Shinjao nursed her child as she listened to the lulling sounds of the village-tree. They gave ample assurance that all was well, and that she was free to explore Jeniah’s branch of the Huntthread.
The Trueborn was weaving, a tapestry even more complex than the patterns woven on the huge loom Rachyl had constructed in the early days, when Osiiraan and the rest of Aletris were just beginning to heal from the twins’ Breaking. Any who wished might weave on the hangings made there, and the patterns grew intricate – but as nothing to what Jeniah was creating.
Aletris was offering threads, and Kaivelt Jeniah’s once and perhaps future Solemate, and the Tacivaarii and the Canivaarii, and Everdeep….even hints of the Otherworlders who raped and killed in search of whatever they were taking in their poisoned diggings.
And she was weaving the disparate threads into a pattern that shifted as the winds and snows, as the flickering pictures in the stars, as the phases of the moons and seasons, as the nature of relationship within Tribes, and between lovers…
Jeniah wove, and, in the weaving, drew these varying threads closer, intertwining, so that it was clear that, together, they were making a net in which to entrap the Otherworlders – not to destroy them, but instead to release them, back to whatever world had birthed them,and, in the doing of it, to free Aletris, as well…and, perhaps, in some way, to assist Kaivelt with the shadowy threat he sensed.
There was something strange in being witness to this, the most vital and powerful of weavings. It was both calming and unsettling, to know that such an act was being committed, and to feel the undertaking of it, the way it absorbed and consumed the former Huntleader, and how she seemed made for this weaving more than for anything that had gone before, in her life.
But, each time, the simpler, plainer weavings of Osirraan and the Tacivaarii drew her in, brought her out of the depths of what Jeniah was doing. She could not truly belong to that striving, consciously. She would become a snag, because she had neither the strength nor the awareness to sense and follow all of the nuances of the new-made fabric.
Now, it was Arys and Cataan, coming back from a run together in the waning storm, with a string of rabbits who had ventured forth to forage in these lean times. “Three of them are mine!” Cataan exclaimed, dancing around her and making the baby giggle and twist away from the breast, so that she could follow him with wide eyes and still-unruly fists.
“Three!” She looked at Arys, who nodded solemnly, but his eyes sparkled with pride at his Soleson. That, and wanting to be with her, to share this moment with her. Running in Winter’s Knell always made him long for her, and a lingering Matehunt.
“Three! And Arys has said that he will show me the skinning, so that I can learn it, and then to clean my own kills! And, Mother, I want to give the strongest heart to (baby sister). I caught it for her firstmeat. You said it was time.”
She looked into his bright dancing eyes, and laughed. “Then you shall, Cataan. You have seen it done often enough; you need no one to tell the doing of it.”
(baby sister) reached waveringly toward him, gurgling the new beginnings of words as he came near and took her from Shinjao’s arms.
Arys came to her, so that she could examine the rabbits. It was his choice, which to keep and which to share, but he always left it too her, since the babe’s birthing. He had vowed to do so until she was able to hunt once more.
His hands were warm and rough as he caressed her, savoring her and awakening her desire, so recently returned to her. She smiled, and told him, “Cataan will surely sleep soundly, before many sunrounds pass, for the air and the exertion. And then…”
She explored the rabbits, using all her senses, to know which met the needs of her family. She could tell which of the eight were Cataan’s; these she set aside – the choosing of what to do with these was his alone. Of the others, she kept two large, soft does carrying near term early young. “We will have these, Arys, and the skin of the large buck. Osiiraan may have the rest, to use as she will.”
“I will see to that, once Cataan has finished with the babe and is ready to join me.” He kissed her. “Will you be here, when we return?”
Shinjao felt herself melting into his embrace, wishing they could simply couple, as they had in those first days. But there was also a spice to waiting, to knowing what they intended, after the day’s tendings. It was a glowing ember of pressure within her, and she could hold it, nurture it, as they went about what they intended, until they could meet again…
“Perhaps; perhaps not. I will be yet with Rachyl, if I am not. There are matters we must discuss, in private; I will go to her in her nursery, and return when we have done, and are full of visiting.”
“It is well that you have female friends.” He smiled. “And that you have a son who honors me by including me in his life. I will await with a gift suited to you, my lovely woman.”
She gave him a little shove as she sighed and drew away. “You, Arys are always gift enough.”
But his smile as she turned to the children said that there would be some gift, nonetheless, as he always presented her with one, each night – some small tribute from his day, that said she had been still with him in every breath they had taken apart.
That knowing blended with the upsurge of awareness of Jeniah’s weavings, a sensing so strong she could almost make out the pattern of it, feel its texture, scent the threads and the dyes…
She gathered the infant into her, settled her into her carrying sling, and went to Rachyl, half-lost in the Trueborn’s intertwinings…