No-one had bothered to explain the reason for the uncomfortable outfit, or why his mother cried when she kissed him goodbye. All his father had told him was not to disgrace the family – the same warning he had given a hundred times over.
The new clothes chaffed, the tight fabric digging into his skin, making each step hurt. Despite all his mother’s fussing, he knew he looked stupid. His father had become angry when he had said so though, all but dragging him from their rooms in the capital.
The pounding of his father’s footsteps echoed down the hallway, a resonating drumming of boots on stone, interspersed by quick taps as Tahnner raced to keep up with him. The palace seemed unending, voices rebounding down the corridor, growing louder the closer they got. Rounding another bend they reached the source of the commotion.
He tried to stay as close to his father as possible as they passed through the gathered throng. A man moved in front of him, blocking his sight of his father. He called out but a large hand had already reached back into the crowd and tugged him forward. He emerged to find his father scowling down at him, his dark eyes narrowed.
“Smarten yourself up!” he hissed, too low for anyone else to hear over the noise in the chamber.
Tahnner flattened his hair with both hands, like his mother did whenever she called him scruffy. She always smiled when she said it though. He glanced around. They stood at the front of the crowd, before a throne flanked by two braziers brimming with flames, emitting even more heat into the already stuffy chamber.
The chatter died into muted whispers and Tahnner glanced up, searching out the cause. His gaze met a pair of dark-brown eyes, staring down at him from atop the throne, one amused eyebrow raised as a crooked smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Tahnner stilled, his hands dropping to his side. He glanced at his father for direction, but his attention was fixed on the man standing close to the throne. Tahnner broke into a smile at the only face familiar to him in the entire chamber. His uncle Jareck winked, looking different then when he had last visited Turro over five seasons ago. He wore an armoured uniform which looked like a smarter version of those the soldiers had been wearing when Tahnner watched them practice in the courtyard that morning. Whatever the reason for his being in Girona, it seemed to suit him. He even had a new dagger, judging from the deep-red stones set into its hilt.
Jareck had often visited Turro when Tahnner was younger, sometimes staying for many seasons at a time. During the last trip, Jareck had sat with him in one of the groves and explained that he would be too busy to visit for a while. The time had come for him to do his bit for their family. He had teased Tahnner that his own time would come soon enough, then given him a toy horse carved from a gnarled branch of one of the Killenart trees Turro was famous for.
“Lord Rhanick,” the man sat atop the throne said, his rumbling voice rebounding off the chamber walls loud enough to reach even those in the corridor. “You are most welcome at my court. I hope the journey was not too long? I have been looking forward to hearing the tidings of the newest reaches of my empire.”
“I thank Your Majesty for extending the welcome,” Tahnner’s father said, bowing his head to the king.
“I see you did not travel alone this time. Your eldest?”
Tahnner fidgeted under the weight of the king’s stare. Despite the welcoming smile, there was something which made him uncomfortable, as if he noticed everything, right down to the wrinkles in Tahnner’s clothes.
King Sorentien Gallidon. He had learnt about him last season in his lessons and could recite every name in the royal line going back ten generations. He had been busy learning about the various conquests of the Ilyian Empire, transforming a kingdom into an empire, when the lessons had been put on hold whilst his father brought them to the capital.
The king’s dark eyes lingered on Tahnner expectantly and he wondered if he could take the opportunity to ask the king why his family had never adopted the title of emperor. The curiosity had bothered him since he had learnt of it. He opened his mouth to ask, but was cut off by his father.
“No Your Majesty, this is my youngest. Tahnner.” The last word was almost a growl. He placed a hand on Tahnner’s back as he spoke, forcing him down into a bow.
The motion jolted Tahnner into remembering his lessons on what was expected of him in the presence of Ilyia’s royalty. He threw himself into the bow, sinking as far as his waist could bend. Laughter rippled through the room as his father grabbed him by the scruff and hauled him back up, the collar biting into his neck. He glanced up and found his father scowling down at him. He would be in trouble later.
