With shaking hands, and a little prayer, Aytak Ransdottr made fast the final knots.
Carefully, she spread out the net, hooking one end on the claw of a nearby lobster, which stared at her as if to ask what to do with it. "Stay," she whispered. And it did. She drifted with the other end on a slow current, inspecting her work as the netting spread. This had to be perfect, she worried.
Not every merwoman took up the craft, but Aytak took to the weaving like a gull to flying. As a fry, she hadn't cared about centuries-old traditions, but that had changed the day one of the Dry People entered her world -- with her face.
It wasn't truly her face, of course, but one identical. Like when two herring have the same set of the eyes so one can hardly tell them apart. Without thinking, she had called out to the poor creature. That was a mistake. Though it was only tones her own folk or whales could hear, the song nevertheless did something to the Dry one's mind. This person from beyond the sea surface would eventually come back. They all did.
If this person was to have any hope beyond being claimed by the waves and consumed by their inhabitants, it lie in the Order, and a craft as old as the World, taught only by the Nine Daughters.
Once accepted into a Circle led by a descendent of the Nine, she undertook years of careful study. The nets of Ran were carefully woven and beautiful, yet durable and strong. It was a balance of aesthetic and function all but lost among the Dry People, judging by the artifacts she had seen drift down.
The nets held magick, but not just in the woven runes among the knotwork. There were bits of the weaver, in blood and skin, acquired through the labor. And there was the infusion of dreams from the weaver as she worked. For nets that caught men, there was the lusty wish for fertile mates, or the desire to see a distressed sailor home, perhaps to the shores of Folkvangr or even Valhalla.
For this one, she dreamed of a "sister" she barely knew, but who had dreams of her, too.
Feeling fairly satisfied with her work, Aytak carefully gathered the net and carried it to the deep grotto where Himinglaeva waited. Without a blessing from one of the Nine, it was little more than a bundle of carefully woven kelp.
"At last," the mergoddess smiled. "This was your only work in the years since you took on the craft and name of Ransdottr. Does it please you?"
Aytak almost flipped back over her tail in surprise. "I was to ask that of you," she said humbly.
"I'm not casting that net, child. It's from your hands, for your hands. I ask because it must feel natural to you." She extended a hand. "Let me see."
The net flowed from Aytak's outstretched hands to those of this ancient mistress of the sea, who was also gifted with sight of things above the waves.
Wise fingers examined the fiber and weave. "This is fine work," Himinglaeva said softly, her eyes reading the net like an epic poem. "You have learned well the balance of simplicity and beauty, the art of function and function of art. I am impressed."
The goddess's hands stopped and she turned her gaze to Aytak. "There is no pouch, no place for gold from your sailor."
"It is not for a sailor," the mermaid replied, struggling not to sound defiant. "It is for... a sister." It was the first time she had said the word aloud.
Himinglaeva let go of the net, and it swirled between them, forming into a shape. At first, a brackish statue of a surface girl, then flowing into the image of a mature female of the Dry People -- but with Aytak's face.
The goddess gestured, and the net flowed back to Aytak's hands. It felt almost electric.
"Go to her," the true daughter of Ran commanded, "sing to her. She is at a turning point of her life, I have seen it."
Aytak Ransdottr did not hesitate, flying through the brackish waters to her rendezvous.
Himinglaeva smiled as he watched her young charge disappear from sight, yet never out of her powers to see. She knew the mermaid's net would come back empty. And in that knowing, she sensed that the net would see much practical use in the coming battles surface rulers would play out on her foam-frosted roof.
There would be plenty of time for her maturing weaver to make another net, a different net with a different song, to finally welcome her sister home.
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Entry for LJ Idol: Season 9, Week 20, Topic: "Shibusa" (definition), inspired by this goddess. Big thanks to intersection partner tsuki_no_bara for giving me the idea.