“I am not ashamed,” Irian said. She looked at them all. She felt that she should thank them for their courtesy but the words would not come. She nodded stiffly to them, turned round, and strode out of the room.

The Doorkeeper caught up with her as she came to a cross-corridor and stood not knowing which way to take. “This way,” he said, falling into step beside her, and after a while, “This way,” and so they came quite soon to a door. It was not made of horn and ivory. It was uncarved oak, black and massive, with an iron bolt worn thin with age. “This is the back door,” the mage said, unbolting it. “Media’s Gate, they used to call it. I keep both doors.” He opened it. The brightness of the day dazzled Irian’s eyes. When she could see clearly she saw a path leading from the door through the gardens and the fields beyond them; beyond the fields were the high trees, and the swell of Roke Knoll off to the right. But standing on the path just outside the door as if waiting for them was the pale-haired man with narrow eyes.

“Patterner,” said the Doorkeeper, not at all surprised.

“Where do you send this lady?” said the Patterner in his strange speech.

“Nowhere,” said the Doorkeeper. “I let her out as I let her in, at her desire.”

“Will you come with me?” the Patterner said to Irian.

She looked at him and at the Doorkeeper and said nothing.

“I don’t live in this House. In any house,” the Patterner said. “I live there. The Grove – ah,” he said, turning suddenly. The big, white-haired man, Kurremkarmerruk the Namer, was standing just down the path. He had not been standing there until the other mage said ‘Ah.” Irian stared from one to the other in blank bewilderment.

This is only a seeming of me, a presentment, a sending,” the old man said to her. “I don’t live here either. Miles off.” He gestured northward. “You might come there when you’re done with the Patterner here. I’d like to learn more about your name.” He nodded to the other two mages and was not there. A bumblebee buzzed heavily through the air where he had been.

Irian looked down at the ground. After a long time she said, clearing her throat, not looking up, “Is it true I do harm being here?”

“I don’t know,” said the Doorkeeper.

“In the Grove is no harm,” said the Patterner. “Come on. There is an old house, a hut. Old, dirty. You don’t care, eh? Stay a while. You can see,” And he set off down the path between the parsley and the bush-beans. She looked at the Doorkeeper; he smiled a little. She followed the pale-haired man.

They walked a half-mile or so. The Knoll rose up full in the western sun on their right. Behind them the School sprawled grey and many-roofed on its lower hill. The grove of trees towered before them now. She saw oak and willow, chestnut and ash, and tall evergreens. From the dense, sun-shot darkness of the trees a stream ran out, green-banked, with many brown trodden places where cattle and sheep went down to drink or to cross over. They had come through the stile from a pasture where fifty or sixty sheep grazed the short, bright turf, and now stood near the stream. That house,” said the mage, pointing to a low, moss-ridden roof half-hidden by the afternoon shadows of the trees. “Stay tonight. You will?”

He asked her to stay, he did not tell her to. All she could do was nod.

“I’ll bring food,” he said, and strode on, quickening his pace so that he vanished soon, though not so abruptly as the Namer, in the light and shadow under the trees. Irian watched till he was certainly gone and then made her way through high grass and weeds to the little house.

It looked very old. It had been rebuilt and rebuilt again, but not for a long time. Nor had anyone lived in it for a long time, from the feel of it. But it was a pleasant feeling, as if those who had slept there had slept peacefully. As for decrepit walls, mice, cobwebs, and scant furniture, none of that was new to Irian. She found a bald broom and swept out a bit. She unrolled her blanket on the plank bed. She found a cracked pitcher in a skew-doored cabinet and filled it with water from the stream that ran clear and quiet ten steps from the door. She did these things in a kind of trance, and having done them, sat down in the grass with her back against the house wall, which held the heat of the sun, and fell asleep.

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Categories: Ursula K. Le Guin