Marital Bliss - Part III
t was apparent almost immediately that the pain medicine had not fully worked its wonders upon Kimberly as the second of her children began to make its way into the world. Kimberly cried out several times as she began to push, with her claws tearing into the quilt, seams popping and the stuffing bursting out. Charles was back in the room a moment later, still carrying little Charles in his arms.
“Are you alright?” he asked in breathless tones, his eyes wide as he stood at the edge of the bed, holding the babe so tight to his chest that the poor ratling began to squeak in protest.
Kimberly glared at him out of the corner of one eye, but did not say anything otherwise as she bit down so hard on her chew stick that it snapped in half.
“Don’t worry,” Jo said with a smile as she stood over Lady Avery’s shoulder. “We can see the top of the head now.”
Seeming to realize that he was holding his child too tightly, Charles turned and laid the babe back down in the folds of blankets he’d set up. He wrapped them over the frail form and kissed the child on its tender brow. Little Charles stopped squeaking and began to rest once more curled warmly in the blankets. One of his small paws trailed down his arm, and as Charles slid it past, gripped at his finger. Tiny fingers curled around his large one, he felt as if he were going to explode with joy at the tenderness of it.
“Baerle, do you have any petrified wood?” Angela asked, even as the opossum was trying to get one of the halves of Kimberly’s chewstick back between the rodent’s tightly clamped incisors.
“I’ve a few pieces in my desk,” Charles offered as he turned back around. “Let me get around and I’ll get it out.” Baerle and the rest scooted closer to Kimberly, whose heavy breathing and gasps of pain made him wince inwardly each time. He stole glances between them, watching as another red tender head began to slip free from between her legs. His second child! He’d be a father twice over in just a few more minutes!
He lifted up the top of his desk and rummaged around the papers and bottles of ink he kept there until he found the haft of the petrified wood that Phil had bought for him once as a joke. Charles almost never used it himself, as his teeth were not strong enough to do more than hurt themselves against the stone. In theory, he could have channelled his Sondeck into his incisors to try and break the stone, but it was also possible he’d just end up breaking his teeth.
“Here it is,” he held it out to Baerle. He smiled past the opossum’s shoulders to his wife, whose face was flush with strain. “Don’t bite too hard on this, my sweet. Just clamp down on it and hold.”
Kimberly nodded, and paused in her pushing long enough to open her jaws and take in one breath – in addition to the end of the petrified stick. Charles looked at Angela uncertainly, wondering if this was such a good idea, but she met his gaze with reassuring confidence. But she did not look at him long, her attention returned once more to the babe that was emerging bit by bit from his wife’s womb.
Charles gave Baerle a quick glance, and the opossum smiled warmly to him, her eyes filled with hope and joy. He returned her smile, and then moved in and stood at Kimberly’s side, gripping her paw with his own. She squeezed his hand, her fingers gripping it around his palm. They were tight, long claws poking into the callused flesh of his palm so insistently that they would draw blood if he did not tighten his own grip.
“Just push sweetheart. Just push,” he said in a small voice, wishing that he could take some of the pain from her. How he wished that he could just for this one moment lend her his strength. If it could be him trying to push that child free now instead of her, and it were in his power to make it so, he would without any hesitation, he knew.
“A little bit more,” Angela said, her voice drawing out as if she were expecting she wouldn’t have to finish what she was saying. “Just a little bit more...”
Charles put both his paws over Kimberly’s own, and closed his eyes, feeling the tension in her flesh, the pace of her breathing, and the agony that filled her loins. And then, that one moment split as the air recoiled from the sudden cry of a newborn slipping free into the world.
“It’s a girl!” Angela declared in elated tones.
Blinking open his eyes, Charles stared as Angela held up the child, just high enough for Kimberly to see from her vantage point. The stick of petrified wood slipped from her muzzle as her eyes studied the tender child. The umbilical cord was still pulsing with life. The babe’s flesh was tender and purple as little Charles’s had been when he’d emerged. There was a simple serenity in that bawling face. Charles felt an effervescent sense of peace.
