Weaver’s Box, part 14

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“You should have told me years ago!” 

Sonsee’s father roared in a voice Nanna had never heard before. When he pounded his fist on the desk, Nanna winced and backed away from him.

“My Lord, I was only following Iona’s wishes.”

“Then you both should have told me!” 

His face was red and Nanna saw one large vein pop out on his forehead. She feared he would have a stroke, or heart attack, or goodness knew what else.

“My Lord, I apologize, but we must find Sonsee now. I can only imagine the plans M’Lady would have for her.”

Sonsee’s father picked up the amulet and inspected it one more time. “Do you really think Sonsee made this?”

“Yes, My Lord, and smuggled it out for us to see. Sonsee is a smart, resourceful girl.”

“Bring me the tiles,” Sonsee’s father replied, placing the amulet gently n the desk.

“But My Lord…”

“I said ‘Bring me the tiles!’” He glared at Nanna but she  refused to move even one muscle. “Now!” he screamed. “If you want to save Sonsee’s life, bring me those tiles.”

“My Lord, they are dangerous if in the hands…”

“Yes, yes, I heard you the first time. Now bring them!” 

As Nanna turned to leave the room, she did not know what to do. Men were not allowed to touch the tiles. It would rob them of their power, it was said. Would his Lordship understand that? She was not so sure. Or maybe it was time for them to lose their power. What had they brought to anyone but misery? The King’s greed for the tiles had forced Iona, Nanna, and their families to flee their homeland, and what had that brought them? A ship wreck, all killed but the two young girls unable to care for themselves. Then M’Lady’s greed. Would it never end? They should have been thrown to the sea long ago.

Nanna grabbed the box, now certain they should be destroyed. But first she needed to get Sonsee back. She walked resolutely back to his Lordship’s office and set the box on the table.

“Open it,” his Lordship said, his anger having cooled down.

Nanna poured the tiles on the desk. There was a rumble deep in the earth beneath them. Nanna was relieved to find it was only a short one, not long or strong enough to take notice. The earth rumbled all the time. Surely it did not mean anything.

“May I handle them?” Sonsee’s father asked.

Confused, Nanna looked at him.

“Iona may not have told me about the tiles, but she did say there were many magical things in your homeland that men could not touch. May I touch these?”

“Men have never touched the tiles,” Nanna replied.

“Good. Spread them out and let me see them. Picture side up, please.” His lordship studied the tiles for many minutes before asking, “How do you use them? They are just symbols.”

“You turn them up-side-down and ask a question. One tile will call to you somehow. You turn it over and the symbol will give you the answer.”

“Show me. Ask whether I will get my Sonsee back.”

“Yes/no questions are not easily answered, My Lord.”

“Then ask how I get my Sonsee back.”

“I am not as good as Iona was, My Lord, but I can try.” Nanna turned the tiles over, then gently moved them around with the palms of her hands.  “Concentrate on your question, as I will, too.”

Nanna moved her right hand over the tiles. Nothing was calling. She moved her hand closer, now just an inch above them. The sleeve of her gown hit one and it flew off the desk.

Nanna bent to pick it up. “The volcano,” she whispered. “It means destruction.” Nanna could feel herself shaking now. 

“How do you know that was meant to be the answer?”

“Because it is the third time I have gotten that tile when asking about Sonsee,” she replied.

“Put the tiles back in the box. It is time to stop this charade.  I made a promise to Brachaia. I promised that, if I found the tiles, I would give them to her in exchange for letting Iona go. It maybe too late, but I intend to keep that promise.”

“Brachaia? Who is Brachaia?” Nanna asked fearing the answer. 

“My half sister. The Mistress of the temple.  You call her M’Lady, but her name is Brachaia.”

“But My Lord?”

“Do as I say. If you both had come to me sooner, this would never have happened. I thought Iona’s death would be the end of it. I see I underestimated Brachaia.”

“Touch the tiles, My Lord. We must destroy their power.” 

“No, we need them yet.”

“But My Lord,…”

“If you will not do as I say, leave me,” Sonsee’s father ordered as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and swept the tiles into the box. 

“But My Lord…”

“Now!”

“My Lord, please listen to…” Before she could finish her plea, Sonsee’s father had turned and left the room, taking the weaver’s box with him.

Desperate now, Nanna turned and left the room, too. She hurried to the smithery and called out, “Gryffud, I need you.”

Just as Gryffud appeared, the earth rumbled again, this time stronger than the last. 

 

An hour later Nanna and Gryffud were on the beach looking up at the Temple’s tower.

“Are you sure Sonsee is up there?” Gryffud asked for the tenth time.

“I cannot tell you how I know, but I know. She is in that room and we need to get her out.”

“If we could scale the cliffs, maybe. But we would need a grappling hook and a very good arm to throw it through the window.”

“We have to try. Tonight, can you get the men together for tonight?”

“I do not know, My Lady. It is dangerous. What if we are caught?”

“Gryffud, please. We have to rescue Sonsee before his Lordship does something he will regret. I know M’Lady. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants.”

“We must wait until the moon is dark. It will take one night to get the ropes in place to scale the cliff, and a second to enter the tower. I will get the men together.”

 

 

Photo attribution:

[CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Weaver’s Box, part 13

 

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Toko spent the next three days locked in her room. Fresh water was brought every day—but only enough for drinking. Though she begged many times, she was brought no food. And all she could do was to lie on her bed and chant “Food, food, bring me some food.”

On the fourth evening, Marta came with a small loaf of bread. Toko tore at it like a ravenous wolf. It felt so good in her stomach. By the time she had devoured the loaf, Marta was gone. 

That night and all the next day, Toko chanted, “Meat and cheese, please, oh please.

That evening one of the priestess from the weaving shop showed up. Determined not to give up her chance, she took the bread but did not devour it. “Why am I being punished, do you know?”

“No,” the priestess said, then held her finger to her lips. She leaned forward and took  a small bundle from her ample breasts. “Do not tell or we all die,” she whispered.

Toko shoved the small bundle under her blanket and tore off a small piece of bread. She savored it.  

As the priestess left her room, Toko heard her say, “M’Lady, may I go back to my weaving now?”

So M’Lady had been outside her door. Listening she presumed. She’d have to be more careful in the future. 

Toko ate only half the bread this time, saving the other half. She waited an hour to be sure M’Lady was not returning, then she pulled the small bundle from under her blanket and opened it.  Inside were slices of cheese and wrapped in the cheese were pieces of meat. As she put each morsel into her mouth she gave a prayer of gratitude. She marveled at how little it took to make her content. 

