Prodigal Daughter, Part 11
By Mike Christopher
Read Part 10 "Black Weave"

Yayek’s eyes glittered in the thin light below the Gathering Platform. He gazed upward solemnly, having overheard the fall of his master.
The Weavers had left him bound and gagged, but the shadows had come to him, and freed him of the bonds the Weaver’s had placed upon him. The shadows were reliable. The shadows were his friends…his only friends now that his master was gone.
The light of a dozen fires, held safely in the platform braziers, flickered gently down through a thousand tiny holes in the woven mesh of the platform above. They cut into the darkness below like endless knives, sundering the glorious serenity of the dark. Yayek sighed, knowing he should be going soon, before the Weavers discovered his escape. But he was loathe to leave this place just yet.
And then, as if they had merely been awaiting the proper time, his master’s legacy began to drop down upon him. First one tiny black seed fell into his palm and then another and another. Soon, he had collected dozens of the precious seeds. He grinned a lopsided grin, his crooked teeth catching the light from above.
Securing the precious seeds in the pocket of his well-worn jacket, he turned and made his silent way from bulb to bulb. He disappeared into the deepest shadows and was gone.


Some time later, after the feast was finished, questions answered, tales told, the villagers of Qui-Yeteh sat about the Gathering Platform talking in quiet groups or snoozing peacefully in the pale light of the evening. Glow-puffs and twinkle yups floated in a dreamy dance over the quiescent assemblage, bathing the platform in gentle pastel lights that waxed and waned in a silent serenade to the night.
"What a brilliant idea to load the xyx up with the black sap!" mused Kolte, shaking his head in appreciation of Zaya’s ploy. "Who’d have guessed the old gal even owned any Arderian animite?"
"Say, where is Zaya?" wondered Yerthe, still munching on a hunk of cheese leftover from the feast. "And Gia?"
"Haven’t seen them in a while," replied Kolte lazily from his place nearer one of the burning braziers which dotted the platform.
Iyori remained silent, keeping her thoughts to herself. What are we going to do about the stalks of the Black Weave still left standing? They’re resistant to our magic. But we can’t just leave them there! The thought of the evil grass made her shudder.
Her thoughts returned to Gia. This night had been a blessed relief for her. All of her anger toward her mother had vanished into thin air, and now she knew that Gia had never betrayed her, had never stopped loving her. Bazha had been right all along. Wise man, that father of mine, she thought with pride. A slight smile curled her lips as she let her gaze slide slowly across the comforting sight of her village, her home.
A movement in the darkness caught her eye. Two small figures were struggling with something large and heavy in the shadows on the far side of the platform. Quietly, Iyori excused herself from her companions and crept into the soft darkness to investigate.
She could hear the sounds of heavy breathing, small grunts and groans from the shadowy figures as she moved closer.
"Shhh! Quiet!"
"Oh, hush yourself! This darn stuff is heavy!"
"I know—but we don’t need any interference!"
"Alright, alright! Just keep moving!"
Iyori stepped forward to reveal herself to the two figures. "And just what are you two up to? I’d have thought you’d both be sound asleep!"
The shadows dropped their burden in surprise. Gia and Zaya both grinned sheepishly in the shadows, even as they quickly moved to position themselves in front of whatever they had been carrying.
"Oh—uh—Hi, Iyori!" stammered Gia.
"Um…couldn’t sleep…too much excitement, you know?" Zaya added.
"Thought we’d take a walk…get some fresh air." Gia was breathing heavily.
Iyori smiled. These two were definitely up to something, no doubt about it. She gestured in the direction they had been carrying their burden. "Going to check on the Black Weave?"
Zaya wasn’t meeting Iyori’s gaze as she replied, "Well, we need to keep an eye on it, you know? We don’t know what it’s capable of!" Gia nodded in agreement, wiping the sweat from her brow.
"Hmmm." Iyori was enjoying their obvious discomfort. "Well, watcha got there?"
"What?" Where?" came the synchronous replies.
Iyori pushed between the two older women. Behind them was a very large jug with two braided grass handles. "I see," she said. Gia cleared her throat.
"Are you sure it’ll work?" Iyori turned to Zaya.
"It’ll work," was the curt reply. Gia nodded.
"Just—don’t tell the others. We wanted it to be a surprise. Besides? Gia glanced at Zaya. "This is a private matter…just for the two of us!"
Zaya grinned in the darkness, her white teeth shining. She patted Gia on the shoulder, "C’mon, old girl—let’s get back to work. We have a job to do!"
Gia looked meaningfully at Iyori for a moment, before turning to pick up one of the jug’s handles. "Who you callin?old, you harridan!"
"Harridan! Why you…you…decrepit hag!"
Iyori chuckled as the two moved on with their heavy load, glad to see them back to their usual healthy bantering. She chuckled even more as she watched the jug they carried, swaying from side to side as the two old women lugged it toward the stalks of the Black Weave, and what was left of the impostor. As a stray twinkle yup drifted lazily by, the jug’s label was briefly illuminated. It read, WEED KILLER.
As she returned to the fires of the Gathering Platform, to her family and friends—leaving Gia and Zaya to their stealthy revenge—she wondered briefly what her father would have to say about all of this. Iyori smiled, finally sure that everything was right with the world once more.

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