The king decides to stay in York until it’s time to leave for Yeavering. We arrive two days before the queen’s birth pangs begin. This time I nurse her—cooling her brow and changing her linens. She’s been crying and moaning for what seems like days. We get her up and walk her around. We put her in the birthing chair. But the child won’t come out. The midwife and my mother confer, but they have no balm to sooth the queen.
The archbishop prays for the queen, when he’s not too busy catechizing the villages.
Mother sends for an herbalist who makes the queen drink a vile-smelling concoction. We put the queen back in the birthing chair. When the pains start again, the midwife kneels down below the chair.
“Push!” my mother shouts as I hold up the queen’s head. “Push!” Her eyes roll back. “Push again.”
There’s a shriek. The babe appears in a river of blood.
“Hildeburg—quick, take it.” My mother passes me the blue-tinged newborn.
I grab the slippery burden, while the midwife stanches the blood.
“It’s a prince!” I cry. I wipe the child’s face and rub it. He makes a small mewling sound. “He lives!” I shout.
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