Chapter 11: The Sorrow of the Creator
IT WAS THE strangest sensation…feeling so close to the ground, the trees looming so much higher above her, the tops of the nearby bushes almost at her eye level. Several times she lifted her hand off the flute pads and stretched out the palm, holding it in front of her face, unable to comprehend that it was so much smaller than it should be. But after a few moments it was clear there was no denying what had happened.
She was still herself. Her mind was still that of a seventeen year old. But her body was the size of a child’s.
She told herself not to give in to panic. She had to keep her wits about her and figure out what to do, how to get back to normal life. She was relieved to see that the park was deserted. To be a young child on her own, surrounded by strangers, would be too terrifying.
Her relief quickly turned to unease. At that time of year, Green Echo Park was always full of people walking dogs, pushing strollers, tossing balls back and forth. Why was it empty now?
There was something else that was odd, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She looked all around the park, trying to figure out the source of this strange feeling. Her gaze lingered on a low-lying building a short distance away: the field house, where various items of sports equipment were stored, and where, in winter, skaters used to lace up their skates before heading out onto the frozen pond.
Used to. Because the field house had been torn down some years ago, when the city replaced it with a more modern building on the other side of the park.
Of course. Now she understood why the park was empty, why everything looked so familiar and strange at the same time. This was not Green Echo Park in the present. It was Green Echo Park as it had been when she was a little girl.
You are nowhere. You are suspended between universes.
That was what the Eternal had told her once before, here in this same spot in the park. She looked up at the face of the angel statue. It was still, immobile. This time no voice came from it. But she knew in her bones that the words were just as true as before. Why she was here, now, in the body of her seven-year-old self, she had no idea. She just was, and she had no choice but to surrender to it.
She looked out beyond the entrance to the park, to the other side of the street. There was the house she’d lived in as a child. On the second floor was the window of what had been her bedroom, where she’d sat countless times looking out over the park, telling Molly stories of a magical northern world with a great ring of light inhabited by singing spirit-creatures. A world she’d learned about in a book, one that she’d spent long hours poring over, until this northern land was so clear and vivid in her mind that sometimes she could catch glimpses of it there, in the landscape beyond her window.
A memory of one particular night came back to her, a night cold and still. A few older kids had kept on skating well after dark, their voices echoing through the air, the sound of their blades slashing across the ice. For a few moments she stopped trying to conjure up her fantasy world and just watched them gliding across the pond. She felt a dark feeling wash over her, an almost unbearable sense of isolation, an unshakeable belief that she herself would never, could never know that feeling of freedom, of joyful abandon. It was like she was cut off from the flow of life itself.
The memory of that night came flooding back, the feelings intensified by the knowledge of the wrenching things were still to come, the things she’d only had an inkling of – that her father would leave, that he would move hundreds of miles away and take her brothers with him.
Her family was torn apart. She was so young. How had she survived such sadness? The answer came to her.
It was Notherland that had sustained her during that time. Notherland became her home, its inhabitants her family. Without it, she felt like she would have died of sorrow.
How could she have turned away from Notherland? How could she have dismissed it so carelessly? She needed it now, just as she’d needed it then.
What have I done?
She looked farther into the park, toward the raised mound of earth in the middle of the ring of poplar trees. The ring of magic, like a fairy rath, that contained the portal, on the other side of which was Painted Rock. The spot where she’d been transported to Notherland a couple of years before.
She had to get back. Now.
She ran over to the mound and stood in the ring of trees.
Chapter 12: Contraries
HOW COULD THINGS have come back to this point? Mi had put so much into making the Story Cloth. She had sung her heart out. She’d learned to spin and weave and sew. She’d gone to the world of the Creator and discovered the origin of Notherland. She had come back here to Eternity and sewn some more.
“Something is still missing,” the OverSeer told her bluntly. “Your Story Cloth has no power.”
Mi wanted to scream at the OverSeer, at all the Songweavers. Hadn’t she done everything they said, exactly as they had told her? What more did they expect of her?
Nahawa approached her, speaking with great gentleness.
