[hem] verb, hemmed, hem·ming, noun. verb (used with object)
1. to fold back and sew down the edge of (cloth, a garment, etc.); form an edge or border on or around.
2. to enclose or confine (usually followed by in, around, or about ): hemmed in by enemies.
She is young when she stands on your dais, clapping her hands across her thighs to ease the tension from the stillness. For a mannequin she is awfully squirmy, and for an heiress she is far too small. She reaches your chin on the ends of her dainty feet, but you often assure her that this strain wouldn't be necessary if you had just worn the heels you chose for her. But the seatroll is adverse to most footwear, save for the tacky swim shoes she adores.
You enjoy the tug of the thread through the material. Silk crepe today, with its trademark crimpy texture. It's a nice callback to the dusting of bright scales on the balls of her shoulders and cheeks. In the deepest parts of the sea you hear they flicker the most lovely color, the most holy color, but you care little for darkness. Instead you drink in the baking sunlight that would burn her fragile skin. The seams cross over her hips and train down past her ankles. She insists on a short skirt, which you are loathe to appease her with, but at least settle on a train.
“If you are an heiress, you must look fine in court,” you tell her.
“If I'm an heiress," she says blithely in her singsong, “I'll need to survive court first, dummy.”
There isn't much argument with that.
You are sure that the pedestal is not entirely comfortable to stand on for hours, but she would have to last. She takes this as an opportunity to practice her oration.
“Around the sea the salty seadog swam,” it’s too quick and slurred to be understood.
A light rap to the back of her shins with your measuring stick. Feferi curls one leg up and groans, nudging your hand aside with one heel. You seize her ankle and force it to join her other.
“Heels together. Again, if you please.”
She rocks on her feet- you give the trailing ribbons on her shoulders a sharp, reprimanding tug. Stillness doesn't suit her, all the same.
“Moses supposes his toeses are roses but Moses supposes erroneously- Oh, Kanaya, these are all stupid. What are toes even? I can’t even pun!”
“Shoulders back, Feferi.”
Her hair is a problem. You constantly grab heaps of it and fling it over her shoulder, only to have it slide back down and swing into your face. You have half a mind to saw it all off with your lipstick. Your Heiress straightens her back, curling her hands into interlocking fists over her ribcage. Her voice has that musical pitch that seadwellers find attractive, but is painful to your ears.
Another gown done. She turns in curious circles to watch it drape after her, attempting to see her own back. There's some congratulations in order for your talent, considering what you were given to work with.
“I find this all rather shelly, you know,” she says, even as she enjoys a twirl and the settling of her silks, “But thank you all the same.”
It’s flippant, certainly not entirely genuine. You know this was her way of "saving" you, she cooed to you one day, and you refuse it. Your salvation should not come from the labor of your hands but by your very virtue and nature of existing. Still, she promises you that one day, your labors will not matter, and you can be free. As soon as the crown is settled on her head, she tells you.
Until then, your cage would be large.
1. stitching or a stitch in which the thread is doubled back on the preceding stitch.
In the gloaming light, when trolls crept to their warm recuperacoons, you tended the vast gardens. They are steeped in water, and minding the blooms meant wading into the cloistered rockpools, cupping your feet around each stone for balance. Your skirt dampens and sticks to your legs as you move, dragging behind.
There are mostly nymphaea. Water lilies. They are the royal flower, and they crowd around your ankles, like anxious children, like their girl patron. You bat them away from you, slip your fingers to check each firm stem. Still healthy, still good.
Conversations drift through the latticework. The affairs of court are petty at best, but all the better for you to meddle in. One aftermoon you catch a violetblood bemoaning the treachery of his oliveblooded moirail. Exactly the type of project you enjoy. They are fabric to you, to stitch and mend, to loop and seam. After a time you wonder if your Lady sends them to you for your amusement, to pass the time, to keep your hands busy.
You resent her for it.
You long for the roots of your blooms, for the warmth of sand warmed by sun, untouched by the sea. You miss the smell of scorched earth, of the crackling succulents in the dunes.
