On the fourth day, gray storm clouds hung above the mountains, snagged on the jagged peaks of rock. The ragged camp watched the horizon, weary of the sleet the clouds could bring. At the mouth of the ramp the earth stretched flat, with nothing stable enough to form a lean-to for the children and their guardians. A rough canvas tent housed the soldiers when they slept—but it was barely large enough for two men at a time. Tall grasses bent as the wind crept toward a roar. With each gust of wind, the clouds threatened to escape the grip of the mountaintops.
The woman threw more wood on their fire. She knew keeping a flame going with the wind whipping at her back was reckless. But she wanted to give her boy comfort, warmth the only solace she could still provide. If the rain arrived it would douse her final gift to her son.
Her boy came close and slid his arm about his mother’s waist. She wove her arm over his shoulders, the two huddling close to the familiar warmth of one another. They watched as the clouds escaped the mountains and trudged toward the camp. The crisp scent of the storm mingled with the campfire smoke, but it wasn’t until the storm had crossed half the distance from the mountains that the woman realized the storm’s full implication.
A step ahead of the storm was a lone figure. Too small to be a grown man, the woman’s heart fell. The seventh child, carried on the edge of the rain clouds that would take her boy away.