Within the week, the time for deliveries arrived, at last. Silke, with Cotton in tow, went from part of Petree to the next, delivering the last of the year’s shipments. In what little time they had before hibernation, Silke made for certain that she practiced in the inns with Cotton every night, doing so behind a well locked door to prevent wandering eyes. Although it was a slow process, Cotton had made large strides and could even take a handful of steps by herself! Silke felt proud and relieved that she’d been around to see Cotton make her first steps.
As they traveled, Cotton spent most of her time wrapped tight against her mother in a sling, wearing her makeshift tail. When the two of them finished up in Niiiadan, the largest common trading city on the whole island, Satin was there waiting for them inside of their room.
With a knowing look between the two sisters, Silke bent down to face her daughter. “Mama has to go for a while. I will see you when it is time for the big sleep, okay?”
She knew that Cotton would not understand, but she still felt the need to try and explain things. This would be such a confusing time for her. She didn’t want to leave her daughter, not in the least. Her eyes drifted to a large parcel in the corner of the room. The last one, too important not to deliver personally, unlike the other far reaching ones that she simply hired carriers for in desperation.
Silke pulled Cotton into her arms and settled into bed. The child fell asleep quickly, but her mother was not as fortunate. Guilty thoughts plagued her about ‘abandoning’ her child the whole night. With this much guilt, she could hardly begin to fathom how she would feel during hibernation.
At first light, Silke handed the sleeping Cotton to Satin.
She then left the room and sped off to Weaver’s Labyrinth, home of the Arachnae.
Silke left the room right after. Cotton, in a deep slumber, did not yet know that the swift swaying that kept her rocked to sleep was not that of her mother’s.
Satin moved briskly, hoping she would be at least out of earshot before the child awoke and began doing her impression of a wailing banshee. She shoved down the unreasonable, irrational guilt she felt, drawing ridiculous parallels between her parents’ demise and her own momentary absence.
She raced forward toward Gorgon’s Hollow, home for a sub-race of lamias with a very significant distinction.
In place of hair, a Gorgon had literal snakes crazily strewn about from their head. It was a sight to see and offered much food for thought. Were the snakes, themselves, alive and sentient, with their own conscious thought, or were they an extension of the larger lamia?
It was something Silke thought about a lot, but never had the nerve to ask one of them.
Their large numbers made associating with the Gorgons a necessity, what with the treacherous dangers of reaching the ideal location for hibernation, but Silke also had another important favor to ask them.