At the beginning of The Tombs of Atuan, when Tenar is mock-sacrificed to the Nameless Ones:
A figure in a belted gown of white wool stepped suddenly out of the shadows at the right of the throne and strode down the steps to the child. His face was masked with white. He held a sword of polished steel five feet long. Without word or hesitation he swung the sword, held in both hands, up over the little girl's neck. The drum stopped beating.
As the blade swung to its highest point and poised, a figure in black darted out from the left side of the throne, leapt down the stairs, and stayed the sacrificer's arms with slenderer arms. The sharp edge of the sword glittered in mid-air. So they balanced for a moment, the white figure and the black, both faceless, dancer-like above the motionless child whose white neck was bared by the parting of her black hair.
We learn later that the white figure was Manon the eunuch. So I have two questions:
- Who was the black figure? Do we know?
- Later on the same page, Le Guin says, "The three highest steps directly before the throne, above the step on which she had knelt, had never been climbed by mortal feet." But she just said that the black and white figures climbed down them. What am I missing?