“What brings you all the way to Girona, Lord Rhanick?” the king asked, drawing his father’s attention away from him.
“A gift, Your Majesty,” his father said with another bow. “A demonstration of House Turro’s allegiance to the Ilyian Empire. I intend to indenture Tahnner to the ravellers guild for you so he might one day serve Your Majesty.”
The relative silence of the crowd gathered behind them broke at the pronouncement and Tahnner felt eyes upon his back as people shuffled to get a better view as they whispered. He could not have been more shocked had his father just hit him over the head with the pommel of his sword. Indentured? He was a member of House Turro. Only servants were indentured. Lord Rhanick Turro would never permit a child of his to become a member of the indentured class. Why was he offering Tahnner up now?
As to being sold into the ravellers, the mere thought made him want to flee the palace! He had heard stories about the ravellers’ guild, tales so scary that he had woken with nightmares for the rest of hibernal that year. According to his brother, everything the ravellers said came true. If they predicted you would fall from your horse, then you would. If they said you would bear no children, then your line would end with you.
Their father had always hated ravellers, refusing to allow them succour in his halls when they passed through, usually on their way to the war. Thread cursed. That was how he referred to them- always with his fists clenched so tight they whitened about the knuckles. Tahnner had never seen the Threads, but even he knew that being cursed by them was not a good thing. If his father hated the ravellers then he couldn’t send Tahnner to join them, could he?
“A raveller?” the king asked, a note of surprise in his voice as he drew the word out, running one finger across his bottom lip, his scrutinising gaze lingering on Tahnner.
“A gift, Your Majesty, in appreciation of all you have bestowed upon my house.”
“Your last gift was more than satisfactory, Lord Rhanick. Jareck has been a welcome addition to my palace guards. There is no need to further demonstrate your loyalty, especially not in so… permanent a manner.”
“The honour of our joining the Ilyian Empire can never be adequately repaid, Your Majesty,” his father said, addressing the base of the throne, “but I hope providing you a personal Thread reader will suffice for now.”
One side of the king’s mouth turned up in a rueful smile and he shot a glance at a powerful-looking man standing beside the throne. Strands of the man’s hair caught in the firelight, making his brown mane appear almost golden.
“What of you, Tahnner?” the king asked, returning his attention to him. “You cannot be much older than… twelve. If the Threads serve you well, you will have many years ahead of you. A raveller may never be released from their indenture. Do you wish to serve for the rest of your days?”
Tahnner started to shake his head, but stopped as his father gripped his arm, squeezing until it hurt. The words of duty to the family his father had instilled rang through his head
“Y-yes, Your Majesty,” Tahnner said in a small voice. The grip on his arm loosened. From the corner of his eye, he caught the pleased smile that settled on his father’s face.
“Very well then,” the king said. Something about the way he watched Tahnner, made him think that one person at least saw through the lie. Addressing Tahnner’s father again, the king said, “Have him taken to Pelston and notify the guild. Since I have other pressing matters to attend to, we shall discuss the situation in Daena tomorrow.” He turned back to Tahnner. “I look forward to the day you complete your training and return to Girona, Master Turro. See to it you make yourself worthy of serving your king.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
His promise was muffled by the sound of a girl’s laughter as she danced into the chamber through the door behind the throne. She wore a long, rose dress and launched herself at the king. An exasperated boy a couple of years older than Tahnner chased after her. Both bore the same dark hair and eyes of the king.
The king nodded once at Lord Rhanick in dismissal as the girl reached his side and stood on her tip-toes, whispering something in his ear which brought a smile to his face. Tahnner wanted to ask if the newcomers were the crown prince and princess but his father turned him about by the shoulder before he had time to get the words out.
Exiting the room was harder than entering had been, the chamber even more packed as the onlookers jostled to stare at Tahnner and his father. It may have been his imagination but he had the impression there was more than curiosity in the hard stares of some members of the crowd.
