Chapter Eight - The Grotto's Secret

"That's it?"
Luna held up a hand.
A moment later, the spell snapped and a bright light popped from the hole before shooting up an invisible seam. It ricocheted around the wall before reaching the ceiling to shoot off in three different directions and reunite on the opposite side. There, a line came down along the right side of the door. About a third the way down, it paused a moment before separating again, this time sending off flashes of light at spots where it separated again until the entire image of a woman revealed itself in yellow light which eventually faded to orange as though magma.
"That's a witch hole; it shows unseen things hidden by wizards." Luna stood in front of the image of the woman. "Something's strange, though, here."
"Like how?"
Luna dipped her wand towards the image and pulled back the line of light. "It's a facade." Whipping her wand back, she removed the thin veneer of stone and light and cast it aside. The image had the woman again, but this time, she was with a god. The water pouring from her hands went into a silver bowl from whence the god drank. Their eyes were locked onto each other as though no one else in the entire world existed.
Which would be a problem if the fae hiding in the distant forest came any closer.
The water twinkled as it flowed; the wind brushed against the hair of the woman, and the cloak of the god. The fae hid and appeared behind the trees, and in the farthest distance, pennants on a castle snapped in a strong wind.
"There's the first tapestry," Caradoc said. "Wish Medi were here to reveal the lines, but everything looks good. We're going to have to find the weaver's mark."
"Is it a Gwion?"
"Yeah, it is. It moves, and only the Daughters of the Gwion have that magic." He stood on his toes to look at the top. "Normally, we put them in the corners or at an edge. I can't tell you what it will look like, you just have to guess, but you'll know when you see it."
"I know you have one, but does Mederei have one or is it only tapestry weavers who use them."
"Mederei has one, but she doesn't use it that often."
The worked silently scouring the tapestry for any symbols. Luna stopped first. "I give up. I looked over the entire thing ..."
"Here it is," Caradoc said, pointing to a bunch a lines in the tall grass at the base of the tapestry.
Luna peered over his shoulder. "I think you're crazy."
"Oh it's there, but ..." Caradoc pulled out a book from the bag he carried with him. Flipping through it, he looked at the symbols in the book. "I don't recognize it immediately, but I know it's Gwion."
Holding out her hand, Luna flexed her fingers. "Give it to me," she demanded.
Caradoc closed one eye, but handed over the book.
Luna pointed her wand at the symbol. "Remember." At the book, she said, "Discover."
"You know, I've always liked your magic - simple and to the point."
"It's the magic Daddy taught me when I was little. He didn't know much, but he and Mama could use some spells."
"Why didn't you go to one of the schools?"
Luna shrugged. "Mama didn't like them, and Daddy's family was poor, I guess. I never really asked him why since they died when I was thirteen."
One of the pages glowed until Luna turned to the page where the glow concentrated into the symbol. "Who's Aysut?"
Caradoc whistled. "Haven't heard that name in an age. She's Aoife's younger sister."
"I thought you were descended from Gwion only."
"It's a common misconception. We're named after our first head because he was the one who founded the tapestry guild, but Aoife, her sisters and their children all had weaver's magic. Each sister is the founder of one of the four families which make up the Gwion."
"So if this is Aysut's tapestry, and she's Aoife's sister ... How old is it?"
"Twenty-five hundred years at least. That's assuming she wove it towards the end of her life. If not, it might be another seventy years older than that."
This time, Luna whistled. "I didn't realize your family was that old."
"People do tend to forget that fact."
"Do we take it down?"
Caradoc shook his head. "Nope." He returned the notebook back to his bag. "It has to remain here since it's part of the magical protective shield, but it might be interesting to see who wove the others."
"Most likely Aysut."
"I would have said that too, had it been another weaver, but the four sisters often wove projects together, in which case, we might find ones that Aoife and the other two sister's wove." He grinned, leaning back to look down the hallway. "We might get lucky and find that there's one by Oroitz, which would be something."
"Who's Oroitz. That's not the name of one of the four families."