“We know how hard this has been for you. But you must not give up. Is there a part of the story you might have forgotten to include in the cloth? Can you think of anything?”
“If I knew, don’t you think I’d put it in?” Mi snapped at her.
She turned away from Nahawa, simmering with fury and resentment. It was all her fault, Nahawa’s and the rest of them. They told her that making a Story Cloth would bring Notherland back, but it was all a big waste of time. The Songweavers acted like they knew everything, but they didn’t know anything. They were stupid. Stupid and useless!
Nahawa withdrew, but Mi could feel her and the others watching from a distance. She refused to look at them. She didn’t want anyone to talk to her, to even come near her.
She knew she was having another of those tantrums the Eternal had spoken of, but she didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything anymore. She was done with this ceaseless round of hope and crushing disappointment.
If this was Existence, she didn’t want any part of it.
She’d been lying curled up in a ball for what felt like hours. It was all she could do to shut out the world around her. She felt bad about snapping at Nahawa. The Songweaver had been like a mother to her, and the thought that she had caused her pain was almost unbearable. She had to find Nahawa and ask her foregiveness.
Mi sat upright and looked around. There was no one, nothing. No Songweavers. No Great Loom. Nothing but a vast emptiness.
She whirled around and felt the sensation of moving through water, and she knew immediately what had happened. She had been thrown back into the Great Pool of Existence. Mi felt the same feeling of dread, the terror of the void coursing through her veins.
Why was she here? Was this her punishment for her anger, her spiteful treatment of Nahawa and the others? Or had she unwittingly chosen to be here, the closest thing to non-being? She’d wanted to get away, to be done with it all, to escape the pain and disappointment. But not like this.
She screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Nahawa! I’m sorry! I’ll try again. I’ll do anything you say. Please take me back! Please!”
She could feel her words dissolving in the watery void. What was the use? The Songweavers could not hear her. No one could.
I am here.
The voice was so faint Mi feared it was only one of the distant echoes of the vanished universes. But she called out anyway.
“Is someone there?”
She held her breath and waited.
The reply, when it came, was still faint enough that she couldn’t be sure of what she was hearing. But she thought she recognized the voice.
“Lady Jane? Is that you?”
In her excitement she’d used the Eternal’s more familiar incarnation.
“I have always been, and always will be.”
This time the reply was strong and clear. She was not alone.
Mi sobbed with relief as words began to spill out of her.
“I tried, Lady Jane, I tried so hard…. I was terrible to Nahawa…. I want to tell her I’m sorry….”
“Calm down, little one,” the Eternal’s soothing voice interrupted her rapid flow of words. “I am here. Take your time.”
Mi took a deep breath and began to speak more slowly, telling the Eternal what happened after her return from the Creator’s world.
“I found out the creation story and stitched it in, just like the Songweavers told me. But it didn’t work. The OverSeer said my Story Cloth had no power, that there was still something missing.”
Mi waited for the Eternal to say more, but for a long time she was silent. Finally she spoke up again.
“Little one, do you know what is missing?”
Mi felt herself shrinking inside. She wanted to say no. But she could not lie to the Eternal.
“Yes, I do.”
“Can you tell me what it is?”
Mi’s reply was barely above a whisper.
“The Nobodaddy. That’s what missing.”
“How did this entity come to be missing from your Story Cloth?” the Eternal asked.
“Because I left it out. On purpose.”
“I see,” said the Eternal. “Why did you do this?”
Mi had the feeling that the Eternal already knew the answers to all of these questions, that she was asking them only so that Mi would say out loud the thoughts she had kept buried inside.
As Mi spoke, a shudder went up her spine. The memory came flooding back, of the time she had been abducted by the Nobodaddy, the memory she wished she could erase from her mind.
“Because the Nobodaddy is evil.” She spoke more firmly now. “I don’t want to bring him back to life.”
“That is exactly what you must do.”
The Eternal’s words pierced her consciousness like a knife. She knew that was what the Eternal would say! She knew it would come to this!
“Why?” she retorted. “Why can’t I leave the Nobodaddy out? I don’t want him in my Story Cloth. I want to forget he ever existed!”