“Her name,” Kimberly said, breathing heavily. “Her name is Bernadette.”
“So there I was, with these two small squirrels in my arms. Their tails were just whips, but you could already see the patterns in their skin, where the fur was going to grow and the colour of it. Truly remarkable. Nobody had ever seen anything like it, even though we knew it was coming.” Lord Brian Avery had a pleasant, though slightly inebriated smile upon his muzzle, one lost in joyous reverie. “I think I sat there chuckling like the village idiot for a few hours.”
“Ah, what a fine tale,” Jono declared after the Lord of the Glen stuck his muzzle into his mazer again. “And look, here comes the new father with his second bundle!” The feline pointed one claw towards the tapestry where once again Charles was emerging. Cheers rose up at his entrance, and he beamed as he held another red-skinned ratling. Garigan really did not see much difference between them, but he had no doubt that this was the second.
“This is my girl! My Bernadette!” Charles announced to the acclaim of the assembled. Fierce pride shone in his eyes as he looked at the small figure, the sightless head swivelling towards the sound of his voice.
Marcus whooped with delight and leaned out the doorway and shouted out, “Bernadette is born! Hooray for Charles!” Nor did he restrain himself. The pine marten was shouting at the top of his lungs.
“Careful there, lad,” Sir Saulius interjected with arched eye ridges. “Thou shalt wake the whole land if thou dost continue thy crooning.”
“Ah, let em wake,” Lars rumbled with sardonic humour. “They have no business being asleep at three in the morning anyway.”
“They seem to be born awfully fast,” James opined, his voice betraying some worry, as if Charles and Kimberly were doing it all wrong by accomplishing it so quickly. Even so, he shared Charles’s joy, his lips curled back in an equine smile.
Charles nodded at that, though he cooed at his daughter, running one finger down along her snout, watching as she lifted a small slender paw to intercept his claw. He exuded a palpable energy, as if he were no longer Charles, but merely a manifestation of his joy, an idea only waiting for reality to clothe it in flesh. His voice trilled only adding to the caricature. “Burris says that because they are so small, they are being born more easily.”
“Totally natural,” Lord Avery added with a nodding grin and a sip from his mazer. “More would you, Lars?”
The bruin took Brian’s mazer and filled it from the barrel that was standing upon the solid oak table James had brought in. A small puddle had formed on the floor, but it was slowly being absorbed by the wood. He blew a bit of the foam from the top and handed it back to the squirrel, his heavy ursine paws engulfing Brian’s own. Lars then looked up at the rat and asked, “Did you want any, Charles?”
It took Charles a moment to respond to the question, as if he wasn’t even aware any had been asked. “Oh? Certainly. Pour me a mazer. I have plenty of reason to celebrate this night! I’ve two children already, and three more are on the way!”
“Three?” Marcus blurted out, his eyes at first perplexed, then stunned, and then filled with boisterous wonder. “Wow! You are going to be one busy rat! Five kids should be lots of fun! Especially if they’re anything like the Avery boys!”
“Charles,” Garigan said, leaning over the side of the couch, smirking in mock sympathy, “if they are anything like the Avery boys, I’m sure we’ll all say fond words at your funeral after they drive you to an early grave.”
“And just for that, you can watch them from time to time,” the rat replied archly.
“Oh?” Garigan asked, laughing in his throat.
“Consider it part of your training!”
Garigan laughed with him at that, before nodding his head to the child. “Can I hold her?”
“Of course!” Charles held out the small bundle, the little baby rat wrapped up tightly in the cloth. Garigan cradled her carefully in his arms, and he did have to admit when he saw her more closely, she was pretty adorable. There was just something about infants that made one fall immediately in love. Already, he wanted nothing more than to treat this little one tenderly and to see it grow in fullness and in health.
Lars handed the rat a mazer, and Charles had it finished in a few short seconds. “Ah, that was refreshing. Thank you, Lars.” He glanced about the group assembled in his living room and his muzzle twisted into an amused moue. “I would have expected more to be here by now. Didn’t we announce this to the entire village?”
