Grandmother-nai-Leylit has a cloth of winds, invisible to those without magic like Aviya-nai-Bashri. Aviya's younger brother, Kimriel, who cannot talk, clearly has the magic to see it, and it soothes him. However, the cloth's power does not grant Kimi the power to speak, and so he is unable to become a scholar, and is changed to a girl. Aviya is tasked with care of Kimi, and is very protective of her. However, her grandmothers turn their attentions to Aviya, urging her to take a deepname in order to be married to a man inside the city walls. Aviya is unconcerned.
After Grandmother-nai-Leylit dies, Aviya and her other grandmother, Grandmother-nai-Tammah, become closer. Grandmother-nai-Tammah tells Aviya and Aviya's lover, Gitit-nai-Lur, stories of their history, of their family's history. These stories inform the girls' decision to go on a journey, to form an oreg with the two of them and Kimi, unstable though an oreg of two might be, and head off into the desert with wares to trade. Grandmother-nai-Tammah declines to go with them due to her old age, and warns them against doing things that deviate from the great pattern of life.
The girls set off, but have trouble with Kimi, who screams in distress in the city. In the desert Kimi calms, running off from the path to explore. Things go well, until one night they awaken to find themselves surrounded by some ghost warriors. Before anything can happen, however, a great man leaps out of nowhere and strikes the warriors down. It turns out to be Grandmother-nai-Tammah, veiled and disguised. Gitit is injured. Grandmother-nai-Tammah and Aviya fight over her presence there when she had refused to come before—Aviya thinking that she had wanted to be alone.
Aviya doesn't speak to her grandmother nor to Gitit, who takes Grandmother-nai-Tammah's side. Aviya hears them talking one night, about how grandmother wants to change to a man, how she needs the cloth of winds to do it, and how her lover, Grandmother-nai-Leylit, never wanted her to change, a great source of tension between them. They go to a settlement and stay there until the time when the change can happen. There is lots of talk about gender, about pronouns, and about Kimi. The women of the settlement start to use the pronouns tai for Kimi, which are gender neutral, and everyone watches her, as it is obvious that she has powerful magic, but that she hasn't been ready to come into it, to take a deepname yet.
Aviya is still fighting with her grandmother and Gitit, too stubborn to forgive their indiscretions. She is uncomfortable with the idea of the change, with the way the women of the settlement have already begun to use he/him pronouns for grandmother-nai-Tammah—she is unable to accept the change. However, after Kimi finds her magic in a wondrous event while they are weaving a carpet of winds, Aviya goes to Gitit and tells her that she would accept her any way, love her whatever gender she would choose—the words that Grandmother-nai-Leylit never found to say to nai-Tammah.
Grandmother-nai-Tammah completes the change, becoming Grandfather. He has some difficulties with the transition, unsure of his place and what the rules are, as he has his feet in both the world of the men and the women now. Aviya and Gitit are speaking again, forgiven and planning their future. They speak often about gender and pronouns and language for things. And they name their oreg, Gitit deciding to take Aviya's name, though it is against tradition.