Jon listened carefully while Djaren explained about Professor Hallowfield’s team being missing. The name sounded a little familiar, but it wasn’t until he and Professor Sheridan were pulling her books from the shelves that he realized why. “I know this one!” Jon said, opening a book to find bright illustrations of strange and beautiful birds. “She writes about birds and plants. I used to love these when I was little. I thought I knew the name. There are more like these in the University library.” They were big books, on a bottom shelf, perfect for pulling out and losing oneself in sitting right there on the floor.
“Wonderful,” Professor Sheridan said. “Jon, can you run down to the library and bring back any of her books on the Tembelaka islands? Djaren and I can go through what’s here.”
Jon agreed at once, happy to be able to assist. He declined Tam’s offer of help—he was big enough now to carry a stack of heavy tomes—and hurried down alone to one of the best places in the castle.
He passed many tall University students and got a few uncertain looks as he jogged down the stone halls to the library wing, but found the section he was looking for easily. He stopped there, suddenly, though. A strange tall woman he’d never seen before stood there beside the shelf.
Her feet were bare, and her long silver hair hung down nearly to them. She stood beside the table, sorting Professor Hallowfield’s volumes into piles. She wore a simple long dress with an embroidered old-fashioned gown over it, like someone in an old painting. She wasn’t young, but she didn’t look exactly old either, even if she felt it. She was old like a parchment, not like a person. Jon wasn’t sure how to think words for it. There was a smell about her like a cedar forest in rain. Wet cedar needles clung to her feet. There were no cedar forests near the castle.
“You go along,” she said to him, as if they had been already speaking. “It’s dangerous of course. The life of a champion always is.” She smiled sadly at Jon, brushing fingertips over book spines. “But you go, and you should. Those that love you and are loved of Land go too. That’s all your friends, and your brother especially. And you should hurry to collect the missing child in time.” She handed him a large and heavy stack of books, and Jon blinked up at her, unsure of what to say.
“Your paths all flow in little rivers,” she said, “and you draw together like beads of mercury. You will need the strength you find together, now and in your future. Tides will touch our Land again, and not all are the sort that can be turned back by Amryns, or armies.”
“But, um, Ma’am,” Jon said, “Doctor Blackfeather said we aren’t going along.”
The woman left the table and knelt before him, settling her chin on her arms. “I see you going. If you tell him, he will understand.”
“Who shall I say told me, please?”
“I’m the Seer,” the woman said. “We meet again, when you are older and I was younger.” She stood, and walked toward the large open window.
“Um, are you going? There’s no way down that way.”
“Isn’t there?” she asked. “Maybe not for your feet.” She climbed over the sill, and down over the side, with a merry backwards glance.
Jon set down the books and ran to the window, only to see sheer wall, no ledge at all, and nothing but gardens empty of anything but lush spring growth below. He was still standing there, confused, when Djaren trotted in. “I’m supposed to gather some volumes on the winds and currents,” Djaren asked, then looked at him oddly. “Did something happen?”
“The Seer was here. She said we go along,” Jon said, numbly.
“Hurrah!” Djaren exclaimed. “Yes! I’ll go pack at once!”
* * * * *
As much as Kara disliked boats, she found that being in the ocean without a boat was bad too. Clothes wet with salt water were heavy, and they itched, and she was very thirsty. Everything in the world except water and sky was gone, and it stayed like that for a long while. It got lighter, and then it got dark again, and then again, and Kara found herself without the strength to hold on any longer. She cursed weakly as she sank back down into ocean. She wasn’t quite out of air when she felt a different rush of water around her, diving past, then up around. Arms wrapped about her, pulling her up and up through water, and into air, and still she was rising. Kara coughed, spitting water back into the ocean which lay under her feet in a wide calm sheet to the horizon. The sky was full of tatters of cloud lit by thousands of stars, and pulling her up into that sky were a powerful pair of black wings.
“I was honestly not expecting you, here,” Corin Blackfeather said mildly.
“Same,” choked Kara. “What,” she tried, then left it at that, tired.
“The Sea told me something was here that did not belong, perhaps one of the Land’s lost children.”
“Not lost. Boat lost me,” Kara muttered. “Stupid boat.”
“Something about you told the Sea you might be one of ours. I wonder what.”
Kara couldn’t quite shrug. “And now?” she asked, hanging in midair.
“Perhaps you would like to join my family on board our ship.”
“All right,” Kara said. It seemed best to be agreeable.
She fell asleep in strong arms, borne along between stars.