“I can’t be a raveller,” he said the instant they were free. “They control the future. They’ll make me do things I don’t want to do. Rhaner said that-”
His father gave an exasperated sigh and said, “Have you still not learnt discretion when it comes to what your brother tells you? I had hoped you had learnt after the incident with the horse.”
“He told me that when that raveller passed through the village last evernal, the raveller said that man would die and he did. He died the next day!”
“Ravellers don’t work like that,” his father snapped. “He didn’t die because they said he would. He was hung because the raveller discovered he was guilty. Now be quiet. I need to think. I’ve warned you before about keeping your questions to yourself. I haven’t the time to deal with your incessant curiosity right now.”
Tahnner fell silent. It was always best when his father’s voice turned sharp. He let his questions about the ravellers fade from the forefront of his mind. He had never been allowed outside when the Threads were out. His mother always said he was too young. He wished he knew more about them though. His father’s assurances that only the guilty were punished was of little comfort. He was always guilty of something or other. He had muddied his new clothes. He had stayed out playing too late or almost not been back home in time for sunset. If the ravellers only punished the guilty then Tahnner would be dead by the end of the season.
Once outside the palace, they climbed into the same carriage which had brought them from their Girona lodgings. He scrambled up the steps behind his father. When the carriage lurched into motion, he hung his head out of the window, enjoying the cool breeze upon his neck.
“Why must I go to the ravellers?” he asked as the carriage trundled the long winding descent down to the lower districts. “Can’t I do my part for the family by helping Uncle Jareck?”
His father made no reply. He never answered when he grew tired of Tahnner’s questions.
Close to the outskirts of Girona, Tahnner‘s attention drifted off in the rocking of the carriage as it clattered down the stone paved streets. His mind teeming with questions. He was jolted from his musings by the carriage jerking to a sudden stop which flung both him and his father from their seats.
“Blast it, Grenalt!” his father called to their coachman as he resettled himself in his cushioned seat. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Sorry, Sir,” Grenalt’s disembodied voice replied. “Someone stepped in front of the carriage, spooked the horses. I think he might be a raver.”
“Then drive over them!” his father ordered, muttering to himself as he leant back in his seat. “The council must do something to address the problem. Their numbers have reached the point infestation.”
Tahnner leapt from his seat and threw himself at the window of the carriage. Sticking his head out he tried to see past the horses and the people blocking his view, he wanted to catch a glimpse of the raver. He could see nothing through the swarm of people and it wasn’t until the carriage lurched back into motion that he caught sight of the man lying on the ground, yelling at the empty space beside him. People swarmed around him, but all kept their distance from the filthy man.
“Why is that man a raver?” Tahnner asked, forgetting that he had been attempting to keep his questions to himself.
He had spoken the words aloud without expecting a reply. His questions often went unanswered. When his father eventually spoke, he almost wished this had been one of those times when he hadn’t bothered responding.
“His mind is lost in the Threads.”
“I don’t want to become a raveller,” Tahnner said, pleading with his eyes for his father to see how much the thought of it terrified him.
His father huffed and leant his head back against the carriage wall. “You were young when our House joined the Ilyian Empire,” he said. “Our position here is as fragile as it is new. Those who do not hate us because we were Daenan, hate us because of the favour we have gained since. We must all do our part to ensure the safety and prosperity of our family. Always remember Tahnner, your loyalty is to House Turro, beyond all else. Do you understand me?”
The intensity of his father’s stare scared him, he recognised that his father was quick to anger in his current mood. Despite the questions teeming in his head, the carriage left Girona in silence. He watched the city disappear behind them, longing to ask when he would see his mother again, when would he return to Turro, to his home. He always liked it when they journeyed from Turro lands. There was so much to see. He felt as if his head would crack open from his trying to remember it all. He loved returning home best though, to his pony and his books, where he could discover so much without ever leaving the comforts of his home.
