Enjoy this 3 minute read from my epic fantasy story, The Doom of Arlg-Teg.
Iluna stumbled for the fourth time that morning. Grasping for an anchor, she found an icy rock and held it long enough to restore her balance before retracting numb fingers to the warm folds of her wolfskin cloak. She exhaled a steamy breath and looked up to the mountainous horizon. The daysun had clawed its way to the sky, but shone weak and ineffectual through the mist above the mountains.
Iluna caressed her heavy belly within the folds of her cloak; her unborn child was close. Another cramp tightened its grip and she scrunched her eyes shut. “Not yet. Please.”
She did her best to ignore the pain, and retrieving her walking stick, resumed trekking through the snow. She had to keep going, there was no turning back. She had no home. No people. Her only option was to find the cave with the red walls. That meant moving northwest as her dreams had shown her. But the further north, the further west, the more mountains. Winter ruled harsh and relentless in such forsaken country.
As the morning wore on, Iluna stopped with each cramp, pausing until the ache passed, then continuing on her journey. She'd covered a fair distance despite her pains, but the sky grew veiled with heavy cloud, the air froze, and the first snowflakes fell at midday. She would need shelter. At a large cypress she paused to look back the way she’d come. The foot of the mountain extended down, white as far as the eye could see, interrupted now and then with patches of green from alpine trees. Perhaps she should turn back after all. She’d been foolish to leave the comfort of the cave that had sheltered her during the dark days and nights of Ilun when daysun, nightsun, moon and even stars disappeared from the sky. She frowned at her own stupidity. Her child was too close now. She should have remained to give her babe a safe start to life. But the dreams had seemed urgent. The red cave called to her, and that face, blue and black, with golden eyes, like fire. You’re close, Iluna. Keep walking, it had told her. Was it Ona, the Mother, who revealed her face and called to Iluna in her dreams? What awaited her in the red cave?
The snow drifted in a wall of white, obscuring her view. She pulled her cloak tight, and tucked black strands of hair into the hood, then turned to face her path, putting one moccassined foot in front of the other.
A cramp stronger than any other tore her insides. She dropped the walking stick to clutch her belly. Her knees buckled, and she fell on the hard ice. Hot wetness spread down her legs and she lifted her face to the cloudy sky. “No, Ona! Please, not now.”
Pain seared through her, along with fear. In the clan, the women had Amak to attend them when their time came. Childbirth was considered a sacred rite, and a secret one. Only mother, medicine woman and the gods would bear witness to it. Iluna knew nothing about it. Her own mother had died giving birth to her. She closed her eyes as the realisation unfurled in her mind – out here, alone in the snow-laden mountains, there was every chance she would face the same fate as her mother. What she would give to be back with the clan so that Amak may attend her. Iluna was tamatu – outcast – but the medicine woman would help her nevertheless. Iluna forced a breath and crawled on shaking limbs to the trunk of the cypress. The thick canopy kept the snow at bay. She would have to face childbirth alone. She'd faced her entire life alone, so why not this too?
Iluna's breath shortened to gasps as the pain erupted. The cramps grew in intensity and sweat soon dampened her tunic. Time wore on, and the gloom of the day spread with Iluna's screams. The cramps hit like a storm through her body, over and over until, with exhausted shrieks, Iluna gave birth before the sunset. The birth itself was quick, but took what little energy Iluna had left, and her screams quietened with the first mewling cries of her baby. With a teary smile Iluna drew the little slick body of her babe to her breast and watched her daughter suckle. She then wrapped her baby tight in the folds of her cloak. Iluna's eyes drooped, and in the next heartbeat, exhaustion took her into deep sleep.
The Doom of Arlg-Teg is the first book in a short trilogy called, Iluna's Song, and is a sequel to The Raven. It is available free when you sign up to Aderyn's newsletter, or available for purchase here.