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Chapter 13 – Are You Out of Your Mind?
The next days were filled with shared labor. The women of the family worked together to provide Elana with clothes. Beona and Renewyn carded wool, while Elana and Marbrona spun. Then when they had enough yarn, Marbrona warped the loom, and wove a soft sturdy cloth. Then they cut and sewed skirts and bodices that were ample enough to fit Elana’s expanding figure, but designed to be taken in after the birth. They visited the village cobbler, who measured Elana’s feet and within a few days had made her new shoes.
Elana knew she would need money to survive. Fearing any human community, she thought to take refuge in the wilderness. But she would need to buy supplies – a tinder box, a tent, cooking gear, hunting and fishing supplies, food until she learned to provide for herself from the land, clothes for the baby when she was born – none of which she could acquire here without raising troubling questions. So she formed a plan.
Waymeet, where Roswyn lived, was only a few hours away by horse, about a day’s journey on foot. Remembering Roswyn’s words about the half-orc babies, Elana had little hope of finding acceptance from her friend. But perhaps for the sake of their shared ordeal she would allow Elana to stay for a month or two while she worked and saved. Then she could buy what she needed and depart, in time to create some safe refuge before the birth.
Elana dreaded the thought of departure, but her steadily advancing pregnancy formed an unyielding deadline which forbade procrastination. So before sunrise one morning, after bidding goodnight to her family with special intensity the night before, she crept out of the warm nest between her sisters. She stuffed her meager belongings in a satchel, took some bread and dried fruit and meat from the kitchen, and slipped out of the house into the gray dawn.
She trudged along the wagon tracks that were the road to Waymeet, pausing only to hide among the tall waving grasses whenever she heard someone approaching. A few wagons creaked by, bound for commerce in the market, or returning home. Then at midmorning Elana peered between the green stems and saw Charamer riding intently from the village, searching for her, she knew. From then on she was doubly cautious, walking in the grass to the side of the road. Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw him riding back, grim with disappointment and determination.
Finally, near nightfall, she approached Waymeet. In the distance beyond the town rose the foothills of the White Mountains. Hungry and weary, she nervously started down the main street of the town, so much larger than her own village. Confused and lost, she looked around, searching for a friendly face. Finally she stopped a passing woman and inquired about the location of the blacksmith’s home. She was directed to the far side of town, where a stream ran past the last few straggling buildings.
She could hear the blacksmith’s shop before she saw it, the steady ring of the hammer telling of work continuing in the last rays of the setting sun. Then she saw the open sided shed, a brawny man toiling at the anvil. A young boy, perhaps five or six, played by the door to the attached house. Elana’s heart jumped, with happiness or nervousness she wasn’t sure. This must be the place.
Just then the door of the cottage opened, and Roswyn stepped out. She was relaxed and smiling, turning to bid the man and boy to come in to supper. Then she spotted Elana, and her face lit up with surprise and happiness. The two women embraced. Elana could tell Roswyn noted her solitary and footsore condition, and knew all was not well with her friend, but she said nothing about that. Instead, she invited Elana in to share the evening meal. The man was introduced as her husband, Teolar, and the boy as her son, Arteo.
Over the meal Elana spoke little and listened much, to Roswyn’s account of the past weeks. “We arrived long after nightfall. Theodred pounded on the door, and Teolar came storming out, sure he’d been roused from his bed to shoe some impatient lordling’s horse.”
Teolar grinned. “Then I spotted you, coming up behind him, and you could have scraped my chin up off the floor. I shoved the poor man aside, king’s son though he was, to get my hands on you faster.”
“All the noise and commotion woke Arteo up, and he came out and stood on the doorstep, and asked ‘Papa, why are you hugging that woman?’” Roswyn told the anecdote humorously, but underneath her light manner Elana could sense her pain at the years of her son’s life lost to her.
“And I told him, ‘Better get used to it, son, there’s going to be a lot more hugging in this house from now on!” Teolar reached out to affectionately tousle the boy’s hair. The child ignored him and continued his single-minded attention to his meal. In a more serious tone, Teolar went on, “Of course, he didn’t remember her. He was only a toddler when she vanished. It will take a long time for them to get to know each other again. We won’t rush things. But we’ve made a start.”
“I was so surprised that you hadn’t remarried,” Roswyn remarked. “It would have been good for Arteo to have a mother.”
