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Labors of Love, Part 2

Started by Evie, November 26, 2010, 11:46:47 AM

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Labors of Love

   Part Two—Deliverance

   August 15, 1133
   Rhemuth Castle Library

   "John, I need Bishop Duncan, and I need him now!"  Seisyll Arilan, his eyes frantic in a pale face, came charging through the secret entrance from the Library Annex and towards the librarian, seated at his desk in the Royal Library.  "Where would he be this time of day?  At the Basilica?"

   John Nivard looked up from the book he was mending, startled.  "I'm not entirely certain.  He's normally there at this time, but he mentioned something last night about having a meeting with the King sometime this afternoon regarding Schola business...."

   "Is Alaric Morgan in Rhemuth, then, or is he still in Corwyn?"

   A sick churning began in Father Nivard's gut as his instincts told him the reason for Seisyll Arilan's urgency.  If Arilan was seeking those two Deryni in particular, and in such haste, he had almost certainly come in search of a Healer, and not for some ordinary injury or ailment either, or his need would not be so desperate.  "It's Sophie, isn't it?  Her time's come?"  John rose, trying to recall what exactly Duncan had told him about his plans for the day when they'd parted the previous evening.  "Check with Kelson first; if Duncan's not in Council with him yet, the King can get a message delivered to him, or send out as many pages or squires as might be required to locate him if necessary.  I'll check the Basilica to see if he's still at the Schola or in his study.  Unless...."  The priest swallowed hard.  "How urgent is her need?  Does she need...should I head to Tre-Arilan instead?"  He prayed not; he could think of no reason he'd be required in the presence of a woman laboring in childbirth unless her condition were so grave she was in need of Extreme Unction.

   Seisyll's face looked haunted as he, too, pondered the implications of the question.  At last, tears shimmering in his eyes, he nodded abruptly.  "She's been in labor since yesterday morning, John, but the baby's in the wrong position, and the midwife's tried every trick she knows to shift him, but he won't budge, and now Sophie's losing strength and the midwife fears she'll be too exhausted to continue on much longer.  At this point, I'll take any help we can get."


   John tried to clear the panic from his mind long enough to focus on his destination.  Despite his long-time friendship with the Arilans, he had actually only visited Sir Seisyll's ancestral home twice, and the first time he'd gone there, bringing books to entertain Sophie and to nourish her soul while she recovered from Stefania's birth and settled into first-time motherhood, Duncan had been the one to bring him through the Transfer Portal.   He'd been allowed to learn its unique signature—an indicator of genuine trust among Deryni—but had only visited there on his own one other time, shortly after young Jamyl's birth, to attend his christening and the subsequent family celebration over a new Arilan heir.

   He took a deep steadying breath and searched his memory for the right location.  There!  Tightening his grip on the bag containing the elements of his priestly office, he turned his focus on that signature and jumped westward, reappearing a moment later at the Portal in Tre-Arilan.


   Sir Seisyll's steward looked briefly surprised to see him, but had evidently been prepared in advance for new arrivals.  He led the priest straight upstairs to the private wing of the manor house, where the family chambers were located.  The two stopped at a closed door, the steward holding a brief, whispered conference with the young chambermaid standing outside it.  She nodded, glancing wide-eyed at Father Nivard, then turned to enter the chamber.  A few moments later she opened the door again, motioning for the priest to come in, genuflecting as he entered the room.

   The midwife spotted him from across the room.  She looked startled.  "You're not the chaplain!"

   "Not the family's chaplain, no," Nivard said apologetically.  "I serve in the Chapel Royal in Rhemuth.  Sir Seisyll asked me to come on ahead while he goes to find Bishop McLain."

   "Father Anselmus has been abed, stricken with a catarrh, Mistress Nan, but he sent a message a short while ago that he would be up directly," the chambermaid explained nervously.  "But given Lady Sophie's distress, I thought mayhap any priest would suffice...."

   "Yes, yes, quite right, I simply wasn't expecting Laird Seisyll to be sending one over from Rhemuth!"  The midwife turned impatient eyes towards the priest.  "This way, then."

