The Cost VI
“This child is the last. The last beating heart in all of Gilead. Except for yours, of course.” Fairchild smiled.
The bundle hung, inches from the squire’s nose. Jonas stared.
The baby appeared healthy, a patch of yellow fuzz on its head, dried tears and mucus covering the face. Jonas felt a sudden desire to reach into his pocket and find a clean hanky. The sudden image of standing in this room of green fire , piled high with corpses in a city of death — wiping the snot off of a baby’s face; the image slid through his battered mind, and he found himself grinning. A quiet huh left his lips as he almost-chuckled.
The tip of his sword moved two inches along the floor. He was still held by the power of the creature Fairchild, but he felt looser. Like a frog in a child’s palm, he couldn’t escape but had room to wriggle.
“Do you know this child? I found her in the back of a baker’s shop, just popped her in my pocket like a day-old muffin, and brought her here.” Fairchild pulled the child close into the crook of his left arm, and waved towards Jonas with his right.
The squire found he could speak. ” No. I don’t know who she is. “
“No matter. Princess or pauper, whoreson or maid. You. Her. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the blood. The blood, you see?” Fairchild sat down again on the mound of corpses, cradling the child to his breast.
“..understand? That doesn’t matter, either.” the man who was not waggled a long finger. “You came here to find out what had happened to your people, to learn the truth — to save them? Quite a grand quest, I applaud you — or would. I don’t want to drop the baby!”
Shattersteel-laughter rang in the throne room. Jonas glimpsed again Fairchild’s true form — gaunt flesh stretched on a tall frame – naked, green and merry.
“I came here to purge this world of Gilead’s blood, and I’ve succeeded. Almost.” the creature rose. “There is still you, and this child — and a few wandering remnants scattered across the world.”
Jonas felt a sudden heat in his heart. This creature was right, there were others out there – the Legion, travellers, families that had settled elsewhere. Gilead could live on, an army could gather and make justice for the fallen.
“Ah, hope. A foolish thing, there flickering in your eyes.” Fairchild idly ran his thumb across the baby’s cheek.
The child screamed as if his touch was acid.
“My time is limited, so let us speak plain. I need an..agent. Someone to hunt down your remaining kinsmen. It is going to be you. But, I need you to consent. So, enter my service or….” Fairchild held out the crying child. “…or I kill this child. Right here. Right now. And then you.”