A Birth, A Death, an Argument and a Visitation

Ches 19, 1354 DR:

 

The half-elven priest stared at the tableaux in front of him. A young woman, far too young, belly swollen, screaming; a midwife, deeply harried, obviously scared. He moved to help, calling on Helm to bring him strength, to give to the girl. The birthing…

The midwife looked at him. “The child is too large. She can’t hope to survive. And the gods know if the child will be able to survive.” Her eyes were bleak with despair.

The priest prayed a moment, and the girl sank into sleep. “If nothing else, her passing will be painless.” He looked at the poor girl. He sighed. Auguries had pointed to this area for months, but it wasn’t until just days before that they’d indicated thing were critical. If he’d been sent earlier… who knows? She might not have been brought to the point of dying.

The midwife began to work, as the girl lay in her enchanted sleep. The older woman’s work became more frantic, harried, as he quietly prayed. He was trained in healing, but more in battlefield surgery and wounds than midwifery, and he felt it best to stay out of the woman’s way and not distract her by asking questions.
It was the work of two candlemarks passed when the poor farm girl’s eyes flew open and her body stiffened. She let out an agonized scream, and then collapsed in a boneless manner that the priest knew was death. He turned to bless her passage, when the midwife found her voice, and began to scream as well – in horror. As he caught sight of the infant, he knew why. The blood drained from his face, rendering his pale skin even paler.

It had grey skin covered with a faint sheen of its mother’s blood. Its mouth was open to cry, revealing sharp teeth already formed. A cap of black hair covered it’s head, and the ears flopped out to the sides, almost elven, but much longer. He prayed for a moment, and was rewarded with a moment of guidance.

“Give me the child, goodwife. I know what must be done.”

The midwife stared at him. “So do I!” She turned to throw the infant into the fire… and it stopped and floated to the ground in front of the fireplace. A glowing gauntlet with an eye on the back appeared over him. The priest dropped to his knees, as did the midwife. Her eyes turned to him, wide with shock. “Lord… I don’t know what to do.”

He shook his head. “I will handle this.” He handed the woman a small pouch, as the gauntlet disappeared. “Use this for her burial, and tell them nothing but that I took the infant away, to have it dealt with as it should be.”

As he rode away in the silence of the morning, he shook his head, and looked down at the infant. “And why does Helm see you as so important, little one? You cannot hope to find peace anywhere near here.” Then he shrugged. His god had spoken, and he would follow the commands.

* * *

He travelled with a caravan part of the way, going through Pripurl to Iriaebor. There he turned and joined a large group of pilgrims, who went through Asbravn, and finally riding towards the Vale Gate, past the paddocks and stockyards, into his home city of Berdusk. With a sigh of contentment at being home, he left the pilgrims. A brief return of the horse to the trader he’d bought it from (getting back some of the money paid), and he made his way through the gate. He walked, with the swaddled infant on his back, covered from the sun (so he told any who asked, and to the frown of a priest of Lathander the sun god), to his home, the Ready House of the Right Strong Hand.

“What news from your trip, brother?” was the greeting from the gatekeeper, his shining plate armor and massive blade keeping everyone who might try something at bay.

“A foundling,” he said. “I must speak with Brimmerbold immediately.”

“For a foundling? Must be special. I’ll send word. You’d best wash up – you know how he is.”

“Indeed,” Davlin said, nodding, and headed for his own personal chamber, carefully ignoring the watchful eyes on him and his parcel.

* * *

Vigilant Godseye Tathlosar Brimmerbold (better known to friends and enemies alike as “Sleepless Teeth”) regarded his subordinate with what could only be described by the most charitable as ‘disapproving’. Some might almost call it ‘wrathful’. His bushy grey eyebrows were lowered over his dark-colored eyes, and his lips were invisible, pursed as they were – between his thick (if well-groomed) mustache and beard.

“And so ye chose ta bring that screamin’ Abyss-spawn here? Ta this temple?”