“Oh, you can’t get rid of me that easily,” Teolar replied. “How could either of us settle for another woman after having had you?” Behind his joking words it was easy to see his steadfast love for his wife, and Elana’s heart glowed with joy for her friend.
Later, after Arteo fell asleep, Roswyn shooed her husband off to bed, reminding him of the work that awaited him at dawn. Then she and Elana stayed up talking far into the night.
“So,” Roswyn said when they were alone. “I suppose there was some sort of problem with your family?”
“Yes.” Elana stared into the fire.
“What, they couldn’t bear the thought that their virgin daughter had been shamed and despoiled, so you were no longer fit for decent company?”
“No, it wasn’t that. Who could think such a thing?”
“Well, I’m willing to bet that the families of a couple of those girls we dropped off on the way were thinking it, behind their pretense of happiness. To some, there is more honor in death than in rape.”
Elana shook her head in disbelief and horror. “Well, my family certainly doesn’t feel that way. They truly were happy to have me home. But they couldn’t… they wanted… they were going to kill my baby!”
Roswyn was startled. “Your baby?”
“Yes! My mother told me she was sorry it was too late to use herbs to make me miscarry. So she planned to wait until she was born, and then kill her. So of course I had to leave, to keep her safe.”
Roswyn took a deep breath. She took Elana’s hands in hers, then burst out “Elana, are you out of your mind?”
Elana stared, dumbstruck.
Roswyn continued. “You have a family who loves you, who accept what happened to you and still want you back, and you are going to throw all that away? For an orc? Gotten on you by rape? Go home, let your mother get rid of it, and good riddance!”
“But she’s mine! My child, just as much as that orc’s.”
“Look Elana, all of us knew, those things that grew in us, they might look like babies, but they weren’t! They were… things, beasts. They weren’t any part of us. None of us would hesitate to get rid of one. I only regret that Theodred wasn’t able to find them and do away with all of them. Who knows how much evil they will do? I promise you, none of the others who were pregnant will even think twice about what to do – most of them would rejoice to have a mother as understanding as yours! I certainly would if I’d been unlucky enough to carry a monster away from that place!”
Elana shook her head and turned away, tears streaming down her face. Roswyn couldn’t, wouldn’t understand. Suddenly it occurred to Elana why her friend had to be so adamant. Five times she had given birth to orc-children, and five times had them stolen away. If ever, for even a moment, she allowed herself to believe the possibility they might be babies, her babies, surely the grief would destroy her. That grief weighed heavily enough on Elana, and she’d only been through it once.
“Maybe that’s true of the other ones, but this baby is different. Do you remember, right after she was conceived, how I was so happy? She had come to me, in a dream. I saw her face, it was a half-orc face, but the eyes were different, so rich and deep… I saw her as a child, as a young woman, as an old woman – she was happy, and loving, and wise. She told me to have faith, that our rescue would come. And it did! That night, I dreamed of her again, and that’s why I went up the ventilation shaft, and found Theodred. She saved us, Roswyn. Her spirit is special, it was sent to me. I am meant to be her mother and she is meant to be my child. I don’t ask that you believe me, just that you help me, for the sake of what we’ve been through together. I promise, I will be gone by the time I give birth, but just two months would make such a difference…”
Roswyn sighed in exasperation. “Of course I will help you, Elana. I can’t say I understand how you feel, but I certainly won’t turn you away. You are welcome here for as long as you wish, and I will do whatever is in my power to help you. But I won’t have an orc-child under my roof.”
Elana could tell that Roswyn privately shared her mother’s opinion that she was dangerously deluded, deceived by wishful fantasies. But she was willing to give what Elana needed, and for that Elana was immensely grateful.
“Roswyn, I know how impossible it is, what I’m asking of you, and I am so thankful you are willing to do so much for me. I think I can manage to get what I need in two months or so, and then I can leave well before the baby is born. Here’s my plan…”
She poured out her thoughts and schemes, and Roswyn listened, corrected mistaken notions, and contributed many of her own ideas. By the time they had hammered out what they both thought should be a workable plan of action, it was closer to dawn than sunset. Roswyn spread blankets for Elana on the floor by the fire, and retired to her own warm bed. Elana sank into exhausted sleep. As she closed her eyes, she thought she saw two warm brown eyes gazing at her with love from the afterimage of the fire on the backs of her eyelids. She smiled in her sleep, and dreamed no more until morning.
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