That [afternoon with Larryn] was the only glimpse I would ever get of the Inkweaver. Not many days after that, I heard a dreadful uproar outside our house, in the streets of Prabel. My parents looked very uncomfortable, but they had the doors and windows barred and they did not show any sign that they wanted even to know what was going on outside.
"What is happening?" I called from beneath the covers of my bed.
"Go to sleep now," my father ordered.
"But what is—"
My mother climbed into bed and held me tightly against her. It felt safe to be held, but I could feel the fear underneath. What was going on?
A clear voice cut through the pandemonium. I am sure everyone in Mirrorvale heard it, though I am not sure how.
"Good people!" The woman announced, "I am leaving now. You say you do not want me, but I know that you have need of me."
Some furious murmuring that I couldn't understand broke out.
"Hear me now!" the powerful voice continued. Was it the Inkweaver? "You will not see me for a time, but I will return when you search for me."
A crowd of people shouted all at once, many angry things—then they cried out in surprise and rage.
"Rubin! Rubin!" A large fist pounded on our door as the man called father's name.
Father looked to mother, who had fallen asleep; I pretended to do so, but instead of letting the man inside, father stepped outside. I slipped out of my mother's arms and crept to the door.
"...sent the witch packing. The others want no more of her kind around here. Do you know if there is anything in your house that might have the witchcraft in it?"
"I am fairly certain my daughter has only accepted gifts from her mother and I, given by our hands."
"Better check carefully, to make sure; she kept company with Eidan's daughter, didn't she?"
"Larryn? Yes, nearly every day, in fact."
The man's voice was grave, "There's talk of banishment for them, too. Eidan's house was full of the stuff, from the mother and the daughter both."
"Vera and I will go over all of Shereya's things personally tomorrow when she is out."
"Good man; I would hate to see you leave, Rubin. This town needs good, strong men like you, not slow-witted, blind weaklings like Eidan."
"Thank you, Finnegan. See you tomorrow."
"Good rest to you."
I had just crawled back into mother's lap and closed my eyes when I heard father's step on the stoop and the creak of the door. He crept quietly across the floor. Quite suddenly I sensed his body right next to mine, and felt his breath on my face; did he suspect that I was only faking? I held my breath, praying that he could not see me quaking in fear.
My mother stirred under me. My father whispered to her, "She is fast asleep. Now let me put you to bed."
"Oh," Mother sighed and slowly eased out around me, doing her best to keep me from moving too much. She needn't have worried, since I was awake, but I was not about to share that fact!
The next morning, we all behaved as normal, not saying a word about the events of the night before. I knew by the looks Mother gave Father that he must have told her about the conversation between him and Finnegan. I pretended to know nothing about any of it, and went out to play as usual. When I returned for supper, all of my things were not quite as I had left them, as if someone had displaced them and tried to tidy up. I pretended not to notice.
I had seen the Inkweaver's cottage that day—from a distance, anyway. She lived high on a hill outside the edge of town, yet even from there I could see that it no longer looked like a house. The mob had reduced it to a heap of rubble. They had added something else: a line of stones, marking the town boundaries while very clearly shutting off the hill where sat the Inkweaver's cottage. People even started calling it Witches' Hill. Over the next ten years, the line grew into a wall so tall that no one could even see the dilapidated structure. There were only rumors now.
If anyone had a Told item from any of the Tellers, it was confiscated and destroyed. Mirrorvale received new craftsmen, ones that made things with their hands and not their words. Plain was the new beautiful, and function became decorative. A Scholar arrived to teach us children, and very soon I grew to realize that it just wasn't practical to make things up; why think about something that isn't there, if it blinds you to the things that are?
Little did I know that Fate would answer that question for me.
Ten Years Later....
"Can't catch me, Shereya!"
The drab-yellow blur blew past me full-tilt.
I laughed, "Larryn! Why can't you behave yourself?"