“What else could I do? Our Commander’s symbol appeared, and kept the child from going into the fire! It was a clear message that he wanted me to take action.”

“Mayhap. But on you rests this whole thing. You’ll be responsible for all the harm it brings.”

“And if she brings none?”

Brimmerbold’s eyes narrowed. “A girl Abyss-spawn. Oh, that’s just even more blessings,” he noted with deep sarcasm. “You’re still responsible for all of it. Feeding, washing, raising. Training. Even if she’s not fit for the clergy, she’ll still learn to use a blade with all the rest of them. And what do we feed her? Mice?”

Davlin took a deep breath. gritting his teeth and focusing his mind to not punch the leader of the temple. “She fed on jerky on the way back here, and some nuts. Give her the time to grow and learn to move and she’ll be eating proper meals with the rest of us.”

“Oh, aye. If ye got a command, then ye must follow it. But still, I must do one thing before I put my approval on.” The battered priest rose from his chair, gesturing, and Davlin gathered up the infant and followed. They left the office, walking through the temple’s corridors with a certain amount of alacrity, until they reached the main hall.

This hall was where services were held – birth-blessings, funerals, marriages, weekly services, and the occasional return from the dead (very occasional – anyone needing a more powerful spell to do that was usually sent to the Oghman or Denieran temples nearby). From outside could be heard the clangor of arms training – and more than a few yells of instructors dressing down their students of one kind of idiotic behavior or another. Brimmerbold went to a vault behind the altar, opening it and regarding its contents before taking something out and closing it again. The item proved to be a chunk of incense, which the temple head placed in a brazier. Then he gestured to Davlin to put the infant down and kneel beside him.

The air nearly seemed to pulsate as the old priest began to cast the spell. The brazier burst into flame, the incense smoke flowing around them in violation of the still air in the hall. Every other sound seemed to get very far away, even as the novices who were supposed to be cleaning the hall for the next day’s services stopped to watch – rare were the times when Sleepless Teeth himself led anything in particular. And then he began to speak:

“Helm, Our Commander and Leader, God of Protectors, I beg thy forgiveness for any distraction from your duties I cause, and thank thee for thy protection of us from evil. I find it needful to ask of thee questions, so that I may know thy will. Did you direct this child be saved?”

The cloud of incense smoke thickened, and the symbol of Helm appeared above the altar. And then the answer came in a sound like a sword against a shield:

YES.

For a moment, neither had anything to say, and then Tathlosar Brimmerbold, for the first time even in his service, had a moment of doubt in his god, and asked “Why?”

TO SAVE HER FROM HER FATHER.

The spell normally didn’t give more than a few words, but then, the voice of Helm continued:

SHE WAS BORN TO BE USED TO CREATE A GATE TO THE ABYSS. IT IS WRONG FOR HER TO BE PUNISHED FOR THIS, AS IT IS NOT HER CHOICE. SHE IS SAVED – PROTECTED – AND I COMMEND HER TO YOU, DAVLIN, TO BRING HER TO A DIFFERENT DESTINY.

The two priests bowed their heads low, as the spell unwove itself, the smoke thinned, and the fire burned out. The infant, who had not even made a sound at the thunder of the god’s speech, opened her eyes for the first time either of them had seen. They had no pupil, no white, just an orb of violet, not unlike an amethyst.

“Well,” said Brimmerbold. “Well. Helm’s spoken. So it shall be done.” Then, with some of his air of asperity restored, he added, “But she’s still yours to deal with. We’ll see ye have larger quarters – your current room won’t be good for both of ye. And since ye probably know not a blessed thing about raising a child, I’ll see if I can find someone to help ye.” He blew out through his beard. “If I’d known this was going to be the result I’d have sent someone else.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” Davlin said. “I’m the most academic priest here, all the others are battle-priests. They wouldn’t have known what to do, and so I was best suited.”

“Davlin, stop bein’ right at me, ye know I don’t like that.”

