The Imperial Address has just ended but for the Seamels, friend Ester Shardwood and Royal Healer, Duchess Rowena Mikin the night is just beginning....
Rulers Passage <Fastheld Keep> :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Bronze statues of past rulers of Fastheld line this dimly lit stone corridor, which opens onto a balcony to the west and Emperor Talus Kahar's throne room to the east. This passage also serves as a display gallery for boons of art and treasure bestowed upon the Emperor and his royal family by the nobles who occasionally visit, to pay their respects or seek his aid. Stairs lead down to the great hall and up into the Imperial personal quarters. Guards of the Emperor's Blades are posted by the stairs, the throne room and the balcony.
"I'm not hungry," Duhnen answers, shuffling her out. "Do you want me to carry you? Light, what do I do? Ester...we have to get her...uh..."
Ester hurries out of the throne room after the couple. "Keep calm Duhnen," Ester says, "There is no rush."
"Oh, for Light's sake," Gabriella answers, waving Duhnen and Ester away. "Its just a few pains, and they're not very often. They come about.. oh, every half an hour or so. Would you two calm down? And Duhnen Seamel, you couldn't carry me if you /tried/."
"Right...no rush," Duhnen murmurs, taking a deep breath. "We'll get her back to Jade Gardens then, like she wanted. Will you be ok for that, Gabby?" The man continues to shuffle both women along.
Ashlynn's snort floats out from behind as she half-jogs to catch up, "I would not worry if I were you, Lord Duhnen, for your lady wife has seen fit to outrun even a courier despite her current condition..."
Sahna wanders out at the tail-end of the people and passes by the birthing party, nodding to Ashlynn as she passes. The Duchess dissapears up the stairs, looking lost in thought.
Gabriella is momentarily forgotten as the familiar voice of the courier rings out behind them. "Ash," she exclaims and spins so fast she almost loses her balance. She beams happily at her and repeats for good measure, "Ash," as she throws open her arms.
"How fitting," Gabriella muses as she suddenly focuses her attention on the woman fleeing up the stairs. She shakes her head quickly and raises an eyebrow at Duhnen. "Hmm? Will I be alright for what? I'll be fine. I'll probably be out in the fields in the morning. Light knows there's enough work. You're overworrying, as always. Besides, I thought I had a paddling due."
Duhnen doesn't seem to be seeing much aside from Gabriella, and is working on not panicing. "Alright...but we'll still head home, ok? We'll get you back to Jade Gardens..." He takes another deep breath, and somehow notices that Ester has slipped away. Turning about, he looks to Ashlynn, blinking.
Ashlynn returns Sahna's nod with one of her own, gaze following briefly after the noblewoman before she shakes her head to herself and turns to Ester with a wan smile, looking the woman over and moving to return the embrace. "I am sorry for not having found the time for you lately...but I hope you are doing as well as you look."
"Are you kidding me?" Ester returns after releasing her, "I know you've had much to do. Don't apologize." She smiles faintly as one hand moves to rest on her abdomen, "I'm well enough I suppose. Much as been happening." She casts a quick look at the Seamels.
"Someone get him tea," Gabriella groans as she cradles her lower back in her hands, making for the stairs. "He's gone again." There's a faint wink in Ester's direction, but she's truly unwilling to seperate herself much from the woman.
"No, I'm alright," Duhnen says in response to Gabriella. "Greetings, Mistress Birch. It's good to see you. We were just going to return to Jade Gardens."
Ashlynn's smile widens slightly as she gives Ester's hands a light squeeze before her gaze turns toward the couple with a wry sniff. "Greetings, Lord Duhnen, Lady Gabriella, and by all means, please do not let me hold you up - or the little one, for that matter."
Ester smiles ruefully at the courier. "Ash we have *much* to speak about. I do wish I could stay, but I promised Gabby I'd be at the birth. To help if necessary." She gives Ashlynn a knowing look and small nod.
"I'm fine," Gabriella states with a smile in Ashlynn's direction. "Everyone calls me Gabby, anyways," she offers kindly. "Lady Gabriella makes me feel as though I've done wrong. Please, tell the Emperor I'm sorry for laughing at him."
"Of course, of course," Ashlynn says quickly in response to Ester, shooing her off toward the other two. "If Lord Duhnen's involved, she will need all the help she can get," she adds cheekily before sweeping an extravagant bow toward Gabriella. "I shall, though I am certain he would demand that, in recompense, I relay the reasons for why you did so. Even if you do not have a 'pleasant eve' in the strictest sense, I certainly wish you a most joyous day tomorrow. Take care."
