Interludes – Baby and Friend
Illustration by Mark Hansen
14 – “Reunion” – Thissraelle
“Sing for me, Tari! Sing for me, little girl!” Thissraelle cooed. The baby giggled and squealed through her smile, showing only the few teeth she had grown so far. Thissraelle held the infant’s hands up and Tari stood on the rug before her, bouncing and balancing. Thissraelle sat cross-legged in front of Tari, giggling back at her. “Oh, you can dance, too! Look at you go!” Tari bounced at her knees swaying under Thissraelle’s supporting hands.
Thissraelle laughed and swooped her up in her arms for a tight embrace. “Oh, you are so sweet! I want to keep her, DeFrantis!” For just a brief moment, she imagined herself cradling a baby, her own baby, in her arms, stroking the pale thin hair and the sharp elven ears. Its deep blue eyes looking up into hers… Thissraelle shook her head. Easy, there. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
DeFrantis, just laughed. Her dark eyes sparkled with joy and love and tiredness. Her deep black hair tickled her shoulders and her brows and cheeks as well, despite her best efforts to keep it aside. Thissraelle remembered how they had first met, now almost two years ago. It had been at the start of a harrowing adventure to rescue street kids from slavers. Thissraelle and DeFrantis had both been searching for their place in the world, and it felt good to see where those quests had led them.
Tari babbled and interrupted Thissraelle’s treasured musings by grabbing at Thissraelle’s long and white hair. She pulled, making Thissraelle tilt her head. “Ow, ow… Easy there…” Thissraelle shifted her hand to hold Tari while she tried to gently free her hair from the child’s tight grasp. Tari reached for Thissraelle’s pointed ears but Thissraelle loosened Tari’s chubby grip and moved her head away.
DeFrantis grinned at Thissraelle’s tiny struggles. “Yeah, she’s a sweet one, most of the time! You haven’t seen her throw a tantrum or wake you up at midnight.” DeFrantis tugged lightly at her hair. She was human with dark eyes, small, but sturdy in a way that showed her determination. Even though she was only in her twenty-first winter, she looked like she had learned a lot about life by caring for the children here in the monastery orphanage even before Tari had been born. She wore a dark dress with a thin wool shawl over her shoulders.
They sat in the library room of the old Monastery of St Ivarr, on a soft but worn rug. A fire glowed brightly beyond the hearth in the corner, keeping the room quite comfortable. A full snowstorm raged outside the window, filling the courtyard of the monastery and the dense woods beyond with a thick layer of padded white.
When Thissraelle had first arrived back at the monastery that morning there had been only a little snow remaining in the courtyard. Some that had fallen a week before still piled up in drifts under the awnings and arcades, but most had been shoveled away.
She and Eddiwarth, her betrothed, had flown in by the dragon Ghorax’s wings and their landing in the courtyard had caused a lot of fuss and shouting. Some of the brothers had been working to hang Winterfest decorations. Even though DeFrantis knew she would be coming, no one was quite sure how to handle a huge red dragon settling in the middle of it all. The stories that had circulated about the horrific fall of Twynne Rivers had added to their fright. The brothers had dropped their strands of shard lights and scrambled in fear, pulling the orphanage children away to safety.
Ghorax had been quite nervous as well. It wasn’t easy to drop straight into such a relatively tight space. He had expressed difficulty trusting the two-legs, even though Eddiwarth had been able to reassure him that all was safe, and that he knew the people there. Still, once he was safely, though roughly, on the ground, he backed away and swept his tail around himself protectively. Thissraelle had floated right off his back, calling out to DeFrantis. Eddiwarth was a bit slower, sliding down from the seat mount and reassuring Ghorax. The sight of Eddiwarth standing calm beside the dragon helped the slowly emerging brothers of the monastery believe that this beast might not be a danger.
It only took a moment for DeFrantis to burst out of the building, running toward Thissraelle and screaming joyfully until they embraced. What a thrill it had been to be reunited with her friend after so long. Antonerri, DeFrantis’ husband, came out as well to embrace Eddiwarth and greet the couple, and the brothers of the monastery were soon more relaxed. Within a few minutes, Antonerri, Eddiwarth, and the children were laughing, screaming, and climbing on the dragon as he rolled in the snow banks.
All too soon, though, Eddiwarth embraced DeFrantis and Antonerri once more and gathered the children behind them. Thissraelle bowed and bid her thanks to Ghorax. She kissed Eddiwarth and he climbed back into the seat. Ghorax nodded to her in return. He stretched his wings almost to the perimeter of the courtyard and braced his powerful legs. Wind flew as his wings stroked and he launched himself back into the air. It was difficult for him to clear the trees, but he was soon gone.
Thissraelle, DeFrantis, and many others returned indoors, out of the cold, and the snow had started falling soon after. Antonerri played with the children for a while longer in the courtyard, then took them in for the day.
