"It is possible, but I cannot say for certain," Goody Alsop told us regretfully. "Nevertheless we must do what we can in the time the goddess provides to prepare Diana for her future."
"Stop," I said, slapping my palm on the table. Ysabeau's ring chimed against the hard wood. "You're all talking as though this weaving business makes sense. But I can't even light a candle. My talents are magical. I have wind, water-even fire-in my blood."
"If I can see your husband's soul, Diana, you will not be surprised that I have also seen your power. But you are not a firewitch or a waterwitch, no matter what you believe. You cannot command these elements. If you were foolish enough to attempt it, you would be destroyed."
"But I nearly drowned in my own tears," I said stubbornly. "And to save Matthew I killed a wearh with an arrow of witchfire. My aunt recognized the smell."
"A firewitch has no need of arrows. The fire leaves her and arrives at its target in an instant." Goody Alsop shook her head. "These were but simple weavings, my child, fashioned from grief and love. The goddess has given you her blessing to borrow the powers you need but not to command any of them absolutely."
"Borrow them." I thought over the frustrating events of the past months and the glimmers of magic that would never behave as they were supposed to do. "So that's why these abilities come and go. They were never really mine."
"No witch could hold so much power within her without upsetting the balance of the worlds. A weaver selects carefully from the magic around her and uses it to shape something new."
"But there must be thousands of spells in existence-not to mention charms and potions. Nothing I make could possibly be original." I drew my hand across my forehead, and the spot where Philippe had made his blood oath seemed cold to the touch.
"All spells came from somewhere, Diana: a moment of need, a longing, a challenge that could not be met any other way. And they came from someone, too."
"The first witch," I whispered. Some creatures believed that Ashmole 782 was the first grimoire, a book that contained the original enchantments and charms devised by our people. Here was another connection between me and the mysterious manuscript. I looked at Matthew.
"The first weaver," Goody Alsop corrected gently, "as well as those who followed. Weavers are not simply witches, Diana. Susanna is a great witch, with more knowledge about the magic of the earth and its lore than any of her sisters in London. For all her gifts, though, she cannot weave a new spell. You can."
"I can't even imagine how to begin," I said.
"You hatched that chick," Goody Alsop said, pointing to the sleepy yellow ball of fluff.
"But I was trying to crack an egg!" I protested. Now that I understood marksmanship, I was aware this was a problem. My magic, like my arrows, had missed its target.
"Obviously not. If you were trying simply to crack an egg, we would be enjoying some of Susanna's excellent custard. You had something else in mind." The chick concurred, emitting a particularly loud and clear peep.
She was right. I had indeed had other things on my mind: our child, whether we could nurture him properly, how we might keep him safe.
Goody Alsop nodded. "I thought so."
"I spoke no words, performed no ritual, concocted nothing." I was clinging to what Sarah had taught me about the craft. "All I did was ask some questions. They weren't even particularly good questions."
"Magic begins with desire. The words come much, much later," Goody Alsop explained. "Even then a weaver cannot always reduce a spell to a few lines for another witch to use. Some weavings resist, no matter how hard we try. They are for our use alone. It is why we are feared."
"'It begins with absence and desire,'" I murmured. Past and present clashed again as I repeated the first line of the verse that had accompanied the single page of Ashmole 782 someone once sent to my parents. On this occasion, when the corners lit up and illuminated the dust motes in shades of blue and gold, I didn't look away. Neither did Goody Alsop. Matthew's and Susanna's eyes followed ours, but neither saw anything out of the ordinary.
"Exactly. See there, how time feels your absence and wants you back to weave yourself into your former life." She beamed, clapping her hands together as though I'd made her a particularly fine crayon drawing of a house and she planned to display it on her refrigerator door. "Of course, time is not ready for you now. If it were, the blue would be much brighter."
"You make it sound as though it's possible to combine magic and the craft, but they're separate," I said, still confused. "Witchcraft uses spells, and magic is an inherited power over an element, like air or fire."
"Who taught you such nonsense?" Goody Alsop snorted, and Susanna looked appalled. "Magic and witchcraft are but two paths that cross in the wood. A weaver is able to stand at the crossroads with one foot placed on each path. She can occupy the place between, where the powers are the greatest."
Time protested this revelation with a loud cry.