Ester gives Ashlynn's hand one last squeeze before letting them go. "It's been a long time since I've helped with a delivery," she comments, "I hope I can remember how it's done." She turns and grisn at Gabriells shrugging lightly.
Gabriella says, "I laughed because I thought he should marry a Zahir. Then they'll stop trying to murder the heir. But.. no one ever listens to the mad Lomasa." Gabriella grins at this. "Thank you, Mistress Birch. I bid you a good eve as well.""
"Good to see you. Have a good eve," Duhnen wishes to Ashlynn, bowing his head, before looking to Gabriella worriedly.
Ashlynn's brows shoot up at Gabriella's suggestion, caught off guard for a moment before she gives a belated chuckle and nods, waving after them in farewell.
At last...she had recovered the missing items from her satchel. All was in place, and her 'children' were in no more danger of gnawing on toxic plants. Bloody mongoose. Landing the final stair in her decent, Rowena sweeps a curl back over her shoulder and halts her steps as the sound of voices drifts down the corridor. She'd missed the address, hadn't she? She was falling behind these weeks. Months...Now where was Oren? Seized with a new sense of worry, Rowena relivens her step and bustles into the passageway.
As she starts to walk towards the Seamel couple Ester catches sight of the approaching Duchess. She stops momentarily to nod and bow in her direction. "Your Grace. Eve."
Gabriella pauses as she reaches the rail, giving a reassuring smile to Duhnen. "I'm fine. You worry too much," she murmurs to the man before glancing towards Rowena. "Your Grace," she adds to Ester's greeting.
Oren Nillu walks out of the throne room using a crutch for support. The three aides who helped him earlier await there and join him. The group moves slowly towards the stairs.
Following behind the Chancellor, Emperor Talus Kahar XIV emerges with his entourage of guards flanking and at his back.
"They've finished, have they not?" Rowena breathes in reply to the greeting, brow furrowed with worry. Her hands brush in vain at the mongoose hairs that have become stuck to her gown during the struggle. Her widened eyes search pass those assembled at the sound of 'tap...tap...' on the stone. Relief rushes from her lungs, as it appears that the Chancellor had not collapsed as she so feared.
Duhnen shakes his head, hovering by his wife. "I worry just enough, and not any more than I wish to," he replies, looking down the stairs. The sound of the soldiers exiting the Throne room is unable to be missed, and he turns about to blink towards the Emperor and his entourage. The Surrector drops into a hasty bow.
Ester turns immediately and bows again as both the Chancellor and Emperor exit the throne room.
Gabriella's eyes follow her husband's movements, and then she glances up to the Emperor himself. "Your Majesty," she says as she dips into an awkward, shallow curtsey. No giggles this time, though.
The Emperor stops near the bottom of the stairs, puts a hand on Duhnen's shoulder and says, "Worry less about protocol and more about getting your wife to the nursery. None of this giving birth outside the throne room, yes?" He grins at Duhnen and then to Gabriella. "I am quite happy for you both. Congratulations.
Oren Nillu stops only briefly to inspect the scene, then starts up the stairs with the help of the three vassals. As he passes by Rowena, he smiles. "I told you not to worry. Good eve." He soon disappears upwards.
Ashlynn had turned to depart for other areas of the palace after the farewells, but upon the arrivals of the others, she conducts the appropriate bows in the appropriate directions before standing patiently to the side for all greetings to be dispensed.
Ester looks from then Emperor to Gabriella and Duhnen waiting for an answer to to the question.
"He'll stretch the wound, leaning like that..." Rowena mutters under her breath as the escorts bear Oren upward. Watching Gabriella more intently now that labor has been brought into the conversation, or perhaps to avoid meeting those icy, blue eyes, Rowena holds her tongue. Stealthily, her fingers pluck a few more hairs from the velvet.
"Ah, Yes," Duhnen nods to Talus, smiling nervously. "Though it's not so bad yet, as Gabriella says, and she wishes to return to Jade Gardens for it. Thank you very much for your kind words."
Talus Kahar frowns, then shakes his head. "I won't hear of it. The ride is far too bumpy. Up to the nursery, both of you, at once. Rowena will see to you. That's an order. An Imperial mandate. Defiable at your own risk."
"I want to go home," Gabriella states stubbornly, wrinkling her nose at the Emperor as the slightest wave of pain crosses her features. "I can withstand bumps. I'm married to Duhnen, after all. I have a farm to run."