The snow continued to accumulate on the windowsills of the library. Thissraelle shifted her loose white tunic and sat Tari down across her lap. She handed the girl a small, carved wooden horse. With a squeal of delight, Tari grabbed it and shook it in the air.
“Tari. Is that a family name?” Thissraelle asked.
“No, I don’t know who my family is.”
Thissraelle grimaced a little. Ooh. I’d forgotten about that.
DeFrantis continued, nonplussed, “I wanted to name the baby after Antonerri, but she came out a girl. We couldn’t think of a feminine version that we both liked.”
Thissraelle hesitated, “How was the birth?”
“Oh!” DeFrantis threw her head back and rolled her eyes. “It was horrible. I never felt such flaming pain in all my life. And that includes the battle in the old manor.”
Thissraelle winced, trying not to think of the worst pain she could remember.
DeFrantis added, “I’m sorry, Thiss, I know you’re worried about this, but I have to tell it to you straight. This little stinker was big, and she didn’t come out quite right at first. I was screaming and started bleeding and it was really scary. Even the midwives were frightened. Antonerri pounded on the door but the brothers wouldn’t let him in. I tried to dig up my will and use the shadow to heal me and set things right, but I was worn out. Fortunately, one of the midwives knew some nature healing magic.”
Thissraelle’s eyes widened, unsure what to feel. She was glad to have not lost DeFrantis, and nervous about her own impending marriage looming large on her horizon.
“And once she was out, the crazy little girl didn’t want to breathe! I was exhausted and delirious, but I didn’t want to rest until I heard her cry. I swear it was the longest moment of my life.”
Thissraelle felt a bit of… she wasn’t sure what. Part love and warmth, part outright terror. She found it hard to breathe herself.
“Finally, I heard her. She wasn’t shy about it, either. Once she got air in her lungs she let it out loud!” DeFrantis reached across Thissraelle’s lap to Tari and the little girl immediately stretched her little arms to her mommy. She kissed Tari’s head and chuckled. “I just kept saying, ‘she’s singing, she’s singing’ over and over. Then a few minutes later they put her on my tummy and the whole world was suddenly perfect.” She cradled her baby in her own lap, rocking her from side to side. She handed little Tari a cracker, and the girl snatched it with pudgy fingers and stuffed a corner of it into her mouth.
The love and warmth in Thissraelle’s heart started to win out. She reached across her knees and gave DeFrantis’ hand a tight squeeze.
I don’t know what I would have done if you had died. I’ve lost too many friends already. Granthurg, Korr, and I almost lost Eddiwarth. She lifted her other hand to wipe her eyes.
DeFrantis continued, “So, we weren’t sure what to name her. When the Father Abbot finally blessed her, he called her Cantare. ‘I sing’.”
Thissraelle smiled deeply. The baby squeaked and DeFrantis laughed again. “We just shorten it to ‘Tari’. She’s hardly stopped singing since. We’re lucky she’s not screaming right now.”
As if to prove her point, the room settled into a moment of peaceful quiet. Thissraelle breathed deep, taking in the tranquility. Her eyes drifted across the nearby table and she remembered how Granthurg used to spend the evenings pouring over scrolls and tomes while she sat relaxing in the large comfortable chairs by the fire. She missed those days. But these days are wonderful, too, in their own way. She glanced at the double doors leading out into the main hall and smiled. I remember that night… She laughed.
“What’s funny?” DeFrantis asked. “You’ve got a reminiscing look on your face.”
Thissraelle nodded and smiled. “Yeah.” She drew in a long slow breath. Her eyes got a little dreamy. “I’m just remembering that night after Karendle and I argued. I sat over there, and Granthurg was at his table. I didn’t come down to dinner, so Eddiwarth brought some up to me. He was trying to impress me. He used to try so hard, but he was soo… so…”
Thissraelle broke out in a full laugh. “Yes! Yes, exactly!”
DeFrantis bounced Tari on her lap. “And now you’re marrying him, and we get to plan your wedding!”
Thissraelle smiled back. “Yes!”
Tari grunted and made a particularly disgusting noise. “Well, that is,” DeFrantis said with a tightened face, “After I change her swaddling…”
Author’s Note: A Medieval Baby
Writing about a baby in a fantasy setting is interesting, and it took a little bit of research. First, I had to look into how medieval midwives helped deliver a baby, and how they were cared for afterward. I had to look up common growth progress for the first year (after checking the story timeline and to see just how old Tari would be at this point).
I also drew on my own experience watching in the delivery room when my own two children were born. Now, I’m male, and I don’t really know what it feels like. I accept that. I have listened to women describe it, particularly after a lot of time has past. This scene and its dialog is all just a combination of all these things.
Become a Patron!