Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith



One Last Birthing

"You are being given a great honor here, so do well and your prospects will rise."

The older and more experienced midwife was making the final preparations in an antechamber to the birthing suite of the royal palace. The honor that she speaks of to Mullicynda is to be an attendant upon a birthing to the Grand Duchess. "I won't let you down."

The older woman sniffed. "See that you don't. There will be several important women at this birthing and this could make or break your career." She neglected to mention that this would also be her own chance to rise in prestige as well and get that place on the Matriarchal Council that she had always relished. "You have made a fine name for yourself in so short a time as my apprentice," which was high praise from this woman, "so don't screw it up now."

"Yes, ma'am."

Just then, Daavor moved into view, carrying a stack of blankets. Indicating the young man, she exclaimed with a hiss, "Keep that slave out of view! I don't care how helpful he is to you, it's indecent to have him at a royal birthing!"

"Yes, ma'am," was again the only respectable reply.

If you will indulge me, I will remind you bright readers that the hope of every Lady with any aspirations at all is to one day step over the defeated carcasses of her rivals and have that jeweled tiara of the Grand Duchess set upon her head as the most beautiful, poised, and intelligent Lady in all the realm. Of all the titles and honors a Lady can win, this is the one that, once finally earned, is "for keeps" until the Queen's royal crown itself replaces it.

The present Grand Duchess, already strapped down to the birthing table in the next room, is certainly not looking like her amazing and regal self, which is understandable given her huffing and puffing and straining over the prolonged labor of childbirth. Anyone who desires to be someone in the Convocation has connived a reason to be present to witness this birth, for it is a common belief that, primitive genetics being what they are, the offspring of Grand Duchesses are very likely to become future Grand Duchesses and therefore future Queens. Of course, you and I know that the child, if it is a girl at all, will be whisked off to Nursery and has a better than good chance of becoming a simple Dame and supervising the gutting of fish rather than the crowning of royalty, but it is always best to keep up appearances for the crowd of Ladies who don't know any better.

Around the writhing woman on the slab is a rather richly dressed assortment of Ladies and Matrons, gossiping none too quietly among themselves, all somewhat bored until the event they have come together to see finally reaches its climax. The largest cluster of chattering surrounds a rather youngish looking woman with the tall crown on her head. The Queen herself, always an example of what is Lady-like, is six months along in her own latest pregnancy and the sight of the birthing table is always a cruel reminder that the life of a Lady, even if she is Queen, is often somewhat short and painful. As you will recall, today's Queen bears no love or concern for the miserable wretch in the straps and finds herself more interested in the sorted talk about her. The gossip is quieted as the Lady on the table screams in her anguish and a bustle of midwives enters the room for the birthing.

Although Mullicynda has been developing her own more humane form of child-birthing while working among the commoners, the more traditional methods of midwifery hold sway in this case and she is left to look mournfully on as the more experienced and trusted midwives prepare the birth canal for its function and the young woman on the table receives no consideration for her rank, as forgotten as the most lowly Lady. Mulls feels as if she is inside of a bubble, looking out upon the scene that is swirling around her, but to which she is only an observer. The whispering of the cluster of women who are eager to see the birthing of potential new royalty is subdued, almost a buzzing in the young Dame's ears. But, it seems that there is yet another seemingly detached woman in the room and she is watching Mulls curiously.

It is one of those now often-repeated facts that if a person is being stared at, the one being watched can practically feel the watching, as I have mentioned before. I don't know if this was the high Matron Symantha's intent, to be noticed by Mullicynda, but in the midst of the hub-bub and the wails of a Duchess' travail, Mulls turned to see the red-dressed high Matron that she had seen before through the dirty window in a dark alley, and what was both somewhat surprising and worse feeling, Symantha looked at her with something of recognition as well.

There was no time for the young Dame to give much thought to why a highly placed Matron would even take notice of her, let alone stare at her with a mild form of disturbance, but that is what was happening. The bubble that Mulls had been floating in, only vaguely aware of what was going on about her, was broken and she was pulled back into the affairs of the moment and her duties. Having something to do was of little comfort to the growing feeling that things were changing again for her, though this was not the "small-hairs-at-the-neck" sort of sensation that she had always equated with God, but another, more ominous feeling of dread. As if just to confirm that her suspicions were correct, she took another opportunity to peek in the direction of the high Matron and indeed, the older woman was watching her, even while giving something of instructions to the far more familiar Matron in her silly yellow dress that had just hove into view. Both Matrons then turned in her direction and, to dispel any further confusion on what was being discussed, the Canary pointed straight at Mullicynda. The higher Matron angrily slapped the pointing finger away from its target and rolled her eyes in continued consternation at her incompetent underling. Then the affairs of the birthing rose in tempo and the attention of Mulls was taken up by more immediate matters.