Talus Kahar blinks at the link between Duhnen and bumps, peers over at the Surrector, but then shrugs it off and says to Gabriella, "Be that as it may, you have the baby to think about. I am sure you have competent workers minding your farm. I can arrange for word to be sent by raven of your condition. After the baby is born and you're both proven healthy, you can all ride back to Jade Gardens together. For now, however, allow my guards to bear you upstairs to the nursery. Enjoy a little Imperial hospitality during this joyous event. I would consider it an honor."
"Ah..." Rowena makes a noise, glancing to Talus with concern in her eyes before looking to the expecting couple with hesitancy. "And I...I'm no midwife. I was never taught such things. Maeve did not believe in learning such things until one has had chance to experience it for themselves." Looking a mite paler than when she first arrived, Rowena offers an apologetic shrug. "Some things I've come to know in the past few years, but tis far from my best skill. I recommend hailing my tutor."
Ester cringes at Gabriella and shakes her head with some disbelief when she speaks. "Oh Light," she murmurs softly and takes a couple of steps back towards where Ashlynn is standing.
"Gabby," Duhnen murmurs, looking torn. "I just want you to be comfortable. Please, things will be well in the Imperial Suite. And Ester can come, as well, right Ester?" He looks towards the huntress, eyes pleading.
Ashlynn shakes her head wryly at the back-and-forth, muttering amusedly in aside to Ester as the former huntmistress shuffles toward her, "By the time this is all settled, the baby will have set its own time and place to arrive...right here."
Gabriella considers Talus, then Rowena, then Duhnen, and lastly, Ester. Her gaze swivels back to the Emperor, and her gaze narrows somewhat. "There's /two/ of them coming. I'll only agree because elsewise Duhnen'll grow all upset, and its not good for him. He's ill." That said, the woman gathers her skirts, revealing bare toes, and gives a faint curtsey once more. "Thank you, Your Majesty."
Ester nods once at Ashlynn with a brief roll of her eyes. When Duhnen speaks she answers quickly and glances to Rowena as well, "Aye I can. I have helped with births before. It's been a while though..." She trails off as Gabriella agrees, looking quite relieved.
"Twins," the Emperor muses with a broadening smile. "Well, all the more reason to stay. The guards will help you upstairs to the nursery at once. Mistress Shardwood and Duchess Mikin will accompany you and your husband. You will have all the privacy you require once you arrive."
"Thank you," Duhnen speaks, though it's not quite clear if he's talking to Gabriella or to Talus. "We'll go immediately. Your Majesty, it's good to have you back." The Seamel reaches up to yank his helm off his head.
"I'm sorry for laughing at you, too, Your Majesty," Gabriella adds hastily before looking towards the stairs. "As I told Ashlynn, you ought to marry a Zahir. Perhaps then they'll stop killing for the throne." This is offered with a shrug. "I never understood why people wanted the bloody thing so awfully bad, anyways. Can I go, now? Duhnen's sons are as demanding as he is."
And so the hopes of eating had been dashed aside for the evening. No matter. "I shall like to hear word of what was said in meeting then at a later time, if that would not be too much an inconvenience, Your Majesty." Rowena murmurs, tipping her chin forward with a delicately angled bow of the head. "I apologize for my rather tardied appearance."
Talus Kahar laughs and shakes his head. "Up you go." He nods to his guards, who move to assist Gabriella up the stairs. Turning toward Rowena, he smirks and says, "No need to apologize. You've been busy keeping people alive lately. And now you've got two new lives to bring into the world. More taxpayers!" He chuckles. "You'll do fine."
Ashlynn sighs, hiding her face behind a hand as the conversation continues to become more and more entangled.
Ester echoes the sigh and leans over to murmur to Ashlynn, "You don't know how badly I want some ale right now."
"Well, I still couldn't save enough, could I?" Rowena whispers in reply to Talus, mournful eyes swallowing the offered reassurance in their depths. Clenching her lower lip tightly between her teeth, she turns on heel with ducked head. "I'll be...making preparations when you two have need for me." Lifting her gown in both hands, she makes a dash to climb the stairs, nearly stumbling in her haste.
Duhnen manages to grin at Talus and nods his head, before urging Gabriella towards the stairs leading up. "Almost there, Gabby."
Gabriella nods her head as she starts up the stairs, her feet making an odd sound against the stone. "Thank you," she says to the Emperor once more. "Ester? You aren't leaving?"
Ashlynn coughs politely at Ester's response, shrugging her near shoulder as she casts a small, off-centered grin toward Ester before nudging her elbow. "Better be off, or the children might decide not to wait for you."
