Good-bye and Hello

Something beats at Latimer’s brain with an annoying persistence that forces him awake. He feels the touch of a Trump call.

Latimer drags himself out of the depths of sleep slowly at first, then more quickly as consciousness returns and he realizes what the annoying pressure on his mind is. Sitting up, he reaches over to light the lamp on the bedside table, opening to the call with a groggy but still wary, “Yes?”

Mordaleah clears her throat. She looks almost rumpled, which seems extremely out of place. “Brother, I will not mince words. You are needed in the castle. Your mother’s birthing is not going well,” she says as gently as one of her nature could.

Lat is instantly awake when he recognizes his older sister, his face paling at her words. He sits for a moment, perhaps in shock. Breaking from his stasis, he pushes blankets away the blankets he was clutching with quick movements. “I will need to let someone know where I’m going,” he answers, his voice a little strained but admirably steady as he stands. “Perhaps I should call you back, unless… unless I need to come immediately.” There is a question at the end of that statement.

Mordaleah looks over her shoulder and then back at him. “I would not delay very much. She might not regain consciousness,” she says straightly. “We have her comfortable though.”

Latimer simply nods, reaching to pull a dark robe over his nightclothes. Finding a pencil and scrap of paper in the room’s desk, he scribbles something down quickly and leaves it to be found before reaching out to Mordaleah. She brings him through to the hallway outside the royal birthing room.

His expression has become somewhat more serene during all this, though pain shadows his eyes. “How long has she been in labor?” he inquires, voice soft.

“A few days… She started bleeding three days ago but thought it was only spotting and didn’t want to panic anyone, mostly herself I think. She woke in a pool of blood and amniotic fluid the next morning.”

Latimer swallows heavily, not liking the vivid description Mordaleah had given, not answering immediately. His fingers reach for something, a reflexive movement since they don’t know what they’re looking for. He realizes this and folds his hands in front uncomfortably. “Can’t anything be done?” he asks at last.

Mordaleah places a hand on his shoulder. “I am not healer or medic, but I do not think so… But the will of the Lady is not mine to say.”

He nods, briefly acquiescent, but then he scowls, jaw clenching in anger. “There must be SOMEthing!” he answers, tone sharp but with his voice still low. “This is Amber! The best of everything is here, or so it is said. Can’t we even save one woman from her own folly?” he entreats. “Is there no one we can call?”

Mordaleah continues to speak quietly. “Brother… because it is Amber, because she has tried so hard to bear him another son, has made it so. We can call Morrigan if you would like….” she offers. “My shield sister would not decline.”

Latimer thinks that over for a brief moment, and then nods. There is something dangerously close to tears in his eyes. He takes a breath and says more calmly, “Please.”

With a nod, Mordaleah pulls out her card of her shield sister, concentrating on the pale image. When she answers, Morrigan is kneeling at the base of a tree, a plant in one hand and a stylus in her right, poised over an open book that is resting on a closed wooden box

She smiles. “Mordaleah! You will not believe what I just found…” she gets a good look at the dark haired woman’s face and starts packing things in the case without waiting for an explanation. “Macha!” she yells skyward and then looks back into the contact, her hands tossing things in her case and pack. “Tell me.”

“The Queen has been in labor for three days… She woke to blood and birthing fluid. It is not going well. They can not get the babe out and she is weakening by the moment,” Mordaleah says, hand out.

Morrigan utters a curse older than Amber as she gathers her stuff in one sweep of her arms about the same time Macha lights on her shoulder.

Three days?” she exclaims as she takes Mordaleah’s hand and steps through. “Scales of the—” she stops, spotting Latimer pacing and shares a private look with her Sister that Mordaleah has seen before in more personal circumstances. Mordaleah just shrugs, not having an answer.

Morrigan drops her pack and sword against the wall. “I’m going to need help,” she says pointedly. “Help that isn’t going to get hysterical.”

“I will help you,” Mordaleah says, squaring her shoulders.

“Where’s Oberon?”

“Father is here but every time he comes in, she gets upset, apologizing for letting him down… It made her worse so I told him to stay out. I just got here a few hours ago.”

Latimer looks away for a moment, then back to the two women. He takes a breath, stepping closer. “I can help,” he says very softly. “I… I would like to be there with her.”

“No,” Morrigan says sharply, and then turns and softens. “Let me examine her first, Latimer. I know she’s your mother, but I need to do this with no distractions first. I will send your sister for you shortly. I promise.”

