My first foray into the Earthsea universe, and I hope a worthwhile one. I've tried to stick as closely to the canon as I can, so forgive me my blunders.
The Earthsea trilogy is copyrighted to Ursula K Le Guin, and as such I have no permission to use the settings, characters, etc. I do so without sanction but with great thanks to Ms Le Guin for creating such a wonderful universe.
Please drop me a note at the end and tell me what you thought of it. There are (hopefully) more chapters to come.





This is possibly the most miserable I have ever been in my life.
So thought Kell as he huddled dejectedly in the bottom of his small boat. Never a great weatherworker, he had seemingly lost even what little talent he had for calling the magewind - only luck and the goodwill of the worldly wind kept him on his course.
At least he could tell that much. Though the Master Windkey had despaired of teaching him more than the rudiments of weathercraft, he had often commented on Kell's impressive sense of direction. It was an unusual talent, to be sure, but right now Kell would trade it all for just a breath of magewind. What good was direction without speed? Any compass could tell which way was north, but only a wizard's power could fill his sail with wind.
He cursed his lack of talent, glaring up at the dark clouds that saw fit to drench him to the skin with frigid rain. Even a minor weatherworker had the skill to send away the rain; instead, Kell must freeze. No illusion could keep him warm, nor could he summon heat to dry his sodden cloak.
Before him, dull and hazy through the rain, the indistinct shape of his destination loomed up before him. If the wind held, he might make it there before dark.

This is possibly the most miserable I have ever been in my life.
So thought the king of all the Archipelago as he stared dejectedly out of his high window across the Bay of Havnor. The golden circlet of office hung forgotten from the arm of his chair; disregarded, his gold-chased robes of state were flung in disarray in a corner.
If only I could fling the kingship away thus, thought the king. And then, inside him, that spark of rebellion caught on the dry tinder of youth, and Arren, the name he had borne and the life he had lived before the kingship, flared up within.
I have always been a Prince's son, but what fate brought me to the Throne of Havnor? I am no Morred, no Serriadh, no Maharion. What hope have I of unifying the Archipelago? I might as well rule under the Rune of Unfulfilled Promises...
He cast his eyes to the west, towards the land of Paln, out of sight across the sea. Alone of the Inner Lands, Paln in its pride had failed to recognise his kingship. It was a studied insult - not an act of war, far from it, but an insult nonetheless. Paln had sent no ambassador, no emissary to the Court of Havnor, as almost every other island had done when Arren had been crowned King of the Archipelago by the Master Patterner of Roke. Now Paln's insolence continued - its Lord refused to come to Havnor to swear fealty and would not even offer hospitality to the king's messengers, returning them whence they came with all haste.
Arren sighed and rested his chin in his hands. Sometimes, when the circlet was removed and the robes of state taken off, he felt very much the seventeen-year-old boy that he was underneath. No matter that he had sailed the seas with the Archmage of Roke, had seen dragons and walked the dry land of death, had passed through the Mountains of Pain and come to the far shore of the day; he was still very much a boy, too young in all but wisdom to sit on the throne of Morred.
What is to be done about Paln? The Lord sits in his palace and sneers at me, will not even speak to my messengers. Without Paln, I am only half a king.
He smiled humourlessly as he remembered a phrase that one of his courtiers had used that morning to describe the rainstorm that even now darkened the coast of Havnor.
A day old and weakening. Just like my kingship.
Suddenly, out on the rainswept waters, a light appeared. It was no more than a sliver of bright silver in the vast expanse of grey, but his eye was caught and held by it, and he knew it for what it was.
Magefire.

