Terin didn’t mind the chance to relax and play a bit more than usual, though he still didn’t completely neglect his chores. He had mixed feelings about the new sibling—for a Fayl’Idayn he actually made a rather young brother as women could only become pregnant about once every ten years. Many couples who yearned for more children would put that off until the previous child was around twenty, so that they could devote their energies to one at a time. Not his mother, though. Iloysia loved children and wanted an abnormally large family. His father, Firion, went along with her wishes, though Terin remembered seeing him balk when Iloysia mentioned that she might like to try for a third the next time her cycle came around. They were quite a young couple, and Terin was their first born. On one hand, he was intrigued by the prospect of a younger sibling, and felt a sense of responsibility by his position as the eldest, but on the other, he was reluctant to relinquish his position as the only child. Though, at this point, he realized that there was nothing to be done. Soon enough he would have a little brother or sister, but he didn’t realize just how soon that would be...
Slowly, scratching his bare chest, the Fayl’Idayn boy swung his legs off the side of his bed, then gave a shiver at the morning chill. He pulled his blanket over his shoulders, then shuffled across the solid wood floors of his room to the depressions in his smooth wood walls that served as cubbyholes. The whole home was grown from a tree to suit the family’s needs. Terin’s room had a rounded form to it, though the floor was at least flat. His bed’s frame was grown from the wall, a mattress of linen stuffed with down-like seed fibers of cattails laid on top of it. The cubbyholes were a part of the entire structure as well. The union between Fayl’Idayn and fae allowed for this; individuals wishing to grow a home would make a contract with the faeries of the tree, whom in turn would encourage the tree to grow a gall-like structure in which the Fayl’Idayn family could live. The homes rose high off the ground, climbing higher and higher as the tree grew, but a spiraling staircase always remained around the trunk to reach the ground, as well as a series of catwalks and bridges between each building of the Fayl’Idayn village.
Terin took the last clean tunic from the cubbyhole where he kept them, and pulled it on over his head. It was dingy green and cotton, trimmed with yellow embroidery. His mother made it, along with all his clothing, but it looked like it was time for him to take his wardrobe down to the creek and wash it himself. The boy glanced sourly to the pile of dirty clothing gathering in a corner of his room. Before he could change from his loose sleep pants to a clean pair of breeches, hurried footsteps echoed down the hall, coming to his room, and his father flung back the curtain that hung over Terin’s doorway. He hadn’t even changed out of his own nightshirt and pants and his golden blond hair, falling just beyond his shoulders, was mussed from sleep. Despite this, Firion was alert; his ears perked high, his body tense, and blue-gray eyes wide. “Your mother is going into labor!” he gasped. “Quick, go fetch the midwife!”
Terin stared blankly at his father for a moment, wondering why he was the one assigned this task. He of course knew where to find their midwife; she was a member of the Odoco clan of Ochae’nafod that lived below on the forest floor, but he barely had any dealings with her—at least, not since he was born, and he certainly couldn’t remember any of that. However, he realized that he was probably better off being the one to find the midwife rather than sitting awkwardly at his mother’s bedside while she labored away. With the briefest of nods to his father, Terin darted by him, Firion stepping out of the way just in time to let the boy through before following Terin down the hall. At the entry to the kitchen, Terin shot left, while Firion went right, climbing the stairs to the second level of their home where he and his wife slept.
Terin dashed out the door, across the deck, and snatched a rope hanging from a branch over head. It swung under his weight, and he scurried down it. IT was quicker than the stairs that wound around the trunk of the tree. Once he hit the ground, he paused to catch his breath. He wasn’t ready for such exertion first thing in the morning, before breakfast even! A second later, he was off again, heading toward the thicket where the Odoco clan made their home, tearing through the forest duff with bare feet.
The thicket was not far at all. While the Fayl’Idayn kindly asked trees to bend to their whim to provide them homes, the Ochae’nafod did the same to the plants on the ground. Often, this was to serve as camouflage, but as this particular community was safe living alongside the Fayl’Idayn, they were not so concerned with hiding. Instead, a graceful arch of berry brambles marked the entrance to their own little community, which was only about ten individuals strong, each on with their own small home of soil and brambles.
As Terin hurried in, the slim and graceful people living within spared curious glances for the boy. They all looked rather similar, all with brown hair, though they did vary somewhat with shade, and large, expressive brown eyes. Though they were rather akin in looks to Fayl’Idayn with their long, tapered ears, fair skin, and lean bodies, their facial features were vaguely reminiscent of deer, the animal which they were bound to and could shape-shift into. It took Terin a good minute to identify their midwife, but she noticed him first.
“Young Terin?” the Odoco woman inquired, gracefully striding toward him on long legs, bared by the split skirt of her off-white robes. “Is your mother ready to deliver?” she asked calmly. Terin looked up at the midwife and nodded eagerly. “HOLONE!” the midwife shouted toward her small home. “Fetch my kit!”
