"Crystalline, highness, like unto the River Styris when it falls cascading into the Pools of Ixmir, like"
The demon abased himself again and backed out of the room, its boulder rumbling.
The woman fell into a chair and sighed. "I don't see why domestic arrangements always become so complicated. Including a child in a household cannot be any more difficult thanthan"
Her thought was interrupted by a cattish cough from the pantry shelf. She turned to find Falance gazing at her with an expression even more smug than usual.
"Yes, Falance. Did you have a comment?"
"My lady," purred the cat, "it may have slipped your notice, but in less than an hour it will be moonrise and the moon is full tonight."
The woman shot to her feet and clapped hands to her cheeks in alarm. "Oh, blast! And I had it written down, too."
It was, in fact, astounding that the woman had forgotten this; the moon is as essential to magic as seed is to a farmer. It was the most powerful indication of how the arrival of the baby had upset the woman's schedule.
"I have no doubt that it is written down somewhere," said the cat. "Perhaps the note is under the bear. In any case, do you intend to work, or will you be rocking the cradle?"
"Falance, one more word . . ." said the woman menacingly.
"I beg your pardon," said the cat smoothly. "Merely a figure of speech. Nevertheless . . ." He indicated with a movement of his head the waning light at the window.
"Yes, I know, I know! Give me a moment." She went over to the bear, moved a fold of fur away from the sleeping Lump, and kissed his cheek. The kisses of witches are supposed to be icy cold. This is a lie, or was in the case of this particular witch. It was as warm as any baby could wish. Lump stirred comfortably in his furry nest and blew a tiny bubble.
"Ysul," said the woman, "take care now. I'll be back before the dawn. Mind that Bagordax does his work and doesn't make a wreckage."
The bear grunted sleepily in assent. The woman gathered up some necessary items in a woven bag and went out into her garden. A breeze had sprung up with the setting of the sun, and it brought the scent of new grass, pear blossoms, and violets. The frogs were starting to peep by the river. The woman dropped her head and started to focus her powers. She found it more difficult than usual. Thoughts of the day's odd events disturbed her concentration, and she could not help thinking about the child and how strange it was that she, for so long the unchanging center of all change, should be herself transformed. She found herself longing to be with the baby.
"Well," she said to herself, "I'll be able to spend more time with him when he's older."
From The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber, Copyright © 2005 by Michael Gruber. All Rights Reserved. HarperCollins Publishers.
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