Ranem caught glimpses of the island in jerks and starts, under an arm or along the edge of the canvas, as he and the rest of the crew hauled their fat-bellied ship into port. It grew from one moment to the next, gray haze turning into rounded roofs and rich wood, the little town sidling up to them through the water. He didn’t stop to look at it until the anchor had clattered to the seabed, and he had dropped into one of the longboats to row to the docks.
And then he caught a shallow breath, went still. It took him a long moment to realize he was staring.
It was all utterly familiar. He had grown up here. He had traced every street with a running step, and backed himself into most of the corners. He could have mapped the entire tangle in his sleep. He could have found his way to any of his old fortresses in perfect dark.
He left a long time ago, but time seemed to slide more easily just now.
Stepping out of the longboat, he turned a slow circle. His boot heels echoed on the wood, and the crowd chatted around him the same way every crowd did, except that he swore he recognized the voices. He searched the faces, then laughed at himself for believing that he should know them.
He moved into the upper city in easy strides.
The edges on the buildings only looked hard when he looked directly at them. The colors were only solid when he reminded himself to use his eyes.
Ranem turned onto his own street. The hazy feeling sank deeper into his skin, even as the sweet, unsalted taste of the air settled sharply on his tongue. He found his way as he were walking in the dark, memory suddenly a stronger sense than sight.