What Child is This? (Quest)
Part 62 of Quest
(Previously in Quest — Solara struck a bargain with Undreal, but her father, the Sun God, won’t honor it. The Watcher of the Moon called in a marker; the Sun God let Undreal and company go on their way. However, the Watcher’s price may endanger one of their companions.)
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safely hides a friend in need,
woman of darkness.
Henneth stood for a moment checking. Nothing felt different. He squinted at his shadow. Bright sunlight cast shadows with sharp contours. No sign of any riders but he’d seen Undreal liquefy and drain into his shadow as if it were a container. So she was in there somewhere. He toed the ground his body shaded; his shadow slid over his worn boot. If Undreal was in there–one with his shadow and all–she gave no sign.
“You okay in there?” he whispered. Undreal didn’t answer. He glanced about but no one had noticed him talking to a shadow. Well no one that mattered, just an unhappy baby.
Could she hear him? Or did she go dormant to rest while in shadow-form…did former members of the Undeem horde rest? What he knew about the Undeem could fit in a palm of the baby’s hand. Well maybe not the baby attempting to wriggle free of his grasp…
Sleep in shadow’s peace,
friend and savior, you’ve earned rest–
your friends carry you.
Henneth adjusted his grip on the baby whose tiny hands reached for his shadow. Determination creased the kid’s brow and then his face scrunched up for another screaming fit. The poor child had indulged in hysterical fits about once every hour which had hastened their leave-taking.
The Groundling villagers had packed them off the instant the Sun God and his two children had snagged a ride an errant sunbeam out of the subterranean village. That had been one impressive exit. Gods knew how to arrive and leave in style. Maybe not the one god their party hadn’t been able to shake.
The Watcher of the Moon had opted to join their group. Not much for conversation, he’d hiked in silence, keeping his council and his reasons to himself. His aid with the Sun God had a price but so far, the Watcher had kept mum on that too. In fact everyone had trekked in silence–except the baby.
The baby, who still had no name, batted his little fists at Henneth’s shoulder as the tyke started crying again. Thin wails escaped between ragged gasps as the kid worked up to a full scream.
“Why does he cry?” Chero asked; he stuffed his tiny fingers into his pointed ears.
“He wants Undreal to carry him,” Anasril said as she looped past and then paused, hovering hummingbird-style in front of the baby’s face. “Can she come out before dark?”
Four pairs of eyes swung ground-wards to examine Henneth’s shadow for any sign of Undreal. Hope died hard in their gazes, punctuated by a wail from the baby.
“If the shadows are thick enough, yes,” said the the Watcher of the Moon. Four pairs of eyes, save his, flicked skywards and shoulders slumped as the sun’s burning eye glared back at them. It was only midday. They had hours more aural misery to suffer through.
“We’ll pass through forest soon. Maybe she can take partial form in there.” Chero pointed at the mountain’s flank; it was carpeted in enchanted trees and it was miles from the ridge where they stood. “There’s shade down there. Lots of it. We just need to hike across that saddle between those two mountains there. I see a path of sorts. I’ll go check it out, make sure it’s passable.”
With that the youth flew off, arrowing for his goal. Henneth shook his head. Too bad he couldn’t put the baby down and run off until the babe quieted. But he couldn’t, not until Undreal could respawn and hold the tyke for a spell. He didn’t cry when she held him.
What child is this who
attracts the Watcher’s notice,
his magical probes?
The Watcher’s hooded head never turned in the baby’s direction. However, the god-born had more senses than mortal men. Each one of those extra senses he kept trained on the baby and that attention was palpable; it made the hair on the back of Henneth’s neck rise as if he walked through a cloud of charged air–or air choked by magical probes.
What did the Watcher suspect? Did the price for his aid with the whole Sun God debacle involve the child in some way? Both were chilling thoughts especially given recent evidence of the child’s abilities. A human child, even one mage-gifted, couldn’t use magic before a certain age because that child had no access to it. Yet this baby had twice healed with a touch and had shown no outward sign of strain either time.
What child is this who
reaches for shadow’s hand,
and heals with a touch?
Henneth checked the ground ahead for trip hazards. Grass sprouted in patches but the land rolled on inclining up the mountain’s side dipping and rising without much hindrance. Ruts showed where carts had passed this way a few days ago at the most. It wasn’t a road because Shayari had very few of those, but it was a well traveled path.
Certain he wouldn’t trip, Henneth focused on the baby. The child’s eyes didn’t glow and they looked like the same mud-brown color of the non-magical majority. No pointed ears either, not that such a trait marked all the races of the Magic Kind, but it did some. But he had to be a scion of one of their races. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have be able to heal the arthritis that had attacked Henneth’s knee.
Who was this child that the Undeem Horde had kidnapped and the Watcher of the Moon studied? A child whose distress had moved one of the Undeem to throw off her mistress’ control in order to save him.
What child is this who
moved a dead heart to love
and unchained a slave?
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Find out next week when the Quest continues…
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