The child slept.
His cradle hung from the ceiling. The boy’s delicate snores filled the calm of the small room the woman had led me into, and burning logs threw a pleasant light and warmth from a fireplace set in the far wall.
Furs and rugs lined the floor of the room, and large, overstuffed pillows were piled along the walls. When we sat again, the woman took a seat by her child, smiling at him before speaking.
“My son’s father attempted to kill us both a short time ago. I used the last of my power to bring us here to hide. It is a place he would not think to look,” she told me. “My people’s fear and hatred of you is come by honestly, Blood. You’ve done a great deal of killing, although you are much younger here than you are in my world.”
I took out my pipe and tobacco, held them up, and she nodded. As I packed the briarwood bowl, she continued.
“Your other self butchered every member of my family save my husband and me.”
I lit my pipe, took several long draws upon it to get the smoke going and then asked, “What stayed my hand?”
“You said I had not listened to your mother, and so there was no need for me to die.” She adjusted the hat upon her head, smiled at her son and then added, “My husband had only just become so, and he had not been foolish enough to raise his hand against you.”
“Why does he want to kill you and his son?” I asked.
Anger darkened her face. “Because he is now your mother’s creature, and she wishes me punished for not serving her. He is to kill his son in front of me and then finish me when I am broken.”
I took the pipe out of my mouth, glanced at the boy and then back to the woman. “You won’t break.”
She gave me a hard, knowing grin. “No. I won’t.”
“You want your husband dead?” I asked.
She nodded. “He remains in our village, trying to think of where I am. He must die if my son is to live.”
I looked from her to the boy and back again. I could feel the truth of her words.
“How many in your village serve my mother?” I asked.
“All. Two hundred, perhaps. Perhaps more have joined them.”
“Any you want me to spare?”
She shook her head.
“How do I get to your village?” I asked, and she told me.