   He followed her through the smaller antechamber into a slightly larger room, this one with a large canopied bed as its central focus.   The patient, however, was not in bed but was on the other side of it, her slender form half sitting on a throne-like birthing stool with arms, half lolling against the back-rest.  Her eyes were closed.  To John's relief, she was still clothed, albeit only in a chemise, damp with her exertions, ruched up to expose bare legs and feet beneath the stained hemline.  Sweat-slicked hair was braided back and out of her face, which had an unnatural pallor.   He moved closer, reached out a tentative hand to clasp hers.  It was limp and cold to the touch, but not—praise God!—the unresponsive coldness of death.  But upon touching her, he realized that Sophie was not merely resting or even asleep, but had lapsed into unconsciousness.

   A movement stirred under the damp linen that lay across her abdomen.  With a start, the priest realized it was the unborn infant, moving in his mother's womb.  Or was it perhaps another contraction?   John felt completely out of his element here, in this chamber of women's mysteries, and utterly helpless.

   Well, maybe not utterly.  There was one thing he could still do for this woman who had become as dear to him as a cherished younger sister.  Perhaps, if he were truly honest with himself, even more dear.

   He looked up at the midwife.  "Has she been unconscious long?"

   She shook her head.  "No, Father.  She lost her strength just before you arrived.  Poor little bird; perhaps it's best so.  She fought so hard to bring this child into the world."  Her eyes glistened with tears.  "There might still be hope for the baby even if she doesn't pull through, but she needs the Last Rites first."

   He had come prepared for this, ready to give the Sacrament of Extreme Unction if needed, yet now that the moment was at hand, he knew he was not yet emotionally ready.  And yet it must be done.  He reminded himself that Extreme Unction was not a death knell, that even at this point, some patients made a full recovery by the grace of God.

   Sophie was not conscious, so he could not administer the Viaticum.  He felt a wistful sadness on her behalf, knowing she would have wanted to partake of the blessed Host one final time.  He could, however, offer her absolution for any sins she'd not had a chance to confess, and anoint her with the Oleum Infirmorum.

   Her pulse still beat beneath his fingertips, if only weakly.  Father Nivard turned towards the midwife once again.

   "If I could awaken her, lend her some extra strength for her labors, would that help?"  He wondered how much he knew of the Arilan family, of their Deryni heritage.  She must suspect something; surely she'd have worked out that he could not have been fetched back here from Rhemuth so quickly had there not been arcane means of travel at hand.  Tre-Arilan was near to Rhemuth, but not so near that he could have been summoned and sent back within mere minutes on horseback.

   "You're not the Healer the Laird's gone back for, are you?"  The midwife looked puzzled.  "If you can turn the baby inside her first, then certainly it would help if she were awake and strong enough to push, but if you can't...."  She shrugged.  "Perhaps it's more merciful this way.  Her water broke hours ago, and there's little left to cushion the baby within her with each contraction now, and he's a large tyke for her small frame, and wedged in sideways.  I can feel how he has to be turned, but nothing we've tried has worked to shift him, and now...."  She shook her head.  "Mayhap it's simply not God's will."

   Mayhap, but John wasn't ready to accept that yet.  Still, he had to prepare for the possibility, for Sophie's sake.  He reached into his traveling kit for the vial of holy water.


   "Bishop McLain, the King says Sir Seisyll Arilan's lady has most urgent need of your healing gifts!  You're to go at once."  The boy in Haldane livery leaned against the doorway to Duncan's study, catching his breath.  He had run the full distance to St. Hilary's at the King's command not to tarry in his mission.

   "Are they here, or is she at Tre-Arilan?"  

   "Tre-Arilan, His Majesty said, my lord bishop."

   Duncan nodded.  "Please let His Majesty and Sir Seisyll know I'll head straight there.  Seisyll needn't wait on me."

   "Yes, my lord.  Shall I stop by the stables on the way and have your horse made ready?"

   The Deryni Healer shook his head absently.  "That won't be necessary."


