Weaver’s Box, part 11



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




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


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



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.