“Your Story Cloth must tell the whole story, not just part of it. All the worlds that exist contain opposites within them – light and dark, good and evil. One cannot exist without the other. This is a truth that you already know well, little one. Without contraries there is…”
The Eternal paused, and Mi finished the phrase with some reluctance.
“… no progression.”
Without contraries there is no progression. It was another of William Blake’s pronouncements that she remembered from her time with him. Now she felt that she finally understood its true meaning.
There was no more running away from it. She would have to go back and weave the Nobodaddy into her Story Cloth.
“I will do whatever it takes to bring Notherland back,” she said in a halting voice. “But I still don’t understand. Why does there have to be evil in the world?”
The Eternal let out a sigh.
“There are some things, little one,” she said, a vulnerability in her voice that Mi had never heard before, “that are beyond all comprehension, even of the Eternal Ones.”
She stood before the Great Loom. Before her was the Story Cloth, still mounted on the warp, embroidered with the images that told the story of her homeland – the RoryBory, the Great Skyway, Painted Rock, Lake Notherland, Gavi, Molly the pirate doll, and the singing spirits known as Nordlings, her own sisters and brothers.
On the right side just below the upper border, though, there was an open space. She must have left it open without realizing it, as if she knew she would have to add something before the Story Cloth was truly complete.
She’d been afraid to come back here after the way she’d acted, especially toward Nahawa. But there was only love and acceptance in the Songweavers’ eyes as they welcomed her back. She told them about the Nobodaddy and why she had tried so hard to keep him out of her Story Cloth. They all listened with gravity.
“Now we understand why you were so reluctant to complete your Story Cloth,” Nahawa said. “Your Nobodaddy sounds like the entity we know as the White Marauder.”
“Who is that?” Mi asked.
“The White Marauder is not a who. It is a terrible, destructive force, one that assumes many names and many guises. It is not like wind or flood or fire. Those things have the power to destroy, but there is no intention in them. They just are. The White Marauder actively seeks to cause harm, wreaking havoc and devastation wherever it appears. The White Marauder arises from pure hate. It is the enemy of creation, which arises from love. This is what underlies everything that takes place here in Eternity. We Songweavers work ceaselessly to undo the destruction wrought by the White Marauder.”
“I see now,” said Mi. “why I feel nothing but love around me here.”
Nahawa smiled, but Mi thought she saw a hint of sadness on the Songweaver’s face.
“I understand why you feel that way. For it appears to you that we are always happy. But that is not the case. We do create from love, and there is much joy in our songs. But there is sadness and defiance as well. We feel the currents of sorrow and hate in the worlds we create. We cannot avoid these forces. They are part of us. Even…” she paused a moment, “…even your Nobodaddy.”
Mi reached out toward the Great Loom. As she touched the warp her hands began to tremble so violently she could barely hold them up. From behind her back two arms came and encircled her, and two dark-skinned hands laid gently over her own, calming and steadying them.
“You are brave, little one,” said Nahawa in a low, soothing voice. “No one can defeat evil for all time. The best anyone can do is keep it at bay for a time, and lessen the harm it causes.”
Then Nahawa began to sing, and the Songweavers joined in response to her thrilling chant. Mi closed her eyes and let the beauty and power of their singing wrap around her like a pair of angel’s wings.
She was ready to add the final image.
She lowered the needle and watched it pierce the Story Cloth.
Chapter 13: The Final Threads
UNDER THE BED, Molly felt a trembling. At first she thought it was footsteps. But it was too early in the day for Krista to be home. Maybe the cleaning woman was coming into the room. But the trembling grew stronger, too intense for mere footsteps. It felt to Molly like the whole world was undergoing a great upheaval, but the mattress above her head was not moving at all. Neither were the legs of the bed, nor the floor beneath her. Yet the shaking sensation was growing so powerful, she began to feel as if she herself would be torn apart.
Then everything went dark.
He had watched with rising anxiety as the pool of open water around him grew smaller and smaller. Now the ice held him in its grip. There was no escaping it. He had to accept and surrender to the great inevitability.
