Urthona had a strange expression. His green eyes were wide, and he looked pale.
“Anana! Anana!” he cried. “I saw it! I saw it!”
“Saw what?” she said.
He was trembling.
“My palace! It was on the sea! Heading out away from the shore!”
OBVIOUSLY, IF HE’D been able to catch up to it, he wouldn’t be here.
“How fast does it travel?” she said.
“When the drive is on automatic, one kilometer an hour.”
“I don’t suppose that after all this time you’d have the slightest idea what path it will take?”
He spread out his hands and shrugged his shoulders.
The situation seemed hopeless. There was no time to build a sailing boat, even if tools were available, and to try to catch up with it. But it was possible that the palace would circle around the sea and come back to this area.
“Eventually,” Urthona said, “the palace will leave this country. It’ll go through one of the passes. Not this one, though. It isn’t wide enough.”
Anana did not accept this statement as necessarily true. For all she knew, the palace contained devices which could affect the shape-changing. But if Urthona had any reason to think that the palace could come through this pass, he surely would not have told her about seeing it.
There was nothing to be done about the palace at this time. She put it out of her mind for the time being, but her uncle was a worrier. He couldn’t stop talking about it, and he probably would dream about it. Just to devil him, she said, “Maybe Ore got to it when it was close to shore. He might be in the palace now. Or, more probably, he’s gated through to some other world.”
Urthona’s fair skin became even whiter. “No! He couldn’t! It would be impossible! In the first place, he wouldn’t dare venture into the sea-land during the storm. In the second place, he couldn’t get to it. He’d have to swim … I think. And in the third place, he doesn’t know the entrance-code.”
Urthona scowled. “You just said that to upset me.”
“I did, yes. But now that I think about it, Ore could have done it if he was desperate enough to risk the lightning.”
McKay, who had been listening nearby, said, “Why would he take the risk unless he knew the palace was there? And how could he know it was there unless he’d already gone into the sea-land? Which he wouldn’t do unless he knew …”
Anana said swiftly, “But he could have seen it from the pass, and that might have been enough for him.”
She didn’t really believe this, but she wasn’t too sure. When she walked away from her uncle, she wondered if Ore just might have done it. Her effort to bug Urthona had backfired. Now she was worried.
A few minutes later, the storm ceased. The thunder quit rolling; the clouds cleared as if sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner. The shaman and the chief talked together for a while, then approached Anana.
Trenn said, “Agent of the Lord, we have a question. Is the Lord no longer angry? Is it safe for us to go into the sea-land?”
She didn’t dare to show any hesitation. Her role called for her to be intimate with the Lord’s plans.
If she guessed wrong, she’d lose her credibility.
“The wrath of the Lord is finished,” she said. “It’ll be safe now.”
If the clouds appeared again and lightning struck, she would have to run away as quickly as possible.
The departure did not take place immediately, however. The animals that had bolted had to be caught, the scattered goods collected, and the ceremonies for the dead gone through. About two hours later the tribe headed for the pass. Anana was delighted to be in a country where there were trees that did not walk, and where thick woods and an open sea offered two ready avenues of flight.
The Wendow went down the long slope leading to sand beaches. The chief turned left, and the others followed. According to Nurgo, their destination lay about half a day’s travel away. Their stronghold was about fifteen minutes’ walk inland from the beach.