Briana’s story




     The midwife crouched between her patient’s legs; ready to help facilitate the passage of the infant. She had a worried look upon her face, for the mother had been having a very difficult time with the birth, the contractions unusually painful, the process having been drawn out for many hours now.

     Drops of sweat formed upon the woman’s brow, running down into her now-sodden hair as she strained with the effort of bringing this child into the world. She had ceased to feel the pain, for her body was numb after so long in labor.

     The contractions slowed, yet she knew that it was time for the baby to come, and now she began to worry even more that something was terribly wrong.


     The midwife was concerned as well, but went to great lengths to conceal her uneasiness from her patient. Hard births were not uncommon, but this one had been difficult from the onset of the pregnancy.

     She stood up and dampened a rag, reaching up and mopping Carina’s forehead. “Easy now, luv,” she encouraged. “Give it time, some are always worse than others.”

     “I know, Lara…” Carina moaned as yet another contraction wracked her body. “But I do not think this one truly wants to be born!”

    Lara was certain that something was wrong now, for it had been far too long since the pains had begun. She also knew there was only one person who would be able to help… and this certain someone was not likely to get a warm welcome in this village.

     She turned from the bedside and quickly left the bedroom, going outside to where Carina’s husband Thomas paced nervously as he awaited news from within.

     “Thomas, there are problems with the child.” Lara saw no point in being anything less than direct in her dealings with the anxious man. She looked nervously about at the crowd that had begun to gather around to hear what news she might have.

     “Problems?” he asked. “What sort of problems?” His eyes grew wide as his imagination conjured up all sorts of horrible possibilities.

     “The child…” Lara dropped her voice to where only Thomas could hear what she had to say. “The child refuses to be born.”

     “That is the most senseless thing that I have ever heard!” Thomas scoffed at her. “I have never heard of such a thing?”

     Lara scowled at him. “Whether you choose to believe or not, this fact remains; I have done everything within my power to bring this child into the world. There is only one with the ability to save your child… and quite possibly your wife as well, for she fades quickly as this birthing continues.”

     A whisper began amongst the group of villagers, many of them muttering under their breath; each of them making a sign to ward off any ill luck that the name they were thinking might bring to them.

     Lara wrinkled up one corner of her mouth in distaste at their actions. “Each and every one of you have called upon her in the past at one time or another, and yet you make the sign at the sound of her name?” She turned her head and spit on the ground in their direction. “Go on then, and remember this night well the next time any of you have need of her Gift!”

    She turned back towards Thomas, who could do nothing but stand there undecided; overwhelmed with everything that was happening at the moment. His brow was furrowed with concern, both for his wife and unborn child, but also thinking of the rumors the gossips of the village would be sharing with each other. “What do you need me to do?” he finally gave in, hoping against hope that Lara was right in this.

    “I want you to go in and comfort Carina while I make haste to bring back the one of whom we speak, hopefully before it is too late and we lose both the babe and your wife as well.” She hastened him in through the doorway, and into the bedroom where Carina lie, too exhausted to even notice her husbands’ entrance. He sat down on a stool drawn up to the edge of the bed and took Carina’s hand in his, nervously glancing up at Lara.

     “If you are going to do this, then hurry before I change my mind.” He glanced down at Carina, her brow drenched in sweat, her face flushed with pain, her breathing ragged. “Please…”

     Lara took up her shawl, throwing it over her shoulders and hurrying out the door. She pushed her way through the throng of villagers gathered outside the cottage, quickly making her way through the village, glancing behind to assure herself that she wasn’t being followed as she ran towards the edge of the Great Forest.

    A short way inside its boundary, she stopped in the middle of a small clearing. With one last glance around her to make certain that she was alone, she kneeled down and began to concentrate. As she did, the noises of the forest quieted as the woodland animals sensed the normal flow of the magic being disrupted. In just a few moments, the silence was absolute, not a sound to be heard; Lara now focusing on the task she had come here for.

    In her mind she formed an image of the person whom she sought to contact. In the center of the clearing, a mist sprang up, and in the midst of this, a woman’s visage slowly formed. As the haze drifted away, one could see the face of an old crone, her scraggly hair unkempt and disheveled, her face as wrinkled and withered as an apple left too long in the hot summer sun.

    Her eyes were bottomless pools of ochre, like staring into a starless night sky at midnight. The look on her face was that of someone who was listening, waiting for Lara to voice why it was that she had summoned her there.

    The mist returned; long fingers of it twisting about the clearing as it swelled up across the forest floor. It thickened, and the midst of it, one could see a figure coalesce… and then step out of the fog. Lara stood now, and bowed her head, a sign of great respect for the one who stood before her.

    “S’zian…” she whispered. “You are sorely needed. The babe comes… and yet she will not!”

     “Take me there.” The figured commanded, drawing her cloak closely about, tendrils of fog still drifting from around her as she followed Lara back towards the village.


     The villagers were quick to slip away as the two approached, the only signs of their presence the curtains that were drawn back a bit, just enough for the eyes of the busybodies and curious ones to peer out at the two who now walked past, making their way towards the house of Thomas and Carina.