The werelight flickered fitfully for a moment on Kell's staff before blooming into the familiar blazing silver radiance. It was a trick learnt by every apprentice in his first months on Roke, but it never ceased to amaze Kell. Fire from nothing, that burned and burned and did not burn away, that could be called and snuffed with a word or a gesture. Light at need...such as now, when he had been cursed for nearly smashing his tiny craft to matchwood on the side of a trader vessel bound, as he was, for Havnor Great Port. For defence, and reassurance, he called up the magelight to his staff, warning all who sailed the waters that here was a wizard of Roke, come to see the King.
The slender rod of hazel was faintly warm under his hand, as it always was. He held it vertically, watching it burn with argent fire, and almost lost his footing as a towering wave struck his boat.
"Fool," chided the Master Windkey gently from somewhere in his memory. "Though a mage may steer with a word and call the wind with a gesture, it profits him nothing if he cannot handle a boat by himself."
Laughing at himself, his good mood restored by the comfort of the magelight, Kell got a secure footing and guided the boat carefully, with magic and tiller, through the press of ships to a rainswept jetty. A truculent man tried to charge him two copper pieces for a tie-up; in response, Kell stepped lightly onto the jetty, cast the painter back into the boat and pushed it off with his foot, murmuring as he did so a single word in the Language of the Making. Itera , meaning 'return'. He had laboured long and hard on the spell to send the boat back to Roke once he had no further use for it, and now watched jubilantly as it slipped slowly from the harbour and out across the bay.
Shouldering his pack, which contained all his worldly possessions, he set out up the road from the harbour and into Havnor Great Port. The air was fresh and clear, and the noises of the city were sharp around him - shopkeepers crying their wares, people talking and laughing, a thousand tunes vying with one another as street musicians sent sweet notes out into the air. Recognising a fragment of a tune he knew, he hummed cheerfully under his breath, his slender hazel staff tapping out the accompaniment on the flagstones.

However, the refrain died on his lips as he rounded a corner and saw the Sword of Erreth-Akbe gleaming in the sunlight. The light seemed suddenly harsh, the sounds discordant, the crowds oppressive. Kell's enthusiasm seeped away; he felt very alone in the midst of all these people. No longer the holiday he had convinced himself it would be, this journey had abruptly assumed its true significance. He was far from the safety and familiarity of Roke, sent here to the Palace of Havnor to ply his trade with the King of all the Archipelago. He, a lowly wizard, when the King had all the Masters of Roke at his beck and call. What use would he be to the King, with his paltry skills and stumbling tongue?
Heavy-hearted, Kell made his way slowly up the road towards the palace, willing his feet to carry him onward. Those who met him pitied him from a distance - a grey-cloaked wizard of Roke looking as though every care in the world had been heaped upon his shoulders. "A messenger for the King," one woman whispered to her neighbour, "going with grave news from the look of him."
Coming to the imposing main gate of the Palace, he was challenged by a self-important guard. Kell could have cast the puffed-up man aside with a word and a movement of his staff, but instead he rifled through his pack until he unearthed the letter written by the Master Patterner himself, Azver of Roke. The guard's eyes widened as he read it - the names of the Nine Masters of Roke obviously still carried weight - and Kell was quickly waved through, to be greeted by a pleasant, middle-aged servant. She guided him through the marble halls of the Palace of Maharion, some crumbling with age, others so new-cut that the marble was rough underfoot. The king had begun the work of rebuilding the ancient place, still stubbornly called the New Palace by the people of Havnor, but it would be some time yet before it was truly New. Bureaucrats carrying piles of parchment scurried here and there, interspersed with workers surveying for the next renovation project.
The attendant chattered amiably as they trekked the corridors, seemingly undaunted by this silent wizard of Roke. Indeed, Kell's youth and his awe at the majestic, timeworn palace may have led the kindly lady to try and put him at his ease.
"This is the base of the central tower," she told him as they came to a small oak door, changed by time into a dark substance that looked stronger and more resilient than rock. "Atop this tower stands the Sword of Erreth-Akbe, that was brought back from Selidor many years ago." Then she ducked her head, and chuckled at her own presumption. "But of course you'd know that, sir. Wizards know everything."
In spite of his apprehension, Kell found himself warming to this good-natured woman. "Not everything," he told her, smiling ruefully. " Infinite are the arguments of mages . There are some things - indeed, many things - that even the Masters of Roke do not know, and cannot agree upon. However, my lady," he sketched a courteous bow despite his churning stomach, and she dimpled, "that particular tale is known to me."
She smiled at him with real warmth, then, and did not take her eyes off him as she knocked at the door. After a few seconds, there were footsteps on the other side, and it was opened a crack by another of the guards.
"Yes?"
Kell's escort stepped forward. "Master Kell of Roke, to see the King."
The single visible eye swivelled to study Kell; after a few moments, during which his mouth went dry and his stomach turned somersaults, the door opened to admit him.

