Artwork by Samuel Pray using Daz 3d and Photoshop.
Birth follows on from last week's story, and is set during the early centuries of vampire history, using the Shadow Sprawl setting created by Terri Pray.
Where is he?
Lilith groaned and rubbed one hand against the small of her back. Pressure, pain, the ungainly weight, being pregnant wasn't something she enjoyed - at least not at this stage. It would be over soon enough, the small but constant changes in her body, and the new occasional waves of pressure, promised that she would hold her child in her arms within a few days.
At least she hoped so - it wasn't as though she had others of her kind to ask about carrying a child, or how long one of her kind would be pregnant. Would it all work the same way it did for the daughters of Eve? The same length of time before the child made its way into the world? Would it hurt? She'd spied only once on a human birth and the sight had disgusted her. Blood, tears and screams - with only a handful of other women around to help the mother through the process. Did she have others who might be willing to help her through this?
There were only three other females currently existed as a part of her family. Each one carefully chosen and turned by Lilith, but not one of them had given birth before being turned, and she was the first of her kind to carry a child long enough to potentially bring it into the world. There had been miscarriages, and until recently they'd all wondered of children would be a part of their kind, or if all new blood would have to come from the ones they turned. As for the women, much to Caine's disgust he'd been unsuccessful in turning a female, and only two of the males he had chosen had survived the turn.
A small wave of pressure moved down the length of her spine and she exhaled slowly. These odd cramps had begun earlier in the day but it would pass. She had to believe it would pass. There had been incidents like these on and off throughout the last moon cycle.
"Lady?" Mikel's soft voice broke through her thoughts.
With one hand now resting on the swell of her belly, she eased the other from her back and rested it against the rough bark of a tree as she turned toward him. Life vibrated through from the tree and into her fingers, creeping through her skin and bones before it eased its way along the length of her arm. For a moment she forgot about Mikel, closed her eyes and let herself sink into the sensations. With a soft shake Lilith turned her attention away from the tree and back to the waiting vampire. "Yes?"
"The air is changing, a storm coming in."
Lilith turned her gaze skyward and peered through the canopy, inhaling as she did so. The taste of the air had changed - why hadn't she noticed it before. Her gaze narrowed as she took in the subtle shifts in color across the sky. "We need better cover than this." Would rubbing her back help? She rubbed the small of her back again, trying to ease the growing discomfort. "A place we can settle for a day or two," maybe longer if the child decided to make an appearance.
"Caine hasn't returned." A gruff voice protested.
"He'll be able to find us, and he can't expect us to wait for him without decent cover." Lilith shook her head, turning back to the waiting men. A shiver traced down her back and she inhaled, wrapped her arms around herself. "Jace, have faith in Caine - he's an able tracker and we will leave signs for him. It should be enough." Despite his faults, Caine was a skilled hunter, tracker and provider. So, the signs would have to be enough, and if Caine had a problem with her decision, she'd deal with it and him. The child she carried had to come first. "Spread out, we need to find shelter before this storm hits."
The small group, men and women alike, scattered save for Mikel who kept close. A small frown furrowed his brow and he waited until the others were out of hearing before speaking and even then he kept his voice low pitched, taking care to make sure his words didn't carry beyond her ears. "Lady, your decision - it will anger him."
Lilith didn't answer immediately, preferring not to snap a reply at the man. He wasn't wrong in his assumption, but neither was he a punching bag for her responses. "If it does, then it is his own fault for being gone so long. Once he has calmed down, he will understand that it was for the best." The sun had been high in the sky when Caine had left to find fruit. With the abundance offered by the forest, that should have been a short task, but now the sun had moved until it was low over the horizon, promising the coming of night before much longer. What is keeping him? One of the First Sons? That group had threatened them a time or two, but there'd been no sign of them in the last seven moons. "If it were not for the storm we could have set up a camp, but we dare not risk it, not with the birth so close at hand."
Mikel didn't respond, at least not verbally - but the tension rippled through the air as they half walked, half jogged.
"We're on the edge of a decent mountain range here - there should be something we can use, at least in the short term." A cave, even a hollow that they could expand would be useful at this point in time.
And that's the only acknowledgment I'll be granted right now. Lilith swallowed a growl and wiped a bead of sweat from her brow only to blink and look down at the back of her hand. Sweat? She didn't normally sweat from a light jog.
The mingled aromas of the coming storm and the woodland, with its heavy overgrowth, animal population and now the smell of her own people, filled her nostrils. Yet there was something beneath those scents. Other beings, sources of blood and food, but the idea of sinking her teeth into a vein - turned her stomach.
"Lady... there! I think I see something, up along the slope." Mikel pointed through the trees at what looked like a dark slash in the rock.
Lilith eased through the thinning trees and rested against a large rock, letting her gaze move up along the side of the slope and into the rock face. Her gaze narrowed on the dark slash. A small opening or something more. "It might work. We'd need to get up there..." Did she have enough energy to make it up the slope. Enough time? The pressure spiked rippling out from the small of her back, around and down, sharper than before, forcing her to let go of her breath in a low hiss between clenched teeth.
"Lilith?" Mikel reached out to her, taking her weight as he stepped into her space and eased one arm under her shoulders. "Sorry, I meant Lady..."
"Lilith will work, you're a child of my blood, you should be able to address me by name." She offered what she knew to be a weak smile. "It is just the child. I - I fear we will not have much longer before he joins us." The close contact would mark her with more than a hint of Mikel's scent, but there was nothing to be done about that now. She couldn't make it without help now.
The first heavy rain drop struck the bridge of her nose.
"Let's get you up there," Mikel grunted.
His grip shifted, one arm slid beneath the back of her legs and before she had a chance to protest, Mikel lifted her up into his arms. "You shouldn't."
