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Breaching Worlds - Chapter 2
Holding her breath, Elsie ignored the chill of the draft as Jonathan came slowly into the house, head hanging, with dagger still in hand and cheeks rosy from the cold. She exhaled thankfully when William followed his son in, cloak bundled in his arms.
“William you silly thing!” she scolded, hiding her apprehension. “It’s freezing out there! Why on earth haven’t you got your cloak - “
But the mother was silenced when William carefully handed the bundle to her without a word.
It was heavier than it looked.
And there was warmth inside it.
The bundle gurgled.
Sucking in a breath in surprise, she passed her baby to her husband and began undoing the cloak.
Elsie gasped at the pink thing inside. Never would she have thought to expect to be presented this!
The infant she now cradled in her arms breathed shallow, loud breathes. His soft eyelids were a light shade of violet, concealing dreaming eyes. His lips were a matching blue while his cheeks were a bright red. As he breathed, he omitted a slight wheeze.
“Gods be mighty!” Elsie whispered. “Where was he?”
“He was tucked behind the hay stack in the barn,” William replied. “He’s very young. I doubt he’ll live to see the next few days.”
Elsie’s eyes wandered to her own baby, Gabriel. How did a child find his way into their barn? What mother could leave him like that? When it was so cold? Tears welled at the thought of one of her own children, alone, motherless, in a strange place with nothing to keep them warm. “We have to help him,” she whispered.
“Don’t be so simple, Elsie.” William’s voice was cruel, startling the children, who turned to stare at their father. He returned their gaze and softly said, “Children, go put the horse away.”
“But - “ came the protests from each of their lips.
“Do as your told, children.” His voice was like ice.
Reluctantly the children gathered their cloaks and went outside, Sarah leading her blind little sister by the crook of her arm.
“William,” Elsie moved to the fire to warm the strange baby. “We can’t let this child die.”
“Elsie, I’m afraid I have to put my foot down. We don’t know where he’s come from. What if his mother had the illness? If his mother had it, then he will too. We can’t risk our entire family with this little boy.”
“If he has the illness then you have exposed your entire family to it and have already condemned us to death. No healer would come to our aid. The damage will have already been done, so what more harm would be done to keep him?”
“We don’t know anything about him!” He tried to steady his shaking voice. Everything in him was against keeping the child, though he didn’t know why. “For all we know he’s a goblin weapon against us!”
“I hardly see this human baby - that’s hardly older than our own baby - as a weapon.”
“We don’t know that he’s human. He could be a warlock, an elf, or a wisp even.”
“You think this child is a he-nymph? Are you listening to yourself? I’ve never seen more human a child in my life.”
William ran his fingers through his dreading hair. He was becoming frantic now. This child could not stay. He knelt by his wife on one knee. “I spend nine months out of the year fighting goblins. I know what they’re like. They’re evil. I’ve seen into their eyes, and they’re nothing but black pits of anger. Elsie, they’re allies with the mystical folk! Don’t you see? They could have had a witch transform one of their soldiers - disguised him as an infant and sent him to us. This baby could be the death of us.”
“That doesn’t make sense and you know it, William. Why would they use up so much magic on us? We’re not noble, we haven’t a drop of rich blood in us, nor any political influences. You are a farmer, William, and I am just your wife who bares your children. We barely have enough to eat as it is. No one cares if we live or die. Why would the goblins?”
“Exactly! We don’t have enough to eat for ourselves. How can we spare food for another?”
“He can feed off the milk Gabriel doesn’t drink. I have plenty.” She shifted the new baby so she could reach out to her own child. She stroked Gabriel’s cheek and felt a serge of love. “What if it were one of our children, William? What if - Gods forbid - you were killed while fighting, and I grew sick and died? I would hope that some kind stranger would look after our children. I’m sorry my love, I can’t let this child die.”
William sighed. There was nothing he could say that would change her mind. “Just, don’t get too attached to him. We don’t know how long he’s been in that barn. He may die over night.”
“Hush! You mustn’t say such things. I’ll call him Tristan.”