One of the acolytes came over. “Do you need any help, sirs? Did the spell go well?”

Brimmerbold’s eyebrows came down again. “Did ye not hear?”

The young woman paled. “Hear, Vigilant Godseye? There was nothing to hear. We just saw you two praying, and then you were talking as if you were done.”

“And perhaps we should talk further in your office, Vigilant Godseye,” Davlin followed up. He hoped that Brimmerbold would pick up the line of thought – if they didn’t hear, perhaps Helm didn’t want them to do so.

The older priest had, indeed. “Bring lunch to my office for myself and Davlin, then take word to Hammerlin that we need Mistress Iola.”

She nodded and went off to her duties. As the two ascended the stairs back to Brimmerbold’s office, Davlin asked,

“Who is Mistress Iola?

Brimmerbold grunted. “Me third handfast.” Davlin tried not to react – it was known that Brimmerbold had been married once, that she’d died in battle alongside him, but handfastings – marriages for a short time to see if they were able to be together for life – weren’t something that followers of Helm did often. “Also a priestess of Eldath, and she’s taken care of a number of foundlings. Should be able to help you.”

 

* * *

 

When the lunch had arrived – along with, due to some forethought by that acolyte, a cradle – they began eating and planning what to do next. There was a small suite available, and Brimmerbold made a note to have some acolytes set it up later that day.

“It’s also a bit farther out from the rest of the residences,” Brimmerbold noted, “which might help in case of cryin’. Oh, and we must plan the birth-blessing.” he scribbled more notes down, looking up as the door opened, and a chubby, apple-cheeked woman in blue and green robes walked in. His eyes lit up and he smiled. “Well met, Iola,” he greeted the newcomer.

“And well met to ye, Nest-face!” she replied, blue eyes dancing and laughter in her voice, and Brimmerbold laughed out loud. She turned to Davlin. “It’s the beard, you know,” she explained, and then curtseyed. “Iola of Eldath, keeper of the Children’s Rest, at your service. I was told you needed someone to teach you to take care of a child. Now, a foundling, or did you have an encounter with someone?” As he found himself laughing, she continued, “These things happen, you know. I’m not judging you, lad.”

“Iola, stop tormenting the lad. No, we have a foundling – a special one – and we need some advice about how to care for the creature.” Brimmerbold brought out another chair, and, taking her hand, guided her into it.

“What kind of special are we talking about? An orc infant? Or something else?” She looked into the cradle, and her eyes widened. “…oho, I see. Yes, this is going to be a bit different. She’s on hard food already, I expect.”

“Indeed,” Davlin replied. “Jerky and nuts. She’s got barely anything to chew vegetables with, but she took to those. She can’t feed herself yet, but she can bite.” He thought of the trip here, and the need for some minor healing for a gnashed fingertip.

Mistress Iola nodded. “Well, I think I can teach you about child care, even for a child like this one. It’ll be good for you both.” She reached down, lifted the infant up, and unswaddled her, then shook her head. “And we’ll be starting with teaching you how to diaper. I mean, blessings for the try but damnations for the actual work.” As Davlin stammered, she shook her head. “No, no, it’s obvious you tried, just didn’t know. And what’s this wee one’s name?”

Davlin paused, as did Brimmerbold. “She hasn’t had her birth-blessing yet,” Brimmerbold explained, “And so she hasn’t been properly named yet.”

Iona made a dismissive noise, then started to hum softly, the sound of running water in her music. Then she laid her head on the infant’s forehead and said, “Until you are blessed here, let Eldath’s peace be upon you, little one.” Then she turned to the two men. “Sorry about that, but I think there may be some danger in having her without any blessings at all right now. And I have her name for you, a word in Auld Chessic, which I think might work for her, the word for ‘Child of Many Trials’, as I’m sure she’ll have those. That word is Meliantha.”

“So let it be,” Davlin said.

Posted by Meliantha Demonblood

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