The Birth of Wren Chastain (Part 5 of 6)

Kaelyn almost instantly regretted bringing Hazel back with her.

“What if Rowan and Papa are in trouble? Oh, but what if Mama is going faster, with just Miss Daisy there? But Miss Daisy was there, shouldn't you stay with Papa?, you said you can care for Mama and Papa is okay...” Hazel's never ending monologue had taken on a repetitive quality, a litany of fear that Kaelyn found hard to cope with. Worse, nothing Kaelyn said was of much use to either assuage or stem Hazel's fear, and it only added to Kaelyn's own fear to try.

And then they got to the house. As Kaelyn and Hazel entered the small clearing around the Chastain home They heard a low, anguished scream from inside.

“MAMA!” Hazel cried, running toward the door, sobbing. Kaelyn caught up with her as she made the door and held the younger girl's shoulders. “Hazel, your mama is being well looked after, and I'll go in and help, she will be fine, and so will your little sister,” Kaelyn said, and opened the door.

Hazel nodded, still crying and stepped over the threshold. Just then Ava screamed again and Hazel fell to the ground, collapsing straight down into a sobbing ball.

“Hazel? Oh, And Kaelyn!” Marion said, coming into the front room from the kitchen, carrying a flat pan full of boiled cloths, still steaming.

“Mama! Then is the Master here as well?”

“Yes, Kaelyn, but where is—” Marion began but Kaelyn took the rags from her and rushed into the sitting room.

Marion looked after her, doubt in her eyes, but only for a moment. When Kaelyn disappeared into the other room Marion crossed the floor quickly to the crying Hazel and scooped her up easily. Holding Hazel soothingly in her arms, she settled into a large chair.

“Now now Hazel, you've done quite well, and you should be proud of yourself. This is an emotional day, and there's a lot going on. But the Master is tending to your mother and sister, and you are safe now in my arms. So you just let it all out and soon you'll see it's all going to be fine.”

Hazel sobbed hard against Marion's shoulder for a few minutes, but gradually her sobs subsided into shuddering, shaking breaths, and a few minutes later her breathing evened and deepened into sleep. Marion wasn't known far and wide as “Mama” for nothing.

Meanwhile Kaelyn was walking in on a scene of...her first thought was horror, but she stopped herself from thinking that. This was the miracle of birth. There was blood and fluid and...other stuff everywhere, and Ava was sitting in the same chair where Kaelyn had last seen her. Daisy was kneeling in front of Ava, wearing a Healer's surgical apron of un-dyed wool. Master Colm—similarly dressed, blood on his apron as well—was mixing a poultice using a mortar and pestle, the scent of the herbs sharp and clean amidst all the other odors in the room.

When Kaelyn entered Daisy turned to look, her face pale and white, sweat running freely down her cheeks and neck, blood up to her elbows. Master Colm looked up and...didn't smile.

Oh no.

“Kaelyn there you are at last. Where did you go?” he asked, his voice entirely mild, his eyes returning to his work and hands moving surely and steadily.

“I went to run some errands in Strand. Rowan found me at the dry goods store and we came back here.”

“Rowan and Hazel were sent out an hour hence, but perhaps we will discuss that later.” Master Colm said quietly. He motioned for Kaelyn to step closer. “The birth is not going easily. The baby is turned in the womb and Daisy is doing her best to coax the child into the proper position. Hopefully this mixture will help Ava's body relax so that we can move the child. I know it's not normal, but she's been calling for her husband and if it would comfort her for Kent to be in here I'm not opposed to it. Will you call him in, please?”

“Ah, Master Colm, When Kent found me and Rowan, we were headed back here, you see, and, well, Kent had one of his episodes” Kaelyn said quietly. Master Colm stopped mixing. But didn't look up.

“Rowan and I kept him from biting his tongue, and dragged him off the trail. I put him on my cloak, and waterproofed some cloth to put over him, and he's under a tree...Then Hazel found us and told us that only Daisy was here...and then I headed back here with Hazel, and...and Rowan is with his father. I...I felt that I should be here to attend to Ava, since Kent was stable.”

Kaelyn could feel her Master's disapproval without him saying a word. She shrunk back.

“Kennnnnt!” Ava screamed out.

Daisy said “Master Colm...I can feel the baby's...foot, I think,” her voice near tears.

Colm nodded and said “I am nearly prepared, Daisy.” then in a quieter voice he said “you left Riverside when you were meant to be sitting vigil in this home. You then left a patient on the ground, knowing another Novice was here, and that I was on my way. Do you trust us so very little, Kaelyn?”

Kaelyn had started crying when he started speaking. His words were gentle, quiet, even and measured, but she had disappointed him. Colm waited a moment for an answer, but Kaelyn just sobbed. He scooped the mixture he had made and spread it on one of the clean rags Kaelyn was still holding. “Here I come Daisy” he said.

Then he looked Kaelyn in the eyes, holding her gaze with his, speaking quietly and intentionally.

“I don't know why you left to go to Strand, and I don't know why you came back without Kent. Fix this, Novice. Go back to Kent Chastain, see that he is well, and return him safe to this house. This is your charge as a healer, and see that you do nothing else until it is fulfilled.”

Kaelyn started to say “Couldn't Daisy go—” but the merest glance from Colm stopped her short. She simply nodded, crying, and ran back out the front door.