“Well, Marcus just did,” Garigan pointed out with a wicked grin.
“Yeah, well they ought to know!” the pine marten called back, grinning from ear to ear himself. “Hey, can I have some of that mead too?” Lars snorted, and the rest assembled chuckled knowingly. “Aw, come on! Oh foo!”
While it had not taken more than twenty minutes after Charles had been born for Bernadette to also be born, the next child seemed far more content to wait for that perfect moment. Although in Kimberly’s view, every single moment would be just perfect, considering the amount of pain each new contraction gave her. Burris’s medicine helped some, that much she could tell. Where before the pain had lanced inside her thighs and across her abdomen like a burning poker being shoved into her flesh, now it was duller, as if the poker had been extinguished, and then shoved into her flesh.
When Charles brought Bernadette, named after her bridesmaid, an older mouse who she had worked with in the Keep’s kitchens for nearly a year, he had already imbibed one mazer of mead, though he swore he’d not had a second. She did not terribly blame him, he was a new father, and she could only guess at what was going through his heart at that moment.
Her own was filled with wonder and joy at seeing those two children, her children, finally freed from her womb and waking to the world. And then, she felt the agony of the childbirth again, and could only give thanks that the pain would last but a day while the joy would last a lifetime. Each face was a cherub descended from heaven, given to her to love and to care for. When her labour paused, Baerle and Charles brought both children so that she could hold them. They had nestled into her arms, and though nobody else said they saw it, she knew that they had smiled.
And then the pain had returned. It was all she could do to focus her thoughts on breathing, breathing, and pushing. Her entire world narrowed to those two activities. Her only other sensation was the cold dry taste of the petrified wood bit between her teeth. There was a subtle pain in her teeth from the pressure, but it was no different than what she felt if she did not chew for several days.
She heard voices of encouragement, but they were telling her little. Little that she did not already know. The pain was a firm glove gripping her, squeezing her as she punished, pressing outwards from within. It stretched, and stretched, pressing further, and further. She felt for a single moment as if her whole body might rupture wide from the pain. Something inside was pulling tight in her, something squeezing in a way that it should not.
And then it was done. She gasped as the pain ebbed, the sliding sensation left her, and the bawling of another babe announced itself in the air. She opened her eyes, the petrified wood rolling out of her muzzle to land a few inches away on the rumpled bed quilts. In Lady Avery’s arms there was another child, another boy, who seemed to cry with an almost dignified air, as if it considered it an affront that it should be thrust so unwelcome into the world.
“His name?” she asked, her eyes searching for her husband amidst the swirls of images before. The colours that blended together finally coalesced, and she saw him, standing with ecstatic delight and feverish shaking reaching out one finger to caress the babe’s snout.
“Erick,” Charles said softly, his voice cracking and squeaking. “His name shall be Erick!”
Erick. She smiled, and could see already in that child’s face why her husband had named him so. Kimberly let her head fall back once more against the pillows, breathing heavily from the exertion. There were still two more to go. Two more.
“Thee... thee named him after me?” There were actual tears in Sir Saulius’s eyes as he beheld the third child, Charles’s second son to the assembled group. Marcus’s call earlier had indeed caught the ears of a few Glenners, and while several came by to offer their congratulations to him, so far only Angus had decided to stay for the remainder of the morning.
The badger patted the knight rat firmly on the back, firm conviction deep in his throat. “A fine honour! A fine honour! He even looks like you a little bit I think.”
Saulius was too awash in his own emotions to really hear the badger’s delighted words. Instead, he looked to Charles, regained some semblance of his dignity, quelled the tears that stood in his eyes, and bowed his head low, bending down on one knee. “I thank thee, Charles. Thou hast bestowed upon me a great honour to name thy son after me. I shall ne’er forget this for all the days of my life.”
