Racks filled the rest of the temple as far as Pavlos could see. Only a few narrow aisles between the columns were not blocked by tier upon horizontal tier of wooden doweling. There were thirty-three tiers between the stone floor and the dusty, cobwebbed ceiling; and upon every shelf there lay bolts of shimmering, silky, multicolored cloth.
The arrangement was intricate. As Pavlos walked, peering in the dim light cast by his lamp, he was puzzled at the way the cloth snaked back and forth over the dowels. Only a few folds lay upon one another on each shelf. Yet the fabric on one shelf connected to those on tiers above and below it.
The long, continuous bolt on his left leapt the aisle high over his head to join the one on his right just under the ceiling. The colors in the portion overhead were bright and vivid, though the lamp was too dim to bring out features. Still, something in what little he could see made Pavlos break out in goose bumps.
It was one gigantic tapestry. Only two meters wide, its length must have been kilometers.
The sense of defensive detachment that had never totally left Pavlos now returned in strength. The hand that reached out to stroke the smooth, cool fabric felt like the hand of another man. Glass had never been smoother. Mercury could not have felt more elusively alive under his touch.
He lifted the top fold and held up the lamp, then bent forward to look into the narrow opening.
The threads were too fine to make out individually, yet he felt sure that, holding his head at the right angle, he could easily pick them out one by one. It was an odd sensation.
The pattern of the threads was unlike any he had ever come upon. The weft twisted with incredible complexity, not only in and out of the warp, but with itself, as well.
The design was intricately abstract at first sight. But there was something in the pattern—the colors and highlights shifted like phosphorous diatoms as he changed position slightly—that seemed hypnotically three-dimensional. Pavlos was reminded of the holograms Frank had shown him once. He held the light to one side and squinted at an angle; then his eyes adjusted to a virtual image.
Pavlos stepped back and rubbed his eyes.
The image had come and gone in a flash of color and emotion. He had not so much
Moreover, Pavlos had felt undertones from the dying slave, whose life ended in ignorant terror at L’Shona’s hand. Pavlos sensed the presence of others—L’Shona’s parents and ancestors; his wives, slaves, comrades, and enemies; and his immediate heirs—nearby in either space or time.
He felt a weird certainty that, had he shifted his gaze one iota during that holographic second, he would have seen… felt… another instant in the warrior’s life, or in the life of a neighbor.
He moved along the aisle until another image flashed at him unbeckoned.
Pavlos blinked. Suddenly the viewpoint shifted. He was looking through still another pair of eyes, dimmer, less acute.
The next time Pavlos blinked he saw an overview. The small section of tapestry he looked upon was colored a sanguinary red. He felt almost overcome by the lust of one half of a city to kill the other half. Taken at a distance, the scene was almost beautiful, in a dreadful fashion.
A small shift of his eyes told a sad irony: that this civil war would lead, within a year, to the fall of the city to barbarians from the north. A centimeter downward, the color red overwhelmed all other shades.
There was, in fact, a lot of red everywhere he looked. Bright, sudden patches flashed at him as battles and burnings. Pink tintings leapt out as oppression and grief.
There were other shades. In fact, Pavlos thought he saw a perpetual effort, in greens and browns of health and chaste blues of thought and art… and especially in the shades of humor and courage, to force the weave in another direction altogether.
The conflict created a blend of terrible, tragic beauty. The tapestry, as a whole, made him ache inside. The stories leapt at him, individually and in groups, comprising a sum of melancholy that finally made him close his eyes.
“Moira,” he whispered.
The pronunciation had fooled him. It was not a borrowed, foreign name. It was an honorific. A title.
“Yes,” she said, beside him. “I am She Who Walks, who travels… or used to. Come now, hero. You must meet the Three. The Three Who Weave wish to look upon you.”