Hunith laid flat upon her lumpy mattress, tensing and trying desperately to focus on anything but the waves of sheer agony coursing through her torso. It had not been comfortable even before she was heavily with child, back chronically sore and ankles constantly aching. She had a fleeting thought that she would need a softer one when the babe arrived - God help her, he was certainly taking his sweet time.
Hunith’s hands were grimy from tilling the fields that morning, the ends of her nails jagged and hyponychium filthy, for women of Ealdor did not get the luxury of time off. The chilly autumn winds carried a sense of foreboding and of trepidation; it was sure to be a harsh winter yet. Warmth would be scarce and food a commodity. The timing was not ideal, but fate had decided that Hunith was due for a kick up the backside. Her right ring finger was lacking just that, meaning that when news of her pregantcy spread, she became as good as invisible - which had led to this dangerous state of solitude.
When she had taken notice of the subtle swelling of her belly, she wept, then cursed herself for such futility. This son would be all she had left of her love, and this son she would love with all of the passion that had preceded him.
Of course, Hunith had already been well aware that her son would be different from all of the other boys, for she had long known of her family’s tainted blood. Unfortunately, though, the gestation was unordinary as well. For some time, Hunith had thought that she was haunted by a phantom of her lost love, the unaware father of their child. However, word from Gaius confirmed that he had escaped Uther’s ruthless manhunt alive.
She had also been aware of her love’s powerful heritage, of the aptitude for magic that coursed through his veins. That left very few viable explanations as to why the natural world was suddenly pandering to her desires - inefficiently, at that. With the simple thought of eating the pork on her counter - but not wanting to cook it herself - came the immediate incineration of some poor dead pig. Once, she was reminiscing upon catching frogs with her uncle on the banks of rivers as a child and sure enough, a cacophony of the creatures serenaded her inside the hut as she frantically tried to sweep them away with a broom.
Perhaps, after courting her love, Hunith had unlocked some part of herself that could perform magical acts? No, she somehow knew that wasn’t it. She had never felt the soft golden flame in her eyes that her love had described when she had grown curious. This then led to the sordid conclusion that her unborn child had an annoying knack for the art.
Great, Hunith had thought. Hitting two stones with one bird.
Hunith laid propped on her elbows, belly up, and shakily brushed the brown stragglers of hair from her clammy forehead. She could do this. She was the village girl who housed an enemy of the crown of Camelot, courted him, and then carried his bastard son in her womb. She handled being ostracized by her honorary family and abandoned in her time of need. She was Hunith of Ealdor, lover of the last dragonlord, tiller of fields, and she could damn well get this baby out. After that, what Hunith would do was anyone’s guess… Except for one thing: She would keep her son safe.
Hunith bore down with everything she had. It burned like there was no tomorrow, an endless inferno of stretching and tearing, but in her stupor, she ignored it and went on until the baby’s head was welcomed into the world. Hunith sobbed and wailed, but on what she suspected would be the final contraction, she pushed with all of her might and felt the infant’s shoulders pass through and the rest of the tiny body glide out soon after. Immediately, Hunith sat up to grab her babe, patting his back to will his first breath.
The child yelled out with a gusto Hunith was surprised he could muster. She hugged him fiercely to her chest and used the shears on her bedside table to sever their last connection as one. The tears that streamed down her face became of a different flavour, pouring the special teardrops that were saved only for the joy of a mother being introduced to her progeny.
Hunith took a glance at her darling, who had settled down to only mild fussing. This was lucky, for it was the dead hours of the night and she was already out of everyone’s forgiving graces. Her son had practically no hair, but Hunith could presume that he would become a dark brunette, for both his father and mother were the same. As with most babes, the eyes were still closed, and probably blue for the same reason.
Hunith was not surprised to see that the baby was not, in fact, a born boy. That was the curse, you see, for Hunith’s son was still just that. Like Hunith’s father, and his grandfather before him, this innocent child was inevitably a boy who was forced to lead the life of a young lady. However, Hunith would ease her son through the turmoil of their forefathers, and he would be treated according to his heart. At the time, all she could do was give him a full childhood.
Oh, and a name.
While pragnent, Hunith had spent many a night sitting in her bed at candlelight, conversing - if it could be called that - with her bump, the only person she could talk to back then. She figured he was a good listener since he seemed to give hearty smacks to her organs at just the appropriate times. It was mostly a joke, but one of the things they often discussed was names.
After lots of wholesome bruises to her insides, Hunith was down to Lark, Merlin, and Finch. Supposedly, Hunith really had an affinity with birds at the time. Looking down at him, she knew he was Merlin. She didn’t even have to consider the others. That was it.
“Merlin,” she whispered, trying it out.
Yes, Merlin was her son - her son who blindly grabbed at her pointer finger, and she rubbed his slimy teensy hands with the pad of her thumb, a bright smile on her face. Merlin chose this time of all times to chance a peek at his mother - She was a mother now! - and though he got irritated by the oh-so-bright candle, it was just enough time for Hunith to see her eyas’ eyes. They shone a brilliant gold, and the empty air tugged at the top of her tunic.
She gasped and those maternal tears changed once again, now to something more akin to fear. Happy fear, though; this really was his father’s son. In the span of his first minute, this infant felt a myriad of tears, of three types - pain, devotion, and fear. Make no mistake; tears hold a distinct magic, a magic practically invisible to the average bloke, but for the almighty Emrys - the name by which he would be exalted - these magics may have had some sort of effect. ‘On what?’ one might ask. There is a multitude of varying answers, from morals to guarded secrets to loyalties. It is all merely speculation, but in hindsight, it makes a lick of sense, doesn’t it?
Getting the message, Hunith discarded her messy tunic and allowed Merlin to wean upon her breast. She held him close, repeating the mantra of his name until her hoarse voice could no longer. All of these things happened in short minutes that felt like hours. Hunith almost forgot that she wasn’t done. That is, until the rippling pain returned, and these tears embodied her tired mind - tired beyond her years. As Hunith bore down once again, not nearly as horrible as the first time around, she kept her son held tight - but not too tight - and let herself revel in the amazing feat she had accomplished.
I made the most beautiful boy in the world, she thought.
Hunith tried to look down at Merlin without disturbing him, and suddenly all of her fears and pains were swept away for the moment. His magic and his curse were troublesome things… A second bout of pain took her over… But she could worry about that later.