Out of the mists of the distant past, the first weavers emerged some 27000 years ago. Nets, clothing and baskets were the simple, functional items created by those ancient weavers, the ancestors of the Vestarian. He is the the weaver, not only a skilled artisan but a magician whose cloaks protect better than plate mail and whose sails make the ship that bears them unsinkable.
Weaving and magic are easy bedfellows. The Fates of multiple European cultures are the weavers of the threads of life. In Greek mythology, Clotho spins the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle, Lachesis measures the thread of every person, and Atropos cuts it at the time of their death. In Hawaiian mythology, the hero Māui, angry with the sun for rushing through the heavens so quickly that day is too short for humans to complete their work, climbs to the house of the sun to restrain it with a net woven from his sister’s hair. In an alternative version, Māui teaches his family to weave ropes of flax, a skill he had learnt during a previous trip to the underworld.
Byssus, or sea silk, from which the Vestarian weaves his magic sails, is an extremely rare and valuable cloth made from the silky threads, or byssus, secreted by a gland in the foot of the pen shell to attach itself to the sea bed. It can be woven into a cloth even finer than silk and was known to much of the ancient world, where it was prized it for its quality and golden shine. Such was its value that in the Roman Empire only the ruling classes could wear cloaks made from byssus.
For the Vestarian, the byssus itself is magic, being imbued with the spirit of the sea, but he weaves his own magic into the cloth with the assistance of his apprentice, Eliza. As with all of the textiles he weaves, the raw fibres are spun into thread under special conditions, such as a new or full moon, and incantations are chanted over them as they are spun. Alternatively, materials with particular properties, such as gemstones or minerals, may be ground up and added to the thread to achieve the desired effect. The invisibility shroud is woven with tiny fragments of polished glass, reflecting the light around it to render the person or object it covers invisible with the help of a little bit of magic. It is science and magic coming together to achieve the impossible.
Pinna Nobilis, the pen shell