Everyone else crowded around the two rats and the infant rat that lay in Charles’s arms. But Charles did not hold him for long, gesturing with one paw for Saulius to take a hold of the infant named after him. The knight did so at first reluctantly, and then with verve. He cradled the babe, rocking him back and forth, even as he spoke words of wonder and love to the child. “Thou hast been given a great name, little Erick. Thou dost hath a great deal to live up to now. I wilt teach thee. I wilt be a father for thee too, little Erick. I wilt teach thee of thy name’s origin, of the great land called the Steppe, it’s people, and thy forebears.”
“Planning on adopting him already?” Angus asked, a rumbling grin creasing his face. “Charles might have something to say about that.”
“It’s all right, Angus,” Charles said, waving one paw as he stepped back to let Saulius marvel over the babe. “My son will find his own way, and if Erick can help guide him, all the better.”
Lord Avery nodded, and handed Charles another mazer of mead. “Very true. It can be so hard to choose a vocation for your children. It is far easier if they show a genuine interest. A second son should be a knight. Mayhaps Sir Saulius will instill in your boy a wonder for such.”
“Well,” Charles mused, but found no more words.
Garigan chuckled lightly. “Sometimes you don’t have a choice about what you do. And some will do what they want no matter what you tell them.”
Avery nodded heavily at that, heaving a sigh of understanding. “That they do! And earlier than you want either. Did you know Christopher came to me the other day and told me he wants to start learning about the history of the valley, its rulers and those who have ruled it from afar. Darien came not two hours later and asked the same thing! My boys are only six and already they want to be men.”
“In another two or three years they may be men,” Angus pointed out. He looked over at Charles then and grimaced. “Are you ready for that as well? Your children are going to age faster than we did.”
The rat leaned back against the side of the couch, frowning some as he nursed his mead. “I’m as ready as I can be. I guess nobody is ever really ready. I’m a father!” He stopped then, his smile returned in full, and he began to chitter giddily.
“Then let’s hear it for the new father,” Garigan said, lifting his mazer in a toast.
Marcus, who had been darting back and forth around the press of bodies trying to get a good look, chirred a bit. “Yeah, let’s toast to the new father!” Sir Saulius’s mazer had been left forgotten on the table, and he snatched it up quickly. A large black paw grabbed it just as he began to lift it up. Marcus spun and found Angus’s large face leaning over his own. “But he’s not drinking it,” the marten objected.
“And your mother would skin me if I let you drink it,” Angus replied. “Give it one more year and then you’ll be old enough to drink with the men.”
Charles looked about them all, and chuckled, shaking his head. “Let him have the drink. There’s no telling what may happen in another year. No telling at all.”
Angus dropped his paw then, grunting. Marcus whooped and held his mazer high in the air. “To Charles! The new father of five!”
“Hear, hear!” Garigan called, clacking his mazer to the marten’s. Oh boy, he hoped Marcus could get no worse while drunk.
The clock had nearly chimed the fifth hour of the day when Kimberly let out a long exhalation, the fourth child free from her womb at last. The labour had only lasted a little over three hours now, but she felt as if it were dragging throughout all the hours of the day. A part of her was thankful that her children were being born as rats. She could not imagine how agonizingly painful it must be to give birth to larger human infants.
She waited until they had cut the umbilical cord and cleaned most of the amniotic fluids from her second daughter’s body before she took a look at the child. The name that was to be given to her was already known, but Charles had insisted they name their children only after seeing their faces for the first time. It was a Southlands tradition and so she kept the names she was to give the daughters to herself.
Almost. She’d told Baerle. But there was little she could ever keep secret from Baerle. And it seems, little she would keep from Baerle. She’d offered her husband to the opossum, if he would have her as well. She clenched her teeth harder. That was one thing she did not wish to think of. She would never ask if they ever did anything. And when she saw them together talking, she would know it was just them talking. Maybe someday, if Charles did respond to Baerle’s advances, she’d be willing to know and better accept it, but not now.
When she opened her eyes, she saw the familiar red tinted flesh, the tender skin, the small arms and legs, the long tail that curled beneath, and the small folds of skin that would be her ears. “Oh my!” she breathed in. There was no doubt, the child was beautiful. “Baerle!” she cried, and held out her arms. “She is my Baerle!”
