All characters are the property of Tamora Pierce

Tammy Drabbles 52: Limits

Duke Baird drew the blanket up to cover the small body. He steeled himself to talk to the parents, but he knew he needed a moment. Pressing a shaking hand to the bridge of his nose, he tried to ward off the tears, but it was at these times – when a child died – that he felt the weakest. Despite hundreds of spells and scores of potions, there had been nothing to save this tiny girl, whose life had been extinguished almost before it got started. What good was the power to heal when it held so many limits?

"Ma?" a weak voice called. The Duke moved soundlessly toward the corner bed.

"Cassandra, it is Duke Baird. Your mother is sleeping now." His hands effortlessly searched the child for signs of improvement, his mind split between managing the magic and offering comfort. Cassandra's mother had died the day before, but he felt that it would be harmful to her recovery if she knew the truth.

"Will I be better soon?" she asked, her voice so frail that it was nearly a whisper.

He didn't really know the answer. The Black God had visited these rooms so often in the last few days that Duke Baird could swear he'd seen the God sweeping through to gather souls. "Yes, honey," he assured. "You're going to be just fine."