"That's because Oroitz died without children. She never married, never had a child, but remained one of the best weavers." He took out another notebook and began drawing the tapestry, putting it down in enough detail to discover later, but with quick lines of one who has much practice. "It's said that she taught Gwion how to weave which is why he was considered the best of his generation and wanted to create a standard for their tapestries. Much of our standards come from her tapestries. There are only three known tapestries currently in existence. We have one and the High King of the Forty Isles has one."
Caradoc fell silent as he worked.
Beside him, Luna watched. His hands were artist's hands it was said. Long fingered and strong. He held his pencil loosely, and placed the lines down quickly, the image appearing to be at first a jumble of lines until it began to coalesce into the tapestry.
When he finished, he closed the book and tucked it back into the top of the bag.
"And who has the third one?" Luna asked.
"Graeme." Caradoc shouldered his bag. "She was meant to marry the younger son of the Duke of Graeme, but not long after they were betrothed to be married, he went on a routine mission, and was killed. Oroitz never found love again."
"How tragic."
Caradoc started back to the entrance. "Personally, while I understand the great loss, I think it's practical to continue to seek love, though," he paused at the entrance, shading his eyes against the sunlight. "Looks darker out that way, doesn't it?"
Luna looked to the horizon. "Seems to be a bit darker. Wonder if it's connected to what Mederei and the boys are doing."
"Might be." Caradoc started to the stairs. "I figure if you can, the best thing is to not give up on finding love again. Sometimes a first love is great, but a second love is better."
"Didn't know you were a romantic, Caradoc." Luna lifted her wand, and set the stairs to go to the top of the cliff. "You surprise me."
"Not a romantic; more a pragmatist." At the top of the cliff, he looked around. "Now which way?"
Luna pointed to the north. "That way. We're at the farthest west spot, now we go to the north then east and finally south. Hopefully the other three will return by then, but I doubt it."
"Me too. They'll have fun looking at all the old etchings. Especially Hugh and Medi. Those two love old stone places, and if the fae are involved then they'll definitely be mesmerized."
"Let's just hope there aren't any tapestries," Luna joked. "We'll never get her home."
After night had fallen, the air cooled enough to warrant a fire. Wood crackled and popped in the fireplace in their inn. Caradoc sat at the table researching information on Aysut and Oroitz. Aoife, the direct ancestor for his family was well-known, but the founders of the other three branches less well-known.
The Gwion, in many cases, resembled a tribe made from four clans. The dominate clan, that of Aoife's descendants, were centered in and around the capital of Caergwlân. It was here that the sons of the family plied the tapestry trade. It was also from there that the Gwion, as the head of the family was called, protected his family through politics and favors. Cynwal Gwion, the current head, happened to be Caradoc's mother's brother, and Mederei's father.
The other three branches of the Gwion were centered primarily in the eastern portion of the island. The descendants of Ilmari, the Ilmarinen, were the farthest west. Those of the youngest daughter, Ulne, lived along the craggy sylvan northern sea while the descendants of Enkee, the middle daughter, lived in the wide plains of the center of the kingdom. It was the Enkeen who Luna first knew as the Gwion. Known for their beautiful handwoven items for hearth and home, they were some of the best weavers in the kingdom for household linens. Like all Gwion, their items protected them, but were made to be used unlike the tapestry weavers whose items were made to be viewed.
"Is it just me or is it cold in here?" Luna sautéed vegetables from the market and checked the small hen she roasted in the oven.
"It's always chilly by the sea," Caradoc murmured. "Froze the first winter I was in the capital. Swore I was going to return home and never see the blasted sea again, but the Branocs tied me down to the bed."
Luna laughed at the image of twelve-year-old Caradoc tied to a bed. The apprenticeships began at the age twelve, though for most of the Gwion lessons had already begun five years previous. It wasn't uncommon for family members outside the immediate area, such as Caradoc's, to send their sons to a closer family member to begin their lessons. In Caradoc's case, he lived at home until he was twelve since his mother taught him the basics of weaving.
"Who did you stay with while apprenticing?"
"Arlan and his wife." Mederei's eldest brother was twelve years older than they were, and had married when he was twenty-five.