Latimer looks as though he might argue at first, anger flashing in his eyes, but then his shoulders relax and he nods. “Very well. But please,” he says before Morrigan can go, “I know you’ll do everything you can….”

“And then some,” Macha says as Morrigan nods and walks past.

The royal birthing chamber holds that sickly scent that anyone near death from any cause knew. The Queen is slumped in the birthing chair, her hair plastered against her face, the lower half of her gown crimson, crimson that seemed to flood the floor around her. Midwives flutter around in panic. It is clear the woman has no strength left.

Mordaleah looks at Latimer as Morrigan departs. “You may not wish to be here for this,” she says quietly.

Latimer has a brief glimpse of the scene before it is obscured and the door shuts. He turns his agonized gaze back to his older sister for a moment. “Of course not,” he barely speaks the words through stiff lips. “Who wishes to witness the death of their mother? But… she needs me.”

Mordaleah again lays her hand on his shoulder. “No one, and pardon the words,” she says.

He begins playing with his ring as he begins pacing, bare feet making no noise on the floor. The struggle to stay calm is evident on his face, and he turns back to the door at any slight noise.

***

Inside the room, Morrigan levels a look at the midwives that could have made toughened soldiers quake and says one word in a low but firm voice. “Out.”

As they scurry past her, she grabs one of them by the arm. “I need a pot of boiling water, a mug, clean towels and …” She glances at the Queen. “A clean robe. Now!” Without waiting, she moves immediately to the Queen and starts her examination.

Queen Leona is fading in and out of consciousness as Morrigan approaches. “I’m so sorry my love… All I wanted was another child for us… for you to be proud of… like our son,” she whispers in a voice hoarse from screaming.

Her nails had bled from where they had snapped against the wood of the chair from her grip. It took Morrigan no time to see that the queen was bleeding to death and was past the point of natural child birth. But the one small miracle in all this carnage was the stirring of the child in her strained belly.

Morrigan grits her teeth to keep from railing at no one and everyone as she flips her box open so Macha can pull out the herbs she needs. She should have been called days ago. She leans down and slicks back the other woman’s sweat soaked hair. “Majesty,” she says softly. “I am going to move you now and give you something for the pain. You have been very brave so far, but it is alright for me to help things along now so that you may present your child your husband.”

The Queen’s eyes, still beautiful but exhausted, flutter open. “Is it… over?” She blinks as another contraction takes her. “Morrigan… Always kind… He will be so pleased.”

Morrigan cuts the bloodied gown from the weakened body and tosses it in the fire in disgust before cleaning Leona as best she can with what she has to work with. She carries her to the bed then, laying her out gently. Muttering quietly, she is preparing the draught when the nurse returns with the additional supplies.

“Put the towels under her,” Morrigan orders. “All but two, then get the knife from that box and put it in the hot water. And then go tell Mordaleah I need her back in here.”

The nurse complies before seeking Mordaleah.

***

For once, Amber’s famed general and princess was at a loss for words. She let silence carry her hopes and prayers as she waits in the hall with her brother.

It is some time of pacing before Latimer finally speaks in a low and tortured voice, unable to bear the tension any longer. “She shouldn’t have done it. I told her—” he breaks off, stopping to stare at nothing for a moment. “And now…” He looks at Mordaleah again. “She’ll be gone soon, won’t she? Oh, I know she wasn’t the best Queen Amber’s had, but still…” he falls silent again, and reaches up with one hand to rub at his eyes. His long, black hair is tousled all over the place and his robe is starting to untie, revealing his plain white nightclothes.

Mordaleah grabs him hard on the arms and shakes him, not hard, but enough. “Don’t say that!” she hisses, emotion on her face. Latimer stares at his sister, aghast, and tries to pull out of her grip, but she is firm. “Don’t say she should not have, don’t say she was not a great Queen. Don’t fault her for wanting to do the most sacred thing a woman can, to bring forth life. You of all people should know that! You go in there with that feeling in your heart and she will know it and it will make it all the harder!”

She shakes him again, for emphasis. “Your mother loves you and that child that strains in her belly. She loves our father as well and this is the price of that, the price of their love. It’s a heavy price and I wish it different, we all do, but sometimes life comes out of death. But you can not feel anger for her choice. It’s a choice of love and those are never wrong,” Mordaleah says, letting him go and wiping her eyes. “It’s a choice not all people have but would gladly make, so pray to the Lady that your mother’s struggle is not in vain and she can die a happy woman.”