The opossum blinked and blushed in surprise, red filling her pink ears. She lowered her face, one dark paw came to cover her white-furred cheek. “Oh, Kimberly.”
“Baerle?” Charles asked, but he smiled then, as he leaned over and stroked the child’s face. “Baerle.”
“A lovely name,” Jo added, taking the child from Lady Avery’s arms and setting her down on a towel to finish cleaning her off. “Are you feeling well, Kimberly?”
“Tired, sore... one more?”
Jo nodded, her tail wagging behind her. “Just one more, and then we can...” she paused as she listened to a snatch of singing coming from the other room. Her golden eyes came upon Charles and she glared reproachfully. “Don’t tell me you gave that rapscallion Marcus some mead.”
“Well, it seemed only fair,” Charles admitted sheepishly, taking a step back from the bed. “He was the only one not drinking, and there was a toast, and all.”
Jo just shook her head and sighed. “Wonderful. Just wonderful. I know somebody I’ll have to treat later.” She brushed the towel across the bawling infant’s back one more time, and then quickly wrapped the towel around the small tail and gave it a firm rub. “Your Baerle is now ready. Do let your wife hold her first this time before you rush off.”
Charles chuckled and handed the child to his wife. Letting the babe settle into her arms Kimberly smiled and cradled her firmly. Little Baerle’s bawling began to slow then, and the face turned towards her snout. The nose moved slightly, and the little paws waved in the air, caught at Kimberly’s neck fur and pulled gently. “Oh, she’s so precious!” Kimberly cooed. There were so many children, but each one was a blessing she knew. She loved them all already, even the one that was still inside her waiting to come out.
“Can I show her off yet?” Charles begged, looking like a little boy with a coveted prize. He almost bounced on the end of his foot paws as his beseeching eyes focussed on his wife. “Please?”
Kimberly laughed lightly, as did the other women in the room. Then, after a moment, she nodded and lifted up her second daughter. Charles slipped one paw beneath her and let her slide into the crook of his arm. He gave out a whoop of delight, and bound out through the tapestry, giving out a cry of joy. The song that the men in the other room stopped and they all chorused into cheers as well.
“Men,” Lady Avery said, though her sigh was a fond one.
“And starting tomorrow when they need to be changed he’s not going to want to have anything to do with it,” Jo predicted with a laugh. “But they are nice to have around.”
“Hmmm,” Burris intoned. The woodpecker still had one wing over Kimberly’s belly, feeling at the way the children had been moving inside of her. There was an unpleasant tone of urgency to his muttering though, and it made Kimberly uneasy. The sullen pain was beginning to fill her again, and she knew it would not be long before the next series of contractions hit.
Angela, Baerle and Jo also noticed the concerned manner to Burris’s questing. His wing was feeling very tenderly at the rat’s belly. Kimberly could feel the feathers brushing through her fur, and at times, they actually tickled. But they were always soothing, following the paths of her children as they left her body.
“Is something wrong, Burris?” Lady Avery asked, leaning back some, her stained paws resting across the apron bunched under her knees.
“I think...” Burris said, even as he continued to feel at the reduced belly. Kimberly was still considerably stretched out, but it had receded somewhat with the birth of her first four children. The woodpecker narrowed his eyes and let out a sharp squawk, a rather harsh sound that made her cringe. “This is not good.”
“What is it?” Kimberly asked, her breathing beginning to pick back up again whether she liked it or not.
Burris turned to her, his face grave, in a way she had never seen it before. It was as if all the fallen souls of the winter were dancing before his eyes, proclaiming their deaths were his fault. “You cannot bear this child.”
“Well,” Jono said expansively, “I must say that you have four fine children, Charles. I’m sure you will learn many a story from them in the years to come!”
His laugh was warm and rich. “I’m sure I will. Perhaps you could spread them about the valley for me,” Charles suggested. “I’ll be kind of busy here raising them you understand.”