For the next few day, Toko kept up her chant and, although a different priestess came each evening, she received the same small bundle of meat and cheese. 

On the eighth morning, a priestess Toko had never seen before showed up, carrying her ration of water in a small pitcher, but also carrying a cracked and dirty chalice. The woman was scrawny, her eyes sunken into dark cavernous rings. As the woman approached, Toko caught her smell, first of sulfur and then unwashed hair. Then Toko noticed the sores on her arms and how her hair seemed to have come out in patches, leaving her scalp dark and mottled. The strange woman’s skin was pale, almost yellow, Toko thought, as she took the chalice being handed to her.

“Drink it,” the woman said, her voice raspy and deep. She almost seemed to gasp for air, as if even those two words took her breath away. 

Toko took a small sip. The liquid was bitter and Toko wanted to gag. “I can’t,” she said, setting the chalice down.

“Then you get no water today,” the woman hissed as she took the pitcher and left the room.

“No wait,” Toko called after her. But the door remained firmly closed and locked. 

All day Toko looked at the chalice, sometimes smelling it to see if it was really so vile. Each time she left it again, refusing to drink it. Finally she poured it onto the floor, hoping it would dry by the the time anyone came back to see her. Are they poisoning me now?

By evening her throat was parched, her tongue so dry it stuck to her teeth. Nobody showed up that evening. She almost wished she had not poured out the chalice. At least it would be something in her stomach. As she crawled into bed, she felt weak, dizzy even. Whether she slept that night or not, Toko did not know. 

The next morning the strange priestess showed up again, and again Toko was handed the chalice. “Drink it or you get no water,” the woman growled and Toko saw her rotting teeth, now barely more than spikes sticking from her gums. 

Toko took the chalice. “What is it?”

“Herbs to bring about the powers.”

“What powers?”

The woman just glared at her.

“Will it hurt me?”

“Stupid girl. If I drink some, will you drink the rest?”

The thought of drinking from the same chalice as this smelly woman with rotting teeth made Toko’s stomach turn. The woman scratched at her head, then inspected her ragged finger tips.

Toko held her nose and drank the vile liquid down, gagging as she did.

“Good girl. Have some water. It will take the taste away.”

Toko took the pitcher and poured it into her burning mouth. 

“Bring more water,” the strange woman called out and a second scrawny woman entered, carrying two more pitchers. “Drink plenty of water tonight. It does not burn so much if you drink plenty of water,” the older woman said as she sat on the floor watching Toko. 

Light-headed now, Toko sat on her bed and placed the empty pitcher on the floor. Toko felt herself passing into a dreamlike state, the world now getting fuzzy and losing its edges. Before she could curl up on the bed, the second woman brought over a dirty rag. “You’ll want to place this between your legs, girlie.” 

Unable to control her body now, Toko fell back and felt the woman stuff the rag up under her shift before settling Toko onto her back. The last sensation Toko felt was warmth as her bladder relaxed into the rag.  

 

Photo attribution:

By Zde [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Weaver’s Box, part 12

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Many years had passed since anyone had tried to consult the tiles. Iona had the gift, not Nanna, but she did know how to work with them. She had always known she would one day teach Sonsee whom, they both hoped, had inherited her mother’s talents. But now Nanna needed to try.  It was the only way she knew to get an answer.

Each tile had a picture on it. Each picture had a meaning. The trick, Nanna knew, was in putting the pictures and their meanings together to get the answer you sought. Iona could do that perfectly. Nanna could only follow the steps and hope the tiles would talk to her, hope she would understand their true meaning. She could only do her best. But would that be good enough to find Sonsee? 

Nanna thought back to what Iona had taught her. The first step was to phrase the question precisely. Ambiguity in the question meant ambiguity in the answer. And yes-no questions were the hardest to decipher. But Nanna decided she had to try anyway.

After pouring herself a goblet of wine, Nanna sat at the table in her apartment, pushed everything out of the way, and dumped out the tiles. First, she surveyed the pictures on each, remembering as best she could each meaning. Then she turned them all up-side-down and took a sip of wine. 

Is Sonsee-array still alive?

Nanna moved her open palm over the tiles, waiting for one to call to her. None did.

Is Sonsee-array alive somewhere on this island?

Again she moved her palm over the tiles but none called to her. 

Maybe I need a connection to Sonsee. Nanna pulled the amulet from her pocket and removed the bronze embellishment. She held it in her hand as she once again scanned the tiles. One pulled at her consciousness. She picked it up and turned it over. 

Death, she pulled the tile for death and sat back with a gasp as once again, her grief overwhelmed her senses. Her vision narrowed and she stared at the tile next to the embellishment. Iona’s embellishment. 

Iona’s death?

She scanned the tiles and one called to her, so she picked it up. It was the mountain shrouded in purple mists. Iona meant “purple jewel” and Iona always said this tile was her special one. Relief flooded over her, but Nanna did not want to let her hope run too high. 

She picked up the amulet and studied it. The middle bead, the one she had made all those years ago, might taint the reading. She could cut it out, but if a spell had been woven around it, that would break that spell. No, she decided, better to cut some of the yarn from the braided ends and hope Sonsee had put energy into them. 

This she did and tried again. Tell me about Sonsee-array. 

Before she could even move her palm across the tiles, the light of the candle twinkled on the surface of one. Nanna smiled. It was a sure sign this would give her the answer. She turned it over. Iona had called this tile the cyclone hole and it meant “look deep within for the answer.” Deep within Nanna had always felt Sonsee was alive, but what if that was just wishful thinking? Even now she did not know how she felt deep within. It was all so confusing, trying to separate her emotions so she could read the tiles properly. She tried again.

Tell me about Sonsee-array.

This time she got the seven pointed star, Venus, Sonsee’s birth star. But it also meant the gateway to the above and beyond, or perhaps the spiritual home of Nanna and Iona’s people far across the sea. Again only confusion. If only Iona was there, she would know which meaning was the right one.

But Iona was not here. Nanna put Sonsee’s tile face up on the table and asked again. 

Please clarify the last tile. She moved her palms across the tiles again and one called to her, even stronger than had the others. 

The blowing leaf. It was part of a trio of tiles representing the parts of a tree. The trunk was sturdy and strong because of its roots, the top healthy because all the leaves and branches worked together. But the leaf blowing in the wind had become unattached to its roots and would die. Would die, Nanna reminded herself. Not dead now. The leaf was very much alive. 

