Chapter 14 - Ember
I helped Fern into the house, her arm draped around my neck in an effort to half carry, half drag her to the bed. As we were going through the front door, a loud sound caused me to glance over my shoulder.
Coming out of the forest was a large group of figures. In a moment of panic, my tired mind conjured up images of a mob with pitchforks and torches. But as the group came closer, I realised they were Dryads like Fern.
Another sound, this one like splashing water, made me turn towards the direction of the river. About four girls started running over, all dripping wet as their hair spilled down their heads like a waterfall, never going past their shoulders.
I smiled and sent a silent prayer of thanks for River to the gods, hoping they really did want this child to help them in the future.
Suddenly, Fern was lifted out of my arms by a gust of wind. I strained to see them in the fading light, but I could just make out the ghostly shapes of a pair of Wind Nymphs.
"We will take care of this," they sang in unison. I felt a wet hand on my shoulder and turned to see the smiling face of River. "We'll do everything we can to help her," she promised before heading inside with the other Naiads and Dryads, closing the door behind her.
Not knowing what to do, I paced back in forth in front of the house, listening to Fern scream in agony. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore. I walked towards the hill, climbing up until I was sitting in the nest of roots at the base of the trunk.
The entire oak seemed to shake, it's leaves and branches rustling violently. From this distance, Fern's pain was just a faint sound in the noise of the wind.
"I can't be in there with you," I told the tree. "But I'm staying right here with you."
The tree's rumbling seemed to lessen, but it didn't stop completely. I hoped that she knew I was here from inside the house. I hoped that the gods would protect them both. I hoped for a lot of things as I sat there throughout the night, not moving from my spot. And not sleeping wink.
"Drake?" a voice said softly, shaking my shoulder. I sat bolt upright, blinking wildly to clear my eyes. "Wha...? What hap...pened?"
I looked up to see River standing there, a small smile on her lips. "Well...there were a few complications...but..." She didn't finish. But from the tiny tears in her eyes, I feared the worst.
Without waiting for her, I scrambled to my feet and sprinted towards the house. The moon was still high in the sky, shining on the meadow like a silver light from the heavens.
I flung the door open and ran into the bedroom. And time stood still. Fern was laying in bed with a bundle of blankets in her arms. Tears were streaming down her face, but she was smiling sweetly at the bundle.
I walked carefully over like any sudden movement would shatter the world into a million fragments. Fern noticed me and held the blankets out to me.
I sat down on the edge of the bed as Fern pulled the blankets back a bit. Inside, wrapped in blankets and cloths, was a tiny, wide-eyed face. A tuft of black hair swept down over a pair of dark brown eyes. I used a finger and moved the hair to the side.
But something didn't seem right. Not that anything was wrong. It was the most adorable face I had ever seen. But the skin was tanned like the child had spent its time basking in the sun.
Then I realised that this child was my child. And I forgot about all of my worries. "What should we call him?" I asked looking at the boy staring up at the two of us.
"Considering he was burning up when he was born-"
"What!?" I exclaimed. The baby started to whimper but Fern rocked him as I hush him till he was calm again.
"And that he's a little spark of joy for us," Fern continued. "How about Ember?"
"Ember," I mused, looking down at the boy. "It sounds perfect..."
We spent the rest of the night like that, just the three of us in silent embrace until the sun came up.
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