Kor-Sen watched the performance, but said nothing.
‘What we have here,’ continued the trader, ‘is a dusty individual’—laughter—’But why is it dusty? Because it has walked across the Green in the middle of the day. And why has it done that? Because it doesn’t know any better, that’s why. But why has it come here? It ain’t a trader: it hasn’t got no goods. It can’t have come to study with Tendanta the Wise up in the Citadel on the hill: it’s too old and tatty for that game. It must be a beggar.’
The speaker bowed as his audience laughed and applauded.
Kor-Sen smiled and held up his hand for silence. ‘May I add a comment to this learned discourse? Observation is indeed important, but so is the art of asking the right questions: if you had asked, I would have informed you that, contrary to appearances, I am immensely rich and would have rewarded politeness and hospitality with great munificence: since you have been both rude and offensive, my generous inclinations have been thwarted. The lesson for you is: if you seek wealth and happiness, look beneath the surface of things. I thank you for your welcome, and for providing me with what I required.’
Saranna stood desolate near the edge of the water. She looked down and swayed giddily. By some trick of the full moon, the silver light penetrated the depths, and the pool showed deepness beyond imagining, deeper it seemed than all the oceans she had crossed on her journeyings. She took a step backwards, but felt her way blocked by something soft and solid. A little scream of pure terror burst from her, and she looked round. The white doe, silvered by the moonlight, stood behind her, pushing her to the brink of the pool. Kingsfall spread its clear veil across the face of the rock like a mirror of polished silver. Saranna thought she saw in this mirror a white form, flowing and indistinct, at times becoming clearer and then breaking up again in the shifting flow of the lucid water against the ancient stone. It resembled the image of a woman, and straining to see the face she stepped so close to the water’s edge that her bare toes were wetted. The doe vanished as silently as she had come.
‘Now, Your Majesty, let us think about all this.’
‘Yes, if you are the king foretold.’
‘Oh – what has all that to do with me? With Arel the shepherd of Telan? How can I change myself into a King just because they want me to?’
‘But you do not have to change yourself – what were you best at in your old life?’
‘Caring for my sheep.’
‘How did you do that?’
‘Well, you know that, Saranna. I watched them and guarded them and led them and talked to them and got to know them all as well as I could – – what?’
‘That is it!’ Saranna shouted. ‘That is how to be a King!’
The sheep fled, startled.
‘It is? Is it?’
‘Yes, it is. Your job is to draw the two kindreds together, to lead them forward in peace – who better than a shepherd to do that?’
Soon they settled down for the night, and fell deeply asleep. They woke in the morning to bright sunlight and the noise of rushing water.
‘What has happened? Where are we?’
Saranna did not reply. Wordlessly she stared at the wide path that had appeared while they slept. It cut a broad swathe through the trees, and their campsite was on its verge. To their left and to their right, it stretched away into a gold-green dimness, immeasurably far off. Above, a strip of clear blue sky was visible, and the lacy green treetops swayed overhead.
‘What is that water sound?’
Willowood listened for a moment, then ran across the pathway and into the trees on the other side. Saranna started after her, and heard her calling out,
‘Look, come and look!’
She caught up with Willowood, who was standing looking at a steep slope that suddenly plunged down ahead of her. A stream came leaping out of the rocks just below them, rushing and tumbling down through the forest, in and out around the trees, over stones and under ancient roots.
‘A pool, a pool!’ shrieked Willowood.
(IMAGE (C) E.R.TYNDALL)
For many hours they trailed after the golden bird; the forest darkened again around them. Time and again it fluttered off again into the darkness, while they tried to hurry after it through the treacherous undergrowth and over the vast gnarled roots of the trees. Miles and miles they covered, and were sobbing with exhaustion when Willowood cried, ‘It’s gone, it’s gone, I cannot see it! Saranna, what shall we do, we are lost!’
‘Ssh, ssh, be calm, Willowood. It is evening now and we must rest. Perhaps the bird will come back to us tomorrow.’
‘Perhaps it won’t. But you never know,’ said a totally strange voice.
Saranna picked up her bundle and stepped into the wood, seeming to Willowood to vanish almost at once in the deep shadow.
‘Wait!’ she shrieked, and plunged after her companion.
