“Shit, shit, shit.” She quickly moved away from the side of the pen, trying to put as much distance between herself and the red head as possible. However, there was only so far she could go. She bent down and tried to shake Tesni awake - perhaps she might know what to do - but the other girl continued to snore.
A low moan echoed through the pen. Vivian stood up and glanced around, expecting it to come from one of her current cellmates. The old woman was sobbing and praying, and the young girl with her was silent. It didn’t appear to have come from anyone in any of the pens nearby either.
She heard the moan again, and finally identified the source: a woman, not much older than her, was leaning against an empty pen across the way. She was pregnant. Very pregnant. In fact, she looked like she was about ready to pop. She pressed one hand against her belly while the other clutched at the wooden spars of the pen, and moaned again.
“Are you okay?” Vivian asked, feeling more than a little stupid once the words left her lips. Clearly the woman was not okay.
“Yes, I’m fine.” The woman took a deep breath and forced herself to stand up straight, her eyes widened in surprise when she realized she was being addressed by a slave. Vivian braced herself to be yelled at - something along the lines of ‘how dare you speak in my presence’ - but instead the woman pointed at her necklace. “Where did you get that?”
“My mother.” Vivian watched as she winced in pain and doubled over again. ”You’re not okay. Is it your . . . time?” Yet again she felt stupid, but if they were in a different world, a different time, who knew what they called labor here.
“Not for another two months. Sometimes the pains will come if I’ve overdone myself. They go away eventually.”
“If you’ve overdone things, then you should be at home, resting, and drinking water.”
The girl laughed. “You sound like a midwife. Are you one?”
Vivian shook her head. “No. But I remember when my step mother was expecting my brother.” It had been horrible - poor Bree had experienced everything from hypermesis gravidium to preeeclampsia. “I learned a lot from her.”
“My mother says walking is good for the baby - and since she gave birth to four healthy boys, I will listen to her.”
“Having a boy or a girl has nothing to do with your activity level or position or anything. It’s a fifty fifty chance that you have no control over. If you need to rest, rest. You’d better do it now, because it’s not like you’ll get much of a chance once the baby comes.” Even though it had been over ten years, she could remember how exhausted Bree had been for the first year or so of Andrew’s life even though she had Vivian, her husband, and Uncle Mike to help out.
“Do you have any children of your own?”
“No, but I have a little brother and a few of my...” Well, she couldn’t really call them friends since Audra never let her really get close to anyone else... but she followed them on facebook, so that had to count as something right? “Acquaintances have kids.”
“Kids?” She blinked at her in confusion.
Right, Vivian sighed. They probably didn’t use that word here. “Babies.”
“And did they rest? And drink water?”
“Yes. And all of them would agree with me that your mother in law is full of it.”
“Hm.” She chuckled at that, before moaning again. After she caught her breath, she glanced at Vivian once more, her eyes skimming over the plain fabric dress, her hair, and the lines of her face, before her gaze settled on the necklace. Vivian covered it with her hand to hide it, even though she knew it was already too late. “Your mother, the one who gave you that necklace, is she one of the lost ones?”
“The lost ones. The families who fled the destruction.”
“I don’t know --”
“Yes!” Tesni interrupted squeezing in next to Vivian at the fence. “Yes we are! Are you an initiate too? Or one of the chosen? Will you help us?”
The woman frowned. “We don’t speak of those things here. The ancient ways ended when the temple fell. And I wasn’t speaking to you, I was speaking with your friend.” She glanced at Tesni throat, perhaps looking to see if she had a necklace hanging there. Tesni pulled down the rough opening of her dress, revealing that, yes, she had one too, but where Vivian’s was green, her’s was a vibrant red. Vivian frowned, wondering how it had escaped her notice until now, but before she could ask, the pregnant girl started speaking again. “Perhaps there might be hope though. We are in need of help at our villa. Do you cook? Clean?”
“And you?” She glanced at Vivian.
“She’s a healer.” Tesni answered for her.
“No, I’m -- ow!” Vivian yelped in pain after Tesni kicked her in the shin. “What was that for?” She hissed and glared at the other girl.
“Keep your trap shut.” Tesni hissed right back. “This is our way out of here.”
A crease marred the girl’s otherwise pretty face, and her brown eyes danced from one to the other. “Are you sure she’s a healer? She doesn’t seem to agree with you.”
She gave the pregnant woman a smile. “It’s been a long trying journey. We were on our way home when we were beset upon by these ruffians. If you need any proof, look at her head, it was cut a couple of days ago, and now it’s gone. She also knows her herbs.”
Vivian gaped at her. “How did you...?”
“I’ve seen how you eye the plants around here... And you mumble in your sleep.”
“Oh.” Well that was embarrassing, but definitely the least of her concerns now. She turned her head slightly, watching the red headed man out of the corner of her eye.
“Show me.” The pregnant woman commanded.
“I’m not sure that that’s...” Vivian stammered.
“Show me, or else I’ll call those two gentlemen over and have them do it.” The girl nodded in the direction of the slavers. Both were currently occupied with a prospective buyer -- the red head, Vivian noted grimly-- but all it would take was a shout from her lips to draw their attention. Sighing, she turned around so the girl could poke and prod at her head. The woman traced her the wound on her scalp with a fingertip. The scab had flaked away during yesterday’s bath, leaving behind a raised line of skin. “Interesting. Perhaps there is some truth to your story after all.”
“Why would we lie?” Tesni asked.
The woman shot a scornful glance in Tesni’s direction. “Why wouldn’t you? My father dabbled in the slave trade when I was younger. There were quite a few poor souls who claimed to be a part of the lost families in the hopes that we would believe them and set them free. But as I said, times have changed. People are not as trusting.” She glanced at their necklaces again. “I’ll see what I can do.”
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