“No, no,” Uriah said. Saul's thin, graceful body spasmed, and a green froth formed on his lips as Uriah gently lowered him to the ground.
“Her spell hit me,” Saul said.
“I can see that,” Uriah said, settling his friend on the leaf litter. “She meant it for me. Tell me what to do.”
“There isn't anything you can do,” Saul replied.
“There has to be something,” Uriah argued, shaking his head. The thought of Saul, his mentor, his foster father, dying was bad enough, but the thought that Uriah himself had caused it – there had to be something. Anything.
“Anthony,” Saul called. “Is the child safe?”
Anthony scooped up the baby in his long arms, and cradled her to his chest. “Yes,” he said.
“Then I did what I set out to do,” Saul said with a smile.
“Forget about the baby for one second,” Uriah said “and tell me what to do to help.”
“It's poison, Uriah. You know, maybe better than anyone, we don't have a cure for it. And that baby is the entire reason we came tonight. You know that.”
“Just leave me here,” Saul said.
The flames roared higher in the gloom as a child's cry split the air.
The altar where the fire burned was made of stone that shone like glass. The flames crackled and sent showers of sparks skyward, while a wave of heat pulsed outward. Standing by the altar, wrapped in a black cloak and cowl, stood a woman. Her dark eyes mirrored the sheen of the altar, reflecting back the angry orange of the fire. Her face was smooth and young, but in a gust of wind that quieted the flames, a shadow passed across her cheeks. In the darkness, her skin weathered, creased, and then smoothed once more as the fire flooded her face with light.
She was waiting.
She held a bundle in her arms, and this mass of blankets squirmed as a tiny, red fist fought free. The crying of the child grew more insistent, and the woman smiled as the flames licked higher, toward the skeletal branches of the forest and the stars high above.
A twig snapped, and the woman spun around, scanning the trees that surrounded the altar.