She turned the leaf and the star over and placed them in with the others, then moved them around three times with her hands. Three times, Iona had told her. If you change the subject, your must move them all about three times. 

Tell me about this amulet.

This time she picked the bird—a message. From Sonsee, she was sure of it. But where was Sonsee? Without thinking it through, she asked her next question.

Where did it come from? 

Nana picked another tile and when she turned it over, her heart seemed to pause, and then open in relief. It was the seven pointed star. A confirmation Sonsee had sent the message.  

It is all in how you phrase the question, Iona had told her. Nanna placed the two tiles face down and stirred them three times. 

Where is Sonsee now?

When she turned the tile over, she saw the devil tower, a picture of a devil guarding a tower of stone. The underlying meaning was “evil” but was the message more solid than that? Was the answer the tower where Iona had been imprisoned? It was so hard to know w/ the tiles. Iona had once told her to simply open her mind and she would know which meaning was true. It would be the one that comes so strongly she could not ignore it. In the old country it was said Iona’s mother and all their mothers had all carried the gift of knowing. But Nanna did not. 

Certainly the tower could be Iona’s prison tower, the evil could be M’Lady—but was it a different evil? When nothing more came to her, Nanna replaced the tile and stirred them three times. So far she had asked about the past. Now she concentrated on the future. But as she stirred them, one fell off the table and onto the floor. When she reached down to retrieve it, her eyes flew open in shock. The volcano—destruction. She picked it up and placed it back with the rest, trying hard not to focus on its meaning. Just to be sure she stirred them three more times. 

How can I get to Sonsee?

The tile she picked was water, the element of water. By boat. The tower was located high on the cliffs above the ocean. But how could she ever scale the cliffs.

How do I get Sonsee-array out of the tower?

Almost beyond her volition, Nanna’s hand reached for the next tile. The volcano—destruction.

Frightened now, Nanna quickly scooped all the tiles back into the box and left to find Sonsee’s father.

Weaver’s Box, part 11

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Nanna, Nanna,

See it true.

Nanna, Nanna,

It is just for you.

 

Toko chanted and chanted and then chanted it again. Each time she pictured Nanna at the market, Nanna picking up the piece, Nanna asking about it. She tried to picture Marta telling Nanna  about a girl named Toko who had come to the Temple all those months ago. But the picture was never vivid, never real. 

But still she continued her chant. Only once did her vision waver. Only once did the piece come flying out of the scarf to fall at Nanna’s feet. But even that time, Nanna took the piece and put it in her pocket. 

Toko continued for what seemed like hours, never wavering from her chant. Whether it worked or not, she did not know. But it was her only chance.

The lunch gong rang and Toko’s stomach growled. She thought about going down to eat, but worried that Nanna had not yet found the amulet. So she stayed and chanted even harder, until she felt herself drifting off to sleep. But still the pictures in her mind continued. Nanna grabbing the box from under her bed covers to find the green and rust amulet gone. Nanna seeing the tapestry colors, but most of all, Nanna recognizing the brass embellishment, and knowing Sonsee lived. 

But then her dreams turned to more frightening things, to stormy seas and fires, and to swamps with crocodiles. Until she startled awake to the sound of M’Lady screaming. 

“Where is that lazy girl? Good for nothing, spoiled creature.”

Half awake, Toko saw the door to her room burst open and M’Lady fly in.  “Get up! Get up now! Who are you to sleep all day like some princess while everyone else must work?”

M’Lady grabbed Toko by her hair and pulled her from her bed. Trying to twist away, Toko felt M’Lady’s pointed shoe hit her shin, and she toppled to the floor.

“M’Lady, please,” Toko pleaded. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry, sorry,” M’Lady screamed. “That’s all you have to say? Sorry?”

“But I was sick.”

“Sick? That’s your excuse?” M’lady stood over Toko shaking her fist. “I give you a warm bed, clothes, and food and this is how you re-pay me? By being sick?”

“Please M’Lady, I’ll do what you want, just tell me.”

“I want those tiles and I want to know the secret of weaving spells. I have waited long enough.  If you cannot give me those, you are of no use. None. Enough playing games, tell me about the tiles and tell me now or I am done wihth you.”

“But M’Lady, I know nothing of those things, I swear.”

M’lady bent down and grabbed Toko’s chin, twisting as she tightened her grip. “Are you sure? I could send you away today, you know. And it won’t be to your father’s house, or to the priest’s bed chambers either. Oh they would pay dearly for such a whore as you. But I have another fate in mind for you, unless you give me what I want now!”  

Toko’s vision swirled and when it cleared, she felt far away, far from M’Lady and from her trembling body.  And she saw crocodiles tearing at her flesh. “The crocodiles,” she whispered, fear gripping at her chest. 

“Yes crocodiles,” M’Lady repeated and then looked her up and down for a long minute. “I was thinking of the crocodiles.” M’Lady took a step back continuing to look at the girl huddled on the floor. 

“Perhaps you were born with your mother’s gifts after all.” She turned and left the room, locking the door firmly behind her. 

 

 

Photo Attribution: This image comes from the Project Gutenberg archives. This is an image that has come from a book or document for which the American copyright has expired and this image is in the public domain in the United States and possibly other countries.

Weaver’s Box, part 10

 

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Nanna awoke to yet one more dreary morning. That the spring blossoms now promised to bloom mattered little to her. Without Sonsee-array, her life had no meaning, no purpose. 

She’d thought of returning to the Temple and resuming her pottery, but she knew M’Lady was still there. No, that would be servitude, she decided.

Certainly the Lord of the Manor would give her a studio, but she had not yet found the energy to set one up. He was kind, but silent.  He, too, missed Sonsee, his only child. How cruel fate had been to him. His adored wife taken so early, his son born dead, and now his only daughter gone to the crocodiles. 

Crocodiles. Nanna could not think of the crocodiles without suspicion. Iona, Sonsee’s mother had wept at the tale of a young priestess, too head-strong, flung into the murky swamp and to the crocodiles. 

Stop it! You only make your suffering worse. 

Still, Nanna wondered. And the dreams. How many times had she heard Sonsee calling to her in her dreams? 

Nanna flung her feet off the bed and stood. The sun hit her face, the warmth of it lifting her mood if only a bit. Today I will go out, to the market perhaps. She had not been there since Sonsee had gone from her life. How Sonsee loved the market. 

Nanna dressed and saw to the servants. Each had a responsibility, but Nanna had always made sure each was settled, each was well, and each knew what they were to do for the day. An old habit and her way of making herself useful. 

