Having just turned 11, Sanna was taking full advantage of her new-found freedom. No lela girl, from birth until she turned 11, was allowed to wander past the gates of her own home without one parent in attendance. As a result, all Sanna knew of the city was her own cave dwelling, the street leading to the Temple of the Queen, where the community gathered for worship and gift-declaring once a year, and the market place, where her mother sold quilts. The quilts were handmade, each stitch a tiny piece of perfection, each square of cloth carefully selected.
I should tell you, before we go on, that cloth woven by a woman from the clan of Sarai is not like the cloth we have on Earth. The two substances resemble one another only slightly. Our cloth, as wonderful as silk and cotton and wool may be, is only an imperfect reflection of cloth woven by these particular lelas. The weavers of Sarai are women blessed with one of three gifts: healing, knowing, or assuring. As a result of the first gift, the cloth they create could be used on a sickbed to bring health. Healing, however, is a decidedly uncommon gift. Only one girl from each generation is blessed with it on Declaration Day, and she is often a fragile girl in ill-health. It seemed a joke of Ahmah, to gift the dying with life. If the girl was lucky, she would weave some beautiful material before she passed. The healing could not be used for her own needs. No gifting can be used for selfish gain. This was a protection set by Ahmah, in the beginning of days, before anyone Sanna knew could remember living.
The third gift, assuring, was what made lela quilts snuggle around a person, fitting perfectly to the problems of their day. Assuring could also be understood as encouraging. But, a lela with this gift could offer more than a pep talk before you approached a challenging activity. Rather, she could whisper words that made you know your own strength. She could bake sweets that rejuvenated your courage. She could weave bolts of cloth that would one day cheer a mother suffering loss or a warrior facing certain defeat. It was the gift of mother and grandmother, raising her children to know who they are.
Aloiaye, Sanna's mother, was not gifted with healing or assuring. She had stood on the golden floor in the Temple and watched as silver stars fell down upon her. They landed on her skin and seeped slowly inside her body, joining the blood of her veins. She had the gift of knowing. This isn't the same as the psychics you are probably thinking of. Aloiaye, or Alo, as her husband often called her, could not see the future. She did not read minds or guess what card you were holding behind your back. No, this was a more subtle gift. This gift was what left her sighing at the mouth of their cave, watching her daughter sing to the fish. Deep inside her heart, Alo knew that turning 12 would mean more to Sanna than it had meant to her.
Sanna had come to the edge of the market square and paused to wait on her best friend, Laiel. Lai would be rushing from her own cave, trailing the shouts of her mother, "Be careful! Stay close! Be safe!" Lai's mother was very protective and not taking well to the freedom given 11 year old girls in the city of Sarai, dwelling of the clan of Sarai, birthplace of the current queen.
"Sorry," Lai panted as she skidded to a stop near Sanna's bag and walking stick. "I tried to get out earlier, but you know my mother."
"What will she do when you turn 12?" Sanna laughed. "Does she plan to serve alongside you in the Temple?"
Lai blushed scarlet. "She would if they would let her. I don't know how she will take it if my gift is one that calls me away. She has her heart set on me knowing, just as she knows."
"How is it that both of our mothers know, but they still worry nonstop?" Sanna lifted her bag and tossed it over one shoulder.
Lai picked up the walking stick and passed it to her friend. "And never tell us whatever it is that they supposedly know. You would think our giftings would be clear to them already."
Humming, Sanna turned her eyes to the peak of Mount Lelalanai. Lai started walking down the path and did not hear the quiet reply, "Maybe they are."