The Lost Seas
The Baby’s Cries
Long ago in Zun, a young couple were having difficulty conceiving. No matter what they tried, they could not have a child, although they wanted one desperately. The young woman would always hold her friends’ babies a little longer than was entirely proper, and spoiled the local children with sweets at every opportunity. Finally, one day, a druid passed through Zun. Farmers always treat a druid well, and they fought over the rights to host and feed her while she was in town. The young woman saw her opportunity, and scraped together all the ceramic pieces they had and brought them to the druid as an offering, asking her to bless her womb.
The druid refused her paltry offering, and laid a hand on her belly anyway. “You will have a child; all you must do is to respect the elements that make up our world and ensure that your child does the same,” she said. And she was right; after the druid had left, the woman found her womb quickening and her belly growing fat.
They had their baby in the season of the Dragon, and he was a beautiful child. No baby was ever treated with more love. The young woman wove a baby-sack of silk and wore her baby close at all times, even while she was working. And every night she lit a candle to the elements, snuffing it with a drop of precious water after she was done praying.
A few months later, Zun’s farmers were finding their crops destroyed by a swarm of invading insects. Worrying about the winter, the woman’s husband came home one day with a foul-smelling clay pot. “It’s the newest thing,” he told her. “Poisons for the vermin. You mix it into the soil, and then nothing can survive but the faro.” The woman did not like the sound of this and opened her mouth to say so, but thought of their bug-eaten crop said nothing. So her husband went out to the field and spread the poison into the earth.
The insects still swarmed everywhere, but as they alighted on the crop they fell to the ground, dead. The faro grew tall even though the earth looked sickly and foul. “Perhaps it was the right decision after all,” thought the woman. But that thought changed in her mind when she looked down into her baby-sack and saw her son smiling and eating a fistful of the poisoned earth. He died that night.
Their child was buried, and they mourned. She tried to think of the future. But in the dark of the night, she was awakened by a sound—a baby crying. She sat up and saw that it was coming from the silk baby-sack, which hung sad and empty on a hook. Rushing over to it, she saw nothing inside; the crying had stopped. The next morning, she took the sack out and threw it off a cliff; it flew far through the air and finally disappeared far below.
But the next night she was awakened by crying again. Sitting up, she found the baby-sack hanging on the wall hook as if it had never been removed. She rushed out back and threw it into the well.
Again she was awakened the next night by crying; the baby-sack was back on the wall. She took it out back and buried it. The next night it was back, so she put it into the fireplace and burned it. And yet the next night it was back.
She knew what she had to do. Taking a bag of roasted faro and several waterskins, she picked up the baby-sack and went into the hills to the west, to the Place of Forgetting, to lay the sack on the old forgotten altar. And when she returned to the farm, she never heard the crying of the baby again.