Excerpt: Spell Weaver
The tea in the pot was cold and stale, but Myka refilled his cup and took a large swallow before setting it close to the nearest lamp. Picking up the waistcoat spread across his lap, he retrieved his needle and resumed his work. The waistcoat was a beautiful one, plum-colored velvet with gold and silver embroidery in a diamond pattern all across the front. He didn’t need to see the discreet maker’s mark on the inside, tucked at the bottom on the right-hand side, to know it was Norrington’s work. He was the best tailor in the city and commanded a price commiserate with that status. His work went beyond perfect into truly breathtaking. Once upon a time, Myka had dreamed of working in such a renowned shop and becoming that skilled.
But Norrington also made a great deal more money in illegal spell weaving. There were strict regulations on magic, especially regarding enchantments, hexes, charms, and such that could be laid on objects or woven into clothes and other items.
Myka had been on the verge of accepting an apprenticeship with Norrington when he’d stumbled across Norrington and two of his workers discussing the difficulties of a love spell they were trying to embroider on a woman’s suit. He’d fled immediately, refused the apprenticeship… and now he had nothing but a dying shop in the poor district, and was stuck as a journeyman because his master had died before giving Myka his final tests to become a master.
So far no one had noticed his master was no longer around, save for those who had known him and were too poor and struggling themselves to rat out Myka. No, they looked after their own on Ash Street.
He paused to push up his spectacles and rub at his sore eyes then righted the spectacles and resumed work. The waistcoat was for his favorite customer: Mr. Johan Pierson, handsome, elegant, kind, and the stuff of dreams. He’d never said what he did for a living, but it was something important and well-paid, given he brought Myka a new suit to spell at least once a month, sometimes more when it was for a special occasion, and that didn’t include the suits that needed their spells renewed. Pierson had exquisite taste, the kinds of suits Myka would love to make, doing plain stitching and spell weaving all at once. Almost no one did everything at once, or if they did, it was men like Norrington, who did the spell weaving off the books.
Most people had their clothes made in one place, by a plain tailor, then took the clothes to a spell weaver. If only more of those people found their way to Myka’s shop. He stifled a sigh, drank more cold tea, and pushed on with his work. Johan likely wouldn’t be by until the next day, but Myka wanted to be done with everything that night just the same. He had three more suits for another customer, and then he was hoping to work on the little kerchiefs and ties he had stacked up to sell at the End-Week Market.
At least the waistcoat was coming along nicely. He finished off the first spell, an alertness spell two measures strong, and threaded his needle with silvery thread so pale it was nearly invisible, save for the way it glittered in the flickering lamplight. He hummed softly while he worked, embroidering a spell for solitude one measure strong. Solitude spells, like love, charm, and similar outward-affecting spells, were not legally allowed to go above one measure. With special permission, or under particular circumstances, some of them could go up to three measures. Anything above three required the direct approval of the crown, and the work could only be done by tailors with royal certification. Myka didn’t even have a master spell weaver license; if he was ever caught spelling without it, he would be jailed immediately and, after his release, banned permanently from spell weaving.
He smiled as he finished a section, smoothed his fingers over the work to feel the spell and ensure it was taking. The magic prickled and thrummed against his hand, soft and warm like down. He resumed working, his humming interspersed with singing.
The tinkling of the shop bell broke his concentration, and he all but threw his work on the nearby table as he hastily stood. So late in the afternoon, that could only be one person: Johan. Going over to the cracked bit of mirror on the far side of the room, Myka fussed with his shoulder-length black hair, wiped away a smudge of soot on his cheek, and smoothed his clothes. He breathed in, breathed out. “Calm and professional, calm and professional,” he muttered as he headed out of the backroom to the front of the shop.