Unbalanced and clumsy as he was, Bailar the Blue had cut or burned himself too many times to be comfortable in kitchens. And yet, if he wanted to drink tea or eat something warm, he had to risk it. Fortunately, this was a better morning. His poor balance did not betray him when he built up the fire. He did not drop the kettle on his foot, or slice a finger when he cut open a sausage to fry.
“It’s more necessary for you to learn to do these things, Bailar,” he laughed, repeating the words of his departed mentor, Gilsen the White. As an apprentice, Bailar wanted to use magic to do his chores, claiming it was necessary to avoid injuring himself. He was alone now, and dwelt in the home Gilsen had bequeathed him, yet he continued to honor his mentor’s wisdom.
With breakfast finished, Bailar made his careful way toward the low tower. Anyone across the Wide River, needing his services, would come to him. Still, they would raise a banner on the Exidy side of the river to warn him—
He stopped and turned about, stumbling and catching himself on the wall. He thought he’d heard a squawk of some sort. “Is someone here?” he called. He only used a few rooms in the house—one bedroom, the common-room, kitchen, privy, and the workroom—and he walked through them all, listening for the strange noise. Outside the common-room, he heard it again. Toward the door, so it must be outside.
He looked around. “Hello? Is someone here? Come forth, in all peace and harmony.” No response, except for a gurgling noise from the baby.
“I will not leave an infant on my doorstep!” Bailar called out. He reached to grasp the handle, then thought better of it and hooked his arm through instead. Nobody protested or cried out as he lifted the basket and took it inside.
Bailar kept a close eye on his footing, but felt the baby’s eyes on him. “You’ll be hungry, sooner than later, I expect,” he said. “But I need to know some things, first.” He made his careful way past the common-room to the work area. “I’ll be back in a moment,” he assured his visitor, leaving the basket on the floor. Augury worked best with fresh, warm ashes, and the kitchen was the only place to find them through the summer.
He returned to find the baby making grumbling sounds. He unwrapped the blanket and laid both baby and blanket on one table. The thick cloth diaper was only a little wet, and Bailar was not surprised to find that the baby was a girl. “Well, then,” he said, “let’s see what Fate has to say about you.”
She caught his finger in a firm grip, and laughed. Bailar smiled, and picked her up. She nestled into the crook of his arm, grabbed his sash, and started chewing on it. Fortunately, Bailar needed only one hand free for augury. He scooped up a handful of warm ash, took a deep breath, and held it to his lips. “What is this girl’s fate?” he whispered, then blew the ashes from his hand and stepped back to let them settle on the table.
The patterns were strong, more distinct than Bailar had ever seen. “Sun, Earth, Fire, Sun again, Water,” he said, walking around the table and identifying the runes. “Sun for magic. Twice? You’ll make a good sorceress yourself, I think. Earth for home, Fire for the hearth-fire. Water for movement. I suppose you will travel with me, and always return home.” He smiled at the girl, making contented noises around his dampening sash. “Let us go up and raise a banner. The reeve will want to know what has happened, in any case.”
Bailar considered Reeve Korene a dour woman, but she was unable to suppress a smirk at the sight. The girl looked up at the reeve, and returned the smile around a mouthful of blue sash. “I never took you for a domestic man, Bailar.”
“I cared for my younger siblings as a child,” he said. “The memories of what to do returned quickly, I’m happy to say.”
“Indeed. So why did you call? Do you have a sister visiting? Is she in need of a Healer?”
“Someone left this child at my doorstep. I thought it would best to let the authorities know.”
The dour look returned to the reeve’s face. “Such an outrage! If I find the mother, I’ll…” She forced herself calm. “I must ask: have you trafficked with any fair maidens, of late?”
“No maidens. Not of Exidy, nor of any towns upriver.”
She nodded. “Well. I’ll ask around. Someone will be willing to take her, I think.”
Bailar shook his head. “No. Someone already has her.” He stroked the girl’s hair, and she laughed.
“You?” Reeve Korene looked surprised. “That’s your right, of course, but…”
“Indeed. I read the ashes over her, and she has the Talent for sorcery. She will be both daughter and apprentice, in time. But even without that? I thought solitude suited me, but she’s melted my heart, and I don’t think I could bear to give her up. Can you send a nurse? One that can cook would be best. None of us will eat well if that’s left up to me.”
“Very well, sorcerer. Has she a name for the records?”
Bailar nodded. “I name her Sura, the summer sun. As a lad, a sister of mine was stillborn… and my parents gave her that name. It seems that Fate has restored her to me, after all these years.”
“So be it. I’ll find her a nurse. Best of luck to you both.”