Page 160

Down the hall they heard a bellow of pain, followed by Lorraine’s voice, growing sharper. “Leyna! Now!”
“Is Perchta having ababy?”
“I … think so. Yes.”
“What do I do?”
“Go,” said Gild. “Do as your mother says, and just … don’t let Perchta know that Erlen and I are here. Can you do that?”
Leyna swallowed hard, then gave a sharp nod.
Gild released her. “It will be all right.”
Leyna approached the door hesitantly, then squared her shoulders and439went out into the hall. As soon as she was gone, Gild scanned the room again. “Serilda? Are you here?”
Spotting the open windowsill, Serilda used all her will to shove a drift of snow onto the carpet.
Gild drew in a shaky breath. “I’ve missed you,” he said. “I wish I could talk to you.” Emotion flooded his face, but he was quick to shake it off. “I have to warn Erlen.”
“Of course. Go,” said Serilda.
He had just started for the door when Erlen popped in, eyes wide.
“What is going on?” she whispered. “Lorraine just sent for a midwife!”
As Gild explained, Serilda headed down the hall toward the sound of Perchta’s moans.
Lorraine had taken her into one of the guest rooms and stripped the bed down to sheets. Perchta lay against a mountain of pillows, her eyes wild and teeth clenched while Lorraine poured a pitcher of water into a bowl on the washstand. Leyna was nowhere to be seen.
“It will be all right, dear heart,” said Lorraine soothingly. “The midwife is on her way.”
“Don’t call me that,” snapped Perchta.
Lorraine tittered nervously. “Pain really does change a person, doesn’t it?” She dipped a cloth into the water and wrung it out. “Just try to take deep breaths.” She went to place the cloth on Perchta’s brow, already beaded with sweat, but Perchta snatched it away with a growl.
Lorraine jumped back.
With a huff, Perchta slapped the cloth onto her brow herself, then slumped back into the pillows. “Awful timing,” she said. “Better be worth it.”
“Here, Mama,” said Leyna, bustling in with an armful of clean towels.
“Good, good, set them here,” said Lorraine. “I’ve been waiting to tell Serilda the wonderful news. Thought you might like to do it. Maybe it will help take her mind off the pain.”
Leyna’s eyes were round as the coming full moon. “Uh … yes.” She440beamed at Perchta, then immediately shriveled beneath the huntress’s scowl. She cleared her throat. “Mama and Frieda were married last month!”
Lorraine laughed. “Notthatnews, silly girl,” she said, then gestured at Perchta. “The news about our special guests. That Serilda will bedelightedto see?”
Leyna gave an unsubtle shake to her head, which Perchta missed only because she had squeezed her eyes shut as another wave of pain struck her.
Lorraine frowned. “What—?”
“It’s a surprise!” said Leyna. “Let’s … let’s leave it as a surprise. Let her focus on … that.” She gestured toward the bed. “It’s enough excitement for now, don’t you think?”
Lorraine’s lips bunched to one side. “Perhaps you’re right. I just thought she’d be so happy …”
Leyna cleared her throat. “Let’s not say anything yet. What can I do, Mama?”
“Oh! Uh … if you could put a pot of water on to boil.”