Excerpt from the Witchbreed Series Book One : In the Blood by R.L. Martinez
Agatha shook her head. “No, but—”
“Then, it’s not too late.” Oriabel turned to Millie. “Collect this foul linen and put it to boil then find me some fresh. I need a tea kettle of boiling water as well.” Millie nodded and gathered the bloodied sheets and rags. “Colin, go look after your children. They’re out in the yard.” Colin did not move, just wept silently. Oriabel came close and laid a hand on his arm. “You do nothing for her here. Go and comfort your children while we care for her.”
The tavern-keeper regarded her through tear-glazed eyes. “P… Please save her.”
“I will try.”
He left then with a last mournful look at his prostrate wife. Oriabel turned to the priest. “Ketrin Banks, perhaps a better place for prayer would be in the tavern with all of Lia’s family and friends. They need comfort and reassurance now.”
Ketrin glanced between her and Lia, his forehead creased with worry. “She must have the prayers for crossing over. She cannot find her way to the Odalay’s palace without them.”
“We are going to do our best to ensure neither she nor the child need those prayers tonight.” Oriabel held the door to the bedroom open for him. Ketrin nodded and left.
After he was gone, Oriabel turned on the midwife, her teeth gritted and angry heat spreading into her cheeks. “Agatha, pull yourself together and show me what herbs you’ve brought.”
Eyes still dazed, Agatha disengaged herself from the bed and went to stand near the small table where she’d laid out her implements and remedies. As soon as Oriabel drew close, her eyes hooked on a small vial of greenish-gold liquid. The label pasted on to the front read Angel Joy Root.
“Agatha, have you given this to Lia?” Oriabel demanded, snatching up the vial.
The midwife’s eyes widened. “She’s been havin’ some gloomy moods with this baby. It’s to lift her up a bit.”
“This thins the blood and does not allow it to clot properly. No wonder she’s hemorrhaging!”
Agatha’s black brows came down in a scowl. “Ridiculous! I’ve not given her anything harmful.”
Oriabel threw the vial down onto the table. “I don’t know where you learned herbology and I don’t care at this moment. I need muckweed from the pond by the green and I need it now.”
“Muckweed! What for?”
“Do you want me to give you a lesson or do you want to help me save this woman’s life?”
Agatha gaped at her for several moments, indignation making her face a hard mask. But Oriabel knew she was secretly relieved. If Lia died in Agatha’s care, the midwife’s reputation would suffer. Relief did not stop her from slamming the door behind her as she left, though.
Oriabel sighed and doused her hands with astringent to remove impurities then hurried to Lia. She placed one hand on Lia’s belly and one on the ooze of blood between the pregnant woman’s legs. Closing her eyes, she reached for her magic.
She increased the pressure of her hands, pushing her magic into Lia’s body to find the source of trouble. In her mind’s eye, she saw the baby trapped inside Lia’s contracting womb by a large growth at the entrance to the birth canal. The constant pressure of Lia’s pushing, no doubt encouraged by Dame Agatha, had caused the laboring mother to tear and hemorrhage. She could feel the tiny heartbeat of the child slowing, a sure sign of its distress.
Oriabel pulled back and removed her hands from Lia’s body. This would take a good deal of power to fix. I wish Jacind was here, she thought, not for the first time. A healing such as this carried a high risk of failure, and failure brought Oriabel closer to discovery. But Lia would die in the next few minutes if Oriabel did not act.
Spotting a large knife among Agatha’s implements, she retrieved it, then returned to the bed. Holding her arm above Lia’s belly, she cut a line on her forearm and allowed the blood to drip onto the reddened surface of Lia’s skin.
A rush of power blew through her as she made the sacrifice. She replaced her hands on the woman’s belly and between her legs, again questing for the source of trouble. First, Oriabel bundled her magic to plug the rupture. It was only a temporary fix, but it stopped the blood enough to allow her to move on to the growth. This she probed, trying to determine if it was something deadly. She detected no malignancy, only a hard, fibrous lump.
Pushing harder against the growth, she flattened it enough for the child to slip into the canal. Lia was too weak to push the baby the rest of the way and Oriabel bit her lip as she considered the options. She could cut the child out but doing so would kill Lia in her weakened state.
Oriabel went back to the implement table and searched through the bottles and packets until she found an oil made from willow bark. She slathered her hands with it. Positioning herself between Lia’s legs, Oriabel slid her fingers slowly into the unconscious woman, causing Lia to writhe and cry out in pain. Millie chose that moment to reenter the room holding a pile of linens and a steaming brass kettle. “Holy Odalay!” she exclaimed when she saw what Oriabel was doing.
“Hush and help me,” Oriabel grunted.
Millie put the linens on a chair and the kettle on the implement table before rushing forward, wringing her hands.
“Clean and oil your hands and then take my place here while I guide the baby out from the other end.”
Millie, with a hesitant nod, went to the table and scrubbed her hands with the pungent cleanser, then lubricated them with oil. She came back to the bed and knelt down beside Oriabel. “I can feel the baby’s head. Slide your hands in slowly and feel the crown.”
Millie nodded and did as she was told, though Oriabel saw the abject fear etched across her face. Oriabel moved onto the bed and put her bloodied hands on either side of Lia’s heaving belly. Again she reached for her magic. With it, she clasped the small body around the middle. Painstakingly, she inched the baby closer to Millie’s waiting hands. At long last, the baby crowned then slid completely from Lia’s body. Millie let out a soft cry as the small, purplish child came free. She immediately cleaned out the nose and puckered mouth, setting free a lusty cry. “It’s a girl!” Millie exclaimed over the bawling. “You saved her.”
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