She hadn’t realized she’d been asleep. The first thing she noticed was a very distinct ache in her lower back and a very noticeable burn between her legs. She moaned as she shifted. Someone hushed her; gentle hands were on her shoulders.
“Don’t stress yourself. You still need rest.”
Elpis opened her eyes. The room was bathed in a golden glow—just as she recalled it. The curtains and drapes had been replaced for fine red ones, as the Church taught was auspicious for life events such as birth. The woman next to her was Lo, the midwife. Hadn’t she died in the siege against the palace?
“What day is it? Where are we?”
“Calm, child. You had a very difficult birthing. But you triumphed.”
“Where is she?”
Lo smiled knowingly. “He. Your son is with King Cobin.”
“Your king is very pleased. He wishes to name the babe after a god, with your consent.”
“With my—” Elpis began to bawl, thick, loud, ungainly sobs that stole her breath and shook her head to toe.
“This is to be expected. Every woman runs high on emotions after bringing life into the world. I shall see if the king is free to give audience.”
“N-n-n….” Elpis did not want to disturb King Cobin; she was only his mistress, and to impose upon him was to cross her boundaries. But her heart ached with longing. Why did she feel like she hadn’t seen him in so long?
As if she knew these feelings, Lo only smiled before going to fetch him. Elpis looked around her surroundings, and felt…odd. Something had changed since she was last awake. No. Perhaps she was just exhausted. Her memory felt fuzzy.
And then she remembered it. The singing. The purple cavern. Oh, so beautiful, but full of sadness and anger and frustration. And the fear. It had been such a terrible nightmare. Such a horrid dream indeed.
Cobin stood in the doorway. He had not shaved his grey mane of hair in years, but he still wore the red granted by the Church. He held a smile on his face which she rarely saw. It made her cry to see that smile, and she could do nothing but beam back at him through her tears. He looked down to the bundle in his arms, and a tiny hand reached up and grabbed a fistful of his beard.
Her breath was stolen. She had to hold her hands to her chest to keep her heart from bursting. Cobin approached her bedside and sat on the stool nearest her pillow. Tilting his arms, he showed her the face of their son.
He was so small. So small, yet strong enough to capture her heart immediately. She reached out to touch him, and he grabbed a finger in his little fist.
“I think he ought to be named after Weddin. He takes hold, just like his god.”
Elpis looked up at her king. In the candlelight he looked hallowed, so right for fatherhood, to rule this country. The love for his son would bolster him and right the wrongs done upon his subjects. He was so handsome with love in his eyes.
“I think we should name him Cobin,” she replied.
Her king laughed. “I’m not dead yet. Don’t go naming children after me until I’m gone and buried.”
Her smile grew ever wider as more tears cascaded down her face. “Cobin,” she muttered, over and over.
Cobin leaned forward and kissed her. Gentle, breathtaking. They huddled close together, mother, father, and son.
And they stayed like that.