"I've only met him once," Luna said. "Is he nice?"
"He has his moments, but generally he's a good man. He's nicer than Father's family can be, but ..." Caradoc's voice drifted off.
Luna turned to see him scratching something into his notebook. While Caradoc and Mederei bore a strong resemblance to one another in their facial features - high cheekbones, expressive mouths and strong chins - it was Caradoc's hair color which always reminded Luna of Hugh. Whereas Hugh's hair had flecks of darker russet mixed into his, Caradoc's hair had flecks of gold only visible in low light. It lent him a halo at certain times of the day adding to his appearance of a fallen god.
"You're staring at me, Luna."
She blinked. "Sorry." She shut off the heat to the vegetables and pulled the chicken out of the oven. "Supper's ready."
"What do I need to get?"
"Primarily drinks." She set the chicken on a plate, dumped the vegetables into a bowl and placed both on the hotpads on the table while Caradoc poured white wine for both. Returning for plates and silverware, Luna also grabbed napkins from her bag since she couldn't find any in the drawers.
"Did you find anything about her?"
"Not really." Caradoc closed the book he had been reading and set it on the pile of other books they brought with them. All of five carried bags the Gwion called univercity bags, a play on the word university because they weren't necessarily meant for the schools, but for traveling around. The bags varied in size from the small bag Mederei used on her everyday trips to the bookbag Caradoc took with them earlier. The bags could hold a plethora of materials, and according to Mederei could easily turn into a breeding ground of more stuff if one didn't occasionally empty the bags out.
Caradoc had brought along most of the books the Gwion had on their early members, but had also managed to find a few books he'd forgotten about in his bag. For him, other elements included the book with the known weaver's marks which, considering the twenty-five hundred year history of the family, was extensive. He'd also brought along the book entitled, Gwion Tapestries: A History in Images which chronicled every tapestry woven by the family according to the weaver. In the past five hundred years, the individual weavers remained, but many were more involved with teams opposed to individuals as the rules for the weavers became more stringent.
While Caradoc carved the bird, Luna spooned vegetables onto both plates along with slices of fresh bread. She pulled the history book over to her and began leafing through. The thumbnail images remained small until tapped at which point they lifted from the page to be seen. A second tap, and they would grow to their actual dimensions.
""Does each weaver have their own style like a painter would?"
"Sometimes," Caradoc said, laying a slice of chicken on Luna's plate while he took both drumsticks. "It's more common during the first two thousand years or so, but somewhere around five, six hundred years ago when the laws prohibiting the full development of weavers came into effect, the teams were formed, and while you can find differences, it's more of the teams people know."
"With weaver's marks?"
"We still use them. All of us have a weaver's mark, even if we don't all weave. Nowadays, we can take special orders or even create items for ourselves in which we create everything, but those are fairly rare as it does take time to weave a tapestry."
Mederei wove. She had several looms in the house she owned a few blocks from the guild hall, but the tapestry loom was hidden in an upstairs room, visible yet invisible. While not necessarily illegal for her to weave tapestries for herself and friends, some officials took a stringent ruling on the law which forbade women from weaving tapestries while others took a less stringent ruling and forbade women from weaving for a profit. Everyone agreed that the daughters of the Gwion should not weave tapestries for everyday consumption, but the tapestries woven should be kept hidden in private collections, so great was the fear of the storyteller magic as though it was some sort of disease easily transferred from one to another.
"Wonder what Alfny would say about the current situation."
"Nothing pleasant, I'm afraid," Caradoc answered. "She's none too pleased with it all, swearing it's all gone to pot and a bloody nuisance."
Luna, fork and knife poised over her food, blinked. "I knew Medi could visit her, but I didn't know you could."
"Can't without Medi or one of the other girls, but I don't necessarily have to hold hands with Mederei to go back. Sometimes, it's just the knowledge she's traveling and I can get swept back with her." He speared a turnip. "We do have to be in proximity to each other like next door or something."
"Must be disconcerting."
