One woman paused and then giggled while another slipped a cold hand between Bronach's legs exclaiming with glee when she felt something there.
Brigit listened carefully to the women. Their guttural chatter was not unfamiliar yet it was just that. She started to pick up some of their meanings and was shocked by what she heard. One thought they should tie Bronach Sloane's legs together so she would not birth before midnight because at Samhain, she explained to the others, was very bad luck. The second argued she was going to die anyway. The third wanted to carry her through the flames!
Dubthach appeared to notice a familiar word now and then, looking up, startled when he did so. He glared at the midwives who paid him no mind, and anxiously muttered to himself, one arm tucked protectively around his wife's shoulders. It was clear that if the women from Albion thought they could take Bronach Sloane from him, they would not do it easily. Bronach Sloane's gaze darted from side to side,taking in the exchange, but then settled on Brigit. "Her," she managed to squeak out before another pain gripped her hard.
"Bridie?" Dubthach said. "You want Bridie?" He looked up at his daughter, pleading.
"Me?! But I've never—I don't know what to do," she said helpless but then saw the desperation in her father's eyes, and nodded.
"Please, Bridie," Dubthach said. "The child will deliver itself after all."
Brigit was speechless. The look on her father's face made her break out in a cold sweat. She had never assisted at a birth in her life, not even when it was a beast. What if Bronach Sloane died? What if they both died? Would Dubthach forgive her for not saving them? Could she forgive herself if that happened? If only Calatin was here but he wasn't, and they were so far from the Sun Palace, that even if she sent a courier, the midwife wouldn't arrive in time.
Brigit glanced back over her shoulder but it was impossible to turn around. There were at least fifty women behind her, elbowing to get close, the nearest ones smelling of mushrooms and wild garlic, dead leaves and burnt oak. She stood on her toes, trying to see a way through, then had an idea. "Nera," she called. "Nera, where are you? I need you to get me through this mob."
A tiny red head bopped up inside the crowd. People squirmed and poked each other and someone uttered an obscenity. Still no one seemed to move out of the way. Suddenly Nera made a ghastly strangled noise followed by shouting she meant to be sick. The crowd shifted to the right, clearing a small path.
Seeing her escape, Brigit ran past and toward the fire; it swallowed up the dark, a blanket of orange and red silk stretching toward the clouds.
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