When finally the Lord was out the door and to his business, she left and strolled slowly along the not-yet crowded streets. She had always loved the morning and maybe, just maybe, she could find some of that joy again. 

She wandered aimlessly, just thinking about….well nothing really. Just trying to get through another day. 

Just past the butcher, she thought she heard her name. But not with her ears. It was in her head. Strange.  Iona had been able to do that, talk into her head. It was a gift that had been passed down from mother to daughter and one Iona would have wanted her to develop in Sonsee. Iona did it with chanting, Nanna knew. Could Sonsee be….?  Stop it. You only make your suffering worse. 

She turned a bend and, looking up, found she was at the Temple stall. Nanna had always avoided this street. Too many bad memories. But this time she remembered the good ones too. How wonderful it had been to be selling in the market with Iona, freedom licking at their dreams. And then his Lordship’s son had passed by and caught Iona’s eye. It was wonderful to see her friend fall in love, but the road to marriage had been a long one. She did not want to think about that.

Nanna looked at the priestesses setting up their wares. She did not know either of them and that emboldened her. They would not know her either. She watched as they stacked their wares carefully, placing the prettiest pieces on hangers for display. One of the priestesses took a brightly colored scarf and flipped it open allowing the breeze to catch it. Something flew out. Nanna watched. It was as if the world distorted and slowed down. The piece arched through the air and fell at her feet before the world resumed its shape again. Nanna picked it up.

She was about to hand it back to the priestess, but the central bead caught her eye. Many years ago, she had made that bead in the glass studio. Think! Think! What happened to that bead?

As far as she could remember it had remained in the glass studio when she was sent out to Sonsee’s father. Well, that made sense. Someone had found it and made this piece for the market. She hoped that person did not have the gift of spell weaving for Nanna had made it when her mind was in turmoil. In it she had seen angry waves and fire. All her fury at M’Lady had poured into that bead. Yet, it had come out beautifully.

The colors. Nanna looked now at the color of the yarns, so like the tapestry Iona had woven for the Great Hall. But it was the bronze embellishment that meant the most to Nanna. It and several more like it had been brought from their homeland, rescued when their ship sank, and Iona had carefully attached them all to her amulet.

Could it be? For the first time Nanna did not push the thought from her mind. I need to buy this piece.

She stepped up the the nearest priestess. “Did you loose this?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” came the reply.

The second priestess stepped forward and looked at the amulet. “No, that was not in our inventory.”

“Someone must have lost it then,” Nanna replied and slipped it into her pocket. “I’ll take it to the central square and hang it there.” She turned and left before the priestesses could think better of her decision.

The journey home was a quick one and, upon arrival, she retrieved the key to Sonsee’s room. Upon her death, her father had locked it and declared nobody should enter the room again. But the box with the amulet and tiles was in there and Nanna needed it now. 

She sent the servants away and slipped into the room. The box was still hidden under the covers. She opened it, her heart pounding wildly. Could it be?  She did not see the amulet. So she poured out the tiles. No amulet. She grabbed the box, stuffed the tiles back inside, and hurried quickly from the room. 

“Gryffud,” she shouted hurrying down the long hall.  “Gryffud!”

“I think he is helping in the smithery,” one of the servants said. Nanna hurried in that direction.

The smithery was hot and smelled of men hard at work. “Gryffud,” she called from the doorway. 

He appeared, sweaty and covered in iron filings. “Yes, m’am?”

“When you took Sonsee to her school that day, what was she wearing?”

Nana could see the pain of that day cross Gryffud’s face. He had blamed himself, that much she knew. “Her usual I guess,” he mumbled.

“Nothing else? Nothing special?”

Gryffud’s face twisted and in it Nanna saw a man concentrating on unpleasant memories. “Yes, m’am. She went back and got a woven necklace. Just before we left.”

“What color was it?”

Gryffud’s face twisted in concentration again. “I do not remember. But colorful. Very colorful.”

“Thank you, Gryffud,” Nanna said as she turned away.

 It was time to consult those tiles. 

Weaver’s Box, part 9

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Once Toko had her materials, it did not take her long to weave her amulet. She used her mother’s piece as a model for size, but changed the shape of it. 

She started weaving from the bottom and as she worked, each color meant something to her. Mauve-pink was her life as Sonee-array, her life before being brought here. She still was not sure if she’d been kidnapped or her father had bargained away her life to marry her mother. Who had told her that? She could not remember anymore. But none of them could be trusted anyway. It did not matter. Nanna would help her, of that she was sure.

Nanna, Nanna,`

And my life so good.

Nanna, Papa,

And the love that stood.

The brown represented her life as Toko, her life here, the one bright spot, the one coral bead represented her love of weaving and the joy it brought her. 

Trials and tribulations

Let them end.

Tribulations and trials,

No more to send.

The rust was her escape. She knew it would be hard, so she placed the blue beads in that section for calm and devotion. Clear thinking. Clear purpose. Transcendence.

Transcend, Transcend 

And out of my way.

No longer to stay.

Next came the blue section, representing what she wanted for her life after she escaped, when she would be Sonsee again. A calm blue field that brought forth the bright coral spots, represented the skills she had learned here. She could not image a future with out dyeing and weaving, too.

Open and free

So let me be.

Then what? That part of her life was so far off, she could not even imagine it.  But love came to her. She wanted to know the security and love of her childhood.

Childhood dreams,

Childhood wishes,

Bring them forth,

In all my dishes.

In all my dishes? Where did that come from? Toko laughed to herself and imagined eating dishes of childhood wishes. It was the best she could do.

Initially, she wove the pink all the way to the top corner, but it did not look right. The piece needed to be good enough to sell at the market. So she undid it and tried the blue. Again it did not work. That left the rust or the brown. But the rust was the hard part, escaping, and she knew that would mean fear. No, she decided, it had to be the brown. Well, there is hardship, but there is hope, too. She quickly slipped one last coral bead in to bring her solace. 

Besides, she could always do another amulet and change that part later. Now she needed to escape and whatever the cost, whatever the bargain, she would accept that.

As she worked, she wondered about the middle bead. At times it looked like roiling blue seas. At others, she saw fire in the corals. She’d spin it around and around again, looking for the calmest part. And vowed to make no chants that would….What? Do my chants really make things happen? That was hard to believe. And if chants did affect the future, why did the others not know that secret? It was so simple.  Is that what my mother did with the amulet? Is that why she unwoven it? And re-wove it again? To change her past, or to change her future? 

