Anno Luminaris(A.L.) 3010 – City of Lumon
The midwife’s face was pinched, her pupils dilated into black pools, stark against the pallor of her cheeks. She handed him the small bundle and Armedion wrenched his gaze away from hers. He looked down and, with his finger, drew aside the shawl. The baby gurgled and waved a bronze fist in front of its golden face.
Armedion caught his breath. A bronzite! He swallowed back his nausea. It couldn’t be. He thrust the baby into her arms and walked away. From the bedroom next door, his wife cried out for her child, and he slammed his fist into the wall. It was her fault this had happened; she must have betrayed him. A vein in his temple throbbed as he paced the floor. His grief threatened to overwhelm him – the son they had wanted so much, finally a brother for Davron.
The midwife’s voice broke through his pain. “I feared this might happen, sir.”
He rounded on her. Through earlier births she had been a source of strength, for Ellana and for him. Compassion shone from the dark eyes and wrinkled face. He brushed it aside with a chop of his hand.
“You what? If you thought it was going to happen, why didn’t you say something?”
She stood her ground. “You’ll not blame Ellana, sir. Us birth mothers, we’ve seen it, again and again, more and more bronzites being born.”
“Not in the Old Families they aren’t. They can’t be.”
But he knew she was right. Ellana hadn’t been unfaithful; it was unthinkable. All the same, she had to be the guilty one. It certainly wasn’t him – of that he was sure. He sank onto the couch and buried his head in his hands. A new fear assailed him: Ellana would not let the baby go. She mustn’t find out; better she think it had died. It almost broke his heart. He must act quickly, before he couldn’t bear to do so.
“You’re sure she didn’t see him?” he said.
“I’m sure. The birth exhausted her. She didn’t have the strength to raise her head. The maid’s with her, but I can’t leave her for long.”
“We must keep him from her.”
He looked around the room but found no answers in the familiar surroundings of Ellana’s boudoir. Everything spoke of his wife’s presence: the delicate scent of her perfume, the pinks and greys of the furnishings, even the flowers on her dressing table. Dust motes swirled in the sunlight and, beneath his linen tunic, a drizzle of sweat felt damp against his skin. A snort of nervous laughter escaped his lips. What was he doing? Did he mean to hide the bronzite, here in this room? Of course not. He shook his head, disgusted by his indecision.
He had to convince her. “Don’t you see, if people find out, there’ll be panic?” He shuddered at the idea; a bronzite born to a Berates, a bronzite in one of the founding families. The Berates had protected the blood stock down through the centuries. Such was their charge. That they should now contaminate it, that he should contaminate it, was unbearable.
“You must get rid of him,” he said.
The look she gave him rekindled his anger. What right had she to judge him? He raised his hand, but dropped it again, ashamed.
“I won’t kill ‘im for you.” For a moment she held his gaze. He glared back at her, until she averted her face and stroked the baby’s cheek with her finger. “I have a niece who gave birth recently. The child’s sickly, my niece has too much milk. She’ll nurse him for you.”
“No one else must find out. How can I trust you to keep quiet?”
She hugged the boy to her body, cradling his head in the hollow of her shoulder. “I won’t say anything to put his life in danger, sir.” Her eyes met his. “But you must tell your wife. Ellana’s a good woman. She doesn’t deserve this.”
“No, Ellana must never know. As far as she’s concerned, the baby was poorly. You did what you could.”
“Are you sure?” No ‘sir’ this time. “She’s strong. It may be hard, but she’ll cope. Whatever he is, she’ll love him.”
“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it – just do what I say. I’ll reward you well for your silence.” He swallowed painfully. The child couldn’t stay in Lumon; it was too dangerous. Someone was bound to find out.
“When he’s weaned, put him in one of the Exile Carts,” he said.
She sniffed and her mouth crinkled at the corners in disapproval. “At least give him a name, before you abandon him.”
“Don’t you dare look down your nose at me, woman.”
Her lips parted, but nothing came out. With one hand she kneaded her apron. “No, sir, but he must have a name.”
He stared at her, mind in denial. Noises permeated from the courtyard below and he glanced through the open window. A farrier was shooing his horse. “That man there, what’s his name?”
“That’s Rewan, sir, blacksmith from the village.”
“That’ll do, call him Rewan. Now leave me, I must talk to my wife.” He took a deep breath, steeled his courage and strode from the room.
The midwife watched him go and held the baby protectively. “I told him I won’t have your death on my hands, little one, and I won’t.” The baby whimpered, as if he understood.