After Upashna and The Philosopher refreshed themselves and dressed in the fresh clothing provided by their host Extor, the third gatekeeper of the labyrinths, they meet each other at the entrance to the tent which Extor had also provided for their use and comfort.
“A warm bath in the pool and a set of fresh clothing can make a world of difference in one’s demeanor and outlook upon the world,” said The Philosopher but he stopped in mid sentence as he looked up and saw Upashna. “You are a beautiful woman Upashna.” He caught himself saying out loud.
“Philosopher. You flatter me with your words. Thank you. Are you still concerned with what the gatekeeper will require for your passage?”
“No Upashna. That is no longer a concern. Those hours in the sand and sun were a toll upon my thinking. I do not know what the gatekeeper will ask of me but whatever it is … I will have to wait and see. Extor seems more pleasant than his two brothers. Let’s partake of his offer of food and drink. Then we will be on our way. Do you agree?”
“Yes Philosopher. My sense of urgency seems to have dissipated somewhat now the we are at the third gate. We made the journey in a much shorter time than I thought we would. Yes, I agree. Let’s eat. I am starving even after demolishing the bowl of fruit in my chamber,” said Upashna.
“I also ate all the fruit in my chamber and I am still hungry,” said The Philosopher.
“Greetings Princess and he of no name.” They both looked up and saw their host Extor seated at a table filled with fruits, various meats, potatoes and green salads. “Please join me.” Extor filled the wine goblets as the two made their way to his table.
“Where did you get all of this food and the lavish tent Extor? Are you a wizard,” asked Upashna?
“No, I am not Princess. My brothers and I are from the Whale Isles in the North Reach of EarthSea. We were selected by the Council of Wizards to be gatekeepers for the entrance to the Other Realm. Your father has provided this feast for the two of you in anticipation of your arrival here. He wanted you both to eat well in preparation for your journey into the Other Realm in the morning if he with no name pays the toll. It is also meant as a thank you to he with no name for accompanying his daughter this far if he chooses not to pay the toll,” explained Extor. “If it is your choice to not pay the toll, the Council of Wizards has made an exception for you because of your assistance to the Princess. You will be returned to your enclave in South Port and this adventure will only be remembered as a dream.”
“Princess. You are a princess Upashna?” asks the somewhat bewildered Philosopher. “I can return to my home? Princess? This is all a bit confusing. Am I dreaming?
“Please forgive me Princess if I have spoken out of turn,” says Extor.
“No Extor. It is alright. Do not fret,” answers Upashna. “Yes Philosopher. I am Princess Upashna of EarthSea daughter of the Wizard Baldwin of Swansea and The Wizard Elza of Morocco. I have not received my coronation as wizard yet from the Council. I did not tell you because my title is not a matter of concern. I wanted to be treated as a woman and not a princess. Neither my title nor my magic made any difference in the labyrinth. My individual strength and your support mattered most of all.”
“You are the Princess of EarthSea. Then you are also the princess over Havnor where I grew up in the village of South Port.” The Philosopher stood up and the quickly bowed down on one knee. “My Lady. I am ….” The Philosopher paused as he no longer remembered his name. “My Lady. I am at your service.”
“O’ my Philosopher. Please rise.” The Philosopher obeyed. “You have already served me well. You protected me and healed my ankle. You even carried me when I could not walk. I ask you to continue to treat me as your friend and not your Princess,” said Upashna.
“Yes, my Lady,” answered The Philosopher.
“Yes Upashna?” the princess asked.
“Yes Upashna,” answered the Philosopher. Then they all laugh and started to eat the feast set upon the table before them. Extor shared stories of growing up in the Whale Isles with his brothers and how they met a young Wizard Archmage who convinced them to become guardians of the Gates of the Other Realm. They have never looked back. They serve the Council of Wizards and in return their needs are provided for.
“Thank you Extor for your hospitality and this feast. My regards also to your brothers Mingus and Free, but we should be on our way to the Other Realm.” Upashna was anxious to get going.
“I mean no disrespect Princess but your father provided your quarters and this feast. He also instructed me to have you remain here until sunrise which is the best time to catch the currents of the other wind. It is now midnight in the Other Realm. There is only darkness on the other side of the gate,” said Extor.
“I understand,” replied Upashna. “In that case I can get some sleep and we will meet again in the morning.”
“I thought the use of magic was forbidden in the labyrinths. How was your father, the Wizard Baldwin of Swansea able to provide this feast and send a sparrow hawk to guide us here,” asked The Philosopher?
“Magic can only be provided from outside the labyrinths. Magic cannot be used inside the labyrinth and no life forms are permitted inside the labyrinth other than vegetation or humans. I cannot explain the sparrow hawk. Perhaps it was an hallucination from the heat,” replied Extor.
“I thought it was sent by my father but he would not break the rules of the Council of Wizards so it must have been an hallucination,” says Upashna.
“I do not know,” says the Philosopher. “I am tired, my stomach is full and if tomorrow is anything like today, I am going to need some rest. Thank you for your hospitality Extor. I gave your brother Mangus my name and your brother Free my desire. I do not know what you will ask of me but it will have to wait until morning. I am too tired to decide anything else today. Good night Princess Upashna.” He realize his departure was a bit abrupt but he was having difficulty with knowing Upashna was a princess. He looked upon and liked her as a woman.
“I must tell you he with no name. Not many of us get to know who or what we are,” said the gatekeeper. “A glimpse is usually all we get. Your decision tomorrow will determine the size of your glimpse.”
The philosopher makes his way to the tent and to his bed. He starts to fall asleep while thinking quietly of Extor’s words and trying to digest Upashna being the Princess of EarthSea.
“He is the spitting image of his father,” says Extor.
“He does not know. He never knew his father,” replies Upashna.
…to be continued.