“Pray to the Lady, Mordaleah?” he asks with some irony. “What Lady would that—”

The door opens to reveal the nurse, there to fetch Mordaleah. Latimer is completely distracted from what he was going to say, turning with hope on his face, but the woman hardly spares him a glance. “Lady Morrigan needs you,” she says to the princess.

Mordaleah looks at Latimer. “Please, come in… And no matter the outcome, know that our Lady, the Unicorn is present.”

Inside the room, Morrigan sits beside the Queen and holds her up while she coaxes her to drink the infusion she had prepared. “This will take away the pain,” she says soothingly. “Make the transition - the birth - easier.”

The queen nods, slowly drinking. “It hardly hurts now,” she murmurs.

The healer looks up as Mordaleah and Latimer enter, and she lowers Leona back down gently onto the bed. She rises and looks sternly at the nurse. “I want her cleaned up. Quickly, and with as little moving around as possible. Do not make me show you how to prepare a Queen.”

The woman hurriedly nods and begins to carefully bathe the Queen and care for her. Morrigan leaves the woman to do what she ordered, and opens a window to let in some fresh air before walking over to the others.

“I…” she sighs and looks at Latimer. “I am so sorry. She is far past the point where I can do anything but ease her journey. I have given her something that will calm her and deaden her pain. She is bleeding inside and there is nothing that anyone can do now but what I have done. If I had known earlier…” She shakes her head. That line was futile.

Latimer doesn’t reply, his expression tightening in anguish.

“The child is still strong,” Morrigan continues firmly. “But to save it I will have to resort to drastic measures and it is not going to be pretty. If you can be strong for your mother and be calm, you can stay. You *should* stay. But you have to promise me that you will not fall apart or start laying blame. I need her as relaxed as she can be right now to save the child and I promise to make sure she leaves with as much dignity as possible.”

Latimer swallows and his jaw clenches, but he nods to Morrigan in agreement. It is clear from her tone and the look she gives the bloodstained floor and chair that she is appalled it went this far. “Mordaleah, please call for those useless women who are cowering down the hall and have them clean this mess up and get that thing out of here,” she says tightly. “We will close the curtains on the bed to give the Queen her privacy for this.”

Mordaleah leaves the room and whatever she says brings the remaining ladies in as though the Serpent was on their heels. They begin to clean the floor and drag out the birthing chair. Latimer stands uncertainly on the fringe of the activity, not sure what to do or say, not able to leave.

Morrigan turns to check the nurse’s progress. “Good enough. Gather all the linens from the rest of the room and take them out and burn them. Immediately.”

The other woman nods and leaves the room quickly before her emotions overtake her. Soon the room is empty of all but the shield sisters, Latimer, and the laboring Queen. Mordaleah washes her hands again and comes to Morrigan’s side. “Just let me know what you want me to do.”

“Go sit with your mother,” Morrigan says gently to Latimer. “Hold her hand. Tell her everything you have been holding back… as along as it’s positive.” Another nod is all he can manage in acknowledgement, though some relief at finally being able to approach the bed is evident on his face.

She waits for him to go before turning to Mordaleah and speaking quietly. “After the babe is out, we will need to work quickly. Her dignity is what she will have left and she should be able to say her farewells as a Queen. She is going to be too weak to even hold the child. You will have to help her while I close her up. I will not send her to her afterlife in pieces.”

“You will also have to decide when to send for your father,” she continues. “Latimer will not be able to, and there won’t be all that much time after the babe is delivered.” Latimer raises his head at that last, perhaps hearing some snippet of the statement, but then turns his attention back to his mother.

Mordaleah nods to Morrigan, touching the Queen’s forehead but once. “I will never fail your children,” she says in little more than a whisper. She looks at Morrigan to begin.

Taking a deep breath, Morrigan crawls up in the huge bed and yanks the curtains shut behind her and halfway up both sides. It was enough for Leona’s privacy and still gave her enough light to work. Exposing no more of the patient than was absolutely necessary, she works quickly. The drugs she had given the Queen, coupled with the extreme blood loss, were enough to insure that Leona felt nothing more than the pressure of the knife blade Morrigan used to makes the incision carefully across her swollen belly. The fact that there was little more blood was both a blessing and a curse - not much to interfere with her work but little enough that it was obvious that Morrigan had been painfully correct in her diagnosis.