At some point in the journey, he fell asleep, lulled by the swaying of the carriage on the road. He jolted awake at the sound of his father’s voice.
“Pelston’s guild is the best in the empire and your training will be of the highest quality, but that’s not the only reason I’m sending you there. Do you recollect what I told you of House Draeman?”
“That Lord Draeman doesn’t like us?”
“True enough,” his father agreed, his lips twisting into what might have been a smile on someone else. “I have someone loyal working in Lord Draeman’s household. He relayed information concerning Draeman’s indenturing his youngest son to the Pelston ravellers. The various skills the ravellers possess means that one loyal to Lord Draeman could mean the end of our house. So I need you to learn everything that boy knows and more. Do you understand me Tahnner?”
Tahnner wanted to take back his question the instant he said it. His curiosity often ended him up in trouble. He prepared himself for the sharp words his father usually snapped whenever Tahnner spoke out of turn.
“Because Lord Draeman blames me for the growing insignificance of his own house. He seeks to stop my own burgeoning influence in Girona and with the king.”
“Were they Daenan like we were before we became Ilyian?” Tahnner asked, wondering if that was why the Draeman’s had taken exception to their house.
His father’s laugh was mirthless. “House Draeman is a southern household, a fact you would have known had you paid more attention in your lessons.” He pursed his lips “Don’t look for acceptance in Pelston, Tahnner, you won’t find any. You were born in a country the empire has been at war with for more years than anyone has been alive. Until Daena falls, the last dregs claimed by Ilyia, we will not be accepted here. Remember that.”
The sun hovered close to the peaks of the western mountains when they arrived in Pelston. Had they been at home then his mother would have already insisted Tahnner be locked away for the night in a windowless room, all the better for protecting him from the Threads. The thought that he might get his first glimpse of them made his pulse race. His brother had seen them three years ago and was forever taunting Tahnner about it.
Pelston sat aside a large hill, bigger than any in Turro. His father had once told him that the flat land of the north east were crucial for making the sweet wine. Most years, the wine was the main source of their family’s income, but there had been one year, back before they had aligned with the empire, when they had been unable to sell any casks. His uncle Jareck had said that a country losing a war was less affluent than the one winning it. Tahnner had sneaked a sip of the sweet wine once, but it had stung his throat and had little appeal. He had told his father that he understood why no-one wanted to buy the wine, but all his comment had done was earn a smack across the head for opening one of the casks and spoiling it.
The carriage stopped a short journey up from the town. A building sat at the top of the hill, one that was the strangest Tahnner had ever seen. He counted six layers, stacked like a cake, round except for the thin square sections cutting through the centre and protruding as arched walkways. The building had no windows, reminding him of the rooms his mother always locked him in overnight as protection from the Threads. The only holes in the walls were the archways at the far end of the protruding sections.
When they climbed out of the carriage, the driver pulled a large trunk from the back and the reality of how long Tahnner would be in Pelston hit him. The trunk was the one his mother had packed for him for their journey to Girona. His father must have had it loaded onto the carriage before they had left to see the king. He wanted to beg to be taken back to Girona. He wanted to jump back in the carriage. Only years of experience with getting on his father’s nerves kept him quiet as his father strode off to the entrance of the unusual building. An old man dressed in a black hooded robe which concealed most of him, except for his wrinkled mouth and hands, answered the door, light pouring out from behind him.
Tahnner glanced at the light grey stone walls, almost golden under the torchlight. He had assumed the interior would be as round as the outside but the straight corridors surprised him. No decorations lined the walls. He had never been anywhere so plain and grand at the same time. Everywhere else he had lived had extra details bringing life to it, even the inns they stayed at on the road from Turro. The absence of anything but the torches was unnerving, emphasising how there was nowhere to hide.
“May I help you?” the raveller asked.
Tahnner had never seen a raveller so close before. Nerves shot through him. He wanted to both know more about the man but also get as far away from him as possible.