    Lara scoffed at the superstitious villagers, for S’zian had never harmed anyone or anything… at least none whom had not truly deserved it! Indeed, the truth be told, the old witch had healed the maladies and wounds of anyone who had required her skills, all without a comment or question. But these people were quick to condemn anything they were unknowing of, a fact that had stood through the years before and would more than likely continue till the end of man upon this earth.

    They spoke of Witchcraft and Demons… and told tales of things so absurd that any person with but half a wit about them would never place a bit of stock in any of these stories.

     But it was a dark and suspicious time upon this world… a time of magic and madness, and many times it was difficult to tell one of these from the other! Either of these could happen to only one person within a family, leaving all others untouched. Many times the Curse, as each of these was called, would begin to manifest in infancy, usually well before the person reached maturity. Madness could come upon one at any time, and any age, and the signs of madness and magic were often confused one for the other.

     A person was just as apt to be labeled as mad and cast out of the village, forced to make their way upon the world as they could. One with a bit of magic in their blood was just as often treated the same way, the villagers’ fear of the person being the catalyst for behavior such as the citizens of Desaito were now demonstrating.


     S’zian cared not one whit about what the villagers thought of her, in fact, she often drew more than a bit of amusement from their actions. She knew that they needed her powers and would tolerate her presence as long as this remained true.

     She made her way into the house and entered the bedroom. With a wave of her hand she quickly dismissed Thomas, who was more than glad to heed her command and flee the room.

     Lara went to Carina’s side and took hold of her hand, feeling for her heartbeat. She glanced worriedly across the bed at S’zian and shook her head. “Her heart is slowing, sister. She cannot live much longer.”

    S’zian nodded in agreement, and set to the task at hand. Sitting down next to Carina, she placed her hands upon the woman’s bulging abdomen, closing her eyes and letting the flow of magic pass through her and into the body that lie there before her.

    For long moments she sat there, her mind traveling upon that flow, seeking answers to the problem that challenged them here tonight.

    Finally she found what she sought, and gave a start at what it was that she saw there. The infant possessed a mind unlike any that she had ever encountered before… but she knew in an instant what it meant.

     “She is one of us!” S’zian exclaimed.

    Lara stared wide-eyed at the old witch sitting across from her. “One of us,” she asked. “You know this even now, before she is born?”

    S’zian nodded. “Never before have I seen one with so much talent… such a strong mind...” she glanced at Carina, lying on the pillows, unconscious. “And she must come forth now… and we must save her mother as well, for this one will need much guidance in the years to come.”

     S’zian turned and opened her bag; taking out several bunches of dried herbs along with two stoppered glass vials. She carefully set these to one side, and taking out a mortar and pestle, began to grind up carefully measured amounts of the herbs.

     Lara wrapped a thick cloth about the handle of the pot and brought it over, setting it on the table next to where S’zian was now carefully adding four drops of liquid from each of the two vials. Lara moved off to the side, carefully watching the old witch as she concocted her potion.

     S’zian muttered a spell under her breath as she poured the herbs into a large clay mug, then filled it up with the still steaming water. As it steeped, she muttered under her breath…

“Bitter brew of toadstool oil,

Powdered asp and Lesser’s tail;

Anzac’s tooth, all brought to boil

Dragon’s tongue, and serpent scales;

Essence of fire and brimstone soil

Fulfill our bidding, without fail.”


     S’zian strained the foul-smelling results through a scrap of white muslin and into another mug. Done, she hastily threw the cloth and its contents into the fire, where it flared up in a flash of sparkling colors as it was consumed.

     Taking up the mug, she seated herself at the edge of the bed. She began to spoon the potion into Carina’s mouth, just a bit of it, then rubbing the girl’s throat to make her swallow it.

    Bit by bit Carina took the potion until it was all gone but for the dregs left in the bottom of the mug. Her breath now came easier and the color was returning to her face, but she was still unaware of what was happening about her and simply lie there as if asleep.

     S’zian motioned for Lara to come near. “It is time to call forth the babe,” she explained. “She heeds not the call of Life, and indeed chooses Death if we are not successful.”

     “I…” Lara stammered. “What do you want me to do?” She shook her head, for this was far beyond her knowledge.

    “I need you to place your hands on either side… here… and here,” she instructed the midwife, situating Lara’s open palms on the bare skin of Carina’s distended abdomen. She then moved to the opposite side, placing her hands in a similar manner. “Now close your eyes and call to her as you did when you summoned me here.”


     “But I do not know the little one.” Lara protested. “How can I reach out to one who I do not know?

     S’zian sighed. “Reach out, Lara,” she explained. “Feel her presence within, touch her mind and call to her.”

     Lara closed her eyes, her doubt still evident upon her face as she began the rite of Calling. She gasped as she easily found the unborn child’s mind now that S’zian was there. Before, she had only sensed that something about this child was different, but had been unable to determine exactly what it was.

     She began to call to the infant… the child’s True Name coming to her as they melded together. “Briana…” she called. “Come to us, Little One…”

     S’zian added her call to that of the midwife’s. “It is time, Briana… time for you to take your place here with your Sisters… time to approach what destiny has foreordained!”

     They both felt the baby stirring beneath their hands now, the little body wriggling about as their message was heard. “It is time,” they both urged now, the herbal potion forcing Carina’s muscles into spasms, seeking to expel the baby within her.

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