“Ah, to traverse the valley from North to South once again. A bard never truly has a home you know.” He spoke with a nostalgic whimsy, though he looked perfectly content reclining on the couch.
“Jo seems to be trying to change that in you,” Lord Avery suggested. “You haven’t left here in months!”
“‘Tis true. ‘Tis true.” He lifted the mazer to feline lips and favoured the Lord with an impish grin. “But as long as you keep paying for the mead, why should I leave?”
Charles laughed at that, even as he listened to Marcus regale him with his theories on how the infants might more behave as rodents, much in the way that the Avery twins behaved as squirrels. It seemed to involve a lot of scurrying as far as he could tell. Marcus was not the most adroit at holding his mead, and he’d only been allowed one mazer full!
“Charles,” a questing voice behind him called. Jo had stuck her head out from the tapestry, and the look of worry on it was plain for all to see. Angus and Lars had been laughing about something at the far end of the room, and even their laughter died at seeing the vixen’s ashen eyes. “Charles, can you come in here for a moment?”
“Of course,” he replied, a slight tremor escaping. He carried little Baerle with him, and once in the room, found grave looks all around. He set Baerle down in the pile of blankets with her brothers and sister, and then looked from Lady Avery to Burris, and then to Baerle and his wife who lay with stony resignation upon her race, covering a mask of pain. “What’s happened?”
Burris, who had his wing still resting over Kimberly’s belly was the one who spoke. “Your fifth child during the course of the pregnancy became tangled in his own umbilical cord. I can feel it as he tries to make his way free from the womb tightening around his neck. If we were to birth him, then he would strangle and die before he ever made it from Kimberly’s womb.”
Charles stumbled, as if somebody had struck him with the end of a Sondeshike in his belly. He reached out for the bedpost, but missed and almost collapsed to the floor. But he managed to get strength back to his shaking legs, and bring himself upright again. No. This couldn’t be happening, he assured himself. His fifth child, strangled in the womb? No!
“Is he....” he squeaked helplessly, “is he still alive?”
“It looks that way yes, but he will not be if Kimberly’s contractions continue to push him from the womb,” Jo added. And then, as if the light had been sucked out of the room by a nocturnal shade, Joanne’s voice fell deeper, more caustic, as if they had been drawn within the moulding remains of an ancient crumbling tumulus. “It is possible that we may not be able to birth the child at all. If the child strangles inside Kimberly, and we cannot get it out, then Kimberly too will die.”
“No!” Charles shouted, even as he felt his legs give out from under him. He gripped the end of the bed, his eyes beseeching at his wife. “Please no! Don’t do this. I can’t lose you, my Lady. My sweet Kimberly, No!” The very air seemed to tilt upon him, as if their bedroom had suddenly been placed in the hold of a storm tossed vessel. He blinked his eyes shut, an agony racking his body unlike the most exquisite of tortures. He couldn’t breathe, every gulp of air tasted foul like poison.
“Charles.” a heavenly voice called out softly. But he didn’t look up, his eyes strangely rheumy. No, not rheumy, they were filled with tears. When had they started, he pondered.
“Charles!” the voice called more insistently, and this time he did look up, and he saw a slender paw reaching out towards him, the fingers soft and pinkish-tan, the short fur covering the arm from the wrist onwards a light tan, the colour of the heavens itself.
“Kimberly,” he called out, reaching and clasping that hand firmly. She seemed to have gained his strength, as she guided him up from where he kneeled beside the bed. Her whole face seemed to glow with an unearthly radiance. Had she already passed away and was smiling now to him from Eli’s grace?
“Charles, please don’t cry,” Kimberly offered gently. He blinked and looked at her, and then threw his arms about her neck, unable to staunch his flow of tears.
“I love you, Kimberly, I don’t want to lose you.”
She patted at his back, even as she took a sharp intake of breath. “I love you to, Charles, and you won’t lose me. There is a way.”
He lifted from the sudden embrace, the tears having moistened his cheek fur. “There is?”
