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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.

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