The further Sonsee-array and the Head Mistress traveled through the underground passage, the more Sonsee’s stomach twisted. More than once, she clutched at the woven amulet, now glad she had worn it. Or had the amulet gotten her into trouble? The Head Mistress seemed to have a powerful reaction to it, one Sonsee did not like. More than once, she wanted to turn and run, but the woman always stood one step behind, leaving little chance of escape.
“Sit!” The woman said when finally they reached an open chamber. It was cold down there, dark, and damp too, matching Sonsees mood perfectly. She gave a small shiver before doing as the Head Mistress had bid her. And then the woman was gone.
Sensing this as her only chance, Sonsee hurried to the door hoping to make her way back through the tunnels. But it was locked. Maybe she could find an escape through the other door, the one the Head Mistress used to leave. But it, too, was locked. No windows and two locked doors. Sonsee sat, resigning herself to wait. And wait. And wait some more.
When finally the door did open, Sonsee bolted for it. “I want my father,” she announced only to find herself faced with more darkness.
“Come this way,” a voice told her. A faint light appeared at the end of the corridor, and she walked toward it, not because she wanted to, but because she had no choice. But for sure, I’ll bolt the first chance I get. She was surprised to see a kindly middle-aged woman, one with a welcoming smile on her face. “Greetings, my child, we have waited long to meet you.”
Confused now, Sonsee stepped into the well-appointed room to face the diminutive woman before her. The woman offered her hand and Sonsee took it. “I am Raichael, the Mother Superior, but you must call me, ‘My Lady’ for that is what the other Priestesses call me.”
The woman seemed harmless enough, but still Sonsee’s senses alerted. “Yes, M’Lady,” she replied. “But may I ask where Head Mistress has gone?”
“Why back to the school, of course. You are with us now.”
She lived with her father. She was not with anyone. Was this her new school? But before she could inquire further, M’Lady said, “Come I will show you to your room.”
“That is fine, M’Lady, but I think my father is expecting me. If you will find Gryffud, he will take me home.”
“This is to be your home now.”
“Then I wish to see my father first.”
“Oh, child, has he not told you? You are one of us. As was your mother before you.”
“No! I do not wish to be one of you. Now take me home.” Sonsee had used that same tone on the servants and they always obeyed, or told her father. Either way, she did not care. She wanted her father.
“Ah, child, you are so like your mother. Strong-willed. But you see what it got her.” Although her smile remained, M’Lady’s tone changed, “Because she left us for your father, she died in pain, leaving you to take her place among us as was demanded and ordained. Do not repeat her mistake.”
Before Sonsee could protest, M’Lady had her arm around her shoulder. “Now come,” M’Lady said, this time with tenderness in her voice, “I will show you to your room and then we will dine together. I have much to tell you about your mother.”
The food had been good. Roast duck, potatoes and crisp vegetables, just the way Sonsee liked them. And the conversation was pleasant enough. Sonsee enjoyed M’Lady’s tales about her mother who had come as a young woman, barley older than Sonsee. Indeed, the M’Lady explained, Sonsee was “old” to begin her training, but begin she must.
Now with stomach full, Sonsee lay in her bed wondering: Had her father really sent her here? Is that why he had tears in his eyes? And was that the surprise he had for her? If so, she did not like it at all. I should have been asked, not told. And certainly not abruptly yanked from all I knew.
And what of Nanna? Where was she? What of her warning? There is only one way to to know for sure. I need to go back and see them, talk to them, even plead if need be. This was not the future I want for myself.
Sonsee waited until dark, then waited some more. She could not tell the time, so she waited until the Morning Star, her star, appeared in the window high above. It was not until then that she stepped quietly into her shoes and crept to the door. Careful not to make a sound, she tried to depress the latch. It did not budge. She tried again, harder this time, but it was no use. She had been locked in. First anger, then fear set in, then a sorrow so deep it hurt her bones. Will I never see Nanna again? Or my father? Her one last hope was the window high above her bed, the one through which she had seen the Morning Star. Climbing onto her bed and standing on tiptoes, she tried to look out. Too high.
Though her room was sparsely furnished, there was a desk. Hoping it would not tip on the wobbly mattress, she placed it on the bed and climbed up. With effort, she could hoist herself to see out the window. But the view dashed her last hope.
She did not remember climbing so many stairs, but she was now up in a tower, too high to jump down. Too high to even hope some prince would rescue her. She lowered herself back down only to have the desk come crashing over onto the mattress and then onto the floor. She landed safely on the bed, but she was sure the sound would wake the dead.
“Shhhh, they will hear you.” The voice on the other side of the door was hushed, but sounded urgent. “Be quiet. They are very dangerous.”
“Who are ‘they’ that would hurt me?” Sonsee asked crossing over to the door.
“M’Lady and the others.”
“Who are you?”
“Ana. I was your mother’s student and am now the Master Weaver.”
“You knew my mother?”
“Yes, she was kind and gentle. Always with a smile. She was a powerful weaver, too, a weaver of spells.”
Images of woven mats and amulets and tapestries flooded Sonsee’s brain. Prayer shawls, prayer mats, altar cloths. Mostly in lighter pastels, but also in vivid deep greens, mauves, and colors without names. Nanna called them “not this and not that colors” because that is what they were, not this color but not that color either.
“Your mother wove spells so strong that it frightened some and made others jealous. ‘Too powerful’ some whispered when she was not around. But I trusted her. She would never weave a spell to hurt anyone.”
“Why have they locked me in here like this? What do they want with me?”
“They want you to teach them how to weave spells. And about the tiles.”
Sonsee gasped. The tiles. She had forgotten about the tiles. Her heart pounded in her chest. Who was this woman? On full alert now, she asked, “What tiles?”
But Ana’s answer was re-assuring. “When your mother landed on our shore, she had divination tiles with her. Powerful ones, and like all divination tools, they could be used to change the future. Our Lady was Khyan back then and she knew not to press your mother about them. Kyyan knew that in her own time your mother would come to trust and teach us. But then M’Lady took over. M’Lady was young then, and ambitious. And, though your mother was barely more than a girl, M’Lady was envious of her. She tried to force your mother to give us her knowledge, but your mother refused. One day I saw your mother weaving in a way I had never seen before. When I approached, she said I was to tell nobody. She wove her own escape, I think, and we saw nothing of her again. Or of her tiles.
“After a time we heard she had married and was with child. That was when M’Lady cast her own spell and you know the rest.”
“M’Lady killed my mother?”
“I believe so, though I cannot prove it.”
“You need to help me get out of here,” Sonsee said as she heard Ana scrambling outside her door.
“They are coming. I will be back. Tell no one.”
Photo attribution: By Dominicus Johannes Bergsma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons