Glad you could join us for the next awakening episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
Late afternoon scents of mint and lavender drifting from the cup Miranda held, resisted mixing with earthy undertones of rainy dirt and blood. The Bower’s mushrooms lit the raging storm’s false night, glinting green on tears Vernon wiped from his cheeks. Standing behind Arturo didn’t shield his heart from the sight of Cyrus sponging away the blood still flowing from the gash beneath the jagged breach in the Prince’s shell.
The Princess, unconscious at her husband’s side, stirred and moaned a growing growl. A glimmer touched the emptiness in Cassandra’s mind like a child’s hand warming a frozen rock. It grew into a vice grip forcing a web of cracks from its center, leaking her last waking memories into the once merciful oblivion: the Assassin falling at her foot… his bulging eye… his burbled dying breath… his legs scrabbling in the dirt… Arturo struggling to shove the spasming Stinger off him… throwing herself past them, trying to get to Elliot, falling instead into an abyss of nothingness that now squeezed her toward its surface, extruding her insides out.
The first contraction since her collapse flooded panic through her, straining her eyes open, heaving her lungs, and pushing her to her foot. Elliot! Where am I? The room began to spin.
Vernon and Arturo rushed to support her.
It didn’t frighten Miranda; all first-time mothers had that panicked look when they went into labor. She extended the steaming tea toward the Princess, urging, “Come lie down over here, Princess. This will be easier if you relax. Here, drink.”
Cassandra’s friends helped her across the room. The Bower’s familiar warmth enveloped her, and the tightness in her eyestalks drained away with the first sip. It’s all right now. “Thank you, Miranda,” she whispered. “I’m glad you’re here. How is—” But the next moment, her entire body curled into a knotted fist of pain. The cup clattered to the floor splattering hot tea on Vernon’s feet.
Her eyes scrunched shut, and she dragged a ragged, shuddering breath down her throat. Arching her neck back till her head touched her shell, she stretched her mouth as wide as it could open and pushed an agonized scream slowly from the depths of her gut.
Vernon backed away. “I… I think I should go. I should… let the Queen know what’s happening.”
Busy soothing her patient with cool compresses, Miranda didn’t look up. “That’s a good idea. You go. Cyrus, bring another cup. And the fan.”
After wringing his sponge into a bowl of swirling blood and water, the young guard rose to fetch a fresh cup of tea. He handed the fan to Arturo who took his post at the Princess’s head, wafting the perfumed air across her perspiring face as she released the end of her scream in a groan.
“Mommy?” Clark crept from the corner where his brothers and sisters huddled. “Is Auntie Cassandra sick?”
Holding the cup while Cassandra took another sip, Miranda put one arm around her son. “No, dear. She’s having her baby.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Yes, but soon she’s going to hold her little Prince or Princess, and she won’t mind how much it hurt.”
“Do you promise?” Cassandra panted through a grim grin.
“It won’t take much longer,” the midwife assured her.
To be continued. . .