Friday, July 13, 2018
Flash Fiction #311: Serena's Baby Buffy/2
Serena didn't have much time to do anything except a quick illusion spell. By some miracle, the magic worked without any trouble. Buffy's face now looked like that of a baby, though Serena could see the fur from the shoulder's down, and a tail that twitched.
"Quick, into the clothing," she whispered and shoved Buffy, complaining slightly with a few muttered curses, into the baby clothes and blankets.
Barely in time. Someone knocked politely on the door.
"Yes?" she asked, sounding timid. It was an act she had to keep up so that she could sit by herself and act very shy.
"It's Mistress Lali, my dear," the woman who ran the inn said. "Can we talk to you?"
"Ummm ... yes?" She tentatively opened the door, Buffy in her arms.
"My dear," the woman said. She looked worried, as did the two women, both with babies, who had followed behind her. "I should have told you straight away, but I supposed it would do no harm to wait. You could not find a safe way to leave the village anyway before the night came."
"Safe?" she said, her voice a little higher. Buffy, drama queen that she always had been, gave a little whimper of her own.
"Babies are being stolen in the night from villages nearby," one of the other women said. She had a harsh, bitter voice, and looked too old to be the baby's mother. Her next words confirmed it. "My daughter-in-law has four other children, all of them older. I brought the baby here for safety."
"You must bring your baby down into the Common Room with the rest of us. We will do our best to keep all the baby's safe tonight. Tomorrow you should move on to somewhere away from the shore. So far, they haven't struck farther inland."
"Who? Who would do such a thing? How?" she asked and gathered a few things for Buffy. Mistress Lali took the pack from her and helped her down the stairs.
Another seven women sat in the Common Room. The two who had come to her room, along with Serena, made ten. That was a bumper crop for babies, she thought. But she carefully took a place in the corner, thanked everyone for their concern and help, and did her best to blend in and draw no notice.
As the sun went down, the others began to fall asleep -- a natural sleep, she noted. Babies started to fuss, were fed, and mothers slept again.
The hardest part for Serena was to not go to sleep at all. Buffy even fell asleep midway through the night, still complaining of the clothing.
Twice she got up and paced as though the baby were cranky. The second time she settled closer to the door. No one made much show of it.
The night wore on. Serena finally dared a sip of the tea her mother had made for her with just a touch of magic to keep her awake. It had to be closer to the dawn, right? She'd lost all track of time in this endless night, and even Buffy's funny curses on those who designed baby clothing had stopped amusing her.
Everything had gotten quiet. Serena shifted, and Buffy murmured something impolite but didn't wake up.
Everything had gone too quiet.
This was it.
Serena shook Buffy slightly. The cat yawned -- the baby face still in place -- and didn't wake. Doing her best not to make too much noise or movement, Serena took out her flask and put it to Buffy's lips, making sure she sipped a little.
The cat's eyes flew open, and she hissed. Serena put a finger to her mouth and almost got bit, but she blinked and gave a little baby nod.
Serena could hear sounds outside -- the steps of the three women who came to take the babies. She knew they had to do this carefully. If the women suspected --
No time to think any more about it. The women came in through the door. Serena got a glimpse of them through her mostly closed lashes. They were, of course, the same three that had struck her own hometown. She could not see much of their faces, but their long hair still flowed around them, and their dark robes made them seem more substantial than they were.
Serena had purposely placed herself near the door in hopes that they would find the baby held loosely in her arms as a quick one to grab. They were still as nervous as they had been the last time she saw the women, which she hoped would help. They were not any sort of magical being that she recognized, though, and that worried her.
The last of the three looked over and took Buffy from her arms. Step one complete.
She let the three move on, but Serena knew she had to act soon. If the strange woman kept hold of Buffy for too long, she might feel the magic there. Besides, she didn't want them to take any of the other babies.
So, with a bit of a dramatic cry, she stood and wobbled, as though still mostly asleep.
The others began to wake. The intruders gave cries of dismay and retreated -- and yes, the one still held to Buffy. They fled in haste while women shouted, babies cried, and men who had been guarding outside came awake.
Serena was the first to follow them out of the building, though she dared not rush too quickly for fear they'd throw Buffy back to her. Like before, a strange staircase of fog stood at the edge of the village. The three were already heading up it, and in a moment they and the mist disappeared.
"Oh dear Goddess," Mistress Lali whispered. "I am so sorry. If you hadn't been with us --"
"Then this wouldn't have worked," Serena replied, startling the woman. "It is time to take care of this trouble."