Weavers Box: Part 7



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





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




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. 

Weaver’s Box, Part 4





Days past. For each one, Sonsee made a scratch on the wall behind her bed. Eventually M’Lady stopped coming to see her, telling her only that she was now Toko and in training to be a Priestess. Sonsee held her ground. “No,” she said, “I am not going to be a Priestess.”

Others were sent in M’Lady’s place but Ana had warned her. These were M’Lady’s spies, sent to befriend her and to spy on her. So the nameless priestesses came and went, bringing fresh clothes and water to wash up.

At first the food they brought was plentiful and the nameless priestesses sat and ate with her, trying to talk about her father, her life, encouraging her to accept her fate, to become one of them. Sonsee remained silent and as the days passed her food dwindled, finally becoming little more than rations, just meager amounts of bread, cheese, and water. The bones of her ribs showed more and more. Her stomach shrank into her pelvis and she had little energy—barely enough to live, she thought.  Nobody stayed to talk with her anymore and she thought she saw pity in their eyes. Even Ana had said it was too dangerous, she must not be caught in the attic.

One day, angry at her circumstances, Sonsee grabbed the priestess sent to see to her. Shaking her, Sonsee lashed out, “Do you not know who I am? My father is Lord of this Land. He will come for me and when he does I shall tell him about you and all the others unless you help me get out of here.”

“Sonsee-array is dead,” the young woman said, sadness in her eyes. “You are Toko now, the Master Weaver’s apprentice.”

Ana’s apprentice? Nobody had told her that and actually it did not sound so bad. If she could get out of here and work with Ana, well maybe she would find a way to escape.

Sonsee started talking more, asking questions, showing interest in the life of a priestess. As she did, her food rations increased until she was receiving three meals with enough left over to save for later if she wanted.

Finally only one Priestess, Juno, came to her and when Sonsee asked for paper and pens, they were brought. Not knowing what else to do, Sonsee drew, mostly abstract shapes. She asked for paints and they, too, were brought. She enjoyed the work, matching one not-this-not-that color with another. Juno brought pins to hang the paintings and, together, they decorated Sonsee’s room. “I wish I could weave these,” Sonsee said to see if Juno would respond. “Don’t you just love the colors?”

Juno said nothing before excusing herself to get Sonsee’s dinner.

When she returned, she said, “M’Lady has granted you permission to work in the Weaver’s Studio. Be up early. You have been granted an audience with M’Lady before you begin your apprenticeship.”

Sonsee spent most the night awake, anxious, wondering what she should say and how she should behave. Contrite? No. Grateful? No, again. Complaint, that was okay, but not overly so. M’Lady would spot an act, of that Sonsee was sure.

When finally the first light of the morning made it to Sonsee’s window, she heard a knock at her door and the key turn in the lock.

Juno entered with her breakfast, but hurried Sonsee along. She barely had time for the toast and tea before she was handed a robe and escorted to a marble bath. There she was helped to undress. She stepped into the water. It was warm and inviting. It brought back memories of her home, of Nanna, of how she reveled in the warm spring water that fed her own bath. How long has it been? Ninety days. Ninety marks now. Too many. I must get along. I cannot go back to my prison. 

Fragrant oils were added and Sonsee relaxed even more as the Priestesses filed her rough nails and combed out her matted hair. Sonsee had tried as best she could, but dipping her head in a cold basin of water and then finger combing had taken a toll. Even when restrictions were relaxed and the Priestesses had brought shampoo and larger pitchers to rinse her head, some tangles remained. Now they applied oils and gently worked them out.

When finally Sonsee stood and dried herself off, she felt human again. The Priestesses dressed her in a lilac shift and placed the amulet over her neck before bringing her to M”Lady.

“My apologies that I could not see to your needs myself over these last few months, Toko, but I trust my Priestesses kept you well fed and attended to all your needs.  You are looking quite well, I must say, and I hope your time of contemplation has been fruitful.”

Sonsee bit her tongue. She looked into the woman’s eyes and replied, “Yes, M’Lady, I am well.” Now.

“Good. Good. Let me see that amulet of yours. “

Sonsee could not go backwards, she had to move forward and if that meant letting M’Lady see the amulet, so be it. She removed it from her neck and held it out, not wanting to let it go. But M’Lady snatched it from her hands and handed it to the Priestess standing to her left.

The Priestess took it. “I do not believe Iona wove this. Look at how clumsy it is. And these are not Iona’s colors at all. She used pastels, not hard colors such as these.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure. This is the piece of an untutored girl, not of master weaver.”

Sonsee perked up. The voice was familiar. Did she know this other woman? It had been months since she had spoken with Ana, but could it be?

“And what of the shell?” M’Lady asked.

“Oh, Nanna did this, I can tell that much. The colors are hers, and so is the design.” The woman flipped it over. “And see, here is her chop.”

“Maybe it was Iona’s first piece, before she learned her craft. Is that possible.”

“I suppose,” the second woman replied. “Look, you can see it has been unwoven and re-woven again. The twist of the threads are different in this middle section.” She held the piece for M’Lady to see, but did not relinquish it. “And what is more, the joins are different. First, at the bottom, they are interwoven, both colors wrapping around the warp. Then in the re-woven section she wraps the weft around neighboring warps. Nowhere does she wrap the threads around one another as a master might do.”

“Anything else?”

“No, except that color selection is limited. It is the type of piece I would have a beginning student do, not a master.” She handed the amulet back to Sonsee. “May I take Toko to the studio now, M’Lady.”

“Not yet. Toko, where did you get this amulet.”

“Nanna gave it to me. I already told you that,” Sonsee explained.

“Watch how you speak to me, child. You are no longer Sonsee-array. You are Toko, a weaver’s apprentice, but only if you watch your manners.”

Not wanting to make eye contact, Sonsee looked to the floor.

One of the priestesses nudged her shoulder. Finally someone whispered, “You must apologize.”

“Apologies, M’Lady,” was all Sonsee could choke out. She certainly was not sorry for what she had said.

“Good. You are learning. Now, was there anything else with this piece?”

“No, M’Lady.”

“Are you sure, a dark box perhaps.”

“No, M’Lady.  Nanna only gave me this.”

“Did she say where it came from?”

“Only that it had been my mother’s and that it was mine now.” “Sonsee shuffled her feet. Moments passed. Was M’Lady expecting more? “As you said it was clumsily made, but it was the only thing I had of hers, so I kept it.”

“Probably her first piece,” the woman beside M’Lady offered. “Many girls keep their first piece. It would not be unusual.”

“Probably was. Too clumsy to have spells or anything else woven in.” M’Lady turned to Toko. “This is Ana, our Master weaver. She was your mother’s apprentice. Your mother promised as a condition of leaving us, that you would take her place one day. So you are Ana’s apprentice now. A trade, a bargain made long ago. Let’s hope we made a good one. Now, go, all of you.”


“So my mother did not make my amulet?” Toko asked as she followed Ana to the weaving studio.

“Hush, there are spies everywhere,” Ana whispered, looking back over her shoulder. They rounded a corner and Toko watched Ana smile at a student just standing there, doing nothing.