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Weaver’s Shroud
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-747-1
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 250 Pages
Published: April 2010

From inside the flap

Liza Tarvie is an apprentice weaver, but when her weaving mistress dies she must find a job until she can secure a new apprenticeship. Work in the city of Graybury is hard to come by, though. Discouraged, Liza visits the temple of the wolf-headed god Sikivis, known as "Eraser of Worries," where she meets a monk who suggests she look for work as a spinner. That afternoon Liza finds a job at Grayson’s Spinsters.

She enjoys the work, but begins to be troubled by dreams of spinning black thread--dreams coupled with a sense of urgency and despair that seems to be connected to Sikivis. And after she rescues an apprentice necromancer from a ghost, her dreams become more frightening. Liza suspects that Sikivis needs her help--and for more than the task he sets her, to spin and weave three newly-shorn black fleeces into a shroud.

The apprentice necromancer, Johan, thinks she may be haunted. But when Johan’s master summons the ghost and captures it, Liza’s relief is short-lived. The ghost is actually a god--one of Sikivis’ two brothers who stole the bulk of his powers and trapped him in a hiding place long ago.

Liza searches Graybury’s temples to find out the truth about Sikivis and his brothers, but what she discovers disturbs her more than she expected. Sikivis is a god of death--something Sikivis’s monks have failed to mention to her. And she’s not the first weaver Sikivis has asked for help.

If Liza’s going to help Sikivis retrieve his powers, she’ll have to draw on all her skills as a spinner and weaver. She’ll need the help of her friends even more: Johan, the monk Kim, and Zack, the baker’s boy Liza may be falling in love with. But the hardest part is deciding whether to help Sikivis at all.

Weaver’s Shroud (Excerpt)

Chapter One

My mistress Benna died in early winter, leaving me alone in all the world and nearly destitute. I had not known she was ill, only that on some days her face was paler than usual and she was more brusque in her teaching. But her two sisters--whom I had only met once before, when I was first apprenticed to Benna--were not surprised at Benna’s death; indeed, I thought they were not especially grieved. On the contrary, they were full of plans to make Benna’s workshop into a hat shop for fine ladies. They had already found a man to buy Benna’s looms.

Dreadful days are supposed to be gloomy. I was annoyed that this day was bright, with a mellow orange sun beaming in a blue sky. Allene and I stood behind the workshop so as to be out of the way, and hunched our shoulders as though the afternoon were cold after all.

"What are you going to do?" Allene asked me. Her bright fair curls, which I had always envied next to my brown hair, gleamed like gold in the sun. Her face was pinched with worry and grief.

I scuffed my shoe in the dirt, back and forth. They were handsome blue leather shoes and had cost me a great deal. I wished now that I’d saved my money--but when I’d bought the shoes a fortnight ago, to celebrate finishing my dark blue cloak I’d worked on for a month, I had never guessed I’d regret spending the money. Benna had always been more than fair with my allowance.

"I don’t know," I said, finally answering Allene. "Find another place, I suppose."

"I’m going home to work in Father’s business. He’s been wanting me to for years. He’s getting old." Allene looked at me anxiously, and I nodded and tried to smile. I knew she had been thinking of going home for some time. She wasn’t abandoning me.

"Maybe Father can find a place for you," Allene went on. "You’re over halfway through your ’prenticeship, and I know you’re well-skilled and disciplined."

"That’s all right. I’ll find a place here." I knew Allene’s father couldn’t afford to take on another apprentice, even if he wanted one. Allene herself had been Benna’s assistant, very nearly as skilled as Benna despite her young age, and would be a great asset to her father’s business. I would be a drain, I was sure. Besides, I’ve always liked the city, and Allene’s family lived a week’s travel from the nearest town.

That night, the last night I’d ever spend under Benna’s roof, I lay awake nearly until dawn, planning and worrying. I had some money saved toward a loom of my own, but not enough, not even for a small table loom. I knew Benna’s sisters would give me money, as required by law; I had been apprenticed to Benna four years, which entitled me to a good bit of cash. But even if the sum was enough for me to buy a loom, where would I keep it? No, I thought, best to use my money for food and a bed somewhere while I looked for another place. But the time for taking on new apprentices was spring, not winter. What if no one wanted me?

I had only slept a few hours--and fitfully, at that--when Allene woke me. She was already dressed in traveling clothes and when I looked out the window I could see a wagon big as a brewer’s dray waiting in the courtyard.

"I came to say goodbye," Allene said, pulling on a pair of kid gloves. "I had to get my things out today. And then the sisters didn’t believe the Breddle loom was mine and I couldn’t find the receipt for the longest time." Allene sighed, sounding more weary than irritated. "Don’t let them short you what you’re owed. I figured up the sum for you." She dug in her handbag and took out a paper, which she handed to me. I glanced at it and was relieved at the amount written on it in Allene’s neat hand-it was more than I’d expected.

"Thank you, Allene," I said. "I’ll miss you terribly."

Allene hugged me, and I closed my eyes to keep the tears in. "I’ll miss you too, Liza. You have my father’s address, don’t you? Write and let me know how you fare."

I watched from the window when Allene left, sitting next to the wagon’s driver with her gloved hands folded in her lap. She had put on a hat I hadn’t even known she had, pale green with paper roses on its brim.

I was still in my nightgown and still leaning with my stomach against the windowsill when Benna’s sisters came into my room, without even knocking. I turned around quickly, startled, and managed to school my scowl into a pleasant, but appropriately sad, smile.

One of the sisters--the older one, although they were both younger than Benna had been--glanced around my room with a look of disgust. I always kept my room tidy and I resented her expression. The younger sister--who like Benna was a little plump, and who seemed somewhat nicer than the other sister--returned my smile and said, "Good morning. If you’d like to get dressed, we have some settling up to do."

"I know you’ll be eager to get your things packed," said the first sister, with a look that told me I had better hurry.

I nodded, feeling surly, and was glad when they left. I washed quickly and dragged on my favorite dress, the rich blue one that brings out the color of my eyes. I didn’t want to take very many clothes with me; they would be heavy and I would have to carry everything I owned. I sorted through my wardrobe, rejected the dresses that no longer fit now that I’d finally grown a bust and hips, and settled on two. One was dark green with long, full sleeves--nearly a robe--which was terribly flattering even though it was last year’s fashion; the other was a sturdy, warm work dress, made of cloth I had spun and woven from undyed wool, gray and brown.

The dresses, and all my underclothes and my nightgown, I folded and stuffed into the big bag I had made years before from cloth scraps. It looked like a patchwork quilt with a shoulder strap. On top of the clothes I added the box of notepaper Allene had given me for my birthday the previous March, the toy lamb I’d had since I was four, my comb and folding mirror, the little round basket full of my sewing things, and various odds and ends from the dresser. The sisters could burn the rest of my belongings, for all I cared. I wanted suddenly to be already gone, like Allene, to be starting on my new journey, however perilous. I wanted to be able to forget the empty place Benna’s death had left inside me, and forget about hat shops and unsisterly sisters.

I pulled on my beautiful, expensive shoes and slung my cloak around my shoulders, fastening it with the gold brooch my mother had left me. Last of all, I took the little leather pouch with my savings in it from its hiding place--hidden from thieves, not from Benna or Allene--and after a moment’s hesitation tucked it inside the bodice of my dress, nestled cool between my breasts. Just let the sisters find it now, I thought, and ask me if I’d stolen it--the old bats.

But the sisters settled with me honestly and even invited me to stay for breakfast. I refused politely, shouldered my patchwork bag, and left Benna’s world forever.