Talus Kahar watches Rowena scurry up the stairs, then smirks at Ashlynn's comment to Ester. He shakes his head, observing as Emmon and another guard cautiously aid Gabriella's ascent toward the upper floor.
"I hate guards," Gabriella calls back after Talus, ignoring most protocol as she addresses the royal man. "And I hate orders. And you'd best hope the nursery doesn't have anything I can toss in it." For some reason, this brings a grin to her face.
"Coming M'lady," Ester call out to the Seamel and nods at Ashlynn with a rueful smile, "See you later Ash." She starts towards the stairs only stopping to offer a polite nod and bow to Talus, "Good Eve your Majesty. Light Keep you."
And Duhnen hovers, trying to do the proper expectant father thing. Which is to get in the way much as possible and accomplish nothing.
Ashlynn nods after Ester with a small wave as she lingers in the hallway, watching the bustle sweep up toward the upper levels.
"Light keep you, Mistress Shardwood," the Emperor replies, meeting Ester's bow with an inclination of his head. "As always, your help is appreciated."
Ester dips her chin again at the Emperors comment, smiles briefly and continues on up the stairs.
Private Quarters <Fastheld Keep> -----------------------------------------------
(Indoors) (Cover: Fair) (Owner: Talus Kahar)
Soldiers of the Emperor's Blades, at least two but usually more, split shifts at the top of the stairs in this, the most sensitive of all the guarded sectors of the Fastheld realm. Here, the Emperor, Empress and other royals keep their private dwellings. The long corridor is lined with doors to the rooms of lesser royals, then comes an archway - also guarded - that leads to the palace nursery, where newborn royals are kept by nursemaids in their earliest days, and then the corridor ends at the high wooden doors that open into the Imperial Suite.
Emerging from her temporary 'home', Rowena has made a quick change. The gown has been shed in favor of a pair of black trousers and tunic. Her booted heel catches a furry creature by the nose on her way out and pushes it back into the room with a stern "Stay, Zareef." The chittering protest is silenced by the closing of the door. Before heading to the nursery immediately, she leans against the wall for a moment of breathing, hand pressed to her forehead. Moisture is present upon her cheeks, though whether it be from perspiration, cleansing, or tears, is difficult to determine. In her other hand is her satchel, for whatever use it may become. Most herbs in her bag at current were far too potent for pregnant or nursing women, that much she knew. And most bleeding would occur internally, rendering her stitching abilities equally useless. Oh, the fears of childbirth. And she was not even the one to be lain prone.
The woman entering the chambers is not one in great pain.. and though uncomfortable, she's still attempting to comfort the man at her side. Gabriella, however, seems to panic whenever Ester leaves her sight. "Its alright, Duhnen," she murmurs, drawing his hand to her belly. "It'll be fine. We have Ester, and we have Rowena."
"I know," Duhnen murmurs, looking to Rowena and smiling hopefully. "We're here, Rowena. We're here. Thank you very much for your time."
Peeking through her fingers at the passing trio, Rowena curls her lips into a smile for their sake. "I'm not the woman you should be thanking, for I shan't be doing the true work in this endeavor." Pushing herself away from the wall and whispering flames with an elbow, she falls into step behind them.
They all enter the nursury and after many hours of waiting it appears that things start to progress. The father to be is quickly relegated to the hall outside.
Nursery <Fastheld Keep> --------------------------------------------------------
(Indoors) (Cover: Fair) (Owner: Talus Kahar)
A chamber kept warm by a constantly tending fireplace, with lanterns that give off a rosy light through their red satin drapings, this nursery is where the royal offspring begin their lives. Several basinets and cleansing troughs are found on the north side of the room, while fresh linens and towels are kept on racks along the east wall. A wooden chair is available for the birth mothers to sit, cradle and nurse their infants in relative privacy.
Gabriella hasn't ever let go of Ester, and once Duhnen's forced from the room, she clings even closer to the woman. Her violet eyes glance to Rowena, and once she can speak freely without scaring her husband she whispers, "I won't die, will I?"
Out in the hallway, Duhnen takes a pull from a bottle of some wine he recieved, not bothering to look at the label. "She's pregnant because of me, you realize," he states to a guard. One of the guards he assigned himself to look over the heir.
Ester holds tightly to Gabriella's hand. "No Gabby," she states while looking straight at her, trying to sound confident, "You won't. You need to try to relax. This pain is natural."
"Well, you've survived this far, have you not?" Rowena questions as an answer, unable to truly give much of a better one. It was better to confuse patients than to risk a lie, of course. Turning her back on the fear-struck woman for a moment, the duchess pours some water into one of the wash basins in preparation.