"Not really; just unexpected." He turned a page in the book he read. "Actually, I think the ones who often find it the most disconcerting are the new family members who randomly stay with Uncle Cynwal's family. Hafwen hasn't mastered complete control of it yet, though Gwenllian seems to be unable to travel."
All daughters born to the Gwion inherited two types of magic, the weaver's magic all Gwion had and the word magic which only the daughters had. It was the word magic which enabled Mederei to pass as an acquired wizard though, unlike Luna, she didn't need any wands to perform magic. The magic the Gwion had was innate, not acquired. The combining of the two forms of magic was illegal. Known colloquially as storyteller magic, is was hard to define, though the result of it could be easy to spot.
The most common form of storyteller magic came through the trips Luna and Caradoc discussed in which Mederei could travel back in time to visit direct ancestors, Alfny being the most common for her. Traveling was the term they used, and back in time the description, but it wasn't physically traveling back in space, but entering an ether region not unlike falling into a story. Events followed a predetermined script without the ability to change actions, but the members remembered each other.
The other common use of storyteller magic came in the form of the tapestries which seemingly came to life. These tapestries were not living, but the images could move within the confines of their space. Woven fish swam in navy wool while couples bedecked in silver silk and wool twisted and turned within the borders. The images were in a loop of time, caught forever replaying the section, but the sight of it was mesmerizing.
Most of the storyteller tapestries were locked away in private collections, but many remained in the Hallway of History, a gallery on the second floor of the Gwion Tapestry Guild headquarters where visitors could see a short history of the Gwion. It was there, two years ago, Luna had first spied an actual storyteller tapestry, and had fallen in love with it.
"Did you know Aoife couldn't perform storyteller magic?" Caradoc said, breaking into Luna's thoughts. "It isn't common knowledge, but Aoife was unable to combine the magic."
"I didn't know any of them could use it."
"Three of her sisters could, but Aoife and Enkee were unable."
"Does anyone know why the Gwion have this magic and no one else?"
Caradoc shrugged. "The theory is the mixture of demihabil and fae blood, but no one else with the same mixture has our magic. We believe it's a combination of several things not the least of which was the fact the family was already known for their weaving abilities before Aoife's parents married. Only Aoife and her sisters had the two forms of magic."
Aoife's mother was known as the half-fae whereas Aoife's father was known as the dragon-dae, the offspring of a demihabil and half-dae mother. Aoife's mother, grandmother and other women through the line were well-respected tapestry weavers.
There were several books - fiction and non-fiction - based upon their stories, and the history of the Gwion was relatively well-known, though the magic always seemed to be nebulous.
Pushing the book back, Caradoc rubbed his forehead. "Near as I can figure, the tapestries are going to be in each of the places we need to see. Considering the second tapestry was one of Enkee's it's also reasonable to believe that each of the sisters wove one of the tapestries, which, also, isn't unlikely considering what we know about them."
"The witch holes are surprising, though."
"Yeah, about them. What was their use?"
"Like I said, a way for witches to hide things way back when."
While magic was common enough in their time, even two millennia ago, magic was nearly unheard of among the non-magical races. "Why weren't the Gwion considered one of the magical races?"
Caradoc shrugged. "No idea. Were the witch holes means of protecting people?"
"More placed to alert wizards of safe places. The innate wizards, normally being the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of one of the magical races, rarely had any troubles with the non-magical, but the witches did. For some reason, daughters were more susceptible in magic appearing announced, but as the sons also started to have magic, it was then that the non-magical members of society began to persecute the men and women born with magical abilities."
"Hence the reason why the schools were formed. That part I knew," Caradoc said. "I didn't know about the persecution. Neither place has a safety location."
"Maybe the entire place is the safety area," Luna suggested.
"If that's the case than it might prove interesting to see if we can find any indications if ..." Caradoc straightened, drumstick in hand. "The whole area. Didn't Mederei say something about wizards separating the island?"
"Why?"
"Because they forgot the connections?"
"Something's off, but I don't know what." Caradoc bit off a piece of meat.
"Does it matter if we can't repair the magic protection?"
"It might be why it's failing," he said around the chicken.

Luna sighed. "I was afraid of that."

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