“He was here!” she cried. “That foul heart, that Thorion!” She strode to meet the Patterner as he came into the starlight by the house. “I was bathing in the stream, and he stood there watching me!”

“A sending – only a seeming of him. It could not hurt you, Irian.”

“A sending with eyes, a seeming with seeing! May he be -“ She stopped, at a loss suddenly for the word. She felt sick. She shuddered, and swallowed the cold spittle that welled in her mouth.

The Patterner came forward and took her hands in his. His hands were warm, and she felt so mortally cold that she came close up against him for the warmth of his body. They stood so for a while, her face turned from him but their hands joined and their bodies pressed close. At last she broke free, straightening herself, pushing back her lank wet hair. Thank you,” she said. “I was cold.”

“I know.”

“I’m never cold,” she said. “It was him.”

“I tell you, Irian, he cannot come here, he cannot harm you here.”

“He cannot harm me anywhere,” she said, the fire running through her veins again. “If he tries to, I’ll destroy him.”

“Ah,” said the Patterner.

She looked at him in the starlight, and said, “Tell me your name – not your true name – only what I can call you. When I think of you.”

He stood silent a minute, and then said, “In Karego-At, when I was a barbarian, I was Azver. In Hardic, that is a banner of war.”

“Azver,” she said. “Thank you.”

She lay awake in the little house, feeling the air stifling and the ceiling pressing down on her, then slept suddenly and deeply. She woke as suddenly when the east was just getting light. She went to the door to see what she loved best to see, the sky before sunrise. Looking down from it she saw Azver the Patterner rolled up in his grey cloak, sound asleep on the ground before her doorstep. She withdrew noiselessly into the house. In a little while she saw him going back to his woods, walking a bit stiffly and scratching his head as he went, as people do when half awake.

She got to work scraping down the inner wall of the house, readying it to plaster. But before the sun was in the windows, there was a knock at her open door. Outside was the man she had thought was a gardener, the Master Herbal, looking solid and stolid, like a brown ox, beside the gaunt, grim-faced old Namer.

She came to the door and muttered some kind of greeting. They daunted her, these Masters of Roke, and also their presence meant that the peaceful time was over, the days of walking in the silent summer forest with the Patterner. That had come to an end last night. She knew it, but she did not want to know it.

“The Patterner sent for us,” said the Master Herbal. He looked uncomfortable. Noticing a clump of weeds under the window, he said, “That’s velvet. Somebody from Havnor planted it here. Didn’t know there was any on the island.” He examined it attentively, and put some seedpods into his pouch.

Irian was studying the Namer covertly but equally attentively, trying to see if she could tell if he was what he had called a sending or was there in flesh and blood. Nothing about him appeared insubstantial, but she thought he was not there, and when he stepped into the slanting sunlight and cast no shadow, she knew it.

“Is it a long way from where you live, sir?” she asked.

He nodded. “Left myself halfway,” he said. He looked up; the Patterner was coming towards them, wide awake now.

He greeted them and asked, “The Doorkeeper will come?”

“Said he thought he’d better keep the doors,” said the Herbal. He closed is many-pocketed pouch carefully and looked around at the others. “But I don’t know if he can keep a lid on the ant-hill.”

“What’s up?” said Kurremkarmerruk. “I’ve been reading about dragons. Not paying attention. But all the boys I had studying at the Tower left.”

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Categories: Ursula K. Le Guin