She sat staring at the flame, as had her mother before her, and her grandmother, and their mothers and grandmothers for countless generations before them. Each flame was different and she wondered what this one would bring. Her eyes softened their vision and she reached out to cup her hands around the candle itself. Cool, it was, cool and smooth, like precious white stone, only softer. The flame flickered then flared and dipped to the right, calling her attention back. As she stared, the flame grew more intense, expanding its light now until the corona filled the entire cave. Ah, yes, it was happening, that old familiar floating sensation. She allowed her eyes to grow softer still and then she saw it, the dark tunnel that brought the Visions.
The Weaver’s Box
Sonsee woke with a start. The sun was still below the horizon and classes were hours away. Yet there seemed an urgency about this day, like something needed to happen and happen quickly. The word “ordained” came to her, but from where she knew not.
Sonsee brushed back the silken coverlet and allowed her body to drink in the damp morning air. Sonsee-array was her full name and it meant Morning Star, so she did what she had done every birthday morning since a young child. She slipped her feet over the edge of her bed and sat up, looking for Venus, the morning star, as it shone through her bedroom window. It did, as it had every birthday morning since she could remember. A good omen for her 13th year.
She once again marveled at the changes that had taken place in her body. Boney straightness had taken on curves and a budding chest promised much more to come. Just the week before her body had given forth the most important sign of all. She was a woman now. Life held so much promise.
Why am I so unsettled, she wondered as she rose to cross to the window and, for the first time, noticed a wooden box on her nightstand. A treasure box, she thought as she carefully took it in both hands. But who had put it there? Certainly not her father. His presents were always lavish, gold or silver, and usually covered in fine jewels. Sonsee had always wondered if he was trying to make up for something, perhaps the loss of her mother, his adored wife.
Her mind drifted back to the day they lost her, ten years ago, the day of her brother’s expected birth. But of a brother who was never to be.
“Take the child’s life, but save my wife,” her father had roared at the doctors when the child would not appear, its head too big for its mother’s small pelvis. And they had tried, but it was too late.
Her mother lived only long enough to call for her most faithful servant, Nanna. Then, hugging Sonsee tightly to her chest, her mother had looked to Nanna and whispered, “Raise this child as if she were your own. Protect her. You know what to do.” It was Sonsee’s earliest memory.
Sonsee returned to the box. It was not jeweled, but old with a patina that told of the many loving hands that had probably caressed it over the years. It was not from her father. Could it be from Nanna?
Sonsee turned the box to inspect it and it was then that the light of Venus reflected off the copper bands holding it together. She had never seen such a beautiful color, deep and rich, yet delicate. It seemed to draw her in. The copper latches were not ornate, yet they were elegant. Such a contrast to the rich and luxurious life Sonsee-array had known.
“You have found it then.” Nanna, tall, dark-skinned, and with silver streaking her ebony hair, stood at the door smiling at her. “It was your mother’s. It is yours now. Open it.”
Fingers trembling, Sonsee pulled back the latch as Nanna sat on her bed beside her. “Be careful, don’t spill it. And do not let your father know.”
“Why?” Sonsee asked as she pulled back the lid.
“There is magic in there and your father believes your mother was killed for it.”
Her questioning eyes darted to Nanna’s. She had never heard this before. “But she died in childbirth.”
“There are many ways to kill, many ways to make bad magic on those you envy, those you hate.”
“I do not understand, Nanna.”
“You will in time. Now, are you going to open your mother’s box?”
Carefully flipping the top back, Sonsee saw something woven. Imbedded in it were beads and a carefully crafted sea shell was attached with threads. She lifted it. There were braided ties and bronze embellishments hanging off the bottom.
Nanna took the piece and placed it around Sonsee’s neck, securing it in the back. “Your mother was a master weaver. And she knew the art of weaving spells. This was hers, an amulet with a spell of great protection. These things are not to be worn lightly, but only when one is in need.” Nanna lifted the piece from over Sonsee’s head. “There is more in the box.”
Sonsee smoothed her nightgown over her lap and pushed it down forming a trough. Into it she poured the contents in the box, wooden tiles, black on one side but with pictures on the other.
“They are for Scrying, but you must know this: Any tool for Scrying can be used to change the future too, if you know how. They are very dangerous.”
The girl brushed her hands over the tiles, looking first at this one and then at another. She barely heard Nanna’s words until they cut through her revelry. “Sonsee-array, look at me! ”
Startled, the girl looked up. “Never, never ever tell anyone about them. Do you understand me?”
