3

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. L’Shona the war chief, whose true name was hidden, feared the Powers no more nor less than any normal man. He would die of witchcraft, he knew, as did everyone; and however he died, yes even in battle, his brothers would avenge him by burning a witch. He gave this little thought. It was the way of the world. But now came word that the great king of the Bantu had had a dream, and wanted L’Shona, whose true name was hidden, to come and help divine its meaning. L’Shona was afraid. For the Fire Demon had come to him in sleep, as well, and told him that the Bantu must sweep east, into the land of the small wise ghosts. And he had afterward called in a slave, who he had disemboweled to read the entrails in the sand. And now L’Shona, whose true name was hidden, avoided thinking of his second dream, that the king would do this same thing to him… and thought instead of the east, and war.

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 seen as felt the emotions of a tribal warrior. He had touched the bright mind, the quick, sad resignation, and the complacent cruelty with which he had dispatched the slave.

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. Xoatuitl hid under a bale of amaranth stalks until the cries of the hunters and the screams of the pursued diminished in the distance. Then, with as little sound as he could manage, he crawled out. There was a chance some followers of the Teacher might be rallying by the lake, where the tools of power were stored. Although he was only twelve, he knew something of their use, and might be able to help them drive back the followers of the Bloodgod. He turned just in time to see the (axe, sword, weapon)

Pavlos blinked. Suddenly the viewpoint shifted. He was looking through still another pair of eyes, dimmer, less acute. Old Tuitaczpec leaned against the wall of the marketplace, breathing hoarsely through toothless gums. He had not been able to keep up with the mob, and had been left to use his (axe, club, indeterminate weapon) upon the prone bodies of wounded followers of the feathered serpent. It was not enough. He wanted vengeance on them, for seducing his grandson away from the old ways of the Bloodgod. When he saw a head emerge from under a bale of amaranth, he gleefully took the opportunity

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.”

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