Trisan wrung his hands worriedly as he paced in the main room of his home. His gaze moved continuously towards the closed door of he and his wife’s sleeping quarters where she and several of the village women had been ensconced for several hours. He was severely worried about his wife’s well-being now as she had assured him that the birth would take no time at all.
Now he was all too certain that something had gone wrong.
All he wanted to do was rush into the room and save her. There was, however, nothing that he could do. He knew nothing of births except those of the animals he kept care of for his landlord and Aetha had laughed when he had asked if it was the same.
“Similar,” she had stated in her beautiful voice. “But there is a little more difficulty than what you get with a horse, my love.”
Trisan had tried to learn more from her and other woman of the village but they had simply waved off his concerns. Their assurances that all would be fine had settled his mind until the dark of night as he lay in bed, when his mind came up with all kinds of terrible things. The worst was always Aetha lying dead in their bed and their child dead beside her, leaving him nothing.
As the visions of that flooded his head once more, Trisan started across the floor to the door, intent on getting inside no matter how much the women protested. Before he had made an entire two steps forward, the door opened and one of the younger of the village women – Methie, he thought was her name – rushed out with one hand over her mouth. Given that the other hand was over her slightly swollen belly, she had obviously gotten sick during the birth.
If it was as messy as the animals he dealt with, he could easily understand that.
Trisan cautiously continued to move towards the door, just waiting for it to slam into his face or for another of the women to come out. Neither happened before he reached it and he stood before the door for a moment before he lifted shaking hands to push it inwards.
The four women still inside the room did not look up at his intrusion as they were far too focused on the fifth woman on the bed. His lovely Aetha was sweating so heavily that the blankets on their beds were several shades darker, the bright colors she had sewn them in muted. One of the women sat on a stool near her head, rocking back and forth as she held one of his wife’s hands and muttered almost feverish prayers to the Woken God.
The other three women were clustered around Aetha’s waist and legs. One was crouched on the floor at the foot of the bed with her hands around one ankle and another was standing with a grip on the other leg about the knee. The last woman, to his shock, was the one standing over his wife’s waist with both hands resting on the bare skin of her child-heavy belly.
As he watched, Trisan let out a wordless exclamation as the woman pressed down on Aetha’s belly and drew a scream from his wife.
All of them but the praying one turned at his sound and the eldest one – who was the one who had just caused his wife intense pain – snapped, “Get him out!” The two women by Aetha’s feet rose obediently to see that command through and Trisan had the good sense to snap the door closed before they had moved a step. He moved away from the door cautiously then jumped as he heard a soft cough from behind him.
Turning, he saw the young woman that had fled earlier, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she stood with her hands folded over her belly.
“What is going on in there?” he asked, jerked his head towards the closed door. When she looked away from him, he lost his patience and stormed across the room to grab her shoulders. “Please!”
Trisan could feel the girl shaking and released her, feeling ashamed of his own behavior. Taking a step away from her, he said, “I apologize. You are Methie, yes?”
“I am and I understand,” Methie replied in a shaky little voice. “I watched my father go through the same thing over my mother when I was little.”
“What happened to her?”
“She died along with the baby.” She then shook her head and continued, “But that is not going to happen with Aetha. Gorta is working her hardest to make sure she and both babes survive.”
For a moment Trisan wasn’t sure that he had heard her correctly. “Both?” he repeated. “Twins? It is not right for a child to be twinned.”
“So say the priests,” Methie agreed. “But the word of the Woken God is that we are to love all of our children for they are all his children. To harm one of his is to harm him.”
He started to nod in agreement then turned towards the door as the high wail of a babe was heard. The door opened then and the eldest of the women, Gorta, stepped out with a wrapped bundle in her arms.
“Here,” she said gruffly as she practically dumped the child in Trisan’s arms. “Here is your son. Now keep him quiet while we do our best to save your wife.”
“What?” he asked but she had already disappeared back into the room, leaving him standing confused with a squirming bundle in his arms. Trisan looked down at the boy then and found blue eyes staring back at him in wide-eyed curiosity. “Hello, little one,” he managed to squeak out over a renewed fear for his wife’s life. ”I am your father.”
The baby grinned toothlessly as if in response to his words then he looked towards Methie and asked, “What did she mean? And I thought you said they were twins?”
“There could have been complications with the second child,” she answered as she wrapped her arms around herself. “Wineth told me that she had seen it when they went to help at another village once. The mother and both children died.” She then stepped forward and touched his arms. “Shift this arm up and you’ll hold him easier.”
Trisan let her move his arms around and found that her instructions did settle the babe into an easier hold. He then looked worriedly at the closed door and asked, “Do you think they will live, Methie?”
Silence answered him for what felt like a far too long moment before Methie said, “One can only pray that the Woken God will allow us to stay awake. It is within his hands now.”
Despite his families deep belief, Trisan himself had never had that much belief in the Woken God. Still, now, with his wife and other child possibly dying and his son in his arms, he found himself closing his eyes to pray.
“Please. Please let them live.”
He did not particularly care who answered, be it the Woken God, the Lord of Life, or the Mother.
He just hoped he was heard.