She had never seen her Nanna so stern, so demanding before. “Yes,” the girl replied. “Never.”
“When you get home today, we will start your lessons on spell weaving. For now, we must put these away.”
Together they stacked the wooden tiles in the box and placed the woven amulet on top.
Just then there was a knock at the door. “Sonsee, my daughter, are you dressed?”
“Just a moment,” Nanna replied as she handed Sonsee her velvet robe and then shoved the treasure box under the bed covers, fluffing them up so the box would be well hidden.
As she slipped the robe on, Sonsee admired the contrast of her translucent mauve dressing gown against the deep green velvet. Colors had meaning to them. And vibration, Sonsee knew that. She sensed that in each color there was a promise, perhaps a spell to be woven. Was that what Nanna wanted to teach her?
“Coming,” Sonsee called to her father and with the grace born of her station in this world, Sonsee opened her door to greet him.
Breakfast passed as it most often did. Her father was a man of few words. Some thought him too melancholy, too stand-offish. But Sonsee knew better. He had been a loving father, teaching her many things, always tucking her in at night.
Sonsee rose from the table. “I must get ready for classes now,” she said as she started to leave.
But her father stopped her, taking her hand in his. “Sonsee-array, you have become a woman, I hear, and a beautiful one at that. Each day you remind me of your mother more and more. She would be proud today.”
“Thank you, father.”
“When you get home, I have a surprise for you, so do not dawdle.”
“No, father, I will not.”
He stood and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and then he did something she had never experienced before. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. “I am sending Gryffud with you today. And everyday from now on. Daughter, there are those that would harm you if they could. Gryffud will keep you safe.”
Then it seemed he pushed her away and, with tears in his eyes, he turned and walked out of the room.
This had been her second hint that day. Was something bad going to happen? Perplexed now, the unsettled feeling returned. Sonsee returned to her room where Nanna had set out her clothes. But Sonsee did not want to wear the blue Nanna had chosen for her. She wanted to wear deep green. It was her mother’s favorite color, she knew. And set off her green eyes. If only I had red hair, she thought. But instead she had her mother’s deep copper skin and raven black hair. Still, as she surveyed herself in the mirror, she liked what she saw. Womanhood. What would it bring? With a smile, she turned away and called for her Nanna.
But it was Gryffud who appeared when she opened her dressing room door. A sense of foreboding seemed to emanate from the man, darkening her mood once again. She did not like the him. He was gruff, and bulky, and, well, not at all like the servants she had known. Crusted, that was the word to describe him and she wondered why her father had said there were those that would hurt her and set this man to protect her. She had never known real fear, but now she felt its grip tighten around her. Then she remembered the amulet. Nanna said it was for protection.
“Just a minute,” she called to Gryffud as she raced to her bedroom. Once inside, she gently closed the door and reached under her covers. The treasure box was still there with the amulet inside. There, better, she thought as she slipped it around her neck.
The walk to school was peaceful enough as Gryffud trailed closely behind her. But he had not been allowed past the foyer. Sonsee watched as he pounded his fists and threatened the wrath of her father, but no argument would convince the Head Mistress otherwise. “She is safe with us,” the woman insisted. “No harm will come to her here. Now sit and wait.”
As the two were arguing, Sonsee slipped through a side door and to her classroom. There she and her friends discussed what girls have discussed over the ages—boys, and clothes, and parties. They would all be coming of age this spring and potential husbands would be paraded before them. Most of the girls favored two of the boys, both strong and able. But Sonsee-array thought she favored another. Quiet, sensible, and buried in his books—just like her father.
One lesson drifted into another as morning turned toward noon and finally lunch came. Leaving their books and papers behind, the girls headed for the solarium, talking and giggling all the way. Sonsee was right in the midst of the chatter when she saw the Head Mistress beckon to her. What now? Had Gryffud done something to embarrass her? She’d be talking to her father when she got home, that was for sure.
But it was not Gryffud on the woman’s mind. “Where did you get that?” she asked as she pointed to the woven amulet.
“It was my mother’s.”
“Where is your mother that she let you wear such a thing to school?”
Blushing and shuffling her feet, Sonsee-array wondered if she had transgressed. “She’s dead,” Sonsee replied. “My Nanna gave it to me.”
“How old are you?”
“Have you had your first bleeding time?”
“I have. Last week.”
“Come,” the woman said, “We must see someone.”
Sonsee turned back toward her classroom, but the woman grabbed her by the shoulder digging her sharp fingernails in.
“I am going to get my books,” the girl explained, trying to twist away.
“Leave them. You will be back.”
But she never was.