Once he had left, Adelane closed the door and poured the fresh water into the wash basin. Rane’s hair stuck to the sides of her face and neck, and Adelane did her best to brush it back. She dipped the cloth and wrung out the excess, humming a lullaby as she dabbed and wiped her daughter’s fevered skin. Rane had always been fond of music and singing, and Adelane sang the songs Rane had favored as a little girl.
She wiped Rane’s upper chest and shoulders where the wide scoop neck of her light-blue sleeping gown allowed it. Then she lifted the hem and washed the girl’s legs, disturbed by how warm she was. Even her feet were hot. The family used to tease her about her cold feet. “Dunk them in water and make us some ice,” Caden would say. Adelane put her hand around Rane’s foot and shook her head. The fever was rising.
She continued to wash Rane, all the while singing softly and occasionally wiping a tear from her own cheek.
First Mama falls ill, and now Rane. What have I done to anger you, Moghoz?
Guilt settled upon her shoulders. Her mother was ill—dying—but Adelane couldn’t leave Rane’s side now to see her. Perhaps later in the day if Rane’s fever broke, she could spare a few minutes to look in on her mother.
She lifted Rane’s sleeping gown, which had grown dark with sweat. There on her abdomen was a strange mark, black as coal, like a rope had branded a coil around her middle. One end was tapered, and the other was the shape of a spade.
Like the tail of a dragon.
Adelane shot to her feet and screamed at the top of her lungs. She didn’t remember when she stopped screaming, only that when Deshic and Caden ran into the room, followed by Harlis, all she could do was point at Rane’s defiled body with one quivering hand.
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