Latimer is for the first moments caught by a terrible fascination as he watches the knife cut open his mother, but then he turns away sharply, gulping and burying his face in her long hair, draggled and knotted from her labors. After several tense moments, he begins talking to her again, softly and musically as to a child, crouching close to her in his chair and keeping hold on her hand. What he says exactly doesn’t register to the others, just a constant flow of words, telling her everything that comes into his head about his work as a teacher and priest in various parishes, his travels, the people he had met, how they still spoke highly of her and honored her name, and how he would always cherish what she had given him.

Biting her lip, Morrigan withdraws the child, amazingly perfect after the trauma it and its mother had been through, but lacking the physical traumas of a natural birth. Normally she would have left the cord intact for a few minutes while the child adjusted, but this wasn’t a luxury she had now and she handles that with a swiftness that is surprising in its gentleness.

“Mordaleah,” she whispers. “Bundle the baby and wipe her face before she sees her.”

Mordaleah cradles her new sister with loving care. “Welcome to Amber, sister,” she whispers, quickly moving to clean the babe, wrapping her snugly in a royal blanket.

“You have a beautiful daughter, My Queen,” Morrigan says warmly even as she starts closing the incision. “She is perfect.”

Leona’s eyes manage to open. “A girl……” She sighs, and though everyone knows she wanted a son, she smiles, the warmth returning to her eyes. She tries to raise her arms, but only her fingers twitch and Mordaleah kneels at her side as the baby yawns.

“See, my Queen?” Mordaleah says with a smile. “Father finally has a well mannered daughter to call his own. He shall be so proud of her.”

Whether Leona heard her was not clear, her gaze locked on her child’s as they stared at one another. Latimer barely looks at his new sister, instead watching Morrigan work with that same terrible fascination - the kind that won’t let you turn away though you desperately want to. A few errant tears trail down his cheeks, and he wipes them away quickly, trying to remain calm for Leona.

Morrigan speaks in a low voice but with sufficient urgency under the calm and to whichever one of them was in a position to handle it. “There is a circlet on the table by the bed. If she is like most noble women, there is a veil in the drawer within reach. Put them on her. She will want to look her best for her husband. Do it now.”

Latimer doesn’t even have to look. Without loosing his one hand, his other one plucks one gauzy veil out of the drawer, picks up the circlet, and arranges both on his mother’s head. Mordaleah places the babe between the Queen and Latimer, so should the need be, Latimer could pick her up. She leaves the bed then, drawing the curtain closed, and races out the room, going to her father’s study and pounding on the door.

“Dad! You have to come now!” she yells.

Oberon looks like he’s eaten something that didn’t agree with him, a look of distracted irritation on his face as he walks out of the study. Mordaleah can see a number of huge books lying on the desk behind him. “You don’t have to shout, Girl. My ears haven’t gone.” He rubs them. “Yet.”

“Leona is minutes from dying… You have a child to greet and a wife to say your farewells to,” Mordaleah says, getting to the point, as was their way. “Latimer is with her, those bitches called midwives are more than useless.” She stops. That wasn’t what anyone needed. “Morrigan did all she could and she is comfortable.”

She pauses and with surprising sincerity says, “Dad, I am sorry.” She whirls on her heel and begins the journey back to the birthing chamber.

Oberon says nothing more. Reaching the birth room, he looks about, nodding to Latimer. “Well, what have we here?” he asks Leona, with a surprisingly gentle smile on his face.

Latimer looks up at his father’s entrance from holding his mother’s arm around the baby, an expression of definite anger mixed with the grief on his face. But mindful of the two women’s words, he doesn’t answer, instead letting Leona and Oberon talk. He supports Leona against one arm, and partially holding the baby in her arms.

Morrigan is just finishing up and hurriedly covers Leona before moving off the bed and quietly gathering her things to give the family their privacy. Her work is done and she and Macha slip out of the room a lot more quietly than they entered. Mordaleah is right behind her.

Leona’s exhausted face holds a mixture of pleasure and sorrow as she sees her King, but once more it filled with a mother’s joy at presenting her child to its father. “We have a daughter,” she says in a whisper of a voice that seemed to fade with each word. “A perfect little girl.” With a sigh she takes a shuddering breath. “A boy next time… But I love her no less for being a girl,” she adds, looking hopefully at her husband.

“She’s beautiful, Mother,” Latimer murmurs softly. “Any child is a treasure, as you’ve often told me.”

“Well, don’t worry about that right now. What shall we name this one?” Oberon asks, glancing at Latimer. “Leona… something that calls you to mind, just as this little one already does… Perhaps, Lyonene?”