"It's my fault," Duhnen continues on, voice slurred. The man's helmet is resting on the floor, next to the obsidian cuirass he stripped off in his pacing and drinking. "She never knew this would happen, you know? And now she's having my kids." The Bladesman stares at the Surrector, unsure of what to say. "Imagine that, sir."
The contraction comes with some surprise, and Gabriella lets out a little cry. It isn't much, and its expected, and she buries her head in Ester's shoulder. "I don't wanna die," she mumbles against the huntsmistress' shoulder as it passes.
Ester looks down at Gabriella's huge stomach, licks her lips and looks over to the bed. "Perhaps you should lay down now."
"'Duhnen, what are you doing?' she asked!" Duhnen declares to the guard, lifting the bottle in emphasis. "...Ah...sir..." "'Don't worry about it, Gabby. It'll be nice,' I told her." "Sir, I really think..." "And now look at her!"
She's open to suggestions. Especially after the pains start to come with some regularity, and her cries grow in volume. "No," she declares as she manages to get herself situated on the bed, still in her green dress, a rather strong contraction gripping her. "I'm not having children."
Gabriella's cry and whimper causes Rowena's shoulders to tense, bringing back a flood of unwanted memories. She keeps focused on her task, unfolding linens. When that is done, she kneels to pick through her well-worn satchel. A thin spool of sinew thread, a needle shaped from bone, some spare bandages...just in case. A wry smirk forms upon her lips as the woman declares her defiance to nature's doing. "That is not to be contested at this time, my dear..." She mutters.
"Oh bother," Ester murmurs as she turns away. Her eyes scrunch shut and she starts silently ticking things off with finger on hand as she goes over something in her mind. Finally she looks to Rowena with a questioning look and then back at Gabriella. "We need.." she says with some hesitation, "..we need to at least loosen your dress and get your undergarments off Gabby. We need to look and see what's happening."
"Oh, no," Gabriella replies as she leans back on her hands, shaking her head quickly at the two. "Oh, no. Getting undressed is what go-" And the contraction gets her again, her teeth gritting against each other as she glances towards Ester. It lasts nearly sixty seconds before letting up, and she can speak again. "I'm not getting undressed. I've heard that one too many times."
Duhnen seems to get off the previous topic to move onto another. "We fight a lot, but I still love her, you know," he states to the unfortunate bladesman. "We just have different views on things." "Sir, I'm just a guard." "But then she calls me 'Your Grace', and that annoys me to no end."
"We are not men, Gabriella." Rowena replies, nearly amused. Nearly. Setting the supplies down with a decisive thump, she crosses back to the bed and rests her hand on the woman's arm, opposite Ester. "If you want this birthing to flow smoothly, you must trust to do as we say." Finally, the hesitancy has been replaced by the warm confidence in her eyes, jaw held firm and chin lifted with regal bearing. "I've held patients down in compliance before and I'm quite certain I can do so again."
Ester nods in agreement with Rowena, "You have to trust us Gabby. Let me help you." She leans over and pats the woman's arm.
"I'm not having these children, damn him," Gabriella answers again, tears coming to her eyes as the contractions grow closer and stronger. Her cheeks flush, however, and she reaches behind her to fumble with the laces of her dress. "This is foolishness. He's never touching me again."
"Before this day has ended, you will be holding precious lives in your arms, Gabriella." Rowena murmurs, slipping her hand into the woman's own. "And you will be grateful for that blessing. For many cannot be so fortunate."
"Let me help," Ester states as she starts working on the laces as well. She smiles gently at Rowena, "Could you help with the under garments. The contractions are quite close."
Gabriella grits her teeth as she stares at the women attempting to help her. The undergarments take some time, and the noblewoman still isn't comfortable with being bare in front of others. "A sheet," she demands, although her next words are apologetic. "I mean, please." The next contraction grips, however, and she's back to spitfire. "Where is he?" she demands. "I bet he's off with chasing some damned keep maid, isn't he?"
Well. Sort of. Actually, he's hanging off of the guard standing outside, who is doing his best to remain professional, despite having Fastheld's Surrector leaning on his shoulder.
"Yes, they are." Rowena says in acknowledgment to Ester's observation. "I'll fetch you a linen shortly enough." Rowena states to Gabby, ignoring her ending rant. Folding the fluid-soiled garment upon the floor for later disposal, she leaves the poor woman's gown rolled well up over her knees. A draft through the stone cracks could be brutal in times such as these...Plucking the demanded sheet from her stack, Rowena obliges in draping it over her lower half.
Ester smiles thankfully at the Duchess. She moves around to the base of the bed, lifts the sheet and peers under the sheet. "Oh," she exclaims once and then a moment later and, "Oh my." The linen is summarily lowered revealing her face again, her expression rather incredulous. Quickly she folds it it back over her Gabriella's knees and gives the woman an encouraging smile. "Gabby, it's happening quick...I think."
Quick indeed. Her eyes flick towards Rowena, and an expression of pure pain crosses her features. "Get out of there," Gabriella demands before reaching her hand to wave the woman away. "Leave me alone. I'm going to see him a eunuch, I swear on all that's holy." Another contraction, and she's shouting curses she could have only learned at the Come On Inn at the top of her lungs.
"That's quite an eloquent tongue you've acquired," Rowena comments, moving away once more from Gabriella's side, but this time to fetch a small, leather packet from her satchel. From it, she procures a slender but deep piece of halebirch tree bark. Without further warning, she presses it between Gabby's teeth and gently holds her jaw in place with one simple instruction. "Bite."
Something seems to occur to Duhnen, and his eyes widen slightly. "You can't tell Gabby I've been drinking," he slurs to the guard. "Shoulda made her Surrector instead of me. She's scar off Wildlings when she's pissed."
Ester raises an eyebrow and as Rowena looks after the cursing issue Ester turns to sit down on the edge of the bed. She leans forward reaching for her heavy boots and is summarily thwarted by her own condition. A mild curse ensues as she stands and sits down on the floor. Now able to reach her feet she removes the boots and tosses them off to the side. "Alright," she murmurs and with some efoort pushes herself up, one hand on swollen stomach and the other on her back. "Let's get on with this shall we?" she states as she moves back into position at the end of the bed. Again she peers and thinks. "Gabby, you need to breathe and I think you're gonna have to push soon."
"I don't wanna," the eighteen year old cries, the tears clear on her cheeks as she looks to the healer. "I don't wanna die, Ester. I don't wanna die." And then another contraction, and her eyes squeeze closed. The shouts come once more, and once they pass, she looks aside to plead with the healer. "Don't let me die without him, Rowena."
"Just keep hold of my hand." Rowena murmurs softly and offers it for the sacrifice while her other thumb brushes some of the tears away. "Don't think of death, but of the life that you're bringing into this world."
Duhnen turns his head at the cry, and shoves the wine bottle into the hands of the bewildered guard. The Surrector moves to the door and tries to open it, and upon finding it locked, knocks. "Gabby?"
Seeing that Gabriella is well enough in hand Ester stoops, looks and then walks over and grabs two pieces of linen. She partially unfolds the fabric and tucks it underneath Gabriella's bottom and legs. The other linen is set off to the side. Another look and she bites her lip, hesitating before speaking, "Alright...Gabby next contraction take a deep breath and push. It's coming."
Another cry. And another. And eventually, she gets the picture. She's gotta push. She starts that endeavor, and finds herself biting down at the stick in her mouth, her fingers curling into Rowena's, leaving bright marks that'll probably fade into bruises.
Duhnen bites his lip and steps back from the door, and seeing it not opening, opts to rely on magic. Of course, the man is drunk, so he doesn't even get that far, and when he lurches forward, smacks directly into the door and falls backwards.
It wouldn't take much to bruise the healer these days. Gabriella's cry is accompanied by a grunt from Rowena as her knuckles audibly pop beneath the younger woman's grip. She squeezes tightly in return to encourage the abuse. "After this day, you will hold far more leverage in all dealings with your husband, you realize." She whispers in conspiratorial encouragement while Gabby proceeds to push. "I'm certain he's just outside this very moment in anticipation."
Ester holds her breath as Gabriella pushes and focuses on the area in question. She wrinkles her nose and makes a face before commenting. "Alright Gabby, that was good," she states and in a quieter voice to herself she adds, "I think."
"Are you alright?" the guard asks Duhnen, his eyebrows lifting as he bends to offer a hand. Duhnen is quick to accept it, and is hauled to his feet in short order.
"Are we under attack?" he blinks, rubbing at the red spot on his forehead where it struck the door.
Whimpers punctuate the time between contractions, and tears line her face. Gabriella doesn't care where her husband is at the moment- he's not here. "Get it out!" she screams as she goes through the beginning of the end, the transition from labor to birth. "Get it out!" Poor girl, there's two! "Please, please.."
