Cali McKinnon's

Fae Chronicles

Precious Gift

1.  A Precious New Life 

It was a cold night, and the wind was howling fiercely outside as the early northern storm gathered strength.  Rita had been sleeping soundly, nestled warmly next to Cad, now he felt her tense and groan slightly.  Waking easily, he gently placed a hand on her heavily pregnant abdomen and felt the mild contraction pass.  Great, he thought with exasperation, what a wonderful time to have a baby--in the middle of a winter storm.  Maybe it’s just Braxton Hicks contractions, he thought hopefully.

Earlier that day, when his daughter Arianna visited, she had informed Rita that the baby appeared to have moved to a lower birthing position, but she had also thought it might be a day or two yet.  Cad reached for his watch and noted the time.  He waited until Rita’s next contraction, again noting the time, and then the duration.  Well, at least there was no rush yet, and the contractions were mild enough that Rita was still sleeping.  He repeated the timing process two more times and then quietly rose to go check the weather.  If the weather was bad enough, it might be best to wake Rita and go to the hospital so there was plenty of time for the long trip.

Looking outside, he found the weather worse than he expected--it was sleeting heavily and travel would be treacherous at best.  A mild expletive crossed his lips, as he went to the kitchen for something to drink while he decided on the best course of action.

There was a soft, slightly blue light coming from the kitchen, and he thought that odd.  He was certain he’d turned out all the lights, including the soft blue lighting that illuminated the glass blocks of the kitchen breakfast bar.  As he entered the room, he realized immediately that he wasn’t alone.

“Hello, Ghildor,” he said casually ignoring the Sidhe fae sitting nonchalantly at the breakfast bar.  Cad casually walked over, opened the refrigerator, and asked, “Spring water?”

“Sure,” Ghildor answered without moving.

Cad poured them each a glass of the bottled water.  “To what do I owe this early morning visit?” he asked, before taking a long drink.  He was almost certain he knew, but it was polite to converse verbally, despite the fact he knew Ghildor would be reading his thoughts.

“I thought I would offer my assistance, and perhaps Arianna’s given the horrid weather conditions,” Ghildor stated simply, although he was aware Cad already knew that.  They played this game constantly--conversing though both knew it was often unnecessary.

Sitting down at the nearby kitchen table, Cad considered what he’d said.  He wasn’t surprised that Ghildor was aware Rita was in the beginning stages of labor.  The canny Sidhe fae probably had powers of which even he was unaware.  If the delivery was without complications, Arianna was as capable as any obstetrician since she was an experienced midwife, but it was the possibility of complications that made it a gamble.  Rita had spoken several times of having her baby at home under Arianna’s care, but Cad was still concerned since he was so anticipating this child that the mere thought of anything going wrong upset him.  Then the thought that something might happen to his beloved Rita compounded that concern, turning it into cold fear.

Ghildor waited patiently, knowing his suggestion would be considered carefully before any response was made.  He was aware that this human made few decisions lightly where his loved ones were involved, and he was also aware the man more often than not would choose wisely.

After a while he warned Cad, “I think Rita’s starting to wake now.”

Cad looked in the direction of the bedroom, rose quietly, and left without speaking.

As Ghildor had said, Rita was waking, tossing lightly in her sleep now.  Cad lay down beside her, kissed her neck gently, and placed a soothing hand lovingly on her abdomen again.

When the next contraction started, it was stronger, and she woke.  “Oh,” she said, in a soft moan.  She opened her eyes and saw him watching her.  “I hope I didn’t wake you,” she apologized.

“Nay, love, our little one woke me,” he said, smiling brightly at her and lovingly caressing her abdomen.  Then he continued, “And, I doubt it will be the last time for some time to come.”  He told her the times and durations he’d noted thus far, and informed her of the inclement weather conditions.

“Maybe it will clear before we have to leave for the hospital,” she suggested hopefully.