When finally the piece was done and the ties braided in, she did one last thing. She took one of the bronze embellishments from her mother’s piece and attached it to hers. Surely Nanna will recognize that!  

Now the problem was to get it to market. Toko could not take it to Ana. She’d stolen the beads and surely Ana would recognize them. Besides the bronze embellishment would certainly give her intentions away. No, I have to sneak it out somehow. And pray Nanna sees it.

Her best hope was Marta. But could Marta be trusted with her secret? No, Toko decided. But the next time Marta was sent to the market, Toko made it her job to help Marta pack her wares. And the time after that, and the time after that. 

As they folded the wares, Toko asked about the market. What was it like? What kind of people bought their wares? Marta told her tales about the customers, not once mentioning Nanna, or anyone from her father’s house. But Toko did learn that the most colorful pieces were unfolded and hung, especially the scarves and other adornments. The servants would buy the tablecloths and linens for the household, but the rich ladies would buy the attractive pieces. 

Then one morning Toko went down to help Marta, but she was nowhere to be seen. Toko slipped her piece in the folds of a particularly colorful scarf.  If it fell out and Nanna was around…… I need to make sure that happens!

Grateful that nobody saw her, Toko slipped back to the dining room and got herself a cup of tea. She sat alone, hunched over at a table. When Ana arrived, Toko waited for her to get her breakfast, then abruptly stood and, holding her hand over her mouth, bolted for the lavatory. There she made retching sounds until Juno finally walked in. 

“Tell Ana I am sick,” she said while washing out her mouth. “I am going to my room.”

“I’ll come up later and see you,” Juno replied.

“No, I want to sleep.”

With that, Toko left for her attic room.

Nanna, Nanna,

See it true.

Nanna, Nanna,

It is just for you. 

Weaver’s Box, Part 8

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Days passed into weeks as Toko felt the time slipping away.

Each night she continued making marks behind the bed, but now they had more urgency. Instead of counting her days of captivity, they counted the days until her doom. Six months, M’Lady had said. Six months and if she did not give M’Lady the tiles, they would be fed to the crocodiles. 

Try as she did, Toko could not get away from Matron long enough to explore the passage that would lead to her escape. But on her way to the laundry she did pass the different priestesses as they went to the market each day. She smiled and made small talk with them as they packed up the days’s wares. A couple were friendlier than the others and she made a point of bumping into them whenever she could. One in particular called her “Lil sister.” Marta, Toko learned, was the woman’s name and she sought Marta out more than the others.

Marta had an inviting smile. “One day I will take your weaving to the market. It will sell, I am sure of it. Then you won’t have to work the laundry any more. Won’t that be nice?” Nice, Toko thought, was an understatement. She hated the laundry. It was hot and sticky. Her clothes stuck to her sweaty body and perspiration soaked her hair.  

It would be worth it, though, if only she could get a look down the passage that would take her out of the temple. But Matron was too careful. Try as she might, Toko could find no way to get away from her watchful eye. 

If I can’t get out, I’ll get a message out. To Nanna. She will come and find me. 

But the message had to be disguised. Something Nanna would recognize. Something in her weaving. Yes, that’s it. I’ll weave something so beautiful, M’Lady will have to send it to market. She only hoped Marta would be the one to take it. 

For three days and three nights, Toko focused on what her weaving should be. Household linens sold best, that she knew. But there was little room to make her piece special, different, something Nanna would recognize. Rugs? They were harder and took much longer. No, it had to be something smaller, something she could do easily. But most of all, something Nanna would recognize.

An amulet, that was it. In colors like the one Nanna had given her all those months ago? No, too obvious. Similar, but not the same, she decided. She’d use Nanna’s not-this-not-that colors.  She could see them in her mind. Yes, yes, like the ones on the big hanging in her father’s great hall. Nanna would certainly recognize that! 

First she had to dye the yarn. That was easy. Ana liked her not-this-not-that colors and often let her work with Juno in the dye shop. 

But would Ana let her make an amulet? Of that she was not so sure. Ana had her doing more mundane pieces. She had gone from placemats to longer table scarves, but so far none had been sent to market. No, Toko decided, she’d have to make the amulet in private, in her room at night after she’d been locked in. When nobody would see her.

Little by little, she sequestered her materials. The yarn was easy. From the large quantity she dyed, she tucked a few small hanks into her underclothes. She found a soft board on which to pin the design and was able to slip up the stairs and push it under her door when nobody was watching. Pins were always easy to obtain. It was the beads that worried her. She needed beads to set it off and Ana had not yet allowed her to go to the ceramic studio. So, in her head  she started to chant,

Beads, beads,

Bring me some beads, 

Just the right hues,

In corals and blues.

She chanted it as she worked in the weaving studio wondering if they would, indeed, appear. Her chanting seemed to work in the past, but would it now?

But the next day she saw them, just as she imagined. Whole vials of them stacked next to Ana’s loom along with the yarns Toko had dyed. Just as Toko was about to risk taking some, Ana swept into the room. “Beautiful aren’t they. They will make a fine cloak for M’Lady, don’t you think?” 

“Beautiful,” Toko said, brazenly opening one of the vials and holding a bead up to the sunlight. Rainbows shot all around the room. She opened a second and then a third vial, holding more beads to the light. 

“Put them away, you stupid girl,” Ana shrieked. Toko feigned nervousness and knocked all three vials to the floor. Beads scurried everywhere.

“I’ll get them, I’ll get them,” Toko called out,  falling down to her hands and knees. For every handful of beads she gathered, she put one into her pocket. Reaching under one last table to scoop out a few more stray beads, she saw something even larger. Pulling it toward herself, she noted its colors, corals and blues. How it got there, she could not even guess. But it would be perfect as a centerpiece in her amulet. 

 She knew she would pay a price for her “clumsiness,” but whatever it was, it would be worth it. She now had her beads.  

That night, alone in her room, Toko gently touched the welts on her back. The beating had been harsher than she’d thought, and all for a “clumsy” act. She wondered what would happen if she outwardly defied them? Crocodiles, or maybe worse, she imagined. 

The marks behind her bed were mounting each day. 265 days had passed. How many left, she wondered. By her reckoning, only 100. Or maybe less, or maybe more. It all depended on M’Lady’s whim. She needed to get that amulet done. And out to the market.

Weavers Box: Part 7

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Toko lay awake that night, her mind in a whirl. Storyline after storyline filled her head until she thought she would burst. Her heart raced, her stomach clenched. 