Mostly, you're annoyed. You're annoyed that you are here, standing about like a sheltered waterlily in her garden, for her to admire and glean beauty from. She's standing nearby, observing you, her little hands wrapped around the throat of a fluted pillar. She does not hide well behind it, half of her face obvious.
You have heard the tales of your ancestress, and wonder if her chains felt so heavy as her pitying gaze.
Today you ignore her. Soon the sun will become to bright for her eyes, even with the milky second lid covering fragile retina. She retreats into the cool shadows, but lingers, hoping you might follow, you think. You turn in the sunshine, arms spread and welcoming.
The red star kisses you- it missed you, too.
1. a kind of ornamental hand stitching in which each stitch forms a loop through the forward end of the next.
You have had absolutely enough of her pouting. Another row with her matesprit, a consort of convenience, not uncommon in her position. You find it rather sad, that she must claim to be star-crossed and fatebound to someone so utterly piteous. He would make a marvelous palemate for her, you think. Perhaps with a few tugs of fine silk thread and an enchanting evening might tidy up your plans.
“Oh,” she sighs, “He’s just such a glubbing nightmare.”
Until then, there were no moonlit nights of fancy, there was a snuffly, petulant princess perched on the end of your dais and squirming out of her heels at first opportunity. Her dress is torn, and she has come to you not only for repairs, but to let the hem of her dress down. She's growing so fast now, and you know you are, as well, legs spindly and suddenly more precarious to venture on. You allow her to remove her teetering shoes, gently setting each in a velvet-lined box, treated more tenderly than most lowbloods being dropped in a grave. What a strange direction for your mind to go.
She tells you of her troubles, with great gestures of her hands and groans of her heart. Her constant moaning and enthusiastic strangling pantomimes are making it difficult to focus. It is time you teach her patience.
“Now Princess,” you begin.
“Kanaya, how many times have I told you? Feferi, Feferi, Feferi!”
“Now Princess, you might mend this yourself if you had a mind to.”
“Me? But you’re the dressmaker.”
“And I am also a teacher, now come.”
She looks so perplexed you catch yourself thinking it adorable, as you set her feet on your lap to give better visibility to the rip on her hem. Tut-tut. It's a stiff chintz for the warm dim season, patterned in weaving tendrils of her guardian creature. You thank the moons and stars that it wasn't chiffon or worse, her fine chantilly laces, which she so often shreds on corals and reefs.
She uses your name so often, as if it were music to say, or more accurately, as a pointed punctuation mark.
"You must. An Empress must also work with her hands. A needle and a Trident are not so far removed."
You show her the needle, you show her the thread. This is perhaps the first time in her life she has been demonstrated to. You think of this girl in her wrigglerhood, pulling down massive lusii with her bare hands, yet needing a tiny thimble to spare her skin.
Patience is a painful virtue, but gratefully one you possess. How you wish your little heiress might learn it, as she settles close to you and wriggles anxiously like a grub. You've chosen the cozy velveteen loveseat to work on, and set the fabric in a stiff hoop. There's a great pleasure in watching her take such curiosity in your work, the wonder not leaving her face the whole duration of your stitching.
She lays her head to your shoulder, her bowed horns narrowly avoiding your major arteries. There is something inside you that bubbles over with the desire to kiss her there, between her horns. You repress those squirming desires. Her arms wind around yours if only to find some place to tuck away while you work. In and out, in and out. The needle bobs and weaves the cloth back together, and you show her how to roll the hem to hide the ratted selvage. Her eyes follow the needle up and down, until you pass the tiny pointed blade into her fingers, and urge her on.
She whines, but a cool gaze over the end of your nose bends the future ruler of the Empire to jab out her lower lip and dive into her task. The stitches are clumsy, certainly. Nothing truly worthy to be on the body of the Tyriannae, The heiress turns in pirouettes, as if she has herself created magic, and you pride yourself as a master sorcerer.
