My head aches. I don’t feel right. It feels stuffy and my nose keeps dripping and if Minis pats my arm one more time and asks if I’m all right, I’m going to scream at him.
Kyriala sat on the Presentation Balcony, hands folded in her lap, watching the Challenge Standards being set. Then she snapped her fan open with a crack. The crowd noise and the heat billowed around her like a gigantic dog panting its enthusiastic breath into her face.
Farasha and Gannara are both down at Grass Lane with their parents. Her fan waved slowly and she looked over at her mother, sitting and smiling knowingly. “Have a bit more juice, lovey,” she said. “Are you hungry?”
“I’ve had enough juice to float a quinquereme!” she snapped, but the crowd’s roar drowned her out. “I’m craving… something… fish?” Minis looked over, leaned and put his hand out. “DON’T pat me, Minis!” She snarled.
He recoiled, looking confused. “Are you—“
“—I’m FINE.” She rose, smile on her face for the crowd. “I’m going to the Lesser Baths. It will be cool and QUIET!” As she stepped down and paced down the hallway she heard her mother say,
“It’s all right, dear. She just needs a moment to herself.”
Dear? My mother calling Minis ‘dear’ as if he’s Nuninibas? And why is it always about HIM? I’m the one carrying. I’m the one that’s going to be big as a Duli and have the danger of birthing and OH, Ten protect me, Selinae, Mother, Anae and Risae, Midwives, why did I read that book about what can happen if an easement of purification isn’t done well enough? Why did I read that book about all that can go wrong with a pregnancy? Akminchaer took the book right out of my hands and said that in normal births these disasters are less than 1 in a hundred thousand and he and Narilla and Midwife Tesha all have said that so far everything is fine, but I worry.
I’m going to be huge and Inensa told me that Aan babies tend to be a bit bigger but that everything should be fine. I’m not at the stage of feeling any kind of motion as of yet but there is something there. Inside me. I’m different. This child…
She sat down at the bench under Selinae Victorious. She needed to get out of this gown and into a bathing gown. The small tiara wound into her hair suddenly felt too heavy for her head and she sank her face into her gloves, fan clicking against her forearms from its loop. This child… a jumble of children’s faces, all blond, the Aan and Liren blonds, Minis’s eyes in their faces… a tray was wheeled up at her elbow and the foodtaster’s wife said “It is safe, Reflection of the Light.”
This child that I carry. Minis and my child will be born and grow up and then one day… die. She found herself sobbing into her gloves, mourning the death, one day, of this yet unborn child.
This is madness. Breeding madness. I will never see that death if all goes as it should. I shall have gone to the Summoner’s claws long before. Why is this so… Fiercely she wiped her face dry. “Thank you, Arasha,” she said, suddenly ravenous. The chef had made tiny fish toasts with butter, creamed hearts of palm, that she loved and shaved barbequed beef roses on egg rounds and puff pastry. Everything small and easy to eat and what she’d been craving the past few days. “There will be lemon ice coming,” Arasha said.
“Thank you.” The Lesser Bath would be cool and quiet. All the Challenge participants would be in the Greater Baths, talking and soaking bruises. It would get wilder once those striving for the positions began. That would be tomorrow. None of the Challengers were allowed to see the Standard races and would be brought into the City from the Rim camp in their groups, tomorrow.
At least her headache had subsided. She sniffed and set the half-eaten toast down. “I wasn’t as hungry as I thought, but I’d still like it there to nibble on.”
“Of course, Reflection. We’ll just bring it along.”