“How do you know?” she whispered.

He looked stern. The dragon bore him away.”

“You saw it? You saw that?” She clenched her hands, imagining that flight.

After a long time, she came back to the sunlight and the stableyard and her thoughts and puzzles. “But even if he’s gone,” she said, “surely some of the Masters are truly wise?”

When he looked up and spoke it was with a hint of a melancholy smile. “All the mystery and wisdom of the Masters, when it’s out in the daylight, doesn’t amount to so much, you know. Tricks of the trade – wonderful illusions. But people don’t want to believe that. They want the mysteries, the illusions. Who can blame them? There’s so little in most lives that’s beautiful or worthy.”

As if to illustrate what he was saying, he had picked up a bit of brick from the broken pavement, and tossed it up in the air, and as he spoke it fluttered about their heads on delicate blue wings, a butterfly. He put out his finger and the butterfly lighted on it. He shook his finger and the butterfly fell to the ground, a fragment of brick.

“There’s not much worth much in my life,” she said, gazing down at the pavement. “All I know how to do is run the farm, and try to stand up and speak truth. But if I thought it was all tricks and lies even on Roke, I’d hate those men for fooling me, fooling us all. It can’t be lies. Not all of it. The Archmage did go into the labyrinth among the Hoary Men and come back with the Ring of Peace. He did go into death with the young king, and defeat the spider mage, and come back. We know that on the word of the king himself. Even here, the harpers came to sing that song, and a teller came to tell it.”

Ivory nodded gravely. “But the Archmage lost all his power in the land of death. Maybe all magery was weakened then.”

“Rose’s spells work as well as ever,” she said stoutly.

Ivory smiled. He said nothing, but she knew how petty the doings of a village witch appeared to him, who had seen great deeds and powers. She sighed and spoke from her heart – “Oh, if only I wasn’t a woman!”

He smiled again. “You’re a beautiful woman,” he said, but plainly, not in the flattering way he had used with her at first, before she showed him she hated it. “Why would you be a man?”

“So I could go to Roke! And see, and learn! Why, why is it only men can go there?”

“So it was ordained by the first Archmage, centuries ago,” said Ivory. “But … I too have wondered.”

“You have?”

“Often. Seeing only boys and men, day after day, in the Great House and all the precincts of the School. Knowing that the townswomen are spell-bound from so much as setting foot on the fields about Roke Knoll. Once in years, perhaps, some great lady is allowed to come briefly into the outer courts. .. Why is it so? Are all women incapable of understanding? Or is it that the Masters fear them, fear to be corrupted – no, but fear that to admit women might change the rule they cling to – the … purity of that rule.”

“Women can live chaste as well as men can,” Dragonfly said bluntly. She knew she was blunt and coarse where he was delicate and subtle, but she did not know any other way to be.

“Of course,” he said, his smile growing brilliant. “But witches aren’t always chaste, are they? Maybe that’s what the Masters are afraid of. Maybe celibacy isn’t as necessary as the Rule of Roke teaches. Maybe it’s not a way of keeping the power pure, but of keeping the power to themselves. Leaving out women, leaving out everybody who won’t agree to turn himself into a eunuch to get that one kind of power … Who knows? A she-mage! Now that would change everything, all the rules!”

She could see his mind dance ahead of hers, taking up and playing with ideas, transforming them as he had transformed brick into butterfly. She could not dance with him, she could not play with him, but she watched him in wonder.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132

Categories: Ursula K. Le Guin