From Cuytim to Tal-Havin was more of a holiday than work! We did work very hard, and at one point we had to completely rebuild the anchor hole in the front of the ship, where all the anchor chains are coiled. It was filthy work! The cat and dog had a lot of fun clearing out all the rats’ nests, but all the oil, tar, poop, bilge water, grease and rust!

But we were in calm waters, in a little bay, and the water was warm, so we just went overboard and swam! All of us, except for Fikmet, because she’d bathed only seven or eight days ago, in Cuytim, and besides, she hadn’t been in on the job, she was busy up in the rigging, repairing frayed cording.

The bay was full of the water beings — small ones, larger ones. Some of the smaller ones must once have been part of the huge one that was so interested in Princess Lyse. It took us a lot of effort to figure out how they were thinking, and well, being, if that’s a word. They are all apart, but they are not individuals, just like one drop of water isn’t the other drop, until they become one drop, and then are split up again. It made for some wonderful fun, swimming together, trying to understand each other. They had just as much difficulty as us — one or two thought that I was the Princess, or that we were all Princess!

The captain and first mate were a bit shocked, though, that we’d gone down in the water just like that! Most sailors don’t know how to swim a stroke, but I always knew, and we’d been teaching each other during our travels, when we were following the river down to Sewe. But well, they were afraid, and angry — but after we explained we got permission to ask for permission, the next time we wanted to take a swim.

A couple of days later we went to anchor in the bay of Sunny Sands. Sunny Sands is a small fishing village, the big claim to fame is the island where there are two little towns: Tal-Havin, where our Priestesses of Naigha live, all together, and Tal-Hanre, where all the pirates live. That’s what the Valdyans call them anyway, and pretty angry they are at the pirates. But the pirates mostly prey on the shipping near the Iss-Peranian coast, not so much on what passes here, so we were probably safe.

Well, the real reason this place is so famous is the great mountain, where the power of Anshen flows into the world. Well, one of the places where that happens. It’s as great a place as the island in the north, where Timoine flows. It’s not really them — it’s their power, it’s their, prince Fekemme calls it, potential. Well, that’s as good a word as any. We really wanted to visit! And we did get permission, the Albatross would wait for us.

After going ashore and having a bath (again!) and a night of food, singing, dancing and prayer with the villagers, we went up, as soon as the sky started turning pink in the east.

They tell me, that sometimes the Mountain spits out ash, and sometimes bleeds molten stone. We could see that! Really strange stone, with lots of holes, dark in color, was everywhere. There wasn’t that much growing along the way either, though there was a little stream along the path.

And in the end, we came to a little open space where there was a hole in the wall of the Mountain, like an irregular window! And there was a little ledge where just one person could stand. And Anshen, he was so strong here! Nothing of the young man with the serious smile we’d seen now and then, but raw, raw power and also deep attention.

As I stood there, I put myself in his power. I told him that I was going to live for my decision, and that I believed it was a work for him. And I was accepted — I was so sure of that! I was accepted, and I was also given — almost as an afterthought, though it didn’t feel as a thought, maybe as a consequence, or — I cannot find the words, I need to start reading deeper books! Well, Anshen told me that it was inevitable that I would do this work together with Muhori, and she with me. I guess he knows us better than we do ourselves! Or at least, earlier, before we could be sure.

I didn’t mind, of course! And we walked down again, hand in hand.

The others, all of them, also had their prayer in the presence — and their own thoughts and promises, but we didn’t talk about it, it’s for keeping in your heart. Though Leying asked me whether she belongs to fire.

Halfway down, Master Erian touched my shoulder and grinned at me. I thought it was because of the hand-holding, but he said, “You’re a journeyman now as well, Lathad. You must have faced a challenge!”

But it wasn’t a challenge. It was a vow.

It was evening when we came down, but the captain had said we could spend another night on the beach, and we did. Muhori and I sat together, our backs against an upturned dory. And we kissed for the first time.