1. smocked needlework.
2. embroidery stitches used to hold gathered cloth in even folds.
You’re minding the gardens again this afternoon. The cuttlefish pools. Not much vegetation there to mind, mainly ornamental and meant for the little animals to swirl in and out of. They aren’t the poisonous variety and you’re grateful, but you’re still not fond of the little tentacles curiously poking at your toes and those strange halfway-eyes. Still, you give their backs a pat and mind their ruffle, culling them gently according to your Heiress’ new definition.
Thinking of her, you can hear her now in the garden, speaking low and quiet to her Consort as he paces in a dissatisfied circle around her. She stands her ground, idly shining the long, ceremonial trident with a bit of suede she sneaked from your scrap box. She wears trousers today, and pays little interest to her Consort’s concerns. From time to time she crosses and uncrosses her legs, offering an unenthusiastic trill as an answer.
“Honestly, how do you think this will work? I can’t be here forever to protect you,” He spits, lips peeled back at her.
You can’t tell if it’s affectionate or a threat. Feferi gracefully turns away from his vitriol and continues to inspect her trident. He twists to meet her.
“You’ll be killed! Your pretty little head will bounce at her feet like a fuckin’ party favor.”
Your Empress does not raise her weapon to his royal throat, nor spill his blood, nor scream him coarse. She slips the cloth into one pocket, the one you embroidered with betta splenden veils, and ever, ever-so-gently paps his face.
“That’s stupid," she declares, "And you’re stupid.”
The rage that spills over from his eyes and mouth is enough to startle the birds from the willow trees and into the stars. Most of the other servants are quick to slink away. He seems to become aware of his unnecessary cruelty but not his own cowardice, as he retreats into his cape- satin, how tacky.
But she snags that cape, gives his horns a slight rub, and speaks to him without any margin for doubt.
“I won’t be culled,” says the Heiress, “Because I’ll take the bitch out first.”
Feferi lets the satin slide from her fingers and banishes the trident into the folds of her modus. With both hands free she can attend to the monster, leaving him little more than a housecat under her fingers, equally as spoilt and dangerous.
You should have afforded her more faith. She has more patience than you dreamed.
(bast) verb. bast·ed, bast·ing, bastes
1. To sew loosely with large running stitches so as to hold together temporarily.
There is unrest in the people as you pad through the market in search of new material. There are drones lurking at the mouths of squares, hidden between winding hivestems. You're thinking something iridescent, like the Heiress' scales, and then some yarn. Your mutant charge looked awfully chilly as the Dim season faded into darkness. The square is full of people- adults, wrigglers, lusii. The air is thick with unbroken violence, unshed blood and apprehension. Your height offers some distance but does not grant you stealth as you bob above them all, reaching to touch the fabrics draped on display.
The ring around the young Heiress' palace is the only land that adults can inhabit under the Empire's blessing, but you have yet to quite count yourself among them. As a massive Indigo slogs by you still flinch, even if he is not far from your age. Wrigglers dart about your ankles, but you step carefully to avoid them. On your first visit to the market you bent to pat them, and they scattered from you in fear. Now you know to leave them treats along the walls instead, still hot from the Seadweller's banquet hall.
In every grand establishment and in every tiny hovel, the Empress' Imperial portrait hangs to lord over its patrons, her eyes staring down her nose, brow lifted and smile set in a crooked line. If the business were more daring, your Heiress' portrait is beneath. While the Empress' was painted, Feferi's was taken. She was startled by the flash, and it amuses you that in every place of business she looks quite alarmed to be there.
It's in a tiny jewelry shop you spot her again- wide eyed and smile spooked. It's not unusual to see your Princess unwittingly hawking different products. She's mounted above everything from deodorants to grubseed, touting her preference of brands. This Feferi is over a display of pretty anklets, full of golden bells and colored stones. You do not look for one of your own- your color is rarely seen outside of the caves, and to be honest the metal seemed cheap, an immitation of precious. One of them is draped over Feferi's portrait and you lift it off. It's the heretic's color- deep, cruel red, and a color that positively endears you. He has since long gone into hiding until Feferi assures his safety, but you wonder. Always wondering.
