From a pouch in her cloak Muldred drew a leaf folded tightly into a square no bigger than a child’s tooth. She told Thestral to chew it as she placed it on the Queen’s tongue.
Thestral grimaced at the bitter taste. “You’re poisoning me.”
“Far from it, my Lady. That leaf will calm you. No harm. Now lie still.” One hand Muldred burrowed beneath the blankets to rest on Thestral’s womb. The other she placed on Thestral’s head. Muldred closed her eyes. “Do not stop chewing. You are perfectly safe. I’ve done this many times for those on their deathbeds whose loved ones wish to ease their final hours.” Muldred clenched her jaw and breathed deeply.
Thestral chewed the leaf, whose rising bitterness sickened her each time she ground it between her teeth. She expected to die at any moment, but death seemed preferable to the agony of another dead child whose pain and torment she would never know.
Muldred uttered something strange but melodious, like the songs the bards sang in the great hall. She added new phrases then repeated the refrain. Warmth radiated from Muldred’s fingers. She chanted more verses, rising in intensity as the heat from her hands flared. She shouted the last line of the refrain then fell to the floor in a gasping heap.
Thestral held her breath, waiting to die or for the baby to kick.
“What do you feel?” asked Muldred.
“I feel….” Thestral slouched forward and drew up her knees. “Cramped. Pressed together.”
“Good,” said Muldred.
Monday, August 29, 2011
My story "A Mother's Gift" is available at Silver Blade Magazine. Here's an except.