His time had come.
He had known, when he made the decision to cross over into the physical world, that this day would come. He gave thanks for all the gifts that life had bestowed on him – the delight in learning a new word, the joy of watching the sunlight dance on the water as he dove up from the depths, a freshly caught fish in his mouth.
But above all else, he gave thanks for the gift of his mate, Nor, and their daughter, Gavrila. He felt a sharp pang of regret that he would not see them once more before he passed on. He thought of his beloved Notherland, which he now knew he would never see again, though he had come here with such hopes of returning. He thought of his friends who still resided there – Molly, the Nordlings – and prayed that they be kept safe from any danger that threatened their world.
He thought, too, of Peggy and Jackpine, who dwelt in the physical realm, and of all the others he had met in his lifetime whose spirits had passed over into Eternity – William Blake, Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin, Grania the Pirate Queen. He hoped that his own spirit might do the same, so he could see them again. But he had no idea whether such a thing was possible for the soul of a mere bird.
But that did not matter, not at all. For truly, this sweet old world had given him everything he had ever wanted, and more.
It was his time. He was ready.
Now the ice was like a vise tightening around him, reaching up to the white necklace around his black throat and pulling him down into its cold, hard darkness.
Any time now….
What was wrong? She was here, in Green Echo Park, standing on the mound ringed with poplar trees. This was the place, the portal to Painted Rock and Notherland. She was concentrating, doing everything as she’d always done. But nothing was happening.
Why? What was going on? Why was she still here?
Here she was, trapped in a child’s body, her entire life in suspension, and nothing was working the way it was supposed to. She felt like screaming in frustration, to no one in particular: What do you want? What more do you want me to do?
She felt a slight movement in the ground beneath her feet, like a trembling in the earth. But everything around her was still. Nothing was moving. Yet the trembling was growing stronger and stronger.
Suddenly the ground under her feet began to feel soft, spongy, as if it were about to give way. As she struggled to keep her footing, she was overwhelmed by a strong downward force, a sensation of being pulled right into the earth beneath her.
Then everything went dark.
Mi lifted the needle and took a deep breath.
There had been moments when she felt like she couldn’t go on, when convulsive sobs swelled up in her chest, and her hands trembled so fiercely she was afraid of tearing the threads.
But each time, Nahawa came and steadied her hand, chanting in a soft, soothing murmur.
A short time earlier, she had completed the image of the Hole at the Pole, looking more ominous than ever, hinting of the terrors that lurked in its depths, terrors that she herself had experienced, along with the other Nordlings. But she found she could not bear to depict the Nobodaddy in any of the guises in which she had encountered him – the Enslaver, the Evil Angel. She realized, with relief, that she did not have to, because he was a creature of no fixed identity.
She thought of what Nahawa had told her of the White Marauder. In her mind’s eye she pictured a pale creature with flowing white hair and empty eyes. This, she decided, would be the image of the Nobodaddy in her Story Cloth.
From that moment, she sewed quickly, determinedly. Now her hand was poised over the cloth, ready to insert the final stitch. She pierced it and pulled the thread through. For a moment all was still. Then the air around her began to vibrate, first a low hum that grew in volume and intensity, until it became a violent, thunderous shaking.
Mi looked down at the Story Cloth and saw a great tension within the fibres. She began to fear that the force of the vibration might rip the cloth to shreds. But she could only stare in wonder as it became clear that the cloth itself was rising, lifting right off the Great Loom. The flat images of the the Nordlings, the RoryBory, and Painted Rock, once trapped in the flat, two-dimensional plane of the cloth, were breaking free of it, becoming animate, three-dimensional figures.
Her Story Cloth had power. It was coming to life.
Notherland was coming back to life.
Chapter 14: Nothing is Ever Lost
FOR SOME TIME now the trembling had ceased. But still Molly lay rigid, afraid to open her eyes, fearful of what new catastrophe might occur.
Then it hit her: My eyes are closed.
