Irina stared at her father's bier, wondering what she had done. She couldn't be leader. She, who didn't even want a household, couldn't bear the weight of the entire village on her shoulders.
But what else could she have done? She couldn't let them whisk Mardic's heritage away from him. Why, if they had named someone else, it could be twenty, twenty-five years before Mardic could win back his rightful position. And whoever they named was sure to have sons who felt they should succeed their father, not Mardic, even if he did develop the weather sense. Which, Irina knew, wasn't as sure as she had declared it, here in the hall.
No, she had had to do it. But she shuddered at what lay before her.
It would be up to her to lead the boats out into the sunshine and the waves and bring them back safely. The fathers and the husbands and the sons, and a few of the mothers and the daughters--their lives would in her hands. And she didn't even have the laran that would keep them safe; she didn't have the weather sense.
"Oh, Da," she cried, and, for the first time since he'd died, Irina knelt by her father's body and wept.
Dawn came swiftly.
Irina greeted it with red eyes and a sense of impending doom, too young to know that what she was feeling was more truly a mixture of fear and grief. She and Mardic walked hand-in-hand to the boat where their father's body had been carried.
It was gloomy out, sullen and overcast. If it had been a regular day, the boats would have stayed in the harbor, and fingers and toes would have stayed busy mending nets and sails. But today's would not be a long journey, only out to the mouth of the harbor and back. Even if the storm of last night returned, the boats would make it back safely.
Silently they cast off. It seemed but moments later and her father's body was being slipped into the sea that had nurtured him. Once back on the shore, Irina walked home and removed her heavy, brown, woolen dress. The next time she went out on the boats she would be wearing the loose breeches the few women who fished wore. And she would be working in the boats as she never had in her carefree days under her father's tutelage, when the wind on her face had been fun and the spray of salt water exciting. Irina's hands shook and her heart felt leaden at the thought of what she had undertaken to do.