The Naming Of Names
by Victoria P.

"Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable." ~WH Auden

Ghost fingers of fog shadow the trees and hide the mountain.

She runs, feeling as if her heart will burst from her chest. Branches catch at her clothes, snag in her hair. Still, she runs.

She knows this path like the back of her hand, a childhood spent wandering aimlessly, unwatched and unwanted, coming to her aid now.

She sees a soft light glimmering through the mist, silvering the trees ahead.

Is it a trap? Have they gotten in front of her? Are they even now surrounding her?

She clutches the stake in her right hand, checks the hilt of the knife at her belt with her left.

They've killed her master, but she's stronger than he is. Was. She's not used to thinking of him as dead, and she knows she can't right now, or the grief will paralyze her and she'll be dead, too.

His last words echo in her head. "Ogion will take you in. He will protect you." Everyone raised on Gont knows of Ogion, who held back the earthquake so many years ago. He lives quietly in the Old Mage's House, and that's where she's heading now.

The demons were many and they were strong; she pieces it together as she runs. Normally they hunt alone or in pairs. The group that attacked her and her master was unusually large.

They must have known of her presence, and they banded together to destroy her.

But she escaped, at the cost of Root's life. Even so, for them, it is a huge victory to kill a wizard and break his staff.

She chokes back a sob and mutters to herself, "The Old Mage's House," as if it were one of Root's spells to keep her safe.

She's sure she can survive if she can get to the Old Mage's House.

She is...


She lands on something soft. It grunts, resolves itself into a man as she blinks to clear her vision.

Grey cloak. Yew staff.


They stand almost simultaneously. He's a few inches taller than she, so not tall. Dark hair, eyes, skin, lean, his clothes shabby under the grey cloak of Roke. She feels his eyes on her and knows she looks like the vagabond she is -- leather breeches, rough cotton tunic, dark hair full of leaves, escaping the tight bun in which she keeps it wound.

"Master wizard," she says, her voice even despite the frantic run through the wood. She's already recovering.

"Are you all right?" His voice is deep, concerned, comforting.

"It's not safe here," she says, breathing deeply, centering herself. "The demons, the blood drinkers--"

His eyes widen. "Orglath," he whispers, naming them in the Speech of the Making. She shivers involuntarily -- to name a thing is to call it, and the orglath are far too close for such casual mention. "I will protect you," he says, his face grim and set. His cloak swirls about his shoulders and he reaches for his knife. It's long, she notes, a hunting knife, well-blooded. Not an ideal weapon to fight the blood drinkers, but she has only the one stake left and isn't willing to part with it yet.

She notices the scar on his cheek -- five gashes black against the deep bronze of his skin. He knows the darkness; it has left its mark on him.

She suddenly feels safer, even though he has it wrong -- she will protect him. A slayer and a wizard -- that's how demons ought to be fought. She was feeling lost and unbalanced since Root's death but now her equilibrium is restored. She has no time to tell him, though, because the first of the demons leaps out of the trees and tackles her.

She wrestles with it, kicking hard and jumping to her feet, plunging the stake into its heart before it has a chance to get off the ground.

Two more hurtle through the woods and attack, eyes glinting yellow in the dim light clinging to the end of the wizard's staff. She launches another kick, striking one in the shoulder. She spins and plants the stake into the chest of the second one, who explodes into a cloud of dust.

The wizard beheads the third one with his knife as the leader enters the clearing. She recognizes him -- riding leathers, long, greasy hair, his tunic stained with the blood of her master. Two more demons follow.

Instinct takes over. She is a weapon forged in magic and fire, destined to fight darkness wherever she goes.

Ducking, rolling, punching, staking. She is a flurry of motion, focused only on the task at hand. She's done with the demons before the wizard has a chance to join in again.

When she comes back to herself, the rush of battle still singing in her veins, she notices he's crouching behind her, knife in hand, and wonders why he called no magic fire to help her, as her master used to do.

They stare at each other for a moment, and then she says, with a low bow, "I am called Fin."

He graciously inclines his head in return. "I am Sparrowhawk."

She gasps at the name; after all that has happened tonight, this is the one thing that surprises her. She may live on the fringes, going from isle to isle, spending her nights on the hunt, but she has heard of him. All of Earthsea knows his name.

"The dragonlord."

He laughs, which makes her blink again. "The dragons have no lords among men, little one. I was lucky they chose to speak with me instead of eating me. That's all."

He seems embarrassed by her admiration, his manner humble.

"The blood drinkers don't give us that choice," she says.

"I've heard the rumors, but--" He stops, scans the area, and she can easily see him as a hawk, fierce and regal, riding the winds over Gont. "It's not safe out here. Come with me to my master's house."

He leads the way and she follows.

She finds herself telling him her story, the story no one has ever asked to hear.

She has no recollection of her family. Her childhood was spent with Calla, the village witch in a hamlet so small it's not even marked on the maps of Gont she has seen since then. She fetched and carried for the old woman, who had no grandchildren of her own, and almost as an afterthought, learned the ancient lore handed down among women, that men have no desire to know.

