This story was written in September 2005. It came as a challenge to myself to write a story in the present tense. I used the legends of the Fates and Arachne the weaver as my insperation.
I knew that he would come, since the day he was born. And now, he stands before me, wounded, bloody and defiant. As close as he is now, and with his thread in my hands, I can read his life as if it were my own.
“Aracaene!” he calls out. “I am Curran and I have come seeking you. I have traveled many miles, over many days, facing many perils. I have a boon to ask, and I plea that you do not refuse me.”
I know what he wants, and why he sought me out, but hold yet my tongue and continue my weaving.
“My love,” he says, “my Keola, she lies ill, near death. I beg of you, Aracaene, adjust your weavings that she may recover and be well.”
His love died before he set foot on my mountain, and is buried beneath a tall ash tree. I have not the heart to tell him, though.
“Why should I intervene?” I ask instead. “I am merely the weaver, I do not direct the pattern, only set it in place.”
“ But is setting not more important than the directing? Are not you the one who has the final say?”
I turn to him, and feel him recoil at the site of my face, eyeless and haggard. His very presence has brought back memories that I have spent centuries trying to bury.
“When I was mortal,” I say slowly, my fingers still working the weavings, “when I was young and beautiful, I thought to challenge Fate. I lived in the town of Nitaya, near the temple of Fate, and would watch as the pilgrims would come to plead with her to intervene in their lives.
“One day, a handsome man came to the temple, and stayed. He never told me his purpose in handing his life over to Fate, but I did not care. Surely she had brought him to Nitaya for me! It was not long before we were deeply in love, and had he not dedicated his life to the Temple, we would have wed.
“But Fate is a jealous mistress, and she had marked my love as her own. One night, as we lay in each other’s arms, she appeared before us and ripped us apart. To this day I do not know what happened to my love. Fate took my eyes, in punishment for gazing upon what was hers, and set me upon this mountain to do her weaving, the weaving of lives. For years, she let me age, giving me the hope that someday I would escape her through death. But Fate does not let go what she has claimed easily. For centuries, I have sat, weaving the lives of men, never seeing, never touching them. Such is what comes when you seek to change the will of Fate.”
“Please.” Curran cries. “You know the pain of a lost love. Would you not be willing to do anything to pay any price to save your love? I would. Let Fate’s punishment come as it may, only restore Keola’s heath to her.”
“You say you would pay any price.” I say slowly. “There are many who say such, but few who mean it. Would you have me restore her at the cost of her beauty, or her soul, or the very thing that made you fall in love with her? What if she were changed to the point when you return home, you did not recognize her? What if she thought you dead and wed another? What if you were to marry her, only to live out your lives together in conflict?”
“I love her.” His voice is less steady now. “It doesn’t matter what you or your mistress does. Just restore her to me.”
“I cannot.” I say. “It is beyond my power. Perhaps my mistress could, but she looks upon such matters as a game, and were she to interfere, the price of her doing such would be greater than anything you have ever imagined. I wish I could help you, but I cannot.”
He stands silently for a moment, contemplating, thinking. The weave is such, that I can only tell the outline of a person’s life, not his thoughts, feelings or intended actions. Even with his thread in my hands, I know only the past, not the future. In Curran’s silence, though, I can tell his plans.
“Do you think to strike me down?” I ask. “Do it, if you can, I would welcome death. I am not a god, but I am not mortal, ether. Perhaps you would take my place as the weaver, and men would curse your name when they are called to pay the consequences of their actions.”
“There is truly nothing you will do?” the sorrow is thick in his voice. “You cannot save Keola?”
“I cannot.” I would not, even if I could.
“I am sorry to have wasted your time, then.” Time is the one thing I have in abundance, and would welcome his company, but he turns and heads back down the mountain.
The beasts, my guardians, my jailers are placated on the way down. He had nether hurt me nor sought to remove me, so they have no interest in the man whom they had fought so ferociously to kill on his way up. So despondent is he, I am not sure he would have even fought back.
While it is true that I cannot restore his love to him, I can help him still in other ways. His journey home will be smoothed, without battle or confrontation. And when he chooses to stay at a certain inn, there will be one there whose thread will be tangled up in his own.
What will happen to him, to my visitor? I cannot say. I am not Fate, I am only her weaver, Aracaene.