The Blood Spell (Ravenspire, #4)(11)

“Dinner will be ready soon. Want honey with your oatcakes? Grand-mère brought a fresh jar with her.”

“Grand-mère is here?” Blue’s spirits lifted as a small, pear-shaped woman with sharp brown eyes, luminous dark skin, and a shock of tight gray-white curls peeked out of the kitchen. She was a full head shorter than Papa, nearly as small as Blue herself, and her full lips were lifted in a wide, welcoming smile.

“Course I’m here. Haven’t seen you in at least a week.” Grand-mère’s stern voice belied the warm teasing light in her eyes as she walked toward Blue. “Had to come over and see if you had a boy who was taking all your time away from me, or if you were just neglecting an old woman.”

Blue laughed. “No boy could ever be as interesting as you, Grand-mère. I’m sorry I’ve been so busy. I’m just going to gather a few things from the garden before they pass their peak. You’re welcome to join me.”

Grand-mère pursed her lips as Papa popped back into the kitchen to resume cooking. “Hip’s bothering me tonight with that damp breeze. Why don’t you plan to visit me when the shop is closed for the weekend? I’ll make a pot of mashed sweetgrain and some fried apple cakes.” Her hand reached up to tug Blue’s headscarf aside, and her eyes narrowed. “Doesn’t look like you’re oiling your hair like you should be.”

“It takes too long,” Blue said as she leaned in to give Grand-mère a hug. “Besides, I’m barely awake in the mornings. I’m lucky to remember to change out of my nightdress before I leave the house.”

Grand-mère made a noise in the back of her throat. “No excuse for letting yourself go. We’ll fix that this weekend too.”

“Yes, Grand-mère,” Blue said, and then headed back outside in the purple twilight, with the last crimson rays of the sun to guide her steps. Pepperell shadowed her as she moved toward the garden.

Beyond the farmhouse and its wild garden stretched an orchard of apples, peaches, and shirella fruit. In the middle of the orchard, far from view of anyone who visited, was Grand-mère’s little cottage. And at the end was a ragged cliff side with narrow steps carved into the side so that Blue could climb down to her beloved Chrysós Sea.

Humming the lullaby her mama had sung to her when she was a child, Blue let the crash of the distant waves and the delicate tang of the sea breeze wash over her as her fingers worked nimbly to lift vines and reach for fruit or gently brush at the dirt to dig for a bulb. Some of them leaped for her hand, eager to be harvested. But sometimes when she touched a bulb, a tiny pulse fluttered against her fingertip while the bulb remained still. Those she carefully recovered with dirt and left for another day, just as Grand-mère and her mama had taught her.

The touch of fae magic in her blood came from them. It wasn’t enough to send the iron bells ringing as she passed them. Not enough to count as a threat to those who feared magic, though she’d have no chance of convincing anyone of that if she got caught. Her magic was just enough to help her with the things she created for the shop, but not enough to help her when it had really mattered.

She drew in a deep breath and waited for the faint, bitter ache of grief to subside.

No, her magic hadn’t been enough to help her save Mama’s life as she lay dying in their root cellar so many years ago, but it was enough to lead Blue to the flowers and herbs that wanted to be harvested. It was enough to give her an instinct for which ingredients would work best together in the science of alchemy she loved so much. And as Grand-mère was fond of saying, it was useless wasting your time wishing for what you didn’t have instead of using what you did.

When she was through gathering for the day, Blue returned to the farmhouse, left her gardening boots under the front bench, and carried her basket into the kitchen, where dinner was already set out on the small, polished kitchen table. Papa took the basket from her and set it beside the door that led down to the root cellar. Blue swallowed against the sudden hard knocking of her heart and looked away from the door as she washed her hands and sat down beside Grand-mère. Pepperell hurried to the corner of the room where a bowl of minced fish waited for him.

“How did the deliveries go?” Papa asked as he passed a basket of freshly fried oatcakes to Blue.

“They took forever, but I got them done.” Blue took two cakes and slathered them with honey. “I hope Ana comes in tomorrow, because I don’t have time to run packages across the city again.”

“I’m sure she will,” Papa said around a mouthful of fike. “She’s been mostly reliable.”

Blue savored her own bite of fike before saying, “I know. And I’ve also promised to teach her how to read and do her sums. I think she’s excited about that. It would go so far in helping her to find an apprenticeship. She’s nearly ten, and most merchants want apprentices to start at the age of twelve. That only gives us two years to fill in the gaps in her education and get her ready.”

“Does she want an apprenticeship?” Grand-mère asked.

“Why wouldn’t she?” Blue stared at Grand-mère while she swallowed a mouthful of turnips. “What other hope does she have? She’ll be too big soon enough for begging. Too old for the wealthy to be willing to hire her for odd jobs here and there. If she doesn’t have an apprenticeship, she’ll end up working for the brokers, like so many homeless children who’ve gone before her, and you know that ends in violence more often than not.”

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