"If we want you safe, then I need to carry you. For now, at least." He shifted her weight, bringing her in a little closer against his chest. "The child comes sooner than you expected."
"I believe so," not as if she had any way of truly judging. Weak, that lack of knowledge made her weak. She'd learn from this, gather the knowledge so that those who came after her would be better prepared.
"Mikel, what are you - he'll kill you for this!" Jace hurried across the slope, the sound of heavy steps following the man as the others in their group caught up.
"He'd kill both of us if she isn't in a safe place when the child arrives, and it's showing all signs of haste. Or do you want to be the one to tell Caine why we let his wife give birth in the forest like a dryad, or sprite? Instead of within the safety of stone like the Goddess she is."
Goddess - Lilith smiled at the words. Mother to their race, that was close to a goddess, and she wasn't about to argue. Not now at least, there'd be time enough for that after the child was safe within her arms.
"Fine, but when he asks what happened, I'll swear on my blood that it was your idea." Jace growled as he shot a dark glare at Mikel. "And I won't stand in his way when he wants to take your head. But until then we work together." Jace shook his head and moved in front of Mikel, gesturing to the others, before he began to clear a path. "Up there, that crack in the side of the mountain. Jenna, stay with our Lady and Mikel. Kale, with me. We need to make sure that's usable."
Jace. The man clung to every word Caine uttered. Not a bad thing under normal circumstances but there was something about the man that...
She grunted as a new wave of pressure and pain rolled through her. Was it her, or were they coming more quickly now?
"I felt that one." Mikel spoke low but picked up the pace, following the path set out by the group. Twigs snapped beneath his feet, dirts and small rocks tumbled down the slope in the wake of their passage. "I've seen daughters of Eve give birth, my mother for one - or rather I heard it. You'll be in the full throws of this before the sun has set - if you aren't all ready going through it."
Men didn't take part in child birth, she'd learned that much from watching Adam's children. She doubted that it would change with her children. She'd lean on Jenna, Alliana, and Calliandria - the only other three women in their group. Her children by blood and turn, rather than blood and birth. Women she had protected from Caine, at least she believed she had, and those women would now offer their protection to see her through this ordeal.
"It's a cave! That gap is the entrance to a cave!" Jace's voice carried down from the entrance into the side of the mountain. "Needs work, but it will offer shelter for now. We just have to get her in there."
"Get a fire going, furs laid out, and water. The child comes sooner than we thought." Mikel warned as he carried her in, setting her down on her feet with exaggerated care. Noise welcomed them into the cave, men and women working, the sound of flint striking against stone, followed by the first flickering of a fire. "Lady, take a moment to steady yourself."
"I fear I will need more than a moment for that." She groaned and tried to find her balance. The weight shifted across her swollen belly, but not from the child moving. Her body was no longer her own to command, the waves of pressure combined pain and the rippling turned into a deep need to expel the life within her.
Relief washed over Lilith, tension that she hadn't admitted to, eased from her back and shoulders only to be replaced by a new wave of pressure. Wetness seeped, cloth soaking even as the first cry tore from her lips. Her knees threatened to buckle, breath catching as she struggled to stay upright.
"Lady, lean on me." Jenna moved behind her, even as Calliandria set the men to work, gathering firewood and preparing the cave, before she moved to join the other women. "Alliana, we need to help her walk."
"Walk? Are you sure? She hurts, shouldn't she sit? Better still, lay down?" Mikel took a step toward the new fire.
"Walking will help her bring the baby into this world. Laying down - men, what do they know of childbirth." Alliana snorted. "We may not have birthed children, but we've both seen mother's and aunts give birth."
"The fire needs to be bigger, and we will need water to wash the babe when it arrives," Calliandria gestured to the entrance of the cave. "Go, gather what we will need, and then set yourself to guarding the entrance."
Lilith leaned into the assisting arms and began the slow walk back and forth across the cave. Why hadn't she thought of asking the women? Did I think because they hadn't had children, that they knew little or nothing about the process?
A mistake she now regretted as the two women walked with her.
"Breathe through it, Lady." Calliandria encouraged when the next wave of pressure struck. "Don't try and talk, just breathe through the - the contraction." The woman stumbled over the word, as if dragging it from a buried memory. "Movement and breathing, it will bring the babe on all the faster."
"Breathe?" She wanted to ask more, to ask why they thought it would be that easy, but the tightening of muscles took the ability away from her. "Hurts." She hissed the word between clenched teeth.
"It will be over soon enough, Lady." Jenna squeezed her arm. "We have faith in you."
Sweat beaded across her brow and down the length of her spine. Every step took more energy than the last and she leaned heavily on the two women, even as Calliandria turned her attention to setting up furs, cloth, bowls and wrappings. The contractions - a good name for them - changed her body, pushing the baby further down until she felt things shift even further. "I-I need to...think - it's time."
As one they moved, but even then they didn't ease her to her back, but rather into a squatting position. Cloth was moved out of the way, support in the form of Jenna standing behind her, acting as a brace, was set up, and water passed back through to the women from a man who quickly took himself back to the cave entrance.
"Caine, I need Caine." Lilith moaned, her eyes half closing as she leaned into the support offered. "Is he..."
"There's no sign of him, lady." Mikel called out.
"Wait, I have to..."
"Your body and the child will not allow you to wait. The child comes now, and you must do as your body dictates in this." Jenna rubbed one hand firmly against the small of Lilith's back. "It is time to bring your child into the world."
Caine. Where are you? You're supposed to be here with me for this moment. This is your child too. Your child and I can't do this - shouldn't be left to do this - without you...
"Push, lady - your child needs you. It's time to push!"