Deep within the heart of the Grand Cathedral of Vailar City, Naithi screamed despite the fact that no one but her “guards” would hear her. Sweat poured from her forehead as she lay breathlessly on her sorry excuse for a bed, savoring the brief respite from her pain. Absently one hand stroked the side of her swollen belly and she laid her thousandth curse upon the child she had been forced to bear.
It was a dastardly common thing within Vailar City, to force the unmarried women to bear children. She had sneered at it upon her arrival with one of the merchant caravans of Thara as well as the worshipping of their Lord of Life. Her people prayed to the Woken God and blessed life but did not force it if it was not wanted.
It was perhaps not a view of all under the Woken but it was theirs. The nomads of Thara respected their women.
Thoughts disappeared from her mind as another ripple of pain tore across her belly. Naithi screamed and cried through it, wishing for an end. Better yet, she wanted her caravan, her husband, her old life. Not this existence in a cramped cell waiting impatiently for an unwanted child to be born.
As the pain receded, she wondered exactly what the cathedral priests did with the children. She knew from the shady sources the caravan traded with that none of them were ever adopted out by the priests. They – and their mothers – simply disappeared.
That would now be her fate.
Suddenly angry, Naithi rose from the bed and stalked across the room to the door. She grabbed the bars that covered the small hole in it and shouted the name of her attacker out into the hall. Answering shouts came from other nearby cells – cries of “He was the one!” “Plakar! That bastard again!” – and she screamed a string a curses through the bars.
He could probably hear her. She knew that because she had seen the bastard’s face, leering at her from the other side of her door. The rutting beast in a man’s skin had taunted her since her imprisonment – “seclusion” as they termed it. He had reminded her constantly of the night he had broken into her wagon, beaten her husband into unconsciousness, and raped her.
And of the day her caravan was leaving the city (mostly so she could gather the herbs needed to be rid of the child) when he and several other of the Cathedral’s so-called holy guardians had taken her at arms. The bastard had bluntly stated with a smirk that he knew she was carrying a child not of her husband’s and that under city law she was under the custody of the church from then on. In a city largely against them, there was little the caravan could do but give her up.
Naithi knew though that her husband was still in the city. He taunted her about that too, detailing her beloved’s efforts to free her.
Pain tore through her again and she screamed, letting go of the bars to curl around her belly as it seemed ready to burst. As pressure began to inch downwards between her legs, she reached her hand there as she had seen the caravan midwife do to women giving birth. Her fingers touched the wet tips of short curls in that opening space and a laugh burst from Naithi’s throat.
Her torture was almost over!
Another ripple of pain sent her hobbling back to the bed and she half collapsed onto her side, breathing hard as she tried to remember the teachings of that midwife. She knew she had to push at some point but when that exact moment was was an abject mystery.
More pain followed closely on the last and was followed by another two in quick succession and Naithi lost all coherency. Everything became a blur of pain and pressure that seemed to go on forever until the thready cry of a babe filled the room.
As quickly as she heard it, she became aware of other people there. Her attacker was looming near her head, a cruel smile on his face, and a priest was leaning over her legs with a blanket. As she watched, the priest gathered up her child – a boy, she saw – and carried him away with the words “The child has been born!”
Despite being delirious with pain, Naithi could guess what that meant for her and tilted her head back to look at her attacker. As his beefy hands closed over her throat, she spat in his face and cursed him to a violent death before everything went dark.