February 28, 2009

In Which Arydath Captains a Doomed Vessel

October 3, 1156

Arydath's mother possessed an almost supernatural ability to predict the day's events based on the location of her headaches. Front of the head, and something surprising would happen; left of the head, and tragedy was inevitable. A headache in the front-left of the head, therefore, meant that some sudden, unexpected terrible thing was about to occur.

Arydath herself had never put much faith in her mother's superstitions as a girl, but that morning, as the front-left of her head continued to sear, she couldn't help but wonder if maybe there was maybe some basis to the idea.

She sincerely hoped that there wasn't.

"You all right?" asked Halford from Electra's kitchen table, big stupid grin on his big stupid face. God, Halford could be such an idiot; wasn't it obvious that she wasn't?

Oh well. After all, Arydath did like her men big and stupid. And it wasn't as if he was stupid all of the time--just most of the time.

Arydath took a moment to regain herself, removing her hand from her head and placing it instead on her hip. "I'm fine, Halford. I just have a slight headache, that's all."

In an uncharacteristically solemn manner, Halford nodded, then turned his gaze to Lyraina and Evera, who were playing together on the floor with Noah and his ark.

If nothing else went right today, at least the two of them looked very cute. Arydath, personally, was amazed at how quickly her daughter's hair had grown; it was now necessary to braid it at the side, so it wouldn't be in Lyraina's way when she played. She only wished that she and Halford could afford a prettier dress for the girl, but at least she was healthy, unlike some of their neighbors' babies.

Those arks were fast becoming the most popular toys in Naroni. They had really caught on recently in Dovia, and were now making their mark in the daughter-kingdom. The prince and princess had recieved one from their grandfather King Farilon, and Lord Severin's father had also sent one for Raia and the sibling that was expected in November. The duke and the baron had been so thrilled by the children's love of these toys that they themselves had imported a pair, and now Lord Severin had taken to having the carpenter in his nearest village make one whenever he felt the need to bestow a gift upon a peasant. He had given Evera hers, and Lyraina also had one, as a token of appreciation for Arydath's help with the women's labor.

Labor. That was why Arydath and her family were there, she remembered as Electra waddled in from behind Evera's curtains.

Electra wasn't supposed to be due for another week, but a side view of her stomach told Arydath differently. That baby was as big as he could possibly get without bursting from her abdomen. He wanted to get out, and very soon, at that.

At least the mother-to-be was looking much better than her usual, flustered self these days. The girth of the baby had required Electra to stop wearing that shapeless dress and apron she'd been walking around in before. Now, she donned a much more flattering pink and brown outfit that, even though it showcased her pregnancy, somehow made her look much slimmer. And her hair! She had taken the time to comb out her tangles, and with her now silken hair out of her face, it was obvious that she was a much more attractive woman than anyone had originally given her credit for.

Needless to say, Arydath had been somewhat reluctant to let Halford tag along, but she had a nagging feeling that it would not be the worst thing to have him around.

"How's he doing?" asked Arydath as she turned around, trying hard to mask her ailment with a smile.

"Kicking quite a bit," Electra answered promptly, "but I don't mind. Shows he's alive, right? How are you so sure it's a he, anyway?"

Halford grinned. "If Arydath says it's a boy, then it's a boy. She just knows. Every time she delivers a baby, she tells the mother what it'll be, and she's never been wrong."

"Oh, never mind that!" Arydath scolded him. "Let me listen, Electra."

She hurried to the pregnant woman's side, then pressed her ear against her belly.

"Can you really hear him?" demanded Electra in wonderment.

"Most people can't," admitted Arydath in a murmur, "but I've got good ears, I guess."

"I wouldn't say that's the only good thing you got, Arydath!" Halford laughed from his chair.

Arydath frowned. "Shut up."

The kicking sounds were both strong and frequent, even moreso than she had expected.

"He's coming today, Electra," she assured the other woman. "Definitely today. Lucky for you, it'll probably be a quick labor."

Electra smiled warmly. "So he's really coming. I still can't believe I'm going to have a baby..."

"You'll be a great mother," Arydath told her. "I'm sure little Evera will be happy to have a playmate."

"Oh, for the love of God! She's eleven months old! How the hell is she supposed to know that Electra just hasn't been eating a lot of cake lately? Jesus!"

Florian had emerged from the bedroom. Unlike his wife, he had been looking worse for the wear as of late; the bags under his eyes had darkened, and Arydath could see several ribs poking out of his torso. Also, he didn't seem to have any qualms about his guests seeing him wearing nothing but his loincloth. Great--now Halford would probably accuse her of ogling him when they got home.

"You all right, Florian?" Electra inquired of him.

Florian bit his lip. "Uh... I don't know. I'm feeling sort of... faint."

His wife shook her head. "Then go lie down, you silly boy!"

"But I heard Goodwife Diarn say the baby was coming today," he protested, "so unless you're planning on having this baby on the dirt floor, then you'll want me out of that bed."

Not wanting to take either side--she didn't want to admit that she herself did not know whether Florian or Electra had more valid reasoning--Arydath turned and stared at the clouds outside the window. She'd really hoped that her headache would be gone by this point, but it seemed that it was only worsening.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Florian suddenly stumbling forward.

"Florian?" Electra addressed him.

"I'm fine," he insisted. "I just... kind of..."

It happened both quickly and slowly. It seemed to Arydath like a series of images scratched onto some ancient temple wall; his arms flew to his core, he bent forward as he struggled to breathe, his eyes closed and widened and closed again...

And then, he fell.


Electra was quick to rush to his side, to check his breathing, his pulse...

"Is he all right?" Arydath choked. "I mean... he's not..."

But now, Electra was standing, a look of panic on her face.

"Arydath..." she whispered gravely, "I think... I think he's coming. The baby."

Suddenly, that belly looked much smaller than it had moments before. It wasn't time; it couldn't have been time. The baby just wasn't ready.

Or maybe Arydath wasn't ready.

"Arydath..." Electra gasped between strangled breaths. "Arydath... help..."

Help. That was why she was there; that what she had come to do. And it was all she could do--she could not fail.

Not today.

"Halford," she addressed her husband, trying desperately to remain calm, "I need you to get to Veldora as quickly as possible. Find Laveria, and send her here. Then, I need you to alert the baron. Today is not going to be one of the easier days we've spent in this land."



Phoenix said...

What?! WHAT?!!! UGH!!!! Cliffhangers! We hates them! We hates them forever!(Sorry, I was rereading Lord of the Rings) *clears throat*

Florian can't be dead. Don't let him be dead!!!!

Okay, I have to admit I chuckled when everyone seemed to forget about him when they heard news of the baby! LOL!!

Oh geez! The baby! Let the baby be okay too! I don't think Electra could handle losing both her husband and baby in the same day! OMG! What if Electra dies?! Or...

Van, you are evil leaving it there! LOL!!
Great chapter!

Van said...

Love Lord of the Rings. Just love it :)

Yep, they did seem to sort of momentarily forget about Florian. However, Florian is the reason that Arydath told Halford to get Laveria. Arydath is a great midwife, but she isn't a healer, so Florian is a little out of her area of expertise.

Penelope said...


At least Halford is a large man with a large stride so he should be able to get to Severin's place quickly. Right?? *wrings hands*

Van said...

Oh yes, fortunately, there is no one in Naroni better suited to running around and gathering people in times of crisis than Halford :)

I imagine I'll get the next post up fairly quick. There aren't many pictures, and I can just tell that Ashelia chapter eight is going to be kind of a drag for me to write, so I'll make an exception to my alternating update rule.