   Bishop Duncan arrived to find John Nivard anointing Sophie's eyelids with oil, offering her the sacrament of unction. "Per istam sanctam Unctiónem et suam piisimam misericórdiam, indúlgeat tibi Dóminus quidquid per visum...." His eyes sought the midwife's.  "Is she--?" he started to whisper.

   "Unconscious, but she still lives," she whispered back.  She gave him a brief summation of the situation as they watched the younger priest at his work.

   Duncan nodded, staying back to allow Nivard to continue administering the sacrament, anointing her at ears, nostrils, lips, hands, and feet while repeating the traditional words over each, his mind translating the comforting rite automatically.  "By this holy unction and His own most gracious mercy, may the Lord pardon you whatever sin you have committed by seeing...," the words repeated for each of her senses and physical faculties.  John looked up as he finished anointing Sophie's feet, hope lighting up his eyes as he saw Duncan standing nearby.  He paused, unsure whether to continue on with the ritual or not, waiting for the bishop to decide.

   The bishop stepped forward, taking Sophie's limp wrist in his hand to check her pulse.  "You can stop there for now, John.  We can resume later, if it becomes necessary."  Duncan firmly ordered himself to focus strictly on the moment, not to let his mind wander to that frightening possibility.  He counted the faint beats beneath his fingertips, at last nodding to himself and looking back up at his fellow priest.  "I'll need your help with this.  Can you keep Sophie stabilized while I see what's going on with my godson?"  As he spoke, he laid a gentle hand on the mound of Sophie's abdomen, casting out with his Deryni senses to assure himself that the baby still lived.  The smooth muscles beneath his hand contracted even as he detected the boy's life energy and a small bit of movement.

   "I can do that," John affirmed, glad to be given something more to do than simply await the Angel of Death.

   The door behind Duncan opened, admitting Seisyll, who nodded at both priests grim-faced, walking over to lend assistance in whatever way he might be needed.  John silently indicated that he should stand behind Sophie, on the opposite side from himself, so they could draw on his energy if needed.  The midwife spoke quietly to Duncan, explaining how the baby was turned in Sophie's womb, how he needed to be positioned in order to make a proper exit from the birth canal.   The Healer nodded, deft hands and Deryni senses swiftly feeling out the situation even as she spoke, assessing what needed to be done to save the lives of both the young mother and her unborn son.  He realized as he considered the problem at hand that this was perhaps less a situation for true Healing power than for a lock-pick, at this point at least, though if further complications arose, his Healing abilities might still be needed.  He turned his concentration to moving the baby, mentally sharing with Seisyll what he intended to do and drawing on his assistance.  Slowly, the unborn child began to turn, only with great difficulty at first, but then more easily, the small head moving downwards and the baby's body rotated so he would be facing the right direction for birth.  The midwife bent to touch Sophie's abdomen in awe.

   "Mind the cord, my lord bishop!  If you can, try to make sure it's not wrapped around the baby's neck."

   Duncan paused in his ministrations, focused on sensing what he could about the baby's current position.  To his relief, the cord did not seem to be in a position to strangle the boy as he was being born, but he could only dimly visualize what was happening inside Sophie, so he could not be fully certain.  If he was wrong, little John Denis might be born only to die before he could draw his first breath.  But at least now there was a far greater chance of saving Sophie.

   He looked at the still face of the woman who had become like a daughter to him.  No, he could not think of her as such right now.   To do so would be to allow fear to take hold over him, and he couldn't afford that luxury.  He couldn't imagine how difficult this ordeal must be for her husband.  Had Maryse suffered so, giving birth to Dhugal?  No, that was another thought he couldn't allow himself to ponder just now.

   He looked up at Seisyll and John.  "All right.  John, wake her first, then it would probably be best if you let yourself out.  The room's getting a bit crowded, and Sophie might have trouble keeping her mind on what she needs to do if we're all hovering over her."  He spared his friend a brief, sympathetic smile.  "Seisyll, lend her your strength once she comes around."

   A moment passed, then Sophie stirred, moaning softly as another contraction racked her body.  Duncan spoke softly.  "Sophie, sweeting, we need you to push.  Draw on Seisyll's strength and let's finish this, shall we?"

