Lady Blackthorn’s moans of pain reached her, as she opened the door. The sound of her friend’s distress spurred the queen on, even as the pain in her own body roared.
“Is it very bad?” The queen brushed her friend’s damp hair from her forehead.
“Yes,” Iris’s eyes were wild with fear.” I have taken the herbs prescribed, but they did not work.”
“We will form a healing circle,” the queen gestured to her ladies.
They joined hands and in the ancient language of their people, called on the spirits for help. The fire within Lady Blackthorn began to recede and her breathing slowed, as the magic did its work.
“You should get some relief now,” the queen sat on the bed beside her. “I will stay with you a while, but I fear it may not be long as my own pains have started.”
“Majesty!” One of the women exclaimed.
“I am quite all right at the moment,” the queen brushed aside her worries. “I will call when I need your help. Now, run along and let us have a moment alone.”
When they left, the queen turned to her friend and asked.
“Has your husband spoken to you about the changelings?”
“I have thought of little else,” Iris gasped, as another pain tore through her body.
“What are we to do?” The queen asked. “My heart aches so; I feel that I have already lost my child.”
“My dear, we have known each other a lifetime, and we know what is in one another’s hearts,” A silent tear slid down Iris’s cheek.
“How can we bear it?” The queen’s tears joined with those of her friend.
“We have no choice. You are the queen and must lead by example. I am your friend, and I will not let you suffer alone.”
Those waiting in the hallway felt their hearts grow cold as the sound of the women’s sobbing reached them. It is unusual for elfin women to cry, and the sound signalled that something terrible was about to happen, but what it might be, they had no idea.
The wise women moved swiftly through the mortal world. There are no physical barriers for the elfin, and they can move through walls and solid structure as they wish. How many mortals have sensed their touch as they passed and shrugged it off as nothing, but a slight draught? The elfin also have the power to shape-shift and can take the form of animals such as deer and hares. The wise woman had no need to resort to such lengths and allowed the wind to carry them from place to place. The children Galten foretold of lived at opposite ends of the country and rather than split up, they decided to travel together. All wanted to be the first to see the children who would save their people.
Alice Wilson sank into the wheelchair the nurse held and sighed with relief.
“I’ll take it from here,” the nurse assured her husband, John, who carried a suitcase and an assortment of bags.
Alice was relieved, now she was in the safety of the hospital and she relaxed as the elevator doors opened and she was steered towards the labour ward. She looked at the small group of women who stood watching as she passed. There was something odd about them, not frightening, but nevertheless strange.
Like Alice, Mary Dawson relaxed when she reached the hospital and she beamed as they passed the three, strangely dressed women in the foyer.
“Good morning,” one of them said.
“Good morning,” Mary beamed at them.
Her husband, following behind, wondered who she was talking too. He said nothing and thought it best not to ask.
By nightfall there were four new babies. To Alice and John Wilson, a daughter they named Juliet and whose red hair was the talk of the ward. To Mary and Bob Dawson, a son, Corey with pale skin and hair whiter than snow. At Bargamore the elves gathered at the castle and cheered when the announcement was read out that the queen had given birth to a daughter. Amber showed the signs of mortal blood from past generations in her fiery red hair. Lord and Lady Blackthorn had a son, Sabba, with the same pale colouring as his parents. In those first few minutes of life the fate of the four children, both elf and mortal, was bound together for forever.