Orien: XXVII. Avren’s Voyage to Pendaran

This was their sailing route, from fair-wooded Alba
To happy Pendaran, in the early autumn.
When the new moon arrose, they set out together,
Avren, Pramil and crew, from the eastern harbor,
And turned their boat southward, to ride the great current
That runs between Senlak and mountained Kemblis.
Past Avren’s long, clean beach, storm-swept of kelp and trash,
Sails and current bore them, and around the breakers
At Kalden’s sunny point, where the cliffs are purple
With porphyry’s rich veins, and the white beacon stands:
Triangular it seems, that limestone obelisk
When seen from the ocean. The past the little minch,
Where the tide oft roils, and between the Seal Rocks
Where the seals sun themselves, and into the Long Sound,
That some men refer to as the Road of Lanterns.

They guided us that night, those mighty lighthouses.
The wide island of Vonn where the sheep are grazing,
That appeared on the port; we kept it on that side
Keeping well off her cliffs, observing her lighthouse.
They say the keeper’s mad, and I believe it’s true,
A crimson hood of strength. We rowed past there all night;
Dawn found us north of there in sustantial relief.
Then Koborn Point to port, with Tam Head to starboard,
Wooded atop high cliffs — That was Alba we saw,
Before our returning and all Avren’s changes.
Then the gap in the cliffs: we looked into westport,
Or what would be Westport after channel dredging
In the reign of Avren. We did not sail in there,
But tacked ‘round Kebbin’s reef with Inch island to port.
That was two day’s sailing, East Harbor to Westport.

We entered not the Bay with its two famous towns,
Kemblis Port and Kennon, to northeast and southwest
Down those ocean-carved fjords to well-tilled farmland,
Shell-fish growing marshes, and well built towns of stone.
Her house lies up that way, beyond Kemblis Port’s wharves:
The Oracle’s precinct, where the chief White Shawl dwells.
She gives answers men fear. Even so, men seek them,
And bring her golden gifts and polished gems of price
To hear her prophesy and predict destiny.
Avoid her house if you can, her words are always true
If you should hear her speak. Fate can be avoided
If you have a chance to act without prior foresight.
Instead we went up-Sound, following the current,
Northeast past Iseng’s Head where the cliffs have red stripes
And the Havelyn brook empties over the rocks.

At dusk we found ourselves off Alba’s northward coast,
Having ridden the tides clear round our home island.
We turned our bow northeast, and crossed the wide water,
Meeting with the blue geese who make their migration
Southward from Pendaran when harvest moon waxes.
Pramil took sunsightings on the following day
When the nye-birds cackled and dove for their supper
In the Ocean’s wide sway. We changed course just slightly,
A degree to the east, then slept beneath the moon
Until dawn approached us with her candle-wreathed hair
And woke us to duty, our watch for distant cloud.
We saw it to the north, just slightly to the east,
A great cumulus stack, Pendaran’s signature,
Its noble cloud-shadow formed by sky-raking hills,
Moisture-gouging mountains battling the north wind.

Here we began to tack, beating across the wind
Clawing our way forward a little by little.
The wind was in our face. Our hair whipped our noses,
Strong enough to break us or call tears to the eyes.
We leaned into that wind, placed our whole trust in it,
Gave it all of our weight, and still it held us up.
The waves were not too bad, just forty spans or so.
We bailed continually, and our mittens were soaked
With cold ocean water for two miserable days
While we tacked back and forth to happy Pendaran.
Once in the island’s lee, the wind was not so bad,
And we found it easy to sail up Pendar Sound
To the town of grey walls and roofs of blue tile
Where the hold the book fair in every Kodoss-month,
Until the Owl’s-month ends and the winter sets in.

So we made the crossing as it is ever made,
When men should seek the throne:
In a boat made of leather, with oak keel, alder frame,
From somewhere oversea and rebuilt in Alba;
with captain and nine crew and no other cargo
besides their belongings, their ocean-going kit.
Avren was our captain, and Pramil the pilot
As Crimson Hoods should be; and eight other sailors
From Tarvenis came too. Nine days took the crossing,
Nine days across water, as the White Shawls decreed
In times before the kings. We came to Pendar town,
Exact as we could do, using the proper way
Set down so long ago. We came to the book-fair
At the proper moment, with no books to barter,
Nor scrolls nor codices, nor any written page.

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