In her life as an ordinary doll, her eyes were always open, since she had no power to move her eyelids or any part of her body. What had happened just now, to make her eyes come to be shut?
Slowly, she opened them, almost disbelieving she had the power to do so. She was still on her back. But above her, instead of the mattress lying atop the wooden slats, she saw a vast expanse of blue sky. She shifted her gaze a bit to one side and found, to her astonishment, that she could move her head, too.
Around her she could see the gracefully tapered shape of pine trees.
Could it be?
Cautiously she lifted her head and looked out. Before her was a lake with sunlight dancing across its calm, shimmering surface. Near the shore was a large rock with a smooth face, which was dotted here and there with reddish-brown markings. No, not just markings. Drawings.
Lake Notherland. Painted Rock. It was true. She was back!
Molly joyfully leapt to her feet. It had been so long since she had stood upright that she felt dizzy and almost fell back down. She was just regaining her footing when she heard a voice behind her.
She whirled around. A young woman was racing toward her with her arms outstretched.
She flung herself into Peggy’s arms and burst into tears.
“I was afraid I’d never see you again!”
They hugged tightly for a few moments, until Peggy pulled away and looked at Molly.
“It’s okay, Molly. Don’t cry. I’m here now. Tell me, do I look like myself?”
“Of course. Who else would you look like?”
“I mean, do I look like a little kid? Like I did when I was seven?”
Molly looked at her, confused. “What are you talking about? You’re not a little kid. You’re Peggy!”
“Well, that’s a relief. You’ll never believe the weird thing that happened to me…”
Molly couldn’t help talking over her. “It couldn’t be any weirder than what happened to me!”
They both stopped talking, distracted by a commotion overhead. They looked up. Out of the sky an enormous slide unfolded. At the top was a bevy of childlike creatures, who proceeded down the slide in pairs and small groups.
“The Nordlings!” Molly shouted.
She and Peggy raced to the foot of the Great Skyway, where the sprites tumbled onto the ground, shouting and laughing. One by one, they raced over to embrace Molly, then clustered around her and Peggy.
“Where have you been?” demanded Re9, one of the biggest Nordlings.
Before Molly could answer, an excited clamor went up among the rest of the group.
“We didn’t know what had happened to you!”
“We were afraid!”
“Then we went away too!”
“You did? Where?”
“We don’t know.”
“We were nowhere.”
“We had no idea where we were!”
“Or if we were!”
Peggy had to shout to be heard over them.
“What are you all talking about? I’m the one who’s been away!”
Listening to the Nordlings excited babble, Molly understood that she was not the only one who had experienced a strange absence. But she could see from the expression of complete bewilderment on Peggy’s face that she had no inkling of the strange events that had taken place in Notherland.
Molly finally managed to get everyone to quiet down, and explained to Peggy that she and the Nordlings had all gone missing – by what means or for how long, she had no idea.
“It was as if Notherland was disappearing before my eyes,” she told Peggy. “Then suddenly, I found myself under a bed in this strange house, and I couldn’t move or speak. Inside I was still myself, but on the outside it was like I was just a doll again, the way I used to be before I came to Notherland.”
Peggy was struck by how similar Molly’s account was to her own strange experience of being back in her seven-year-old body.
“I was there for a long time and all these strange things happened,” Molly went on. “Then, just like that, I was back here again.”
“That’s just like it was for us!” cried Re9. “We were trapped for a long time in this watery place, and then all of a sudden, we found ourselves back in the RoryBory.”
“Well, whatever was going on,” said Peggy, “it’s over now. We’re all together and everyone seems fine. Everything’s going to be okay.”
They were startled by the sound of a voice from above. A tiny creature looked down from the top of the Great Skyway, then slid to the bottom and walked toward them. The Nordlings recognized her immediately.
“No!” she repeated even more vehemently. “Everything is not going to be okay.”
It took some time to unravel the whole story. Mi had so much to tell, and her words poured out so quickly that the rest of them could barely take in what she was saying. But as she recounted her meeting with the Eternal and her sojourn in Eternity with the beings known as Songweavers, it gradually became clear to all of them that the threat of extinction that had long hovered over Notherland had finally come to pass. Yet, incredibly, here it was, restored in all its glory, through the efforts of Mi in the making of her Story Cloth.