My friend drew herself up and gave a flourishing bow instead of a curtsey. "I am behaving—as myself!" Her brown braids swept the dirt.
I rolled my eyes as her green ones twinkled. She came beside me and seized my arm. "Did you see the new baubles that came to town today?"
I nodded. "I am thinking that the dress I recently purchased needs some enhancement, if only a small one."
"Small?" Larryn echoed, aghast. "Nay, that old flour-sack you call a dress would need a medallion as big as your face—"
I giggled at her theatrics.
"—solid gold, studded with all manner of jewels—" Larryn suddenly grabbed both my hands, "—with a chain that hung it all the way to the hem of your skirt!"
Before I could protest, away we flew, twirling as Larryn dragged me into her caper. I dug my heels in; people were beginning to stare.
"Larryn, stop!" I chided her, "This is no way for a lady to behave." We were both eighteen now, and as fine as you please.
She and I were newly graduated from the Finishing School in town, and only biding our time by now until a proper gentleman came to court either of us. I managed, through serious focus and constant study, to come out at the top of our class, and Larryn—for reasons unknown—made second. She had always been such a fly-away, I could never figure out what she did with all that energy.
I stopped when we approached the last shop. "All right," I said, "Let us go back."
"No, no," Larryn begged, "Onward, Shereya! Let us go further; this old town isn't half big enough."
I deliberately turned her around and began marching as delicately as I dared in the opposite direction.
"But Larryn," I reasoned, "There is The Wall!" My heart beat wildly in my chest as it did so many years ago when I stood against that row of stones and looked up at the heap of blackened rubble and razed ground, thinking all the time about the dangers of Wordspinners and the dreaded Tale-Telling. I could barely even look or think about that structure without trembling and breaking out into a cold sweat.
"So?" Larryn challenged me, glancing behind us.
"So—No one goes past The Wall!"
"Why?" Larryn rebelled against all the training we had ever received with her incessant wondering. "What's over there?"
"It's the Witches' Hill," I could not say it's name above a whisper, "you know that!"
"Didn't Ms. Flannery always tell us that there aren't any more witches?"
"Yes, but there may still be some—"
"No enchantments, either?" She smiled at my fear, yet she patted my arm soothingly as I clutched hers, gasping for breath.
"Larryn, how can you say such things!" I stopped and took my mind off the Hill and The Wall by berating her. "You were the one who took me there all those years ago! Are you saying you have changed your mind?"
"Not a bit!" She marched us onward. "I am just wondering why you have."
"But I haven't!" I protested, "I still do not believe in such things."
"Then what are you afraid of?" Larryn rejoined.
"I—" The images returned, and I couldn't say a thing.
Larryn's eyebrows danced, "Are you not making things up that are not visible and present?" She mocked the words of our teacher.
"Well," I stammered, "I am relying on information given to me in the past."
"Did you see it?"
I did not understand her emphasis until I realized what she was doing. "No," I admitted, because there was nothing else I could say.
"Then, dear Shereya," my friend repeated, "What are you afraid of?"
Her question stuck with me for the rest of the day, and into the day after that, and the next. It kept me on the straight-and-narrow path of impeccable behavior. It prevented me from reacting coherently when my mother remarked at supper, "Next week is the Decorum Banquet, Shereya. I hear Belak will be there."
No! I must not imagine things! I could only think of my family, and the peas and chicken on my plate. I could remember running and laughing with Belak, before his family moved away to the other side of Gramble. He was always a nice boy; did nice boys make better men? I could not bring myself to speculate; every time I did, cold terror crawled over my body.
Also from "Inkweaver":
-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-What Are You Afraid Of?
-In The Inkweaver's Cottage
-The Unfinished Tapestry
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-In The House Of The Talesmith
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger"
-Escape From Blackrope
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham
-The Morning After
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers"
-In the Court of Count Bergen
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Interpreting The Stone
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "Four Animals in Partnership"
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"