Ana and Juno were in on it with M’Lady. They were not her friends. She had to escape somehow—on her own. She had no help, no one she could trust. She pictured herself finding the tunnel out, racing down it, and out to freedom. She pictured all the steps it would take. The tunnel was close to M’Lady’s office. She knew that because she had been taken there when she first arrived all those months ago. It had not been a long walk, that Toko knew. But hard as she tried, her mind was too jumbled to remember the way to M’Lady’s office and from there to the tunnel. 

Her mind then raced to Ana’s and Juno’s fate if she did escape. They would be thrown to the crocodiles, of that Toko was sure. How can I be the cause of their pain, their death? The very thought filled her with dread.

But they would all go to the crocodiles if Toko did not tell them about the tiles—but she could not. She did not know the secret of the tiles and she did not know the secret of weaving spells on her loom. And that, certainly was what they wanted of her. Could she make up something, tell them what they wanted to hear? But then, when the spells did not work, she would surely go to the crocodiles. 

Maybe I can say the tiles were burned. I saw it as a child. Her mind raced to how she could do that, what she’d say, how she’d behave. She rehearsed it over and over. She’d slip it into conversation with Juno. Maybe when Juno prodded her about her memories of her mother? “You know this one night I saw Nanna and my mother take this box out to the fire and dump something into the fire. I asked Nanna about it after my mother died, but she would not tell me. I still wonder what was in that box. They seemed so secretive. I don’t now why, but Nanna would never talk about my mother or her life here.”

Just as Toko was about to accept this as her best option, another thought intruded. No, she argued with herself. She was only of value if they thought they could get her mother’s secrets from her.  I’d be dead within the hour for sure if I said that. The thought made her shudder. 

Besides, Juno and Ana were victims just as she was.  They would all escape. Yes, that was it, they would all escape. 

But then, what if one of them tattled on her, told M’Lady just to save herself. No, surly they would not do that, Toko argued. But then she was not so sure. Surely she would not tattle, but then again….. Toko did not know what she would do. 

No, my best option is to escape this place.

She fell asleep, pictures of sneaking past M’Lady’s office and down dark passages finally filling her with a sense of calm. 

But when she awoke the next morning the terror was back.

Hours later, sitting at her loom, she only wanted the fear to go away, so she brought back the pictures that had filled her with calm the night before. She rehearsed the scene over and over, with each pic of the shuttle, she saw her escape past M’Lady’s office again and again. It gave her a rhythm to her weaving and she noticed her tension had improved, her rows were more even, her selvages straighter. Along with throwing the shuttle from one side to the other she chanted to herself.  

Past M’Lady,

Past M’Lady,

To my freedom.

Past M’Lady, 

Past M’Lady,

To my freedom.

“Toko.” M’lady’s voice was harsh and demanding. “Put your shuttle down and come with me.”

Toko stood, her sense of calm now shattered. She followed M’Lady out of the weaving studio and down the familiar hallway. They turned left past the stairs to Toko’s attic room. Is she taking me to her office? If so, it was too good to be true. She made up a jingle as they walked:

Past the attic,

To the statue,

‘Round the bend, 

And over the carpet.

Just outside her office M’lady said, “Sit,” pointing to the same settee Toko had seen on her first day. Pleased with herself, she sat and repeated the rhyme over and over, each time walking past the attic, to the statue, around the narrow bend, and over the carpet until she reached the office. Again and again, she saw every detail, exactly what this statue looked like, exactly where the carpet was placed, its colors, its texture. She was at the office and now she knew the way. Half her journey to freedom had been revealed.

Now she needed to discover the way to the tunnel that would take her to freedom. Pretending to stretch, she looked around. M’lady’s office was to her right but there were three other passages. 

Which one? 

Which one?

Show me the way!

Over and over she repeated that, falling into a rhythm once again. Nothing came to her but she just kept repeating it. Until M’Lady broke her revelry.

“All our priestesses have a daily task and you will be no exception. You will work in the laundry for two hours everyday. Come.”

M’Lady took her down the narrowest of the three passages, past the kitchen and to a room so steam filled Toko had trouble seeing to the other side. 

A dour faced woman stepped from behind one of the vats. 

“This is Matron. She will collect you every day before your lesson and bring you back when you are finished here. Do as she says.”

M’Lady turned to Matron. “Make sure she works. No dawdling. She has been useless for too long.”

For the next two hours, Toko sorted linens, folding them neatly and stacking them in piles according to type. Bed linens, tablecloths, towels, placemats. They all had to be folded in just the right way. To pass the time, Toko repeated her little jingle, memorizing the way from her attic room to M’Lady’s office and then, when she saw herself at the three doors, she repeated again and again:

Which one? 

Which one?

Show me the way!

Finally, just as Toko heard the dinner bell ring, Matron came over. “Come,” was all she said and Toko followed her back down the narrow passage. As she walked, she continued her chant,

Which one? 

Which one?

Show me the way!

Just as they reached M’lady’s office, she heard two women approaching their voices echoing down one of the passages.

“It was a good day. M’Lady will be pleased.”

“That she will. The market was kind to us today.” 

Had these two voices been outside the temple enclosure? I need to know which passage.  But Matron was moving too fast. Toko feigned a trip, pretending to catch herself as she fell onto the settee. 

Matron turned to look at her, annoyance obvious from the look in her eyes. “What now?”

Toko massaged her ankle. She could hear footsteps on the stone floor. But which passage? 

Which one? 

Which one?

Show me the way!

This time there was urgency in her plea. She could not let the opportunity go. But Matron was impatient. 

Toko continued to rub her ankle as if in pain. The voices were closer now. 

“Get up,” Matron demanded. 

Toko stood, pretending to test her ankle as she did.

Which one? 

Which one?

Show me the way!

Just when Toko thought she could hold off no longer, two priestess appeared wrapped in heavy woolen cloaks. Snow still clung to their fur lined hoods. 

Stepping gently onto her ankle, Toko nodded to Matron. “I’m okay, just a cramp I think. From standing so long.”

“Stop complaining,” was all matron said before turning and hurrying Toko to her dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Attribution: Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Weaver’s Box, Part 6

 

 

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Only allowed to work in the morning when the studio was unoccupied, it had taken Toko two more days to finally satisfy Ana. 

“Perfect selvages,” Ana said with a smile. “You are learning quickly. It has taken some of my students a full week to get this far. And then some never do. 

“Now you must learn to spin. It is the only way to feel the properties of threads and yarns.  And that, my Toko, is what makes a master weaver.”

