on finding a babe in the woods

“How horrible,” says one of the pixies. She nudges a chunk of bloodstained wood with the edge of her staff and shivers. “Tis revenant work here. These poor humans never had a chance.”

Melvin only half-hears her. He runs his fingers over the edge of the doorframe, then turns his head.

“Lord Melvin,” she tries again. “There is nothing to salvage here. What–”

He pushes aside the bed, the only piece of furniture intact within the cottage and picks up the sleeping baby. The child’s hair is so fine and pale that it gleams white, and he opens that are still cloudy blue. He looks at Melvin without fear before giving a gummy yawn.

The pixie makes an aghast sound. “A child?!”

“So it seems.” Melvin settles the boy into the crook of his arm, with the same delicacy as he had once held his cousin. “The assasins did not find him, and the revenants did not harm him. “Tis uncommon good luck for one so young and mortal.”

She tosses her pink hair over her shoulder. “More like a curse! A revenant doesn’t have the ability to distinguish old loved ones from anyone else! Why on earth would they leave a child behind?”

Melvin looks around the ruined cottage. He looks at the bloodstains on the wall, the broken furniture, the unhurt child. The boy looks steadily back at him, then reaches up to catch a fistful of Melvin’s long hair. He doesn’t pull, just weaves his fingers into it and holds on. The pixie is saying something else, and the other scouts have returned to add their voices to the cacaphony. The child never turns his head, steadfast and strong as Melvin’s young cousin never was at birth.

Someday, perhaps, this child will become a strong sword-arm for him; someday there may be a debt repaid. But right now there is only this boy-child and calm dignity, untroubled by the destruction.

“I will take him,” he announces. The others fall silent.

“Lord Melvin,” one of the elves says. “Tis unwise, to bring a human into Ringford. The Queen–”

“My lady aunt is a mother,” Melvin says. He tucks the child closer to his body, and the boy closes his eyes, as though satisfied. He pulls Melvin’s trapped hair to his cheek and nuzzles against it. “Are we of Ringford so heartless that we would abandon an infant to his death?” He lifts his head and looks around; not one meets his eyes. “We hold ourselves above them; so, then, shall we turn our eyes and pretend ignorance when there is no one to impress?”

Not a one among them says as he leaves the cottage, and not a one among them protests when he carries the boy with him all the way to Ringford.

Throughout it all the child sleeps.

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