In the darkest room of the most distant castle in a land none of us has ever seen, for it exists beyond the edge of even our wildest dreams, sits one whose purpose it is to weave. On her Loom of Days she has given birth to the lives of heroes and to the folly of kings in interlocking silken fingers of purple and carmine. She has even conceived of the trials of the lowly in skeins of coarse grey and brown, shot through with slim threads of cornflower blue. As it often is with those whose purpose is all-encompassing and poignant, she has no true memory... except for some nights. Those very same nights when the candles burn low, the shadows grow long, and the cold learns to breathe.
Those are the nights when he comes for tea. The one with the mirror speech and those shapeless, sighing, coal-black wings. Those are the nights, like this one, when he comes to light candles for the Weaver. This night, from his usual place in the green velvet chair that always seem to sit in shadow, he tells her he adores her latest work, the tapestry that is a dance in hunter, alizarin, and lapis. The tapestry that tells the story of Atlantis. The masterpiece that, when the time is right, she plans to hang on the wall so that all men will know and understand. She will hang it alongside the rusty orange one that taught us of fire and all its properties so long ago, and slightly below the cherry blossom pink one that so faithfully records the life of Buddha. He tells her that he would like to tell her a secret, and she closes her eyes and listens with her mind.
He tells her he'd like her to know where her inspiration comes from. He tells her he'd like to introduce her to her Shadow. Shadow, he tells her, is that voiceless one that lives in the looking glass, and masquerades as her reflection in the morning when she is braiding her hair and tying her ribbons.... as the shape she casts upon the cobble stones when she walks in her rose garden early in the morning. All of them, he says, have Shadows as well, but they can not see. They won't see. Sometimes they hear, but only when they close their eyes and open their minds, and so few of them can do even that.
The Shadows sing in the sudden bursts of inspiration that come through as dreams, and the Shadows whisper answers to questions in the blue-grey hallway they travel in nineteen steps on the journey to the gates of Elysium. They see them only as reflections of themselves, because they want to believe that their creations and their epiphanies are their own. What they do not see is the way their reflections put their hands over their ears and scream in soul-crushing frustration when they turn their backs on the looking glass.
In meeting Shadow, the Weaver meets the Muse. She is me yet not me, thinks she. She is that part of me that shows up in other ways.... as reflections, as shadows cast, as footprints, as echos, as frozen breath. She is that part of all of ourselves we spend our entire lives searching for, yet never quite come to know.
So now she understands. She sleeps.... and he is gone again.
In the morning, when she wakes, the Weaver goes to the Garden, cuts a single white rose, and tucks it underneath her belt. Upon returning to the darkest room in that most distant castle, she walks to the looking glass, brushes and braids her hair as is her daily custom, and then carefully chooses her ribbons in preparation for the day's work before the Loom of Days. However, this time before she turns her back, for reasons she knows not, she takes the white rose from her belt and leaves it on the vanity before the looking glass.