My Toko? Toko bristled but held her tongue.

Ana took her down the hall to a room where three priestesses sat at  spinning wheels. Juno was among them and that pleased Toko.

Toko thought she saw disdain in Ana’s eyes as she was nudged into the room. “When she has spun enough to warp her loom, let me know,” was all Ana said before turning and abruptly leaving.

“Ah, you must have passed your weaving.” Juno gave her a welcoming smile. “That is good for if you did not, you would spend your life spinning with us here.”

“Or worse,” the skinny short priestess piped in. “You’d be sent to the Priests and goddess help you then.”

“But only if you cannot pass spinning either,” the oldest of the three said. She was plump and jolly with two long thin braids that she kept tossing back over her shoulders. “Don’t worry, dear,” she chuckled. “Spinning isn’t that hard, once you get the hang of it.”  

“Both literally and figuratively,” Juno added. “You are going to start with the drop spindle.”

In this room, there was a whole new set of terms to learn. The drop spindle was just the first of many. Roving was unspun fiber.  It was twisted and whirled with the spindle, finally forming into a neat yarn. Toko watched intently. The quicker she learned this skill, the quicker she’d be back weaving. 

But seeing and doing were worlds apart. More than once the twisting threads separated and her spindle fell to the floor with a resounding “clunk.” This always amused the skinny one who, despite disapproving looks from the older woman, delighted in responding, “Yes, the priests will love this one.” It made Toko nervous, so nervous she could not relax and settle into a rhythm. The spindle hit the ground again and again. 

At the end of a second frustrating day, Juno bent over Toko and whispered, “I put a spindle and some roving in the toilet. Tuck it in your apron before I take you up to your room.  You can practice in peace tonight.”

By the third morning, Toko could spin well enough to keep the roving from separating. The spindle no longer fell to the floor. “Now, let’s see if it is strong enough to warp,” Juno said, giving it the same tug test she’d seen Ana use. It broke easily. 

“Give it more spin, not more fiber,” the older woman said as she pointed to a spider weaving its web. “Strong but delicate, that is what you want.”

Toko tried and then tried again. But each time the tug test was applied, the thread broke and the skinny one laughed even louder. “Like I said, the priests will love this one” she continued to comment.

That night and the next, Toko practiced in her room. The thread seemed to be getting stronger, but still it broke.

Toko was about to give up for the night when a spider floated down from the ceiling, dangling just in front of Toko’s face, then drawing itself back up. It stayed just above her head, not moving at all. It was as if the spider was staring at her, watching as she twirled her spindle. Spider, spider on my wall. Make mine strongest of them all.  

She found herself chanting her little rhyme as she practiced, finally relaxing and falling into a rhythm. Then, when she had no more roving left, she gave it the tug test. It held. She tugged again, this time harder. It still held. 

I’ll pass tomorrow she thought finally crawling into bed for a deep sleep.

Indeed, the next morning she did pass, filling her spindle with fine strong thread until the spindle was too heavy to spin any more. Juno tugged and it held. The older woman gave it a try, too, and still it held. Finally the skinny woman said, “Give it here.” Gritting her teeth, she tugged at it so hard it bit into the skin of her hands. “Ouch,” was all she said before passing it back to Juno.

Juno inspected the thread again. “Very good and even, too. But not long enough to warp a loom. Let’s find you a spinning wheel.”

That, Toko learned, was a whole different skill. But persistence won and within the week, Toko had mastered that, too. Over the next few day she spun and spun and chanted her rhyme. 

Spider spider on the wall, 

Make mine strongest of them all. 

Juno was finally satisfied. “Come, now,” she said. “Off to do some dyeing.” 

Toko was pleased to find Juno was her teacher here, too, and with nobody to distract them, they fell into a pleasant companionship. Juno showed her how to mix and set dye, but Toko was the master at seeing and producing colors. Once she got past her shock that just three dyes would produce any color she could imagine, she quickly sensed how much of each she’d need to nuance not-this-not-that shades. 

They worked with many different fibers, many different textures of yarns, each absorbing and holding the dyes in different ways. 

Dyeing was easy, Toko decided and more than once she wondered if she might be able to stay here, doing the dyeing, never spinning again, never having to go back to Ana to learn to weave.  She trusted Juno. She had even opened up to her companion, talking about Nanna, about her father and about her life before being brought here. If she had to stay here in the dyeing studio, well maybe this was not so bad after all. Maybe she could make peace with herself and her fate. Maybe Juno and I can be true friends. I need to tell someone about my mother, about the tiles, about how I was kidnapped and imprisoned here. 

Over the past few weeks, Toko found she had more and more freedom.  Though still locked away in the attic at night, she could wonder the textile studios as she pleased, have meals with the other priestesses, even wonder in the garden and talk to them when not at her lessons. She used these walks to explore her surroundings but soon discovered the high wall surrounded the entire building with no obvious gate or entrance. The exit must be underground, Toko reasoned, it was the only explanation. 

When Juno told her she would be returning to Ana, Toko made her decision. She’d go talk to Ana, ask for permission to stay with Juno in the dyeing studio.

After lunch, while the other priestesses strolled in the garden, Toko went in search of Ana. She was not in her office, so Toko went to the weaving studio where she wondered among the looms, hoping Ana would come along soon. 

Piece after piece intrigued Toko. In many of them she recognized her not-this-not-that colors. But what fascinated her the most was how her colors worked together, how they blended when used one with another. Dyeing yarn meant working with only one color at a time. But here in the weaving room she could put her colors together. And not just the colors together, here she could work with texture, too. Maybe I do not want to be stuck in the dyeing studio, maybe I do want to learn to weave. 

The yarns were stored in huge bins against the back wall and Toko decided to explore there. Standing on low stool, she was bent over one, rummaging through it when she heard someone coming. Ana? Could it be Ana? Standing and turning too quickly, she fell off the stool, hitting the floor hard. It took a minute to regain her composure but then she heard M’Lady screeching. Toko crawled behind the nearest bin, hoping it would hide her.

“The girl’s made no progress at all. None. We know nothing and it has been what? Almost a year?”

“Six months M’Lady, only six months. Juno is trying, I know she is. She knows the consequences of failure,” Ana pleaded.

“Does she? Does she? And do you? I should have fed you to the crocodiles all those years ago. I know you had something to do with Iona’s escape.”

Iona? Iona was my mother.

“But M’Lady I swear I did not know she was leaving.” 

“So you say. But what proof of that? None. Absolutely none. Iona did not get out of here without someone’s help.”

