“Material Witness” by Brenta Blevins

June 9, 2012

Post image for “Material Witness” by Brenta Blevins

A princess returns home to tragedy after her father dies under mysterious circumstances that allow her violent uncle to seize control of the kingdom. Can she use the ancient magic of her family tapestry to solve the mystery of her father’s death and return the kingdom to just rule? [32 min]


Eyes swollen with grief, Princess Valyra knelt alone before the Great Tapestry. The amber fields and sky it depicted glowed with a rich golden light, illuminating the limestone wall around its edges it where shadows would normally lurk, revealing the enormous textile was more than a normal wall-hanging.

Staring at the harvest scene, Valyra used her father’s secret spell to will the blocky lettering across the top, “Testimony to Truth,” to give her what she wanted, needed to see: how her father died. How could the others–no, anyone believe he, the king of Muirgana, had been mauled to death when he’d killed his first bear at only eight summers old? Had everyone in the kingdom fallen under a spell to believe in such nonsense?

Without the family’s spell, the magical tapestry hung above the throne, displaying an incredible, slow-moving tableau of lessons from the kingdom’s most historically significant events: King Deleon, Valyra’s great-grandfather, protecting a village from invasion from an Eastern empire. Wrede, her grandfather, defending peasants from a band of outlaws. Ered, her father, sharing his crops with villagers in a drought.

At the least, Valyra thought, waiting for the magic, she would see her father again–even if only on the fabric display. Before she’d arrived home, her uncle Tolor–the new king–had already seen to the burial.

Valyra’s heart leapt as the Great Tapestry began transforming. At first, it seemed the firelight’s flicker cast wavering hues on the embroidered golden shocks of gathered wheat where reapers raised silver hooks to harvest more. Then, the multicolored fabric appeared to sway from some breeze in the great hall, falling into shadow, then light again in fiber chiaroscuro. But, it became clear the vivid weft threads danced free of the warp, then they dove again to re-weave together, forming new pictures. The threads knitted faster so the image of crop collection changed to one of knights in glinting plate riding across the castle’s moat bridge on their armored horses. When had this been? Some seasons ago? Again, the yarns unraveled and intertwined.



This story originally appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXIV in 2009.

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