Chapter Twenty-Five — Farewell to the Islands

Djaren lifted his head from sheaves of notes and rolled plans to look at the new Trimela, just beginning again. The town was gone, with only some charred rubble to show there had once been buildings. The whole lower part, near the harbor, had been submerged by a huge wave on the night of the eruption. The sea had rushed in and back out again, sweeping the land with silvered bubbles, which had changed all they had touched. Instead of mud, char, and devastation, they had left new growth, flowers, young saplings, and an inlet.

It was on this new green sward that the survivors had begun rebuilding. Anna’s style of huts dotted the hill, sheltering refugees. The survivors had used parts of the fallen school to construct a temporary hospital up by the clean well, and other buildings were cropping up along new paths drawn out by the committee of city planners.

“I think,” said Djaren, “that we could build an irrigation system that would bring clean water to people all over the hill. It could be run off to water their gardens as well. We could incorporate that with the fish farm idea.”

Isakoa nodded, and pointed to another set of papers they’d smoothed over a fallen stone. “We should go over these proposed governmental structures with the Breath. If we’re going to share power equally, she should have a say. I think she’ll like the part that gives representation to the Pao’ulu.”

“And bear in mind that quite a few off-islanders will choose to stay, either for family, or land, or other reasons.” Meister Feinhardt wiped sweat from his brow and smiled from under his broad-brimmed work hat.

“You’re staying?” Isakoa said hopefully.

“You’ll need a good tutor if you’re still planning on attending Cambriol. Young Master Blackfeather is a clever boy, but you’ll need more than even his encyclopedic knowledge to build a strong new foreign policy and renegotiate trade agreements without inviting fresh invasion. I’d also like to have a say in this new curriculum you’re planning for the school.”

“And you, young man, can’t stay here indefinitely. You’re coming home with us.” Mother walked up the hillside with the girl all the Kaunatoans greeted with awe and called Breath. Djaren liked her. Temanava seemed sensible and had lots of good ideas about what the school should be teaching. She and Isakoa already had a relationship like Djaren and Anna’s—they knew what to expect from one another, and their strengths balanced each other’s. They could rule the islands together, and do it well, Djaren thought.

The Land’s Wings was docked in Trimela’s harbor. Jon had told how they’d been guided by silver shapes through the only safe route left to a ship that size. The Breath’s Ally, likewise guided, was now grounded by coral that had grown up her deck in the night. A number of ships had escaped the islands before they’d become the heart of a huge, labyrinthine coral reef. The far-siders, the Levour military ships, and nearly all the fruit company mercenaries were gone. Only rowboats and outriggers could navigate out to sea, now.

“Are we sailing home by outrigger?” Djaren asked.

“The island will let your ship leave,” Temanava said. “You belong to another Land.”

“Now that your father is back, he can navigate us through the maze,” Mother told Djaren.

He’s back? How is he?” Djaren asked silently.

He climbed up onto the deck early this morning, half mist and shifting through a dozen shapes,” Mother said. “I held him till he remembered the right one, then tucked him in near poor Eabrey. They’re both still sleeping.”

Has Uncle Eabrey woken yet?”

No.” Mother seemed worried over this last.

“You will let him attend Cambriol?” Isakoa looked carefully at Mother. He treated her much as he treated the Breath, with a careful respect he showed to no one else.

“He’s growing up.” Mother touched Djaren’s long Copper’s Dawn braid. “But I do worry what he’ll do if left unattended.”

Feinhardt stifled a chuckle.

“Bring your bodyguard with you,” Isakoa suggested. “She speaks appallingly, but her actions prove her true. She will see any dangers that you are blind to.”

Djaren opened his mouth to argue that Kara was not his bodyguard, but Mother was looking thoughtful now. “Where is Kara?” she asked.

“Burying the dead with Rades.”

*     *     *

Kara knew there was always somewhere one could count on being left alone. Like the Corestemarians back home, the Kaunatoans had taboos against touching the dead. Since Rades was himself a walking taboo, and uncomfortable with the stares he attracted even when shrouded in cloth, he’d taken to the work of hauling the bodies left from the disasters. Kara sat and watched, keeping him company. The char-pit where he was putting the dead mercenaries had once been a hotel cellar. Pao’ulu got buried, as was their custom, and Kaunatoans were burned to ash, as was theirs.

“What do Shandorians do with their dead?” she asked Rades, as he lowered another man’s body into the pit.

“That depends on what cultural group they are from. Many of the K’shay tanna are buried under cairns of stone, or in caves in the mountains. Townfolk have little grassy cemeteries where they plant flowers and stone markers. Southfolk burn their dead to free their souls into smoke and spirit. Northfolk used to have necropolises, cities for the dead where they left gifts. Now they mostly use Townfolk ways.”

Kara thought this over, as Rades lifted a new body from a cart, a figure shrouded in black robes. “What should we do for the Corestemarians?” he asked.

“What?” Kara stared, alarmed.

“A wrecked ship washed ashore in the night with five bodies, all Corestemarian, I think. I do not know why they were here or what they were carrying.”

Kara grabbed her stick and hobbled over, grumbling over the lumpy cast on her ankle. The drowned face was unrecognizable, but the black robes of this man and the others on the cart were all too familiar. The rotting man’s minions, the ones who had chased her onto that doomed ship weeks ago, had somehow managed to follow her even here.

“I am sorry, you should not be here looking at the dead,” Rades apologized, misreading her expression.

Kara shook her head and poked the dead man’s robe with her stick. There was something around his neck, an amulet, black enamel on gold. She pulled it free gingerly, not touching him. It was an old Corestemarian symbol, a great winged serpent with his claws rending the storm clouds, releasing a tempest. Vashiel Sky-Lord, in his most powerful incarnation. The pale green gem of his slitted eye gleamed, a familiar color. “Real gold,” Kara choked out, and pocketed it. “Search the bodies, take their things, and then burn them. Burn them all.”