"'A child between, a witch apart,'" I murmured in wonder. The ghost of Bridget Bishop had warned me of the dangers associated with such a vulnerable position. "Before we came here, the ghost of one of my ancestors- Bridget Bishop-told me that was my fate. She must have known I was a weaver."
"So did your parents," Goody Alsop said. "I can see the last remaining threads of their binding. Your father was a weaver, too. He knew you would follow his path."
"Her father?" Matthew asked.
"Weavers are seldom men, Goody Alsop," Susanna cautioned.
"Diana's father was a weaver of great talent but no training. His spell was pieced together rather than properly woven. Still, it was made with love and served its purpose for a time, rather like the chain that binds you to your wearh, Diana." The chain was my secret weapon, providing the comforting sensation that I was anchored to Matthew in my darkest moments.
"Bridget told me something else that same night: 'There is no path forward that does not have him in it.' She must have known about Matthew, too," I confessed.
"You never told me about this conversation, mon coeur," Matthew said, sounding more curious than annoyed.
"Crossroads and paths and vague prophecies didn't seem important then. With everything that happened afterward, I forgot." I looked at Goody Alsop. "Besides, how could I have been making spells without knowing it?"
"Weavers are surrounded by mystery," Goody Alsop told me. "We haven't the time to seek answers to all your questions now but must focus instead on teaching you to manage the magic as it moves through you."
"My powers have been misbehaving," I admitted, thinking of the shriveled quinces and Mary's ruined shoes. "I never know what's going to happen next."
"That's not unusual for a weaver first coming into her power. But your brightness can be seen and felt, even by humans." Goody Alsop sat back in her chair and studied me. "If witches see your glaem like young Annie did, they might use the knowledge for their own purposes. We will not let you or the child fall into Hubbard's clutches. I trust you can manage the Congregation?" she said, looking at Matthew. Goody Alsop construed Matthew's silence as consent.
"Very well, then. Come to me on Mondays and Thursdays, Diana. Mistress Norman will see to you on Tuesdays. I shall send for Marjorie Cooper on Wednesdays and Elizabeth Jackson and Catherine Streeter on Fridays. Diana will need their help to reconcile the fire and water in her blood, or she will never produce more than a vapor."
"Perhaps it is not wise to make all those witches privy to this particular secret, Goody," Matthew said.
"Master Roydon is right. There are already too many whispers about the witch. John Chandler has been spreading news of her to ingratiate himself with Father Hubbard. Surely we can teach her ourselves," said Susanna.
"And when did you become a firewitch?" Goody Alsop retorted. "The child's blood is full of flame. My talents are dominated by witchwind, and yours are grounded in the earth's power. We are not sufficient to the task."
"Our gathering will draw too much attention if we proceed with your plan. We are but thirteen witches, yet you propose to involve five of us in this business. Let some other gathering take on the problem of Mistress Roydon-the one in Moorgate, perhaps, or Aldgate."
"The Aldgate gathering has grown too large, Susanna. It cannot govern its own affairs, never mind take on the education of a weaver. Besides, it is too far for me to travel, and the bad air by the city ditch worsens my rheumatism. We will train her in this parish, as the goddess intended."
"I cannot-" Susanna began.
"I am your elder, Susanna. If you wish to protest further, you will need to seek a ruling from the Rede." The air thickened uncomfortably.
"Very well, Goody. I will send my request to Queenhithe." Susanna seemed startled by her own announcement.
"Who is Queen Hithe?" I asked Matthew, my voice low.
"Queenhithe is a place, not a person," he murmured. "But what is this about a reed?"
"I have no idea," I confessed.
"Stop whispering," Goody Alsop said, shaking her head in annoyance. "With the charm on the windows and the doors, your muttering stirs the air and hurts my ears."
Once the air quieted, Goody Alsop continued. "Susanna has challenged my authority in this matter. As I am the leader of the Garlickhythe gathering-and the Vintry's ward elder as well-Mistress Norman must present her case to the other ward elders in London. They will decide on our course of action, as they do whenever there are disagreements between witches. There are twenty-six elders, and together we are known as the Rede."
"So this is just politics?" I said.
"Politics and prudence. Without a way to settle our own disputes, Father Hubbard would have his wearh fingers in even more of our affairs," said Goody Alsop. "I am sorry if I offend you, Master Roydon."
"No offense taken, Goody Alsop. But if you take this matter to your elders, Diana's identity will be known across London." Matthew stood. "I can't allow that."
