Selene lay in bed, fighting to get comfortable and hoping she didn’t wake Brynjolf. If the beast blood didn’t keep her from getting a restful sleep, the little monster in her belly certainly would. Rowan should have been born a week ago but was apparently in no rush, and she spent most of her time these days kicking Selene in the ribs. It was fully her intent to ground the child as soon as she was born.
Although she was uncomfortable, she was deliriously happy, having settled back home in Riften, taken over control of the Guild, and nested. Brynjolf loved to tease her about all the furniture and toys she was buying for the nursery and all the decorating and rearranging she did. She had changed the baby’s room three times already, and every day he would say, “So what are you going to change today?” She was cranky lately, though, so instead of replying, she just jabbed him in the ribs.
As she turned over for the hundredth time, she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen and a gush of fluid between her legs. “Oh!” she cried out.
Brynjolf was instantly awake. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Either my water just broke or I wet the bed.”
“You wet the bed.”
Selene swatted him gently on the arm and got up to go to the chamber pot. “Why don’t you make yourself useful and get my things ready to go to the temple? And you don’t have to rush. I’m not even having contractions yet.”
Eight hours later, she still hadn’t had a contraction. On the instructions of Dinya Balu, the priestess of Mara who was acting as midwife, Brynjolf had massaged her belly and she had walked all over Riften several times, but Rowan was staying put. Dinya was beginning to get concerned.
“It is not safe for the baby after your water is broken. I want you to consider taking elixir to bring your labor on.”
“Is it safe for the baby? And Selene?” Brynjolf asked.
“Generally. It is certainly safer than waiting much longer.”
“Give me the potion,” Selene agreed.
The elixir brought on the contractions with a vengeance. They were strong and agonizing, and most of them were in her back. She spent the next several hours lying on her side with Brynjolf rubbing her lower back. Karliah and Sapphire took up a vigil in the main hall of the temple, sticking their head in the room every once in a while to check on her progress and offer encouragement. The contractions remained five minutes apart all night, and the sun started to rise before she was finally ready to push.
Dinya tried to shoo Brynjolf from the room and bring the women in, but Selene said no. “I want him with me,” she pleaded.
“I’m not going anywhere, love.”
“Fine,” Dinya barked. Selene propped up with Brynjolf sitting behind her, and the Dunmer priestess positioned herself between her legs. “All right, child, it’s time to push.”
Selene bore down with a strangled cry, feeling as though her insides would explode. Surely this wasn’t right. Was it supposed to be this painful? “Something’s wrong,” she whined.
“Nothing is wrong. We have just begun. Push again.”
Selene pushed again. And again. Rowan still wasn’t making any progress. An hour later, exhausted and covered in sweat, she laid her head back on Brynjolf’s shoulder and wept in frustration.
“Don’t give up on me now, love.”
But Dinya was getting up and heading toward the door, where she called for her husband. After a hushed conversation, Maramal stepped out of the room and Dinya returned to Selene’s side and took her hand. “The baby is in distress,” she explained earnestly.
“Distress? What does that mean?” Brynjolf demanded.
“She cannot get over your wife’s pelvic bone. It is causing her as much pain as it is Selene, and if we don’t get her out soon, her life could be in danger.”
“No!” Selene wailed.
Brynjolf wrapped his arms protectively around her. “Very well. What do we need to do?”
“I want to put Selene to sleep and cut the baby out.”
“I’ve done this before, Brynjolf, and trust me, this is the best way.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“No more dangerous than this situation. Maramal will do the wet work, and I will assist. You can stay if you would like.”
“Don’t let her die,” Selene whimpered.
“I’ll do my best.”
Maramal came in with a large potion bottle, which he handed to Selene. “Drink it down, my child.”
Selene drank the bitter elixir, and within moments her head started to swim. “Don’t leave me,” she whispered to Brynjolf.
* * *
Brynjolf held Selene’s hand as she slipped from consciousness. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“It will be all right, Brynjolf,” Maramal promised. “Now, stand back.”
He took a step back, but he didn’t go far. Aside from wanting desperately to make sure Selene was all right, he was overcome with morbid curiosity. How could they safely cut the baby out? Maramal took a razor-sharp knife and slice across the lower part of Selene’s abdomen. Blood spurted and Brynjolf’s stomach wrenched. No. He had seen blood before, lots of it, and he would not let this make him nauseous. Besides, somewhere in the far reaches of his mind, he was considering killing Maramal and Dinya if anything went wrong.
After the priest was inside, he went to work on the uterus, and in mere moments, he was lifting Rowan out and placing her on Selene’s stomach. “Would you like to cut the cord?” he asked Brynjolf.
“I can do that?”
“Certainly.” He handed Brynjolf the knife and held the umbilical cord taut for him to cut. With a quick flick of the blade, the baby was free from Selene. She was covered with blood and fluid, and she almost didn’t look real. And she wasn’t breathing.
“Nothing,” Dinya assured him. “Just some mucus in her nose and throat. I’ll have it cleared out in just a moment and she’ll be fine.” She picked the child up and took her to a side table as Maramal removed the afterbirth and started to stitch Selene up, and in a moment Rowan started to scream.
With relief rushing through him, Brynjolf went over to the table to find her lying on her stomach, arms and legs rigid, face florid, and an angry cry emanating from her lungs. He stroked a gentle finger across the baby’s back. “It’s all right, little one. I’m here.” The baby relaxed and stopped crying immediately.
Dinya cleaned her off and swaddled her in a soft blanket, then handed her to Brynjolf. “Congratulations.”
“Dinya, I need you,” Maramal called urgently.
“What is it?” Brynjolf asked as Dinya rushed to her husband’s side.
