“Thomelisa wait!” I shrieked, but of course she did not hear. And I had no spell of Command to give strength to my words, either. Fleeter than thought, the tiny black shape vanished into the sky above my head, angling to the south and east.
I stood, numb, staring into the curving blue space that now hung empty.
But had it really been them? Was I really sure I’d seen a rider on the swallow’s back?
I swallowed hard, feeling the truth in my gut. I was sure. I knew it as surely as I knew the exact shade of my daughter’s hair, the exact timbre of her laugh. Once again she had been taken- but this time in rescue.
I turned slowly back towards the corn field they’d emerged from, a new sort of darkness uncurling in my chest. For Bluebeak to have rescued Elisa, as he had been so determined to do, there must have been something to be rescued from. I flexed my fingers, feeling the spells of Cutting and Breaking I kept in my palms.
It was time for someone to realize the folly of keeping a witch’s child from her.
It took me no time at all to unearth- literally- my daughter’s captors: a mouse and a mole. I tore the truth from their minds with non-too-gentle spells, and learned how Elisa had spent the past ten months: kept away from the sunlight and flowers she loved so much. The mouse was stupid and narcissistic, but she had kept my daughter alive when winter came, and Elisa had felt true gratitude towards her- perhaps even misguided love. Because of this, I allowed her to die painlessly. The mole, however, had sensed my child’s terror of the darkness, of the tunnels, had been perfectly aware of her misery and, in fact, had been titillated by it.
He did not die painlessly.