"The crowning." Rowena directs to Ester from Gabriella's side. "Has it occured?" She looks further beyond the huntress to her satchel and the instruments which lay atop it. The sharp glint of steel betrays the presence of a tiny lance.
Ester's eyes widen as she slowly sucks in her breath, nodding at Rowena. "I can see it!," she exclaims as if it was the most surprising thing in the Realm. "Gabby, it's the top of the head." Rolling her shoulders, she stoops and readies her hands.
Gabby doesn't care. She wouldn't care if the end of the world were coming. She wants the pain to end. She pushes, pushes, pushes, and screams Duhnen's name at the top of her lungs. She's probably waking the Emperor himself.
"That's Gabby!" Duhnen points out to the guard, looking quite paniced, as he pushes at the door, trying to shove it open. Of course, it's closed, and locked, and quite sturdy. It'd take a sturdy battering ram to force it open. He's seen to that himself. The guard grimaces and nods his head. "She's birthing, Sir."
Rowena works to pry her hand from Gabby's so that she may assist the readied Ester. "Grip the blankets." She instructs the screaming girl, as if her voice could really compete with the noise. With a bit of twisting and tugging, she pops free and makes haste to take up the lance and thread.
Ester flinches as Gabriella starts to breathe but remains focused on task at hand. The babies head crowns and as she pushes slowly starts it outward slide. Ester cups it in one hand and waits to help with the shoulders. "Alright Gabby," she encourages, "Next one...push as hard as you can. Everything you got."
Whatever'll end this horrid pain, Gabriella's game for. She pushes with all her might, trying to get the strange object from her body. If only she'd have known, she would have sent the Seamel packing the first time he had shown his face at Riverhold. There are no words now, only screams.
Waiting in silence, Rowena stoops alongside of Ester and reaches with a finger to scoop the mucous coating from the child's mouth while its mother labors to free its lower half.
And once the lower half is revealed, Gabriella's prediction is proven wrong. It is a girl child.. and yet she's not done. She attempts to end the pushing, but the contractions continue, hard and forceful.
Ester flashes a grateful look at the Duchess as she continues to support the head with her hand. There is a pauses as the shoulders strain against skin, she helps there release with a couple flicks of her fingers and in a rush the babe slides out into her waiting hands. Her gasps is audible, she grins and calls out, "Girl...Duchess knife and twine please. Quickly."
"And what shall be her name?" Rowena announces to Gabriella with a broad smile and life in her eyes. Rowena bends to one knee and takes hold of the cord to tie it tightly closed near the babe's belly. With three fingers then, she pinches at the slimy lifeline and steadies her hand for a clean slice through the veins.
The mother's in no condition to reply. Her tiny frame was no match for the stress of the lance, and somewhere between the last contraction and the Duchess' words, she loses touch with reality. The second child in her struggles to free himself even as her eyes roll back in head and she turns a strange sort of pale.
Ester is grinning from ear to ear as she gazes at the tiny newborn in her hands. "Yes Gabby," she says as she looks up, "What are you goin....Gabby?" Ester's eyes widen, her expression growing concerned and then verging on panic. "Gabby?" she questions and looks to Rowena.
"Oh, Light." Rowena murmurs and lets the severed cord dangle limply from the womb, moving swiftly to the woman's head. "Gabriella!" She calls into her ear and pats her cheek lightly. When that fails to work, she utters a foul oath that just might put Gabby's earlier words to shame. With long-legged strides, she rounds the bed and begins to rummage through the satchel, tossing aside packets and cloth-bound vials. Scooping them up individually, she puts each to her nose. It's evident that she's found the smelling salts when her nostrils nearly curl inside-out. A quick shuffle returns her to the bed and she thrusts them under the fainted girl's nose.
The smelling salts rouse the woman for a moment.. and only for a moment. "Donlemmedie," she murmurs to the woman, her pupils dilated and panic. "Donlemmediewithouhim." The second child fights, and fights, and he's moving through the birth canal even as she lets out a panicked whimper.
Ester in the meantime somehow finds the wherewithal to concentrate on the babe in her hands. She turns in over on her side, rubs her back and soon enough a wail sounds from it's tiny mouth. She sighs with some relief and proceeds to grab the linen and wrap it around the infant. Peering down again, she starts as the next babe starts to make it's entrance. "Oh Light," she mutters and searches for somewhere..ah yes..and empty bassinet. The girl is gently laid within its protective walls and Ester hurries back to begin the process again.
Damn those imperial 'orders'. Gritting her teeth, Rowena is clearly displeased with the results and moreso displeased that a more experienced midwife was not called for. She cranes her neck to look around at Ester and the baby. "Can you see any of the second child? We may need to assist....somehow."
