The Birth Of Wren Chastain (Part 1 of 6)

“A Healer First,” Kaelyn and Daisy echoed, in unison, as they did every morning, in response to Master Colm's ritual question, “What are you?” Colm nodded and smiled kindly. “Have a good day out there, ladies.”

Kaelyn and Daisy walked out of the cottage together, each with their satchel full, heading the same direction at first. “ What do yo have today?” Kaelyn asked, satisfied that she hadn't forgotten anything too important when packing her satchel this morning.

“Not too much, checking in on Alora, then on little Tommy, his mother is worried that he's not growing very well yet. What about you?”

Kaelyn sighed. “The usual, Ava Chastain, then Quinn and Lucas and their kids, then back to check on Ava again.”

“Mmmm, poor lady, having another child ten years after she thought she was done.” Daisy said, nothing but concern in her voice. Kaelyn nodded.

“She's having a hard time of it, too. her time is close, and she's been in false labor almost every day.”

“That's rough, and with Kent's condition, she probably doesn't get a lot of time off her feet.” Daisy said.

“Kent has been doing well lately, thanks to some things that Master Colm has prepared for him. And anyway, Hazel is old enough to help with household chores.”

“And what about Rowan?” Daisy asked, the smile on her face obvious in her tone, even without Kaelyn turning to look.

“I gather he's helping with his father's business,” Kaelyn said, refusing to be drawn. Rowan Chastain was roughly her age, and had always had quick, bright eyes, and a quiet, diffident manner that attracted Kaelyn more than the louder, more brash boys in Strand.

“Well, I hope Kent doesn't have Rowan too busy this morning,” Daisy said and giggled.

Kaelyn sighed. Daisy was only about six months older than Kaelyn, but when it came to boys she almost acted like she was already sixteen, always talking about kissing and...dating, and... Kaelyn stopped thinking about it before she started blushing.

They came to a crossroads and parted ways, Daisy heading up to a small cluster of houses, Kaelyn walking rather farther to the Chastain household.

It was a bright but windy morning, and Master Colm had predicted rain before evening, so Kaelyn was dressed in a slightly-too-warm cloak of light blue, a color she had loved as a little girl, but was starting to think was too juvenile for a novice healer.

The Chastains lived in the small village of Riverside, maybe two miles from Strand proper. Riverside had grown up near the mouth of a wide valley where the shepherds kept their flocks, and was creatively named after its sparkling, murmuring water source. Kaelyn liked Riverside rather better than Strand, it reminded her of her home in Coombe. The air up here was more open, quieter, and had only the faintest tang of the sea when the wind came up off the bay, the rest of the time it smelled of mountains and sheep.

She also liked going to the Chastain home. Their house was well built, cared for by generations of Chastains, solid timbers and well tended walls. The floors were flagstones, quarried in a different valley, brought here, carefully placed, and carefully replaced when worn or chipped.

Kaelyn knocked on the front door and Rowan answered, a touch faster than one might expect, almost as if he had been waiting. His hair was slicked back, face washed, and Kaelyn smiled up at him...when had he gotten so tall?

“Well hello, Rowan!”

“Miss Kaelyn,” Rowan answered.

“Rowan, I'm younger than you, just Kaelyn is fine.”

“Yes Miss,” Rowan replied and Kaelyn came inside, smiling slightly.

“Mother is in the sitting room” Rowan said and Kaelyn nodded her thanks. As usual she walked through the house to the courtyard out back, washed her hands carefully at the pump, up to the elbows, with Rowan watching. Once done, she turned and walked to the sitting room. Rowan followed her hesitantly.

Under normal circumstances Ava Chastain had an ethereal, otherworldly beauty that spoke of her druid heritage. That and her name. Kaelyn always said her full name in her head, loving the poetry of it: “Ava Aviana”.

Ava had long, deep brown hair, usually braided intricately, but when left loose it reached to her waist. Her eyes were green with flecks of copper, and even though she was the wife of a tinkerer in a shepherd's village she had fair skin, with only the faintest sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose, which made her look eternally young. For the past few months of her pregnancy, Ava had had the type of look that people referred to as the “glow” of pregnancy, healthy, and smiling, carrying the child in a way that in no way detracted from her beauty.

Right now, however, she also looked uncomfortably pregnant. Her long hair was tied back in a ponytail, with several additional ties along its length to keep it out of her way. Her face was dewed with sweat and eyes wide with pain. Her breathing was heavy and she was leaning back in a large chair strewn with furs, her feet on a small stool in front of it.

As Kaelyn entered the room Ava tried to smile faintly, but Kaelyn shook her head and came over to Ava's side, gently wiping Ava's forehead and then checking her pulse.

“Are you okay, mother?” Rowan asked and Ava nodded. “Of course, Rowan, it's just...this is just part of the process” she said, words ragged.

“I'm sure we're getting close now,” Kaelyn said and then chased Rowan out of the room. This was woman's work. She closed the door gently behind him and then came over to gently examine Ava.

Ava knew the drill and Kaelyn tried, once again, not to focus on the fact that she was barely a teenage girl, who had never even been kissed, giving advice to a mother of two about having a third child.

“The baby isn't in position yet, Mrs. Chastain,” she said, face regretful. “And your womb doesn't seem to be quite prepared either. I'm afraid it probably won't be today,” she said, standing and wiping her hands on a cloth. She dipped more water out of a bucket near the chair, wrung the cloth out and gently placed it on Ava's forehead. “Master Colm has sent me with some things that should ease the pains,” she said, drawing out a small bag of herbs. Ava smiled faintly.

“The pain is receding, and honestly, it's not as bad as you might think,” Ava said, her breathing coming more evenly now. “It's a good reminder that I'm alive, that children are a dear treasure, and the price is part of the deal.”

Kaelyn looked at Ava. “There is a price for all good things, or so Master Colm says,” she responded, feeling a bit out of her depth.

Ava smiled and pushed a few stray hairs back out of her face, sitting up a little more comfortably.

“Colm is a very wise man, and even knows a few true songs, in the midst of all that wizard-influence,” Ava said. Kaelyn didn't really know how to respond to that.

“Steep the herbs three minutes in boiled water, then drink with a dollop of honey from a local hive,” Kaelyn said, moving back to something she knew. Ava nodded gravely, but smiling a little. “And send Rowan...um, or, um,...someone, to come fetch me if labor starts again,” she finished, packing up her satchel.

“Thank you, Kaelyn,” Ava said and got to her feet, slowly and awkwardly. Kaelyn opened the door for her and told Rowan to boil some water, which he was already doing.

The Chastains were somewhat unique in that they used a family name, an affectation that came from Kent's side of the family, Kaelyn suspected. It felt more...regal, more landed somehow, especially with a family name like that... Chastain. “Kaelyn Chastain” she murmured to herself under her breath, and blushed slightly.