This is #15 of The Autumn Queen. To start at the beginning, go here.
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They gave me the baby moons and moons ago. His tattoo is of Her Hidden Face, but he has no house sigil, no other identifying mark. He looks like a commoner’s son, like my son, with the same simple mark instead of a great sign, but I know different. They gave me the baby, and a purse just as heavy, with ducats and gems, and said to put him to my breast and keep him fed and safe and hidden. No commoner’s son would need that kind of hiding, nor could any commoner afford the price. They gave me the baby and said I would be safe so long as I told no one of his origin, and that was easy enough, as I did not know of it, myself. He drinks like my own, squalling and rooting for the tit when he’s hungry, silent and dozy, milkdrunk when he’s full, so long as his nappy isn’t wet.
He doesn’t sleep like mine, though; once he’s no longer fresh-full, he stares off at nothing, his dark eyes wide and glassy, never really closing. I talk to both of them while they eat. One in each arm.
I treat them the same, when it’s time to bed down. In the cold, everyone sleeps in the same bed — babies between my husband and myself, our daughter on the outside, facing the fire — she’d taken the job to keep it stoked through the night, all the wool and down blankets we own piled atop us, bedwarmers down by our feet. I used some of the money to call a glazier, to ask for new shutters, to fill in any found cracks in the house, and bring in stocks of food and cords of wood to pile in the cellar, to keep our pantries full and our fireplace burning. We were more comfortable than we’d been in years, and with the added food and warmth, no babies would die of wintering, as had two of mine in previous years.
Instead, one night, the door was broken in, and water was thrown on the fire, shutting us all in darkness.
The priests came in, with their hollow eyes — they didn’t need the firelight to see. They cut down my eldest, first, when she got in the way, confused and alarmed. Then my husband, who was strong, and quick, but could not see as well as they could, in their eternal darkness. Their moonblades made quick work in the night; as the room cooled, so did the bodies. They did not kill me — they ripped the babe from my arms, looked to see the darkmoon tattoo and put it to the knife, instead.
I lost my son that night.
The babe they were looking for was half-beneath me, silenced because of how I laid on him when they pushed me to get to the infant they thought was theirs.
My son died to save the child I’d been charged to protect. My daughter and my husband were dead, as well. Once they’d done what they needed, they left me–a woman, useless–weeping and broken; by the time the sun was high, the neighbors were helping me with the deaths of my husband and daughter, calling the wisewomen and chiurgeons to wrap them and put herbs on them and take them to the biers, where I would have to stand while they turned to ash. My own wee one I wrapped and buried myself before the sun had come up; no one had known I’d had the two boys — and with them being still tiny, squalling things, and my husband and daughter gone, no one would know the one left wasn’t my own little one.
They what gave me this little baby gave me gold and gems aplenty. They promised me safety, but now, all I had left was the child, and the rest of the gold and gems.
That many ducats bought me my own safe passage — I would not rely on their safety.
Instead, I’ll raise him, but I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to find me, now — even them.
Tonight, we leave the city–and everything we’ve known–behind.
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