“Perhaps,” he agreed, although he doubted it even as he spoke the word.  The storm was more likely to intensify than to abate, which was why Ghildor was in their kitchen.  The shrewd Sidhe fae knew Cad would prefer not to risk the long drive on a night like tonight, but Cad wondered whether he could also guarantee the outcome of a decision to allow Rita to have the baby at home.

“I can always have the baby here, Caedmon.  I’ve wanted to all along, and I’m sure there won’t be any problems since I’m so healthy.  Arianna has taught me what to expect and what to do if I were unable to have medical assistance for some reason.”

“Aye, love,” was all he replied.  He was still holding Rita cradled next to him, thinking now of the birth of his first child, the same Arianna who might come to assist in the delivery of this baby.  She had been born at home to his first wife, Sigourney, under the care of a midwife.  The same midwife who had later trained Arianna to be a healer and midwife.

He timed two more of the still mild contractions for Rita, then asked, “You shouldn’t eat, but would you like something to drink, love?”  Rita opted to have some water, so Cad left to get it for her, and to speak again with Ghildor.

As was his nature, Ghildor was waiting patiently in the kitchen despite how long Cad had been away.  He’d purposefully not listened to Cad’s thoughts this time, giving him and Rita the privacy to decide their course.

Upon entering the kitchen, Cad went first to get a glass and spring water for Rita, then turned to converse with Ghildor before leaving.  “Do you know how long this storm will last?”

“Probably until around noon tomorrow according to the weather reports.  Would you like me to verify that?” he asked.  Cad knew Ghildor was offering to physically slip time, to verify the future weather conditions.

“There’s no need,” Cad said quietly, giving one last round of consideration to his options.

“If there are complications, there are also options,” Ghildor offered, knowing the dilemma that Cad was facing and hoping to alleviate it.

However, Cad was unaware that Ghildor was also concerned, planning for all contingencies, because he was almost as eager for the birth of this child as either Cad or Rita.  Ghildor loved human children.  Helping raise his grandson was one of the highlights of his pseudo-human existence, now the birth of Arianna’s half-sister would give him the opportunity to participate in the raising of a female child.  Of course, Cad and Rita didn’t know yet that the baby was a girl because Rita had refused to be told the gender, or to have the unnecessary sonogram done.  Ghildor also knew that it was more than likely that with Cad as her father he, himself, would be involved little in the raising of this child, but it would be another human experience for him to relish when he could.

After a small passage of time, Ghildor offered, “What if I just transport you both to the hospital now, or when you’re ready to go?”

Cad debated the wisdom of that, knowing Ghildor could do it so effortlessly.  But he also knew traveling like that made some people ill, and Rita had never done it.  “Nay,” he said, refusing the offer.  “I’m afraid it will be too hard on her, especially while she’s in labor.  When it’s time, will you just bring Arianna?” he asked at last.

“Yes,” Ghildor agreed quietly.  Before leaving he said in a very reassuring tone, “It will be okay, Caedmon.  Rita and the baby will be fine, I’ll guarantee that.”

He saw the slight flexing in Cad’s jaw and knew he was trying hard to trust that, staking the life he loved more than his own on it.  Finally Cad said, “Thanks,” and left to see to Rita’s comfort.

It was a few hours later when Ghildor returned with Arianna who was elated to have the opportunity to midwife again.  She was sure Cad would be the consummate father, he had been an excellent father to her, and she remembered Moira’s tales of how he had assisted Sigourney during her own delivery.

 

As Arianna anticipated, the delivery was without complications due to Rita’s physical health and preparation.  She remembered how pleased she had been with Jennifer’s delivery of Connell, and how wonderful Cainnech had been to help.  But she was even more impressed with Cad’s involvement, thinking he could have delivered the baby himself had she not been available.  He was so calm, and kept Rita so calm that it barely seemed she was in labor until the last few minutes, and even then she was in control, or he was--Arianna wasn’t certain.  He certainly knew what to expect and saw to every aspect of Rita’s comfort and wellbeing throughout the ordeal.

