Great with child, she lay on the floor, a tattered moss green blanket mottled with grime beneath her. Blood spotted her clothing. Of an undetermined age—past the start of her third decade, but clearly not having seen the dawn of the first day marking her fourth—she boasted exquisitely flawless skin. It gave her an almost unearthly quality, though so wan, it nearly matched the white of the cape. Her face showed signs of great strain. Her breathing came short and perspiration stood out on her face and throat.
Fear in her brilliant green eyes, she turned her head to the side, waving her hand weakly, as though resigned to take whatever might come. Then she cast a furtive glance toward the door before settling her gaze back on the Oathtaker, a question in her eyes.
Mara edged closer, bending down, hands forward. “I’m an Oathtaker. I killed the grut, but I see I arrived too late. I’m so dreadfully sorry that they harmed you.” She hung her head. “You know, there’s nothing I can do now—except perhaps ease your pain and bring some comfort to your last hours. I’m so, so very sorry.” She reached down and touched the woman, seeking to console her. “Here, I have some herbs with me and—”
“No,” she whispered softly.
“Not the grut.” She placed her hand upon her midsection as her body tensed. She was in labor.
Trained to assist with injuries and illnesses, Mara had attended numerous birthings in the past. But what she saw before her now was unlike any birthing room she’d ever seen before. Quickly, she turned businesslike.
“What’s your name?” She seemed to know instinctively that the woman needed to rely on another so that she could concentrate her efforts on the birth of her child. Mara’s arrival, if it had been any later, would have been to no avail. As it was, she could only hope to save one of them—the mother or her child.
“I am,” she began. Her voice broke. She gasped as another contraction took hold. When it passed, she continued, “Rowena.”
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