"Every witch in the city has already heard about your wife. News travels quickly here, no small thanks to your friend Christopher Marlowe," Goody Alsop said, craning her neck to meet his eyes. "Sit down, Master Roydon. My old bones no longer bend that way." To my surprise, Matthew sat.
"The witches of London still do not know you are a weaver, Diana, and that is the important thing," Goody Alsop continued. "The Rede will have to be told, of course. When other witches hear that you've been called before the elders, they will assume you are being disciplined for your relationship with Master Roydon, or that you are being bound in some fashion to keep him from gaining access to your blood and power."
"Whatever they decide, will you still be my teacher?" I was used to being the object of other witches' scorn and knew better than to hope that the witches of London would approve of my relationship with Matthew. It mattered little to me whether Marjorie Cooper, Elizabeth Jackson, and Catherine Streeter (whoever they were) participated in Goody Alsop's educational regimen. But Goody Alsop was different. This was one witch whose friendship and help I wanted to have.
"I am the last of our kind in London and one of only three known weavers in this part of the world. The Scottish weaver Agnes Sampson lies in a prison in Edinburgh. No one has seen or heard from the Irish weaver for years. The Rede has no choice but to let me guide you," Goody Alsop assured me.
"When will the witches meet?" I asked.
"As soon as it can be arranged," Goody Alsop promised.
"We will be ready for them," Matthew assured her.
"There are some things that your wife must do for herself, Master Roydon. Carrying the babe and seeing the Rede are among them," Goody Alsop replied. "Trust is not an easy business for a wearh, I know, but you must try for her sake."
"I trust my wife. You felt what witches have done to her, so you will not be surprised that I don't trust any of your kind with her," Matthew said.
"You must try," Goody Alsop repeated. "You cannot offend the Rede. If you do, Hubbard will have to intervene. The Rede will not suffer that additional insult and will insist on the Congregation's involvement. No matter our other disagreements, no one in this room wants the Congregation's attention focused on London, Master Roydon."
Matthew took Goody Alsop's measure. Finally he nodded. "Very well, Goody."
I was a weaver.
Soon I would be a mother.
A child between, a witch apart, whispered the ghostly voice of Bridget Bishop.
Matthew's sharp inhalation told me that he had detected some change in my scent. "Diana is tired and needs to go home."
"She is not tired but fearful. The time for that has passed, Diana. You must face who you truly are," Goody Alsop said with mild regret.
But my anxiety continued to rise even after we were safely back in the Hart and Crown. Once there, Matthew took off his quilted jacket. He wrapped it around my shoulders, trying to ward off the chilly air. The fabric retained his smell of cloves and cinnamon, along with traces of smoke from Susanna's fire and the damp air of London.
"I'm a weaver." Perhaps if I kept saying it, this fact would begin to make sense. "But I don't know what that means or who I am anymore."
"You are Diana Bishop-a historian, a witch." He took me by the shoulders. "No matter what else you have been before or might one day be, this is who you are. And you are my life."
"Your wife," I corrected him.
"My life," he repeated. "You are not just my heart but its beating. Before I was only a shadow, like Goody Alsop's fetch." His accent was stronger, his voice rough with emotion.
"I should be relieved to have the truth at last," I said through chattering teeth as I climbed into bed. The cold seemed to have taken root in the marrow of my bones. "All my life I wondered why I was different. Now I know, but it doesn't help."
"One day it will," Matthew promised, joining me under the coverlet. He folded his arms around me. We twined our legs like the roots of a tree, each clinging to the other for support as we worked our bodies closer. Deep within me the chain that I had somehow forged out of love and longing for someone I had yet to meet flexed between us and became fluid. It was thick and unbreakable, filled with a life-giving sap that flowed continuously from witch to vampire and back to witch. Soon I no longer felt between but blissfully, completely centered. I took a deep breath, then another. When I tried to draw away, Matthew refused.
"I'm not ready to let you go yet," he said, pulling me closer.
"You must have work to do-for the Congregation, Philippe, Elizabeth. I'm fine, Matthew," I insisted, though I wanted to stay exactly where I was for as long as possible.
"Vampires reckon time differently than warmbloods do," he said, still unwilling to release me.
"How long is a vampire minute, then?" I asked, snuggling under his chin.
"It's hard to say," Matthew murmured. "Some length of time between an ordinary minute and forever."