“I’m here to indenture my son,” his father addressed the man, speaking in the same manner he used whenever traders came to Turro. His voice was filled with authority. “The king wishes him trained as his personal raveller.”
The raveller watched them from under his hood, acting nothing like the traders did in the halls of Turro when they bowed down before Lord Rhanick. Without speaking, the raveller stepped back, permitting them entry into the guild. Tahnner wished the raveller had barred the door rather than let them in.
“I am Lord Rhanick Turro. This is my son, Tahnner. I expect him to receive the finest training whilst here. I hope I make myself clear, Raveller.”
The hooded head bobbed once before the raveller spoke. “In that case, I suggest you make your goodbyes now. The boy can go upstairs to begin his training while we sort out his paperwork. The guild keepers will need to be notified of his indenture.”
“Good,” Tahnner’s father said as he turned from the raveller. There was no hint of sorrow at abandoning his son in such a place as this. Instead, he bent down and whispered in his son’s ear, “Remember your loyalties.” Without saying any more, Lord Rhanick Turro turned and strode down the corridor after the old raveller.
Images of Turro filled Tahnner’s head, memories so strong he could almost smell the groves after a fresh rainfall. He was a member the Turros. It was his turn to do his bit for his family, even if it meant he might never see them again.
The sound of footsteps alerted him to another’s approach. He swung about to see another black-robed raveller, this one taller than the last and what little patches of skin were visible under the robe appeared unwrinkled.
“Follow me Tahnner,” the man said, leading the way towards a staircase.
Tahnner jumped at the sound of his name and all the terrible stories he had heard about the ravellers sprang back into his mind. He kept telling himself he had no current reason to feel guilty. There was nothing the ravellers could punish him for. It did little to help. He knew it was only a matter of time before he was guilty of something or other. It always was.
On the first floor, he was led down a long corridor. At the end he could see an archway opening to a view of the western mountains and realised they must be standing in one of the walkways protruding from the main part of the building.
The sun hung unnervingly close to the mountain tops. For as long as he could remember, he had wanted to see the Threads. When he had pictured it though, he had always been with his family and felt the comfort of his mother’s hands resting on his shoulders.
Laughter rang out from somewhere nearby, but Tahnner could see only the raveller who had escorted him, standing at the edge of the walkway, barely two steps from the end. The man looked back at him, a pedestal with a smooth green rock balanced on top separating them.
“Since you arrived before Setting,” the raveller said, “I’ll use the opportunity to assess your skill with the Threads. You’ll learn quickly enough that we never waste a reading in Pelston. After Rising tomorrow you’ll begin learning Thread Lore. We’ve little time now though, so tell me, have you spent much time reading the Threads?”
The raveller’s questions made no sense. What little Tahnner had heard about the Threads had never been good. They were something best avoided. Why would anyone want to spend time reading them? For that matter, how could you even read Threads?
“My mother never let me out for Rising or Setting,” Tahnner said, feeling ashamed by the admission.
“Your father is Lord Rhanick Turro?” the raveller asked, appearing unconcerned by Tahnner’s admission. “Your situation isn’t unusual. It is often the same for those from wealthy families. You should know though, many here were not born into such privilege. Already some have more experience than you could gain from years of study.”
Only a small part of Tahnner’s attention was fixed on the raveller though, the rest was looking past him, to where the sun crept down behind the darkening mountains. Why was the raveller so calm? The sun hovered low, teetering on the point of plummeting on its final descent of the day. Tahnner had never been allowed to stay out with Setting so close. His body began to shake, but not from excitement.
“The Threads can be … alarming the first time you see them,” the raveller said, “It’s important you focus. They can be as dangerous as they are useful. If you lose your mind in them, then you may never get it back.”
If he lost his mind then he would be like the filthy raver in Girona that morning. Everyone had avoided him as if he carried the black pox. Tahnner could still hear the contempt that had been in his father’s voice as he had spoken of the raver. Would he be as disgusted with his son if he ended up a raver too? How was he supposed to avoid it when he didn’t even know what he was supposed to be doing?
