Minis skidded around the corner, caught himself on a miniature statue of Anae, ran after the acolyte who had brought him the news and was brought up short by the Fenjitza who held up her hands and shook her head at him.
“No need to rush, my boy. Calm. Be calm. She’s fine, she’s walking with Farasha.”
“I want to be with her!” He managed to keep his voice down.
She shook her head. “I thought you wanted the old traditions restored? Gannara is standing the honour watch of husband, at Selinae’s feet.” She gestured down at the Temple floor. “The last Imperatrix gave birth in the Bedchamber and Greater Bath in the Marble Palace, with the Imperator-by-Conquest holding her in His arms.”
“I’m not waiting outside in the Traditional spot! Thank the Ten for Gannara! And there’s no baths here for her to ease herself! Narilla!”
“Calm down, Minis, breathe! Be still for her! I can give you an acolyte for your care but you cannot be her strength if you are flapping like this!” He stopped flatfooted and stared at her. He’d never heard her speak to him in that kind of voice of authority. Radas settled his muscular arm around his shoulders.
“Listen to the Voice of The Mothers, boy. Here, at this point…” He turned Minis partly away from Narilla, his arm weighty enough that Minis could feel supported and grounded. “…you need to listen to the women.”
Minis jittered in place, seized control of his breathing. “It needs to be right for her. I need to be here for her.” He settled back into himself as though preparing to train. “I’m all right, Radas. Thank you.”
“Good,” Narilla said and took him by the elbow. “Radas has said he’ll be there if you need him, Minis, but Ky doesn’t need you falling over.”
“I won’t.” He set his shoulders. “New tradition. If the Imperatrix is not in the safety of the Marble Palace then I reserve the right to support her.”
“Excellent.” The two Fenjitzae turned him to a hallway he’d never seen before.
“Where are we going?”
“You were concerned about a bath for birthing?” Narilla smiled, under her silver mask. “The Temple expanded considerably with the Highest Goddess moving next to Her Adored." The hallway was somehow created below the choir loft, tucked nearly invisibly behind the heads of the high Gods. It wasn’t the small bath and cascade that Minis and his husband and wives knew, There was an open place behind the statue to Selinae’s head where a basin like a small bath nestled in the Goddess’s hair, which spread out on either side to create the banister and balustrade on either side.
And there, Kyriala and Farasha and a dozen women priests stood or walked, slowly. Minis freed his arm from Narilla's and ducked away from Radas, going straight to his wives, taking them both in his arms. “I’m here and I’m going to do my best to help. Gan’s down in the honour spot. Ili is going to be in the second ring and I bet Amitzas will be in the third.”
Ky buried her face in his neck. “It’s still early, though not too early, Narilla says.”
“You’re strong, love,” he said into her and Farasha’s hair. “Both of you. It will be fine.”
Distantly the nosy chimes from the Marble Palace rang in the pattern that had been developed for Shefenkas and Niku. ‘Birthing,’ they rang. ‘The child comes.’
As the sweet notes rang across all of Arko, Ky caught her breath with a contraction, and in the City a low surf rumble began as people realized what the chimes meant and the women began to gather in the Plaza to keep vigil for their Imperatrix.
‘Birthing. The child comes.’