"The Heiress herself wears one, she does," The shopkeep hollers to you over their wiggling fingers jabbing at her palmhusk.
"I doubt it," you snicker, holding one on the end of your pinky, "And I would be one who would be aware."
"She does, she does, m'um. Bought it herself. She likes tacky shit. Not that that's tacky, no, m'um."
This particular shop had necklaces shaped like whimsical facial hair and lockets with the latest hearthrob ruffianihilators inside. Most everything was plastic, and a color that offended your senses. Why had you even come in here?
"Of all the Jewelers in the Capital City, I highly doubt the Heiress would frequent a place like this."
"Aw, fuck, m'um," she says, and you are certain that is the most maddening quirk imaginable, "Swear on my lusus, she bought a green one. Rare color. Jade. Nice n' special. Like you, miss."
"Nonsense," You hiss, "I would have seen it."
Would you? Last week she had slipped something off when you were busy fitting the ties on her slippers. It had jinged. Terrible manner of speaking aside, Feferi had worn one.
There's a rush of tenderness running from your fingertips to your cheeks usually reserved for those small and shouting. You drop some shining caesars by the shopkeep's phone and pocket the crimson anklet.
You could hide it under the hem of your skirts easily enough.
1. (Clothing & Fashion) a strip of whalebone, wood, steel, etc., inserted into the front of a corset to stiffen it.
She has grown, and in a peculiar manner. It is not so dissimilar to your own maturity, but it is easier to understand it on your own bones. You have grown tall like the bent willows of your garden, with long limbs and long fingers. This is especially useful, you find, for sliding lewd novels from the high ends of shelves not meant for wrigglers. Your lady, however, has become fuller and softer to touch, and you find her plush as you slide a new contraption around her waist.
“I don't want to be thinner!” she huffs at you, blowing a lock of hair from her face.
“I am not making you thinner, Princess, I am harnessing your curves.”
“Like glubbing hell you are,” she swats at your hands, “This is going to hurt and be ab-shoal-lutely awful.”
You snap your scissors dangerously close to her fingers, and she listens, thank every god.
"Practice your address, Feferi."
Feferi arranges herself to stand upright, a far more comfortable spot than it was once. Her hands are gracefully supported before her, as if benevolently presenting a very large sandwich to whatever invisible individual she was speaking with. At least this allows you to fit her.
"The Hemospectrum had its place in our seasidety for many gener-ray-tions-"
"Spare the fish puns, dear."
"Ugh," She rolls her eyes near skyward, "The Empress makes them all the time, Kanaya! It's my royal birthright!"
"So is dying to the Empress. How many little Heiresses has she stacked on her pretty fork before you?"
This doesn't seem to sway her any, so you go on, giving the corset a good fitting tug before you can continue.
"You want to show that you are different than that monstrous woman in her... tacky, shitty jumpsuit from god-knows-where."
Feferi giggles at your words and they color your cheeks.
Corsetry is a tricky business on a good day and nigh to impossible on a bad one. A well-fitted corset should never hurt, and naturally you feel you have crafted a fine piece for her. She eyes it with disdain. You fasten the busk carefully, the ties loose along her spine, trailing down to her knees. Once the front is secure you are able to pull the strands, one by one, stepping up the ladder of crossing cords.
“Ouch,” she’s whining again.
You silence her with a sharp yank of her cording. That makes her gasp, and for a moment, you worry you’ve hurt her, and you rest a hand on her spine.
“Oh!” She cries, clapping her hands, “Oh,” she laughs, “Oh, how marvelous! It’s so frilly, ah!”
Her joy is just so helplessly infectious and endearing you cannot help but return the smile, tying away the long cords. Now the gown would fit effortlessly over her head, a gown of starbursts and clouds, of moonlight and crashing seas at her feet.