Ester hastily nods at Rowena, "I see it." She spins on her heel and hurries to the door. Unlocking it, she flings it open and calls out, "We need help in here," and rushes back.
Hey, look. A way in. Duhnen staggers into the open door, looking over to Gabriella half passed out on the bed, and rushes over, discarding gauntlets on the way. "Gabby?" he calls to her, looking to Ester and Rowena. "Wha...what do I do?"
"Donlemme.." Gabriella cries once more, unable to push the son from her womb as she closes her eyes once more, her fingers curling into the blankets. She doesn't note Duhnen's invitiation, nor anything else.
"Hold her." Rowena instructs the obviously drunk father, pointing to the seemingly lifeless Gabriella. There was some fight left in that body. If an old, overweight man can survive a poison arrow to the chest then this woman was going to give birth to twins, dammit. She then looks to Ester. "Can you see it? Is it in reach?" Bustling about, she moves back to the satchel.
Duhnen nods his head dumbly, taking hold of his passed out wife as he surrenders to authority.
Still nothing. The woman is bleeding freely, that much is obvious. It seems her worst fear may becoming true, and she's rather pliable beneath her husband's hands. However, once the child has begun its descent, not much can stop it, and the crown can be seen..
Ester nods once, her expression pained but focused. "I can Duchess," she states. "If she doesn't wake..I..." she swallows hard, "I'm going to have to do it for her. I need a clean knife to cut her open more and if you could help push from above as I work below..."
"One moment." Rowena mumbles, in search. Finding the small blade, she extends it to Ester while fishing out more 'thread' and picking up the needle. "As small a cut as possible. I suspect the bleeding seems worse than it truly may be, but I do not want to risk too great an added loss." Hushing now, she tugs the gown further up Gabby's tummy and feels with her hands along her abdomen to find the child.
Gabriella and Duhnen's daughter isn't happy. She was in such a nice and warm, though slightly cramped, place, and now this? Left alone in a cold room? No freaking way. She wails quite loudly in protest, not being able to do much else.
Perhaps its the crying of Gabriella's daughter that causes her eyes to open once more, but she blinks up at her husband as she finds enough strength to murmur his name. "Sorry," she apologizes, and the second child is expelled from her body.
Duhnen looks down at Gabriella, his own eyes filling with tears as he watches his wife. He mutters a few words, mostly incomprehensible.
Ester nods at Rowena and hunkers down, knife in hand. She's just about to cut when Gabriella comes too and gains enough sense to push again. The knife is thrown back over her shoulder and Ester takes babe in hand as it slides, with greater ease this time into her hands. "Light," she breathes with relief, "It's a boy," and looks to the Duchess again for help again.
Finding the original knife used, Rowena cuts a new section of thread and makes haste to seal the cord before sawing through the tissue once more. "Let us hope there are no more..." She murmurs and makes the incision. The babe is set free, cord left to drape alongside its mate.
"My child," Gabriella asks as the labor is through, and though minor contractions rack her body, the hard part is done. She smiles up, faintly, at her husband before reaching out her arms for the crying daughter. "Give it to me," she all but demands.
"Gabby," Duhnen mutters as he rushes towards where his children lay, bending to gently scoop up his crying daughter. He returns it to her side and offers it carefully.
Ester walks to the table to grab another piece of linen and carefully wraps up the tiny infant. "We will have to clean them," she comments and then looks back to the woman in the bed and the healer "The afterbirth needs to come...then we will know about the bleeding." Peering down at the small babe, she suddenly starts and her expression grows troubled for just a moment. As soon as it comes it is gone and when Ester looks up she wearing a tired smile. "Duhnen, you have a son, he's beautiful," she states and walk over to hand him to the Surrector.
"I have water ready." Rowena states, watching the new family become acquainted from her lean against the wall. Her own, hollow, belly begins to ache, but more so with hunger and anxiety than genuine illness. "Ester..." She addresses her softly. "Are you able to tend the final cleansing of mother and child? Children." Squinting, she blinks her eyes forcefully.
Ester nods at Rowena, "Aye Duchess. I can take care of it." She offers her a grateful smile, "Thank you so much for your help Your Grace."
"Thank you for trusting my hands." Rowena replies, then gives a final, nostalgic glance to the little ones, and slips out of the room, leaving her supplies behind.
And as the noblewoman takes the child into her arms, a truly content smile overtakes her features. All but that creature is forgotten, and she cradles it lovingly to her chest.