“Yes,” Lady Avery said softly. “Sit back and we will tell you what we intend to do to save your wife and child.”
Charles swallowed heavily, looked down at his wife once more, at her quietly smiling face. Though he may possess the Sondeck which gave him a strength that no man not a Sondecki could hope to match, he could not hold a candle to the inner strength that he beheld there within her eyes and in the quiet confidence of the smile on her muzzle. He slowly returned that smile, and then climbed off her, leaning back against the mahogany headboard.
“There is a way to save them both,” Burris repeated, his eyes focussed upon the bulging belly that his wing continued to gently stroke. “It will be difficult and dangerous though, and we may not succeed. But you must know first before we can act, and you must agree to it. You have no choice as it is the only way that your wife and child can be saved.”
“We will cut open her belly,” Jo interjected, her voice firm but comforting now. “Then, we shall remove the child that way, and then stitch your wife back up. It will be the only way we can safely remove the cord from about his neck.”
Charles blinked at that. Cut her open? The thought filled him with horror. “Can’t you use magic to remove the cord from around his neck?”
“I can use my magic to shape trees,” Burris replied, a heavy note of sadness in his tone. “And I can use it to feel where things have gone wrong in flesh, but I have no skill in shaping flesh. If I tried, I might kill him sooner.”
“There are some at Metamor who could do what you describe,” Lady Avery admitted, her eyes set. “But by the time it would take a message to reach them and bring them here, your child would already be dead, and your wife might be beyond our ability to save. We will have to cut her open.”
Charles took a deep breath, and looked to Kimberly, “Couldn’t this kill you? I’ve seen men die from a simple dagger thrust in their belly. You are going to have yours cut open even more than they!” There was no way he could disguise the trembling in his voice.
“I’m not afraid, my sweet husband.” Kimberly lifted one paw and gently stroked the underside of his snout. He breathed across her flesh, drinking in her soft earthy scent, his whiskers a twitter.
“I have something in my bag that can deaden her to this pain,” Burris pointed out. “I do not normally use it because a woman must be able to feel her muscles to push. Kimberly will not be able to feel anything and will barely be able to move until the medicine wears off. But she will not suffer any.”
“And if we are careful, we will only make a few cuts in her flesh,” Jo added. Charles could not help but note a hint of uncertainty in the vixen’s voice. “We can use magic to keep the wounds from bleeding too profusely, as well as to aid in stitching her flesh together once more. If all goes well, she may not even have a scar in a month. But we cannot wait much longer. Burris’s medicine takes an hour to two hours to reach full effect, and we cannot begin until it has. But we cannot wait very long either. Kimberly’s body is going to keep trying to push the child into the vaginal canal. We can help her resist this, but not forever.”
Charles looked to Kimberly, and Baerle standing over her on the other side, and then to the three who would cut his wife open to save both her and the child trapped within. He felt as if he was going to sink into his bed and be swallowed whole. He tightened his hands into fists, desperately seeking that calm within himself. He wanted to feel the desert sands beneath his feet, the cool air of the night and the brilliant starry sky above. He found that place, that place outside his first true home of Sondeshara. There, he stood, breathing deeply, and found the calm.
“Then do what you must.”
“Baerle,” Lady Avery called, “we will need you to stay and help. There is much we must prepare before we can make the first cut. Charles, I think it best if you wait outside with the rest.”
He slowly nodded, feeling a pit in his belly begin to gnaw at him. “I... I think you are right. Kimberly,” she smiled reassuringly to him, and he smiled wanly and briefly back. “I love you, my Kimberly.”
“I love you too, my Charles. All will be well.”
If any more words were exchanged between them, the rat could not recall. He only remembered stumbling from the room then, and staring at the solemn but expectant faces of his friends gathered in his home to celebrate with him. One of them asked him a question, he did not know which. He opened his muzzle, struggling to find his voice amidst the unpleasant squeaking. At long last though, he managed a few words, the only words that could come, “I need a drink.”
|Talk to me!|