She found her just a pace or two into the forest, and seized her hand. ‘Saranna, we must keep together, please, I thought you were gone!’
So they held hands as they walked on into the depths of the Forest Lands, like two children adrift among the trees. Far, far above their heads a glimmer of golden light penetrated into the topmost branches, but soon died away into greenness, hardly illuminating the forest floor. It was cool, almost chilly, and there were no pathways, no sign that anyone might have passed that way before, and no sounds at all. They walked on and on between the trees, losing all sense of direction. Gradually the darkness grew completely impenetrable, and they halted.
Saranna said, ‘I thought you had taught me how to bear parting and grief. But this is hard to bear.’
‘My dear lady, we will endure this and other sorrows still to come.’
‘How? How and why do mortals bear so much grief?’
‘As for why, that is out of my knowledge. But how – well, we move on because we have somewhere to go; and because it is never possible for mortals to move backwards. Time does not allow it, Saranna. We cannot go back and we cannot stay still – so we go on. And our love for each other, which brings this pain, will give us also the strength to bear it. For we must go, my dear, I to my destiny and you to yours.’
‘You to study the stars and I to find my lost child. Yes, you are right. And we will be strong.’
They carried Kor-Sen’s bundles down the stairs and loaded them onto the broad back of Oakapple. One long last embrace, and then Saranna stood at the door of the Inn to watch Kor-Sen ride away towards the south, through the town to the coast road. He did not look back.
This is a very enjoyable novella. As some of the other reviews have noted, it’s more in the style of a saga or fairy tale than the typical novelistic mode, and there are several particularly excellent episodes (my favourite is the tale of two brothers right at the start, but the story of Princess Sorrow comes a close second). This mode tends to be more concise, and there is a very great deal to find within these slim covers. The book does a particularly good job of painting mind-images, and encapsulated a theme or a moment in an image or event. – Nelson Goering, on Amazon
A therapeutic fairytale… I could not put this down, the writing is just beautiful, it is well thought out, well planned and full of magic. The character of Perian has flaws that are very human and extremely relatable, yet, ultimately, he is on his own hero’s journey, he returns to his call time and again, including the ultimate journey, meeting, confronting and coming to peace with his own fears.
Thank you for this writing, it moved me a great deal... thoroughly recommended. – Amazon Customer
Perian’s Journey fits neatly into a tradition of myth and fantasy, with echoes from Arthurian legend, fairy tale, and Tolkien-era fantasy that allude to its precursors without ever falling prey to cliché or outright imitation. Shiloh Carroll; in Mythprint.
Wizards and dragons be here but the Hero’s quest is ultimately one of heart and mind where Perian finds, forgets and remembers, through a process of inexorable change, both who he is and what matters most. stephenkingfan; on Amazon
Saranna hastened after her companion, and found him seated at his ease on the veranda of a handsome building on the very edge of the town, with a view across lush green meadows to the river, and the forest beyond. Close to the Inn stood the mighty oak tree that gave it its name.
‘This ale is indeed excellent. The girl will bring you some forthwith.’
Saranna smiled. ‘When I am a very old woman, and I remember you, the first thing I will think of is the two of us drinking together, toasting this and that, and passing severe judgement on the quality of the ale or wine!’
‘And when you are a very old woman, I trust you will remember also that I loved you, Saranna, as much as it lies in my heart to love. I wish you many years of happiness, wherever your journey ends.’
They sat together hand in hand, quiet and thoughtful.
Drewin learnt quickly, just as he had done in the Cavern, but he failed to master one skill: he could not find his way through the grass unaided. Chafrash tried to teach him: she drew maps on the ground to show where they were going; she explained how he should watch his shadow to adjust for the movement of the sun; she showed him how to keep to a straight line by feeling the wind on his face and watching the way the grass leaned. But to her it was second nature, something she had been able to do since childhood, and she could not really explain it to Drewin. Sometimes she would let him lead the way and try to let him learn by his mistakes, but he soon veered from the true direction, and she would have to correct him or face a very long journey. When they met other travellers she would sometimes discuss the problem with them, but usually they thought it was very funny. Before long, all the peoples of the plain knew of his affliction, and he became known as ‘Tendanta the wise, who does not know his way home.’