Latimer doesn’t answer right away, keeping his attention and gaze down on Leona. After a gut-wrenching moment though, he says in a choked voice, “It’s perfect.”

***

Mordaleah’s fist impacts against the wall next to the door once it is closed, the crunch a telltale sign of broken bone. She sinks to the floor cursing. “Dammit…dammit…”

Morrigan looks exhausted as she sinks down beside her. “By all that’s holy,” she murmurs. “I have never seen so much blood in a birthing chamber. It is a miracle she has hung on this long. Dammit to the Pit, Mordaleah. Who let this go on for THREE hellish days? The chief midwife should be… Well, keep her away from me.”

“By the Lady I don’t know. I just happened to be walking down the hall. Don’t ask me why, I never come down this hallway, when I heard what sounded like a child crying… I walked in to that carnal house.” She turns to rest her back against the wall. “From what I could gather, she was ordering them not to contact anyone the first 30 hours. I suspect by the time anyone realized it was past the point of changing, they were terrified.”

Morrigan looks aghast. “That poor woman. I don’t care if she is the Queen, curse it all, those women should have known better.” She is thunderously angry and realizes she should to stay well away from the midwives for awhile or she really will kill them.

Mordaleah shakes her dark head. “Aye. A curse on them all for their foolishness.” With her unbroken hand she pats Morrigan’s knee. “But you saved that babe and right now that is what truly matters. The Great Circle goes unbroken.”

“Let me look at your hand,” Morrigan grumbles and turns to examine it whether Mordaleah likes it or not. “The baby is fine, amazingly enough. I am more worried about Latimer.”

Three broken knuckles bring only a vague twinge to Mordaleah’s face at Morrigan’s prodding. “Indeed… The boy is a man now, a rite of the worst fashion. I hope he can put his rage aside. I don’t know if I could,” she confesses.

“Well, Ulric did,” Morrigan says as she starts wrapping the hand after manipulating the bones into place. “Though he was much younger than your youngest brother. Perhaps with time.”

“I will speak to him, help him. I owe her that for not… for not speaking to her before this,” Mordaleah says, somewhat ashamed for that.

“You can try, but he has to deal with it on his own.” Morrigan looks over at Macha briefly. “We’ll need to get the baby out of there and to a wet nurse,” she adds. “She’ll be hungry pretty soon.”

“Aye, it won’t be long now. I know that scent,” Mordaleah says, looking sadly at the door. “Sometimes… I hate being this old.”

“Aye,” the blonde agrees. She looks over at her companion. “Are you alright? I know how hard these things are for you.”

Mordaleah gives her a smile that held more bravery that Morrigan knew she possessed. “It’s bitter sweet. I worry I shall be too attached to that girl.” She rubs her temple. “I thought of adoption, but that would not be fair to either me or the child… and it just isn’t the same.”

“No, it isn’t,” Morrigan agrees. “Nor would it be fair to her brother, or your father.”

“No, I meant just a child… not my sister.” Mordaleah gives an apologetic smile. “I am tired.”

“Don’t completely give up on yourself, Sister. When it’s time, it will happen.”

Mordaleah looks at her beaten hand. “I stopped calling you for them a while ago. Please don’t be angry for that… I just couldn’t bear for both of us to be so sad about it. For a while it was almost like an exercise. I kept trying, even went to a high tech shadow.” Her head thumps against the wall a bit. “Nothing has worked. I even thought of… of going back,” she admits.

“Not without me, you aren’t,” Morrigan insists. She finishes wrapping her shield sister’s hand and sits back. “Did they have anything to offer you, these high-tech places? Reasons?”

She shakes her head. “None truly understand my lineage, so the opinions vary.”

Morrigan leans over and kisses Mordaleah’s forehead. “Well, we’re young yet, relatively speaking. Go get the child. I will go round up the wet nurse. Perhaps I will not strangle a midwife between here and there. I will meet you in the nursery.”

The door opens and Oberon appears, stepping out into the hall and pausing for a moment, looking at the two women waiting outside. Before anything can be said, however, he hurries away down the hall, muttering something almost inaudibly about meeting the damn Council and the trade delegation.

Behind the King, Latimer appears in the rectangle of light coming through the opening, holding the baby and looking about until he spies the two women on the floor. He starts to speak, but nothing comes out at first, so he clears his throat and tries again. “She’s gone.” His voice is hoarse. “I rang for a servant. We’ll need to… to find a wet nurse.”