“How could this have happened?” Molly demanded. “How could an entire world just vanish for no reason?”
Mi’s mouth tightened, and she fell silent for a moment. She glanced at Peggy before she spoke again.
“You will have to ask the Creator about that,” she said brusquely.
Peggy felt all their eyes on her. What could she possibly say to them? She was as stunned as they were to realize how close Notherland had come to permanent extinction. But what Mi said was true: She was the Creator. Whose responsibility was it, if not hers?
“I think it may have happened when I got rid of my flute,” she began haltingly. “It must have set something in motion. I’m so sorry. I had no idea all this would happen.”
Molly looked at her, bewildered. “What do you mean, you got rid of your flute?”
“I sold it.”
“Why would you do a thing like that?”
Peggy could only shrug.
“It’s hard to explain, Molly. I’m not sure I understand it myself.”
Mi’s voice cut in sharply. “We can’t talk about this now! We have bigger things to worry about.”
“What do you mean?” Re9 asked.
Mi drew a breath before answering him. “The Nobodaddy.”
There was an audible gasp among the Nordlings.
“What about the Nobodaddy?” Molly demanded.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Mi replied. “In order to bring Notherland back, I had to bring the Nobodaddy back, too.”
Another torrent of words spilled out of the Nordling as she tried to convey what she’d learned in her time with the Songweavers. That even though the Nobodaddy had been reduced to Nobody, an almost non-existent speck of matter – that even though in his guise as the Evil Angel, he had been consumed in flames – Mi, in making the Story Cloth, had brought him back to life.
“Why?” cried Molly. “How could you do that?”
“Because every world has both good and evil,” Mi replied with solemnity. “I had to include the Nobodaddy. He is an inescapable part of the story of Notherland. The final images in my Story Cloth were of the Hole at the Pole and the Nobodaddy. As soon as I finished stitching them, Notherland burst back to life.”
“And we were all brought back here,” said Molly.
“Not all of us,” Re9 piped up. “What about Gavi? Was he not part of your Story Cloth?”
“Of course he was,” said Mi.
“Then he should be here, too. Where is he?”
They all looked around. The loon was nowhere to be seen.
“Maybe he’ll show up later,” Molly offered.
“It is possible,” said Re9, sounding more than ever like Gavi himself. “It is spring in Peggy’s world, the time when the loons make the long journey north from their wintering grounds in the south.”
His words set off an excited buzz among the other Nordlings, who were now convinced that they would soon see their beloved Bird-Full-of-Words. Peggy was not so sure.
“That settles it,” said Molly. “We’re heading up to the Pole right now.”
“Yes!” the Nordlings piped up excitedly. “Let’s go!”
Molly spoke up immediately. “No. There’s too many of you. It’s too dangerous.”
Her words were met with groans of disappointment.
“Come on, Molly.”
“We want to go, too!”
The doll shook her head firmly.
“You’ll all be better off here. Re9 will look after you.”
“Except for Mi,” Peggy added. “She’ll have to come with us.”
“No!” Molly retorted with vehemence. “Not after all she’s been through.”
“We have to bring her,” Peggy shot back. “How else will we know what to expect up there? Mi is the one who’s brought all this about. Not me.”
As Peggy spoke, Mi squirmed uncomfortably and looked off into the distance. For a few moments everyone was quiet. They all knew what Peggy had just said was true. But it was still startling to hear it stated so baldly.
They had been walking north for some time and were well above the Tree Line when Peggy suggested they stop and rest a while. She and Molly sat on some boulders covered with soft moss, while Mi pitched small stones in the scrub grass a short distance away.
Molly looked out on the barrens stretching before them.
“That’s the spot, isn’t it?” she said.
“What spot” Peggy asked, though she had a pretty good idea of what Molly was referring to.
“Over there. That’s where we found Jackpine trapped in the tree. That’s why you wanted to stop here, isn’t it?”