What amazed Arianna most though, was Cad’s response to his new daughter.  When she announced the baby was a healthy little girl, she hadn’t expected the look of absolute pride and joy that crossed his face.  She watched in amazement as he supported Rita while she held the newborn for the first feeding.  He had been supporting Rita against himself all along, and Arianna could now see how anxious he was for Rita to rest, to allow him to hold the child, but he waited patiently, praising Rita for her hard work and for providing them with such a beautiful, precious baby girl.

Arianna took the baby and went to clean and diaper her while Cad made sure Rita was comfortable to rest for a while.  Minutes later he was beside Arianna, watching as she finished and wrapped a blanket around the baby.  She handed the child to her father, and watched as he moved the blanket back and immediately kissed the child on the forehead, nuzzling her gently.

“Oh, Arianna, my little Angel, she reminds me so much of you at this age,” he said quietly.  Hugging Arianna with one large muscular arm while cradling the tiny infant protectively in the other, he kissed Arianna on the cheek.  “Thank you for coming to assist Rita.  Please, go and rest for a while now, I’ll see to the babe, and I’ll check on Rita,” he offered, showing Arianna to a nearby guest room.

Ghildor was waiting in the room, watching the howling storm out the large expanse of windows across one side.

“I assume you know everything is fine and that the baby was a girl,” Arianna said, approaching and stepping in front of him so he could wrap his arms around her and draw her near--into the warmth of his sheltering embrace.

“Yes, and I also know her very possessive father has her now.  Heaven only knows how he will spoil that child,” he teased with an edge of jealousy in his voice.

“He didn’t do so badly with me,” Arianna reminded him.

“Yes, love.  But he only had you for about six years; I can’t imagine the damage he could have done with more time.”   As he said this he leaned and kissed her neck, enjoying her unique feminine fragrance as he always did.

He teased that she was spoiled, but truthfully he felt Cad had raised Arianna well.  She was independent, intelligent, and loving beyond anything he could have expected of a human female, despite the loss of her mother at an early age, and then being raised by Cad until she was almost six before being separated from him as well.

“You dinna have room to speak Ghildor, considering how you spoil your grandson.  The lad would as soon go to you as his own father,” she reminded him.

“That’s just as well; a child needs to know he’s loved and that he has loved ones he can turn to.”  He felt certain it was the security and love during her childhood that made Arianna so strong and loving.  And although Ghildor teased, he knew there were few men as capable of raising a child with love and security as Caedmon Keir MacDugall.

 

Ghildor wasn’t wrong about several things he said and thought on that cold winter night.  Cad was possessive, but he was also a wonderful father.  He and Rita decided to call their baby girl Aleksia Rose.  As he had done with Arianna, Cad began speaking Gaelic, Norwegian, French, and all the various languages he knew to her long before she spoke her first word.  The result was, Aleksia was multilingual to such a state that she wasn’t sure what her native tongue was, thinking it might be Gaelic that she learned first.

She swam before she walked, rode horses before bicycles, and got into trouble for defending herself against a bully at school at the age of six.  By the time she was a teenager, Aleksia could ride a motorcycle, throw a knife with accuracy, rig a sail as well as any deckhand, and swim like a fish.  She had also learned to sew, embroider, and cook with great skill.  From her “Aunt” Arianna and Jennifer she had learned about herbs and healing remedies.

Aleksia was tall, almost five feet ten inches tall and drop-dead beautiful, with long dark auburn hair, icy blue eyes, fair skin, and a sprinkling of freckles on her nose.  But most impressive was her personality.  Like her mother, she was intuitive and rarely met a stranger, but had a certain sweet shyness about her, and she was totally unaware of her beauty.

Rita and Cad had raised her well, but feared the worst when she went off for her first year of university at the early age seventeen.  It was quickly apparent that she found her peers lacking and school unchallenging.  She was an avid reader and considered her parents and family a better source of learning than any of the formal education she had received to date.  The young men at school she considered mere boys, and the young women were, in her opinion, often foolish and boring.  Her academic standing and quiet attitude made her almost unapproachable within the first year.  Most students and professors considered her a serious bookworm--a modern day bluestocking.

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