At twelve, a mage came to the village and named her by the waterfall that she bathed in once a week.

The next day, he took her back to Roke -- Root, he was called, and he became her master, watching over her while she learned more about the orglath than even old Calla had been able to teach her.

While she had never been allowed inside the school itself, the Master Namer and the Summoner both came to Thwil Town to meet her and complete her training. At fourteen she had been Called, her strength increasing and her fighting skills honed to preternatural sharpness.

With Root she set off to fight the forces of darkness all around the Archipelago, from the East Reach almost to Selidor.

"But they killed him tonight," she says as they reach the Old Mage's House north of Re Albi. "Four years together and I failed him when it counted most." Guilt and sorrow are beginning to cut through her numbness and the overwhelming urge to survive; her voice is a bare whisper, cracked and hoarse.

Sparrowhawk offers no words of comfort beyond, "We will be safe here."

He opens the door, his hand warm and strong under her elbow, and she knows he speaks the truth. The orglath cannot enter a house unless invited.

Ogion greets them silently, no surprise evident on his careworn face. There are three mugs of hot tea on the kitchen table, waiting.

Fin doesn't question. She knows she is only a vessel though which great power works. These men are wise and learned -- they will tell her what to do.

"The legends are true?" Sparrowhawk asks as they sip the fragrant tea.

Ogion nods. "Aye. One girl in all the world, called to fight the powers of darkness."

"We maintain the equilibrium," she murmurs, mouthing the words the Master Summoner had taught her. "Through us the Old Powers flow."

"Since Segoy raised ea, it has been thus," Ogion says. He stands abruptly. "Come, our guest is tired." And she suddenly remembers that he is called, 'the Silent.' He has spoken his fill for the night. He shows her the pallet next to the fire and she slips down upon it gracefully, gratefully.


She wakes to the scent of tea. Sparrowhawk stands before her, holding out a mug. "Good morning, Fin."

She smiles at his grave courtesy. To most people, she is an outcast, a beggar, not even a witch to be feared, and certainly not a respectable maiden. But these two powerful, wise men are treating her like an equal, an honored guest.

"Good morning," she replies, shaking the sleep out of her eyes and taking the mug.

She holds it tightly; it warms her against the chill of the dawn. Part of her longs to stay here, safe, guarded against the darkness by powerful mages. Home.

But she knows her life is out in the world. There is no home for her, no rest until she's dead. She takes her calling seriously, though the wizards often treat her like a child.

"You saved my life last night," he says.

"No--" she surprises herself by interrupting him. Such behavior would not be tolerated on Roke, but he is less -- not less powerful, but less proud than the other mages she's met. He and Ogion both seem at ease in their skins, in the world. "You are a dragonlord. Surely the blood drinkers hold no sway over such a powerful wizard."

He laughs, which delights her. Root had been a serious man, given to pomposity, with little use for levity.

"We are taught the legends of the orglath," again he uses the Old Speech and it sends a chill through her bones. He is very brave to name them so casually, even safe within the Old Mage's House, in daylight where they cannot fare. He is braver than she in that regard, or perhaps it is just that a man who has spoken with dragons need not fear the dark. "But we are also taught that that's all they are -- legends." He shakes his head. "People should be informed. No one should be ignorant--"

Again she interrupts. "People know. That is why they tolerate me. The kindness of the people I protect clothes and feeds me." Her voice is resigned; she's surprised that he doesn't know this, but then she realizes that Roke guards its secrets well, even from its own. Until last night, he had no need to know, thus, he had never been told.

"You shouldn't have to wander and beg."

She shrugs. "Most people are comfortable in the world. They see only what they want to, and can forget that the Old Powers exist. I am a reminder of all that is not peaceful, and that disturbs them. They don't like being reminded."

"You could stay with Ogion. He is a kind master. I lived here once, and foolishly chose to leave. That was before I knew how good it was to live in silence, in peace."

She shakes her head. "I can't. I have a duty -- there are lives to be saved, demons to be fought." She tucks her feet under herself, feeling very small and alone. "Will you inform Roke that my master is dead, and that I am here on Gont, and will be, until I am called to go elsewhere?"

"I will," he promises, and she feels tears spring to her eyes. She'd like nothing more than to stay here with him and Ogion, cooking and cleaning for them, making a home.

Ogion returns then, and he and Sparrowhawk prepare breakfast in companionable silence while Fin watches, amazed that two wizards don't just summon up a meal, but instead crack eggs and stir porridge like everyone else. They don't let her help, which baffles and yet delights her.

When they are done, Sparrowhawk walks her to the path. "I meant what I said. You saved my life. If ever you need me, my true name is Ged. Call and I will come." She stares in shock. "Go, Anila. Be safe."

Again the tears burn the back of her eyes, but she blinks them away. "Thank you."

They clasp hands for a moment -- she is amazed that he treats her with such respect, as an equal, and she smiles at the sound of her true name.




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