e looked at me. "You know this to
be true too, Winter. They are not friends of the Mountain."
"Stopping one battle will not stop a war."
"And yet, it is a start. Every journey begins with the first step, Winter."
"Peace cannot be kept by force," I said.
"The Stormblades would not agree."
"I suppose not," I conceded. "But we are not Stormblades."
"No, but we train them."
I did not like this change that had come over him. I tried to steer the
conversation into gentler seas, "That first Stormblade centuries ago - what was
the name of his staff again?"
This caught him off guard. "The Peacemaker," we said almost
simultaneously. We both broke into laughter. Stormblades believed a great deal
of sense could be knocked into a person's head by means of a wooden object. It
was good to hear him laugh.
"War is coming, Winter. Would you do nothing to try to stop it?"
"The war out there will not end, Orange, before the war inside men ends."
"Would you do nothing? Would you not at least try?"
"Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war," I said.
"Would you do nothing?"
"I cannot change the world, Orange. Or another man's soul." I punched his
shoulder with mock ferocity: "After all, I can't even change your mind." I held
his eyes for a moment and then patted his knee. The gesture reminded me of
Master Kao. "I can only hope to change myself. Then perhaps the world will
change, one person at a time."
I looked out to the sea. He flung a pine cone to the valley below.
"That seems like an awfully slow way to change the world," he said.
"Until men change, the world will not. It is inevitable."
"No war is inevitable until it breaks out, Winter. No ships, no war."
"War does not live in spears or swords or ships. It lives here," I tapped first
my head, then my chest, "and here." I paused, thinking of the soldiers I had met
in my life, "And perhaps down here as well."
"Would you stand by and watch your enemies destroy your friends?"
I have an annoying habit of quoting scripture, I know, but the words always
leave my mouth before I can rein them in. This time, it was a line from the Book
of the Wind: "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."
I don't think in the entire history of religion a man's mind was changed, or his
heart softened, by having scripture quoted at him. I know a thing or two about
preaching. Not a day goes past without Aunt Winn cautioning us against it, her
eyes twinkling with the irony.
I turned my head to him and searched his face, looking for a sign, maybe a
tightening of lines, afraid that I had made things worse. Perhaps it was the
morning wind that day, perhaps years of friendship, but no such sign came.
Without warning he burst into laughter and I almost fell off the rock.
"What? Why are you laughing?"
The hardness was gone from his voice when he spoke: "I just tried to imagine you
as a soldier."
"Pffft." I rolled my eyes. "Might as well imagine Master Kao over a witch's
"You reckon he is more the needle-ing type then?" he said, with an effort to
keep his voice flat.
This image of Master Kao stitching little curses together was so absurd that
neither of us could bite down a chuckle. Laughter, how it cleanses the air.
"So the war within must end first. I agree. Still, there must be something the
masters can do." This relentless repetition... Though, perhaps it was not
without consequence. Did the waves not carve the cliffs? He flung another pine
cone. "I don't know - can't they bless it out of them or something?"
"And what would you have them say, Orange?" I put on my best monk voice, "'As
you go to war, may you find peace in every step'?"
His response came as an elbow in the ribs.
Behind us and to our right, White Mountain prepared for war. How different this
must have looked from what was going on at the Port of Nor, I thought. I tried
to picture the frantic bustling on the walls and the piers, the panic in the
streets, the barking of orders. In the Mountain, the monastery was calm,
unhurried; no sign of agitation. White Mountain does as White Mountain is. To
the uninitiated eye, there would have been no evidence of preparation. Aunt Winn
still kneaded dough in the courtyard; a few other monks had joined her.
Silverstream was going through the monastery rousing the Wayshowers, taking care
not to wake the others. The healers were scattered around the courtyard waiting
for Master Kao to return, some making salves, three taking inventory, a few
praying over their hands. Most of the Stormblades had now gathered in the lower
practice grounds, the eldest leading them in meditation. A Wavecaller was
practicing Flowing Water, Long Form on a rooftop.
The children were not awake yet.
"I wish - "
"We can only do what we can." I squeezed his shoulder gently and stood up.
"Come, the children will rise soon. It is almost time for their morning
"You cannot be serious - today?"
Master Kao must have returned. We saw the Wayshowers making their way up the
mountain in silence, a third of the Stormblades trailing after them, and the
healers heading down to the coast, escorted by another cluster of Stormblades,
Master Kao at the front. I thought of funeral pyres and how their cleansing
flames would mark the end of a day's work for one group, and its beginning for
the other. I would remember this scene, those two processions, for many years to
come; it is perhaps my most vivid memory of that day.
We set for the monastery.