“It was not me, M’Lady, I swear.”

“Six months. That is all you and Juno have left. Six more months. And if I do not have those tiles, both of you are going to the crocodiles, along with the girl.”

 

 

 

 

Photo attribution:

By Peter van der Sluijs (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Weaver’s Box, Part 5

 

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The weaving studio was a riot of color. Yarns overflowed huge bins surrounding a large work area dotted with a multitude of different looms. Each loom boasted a different project, some large, some small, some in fine threads, others in yarns of varying thicknesses. To her surprise, Sonsee found she wanted to touch each one, to see how it had been done, to experience and relish in the way these pieces came together. 

“When do we start?” she asked, eyes popping with the prospects before her. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. 

“As soon as you pick your yarns,” Ana replied. 

But there was so much to choose from and each time she found something, another color, another texture screamed at her, “Choose me, choose me.” 

“Oh, Ana, which one? There are so many beautiful yarns here.”

“You have asked the right question and so I will give you the answer. First you must choose your warp threads.”

“Warp? What is that?”

“It is your basis, Toko, your skeleton if you will. It is the foundation that holds the beauty together. Here let me show you.”  

She took Toko to the nearest loom. “See the threads that go up and down? That is the warp. You put that on first, then you begin weaving the threads that go across the piece. That is called the weft. Warp and weft, remember that. Now choose your warp first.”

Toko took a skein of dark pink yarn from one of the bins. She liked the spongey softness of it. It would be cuddly and she needed something cuddly to soften her room. Maybe she could weave a blanket for her bed. 

“No, that will not work.” Ana wrapped the yarn around thumb and index finger on each hand and gave a tug. It broke apart. “You need something stronger for the warp. Otherwise it will break every time you beat the fabric.” 

“Beat the fabric?”

Ana smiled. “Yes, beat, but that is a lesson for later. Now come over here. These are warp yarns.” 

Toko was not please with what she saw. These yarns were harder somehow. They had no give, no stretch, no life to them. They just were what they were. 

Before Toko could choose one of the yarns, Ana took a spool of colorless thread from the bin and handed it to Toko. “Here, this is best for a first project.”

It looked more like string. Well, I’ll just find something soft for the…what did Ana call it? Oh, the weft. 

Toko headed back to the softer yarns, but Ana had other ideas. “This way,” she said and brought Toko to a bin labeled cottons. “These will be better for a first project.”

Resigned to doing as Ana told her, Toko found a dark blue yarn and started to match a second color. “One is enough for now,” Ana said. “Time to warp your loom.” 

Instead of finding one of the many empty floor looms, Ana grabbed a wooden frame from behind one of the bins. “This is a peg loom,” she explained.

Toko took it in her hands. It was not hard to guess that the warping string would be wound up and down the pegs. But guessing that was easier than doing that, she soon found. Despite Ana’s careful demonstration, the first time she tried, it was too loose. She discovered that as she wove the first few rows of weft. “Take it out and start over,” Ana said.

The second time, the tension was uneven, some areas of the warp having been applied tighter than others. 

By Toko’s third try, Ana was satisfied. “Now start over again and this time do only four inches. That will be enough to see how well you can control the yarns.” 

Four inches, that was do-able and the loom was only 18 inches long. I’ll be done with this in no time. Then I can do something interesting. 

Ana picked up a smooth piece of wood that had been deeply notched at each end. It was just a bit longer than the 4 inches Toko had warped. “This is a shuttle,” Ana said and then showed Toko how to wind yarn around it. “You will weave the weft with this.”

“But it is so fat. How will I weave it in and out? Wouldn’t a needle be better?”

“Only if you want to be at it for the entire month. Watch this.” Ana took another smooth flat piece of wood, this one thin but eight inches long and an inch wide. “This is a shed stick,” she said as she wove it in and out of the warp, then turned it up onto its side. That created a space between the warp threads, some held up and some down. “The space between the threads is called a shed.” Ana quickly passed the shuttle through the shed, then flattened the shed stick again. She moved it up and then took a comb to push the weft down, making an even line at the bottom. “This is called beating,” Ana explained.

Picking up a second shed stick, Ana threaded it through the warp, this time making sure the threads that had been up were now down. Turning the stick so that it formed a shed, Ana passed the shuttle through again and beat it down. “Now you try.”

Toko removed the second stick, turned the first onto its side forming the shed, and passed the shuttle through. She beat it down, then copied Ana’s steps as she wove the next weft into place and beat. 

“Good, now keep doing that until you reach the top of the loom. I have other business to attend to. The toilet is over there,” Ana said, pointing to the corner. “Do not leave the room. Remember what I told you, there are spies everywhere.” 

Toko wove another  dozen rows, but noted the warp threads drawing in. Her piece was getting narrower. That would not do, she’d never pass onto more interesting work unless she could keep the width even. She removed her work and started over again, this time measuring the width as she wove. After seven rows, the piece remained even. But this was boring, just weaving row after row. I’ll get a second color.

Toko searched the cotton bin, finally finding a skein that was not exactly mauve and not exactly pink either. Nanna would call it a not-this-and-not-that color. It would do nicely, as would a taupe that matched it perfectly. She wrapped a shuttle with the pink-mauve yarn, but before going back to work, she needed to explore the room. There must be a way to escape.

Pretending to be stretching her back, Toko looked out the windows. A garden, beautifully tended, was surrounded by a high stone wall. I’d need more than a ladder to scale that. With only one door out of this room, she realized her options were limited. At least from the weaving studio.

Resigned to spending another day of captivity, she made her way back to her small loom but found herself distracted by the larger floor looms. She studied a few of them. It was not hard to see how the weavers had joined two colors, or how they had made vertical stripes. Well, at least I can add some interest before Ana comes back. 

Toko started with the mauve-pink, angling it out as she wove up the piece. Twice she missed her mark, but she learned and when she had figured it out, boredom set in. Vertical striped were next. But too easy. She had noted that one weaver added short pieces of weft, leaving the tails hanging out the back. She worked in some taupe, too, before noticing that her edges were not clean, not straight. 

She was about to remove the weft and try again when Ana returned. 

“Look at that mess,” Ana scolded. “Rip it out! Rip it out now! Then it’s back to your room with you. And no supper. You must learn to listen to me.” 

“But, Ana, I was only….”

“Do not talk back to me, missy.” She hit Toko hard across the face.

That night, the mark Sonsee made behind her bed was angry and deep. One more day wasted and I am no closer to escaping.