched the fire. I had heard his name spoken somewhere, but I could not remember where. But I knew the very moment he stepped over my threshold that this Arren is not an ordinary man. He had the air of Power about him.

Suddenly, he turned to me. "You are the White Lady of Erreth-Akbe's Ring."

"Yes, I am."

"I have heard so many stories about you, my lady."

"What, I wonder, were the stories told about me that you have heard, my lord?" I asked.

"That without your help, my lady, Lord Sparrowhawk would have never brought the Ring and the Rune of Peace back from Atuan. That you were so wise, so fair and so beautiful, and that Lord Sparrowhawk would rather die than leave Atuan without you."

The young man smiled at me. "I see, my lady, that the stories were true."

I smiled back wryly. "You flatter me too much, my lord."

Not long after, Ged and Duny came trudging down the path from the woods, dragging a cart of firewood. They were laughing at something, I never learned what. But Ged's laughter faded the moment he laid eyes on our guest.

Arren stood up and approached him. "My lord," he uttered with utmost reverence. He bowed his head and began to drop himself on one knee but Ged held him by his shoulders and stopped him.

"Prince Arren, don't. It is I who must kneel to you. You are my king."

Ged embraced him and kissed his cheek. A shadow fell across Ged's face, a kind of shadow I have never seen there since Ged had come home. Suddenly, I felt a pang slightly squeeze at my heart.

"Father, who is he?" little Duny asked.

"This is Arren, little one, an old friend of Father's. Arren, this is Duny, my son."

Arren knelt before the boy and laid his hands on his shoulders. "Hello, Duny. What a handsome lad you are."

"So are you," Duny replied.

Arren grinned and ruffled the boy's hair. Then he stood up and turned to Ged.

"My lord, I have something to speak to you."

Ged nodded and led him outside the house.

The sun has already set. I fed my son his dinner. Although the boy had many questions about our guest, he was not as talkative as he is wont to be. Duny is tired. As soon as he finished his meal, I took him to his bed and put him to sleep.

As I waited for Ged and his friend to return, an old fear began to surface in my mind. I realized who young Arren was and knew for certain what his arrival meant to our lives. I laid my heavy head in my hands. My beautiful dream is over.

It was already late when Ged returned home. He was alone.

"Where is Prince Arren?" I asked.

"He returned to the village," he replied and sank on the floor by the fire. "I offered him to stay here but he refused. He said he does not want to bother us any more than he needed to."

"But he is welcome here."

"I told him so. But he insisted. And I let him go."

I served him his dinner and we ate in silence. The silence hung heavily upon us. Ged merely ate a few spoonfuls before putting his plate aside. He stared into the fire with that blank wandering look on his face. I toyed with my own food. Fear made my heart beat so fast that the sound flooded my ears. But I have always known that this would happen one day and that there is nothing I could do about it. Nothing but accept.

Quietly, I cleared our untouched food away and began mending the little tears in Duny's shirts. But I could not put my heart into the task. It was too quiet in this house.

"Are you leaving, Ged?" I finally asked.

Ged stirred and bowed his head. "Yes, Tenar, I am."

"When?"

"Tomorrow."

"I see."

I thought I sounded calm. But the despair that I desperately tried to hide must have crept into my voice, for Ged at once knelt before me and squeezed my hands. His grip was so tight and so warm that they hurt.

"Tenar," he breathed my name deeply, "I made you a promise, remember?"

"Yes, you did. But I never held you to that promise. I always knew it would be hard for you to keep. You will have to leave again someday."

"Only because I have to."

I smiled at him. It was a smile that cost me much effort to give. "Ged, I understand you perfectly. You do not have to explain. You were never really good at explaining. I know that you only have to do what you have to do. You always have."

"Tenar, I love you. I always have. And no matter what happens, I always will."

He clasped his arms around my waist and buried his face in my lap. I ran my hands in his graying hair. My lip began to tremble. I struggled to master my hurt and keep it inside my heart. Ged is leaving. I do not want his leaving to be hard on him, or on myself, all because he knew it hurt me.

But I could not. Slowly, I felt myself give in. Why have I grown so weak in my old age? Why did Ged have to be so truthful? Why could he not tell me a lie and say he never loved me at all?

Ged gathered me in his arms as I began to sob. I do not know how long I have cried that night, nor if the tears wetting my face were mine or Ged's. For Ged also shed tears that night and held me as if I would vanish if he let go. Both of us did not sleep that night, one in the feeling that sleep would only rob us of our last drifting moments together.


oOo


ARREN RETURNED TO FETCH Ged early next morning. Duny insisted on seeing his father and his father's friend off the very Port of Gont. Ged gladly humored him, and so the four of us walked the road to the Port. Ged carried his pack on his shoulders and Duny in one arm. His free hand clung to mine. Arren walked slightly ahead.

There was no great many-oared ship waiting for the future King of All Isles and he who was both Archmage and Dragonlord. Instead, there was Lookfar, Ged's old magical boat that had borne her master a great many times across the wide seas of Earthsea. The sail raised on Lookfar's mast was not very different from the red patched sail hoisted on her the day she carried me from the beaches of Atuan.

Bowing at me with utmost respect, Arren stepped aside. Ged put Duny down and went on his knees before him.

"Father has to go now, Duny," he said. "Be a good boy and take care of your mother for me."

"I am a good boy, Father," Duny replied earnestly in his high, child's voice. "And you didn't have to tell me to take care of Mother. You know I would."

Ged embraced him and kissed his hair. Then he stood up and faced me.

"I will return as soon as I could. I want to see my son grow up. I want to be there when he goes through his Passage."

I nodded. I refused to look at him. Although I have already shed all the tears I could shed for his sake, I feared that if I raised my face and looked into his eyes, I might lose myself once more and cry. I do not want anyone in Gont to see their White Lady shedding tears, and I do not want Ged to remember leaving me with even the slightest moisture in my eyes.

Ged cupped my cheeks and pushed my face upwards. It was his dark eyes that were sparkling with tears, not mine. He lowered his head and kissed me goodbye.

Arren helped the wizard up on Lookfar. Ged raised his hand that should have held his yew-wood staff and called the magewind to Lookfar's sail. Then he stood staring at us as Lookfar sailed away.

I watched Lookfar until her sail was merely a red dot on the blue horizon. Duny waved his arm at his father's boat until he could see her no longer. His free hand had clung to my hand that his father had held on the road to the Port.

A calmness has come to my heart. My tears disappeared. As we walked back with my son's hand in mine, I knew that there was no need for me to weep nor grieve.

Ged made a promise. He is a hawk who needs to fly away sometimes and soar into his distant chosen skies. It does not matter how long Ged's flight shall now take. He never breaks his promise. And in the end, Ged always comes home.



January, 1998





The White Lady of the Ring
Part I: The Return of the Ring
Part II: The Shadows Emerge
Part III: The Shadows Follow Tenar
Part IV: A Promise is Fulfilled