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‘Exactly.’ I pause, realising I don’t know this for sure. ‘I think. Actually, I have no idea.’
‘Then it’s true.’
I look at him, trying to understand what he’s telling me.
‘There are whisperings that Loricel’s successor has come. Everyone has been trying to figure out which of you it is,’ he explains. ‘If it’s you or the other one.’
‘Pryana?’ I ask, mildly offended.
Jost nods, too busy gawking to notice. ‘I’ve known it was you since they threw you in the cell.’
‘But how did they know?’ Was one slip enough to mark me as a Creweler?
‘I don’t know,’ he admits, ‘but the way they treat you – afraid of you, but still deferential. They know it’s you.’
I think of the threats made but never carried out.
‘Crewelers don’t come along often. They can’t afford to lose you,’ Jost tells me.
‘But how is this Crewel work?’ I finger the time woven around us. ‘Loricel has only ever used a loom in my presence.’
‘Crewelers don’t merely embroider.’ Jost sits down on the rug, and I join him, safely cocooned in my moment. ‘Once a year Loricel visits the mining sites and separates the elements from time, so the machines can purify and distribute the material to the coventries to maintain Arras’s weave. I serve at the meetings when the officials come to schedule the trips. Without her talent, the looms would be useless. That’s why she gives them so much grief.’ There’s a note of appreciation in his voice.
‘In academy, they told us machines discovered the elements.’
‘You don’t feel like a machine?’ he asks. ‘Oiled and maintained and made to do the will of those who control you?’
I don’t answer. I have no response except to warn him, but even that sounds mechanical and automatic. ‘You can’t tell anyone.’
‘I won’t,’ he promises. ‘But they already know.’
‘They think they know,’ I argue.
‘They know, Adelice.’
The dreams are more vivid, but I control them now. I repaint my mother’s eyes and weave my sister back into my arms. My father, taken so violently, remains unsaved. I continue to try. Meanwhile, Jost and Erik take turns watching me, and I wake with their eyes burned into my conscious thoughts.
By the time Enora finally shows up to brief me, I’m seriously considering weaving myself right out of the compound. This time there are no pleasantries or small talk. Instead she gets right to the point.
‘As you know, the Guild has made unprecedented advances in mind-mapping technology.’ Her voice is as stiff as her posture. There’s no spark of friendliness. I must have really got her into trouble for her to act like this.
‘And they will be utilising this new capability by mapping every Spinster,’ she continues.
‘What?’ I shout, jumping up from my bed.
Enora barely bats an eyelash at my outburst. ‘Since Spinsters have unique abilities that are vital to the continued prosperity of Arras, the Guild is mandating that all Spinsters undergo this testing.’
‘At the State of the Guild they said they could change people. Are they mapping us or remapping us?’ I ask, studying Enora’s placid demeanour. Something isn’t right.
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she says, but her eyes are empty. ‘You can’t remap something that hasn’t been mapped.’ There’s no familiarity in her voice, and her usual maternal tone is now mocking.
‘So is that why they’re doing it? So they can remap us?’
‘It would be foolish to remap a Spinster. All attempts to do so in the past have resulted in loss of weaving ability,’ she says.
I remember Cormac telling me that they almost had the technology perfected to clean and splice an individual’s strand. Either Enora doesn’t know that or she’s lying to me. I rub my hands together and stare at her. Why is she acting like this?
‘My hands are almost better,’ I say, holding them out for her to see the bandages.
‘I’m relieved to hear that,’ she says without even a small smile.
‘Enora, did something happen?’ I whisper, hoping the companels can’t hear me.
‘I’m fine, Adelice,’ she says with a blink. ‘I was sick but the Guild doctors have helped me, and now I’m fine.’
She’s not though. Nothing is right about this. My Enora would be fawning over my hands and lecturing me right now. She wouldn’t have stayed away the whole week. This woman is like a talking shell of Enora.
‘What was wrong with you?’ I ask.
‘Anxiety issues. I was having strange urges, so naturally I spoke to Loricel and she got me into the clinic right away.’
This knocks the wind out of me, and my mouth falls open, but I quickly shut it. Loricel – why would she hurt Enora?
‘What kinds of urges were you having?’ I ask, trying to steady my breathing.
‘Unnatural ones,’ she says, as though this requires no further explanation.
‘Have you been mapped yet?’
‘Oh, yes. You and Pryana will be the last of the Spinsterhood to be mapped. We did it by seniority,’ Enora says, folding her hands in her lap and smiling.
‘Even Loricel?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t have access to the list,’ she says. ‘Although Loricel should have been the first to go.’