Extended Family

by Christian O'Kane

Amidst the grand events here at the Keep the most important things are the little ones.
Jenn Maugnard, November 707.

Right after the Harvest Festival

It was just after midnight when the messenger arrived. They young boy was still breathless when Misha opened the door to his apartment. The fox was dressed solely in a pair of breeches.

The boy didn’t give Misha a chance to speak but started shouting. “SHE’S GIVING BIRTH! SHE’S GIVING BIRTH!” he shouted as he hopped up and down. “Right now.”

“Who told you that?” Caroline asked as she walked up from behind Misha to stand next to him. She was wearing a large, ankle length shirt and nothing else.

Misha placed a hand on the boys shoulder. That seemed to calm him down enough to get him to stand still.

“Jotham, the healer” the boy answered after a moment.

Misha leaned closer to the boy. “Whose giving birth?”

“Jenn,” the boy answered.

“Maugnard?” the fox asked harshly.

“Ah . . . “ the boy stuttered. “Ah . . “

”Are they wolverines?” Caroline asked calmly. “Both of them.”

The boy only nodded slowly.

Andre and Jenn Maugnard were close friends of Misha and Caroline. Andre had lost a leg during the Yule attack. Loosing that limb hadn’t effected other parts of his body and his wife Jenn was pregnant.

“What exactly did Jotham say?” the female otter morph asked.

“He said something water breaking.”

“What?” Misha asked. Confused. “How can you break water?”

“Oh lord!” Caroline whispered. “If her water has broken she really is about to give birth!”

“What water?” the fox asked still confused.

“Her . . “ Caroline started to say but stopped. “I’ll explain it later honey. What it means is she is going into labor.”

“Going into labor?” Misha asked, still confused.

Caroline sighed and shook her head. “She’s started to give birth!” she exolained.

“Give birth? Now?”

The otter nodded. “Now!”

The infirmary was already full by the time Misha and Caroline arrived. Since it served the entire keep the infirmary always had people there being seen by the healers for all manner of illnesses and injuries. But the place was even more busy then usual as many of the Long Scouts and members of Andres cavalry regiment and their families were present. All were standing around in small groups talking or pacing nervously back and forth. Misha recognized one of the women standing in one corner. She was wearing a wool shirt with tunic over it and a baggy pair of pants. Hanging from her belt was long saber in a tooled leather and brass belt. On her sleeve was a gold emblem of two crossed lances over a horseshoe all in silver thread. This marked her a senior officer in a cavalry regiment.

He pushed through the crowd and walked up to the woman. “What’s happening Catljin?” he asked the woman. As second in command of Andres regiment and a friend of the Maugnard’s she would know what was happening.

“They came in about half an hour ago,” came the answer.

“Where is she?” Caroline asked as she walked up to Catljin.

The woman pointed to a door that stood partly open. “In there along with Andre and Brian the healer.”

A moan of pain came through the doorway and everyone looked towards the door and the source of the sounds on the opposite side.

Misha flinched at the sound. “What’s happening?”

“She’s giving birth!” Caroline answered in an amused tone.

“Oh,” the fox answered in a timid tone without taking his eyes off the door.

Caroline hugged him tightly. “Your parents never explained childbirth to you?”

“Well, . . “ Misha said slowly. “Dad did explain the fun part – creating a child. He sort of skipped over the last part.”

“Of course. Leave it to men to forget about the hardest part.”

Suddenly a woman out of the door. She wearing the armor of a soldier and on her breastplate was painted the emblem of a black axe. It marked her as one of the soldiers assigned to guard Long house itself. There was a look of pure horror on the woman’s face which was devoid of color. Alex clutched her stomach and gagged, "Is that what's going to happen to me?"

"Child birth is a beautiful thing." Caroline said to the gender morph.

Alex looked back into the birthing room and nodded slowly.

“What’s happening?” Misha asked. The fox was standing close to the door to the birthing room.

“Go in and look,” Caroline answered. “They’ll not mind so long as you’re quiet.”

Misha looked at the closed door and slowly stepped away from it. His tail was tucked between his legs and his one good ear was laid back against his head. “Ah . . I . . I think I’ll wait here. I don’t want to interfere.”

Caroline laughed. “What are you afraid of? You’re male. I’m the one who will be going through this with our children.”

“And you thought fighting was hard!” Lisa joked. “Combat is easy. Nothing beats giving birth for pain.”

Misha stood still looking at the closed door at the groans and screams of pain that came through to him.

It seemed like forever before the cries stopped and an exhausted Coe stepped from into the room. A crowd instantly formed around the raccoon asking all sorts of questions.

“Not so close,” Misha ordered. He waved his hands about and the people slowly fell back. “Stop crowding him.”

Misha stepped up to the tired raccoon healer. “Well?”

“Mother and children are fine but Jenn will need bed rest for at least two days,” Brian Coe answered in a tired tone.

The fox walked quickly towards the door. Misha paused at the door and stood there for a moment before pushing the door open and stepping inside.

The room was brightly lit. Pushed up against the far wall was a large bed. In it was Jenn. The female wolverine morph was sprawled on the bed under a blanket and looked to be exhausted and asleep. Andre was standing next to her and he looked as tired as she did.

A large crib had been placed next to Jenn’s bed and already several women were crowded around it.

Misha and Caroline pushed through and got a good look at the Keeps newest residents. The three small bundles of fur were curled up and sound asleep. They looked so small to the fox.

“Wow,” was all Misha could say.

“They’re beautiful!” Caroline said delightedly.

“They are!” Misha added. “What are they? Boys or girls?”

“Girls,” Andre answered proudly. “All three are girls and perfectly healthy.”

“What are their names?” Lisa asked.

“Dana, Ilyana and Becky,” Andre said softly.

Misha looked at the three little ones, “they’re fine names and fine children. You both should be proud.”

Andre nodded in a slow, tired manner.

The fox scout made his way over to the bed where Jenn was sound asleep. “How is she?” he asked in a whisper. She looked all right but obviously worn out from the exertions.

“Tired but good,” Jotham said. “The births were without any problems.”

“No problems?” Misha asked, surprised. “But with all that screaming . . “

“I didn’t say it was without pain just that it was without problems,” Jotham answered.

“All births are painful,” Lisa commented.

Caroline knelt down next to the cradle and looked at the newborns. She gently stroked the tiny hands of one of the newborns. “Painful but well worth it.”

Misha knelt down next to his fiancé and wrapped an arm around Caroline’s waist. “You still want lots of kids my love?”

“YES!” she answered firmly.