Benda left his audience with Emachus, the High Augur, in good spirits. He returned straight away to the private apartments he shared with Tendar and Ofend, his countrymen, attached to a prominent inn on Temple Mount.
Finding them both there at their leisure — an unusual occurrence recently with their busy schedules participating in the endless pageants of the Temple — he enjoined them to listen a while by the fire as he related all that the High Augur said to him.
When he was finished, Tendar spoke first:
“It is good, Benda, that you return to the Five Kingdom to retrieve your family. But as you know, I myself have none. Though I will be saddened at your departure, I elect to remain here. These people have become as much my family as I’ve ever had.”
Ofend nodded vigorously at this last statement, adding, “For my part, I whole-heartedly agree. Never have I known such joy as on these gentle shores. But I would be sorely aggrieved were I never to see my poor elderly mother again. I will accompany you, dear Benda, that we may all return here after, and settle on the island of Ovarion which has been so graciously granted to us by our hosts.”
“It pains me to part company, Tendar,” Benda said. “As I see myself responsible for our having been lost in the storm at sea and landing here. Will you not reconsider?”
Tenda replied gently, “Trouble yourself not, dear Benda. For though your strengths are many, you control not the storms at sea. It was my choice to embark with you both to begin with. And if you feel yourself responsible for our current predicament, know that it is indeed not a predicament at all, but a delight. To the extent you can claim responsibility for my present state, claim it surely for that.”
Benda smiled. “That is very generous, old friend.”
“After a time,” Tendar responded, “I will go first to Ovarion, and begin preparing a place for the happy return of you both with your families, and perhaps I with my own, with any luck!”
“In this, and in all things, I wish you then good fortune, dear friend!”
“Then, it is settled,” he continued. “You shall have our brave fishing vessel which brought us here in the first at your disposal. Though she has seen one too many storms at sea, I have no doubt she may still ply the coasts of this country without disturbance.”
The day of departure was planned, and within a fortnight arrived. The Quatrian vessel granted to Benda by the High Augur himself, though small, proved to be quite trusty. And it was laden with supplies to weather the voyage back to Kremel. Ofend and Benda made their final preparations, while Tendar looked on, with Emachus, the High Augur, and Garth Al Elum, who was among the first to welcome them to this land.
“May your voyage be uneventful, and your return swift,” proclaimed the High Augur.
“Thank you,” said Benda, standing on deck, looking down at them on the docks.
“Though it bode not well for us, your desire to be reunited with your family is a testament to your character,” Emachus said. “I ask you only consider one thing…”
“If it be within my power, and my reason prove it out to be good counsel, I will obey,” Benda replied.
“Your reason may well abhor what I am about to ask,” said Emachus. “But I beseech you once again: return to your country, and retrieve your family. But do so in stealth. Take the guise of simple merchants — from any land but this one. And report back not to your king, nor any of the Five Kings. Put your honor for a moment aside, return here in all haste without revealing the secret of our continued existence. In this manner, we may elide the vicissitudes of fate’s passing footprint in the coming moments…”
Benda was silent a long time. “Were it asked by any other,” he said. “I would not for a moment consider forsaking my duty to tell my king all I’ve seen in this fair land. Further, it is my firm belief and certainty that our peoples would both be enriched by renewed contact after these countless generations sundered from you, our own lost cousins… Though I cannot promise you I will go against my honor and deny my king of this amazing and joyous re-discovery, I will deeply consider your request as we sail homeward. And I promise that so long as I live, no harm shall come to Quatria.”
Emachus smiled, for he knew that once the Kremellians learned again about the lost land of Quatria, the promise Benda made would be no longer within his power alone to keep. Still, he admired him for the purity of hear which caused him to make it.
Emachus pulled then from the folds of his cloak an instrument, a small harp. He held it up before him, beckoning to Benda:
“Take this then as a parting gift, the harp Eril. So long as music is played upon its strings, the spirit of Quatria shall remain. And you and yours shall ever be able to find your way back here again.”
Benda accepted it solemnly with a great bow.
“Though it has been restored and tuned to suit your voice, its heart comes from a much older instrument, the tale of which I will tell you in full when you return hence.”
For Ofend, meanwhile, he produced a simple but beautiful flute of the kind so frequently seen in that country. He handed it to him, saying:
“Play it and all doors shall be opened to you in time of need.”
“I humbly accept,” Ofend said, himself bowing low.
They each embraced in turn. Benda and Ofend boarded the vessel. And no sooner than had they re-boarded than a gentle wind picked up. Benda unlashed the vessel, and they slipped silently from the dock into the Bay of Erasure.
As they floated softly out toward the opening of the Bay, and the sea beyond, Benda plucked gently at the harp named Eril. Hearing this, Ofend took up the flute to accompany him. While they played, they passed without incident through the gates of the Bay of Erasure, between the towers of Raggath and Jyagar, into the sea beyond. And though they did not yet realize it, their memories of the weeks and months they had spent in that land began to slip silently away from them.