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Islands of Sorcerers and Unlikely Pilgrims

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

No one really liked Duny. The boy was wild, proud, and full of temper-- well-suited to the company of the goats he herded. Then came the day when he overheard his aunt chanting a spell to call her goat down from the roof of her house. He remembered the rhyme and later spoke it to his own herd:

"Noth hierth malk man hiolk han merth han!"

The first time he said it, they came to him all together, staring with their yellow eyes. Duny laughed and shouted the rhyme again. They pushed towards him with their thick, ridged horns. Duny ran all the way to town with the goats close beside. The villagers laughed at him and cursed the animals.

One woman did not laugh. She said a word to the goats, and they dispersed, returning to their grazing and bleating. This spell-speaker was Duny's aunt. She had done the necessary things for him when he was small and motherless, but for some years she had thought nothing more about him.

"Come with me," she said to Duny.

She magically bound the boy to silence and would have bound him to her service if she could. But Duny was too strong. Every day that he studied with his witch aunt, he became stronger. He began to learn the true names of things, for every creature, including himself, had one, and, by knowing their names, a magician might hold them in his power.

The island of Gont where Duny lived was nothing more than a mountain in a storm-tossed sea. The larger events of Earthsea often passed them by completely. Yet a raiding party from the Kargad Empire could not resist making Gont their next conquest. As the smoke climbed to darken the sky above the village, the people sharpened their spears and waited, little knowing their fate would lie in the hands of the witch's apprentice.

The Wizard of Earthsea is the first book of the Earthsea trilogy which traces the remarkable adventures of the great wizard Sparrowhawk, who was once known as Duny.

The Ramsay Scallop by Frances Temple

I would be so happy, Elenor thought, if only I were in good company. She tilted her face up to the sun that dappled the trees. Mab skittered along the road at dancing gait. Elenor chose ideal companions: Helen, Elise. Maybe Billy. Elenor tried to stay well ahead of Thomas. He rides as if pilgrimage were a chore, she thought. Killjoy.

Fourteen-year-old Elenor did not wish to be married, particularly not to Lord Thomas. He had been away at the Crusades for years, and what Elenor remembered of him did nothing to endear him to her. What was more, there was so much of the world to see, and marriage would end her chances for adventure.

For his part, Thomas had no wish to marry the Brat, as he called her, or anyone else for that matter. He was exhausted and disillusioned from the Crusades with little enough desire to go on living, let alone take a wife. But in the year of our Lord 1300, one does as one's position demands. Great families, the village priest told them, married to secure the lands for their people. This was a question of duty, not of preference.

Many of the returned crusaders had sins on their consciences, and years of being apart had split them from their families. Ramsay Village had become a place of suspicion and regret.

Father Gregory considered the plight of his two children, for so he thought of them, and summoned them to his presence:

"Would you, Thomas, and you, Elenor, be willing to do penance for the whole community?" Each said yes... "The penance I impose on you, for the sake of the entire community, is to bear a record of our sins and contrition to the shrine of Saint James in Spain, to lay it upon the altar of the cathedral in Santiago, and to pray there for us all. You will travel as chaste companions. Your marriage may not be consummated until the pilgrimage has been completed."

They rode towards the dawn, dressed simply and wearing the black hats adorned with scallop shells that marked them as pilgrims, miles to go and worlds to see.