Gaudy, perhaps, but you congratulate yourself on its execution. As she turns and holds her fan before the mirror you ponder her.
Where exactly had this woman come from, and who had crafted her?
The wobbly, chittering girl who toddled onto your dias had been replaced with a tall Empress, Her back and shoulders held gracefully as she admired her reflection.
“Oh, it’s so lovely, so graceful! Thank you!”
Slaves of the Empire were never thanked.
The Empress slid her hands down, cradled your face between her palms and captured your mouth in hers. Her lips are salty, damp in the way that velvet is. You pull her close, able to feel the solid boning of her corset underneath the layers of applique and satin. From where you sat you can pull her onto your knees, let her sit on your lap. Her hair, such a nuisance, tumbled to curtain over the both of you. She makes the most delightful sounds when she kisses, and pulls away with a soft, moist pop.
Her brow lingers to yours, cool with the metal of her crown. She stretches her legs and eases off of you, a spring in her step like a little leaping fish as she bounded into her gardens.
1. a person or thing that braces, binds, or makes firm.
2.archery, fencing a leather guard worn to protect the arm
It is your most important fitting.
Tradition reads that her breastbone and clavicles must be uncovered, in order to let the Empress have her mark. To the Empress you are dressing her sport for slaughter. Instead your design has allowed her protection. In place of fine lace you armor her with leather, with brass and steel. Her corsetry now protects her ribcage, keeps hidden fragile gills and vital organs. You wind her hair into a thick plait, and tie it into a warrior's knot.
Outside are the roars of an expectant, bloodthirsty entourage and their queen, goading the death of another young Pisces, for the spill of Tyrian blood to bless the soil and appease the deep gods. The butterflies of court had become savages as soon as the Battleship made landfall, like a silent red hurricane. She pays little attention to it, and you strive to as well, even as a rain of pebbles crack the window. The sun is still in the sky, sinking low into the sea.
You are surprised at how it suits her, as you fasten the many buckles along her wrist. Flexibility for strikes, protection for hits. She is clothed in the color of her blood, to hide any injuries you know she will sustain. No trailing trains, no gossamer rosettes, no veils or baubles or bells. You are dressed for battle too. A rose of an impossible red pinned to one breast and a swathe of verigated greens draping to the floor. An ode to your cause, and the woman who carried it before you.
She is not trembling, and you wish she were.
"Are you frightened?"
"Not at all, I've lived my whole life for this, Kanaya. We all have an important job to do, after all."
You want to wrest that foolish wriggler phrase from her neck, smash it to pieces, swear at her, toss it in her face. She is a child carrying her Moirail's gold-and-violet shield, toying with her trident like a plaything. In an instant you are standing on the round pedestal with her, grasping her elbows with both hands.
"I am loathe to agree with any idiot who thinks well of vertically striped trousers," this makes her laugh, and you regret it, "But you must take this seriously, Feferi."
"Of course I am," She reassures you, and for once, it's honest and kind as she cups your jaw, nuzzling her way into the soft diamond of skin under your chin, "I must."
"Spare me your vagueness, Heiress, the sand is falling through your hourglass figure."
Feferi batts her lashes, "Was that a come-on?"
She will always infuriate you.
The Heiress circles you in a twirl, a fairy-whisp, a maypole, and captures you in the cross of her arm and her weapon, hiding her face against your shoulders.
"I fight because I must. I will win because you taught me how."
It's a bit of a squeeze to turn in her arms, but she allows it, limbs still hooped around you.
"You are a teacher, Kanaya, a medium," She croons- she's been practicing her orating, each syllable precise, "While I will be Empress, you will be Goddess, Mother."
Your words crack in your throat, and she laughs, a bright silver-bell of a sound, and releases you.
"So sit tight and get sewing! I'll need a coronation gown, after all!"
She slips from you, and goes to greet battle with a sunshine smile and razorblade teeth. The red star is bright on your skin, in her hair, as you watch your Empress depart.