As I watch my hands at their work, I think of my mothers.
I take sharp scissors to the locks that hang straightest and thickest at the back of my head and snip a few curling hanks from where they won’t be missed.
“Take it from your own head, Kadijah.” Firstmother’s voice was odd that day. Later, I knew that she knew how little any of this would matter. “As your hair protects your head, it will protect your son’s. I will show you how to weave it so it catches the Eye and draws it to the mirror.”
My own hands were polishing the bright silver disc. I hardly thought it needed polishing, but every time I stopped, Firstmother would bid me rub it again with the fine silk cloth. “What is this for?” I asked.
“It will reflect back the Eye’s glances, so that whatever evil magic is done to Faisal, it will rebound on the bad wizard.”
“Must it be silver? Tin polishes more brightly.”
“Do as Firstmother says, Aminahli.” Mother’s voice was tight.
Firstmother was calmer and patient with her explanations. “Silver eats magic even better than cold iron does. So what magic doesn’t reflect will stop before it touches Faisal’s heart.”
Mother and I both made a gesture into the wind to send away any listening djinni who would hear that, and make trouble from it. Today it was the North wind blowing unseasonably early from the deep desert plateau, and the valley was gritty and hot with it.
Mother twisted her hair into threads as Firstmother pressed letters into a rawhide circle that matched the curve of the mirror in my hands. I puzzled over the letters some, for I had only started to learn to read the old tongue of our forebearers from the time before the Islanders came. They looked a little like the everyday writing we used to sign our names to letters and decrees, but with extra pieces that made them look almost like little pictures.
“The crocodile who guards the East and gives men fierceness. The Mumak who guards the North and gives men strength and endurance. The baboon who guards the West and gives men clever minds not easily bent or controlled. And the dog who guards the South and teaches men compassion. And there at the center is a word you know.”
My brow wrinkled some as I tried to remember. “Fate?”
“Because fate decides when men rise and fall. Fate rewards the virtuous and punishes the wicked. Fate tests you so that you can know yourself, and others can see your quality. Fate knows when to spare life, and when it is time to live on the far bank. Fate is the center of our lives in the upper world, and we must always respect her wisdom, even when we ask her for mercy.”
Mother’s fingers stumbled some as Firstmother said this, and Firstmother put her hand on both our shoulders. What could be said? What good would this Making do if Fate had other plans for Faisal?
I said, “Well, wizards won’t interfere with him.” Mother relaxed, and Firsmother said definitely, though with a sadness in her eyes, “This is true.”
Mother knotted and braided the threads her hair had made so that the mirror was framed in shining black, just like my own hair shines against this piece of silver. She sewed the leather disk to the back of the amulet, and with a pricked finger she colored each symbol in rusted dark blood.
My voice sounds like hers as I stand in these foreign winds under strange stars and say in the old tongue, “For my son Thragan I offer of myself. Toth, keeper of Secrets and king of djinni, see the love I have for this child of men. See my will written in my own blood, and see the will of my heart. I have submitted to Fate and kept my oaths. My hand has opened to the poor and opposed the evil. If ever my life and sacrifices have pleased you, I ask you hear me now. Let a mother’s love thwart the attacks of wizards and djinni. Let this stand between Thragan and evil in all the dark places he must walk.”
Mother’s amulet could not stop Gondorian steel. I am glad Firstmother isn’t here to read entrails for the soldier I send now into the arms of Angmar and its witch.