   Her greenish-gold eyes fluttered open.  "Father?" she whispered, confused.

   "Father Duncan, yes," the bishop answered with a faint smile.

   Her eyes focused, meeting his gaze.  "But...what are you doing....?"

   "Never mind that now, heart.  We need to get my godson born first.  Don't get distracted."  

   Seisyll brushed a stray wisp of hair out of his wife's face.  "We can probably take it from here.  Thank you, Duncan."

   The Healer nodded.  "I'll be just outside the door should you need me."


   As it turned out, they did need Duncan's Healing gift after all.

   The door opened shortly after Duncan's exit, revealing an ashen-faced Seisyll.  "He's just been born," his godson's father informed him, "but he's not breathing and the midwife can't detect a pulse."

   Duncan re-entered, finding the midwife bent over the baby, her finger scooping out his mouth to ensure there were no traces of mucus or meconium inside that might be impeding his breathing.  She laid her fingers on the tiny chest again.  Even as he crossed to her side, Duncan could see that the infant was blue from lack of air.

   The midwife tried blowing the breath of life into his tiny nostrils and mouth, but to no avail.  The small chest rose and fell once, but did not continue to do so on its own.

   Duncan reached out with his mind, sensing the still heart within the infant's chest.  It was so simple a thing, really, for a Deryni to stop a heart.   Any Deryni could do it, once he knew how.  And yet, it was so hard a thing to start one beating again.

   Hard, perhaps, but not outside a Deryni healer's scope, if done swiftly enough, before that point of no return beyond which no Healer, no matter how skilled, could bring back a life.  Duncan reached deep within his godson with his mind, stirring the tiny organ into life once more, feeling as he always did when exercising his Healing gifts that subtle presence of the Deryni saint alongside him as he did so.  The midwife blew into the baby's nose and mouth again, and this time he inhaled, drawing the breath of life into his lungs sharply, his body finally taking up the rhythms that make life possible.  His skin lost its bluish tinge, taking on healthier color.  Duncan laid a hand upon his brow and offered up a silent prayer of thanksgiving to Saint Camber and to the God of miracles.


   Father Anselmus, the chaplain for Tre-Arilan, rushed up the stairs, finally arriving at his dying Lady's bedchamber.  He was bewildered to find her sponged clean and in a fresh nightshift, lying in bed tired but in seemingly good health, cradling her infant son in her arms.

Chapter Three:
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Gasp, choke.  That was...suspenseful! :)
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)


"Picking locks"?  LOL.  Who'd have thought a youth spent with his nefarious cousin would prove so useful to Duncan when Healing?   ;)

Glad Sophie and JD are both OK.  Interesting analogy between 'stopping' a heart with magic, and starting one again, with all the memories that would have for Duncan. 


Whew!!  You must give thanks (pun intended) for that safe delivery!!
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!


Heh. I almost posted this chapter on Thanksgiving Day, but I was afraid everyone would be too busy stuffing their faces to read it.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Quote from: Alkari on November 26, 2010, 03:03:05 PM
"Picking locks"?  LOL.  Who'd have thought a youth spent with his nefarious cousin would prove so useful to Duncan when Healing?   ;)

Oh, even hanging around Alaric as an adult can be 'educational'!  I seem to recall the lock-picking ability being useful at St. Torin's, and when retaking Coroth Castle from Warin and Loris as well....   :D

QuoteGlad Sophie and JD are both OK.  Interesting analogy between 'stopping' a heart with magic, and starting one again, with all the memories that would have for Duncan. 

I was hoping someone would pick up on that.   :)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Anent the analogy between stopping a heart and starting one, there is often a very small distinction even in conventional Western medicine between a drug and a poison.

I have a poster showing all the striking points for karate.  I once took an acupuncture textbook and compared the chart of the therapeutic points.  There were a remarkable number of correspondences.


And in aromatherapy, small amounts of lavender oil is used to calm and soothe, but using too much makes a person wired! 

I had noticed the heart stopping thing too, but missed the boat on commenting. 

Poor John, besotted by someone who is forbidden to him in more than one way.