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Alainya normally liked white, but she was tired of knitting for the babies. And she was tired of working with the undyed yarns normally given to beginners. Given the time of year, not-quite-white and plain brown were definitely not the colors she wanted to knit with. Dirty white was the color of spring snow, and brown the color of mud. She'd definitely had more than enough of both.

She wanted to make something colorful for a change, and she wanted to do it on her own.

She talked Laisesu out of a few balls of yarn that had dyed poorly, an irregular pale blue with stretches of white, and started knitting a square. If she hated it, it could go to the babies anyway.

But she didn't hate it. It looked like clouds in a summer sky, and an occasional irregular stitch actually helped that illusion. Which helped her to relax and actually enjoy making it. For once, everyone was healthy, and Kalitelm had shooed the raisers out to get some sun; Alainya was hoping the healer would notice her project, but so far Kalitelm had been focusing on the babies. She wanted to ask if there were a way to add butterflies to that sky. When she was sick, she'd watched the healer knit all sorts of fancy things; Kalitelm would know how if anyone did.

Instead of the square she'd planned, she made it longer, wishing she could knit it as wide as the sky. She was working on her bunk; seeing the long strip trailing over her legs made her think about how nice a blanket would be. Did she have enough? She had one whole ball and the partial ball she was knitting from. Laisesu had more of the blue, she'd seen it. Maybe she could trade something for it?

Bayarl came walking over from the other side of the house. He was moving slowly, but every time Kalitelm's eyes were turned, he was looking into the storage space under other people's bunks. Alainya shook her head. That boy was always up to something. She kept knitting, trying to keep her eyes on Bayarl, though she hadn't really mastered the technique of knitting just by feel yet. The yarn started to pull oddly.

Bayarl drew near. "Whatcha doing?"

"Knitting. What are you doing?" The tension on the yarn was suddenly too tight, and Alainya looked to see what the ball had caught on. Somehow, it had rolled under the bunk.

"Stretching my legs." He leaned back, then appeared to notice her yarn problem. "Let me help you." He fell to his hands and knees and reached under her bunk, just as the tension totally released and she ended up with a very frayed end of yarn dangling visibly by her foot.

"What are you doing?" she hissed. That ball had been nowhere near used up. She set the knitting aside and leaned over to look under the bunk, just in time to see Bayarl stuffing a young dull-brown yiirk into the neck of his shirt. The tiny furred form wiggled in his hand, its long, slinky form disappearing into the shirt, a shred of blue yarn trailing from its long snout. He laced the collar tight.

Then he picked up the rest of the ball of yarn and offered it to her. "Here you go!"

"Bayarl, it'll bite you! You can't keep that--"

"Hush!" He looked around, then leaned toward her. "He's my pet! His name is Ofare."

She giggled, wrinkling her nose. "Well, at least the name is right." She had recently been introduced to the stories of messy Lere and stinky Ofare. Bayarl had thought it great fun to tell her those stories when she was knitting for babies' behinds.

"It's for his color! Not--"

But she was already talking. "You can't keep it. Do you know how much those things eat?"

"Better than you! I've been keeping him fed for a whole week, ever since somebody killed his mother."

Alainya couldn't help but be impressed if he'd kept the critter a secret from the raisers for more than an hour. Still, the little predators were creepy. "Well, not any more. As soon as I tell--"

"No. You can't. I mean--please. What can I do to convince you?"

"After that--that thing chewed through my yarn?" Alainya was ready to say nothing in the world would convince her to let him keep that filthy thing in her house, but her eyes fell on the length she'd knitted. Laisesu was unlikely to just give her any more yarn, even if the dye job had come out all wrong. She'd want something in return, and Laisesu's odd jobs were usually smelly or time-consuming--or both.

"I'll do anything!"

"It's a dirty little--"

"It is not! I keep it clean. Really. What can I do to convince you?"

Kalitelm walked by. "Is everything all right, Alainya?"

"We're fine." Bayarl spoke up. "I was admiring her knitting. It looks like the sky, doesn't it?"

Kalitelm stepped closer to look. "It sure does! That's nice work, Alainya."

Alainya bushed. "I want to make it into a blanket. With butterflies!"

Kalitelm nodded. "That would look nice."

"But how do you do that?"

"There's several ways. I'll show you." The healer smiled. "Tomorrow? After morning lessons?"

Alainya nodded eagerly. "I'd like that."

Kalitelm smiled. "Bring the brightest knitted things in the scrap box with you to my house, then." She gave Bayarl another curious look, but two of the younger children started yelling, and she headed off.

"Thank you." Bayarl smiled at Alainya.

"I still could tell. Unless..."

"Yes? Anything." He put his hand on his chest. Alainya wasn't sure if it was intended as a gesture of earnestness or simply to hold the yiirk still.

"I want the rest of this yarn from Laisesu."

"From--you've got to be kidding."

"If you bring it to me, soon, I won't tell about--Ofare." Alainya had to work to keep from giggling again.

"But--Laisesu!" He was practically whining, and Alainya remembered that the dyer was still angry with him for dropping ash into the wrong vat of dye last fall. She almost relented, but there was nothing else she wanted as much as the yarn. And Bayarl deserved to suffer for bringing a yiirk into the house.

She shrugged. "If you'd rather, I can call Kalitelm back here right now."

"No--no. I'll manage. But you've got to give me a few days."

Alainya showed him the remaining ball and a half of yarn. "You have until I run out."

He walked away, shoulders slumped, but Alainya started to hum. Bayarl was resourceful. She went back to imagining her new blanket--with butterflies. Maybe Kalitelm could show her how to put a band of others traveling across the sky, too. She didn't ever want to see one up close, but they were sure pretty from far away.

But even if it would be easy, she would never sew any yiirk onto her blanket! She knitted to the end of the row, inches from where the ugly critter had gnawed her yarn through, and resumed knitting from the ball.

Author's Notes

This was written in response to a prompt in the second Muse Fusion event.

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Characters Featured:
Kalitelm, Bayarl, Alainya,

Story collections:
Heart of the Tree
All Northern Stories and Art
A Good Start
Alainya's Knitting
Muse Fusion, March 2010
The Shades of Yesterday

Follow the Timeline
(These stories may be unrelated)
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Heart of the Tree
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The Experiment

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