“I will get her.” Morrigan leaps to her feet and lays a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry,” she says softly and then leaves to find the wet nurse.

Mordaleah also rises quickly and touches Latimer’s hand. “I am very sorry your mother has passed, brother.” She could have said more, but they all seemed trite.

Latimer nods vaguely to both gestures, and then allows Mordaleah to gently take the baby from him. She leads him back into the room, guiding him to sit again on the chair at the bedside before looking once more on Leona. “Go with ease, Lady.”

She turns to her brother. “Latimer, I will take care of your mother. She deserves the attention of a princess, not some servant.” Cradling her new sister with care, Mordaleah hurries to the royal nursery. Joining her a few moments later are a midwife, another woman, and Morrigan.

“Morrigan, I am going to take care of the Queen,” Mordaleah says, handing the bundle of perfection off to the midwife. With that she returns to the birthing chamber to find her brother still sitting, staring into space. “Latimer, go to her rooms and get her best dress and jewelry,” she says, pushing the curtains aside.

At sound of his name, Latimer comes back from whatever world he was traveling in with a start. He stands and looks about the room and at the body again as though seeing it all for the first time. Then he departs without a word.

Out in the hall, Morrigan is putting the fear of the Nine Goddesses into some poor servants who are sent to fetch more water and towels as fast as they can possibly move. Then she enters the bedchamber to help Mordaleah.

“A Queen deserves better than servants to handle her,” the princess remarks. Morrigan doesn’t say anything, just crawls back onto the bed to help lift Leona from the blood stained towels she was on for the birth.

Mordaleah begins to hum, something low and mournful that finally gives way to a full out song. Only Morrigan could recall that sound. It is the sweetest, most compelling sound any had heard, each note touching a piece of the soul. She sings of the sorrow of death, the joy of life, and the sadness of good byes while she cleanses the body, taking pains to wash the Queen’s hair, her own tears mingling with the soapy water.

Latimer is gone for a long time. When he finally shows up again, he is dressed, though obviously in the first things that had come to hand, and his hair is combed and roughly pulled back. He’s carrying a billowy pale green and cream confection of a dress carefully, in order to prevent it from dragging on the floor. Behind him, a servant is carrying the rest of the accoutrements.

He pauses at the door to see who is singing, and does not interrupt when he enters the room, taking the gown over to the bed were he helps to dress his mother, working as gently as he can. His face is a mask of calm, frozen into neutrality, and he is silent and one might say reverent, listening to Mordaleah’s singing.

An hour later, her hair now designed and her dress perfect, Mordaleah ends her song as the glass casket of the Queen is wheeled in. After Latimer finishes smoothing some of the silk of her skirt just so, she hands him the Queen’s crown. There is a pause before he accepts it with a shaking hand, holding it carefully and studying it intently, though he had seen it many times.

Going to one knee next to the head of Leona’s bed, he leans over and very gently kisses her cheek. “Farewell, Mother,” he whispers, placing the crown on her head with infinite care. Then he stands and steps away from the bed, watching the rest of the proceedings with his hands clasped behind his back and his expression still too calm.

The Queen’s guards lift her into the casket and close the lid. Mordaleah turns to her brother and silently hugs him as the casket is wheeled from the room. Not wanting to intrude, Morrigan slips out silently, pausing on her way out only to order that any linens left in the room be burned with the rest after the room was empty of people.

Latimer accepts the hug, though he doesn’t really respond at first. But then he lifts one arm and puts it around his sister after a moment. “It’s all right,” he says in a soft voice, comforting her. “She will carry on in our thoughts and memories.”

“And in your sister… who needs a name,” Mordaleah says quietly.

“She *is* named,” he answers, more strongly. “Father named her. Lyonene. In memory of Mother.” His arm drops and he pulls away, to walk over to the window and stand staring out at the fading day.

“Tis a beautiful name, brother,” she says, still quiet. “I will go tend to her. You will call upon me if you have a need.”

Latimer nods once, slightly. Before she is gone, though, he calls her back. “Mordaleah.”

She turns at the doorway. “Yes, brother?”

Latimer turns to look at her. “My name is Latimer,” he remarks. “Some people even call me Lat. But what I really wanted to say is…” He takes a breath. “Thanks. For helping. For being here.”

A faint smile tugs on her lips as she nods. “I will call you Lat, then. And you are welcome.” With that she turns and leaves him to his own thoughts.

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