During the canoe trip down the river to the sea, An-mun prays to the Spirit of the Night, the Spirit of the River, and the Spririt of his father. He and all the strong men and women of his village have just been taken captive by white men who have come looking for slaves. Bound by shackles, the captives are exhausted, having been driven on a long march with water but no food, and now they huddle, bewildered, in the white man's canoes. Only At-mun is awake, his head turned "up to the heavens". He is a mighty warrior, a king; he knows that he has the power to break his chains and kill with his hands, and he prays for guidance to the Spirits in determining what course he should take.
The answer to his prayers to the Spirit of the Night, the Spirit of the River, and the Spirit of his father comes from the voice of the land. At-mun's tribe is a peaceful people, and they kill only in their need for food. The voice of the land tells At-mun that it is "the time of birth, the time of renewing". It is not the time for killing.
At-mun prays again to the God of Life, who is "greater than the Spirit of the Night, older than the Spirit of the River, and wiser than the Spirit of his father. The answer from the voice of the land is the same - it is "the time of birth, the time of renewal". At-mun understands clearly that now is not the time for fighting back or for killing, and, at peace, he "lean(s) his head forward on his knees and (sleeps)" (Chapter 2 - "The Middle Passage").