When Benda Lost was once again quite certain that his companion, Eradus, had fallen asleep again, he said to Banarat, “I — I believe I’ve been there…”
Banarat, who was lost in thought, only responded, “Hm?”
“The land over the sea. I, I came from there.”
Banarat’s eyes twinkled. “You say you came from there, but surely you don’t come from there.”
“What do you mean?”
The old man laughed, “Why, though your skill as a singer is undeniable, you speak Quatrian with the tongue of a southern fisherman.”
“Fisherman?” Benda’s mind suddenly flashed back to him laying flat on his stomach on a boat, in a tremendous storm. Someone had just fallen overboard. A fisherman.
Banarat stroked his chin, contemplating. “If I were a betting man — and I’m not (I believe in making one’s own weather )— I would say… likely from one of the sea villages outside Cannaxus, the Fourth Kingdom.”
“Cannax — ” Benda’s pronunciation of the name of his homeland was cut short by another flash of memory: he was standing on a quay, the portly fisherman standing by his side, and with him was another taller fisherman he’d known since his youth, who was staying behind. And a peculiar old man was there to see them off. In his memory, he could almost make out the words the old man said to him. Something about a king, and a secret.
“I,” Benda stammered. “The king — ” he stopped short. And then the memory struck him like thunder, “My wife!”
Banarat only nodded slightly, knowingly.
“And… my… son,” Benda said the word, and suddenly the image of his wife, and their infant son hung in the night air before him.
“Lualla,” Benda stroked the air, where his wife would have been, were she not just an apparition called out of the depths of his forgetfulness. “Sol,” he said gingerly, his son.
“You remember now,” Banarat surmised.
“Everything,” Benda said.
The warning, then, the High Augur had made to him on the dock before his departure flashed through his awareness. To tell no one of his journey to that hidden land, Quatria. To simply go and retrieve his wife and child, and he could return quietly in peace and tranquility to that land, and live out his days in joy. But it meant betrayal to his King, the King of Cannaxus, who, by rights claimed the first fruits of all farmers, hunters, and all fishermen. And what was the re-discovery of this long-forgotten land, but a fruit — a jewel really — of that endless, boundless sea?
But what would come of that marvelous land, if its secrets were exposed? And would that happy place there prepared for him, and his friends, and family, on that enchanted Isle of Ovarion, off the coast of Quatria, on the borders between the Houses of Song and Silence — would it be still there waiting for him? And Lualla, was she too still there waiting for him in their home in their small fishing village? Or had she left, and gone to her mother’s, or taken up with some other man in his absence? He pushed the thought from his mind, and focused his imagination on the face of his boy, Sol.
Alarmed, Benda said aloud at last, “How long have I been gone?”
“The days,” Banarat explained, “as they are reckoned here in High Dock castle, are not the same as they are reckoned in the Five Kingdoms of Kremel, nor in that hallowed land, from which you’ve lately come.”
“Speak to me plain, wizard,” Benda said. “For I am no longer Lost, but I am not yet Found. When I am, Benda shall I be, and my life will begin again. Until then, a Seeker shall I be.”
“Seeker, then,” Banarat said. “Know this, that each world is but a flower on the Vine which climbs Great Tree. From bud to bloom each go we, according to our season, passing one day into decay.”
“Kremel is in florescence, and is reaching ever outward. Quatria is a fat fruit, whose petals have long since fallen. Perhaps she draws a few chosen she has called for her own secret reasons, to steward her through her final hours, and make sure her seeds fall on fresh earth. And all is not forgotten.”
“For fresh earth there is in Elgorra,” Banarat continued, “whose buds have not yet opened, who waits still her day when the quickening comes.”
Benda Seeker was frustrated with this response, shaking his head. “Riddles, and mysteries. Tales of other times, and other worlds. Is that all you’re made of, magician?”
His eyes twinkled, “It’s all I have left now.”
“Know you not then, the future?” Benda asked.
“Nay, that much remains a mystery to us all, even those who interpret signs and portents. I do know the past. And I know the way of things. I sense the hidden trajectories of far off currents still being born. And I hear on the wind all that reaches these airs.”
“And what reaches them, pray tell,” Benda demanded, “from the lands of the south, from Cannaxus, and from my village?”
“Lualla yet lives, and has not been faithless. Though she spent many a night crying for your loss, she has ever kept your home, these three long years since your absence. She knows in her heart you are still alive, and with your young son, she awaits your return.”
“I must go to her, then, at once.”
“And so you shall,” Banarat agreed.
“But beware one thing.”
“What is it?”
“The counter-current. The eagle who flies by day, and the man who appears by night.”
Benda recalled his dream in the hollow as they ascended the Cloud Spire, and the mysterious figure who first caused Benda’s memory and attention to be cast backward to Quatria.
“That figure was not you?” Benda assumed it had been, that the eagle was a function of the wizard Banarat, as was the apparition.
“Did he look like me?” Banarat remarked, knowing the answer.
Benda remembered him as taller, younger, darker of hair, clothed in a long blue robe.
“No,” Benda replied.
“I should hope not!” Banarat exclaimed. “For he isn’t half as handsome!”
Benda smiled, “Who is he, then?”
“He is called Murta. And in addition to being a shape-shifter, he is Lord High Protector of Holmat, and the third King of Kremel. Through his kingdom — and under his eye — you must pass before returning to your home.”