by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)
This idea popped into my head as I considered possible plots involving humans and hara interacting, then my fascination with birth, and then another long-standing fascination, which becomes evident as you go along — I’ll let it be surprise up front, however.
All original characters with concepts, vocabulary, etc., borrowed from Storm Constantine.
No spoilers for any specific book in the Wraeththu trilogy, but it is imagined that this entire storyline takes place sometime around the time period of Fulfilments, as Wraeththu are still ignorant of Kamagrians and there are incepted hara around.
My name is Rev. Within a few days I may be dead or maybe disfigured. They tell me not to worry but I know it’s true, I’m facing a risk. They don’t know for sure what will happen. No one does. I don’t know myself. All I know is that while I am alive, I would at least like to have my story told, especially the story of my beginning. The beginning is probably going to be very closely tied in with my end. Uli and Sara say that’s too fatalistic of me, but they have agreed to help me anyway, by writing out their stories about that day. At the end of their stories I will write my own and then pray. I hope to escape my fate, but I know I really can’t. It is a choice I have made.
Chapter 1: Uli
Rev thinks inception will kill him but I am not so sure. He does not believe me. Instead, he presses this notebook into my hands and says I should write out his “beginning” before he faces the ending. I was a pessimistic child myself, but unlike Rev, I had reasons. When I was his age, the world had gone to hell. Rev has had many advantages I did not. Yet he fears for his life. True, it is not guaranteed that he will survive, given the risks in his case, but having more faith would help him. It is the power of faith, the power of intention, that might help him survive beyond any obstacles he might face from nature.
At any rate, I will do as he has asked. I will return to the beginning, the day of Rev’s birth.
I was working with a new foal on my estemble when I heard the familiar sound of the bell’s on Arzan’s bridle. Arzan was Jana’s pretty quiet mare. Nowadays Jana is a woman but in those days she was still a girl, only ten or eleven, I believe. I looked over to the stable entrance and saw her still mounted. I didn’t even have time to say hello. “The baby is almost here but Sara is having trouble, she wants you to come!” she squealed. Wincing at the hitch-pitched tone, I bellowed back for her to wait while I quickly finished up with the foal and gathered my gear.
Five minutes later we met up outside the stable. Jana was tense, clearly exhausted. “When did the labor start?” I asked as we began to head out. As we rode along, I got a briefing, though we were going at enough speed we had to raise our voices to talk. Jana told me the labor had been going on for two days so far, but really it had only been very bad since sunrise. It was now late afternoon. Jana had stayed up with Sara all night, along with Agatha, the midwife, who was doing her very best. The only one who had slept was Martin, Rev’s father, but now he was awake and very, very worried. Martin had also asked for me. A har could help her now, when she was so tired, wanting to give up but needing to keep it up. She needed strength, she needed healing, and they all knew I could give it, Jana said. I had done it before, for Martin’s birth. Now Martin was fifteen and shortly would be incepted. Such is the way of Gimrah.
When reached the house, tying the horses up in front, and hurried up to the side door, which I knew next to Sara’s bedroom. Although I hadn’t seen attended human births since Martin’s — Jana was adopted, rescued from Megalithica — I recognized at once that Jana was right and the end was coming soon. Sara’s voice gave it all away. She was keening by that point, high-pitched moans punctuated by curses. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I can’t… I can’t… Eeeeeeeeeeeee!”
I stepped through the door and she didn’t even notice. Agatha was sitting in a chair at the end of the bed, positioned between Sara’s legs, spread wide and shaking. The old midwife had her arms outstretched and Sara was clutching them. “Don’t be a fool, you can do this, Sara. If you trained Arlek out of being wild, you can do this. If you lived as a woman this long, you can do this. Come on now, it’s almost here.” I had never met Agatha until the week before, when I’d been invited to meet her. They had sent for her many months before and finally she had arrived, bringing with her a treasure trove of knowledge. In wild parts like these, there are few who have any knowledge of human births.
Faced with the spectacle of a human woman birthing in that time-honored method, I had the same gut reaction I’d had with Martin, only even strong this time — and mixed in with something new. With Martin, I’d thought of it as something amazing, a unique quality of human women — the ability to give birth. I had truly marveled at it. In the years since then, however, things had changed. Now I had a new perspective. Now birth was something we Wraeththu could experience for ourselves. I had borne two pearls of my own and my chesna Cleon had birthed another. Looking at Sara, I knew something of what she felt. Yes, pearls are somewhat smaller than babies and there are no messy body parts or tangled cords to worry about, but the Wraeththu body is not always very accommodating. I have been at that precipice, feeling the thing inside you and with all your being wanting it out.
In any case, I did not stand and stare, but came over to the side of the bed. Behind Sara, Martin was kneeling, looking frightened and ill as he braced her shoulders. I gave him a slow smile and sent him calming energy, hoping he would pick up on it. Then I turned to Sara, just as she turned to me. “Give me strength,” she said. Her face was red and sweating, her eyes bloodshot. “I know you can do it, please help me,” she begged. She turned away and closed her eyes, inviting me to begin. No more screams. She trusted me.
It did not take all that long. For twenty minutes I worked with her, feeding her strength, messages of calm, and offering her visualizations, stroking her arms along with her belly. Having birthed pearls myself was helping me. Agatha was helping me as well. Sharp old woman. Worth her weight in gold. Together we coached Sara along as she did all the work and finally, there was the top of the head, black hair like Martin’s. I told the boy to go around to meet his baby. All the blood and fluids were bothering him, but soon he’d been facing the unpleasantness of inception and he’d have to get used to it. Was this so different than helping the foals be born?
After only a few pushes, Rev shot out with a gush of fluid. Agatha caught him in a cloth turned receiving blanket, and after quickly rubbing his red face, immediately wrapped him and brought him to Sara’s chest. Sara couldn’t believe he was hers, just as I couldn’t believe my pearls were mine either. She stared at the little face. “You look like your father,” she cooed. Martin was shying away but Agatha made him come and see. His eyes were filled with wonder. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like I’m a father.” At that Rev let out a lusty, ear-splitting cry. Sara was crying too, but with happiness.
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