“If you can,” the raveller instructed, “focus on the stone’s Threads. I will know your competence by how much you can inform me of where the stone originates from.”
The raveller’s words sounded like madness. The stone obviously came from the ground. He needed no Threads to tell him that.
What was he doing? He shouldn’t be here. He should be in Turro, tucked away in his room, safe from the cursed Threads. He had to go. His father might not have finished finalising the paperwork yet. He had to find him, to beg him to take him back to Girona. There must be something else he could do for their family, something which didn’t involve risking his mind. He opened his mouth to inform the raveller that he was leaving, his propensity for saying every thought in his head temporarily overriding his fear of the ravellers, but the transformation of the deep orange light of Setting as the sun dipped behind the mountains, dislodged all other thoughts from his mind.
Gold lines solidified where before there had been nothing but an empty yellow estevan sky. Undulating bands of golden Threads ebbed across the horizon and surged in their direction, hitting them in a burst of gilded light, obscuring everything else. The walls, floor, ceiling, even the mountains. All he could see was gold, even the edge of the ledge and the fall awaiting him if he stepped off. Everything disappeared, replaced by the heaving mass of light.
He cried out, turning to run from them but they were behind him too. Hands gripped him hard, forcing him back around, facing him towards where the Threads were brightest.
“Control yourself!” the raveller chided, but Tahnner couldn’t focus on anything other than the gold Threads invading his mind.
“They’re in me!” he screamed, catching sight of the golden lines flowing through his hand as if he wasn’t there. “Make them stop! Make them stop!”
“Did nobody ever explain to you what the Threads were?” the raveller asked, his voice sounding strained as he fought to hold Tahnner in place.
“What are they? Make them go away! I shouldn’t be here! Please make it stop!”
Tahnner bucked, trying to dislodge the raveller’s grip. The raveller cursed behind him and strong arms yanked him backwards, away from where the Threads were at their brightest, pulling him to the round, windowless section of the guild. The Threads faded away the further they were from them. So too did the peals of laughter Tahnner had been too distressed to notice earlier.
“They were the Threads?” he choked out, staring down at his hands to be certain they were his own again, that no golden strands of light lingered within. “Where did they come from? How did they do …that? What- What were-?”
“All good questions,” the raveller said, releasing Tahnner before setting off down another corridor. “Perhaps if you hadn’t panicked, you might have been granted an answer to one of them? Come along now.”
“They were everywhere,” Tahnner said, waving his hands through the air as he chased after the raveller.
“Is that all you saw?” the raveller asked, his voice clipped in the same way Tahnner’s father’s voice became whenever he was angry. “Foolish boy. Did you not think to warn me that you didn’t even know the basics of Thread reading? Surely you must understand the consequences had the reading gone wrong? Be glad you saw nothing else.”
Tahnner stared at the raveller’s back. What else was he supposed to have seen? They had taken over everything. Was that why his mother had always kept him away from them? He could see how dangerous they could be, what if he had fallen off the ledge because they had obscured his view?
“We’ll have to work on that tomorrow then,” the raveller said, “for now though, let’s just be glad you didn’t lose your mind to them. How is it that no-one has ever explained the Threads to you?”
Tahnner said nothing. It was just another question he had no answer to. Outside the ravellers, people feared the Threads the way his father did a bad harvest, but how he might have lost his mind to them though, he had no idea.
“Whilst you’re training here,” the raveller said, leading the way up another flight of stairs, “you’ll sleep on the third floor with the other boys. I’m taking you there now. You arrived after dinner, but I’m sure we can find something for you. We rise early here. I’ll observe you on the first floor balconies each day until I feel you’re proficient enough to join those on the second floor. I expect to find you waiting for me on the east balcony for Rising and the west for Setting. Although, I think it might be best if you skip Rising tomorrow. Best not to risk it again until you’ve at least been educated in the basics of Thread Lore.”
