My senses returned, and I became aware of a rhythmic swaying all around me. I was not being carried, or if I was, my companions had made a stretcher or litter. But no, the cadence was not one of footsteps, but faster, to and fro.
There was a rumbling grind, seeming to come from all around, but mostly from below. I opened my eyes, to a fitful orange-yellow of a single lantern's light. I saw familiar shapes in the shadowed light, silhouettes gathered about the corners of what looked like a small slat-sided hall.
I glanced to my left, as a cool feeling of relief shivered up my arm from the bracelet. Sera leaned forward, worry fading from her features, replaced by an exhausted smile, only to crumble again. She bowed her head, bent lower, so that the loose strands of her hair brushed the plank floor.
Bright relief darkened into fear, and shame, and I felt a bit sick to my stomach.
“Forgive me, Marcu. I reversed the draw. I know it is forbidden,” the weaver whispered, the words tumbling out one after the other. A sob hitched her voice, and she swallowed it, shaking her head but still staring at the floor. “I know I will be punished, and I will accept it. But know that I did as I had to to protect my Shepherd. There was no time to petition, I— I had to…”
The sickness lifted ever so slightly as a bubble of pride welled up, only to sink beneath a chill wash of fear. I will not describe the images that flickered at the edge of my mind at her mention of punishment. I dared not look too closely, to try to pick out which were imaginings, and which were memories.
This only made the young woman bow deeper, nearly pressing her forehead to the backs of her hands, pressed flat against the floor.
“Sera, there is no need—“
“I have crossed the Seventh Injunction, punishable as grand high theft of not less than Twelfth degree. That means loss of two. A knife, heated properly, should be enough to—” I felt a sudden sharp, phantom pain ghost across the last two fingers of my left hand, enough that I closed it into a fist. Sera flinched.
“Absolutely not!” I struggled to sit up, felt the room spin. And then it righted itself, but still swayed stiffly from side to side. And the grating rumble persisted. My head throbbed with it.
“For every transgression, especially one such as this, there is always punishment.”
I looked down at the weaver. She had not moved. Her presence in the back of my mind was as a rabbit when it finds itself in the hawk’s shadow, with no burrow in sight.
She shivered. “Take my name, if you must. You gave it back to me. It is yours to—“
“It is yours, Sera. Seraphina. Daughter of Fire, the name given to you by your parents. I saw it in your dreams. It is very fitting. I cannot take what is not mine. And what is mine, I freely lend to those in need. Do you understand?”
She shuddered, again, her breath catching.
I leaned to the side, placed my hand on her head, stroked her hair. I could feel the dampness on her cheek, gently lifting her chin so our eyes met. Hers were reddened.
“I have never been to Glantri, and know very little of their people, much less their laws. But if you have broken any of them, then I declare them void. I do not sit in judgment of you, and declare the scales between us balanced. Do you understand?”
For the briefest of moments, the hare bared teeth, but then the hawk’s shadow passed, and the weaver nodded.
She even tried to smile.