I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
- Pablo Neruda, One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
It was a calm and unremarkable night when Amalah was born. A light breeze swept across the fields as a faint moon peered down from behind the clouds. The air was warm, the sounds faint, like all things present were waiting with a calm curiosity for news to be brought.
In a hut, out in a small village not far from the capital of the country in which it stood, a mother screamed with the pains of labour. Her family members huddled around the bed, as Sarah was baring her first child. The pain was unlike anything she had ever left, but soon, her screams gave way to those of a child, and the relieved sighs two new happy parents. Amalah would grow up in a loving home. Of this, everyone present was certain.
And so she did. The child grew up in a farmers village, with few of the luxuries afforded to nobility, but with a love and care few raised within the nobility had known. Even so, the child's life would not be easy; it seemed. While nothing seemed unusual about the child, she behaved in ways nobody had heard of before. During the night, the child was lively and curious, as any child would be. Trying to seize the world around her like it was her oyster.
However, during the day, the child was perpetually unhappy. Particularly on bright days, the child would scream and cry, whaling like she was being assaulted by the talons of a hawk. During these moments, the child would be inconsolable. Refusing to be soothed by her mother, nor food, nor anything anyone could think of. This weighed heavier and heavier on her mother with each passing day. It wasn't just the lack of sleep but having to hear the child, whom she loved so dearly, cry in pain, again and again, that broke her spirit.
Eventually, after weeks of desperation, the mother and father decided to bring the child to the local Healing Crow. A decision many lamented, for the old woman was much distrusted by many of the common folk. Despite regularly weaving charms of good luck for the farmers or crafting enchantments of endurance over their tools, Healing Crows were often shunned and feared. People fear what they do not understand, despite the good it has done them.
Crows are considered by many to be, unpleasant company. They usually prefer to live secluded lives, often settling in homes close to caves or woods, presumably, so they can gather herbs and fungi for their potions. While each is a person in her own right, all Crows are learned and wise creatures. They can peer into the hearts of mortals, and have little patience for the ignorant and their suspicions. Despite all this, they demand a great deal of respect for performing great deeds of healing, or soothing vengeful spirits when called upon. Crows know how to act in the presence of the arcane and the divine. Perhaps it is not surprising they are often vilified by religious leaders.
Under the cover of night, the parents set off in search of the Healing Crow. The child was strapped to her mother's back and was enthusiastically playing with her mother's light brown frizzy curls. While the child gurgled happily, the parents were tense. The cover of night that seemed to soothe their daughter hid the lands around them. Thankfully, they arrived at the Crow's cot without being disturbed.
The father rapped on the door, which opened almost instantly.
"What do the night stalkers seek," whispered the Crow from inside her hut.
"A cure for my child," answered Sarah from behind her husband. "Ah, I remember your voice girl," said the Crow, "you have always been kind to me. Come, and I shall see what I can do."
The parents entered the dimly lit cot, sitting down next to a cauldron boiling gently over a small fire. The Crow joined them at the fire, in a simple wooden rocking chair.
"Tell me young folk, what ails your child?"
"I do not know, Knowing One," whispered Sarah, revealing the child. "My daughter seems healthy and happy at night, yet cries and screams as if possessed during the day. When such a mood grabs her, she will not hear of sleep, nor food, nor soothing. Neither I, nor my mother, nor anyone in the village knows what to think of it."
"Bring me the child," croaked the old woman, stretching out her arms.
Sarah handed the child to the Crow, who cradled it in her lap. The child showed no sign of distress, gurgling happily, and observing her surroundings. The Crow stared at the infant, first placing a hand on the baby's forehead, then feeling her cheeks, under her chin and finally the stomach.
The Crow looked at the father. He had yet to speak, as the Crow had addressed his wife, and he did not know the proper customs a situation such as this. Therefore, he had decided to not speak but had watched the Crow's every move as she held his daughter.
"Boy, go to the shelf over by the window, and bring me the bowl with the yellow powder."
Hastily, he did as he was told. When he brought the bowl to the Crow, she grabbed a pinch of the powder and threw it into the fire. The fire flared and coiled around the cauldron, burning a bright blue, bathing the room in its light.
As the fire flared, the child started crying, as she had done so many times before. Even though the fire soon subsided again to its previous state, the babe would not. Screaming and thrashing, she lay in the Crow's lap, who seemed undisturbed by the noise. Gently rocking the infant, the Crow looked at Sarah.
"Nothing ails your infant. It is simply Darkborn."
"What does that mean, Knowing One?"
"The child simply cannot bear bright light. That is all."
"Can you cure it, Knowing One?" the father asked. The Crow glared at him from under her cowl.
"I cannot as it is not an ailment, merely a state of being." The old woman turned to Sarah. "I am sorry young one. While being Darkborn is no serious matter in its own right, it does not bode well for her future. The Church Of Light hunts the Darkborn. They believe those who cannot bear to see their light have evil in their souls. Common folk shun the Darkborn people and regard them with great suspicion. It pains me to tell you this, but what this child needs, you cannot give her. She will need care and guidance which neither you nor I know how to provide. I know of people in the capital like her, who will love her and care for her as you do. I can see you are a wonderful mother, but for you to love your child, you will have to give her up."