Shame flooded him as he trailed behind the raveller. His father was possibly still in the guild and already he was letting the family down. Had he been able to hear Tahnner’s panicked screams?
When they reached the third floor, the raveller led him to a ring shaped room with a series of neat beds lining the exterior wall. Torches provided the only light in the otherwise cave-like room. He hated the prospect of sleeping in this chamber until his training was complete. In comparison to his own room, this was barren. There were no books lining the walls, no woven carpets softening the floor, no keepsakes of his earlier years or his family.
“There is much work that needs attending to between Rising and Setting, as well as your studies of Thread Lore. I’m going to sort out a set of robes for you. The other boys will join you here soon enough. Since it’s estervan, Rising is early so be sure to catch as much sleep as you can before then. Also, don’t be late. I have better things to do when the Threads are out than chasing after wayward boys.”
He left, leaving Tahnner alone in the eerie room. The torchlight cast flickering shadows along the walls, creating the illusion of his being watched. He leapt onto the bed and sat with his back against the cold stone as he waited for the others to arrive. The sound of chatter preceded the fourteen boys, all dressed in the same black robes. Older than Tahnner, they bounded into the chamber, their laughter stopping when they noticed him.
“You’re the one who was making all that noise?” an older boy asked, his hood pulled up over his head, “I thought it was a girl! Did the nasty Threads scare you?” he teased, drawing more laughter from the others.
“He should be,” one of the smaller boys said. “Especially after what I saw in his Threads.”
“Like you could see future Threads,” another called as he threw himself onto a bed.
“You’ll see my fist in your face if you don’t shut up,” the smaller boy protested. “I saw him fall from the balcony at Setting tomorrow!”
“Liar!” The word burst from Tahnner’s mouth before he could think better of it and he launched himself up, glowering at the boy.
“I saw it too,” another said, smirking as he flounced onto one of the beds. “You’re going to fall, the Threads say so.”
He needed to get away from them. He raced from the room, too absorbed in his anger to notice the girl carrying the plate of food until he crashed into her. Bread and cheese went flying through the air before they bounced down the flight of stairs.
“I’m sorry!” Tahnner called as he scrambled down the stairs after the runaway food.
“S’alright, it’s yours anyway. Tahnner, right?”
“Y-yes. How did you know?” he asked, suddenly all too aware of the girl’s black robes. “Did the Threads tell you?”
“No, but Haret did. Told me to bring some food up for you. I’m Senara.”
Peals of laughter rang out from within the boys sleeping chamber but he tried to ignore them, fixing his attention on Senara. She looked a year or so older than him, taller too. Strands of her light brown hair escaped the knot at the back of her head.
“Said you’d fall off the balcony?” she asked, taking him by surprise.
He felt his eyes go wide as panic flooded him. “You saw it in the Threads too?”
The girl laughed again, but the sound was softer, lacking the cruel edge of the boys jesting. “Narr, that’s what they always say to the newbies. Same trick was pulled on all of them. Besides, Threads don’t work like that anyway.”
“What do you mean?” he asked as he attempted to dust the dirt from the half loaf of bread she had brought him for dinner. Just looking at it made his stomach clench, shooting stabbing pains through his body. Was this to be all he could look forward to at meal times here in Pelston?
“It’s harder to read future Threads,” the girl said, “what with there being so many of them and all. Even if one did show you plummeting to your death, loads more don’t. How do you know which will happen? Those lot especially wouldn’t know, most can’t even Thread jump yet. Anyway, I’ve got to get to bed. See you around.”
She climbed the steps to the upper floors, leaving Tahnner alone on the stairwell. He didn’t feel like going back into the chamber so instead he sat in the corridor, eating his dinner until an older raveller arrived to douse the torches and chivvy him inside. He tried to ignore the other boy’s renewed laughter at his appearance and launched himself at his bed, yanking the covers up before he tried to block the memory of the invasive golden lines for long enough to fall asleep.