Maggie raised one finger to stop her.
“I want my own child,” she said. “My own flesh and blood.”
“You shall have your own child, and it will be better than your own flesh and blood. He will have a piece of your soul.”
The old woman took a step back and spat on the ground, an old custom to ward off evil.
“He will have a piece of your soul,” Toadmila explained, “so that when you die, your souls will live on in him.”
Maggie blinked once, twice, three times, then her face brightened.
“So you'll make a child out of a piece of my soul, and it will be as if he were made out of my flesh?”
“Not exactly,” Toadmila admitted. “You will choose a child, and I'll perform a ritual that will place a part of your soul inside that child. And then it will be as if he were made of your flesh and blood.”
The old woman did not seem convinced.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” Toadmila asked impatiently.
She turned to her table and filled a small cup with magic tea. She imagined her self-filling cup would frighten the old woman. With a quick spell, she heated up the tea, and she thrust the steaming cup into Maggie's hands.
“Thank you, dear,” the old woman said. She took the cup to her lips, smelled it, and took a sip. “Now, about that child. I don't think...”
The old woman stopped. She took another sip. Then another. Her wizened face relaxed into a placid smile. She took one more sip.
“I don't think I mind,” she said, taking one more sip of her tea. “Funny. It feels like I wanted to say something else... But I don't think I mind if he's not my flesh and blood. As long as he has a piece of my soul, like you said.”
Toadmila nodded. She let the old woman finish her tea before she began telling her about the ritual.
“Now, I know an orphanage in Ratswick,” she said, taking the empty cup from Maggie's reluctant hands. “You must go there and ask the sisters to let you take a child. You wanted a boy, right?”
“You must ask the sisters to let you take a boy. You will look at all the boys they have, of all the ages, and you will know which one to take.”
The old woman opened her mouth, but Toadmila didn't give her time to speak.
“You must bring the boy here,” she said solemnly, “and you must carry him all the way here.”
The old woman's eyes grew a good size larger.
“But that's a week's journey!” she said. “And I don't have a cart, or a horse.”
“You must go on foot,” Toadmila pointed out, “ and you must carry that child for a whole week. It does not matter if you carry him in your arms or on your back, but you must carry him all the way. And you must keep him fed, and you must keep him warm. Or else the ritual will not work, and you will never have your child.”