October 28, 2014

In Which Celina Says Who Will Be Strong

September 15, 1187

Celina ought to have called at Veldora Keep earlier.

She'd had Rona and her family for dinner the night before, and Rona had mentioned, concerned, that Xeta hadn't shown up at the school that day, and that they'd had to bring in Tivie to cover her classes. There were a few fall colds floating around, and Celina knew that both Lyssa and Dalston had caught it, so she hadn't thought much of it at the time, figuring Xeta would just be down for a couple of days and then bounce back. She'd rested easy.

But then, mid-morning had brought a message from Nora, saying that Xeta was distraught and that she'd locked herself in the sitting room, and that Celina ought to come right away. So, guilty, she had.

"It's not the baby, is it?" That had been her first thought, so it was the one she voiced after a few minutes of holding and comforting, her daughter's tears soaking her shoulder. Xeta's youngest was five now, and she'd been itching for another baby in her arms for a while now. Finicky as her pregnancies tended to make her, a miscarriage of her current one would have been catastrophic.

Xeta shook her head. "It's... it's Jadin."

Celina sighed. Jadin had a good heart, but he was as much a scamp at thirty as he'd been as a teenager. If he'd hurt her daughter, she'd have to lay down the law. "What did he do?"

"No-nothing. He caught that--that disease."

Damn. Lorn had mentioned there'd been a resurgence in infected men, the theory that the sickness had laid dormant in them. Jadin, in hindsight, was... not among the least likely to have contradicted it. Still, he didn't deserve it. He was far too young, and--in spite of his flaws--far too good. "Oh, no."

Xeta nodded, shaking. "Aerina--we're going to get more opinions, but she gave him six months. I thought we'd grow old together, Mama. He can't die yet. He can't!"

"Xeta..." What could she say? She too had lost a husband, but she hadn't been given six months' warning. Was it better, being forewarned? Or did that knowledge just taint the precious little time left? "Maybe they'll find something before then. Some way to cure it."

"They didn't the last time, did they?" So that had been wrong. Poor Xeta. Poor Jadin. And all their poor children. "And before you ask, Aerina looked me over. She says I seem fine, and Arydath says the baby seems fine too. But I don't care about me right now."

"Honey, don't say that." Celina stroked a sodden strand of her daughter's hair. She did have rather a lot of it. Of course some of it had caught her tears. "You have to care about you. You have to be strong, for Jadin and the children."

"Then someone will have to be strong for me, because I can't!"

She could, and would. But Celina knew the feeling. "I'll be strong for you, baby. And your stepfather, and your siblings, and Leara and Ashe and Meraleene. We'll all be strong for you."

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