Twilight, with grasping hands, draws the sun to her breast,
pulls him into the dark, the deep beneath the worlds.
Adorned in silver pearls, the first moon rises up,
climbs the heavens at speed, sickle-sharp for harvest.
Avenath the solider, he takes his place also,
the wargod rarely seen, yet awful to behold.
On the beach of Alba, the seven-mountain land,
Avren the Heron sleeps, surrounded by his men,
nine goodly companions, his crew for the journey.
Long Passage has sapped them; Ocean has tired them.
They breathe, but not deeply. They dream, but not gently.
Twelve hundred days and nights they have sailed on the deep.
No more strength is in them, not for many days yet,
will they wake from slumber, the sleep of exhaustion.
Yet their coming is known: The Albans saw the sails.
And one saw not the ship, nor its broad linen spread
to catch wind in a bag like the greedy merchant
sweeps up his silver coins and puts them all away.
Behold, dark Arlean, who leaves her father’s house
to stand in the storm breeze by the oak-shadowed gate,
the white shawl of seeing wrapped around her body,
and green eyes piercing storm, to seek a true vision.
See her strong fingers, most skillful on the loom,
and how her features frown to see Avren’s coming.
The white shawl women know, more than other women,
what consequences fall from any deed or act.
Arlean sees him now, stretched sleeping on the beach,
a man from no kindred, no family or house,
setting foot on Alba: a man from far away,
And with him nine good friends, men of noble bearing.
She knew the prophecies, and saw the destinies
of her people writ large on the threads of her loom.
The white shawl women know not to fight fate too much,
yet Arlean saw far, and saw much to be feared,
in the changes the men brought, the ways from far away.
Her shawl dragged in the mud, the tassles became wet,
her feet ground them in dirt, and her sight became fogged.
Yet she went back inside, to the throne at the hearth,
to the man who sat there, the chief of the island,
her father’s own brother, Kembirel the crafty.
“Uncle,” she spoke and bowed, “There are men on the beach:
The storm has brought them here, a ship full of pirates.
They kept their vessel safe through the winter heaving,
yet they come from Barra, or Mardien, perhaps,
and mean to do us harm, unless we fight them off.”
Kembirel spoke to her, his niece whom he adored,
even as he arose, and went to claim his sword,
a blade of star-iron crafted in Gorsann’s time.
None make blades like that now, none know the way of it,
and it was an heirloom, a treasure of that house
with the oak at its gate, the house Kembrin built
when he came to Alba in days before the Flood.
“The white shawl showed you this, and revealed it to you?
I will summon the men, and we will be ready.
When they come against us, we will pour out their blood.”
He buckled on his blade, and went to the gate.
There he sounded his horn, the curving ivory,
and gave the warning note to summon his brothers,
and call the men to arms from every farm nearby.
“We can ambush them here,” said Kembirel, well-pleased.