A doe-eyed girl’s head peeked out of the low-laying hut, then ducked back inside. A moment later, the girl re-emerged with a rough flax satchel slung across her narrow shoulders. Holone was almost two years older than Terin. They played on occasion, but she didn’t play as rough as the Fayl’Idayn boy. He liked her though, she was always so gentle and graceful, and a good friend to talk to.
The young Fayl’Idayn turned on his heel and jogged back toward his home, the Odoco midwife and her daughter following behind him with long strides. Lillia, the midwife, was a bit taller than his mother, though not quite as tall as his father, but when he was alone with her, her lean frame and lanky limbs made her feel much taller than she really was.
“How long has your mother been laboring?” the midwife inquired as they continued toward the stairs.
“I dunno,” Terin said with a shrug. His lack of insight seemed to have told the midwife enough, as she asked no further questions.
At the stairs, Terin opted for a slower pace, walking instead of running. It would be even worse to climb the stairs at a run. While they climbed, a cry echoed distantly from the home above, giving Terin a momentary fright. “Do not fear,” the midwife soothed from behind him. Terin glanced back to see a serene smile on her doe-like face. “Birth can be painful, but I will let no harm befall your mother.”
Terin responded with a silent nod, but increased his pace. The sooner the midwife could be there with the Ochae’nafod healing powers, the sooner he would feel assuaged about his mother’s well-being.
Finally, they reached the patio and Terin let the midwife into the kitchen. She listened for a moment to the sound of Iloysia laboring upstairs—not quite as loudly as they had heard down the trunk—she went directly to Firion and Iloysia’s room. She had been to their home many times and knew her way around. Terin, curiously, followed her upstairs a few steps behind.
Iloysia’s whimpers and gasps could be heard more clearly as they reached the bedroom, which the midwife let herself into.
“Oh, thank Entra you’re here, Lillia!” Firion greeted the midwife anxiously. “Her water has broken. I think it will be soon.” As Lillia the midwife entered, Terin let his curiosity get the best of him and peeked behind the curtain hanging over his parent’s doorway.
“Well, let’s hope that it will be,” Lillia said reassuringly to Firion while she sat on the bed beside Iloysia. “Second children always come easier than the first. Do you feel the need to push yet?”
Terin wondered momentarily if his own birth had been hard on his mother. Apparently not too hard, as she was quite eager to go through it again.
“No,” Iloysia’s response to the midwife came raggedly.
Terin watched Lillia’s brown hair bob with a nod while the midwife drew back the blankets. “Holone, my bag,” she ordered her daughter, who obeyed. Just then, she caught Terin peeking. “Firion, please send the boy away. Holone, join him.”
The boy? Is that what I’m reduced to? Terin wondered bitterly, his fears of the new baby taking his place in the family rearing their heads. As asked, his father moved to the doorway. “Terin, please go downstairs and fix some breakfast for you and Holone, hmm? I know you’re curious, but there’s no need to see your mother in this condition.”
Terin glanced up at Firion, somewhat disappointed, but relieved as well. “Yes, father,” he replied meekly.
Firion laid his hand on Terin’s shoulder, offering him a small smile. “Don’t worry, mother will be fine, Lillia takes good care of her.”
With a nod, Terin turned away, then scuffed downstairs to the kitchen. Holone followed silently and seated herself at the table while Terin dutifully went about collecting biscuits and jam from the cupboard and prepared two servings—one for him, and one for Holone. However, with the sounds of labor upstairs, he barely felt interested in the food.
He set a pottery plate on the table in front of Holone, then sat down across from her. His eyes were on the stairs the whole time. Holone began to eat, unconcerned with the sounds. “Your mother will be fine,” she tried to assure Terin after her first bite. His worry was hard to ignore. “Mama can heal her if anything goes wrong. She said Iloysia has big hips too, should make it easier!”
Terin’s eyes finally wandered back to the Odoco girl. She was talking about his mother’s hips so casually and he stared at her with wide-eyes. Holone blushed. “Sorry, mama has been training me to be a midwife too,” she said. “I forget that people don’t usually talk about having babies over breakfast.” She gave him a sweet smile.
Terin looked down at his jam-smeared, uneaten biscuit. “It’s fine. I’m just…” Terin was at a loss for words. “It’s weird. I can’t help being a little scared.”
Holone shrugged. “This is the way life starts,” she offered. “You’ll see. Maybe one day I’ll be delivering your baby!” she said with a smile.
A final, hearty cry rose from his mother upstairs, but it didn’t sound as painful as before. A moment later, a small, shrill cry followed. Terin looked to Holone, his blue eyes wide. The Odoco girl grinned. “Congrats, big brother!” she cheered.