Arren sighed in frustration, turning away from the window. I cannot force Paln to accept me, and yet I cannot rule without their fealty. If the Lord will not come to Havnor, neither can I work diplomacy. What on earth shall I do?
A glimmer of an idea woke in his mind. Though traditionally aloof, Paln had its allies and its enemies, like any other land. Its rivalry with its neighbour, Semel, was famous; its friendship with Hosk was less well-known. Yet he knew, and wondered if he could find a way to work it to his advantage.
Perhaps if I ask the Lord of Hosk to travel to Paln and have an informal talk with its ruler, one Lord to another...maybe he could convince Paln to see the error of its ways. And we could offer them something in exchange, get Hosk to tacitly remind Paln of the benefits of my reign - a place on my Inner Council, maybe.
Resolving to deal with the matter in the morning, he returned to the book he had been reading, hoping to lose himself in the familiar Deed of Erreth-Akbe.
It was not to be. Before five minutes had passed, there was a knock at his door. He sighed, marked the page, and closed the book. "Come."
A servant opened the door, a young girl with bright eyes and dark skin. "You have a visitor, my lord. A wizard, come from Roke. Would you like to receive him in the audience chamber?"
Arren sat bolt upright. A wizard! The Master Patterner, maybe. Or...no. Ged was no longer a wizard. Still... "No. Send him here."
She bobbed a curtsey and withdrew. After a few minutes, there was the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and a guard knocked respectfully on the half-open door.
"Master Kell of Roke."
Arren's eyes widened in surprise as a young man clad in a grey cloak stepped into the room and bowed self-consciously. A pair of deep green eyes looked up at him in awe from beneath an unruly shock of golden hair. If not for the cloak and staff, he would have sworn this was a joke.
"My lord," the boy said nervously.

The guard, a gruff man with the earth-brown skin and city accent of a Havnorian, sent a runner up the stairs to the King's chambers before leading Kell to a small chamber not far down the corridor. The room was warm and cosy; another guard sat at a small table in the corner, playing patience with a much-used pack of cards.
"I hope you don't mind waiting, m'lord," the guard said equably, "but those stairs go up a long way, and though Lyssi's fast it'll be a minute or two before she has an answer for you."
Kell nodded gratefully and sank into a chair near the fire, stretching out his long legs towards it. The guard at the table glanced at him a few times, surreptitiously, then gathered up his cards and cleared his throat.
"Um...m'lord?"
'Call me Kell,' was on his lips, but his mouth was too dry to utter a word. Instead, he simply nodded.
"Is it true, as the tales say, that wizards can pluck birds from the air and make winds blow with naught but a word?"
His companion shot him a warning glance, but Kell smiled inwardly. Cooped up in the palace, the guards would have little chance to see a street conjuror, and would have heard only second-hand tales of magic. To show this fellow what he wanted to see would take little effort – mostly illusion, which he was good at, and a little weatherworking.
Magewind first. Drawing on one of his minor talents, he called a breath of cool air into the room, sending it dancing around the floor, making the flames of the fire jump and crackle.
Even as the guard's face broke into a smile, Kell reached over and picked up the pack of cards from the tabletop. Quelling the breeze with a movement of his fingers, he murmured a word over the cards and then flung them up into the air. The guard's expression changed to one of pure joy as the cards became a flight of swallows, swooping and gliding around the room, singing in their high liquid voices. As one, they circled his head once, then flew down onto the table – where they became again nothing more than a pack of cards scattered across the tabletop.
Kell looked up to find the guard grinning hugely at him, his face alight with simple wonder. Even his taciturn companion in the corner was smiling. Kell chuckled along with them, knowing that here at least he had made friends.
However, his good humour vanished as the girl, Lyssi, poked her head round the door.
"The king would like to see you now."
"If you'll follow me, m'lord," the guard said deferentially, all trace all trace of his brusque manner gone. Reluctantly, for he had been enjoying the company and had almost forgotten his nervousness, Kell picked up his staff and followed him up the stairs.

The spiralling staircase seemed to go on forever, and Kell was soon out of breath. Every so often they would pass a window looking out over Havnor or over the Bay, but he had no time and no inclination to admire the view. All his energy went on persuading his feet to keep moving, fighting both fatigue and his apprehension at meeting the King.
Eventually, and all too soon, they came to the king's door, left ajar by Lyssi. The guard knocked, and announced Kell formally. Taking a deep breath, he stepped around the man and into the room.
What he saw surprised him immensely. He had heard stories about the handsome Young King, but he had not realised that he would be this young – or this handsome. A boy barely a year older than himself looked back at him with dark eyes from beneath a waterfall of dark hair. A fine black tunic covered his lithe, lean body, leaving his golden-brown arms bare. His face was finely moulded as though cast in bronze, with fine cheekbones and lips curved in a slight smile.
Remembering himself, Kell bowed deeply, still unable to take his eyes from the King. "My lord," he murmured through dry lips.