The tears came easily enough, if Taetha pinched the girl, which was fortunate because the babe hadn't cried once since she'd been born. It was almost as though she understood what she was and harboured each droplet of water for fear someone would use it against her. Seven turns of the sun and still the infant hadn't cried. Seven turns, and still she wouldn't suckle.
What kept the babe alive, Taetha would never know, but the brown magics could be good and the power, when it was harnessed as it was in this child, was strong. No doubt the babe psyched from the very air what water she needed to sustain her, but even that couldn't keep the tiny heart beating for much longer. She needed to eat.
Taetha looked down at the narrow vial she'd lain against the infant's cheek and pinched the earlobe once more. The babe's squall leaked a few more precious tears into the glass. They were indeed precious, and precious little, barely covering the bottom, but perhaps, if The Deities were kind, it would be enough.
She plugged the vial with a knob of cork and poured beeswax around the neck to seal it, rolling it in her palm to cool. There was so little of the fluid, she couldn't take the chance of evaporation, or spilling, or worse, any psyching from it if the girl grew thirsty. She grunted in satisfaction and wrapped the tube, now cooled and hardened of its seal, into a thick hide, tied that with hare intestines dried and oiled to perfect suppleness, and then laid it in a basket lined with moss. This she covered with yet another hide and tied that with yet more hare thongs before settling the entire package near the door.
He would be coming soon.
Taetha had let the fire pit purposely die down and she glanced at it to be sure the coals were tamped. The iron poker lay where she left it beside the pit, seemingly forgotten to the casual eye, but well within easy reach should she need it.
Why she would be afraid of a child--a boy--she couldn't say, but these last months she'd learned not all was as it seemed. The brown magic could grow black if left too long unused and mouldering. She'd not dared use of it what she owned since she'd been taken, indeed, none of them had dared: her brother, her sister. Alhanna: their mother. But she couldn't think about them, not now. She had enough to concern her with the boy's visit.
With magics becoming a liability, and black magic rising from brown, she worried the boy had been left too long with the darkness--or worse--counselled in darkness and had been spoiled before his life had ripened. The klans had warred too long to know if one witch or more had gone to seed, the reason for their fighting long forgotten. She only knew this babe needed her, and she no longer cared for the old war. Truth be told, the old war mattered little now that the Conqueror had come, mattered little in light of the need to band together against this common enemy. Perhaps this child would help heal the rift among the klans and bring them together finally; this self-proclaimed conqueror making them forget the old hatreds.
The infant whimpered and Taetha eased her from the basket where she lay and pulled her close against her chest, letting the scent of new flesh envelope her and make her feel again the lingering magics of her home and its tribe. It seemed she couldn't leave it all behind, after all. Well, she could ignore the old war, but she could not ignore the heritage.
"Shall I sing to you of Etlantium, Little One," she said to the fuzz of hair. "Or should your nohma tell you once again of your mother?"
She hummed, letting the babe nestle into her neck. How warm the girl was. How tiny to fit into such close places as a matron's neck, an arm's crook, a heart that had seized up over the last days into a tiny knot of flesh.
So small, but so, so powerful. Would this boy guess the power he was being bonded to? Would his mother?
She was still humming when the fire pit leapt to flame. Taetha eyed the poker and edged closer to it, turning even as she did so to the visitor she knew was standing in the door.
He was small but already had a few markings in the old language on his ribs. The first one, the largest, was easy to decipher even from her distance as it was still inflamed at its edges: that of fire.