*     *     *

Jon sat in fresh green grass, hugging his knees and watching happy reunions. Hirnar was propped up in a bed of woven grasses, bandaged and awake, smiling as Melya alternately fed him and scolded him for have been reckless. Her tone didn’t really sound scolding at all, and Hirnar’s eyes said he heard words she wasn’t saying out loud.

The girls from the cave were gathering up the little sisters they’d been separated from. Anna had made friends with all of them. She was distracted between directing people to job details, making sure they were eating, and showing volunteers how to weave her hut design until more stable shelters could be built.

A sharp-faced old woman handed blankets recovered from the school to refugee families, and gave oddly dire Cormuradan blessings along with them, to the annoyance of the Levour woman sharing the work with her, who countered with vague, out-of-context Helianth prayers. The recipients greeted supplies and prayers alike with good grace.

Jon knew that Tam would have been there, helping with rebuilding, but right now he wouldn’t leave the Professor’s side. He was worried, and that worried Jon. No more healing was coming out of the Professor, and it didn’t seem safe to do anything more to him in his fragile state. “He’s all deep in there, like,” Tam had said. “You’d have to go digging to find him, and knowing some of what’s down there, unsettling it could drown us both. But he’s not waking up, and I’m worried if I can’t pull him back he’ll just keep slipping further away.”

“Should we give him more Corta?” Jon wondered.

“No, that’s what’s put him there. I think it would kill him.”

“We’ll take him to the Queen,” Lady Blackfeather said. “She’ll be able to reach him if no one else can.”

And so it was decided that they would depart soon, to get the Professor and the wounded to medical help in Shandor. Ellea was only too glad to be leaving the islands. She was cross, though, that most of her clothes had been given away to refugee children, and quietly sulked about it in her reclaimed cabin. “I have had a bath and am going to sleep in my bed. I shall see you all at supper,” she declared, and left them.

Jon had wanted to see Temanava one last time, to say goodbye properly. She came down the hill now with Prince Isakoa, Djaren, and the schoolteacher Feinhardt.

“Have Sisters Marda and Agata come to blows yet?” she asked Jon, glancing at the women giving out blankets and water.

“Not yet,” Jon said, getting to his feet. “I think they care more about helping than about disliking each other.”

“Let’s hope that spirit holds and spreads,” Feinhardt said, raising an eyebrow.

Jon smiled, watching the family who had been seeking passage back in Tairoru. They were together again, mother, father, and children. Temanava had given them the money box from Vasca’s pirate ship, to redistribute.

“Many of the refugees want to stay, now,” Temanava said, following his gaze.

“What about the pirates?” Jon asked.

“Now will be the time to decide,” Isakoa said, nodding toward a group of Kaunatoan warriors who were guarding a woeful-looking batch of pirates, along with the well-dressed men from the Scrivener, and the painter.

“In Shandor,” Djaren said, “they’d be brought before the Justice.” He looked at Lady Blackfeather.

“But here,” she said, “it will be up to your own customs.”

Isakoa nodded, thinking this over, as the men were brought before him.

“We demand to speak to the authorities!” One of the men looked with hope at Feinhardt.

“Upon my islands you will have a fair trial,” Isakoa said. “You may present your case to the island’s Breath. Some of you have already met her.”

Temanava smiled, very slowly. The foreigners paled, as Isakoa bowed to her. “I believe the authority here is entirely yours.”

The painter made a noise that wasn’t any words at all.

*     *     *

There was a final set of farewells down at the harbor, on a glistening quay of painted, carved wood from the time of Isakoa and Temanava’s ancestors, which the wave had restored.

Doctor Blackfeather walked out on paper mats to meet Temanava, who did the same. Only Jon, Isakoa, and a few others stood near enough to hear what they said. Doctor Blackfeather looked ordinary, for him, but Temanava stared at him with wonder. “Thank you,” she said.

“It is you we should thank,” Doctor Blackfeather said. “Shandor owes you a great debt.” His eyes, Jon noticed, flicked over to Tam, who had come above deck at last.

“I am the island’s Breath. What is he, to you?” Temanava whispered.

“My Land’s heart,” he answered. “Or at the least, its song.”

“I would—” Isakoa said, and stopped, perhaps feeling he was interrupting.

Djaren nodded encouragement at him.

“I would that our countries were allies,” Isakoa said. “Of all the nations we have met, yours alone has respected ours. We have secrets in common. We should stand together.”

Doctor Blackfeather considered this. “I will express your wish to our Queen.”

“I have made a list of requests,” Isakoa said. “About trade, and exchanging envoys.”

Doctor Blackfeather glanced from Isakoa to Djaren. “Am I correct in guessing that you had a hand in drafting this?”

Djaren shrugged and nodded.

“We will see what the Queen makes of it,” Doctor Blackfeather said. “I cannot speak for the kind of diplomacy that binds nations on paper.” He looked at Temanava now. “But I can say that we share a bond, and that we will never forget it.”

She nodded, satisfied.

“Thank you ever so much,” Jon told Temanava, when all the formalities were past.

“Thank you,” Temanava raised her glass sea bond on its grass cord, about her neck. Its twin lay about the Professor’s. “Look after your brother and the Professor for me, and send word about his recovery. I should have liked to thank him, especially.”

“I will,” Jon said. “Take care of your island, and the sea.”

Temanava nodded, and waved at Tam, who smiled back.

“Let me know how ruling your islands works out, right?” he asked her. “It sounds like a big job.”

“I won’t be alone in it,” she said, looking at Isakoa. “You won’t be alone either.”

Tam nodded, thoughtful.

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