Symantha was apparently present as the chief deputy of the Matriarch, for the responsibility of determining the newborn's "health" was in her hands. The Matron was upset enough at seeing one of her potential experiments bustling around as a midwife, but it was some final dagger in the belly as she viewed the baby and made her determination: the "girl" was sickly. To this news, there was a barely-feigned sense of exultation from many of the assembled Ladies. Although they dabbed elegant tissues to somewhat dry eyes, the competition among the crowd was happy to see that the "perfect" Lady was not as perfect as custom supposed and that a sickly baby often meant that circumstances would be changing, even among the royal courts. This fact was overshadowed by Symantha's discovery of the coddled but lost schoolgirl that she had long ago identified as the "perfect" Lady for her breeding experiments.

Of course, once the baby was declared anything less than perfect, it was handed off to underlings to be secretly disposed of. By some strange twist of fate or more likely a sense of genuine concern for life that few others seemed to share, the child ended up in the hands of Mullicynda. As dame and baby moved out of the room, it could be seen that Symantha, with a bland look, administered an elixir to the Grand Duchess herself. Of course, the bottle that contained the elixir was marked with a blue ribbon and Mulls needed no more indication of what had been determined and what was about to happen next in the birthing suite.

"What have you got there?" In her rush to get out of the palace altogether, Mulls had nearly forgotten that Daavor awaited her in the antechamber.

The midwife's apprentice rushed on, pulling her more-than-friend into her wake. "The baby."

The young man's eyes flashed large. "How did you...?"

There was no time for talk as they moved quickly through corridors, Mulls was breathing hard and looking for open air. There was no point in examining the child, for she knew from the wiggling within the blankets that the baby was perfectly healthy, but simply of the wrong gender for the tastes of the Convocation. She wasn't prepared to reveal this fact to her Daavor as yet, because she didn't want to have to deal with the dumbfoundedness that had nearly paralyzed her when she first discovered how the Convocation kept the Ladies "pure".

Not far away, there was a common couple, still mourning the stillborn boy that they had lost just the night before. This little one, the totally unwanted son of the probably-now-late Grand Duchess, could ease the suffering parents' grief and provide both sustenance and a loving home for the child. Insofar as Mulls was concerned, this was a very convenient circumstance for everyone concerned, except the Grand Duchess, but she could not deny the prickling at her neck, the sensation that she had not had in the birthing suite when Symantha had recognized her, the sign that God was moving in the life of this young child, giving him a chance at life that he would have never had otherwise.

The house they entered was small but warmly lit by a fire in the hearth. They had not as yet paid Mulls for her services of the day before and that seemed to buy her and Daavor passage through the door. The baby was already beginning to whimper for want of food and the grieving mother of the house almost reflexively took the bundle from the midwife's hands and pressed it to her swollen breast, comforting both. It was at this point that Daavor saw the truth and was thankfully stunned into a dumb sort of silence.

"He's beautiful," the mother cooed, as if the boy had come from her own womb.

There would be no bonding problems here, Mulls thought. "What will you call him?"

The woman looked up at her man, who exchanged glances with her and offered a shrug of acquiescence. Apparently, the name in the mother's mind was the same one chosen for the child they lost and the father was bowing to the woman's original choice. "His name is Lanolylc."

Mulls nodded, in spite of the premonitions that seemed to be swirling about her, and set about making sure the baby was whole and well-situated. Daavor was still in something of a stupor when the pair excused themselves from the now much-happier home and moved out onto the street and a freshening rain. The cool water on his face seemed to bring the man to himself. "Odd name that. Lanolylc."

The midwife's apprentice said nothing in response, though at the mention of the baby's given name, the hairs on the back of her neck rose again and a deeper sense of premonition warmed her. It was not just the feeling that God's concern was on a tiny new-born, but that there was something in the future that this baby boy would do to further the purposes of God.

However, I will leave that sensation for now and also leave any further mention of Lanolylc for a later point in the story.

Next Chapter...

Copyright, Jason Nemrow. All rights reserved.