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Posted as [ profile] serenissima, December 25, 2004 in the [ profile] yuletide challenge.

Title: Seasons In The Archipelago
Author:[ profile] serenissima
Recipient: victoria_p
Fandom: Earthsea
Rating: PG, Ged/Tenar
Spoilers: For the entire series, though The Other Wind.
Summary: "And if you ever need me again, call me. I will come. I would come from my grave if you called me, Tenar! But I cannot stay with you." - The Tombs of Atuan.
Assume all standard disclaimers.
Written for: Yuletide 2004

Winter: The Lookfar, Off the North Coast of Havnor

At dusk, the stars began to appear, the constellations familiar yet different to her, for Ged used names from the language that she would have to learn, pointing to each as it hung brilliant in the winter sky: the Falcon, the Dancers, the Heart of the Swan. The sea wind was bitter cold, but eventually, the sound of the waves and the rocking of the boat lulled her, and closing her eyes, Tenar drifted into sleep, remembering the silence of the desert night and the shadows of the clouds. The stone tunnels of the labyrinth were all around her and she was stumbling, surrounded by the dark, searching for something she could not find.

When she awoke, she was huddled in his arms, his brown cloak wrapped about them both for warmth, and he was gently stroking her hair, the way Old Manan had, the way a mother might. He was singing a song as well, humming under his breath - a tune both quiet and soothing, with foreign words and broken phrases. She stirred, wanting to reach out to him, to touch his face, to draw him to her, but something stopped her, stilling her hands; instinctively, she knew that she could not touch him.

Above her head somewhere she heard his voice, the voice that had called her out of Darkness. "Hush, little one. Sleep. I am here." And sleep she did at last, as the stars faded from the sky and they came to the Inmost Sea.

Spring: The Old Mage's House, Re Albi

They did stay in the end, and as the months passed, Aihal's House became as much a home as she had ever known. The weather grew warmer as the nights grew shorter, the sun lingering on the cliff's edge at the close of day. The peach tree put out small white flowers, and together they set about readying the vegetable garden, preparing the soil and hewing out neat furrows for planting. Tehanu was responsible for looking after Sippy and the other goats, and Ged had begun to teach her to recite the Deed of the Young King. Come evening, Tenar could hear their daughter murmuring it in a hoarse, solemn voice until the words faded away, to be replaced by the harsh sound of her breathing as she slept in the little western alcove of the house.

Tenar shared the large bed at the back of the main room with Ged, and at night they lay warm together beneath the covers, often pleasantly exhausted after the day's work. He slept still as a stone most nights, but at times troubling dreams caused him to waken, and then it was she who held him, running her fingers through his hair and pressing kisses to his face.

"For I *can* touch you, now," she whispered, her hand tracing the four scars that ran from his left cheekbone to his jaw.

"It was your touch that brought me out of Darkness," he replied, catching both of her hands in his and kissing them.

Summer: The Slopes of Gont Mountain, Gont

The house seemed emptier without Tehanu, so when the days lengthened and the nights became warm, they went up to the high pastures on Gont Mountain for a season, tending to the flocks and sleeping in a herders' shelter beneath his warm cloak. Tall trees loomed up at the edge of the fields, where wild berries grew ripe on their vines, and there were nuts and roots aplenty to complement the goats' milk. This was sweetness, for Tenar had always loved being in the mountains, and Ged had been born in a nearby village, many years ago. But it was sadness as well, for she could see the way his eyes sought the horizon, and at times he would walk alone in the forest, where she did not follow.

"Do you remember when I asked if you would stay with me in the western mountains of Atuan?" she asked, as the last of the light faded from the sky.

"I told you that I would always come if you needed me, but that I could not stay with you." He sat still for a moment, and then gathered her close in his arms. "Tenar?"

"Hush." Her fingers found his lips, stopping his next words. "Listen to me: I know that you will leave soon; that I have had the loan of you for fifteen years and no more. But these years have been happiness to me, and I believe we will find each other in the end, wherever you go."

Autumn: The Palace, Havnor

In his seventieth year, he went walking in the forest and did not return. Tenar shut up the house for the last time, and took a ship to Havnor. Lebannen and Seserakh welcomed her, for she was much beloved by the young princes, and though she often visited Gont Port and Middle Valley, she remained at Court in the ensuing years. In time, many forgot who she was, assuming she had come with the Queen from Hur-at-Hur. For the world was changing at last, and Ged, the Archmage Sparrowhawk who crossed the dead land living, and Tenar, the White Lady of Atuan who healed the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, were legends of a past age.

In her seventieth year, as the nights turned chill and the leaves began to fall from the trees in the ornamental garden, she dreamt in her bed in the Palace. In that dream, she was young again, they both were, she held him in her arms, laughing, as they lay together beneath the trees of the Immanent Grove, where there is light amidst the darkness. She awoke at dawn, as the Lookfar sailed into Havnor Great Port, guided by no human hand. Walking down to the harbour to meet it, she wore a dress of plain rich black, her hair white with age but loose about her shoulders. The boat departed as the sun rose over the sea, propelled by an unseen mage-wind, heading west beyond the west, as she went to join him at last.
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