“Pardon my intrusion, but could I trouble you for an Awakener’s hat? I’ve lost mine.”
The hatter glanced up from his bench, hands stained purple as he worked the warm, damp felt into shape. The stranger’s clean-shaven face and midnight robe marked him as a Master, a gifted servant of the people. His age could be no more than thirty-five.
“You may trouble me,” the hatter replied. “But I must finish the shaping on this hat while the fibers are warm.”
“I will wait,” the Master replied.
“Then share my bench,” the hatter offered, and the Master took the offered space. They sat for a time without speaking, and the Master’s eyes marked the dancing of the tree-shadows across the grass that the nearby sheep had nibbled nearly to the earth.