“I need help getting her bleeding under control.”
Golden light appeared in Dinya’s hands, and she held them over Selene’s abdomen while Maramal held the tissue together. Brynjolf held Rowan close and watched with growing trepidation as the two priests worked on Selene, but the growing urgency in their voices left little doubt—she was in real danger here.
“She’s going to be fine,” Brynjolf whispered to Rowan, a lump the size of Eastmarch forming in his throat. “She’ll be all right.” She would be. She had to be. After everything they had been through, she couldn’t die now. He couldn’t lose her. She was his entire world. Besides, how in the name of the Divines was he supposed to raise Rowan on his own?
After too long a time, the light disappeared from Dinya’s hands and Maramal sighed heavily and stood back, covered in blood. Brynjolf’s heart stopped when the priest turned to him and said, “It’s over.”
* * *
Selene slowly opened her eyes to find Brynjolf standing over her. Her abdomen ached, but the blinding labor pains had subsided. She reached for her belly, which was smaller now. Rowan was gone.
“She’s fine, love. And she’s perfect.”
As the haze drifted from her mind and she awoke move fully, she realized he was holding a bundle in his arms.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“Weak and sore.”
Dinya came into the room. “Ah, good, you’re awake. I thought I had heard you. How are you feeling?”
“Weak and sore,” Selene repeated.
“That is to be expected, but you did very well.”
Brynjolf shook his head.
“I didn’t do very well?”
“It was close, but Dinya and Maramal saved you.”
“Can you sit up?” the Dunmer asked her.
“I think so.” Wincing with pain, she managed to struggle to a sitting position, and Dinya propped several pillows behind her. When she was situated, she held out her arms and Brynjolf handed her the baby.
She was lovely, with soft, chubby cheeks and a thin layer of red hair. Selene stroked her hand with a finger, and Rowan took hold. “Hello, little one,” she cooed. “My first act as a parent is to ground you for the rest of your life. You’ve made me very uncomfortable for the past few months. I met you once before, you know. You gave me flowers. Do you remember that, or was it just a dream?” Rowan gave one soft cry, blinked her eyes, and squeezed her finger. “She’s strong.”
“And hungry, most likely,” said Dinya. “You were unconscious for several hours. Are you ready to feed her?”
“Definitely.” She opened her gown and tapped Rowan’s lips, and when the baby opened her mouth, she pressed her nipple in her mouth, gasping a bit as she latched on. “Aye, quite strong.”
Brynjolf sat down next to her and caressed the baby’s head with a look of utter adoration on his face.
“How are you holding up?” she asked him.
“I’m tired, but I’m all right. I must confess it was a bit disturbing seeing your insides. She wasn’t breathing when she was born; Dinya had to clear her airways. That scared me a bit, but once she could get a breath, she started screaming.”
“Her papa’s voice calmed her down,” Dinya told her. “We weren’t so sure about Brynjolf.”
“They had trouble stopping the bleeding,” he explained.
“The situation was not as urgent as he lets on, but you will be weak for a while.”
“Selene, she’s such a beauty. We just sat here looking at each other while we waited for you to wake up.”
“I told you before,” the priestess droned pedantically, “she’s too young to focus. All she sees are vague shapes.”
“Whatever you say, Dinya.”
There was a knock on the doorframe, and Karliah stuck her head in. “May we come in now?”
“Of course,” Selene replied, and Karliah and Sapphire came in.
“They wouldn’t let us see her before now,” Sapphire complained. Dinya gave her a reproachful glare, and Sapphire made a face at her. “I know, I know. You wanted Selene to see her first and you had to make sure blah, blah, blah.”
“Sapphire,” Brynjolf warned.
“I’m just teasing.”
Dinya nodded and left the room.
“You’re mean,” Selene scolded as the young thief knelt down next to the bed.
“Eh, she’ll get over it. Anyway, now that Rowan has been born, I’m planning to leave for Solstheim.”
“Ready to meet your father?” Selene smiled.
“Aye. I can’t tell you what Glover’s letter meant to me. And I want to tell him, too.”
“Will you be back?”
Sapphire shrugged. “I’m not sure. I think so. It will depend on how things go, but I don’t know if I can stand a life of honest work. And he may not want me there anyway.”
“He’ll want you there,” Brynjolf guaranteed.
Rowan released her hold on Selene’s breast, and Brynjolf laid a soft cloth across her shoulder. Holding the baby’s head carefully, Selene brought her up and patted her back gently. The child let out a loud belch and spit up.
“That’s my girl,” Brynjolf declared proudly.
Karliah squeezed Selene’s arm. “We’re not staying; you need your rest. We’ll let the others know you’re both well.”
“Thank you for being here, lass.”
“Of course, Brynjolf. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.”
Sapphire kissed Selene’s forehead and Brynjolf’s cheek. “We’ll see you soon.”
The women left, and Brynjolf leaned in to kiss Selene, then pressed his forehead to hers. “I love you, wife.”
“I love you, too.” She caressed his cheek and then turned her gaze to the tiny baby lying in her arms. “Karliah said she would let us rest. I don’t think we’re going to get much rest for a while.”
“Eh, you’re used to that. For months now, I’ve thought Rowan was scarier than Alduin and Miraak combined, but when I held the little bundle in my arms, that all went away. This is just another adventure, you know? I just hope I’ll be a good father.”
“You will, love. We’ll both be good. Neither of us had the best childhood, and now we get to make up for all that.” Rowan stretched, yawned, and closed her eyes, and Selene snuggled her close, brushing her lips across her soft cheek. “Another adventure,” she mused. “But this one will be our biggest.”
A/N: Look for Selene’s continuing adventures in Dragonborns with Fangs, coming soon.