A Cold Spring–Episode 20: Timeless


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Episode 20: Timeless

 

“Why is this taking so long? Is this normal?”

 

Whatever I expected childbirth would be like, this long night of waiting is not it. At first there was no pain—even little Circe or Penelope or Athena stopped moving. Then the contractions began. Hours later, I understand why they call it labor.

 

“It’s normal for a La Croix baby. I delivered hundreds of those in the Time Before. I can’t say what ridiculous habits Darkmore mothers may have.” Mayebelle, always practical and brusque, presses her lips in a thin line. Her practiced hands mold my belly.

 

A fresh pain turns my sharp reply into a whimper. “It’s getting worse.”

 

“The pains are simply coming faster. Closer to the end. Don’t push yet.”

 

“What do you mean ‘don’t push?’ How am I supposed to not push?” I close my eyes and try to absorb the pain.

 

“Wait until dawn if you can. I can’t see what I’m doing by firelight.”

 

“That isn’t entirely in my control, Mayebelle.” I lean back on the pallet of bundled clothes and leaves, gasping as the contraction tightens my stomach into a hard ball.

 

Perfectly balanced, the full moon touches the western horizon as the first rays of the sun gleam behind the mountains. Today is the spring equinox. Sun and Moon and Earth in symmetry.

 

“I knew this would happen,” says Mayebelle for the one thousandth time. “I told you this child wouldn’t wait.”

 

“She’ll be born in Highmoor Valley. Just as I was. Just as Maddock was,” I say through clinched teeth. “If she’s going to be the last Darkmore and La Croix child, let her at least say she began her life here.”

 

“Hmmph.” Mayebelle snorts like a horse. “And look where such a boast got the rest of us.  Bearing a child here tempts the dark magic that curses this valley. No good will come of it.”

 

Mayebelle mops my forehead with a damp cloth, but I push away her hand. Light grows, fingering the clouds in the eastern sky, flowing into the valley on the bubbling river foam. Forest birds greet the dawn with chatters and chirps. With a rustle of black wings and a chorus of harsh caws, a flock of crows whirl from the leafy forest roof.

 

I sit up, close my eyes, and concentrate on relaxing my belly. She may be as annoying as a boil but Mayebelle is also a midwife of great renown. I know I should heed her advice.

 

When the pain ebbs away, I take in a deep breath and open my eyes. Mayebelle, mouth gaping, points a scarred finger at the lodestone which hangs suspended from a cord around my neck. My movements have dislodged it from its resting place between my breasts. Instead of hanging like a stone should, it sways with increasing force. It stretches the cord straight toward Highmoor Valley.

 

The clasp snaps and the stone flies away, following the crows across the valley.

 

“What in the name of . . . .” My voice trails to nothing. The wayward witch stone is forgotten. Even pain, for a moment, becomes a secondary concern.

 

The lodestone flies straight and true into the heart of a tornadic spiral of fog in the very center of Highmoor Valley. I blink tears and sweat from my eyes, straining to make sense of the shadow within the spiral. Without so much as a whisper, a solid structure emerges from the swirl of fog.

 

The turrets still ablaze, smoke pouring from the windows, New Castle Highmoor materializes on the valley’s floor. The gates fly open and running forms emerge. They scatter toward the safety of the cold, clear waters of the Whispering River, but one tall figure strides toward us.

Stay Tuned for Episode 21: Unexpected


About SorchiaD

Award-winning author Sorchia Dubois lives in the piney forest of the Missouri Ozarks with eight cats, two fish, one dog, and one husband. A proud member of the Scottish Ross clan, Sorchia incorporates all things Celtic (especially Scottish) into her works. She can often be found at Scottish festivals watching kilted men toss large objects for no apparent reason.

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