Peggy shrugged. She was reluctant to admit it to herself, but Molly was right. This was the place where she’d first encountered the strange youth who’d somehow found his way into her imaginary world – the spot where, with a touch of her hand, she’d released him from his imprisonment in a Jack pine tree.
On each of their journeys through various imaginary realms, her feelings for Jackpine had grown stronger. But he would not be part of this one. Mi had not woven him into her Story Cloth, even though she herself was deeply attached to Jackpine and had given him his name. Peggy had to admit this was probably as it should be. Jackpine had not been part of Notherland when she first created it. He was an interloper in her imaginary world. If they were going to find one another again, it would have to be in her ordinary, everday life, not here.
She recalled what the Eternal, in her guise as Lady Jane, had once told her:
You have created a great and wonderful story. And the hero of that story is you.
Time and again, she had let her feelings for Jackpine distract her from what she had to do. Time and again, she had tried to turn away from becoming the hero of her own story. But no more, she vowed. Not this time.
Right now, though, Peggy felt like anything but a hero. Here they were, heading up to the Hole at the Pole with no idea of what awaited them there. And where was Gavi? Had something happened in his physical life that kept him from coming? Everything in Notherland was in disarray, and it was all her doing.
As they set off again, she felt Mi’s stony gaze on her. The Nordling’s anger and sense of betrayal was almost palpable.
Later, they stopped for the night and made a bed of pine boughs. Above them they could see the RoryBory blazing in the sky, and they heard the long, sustained notes of the nightly chant. The Nordlings, at least, were safe and well.
As she lay down, Peggy thought back almost three years earlier, when she’d first returned to Notherland. Then Mi had looked at her with adoring eyes and hugged her tightly. Now the Nordling refused to even meet her gaze, and lay with her back to Peggy.
“Goodnight, Mi,” Peggy whispered.
The child’s back went rigid. She made no response.
“I wish you’d talk to me,” Peggy said. “I know you’re angry with me.”
Mi suddenly sat up and turned to face Peggy.
“You are the Creator! I looked up to you! I trusted you!”
“I know. I let you down. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”
Mi turned away again, curling her body into a hard ball of fury.
“Creators are not supposed to make mistakes!”
How could she possibly get to sleep, with all these emotions churning inside her?
She had seen with her own eyes the sorrow of the Creator, heard with her own ears the regret in the Creator’s voice. It was wrong, she knew, to be so harsh, to lash out at Pay-gee. What’s done is done. She must let go of this anger.
If Pay-gee had not behaved the way she did, Mi reminded herself, if Notherland had not been extinguished, she would never have travelled to Eternity. She would never have met the Songweavers, who had come to mean so much to her. She would never have learned to make a Story Cloth.
She had been so preoccupied with what was going on here in Notherland that she’d barely had a chance to think about Nahawa and the others. Now, the memory of their farewell came back to her with full force, as she’d clung tearfully to Nahawa.
“I don’t want to leave you.”
“I know,” Nahawa said. “I will miss you more than I can say.”
“Will I ever see you again?”
Nahawa stroked the Nordling’s head softly as she answered.
“Remember, little one: Nothing is ever lost, especially not the bonds of love between beings. You will see me again, in your imagination, in your dreams. I may not always appear in the guise of the creature you see before you now. But you will know that I am there with you. For you have much to do before you come to rest here in Eternity.”
“You are a special being, special in ways you have only begun to know. Now you must go, and bring a New Song out into the world.”
Mi wanted to ask Nahawa what she meant. But in that instant Nahawa and the Songweavers and the Great Loom had all vanished, and Mi found herself back in Notherland, looking down on the other Nordlings from the top of the Great Skyway.
She missed the Songweavers so much, she thought her heart would crack with grief. It was so lonely, lying out here in the open under the vast night sky, without even the closeness and soothing hum of the other Nordlings to comfort her.
She turned back and looked at Pay-gee, sleeping a short distance away. She was lying on her side with one arm stretched out over the pine boughs. Softly, so as not to wake her, Mi crawled over and tucked herself into the crook of Pay-gee’s arm.