'Hurtled into chaos, you fight…and the world will shake before you.' –Flemeth, Witch of the Wilds.
~ Cousland Castle, Highever, 4th Drakonis 9:14 Dragon ~
Bryce Cousland didn't pace, nor did he grimace as long pained groans echoed from behind the firmly shut door of his bedchamber; pacing or grimacing would worry his children more than they already were.
No, Bryce sat in one of the chairs bought in specially for them to seat in, and he waited with a tensed back and clenched hands on the armrests as he watched his three children.
Amazingly, Fergus almost seemed ready to drift off in his own seat. Only the disapproving glower of Ser Kenneth Nolan—their Commander of the land Forces, and Fergus' mentor—kept his stormy green eyes open and focused on his younger siblings, mostly on Brannon as Caitlyn was in good hands.
Brannon was carefully carving another toy ship—the blood of the Storm Coast was strong in his second son, Eleanor both celebrated and cursed as their second son was as restless as the sea—with steady hands, but a tense back.
Brannon was only eight, but he had memories of Eleanor's pregnancy with Caitlyn—vague though they were compared to even Fergus, who was three-years his senior and was six when Eleanor had Caitlyn—and knew all was not well with this pregnancy despite the best efforts of his parents in shielding their children from the truth.
Caitlyn, who was going to turn five this year, had taken-over Aldous' lap and was mostly content to listen to the sage wax about the history of the Couslands and how Bann Cousland gathered the lords under their banner to drive out the werewolves from the lands—obviously Aldous wouldn't have any trouble teaching Caitlyn as he did with Bryce's sons—with only the odd flinch as Eleanor's groans reached a higher and more pained pitch every now and again that Aldous soothed with one strong hand down her back.
Perhaps it should have been Bryce soothing his little girl, reassuring her that everything was going to be alright, but Bryce had never been keen on lying to his children, and he was too consumed by his own worry to soothe his children.
Eleanor wasn't as young as she used to be, her blonde hair—that only Caitlyn had inherited thus far—had been slowly turning grey to match his own greying locks, wrinkles were appearing around her mouth, eyes and creasing lines on her forehead.
She had fallen pregnant several times since Caitlyn and before this one, but she had always miscarried them before they felt comfortable in telling anyone.
This pregnancy had been hard, the sickness had lasted longer, and the mid-wife had restricted Eleanor to bed long before the last month came upon them.
Eleanor had kept a cheerful smile on her face when the children visited her, had kept herself busy by sewing and embroidering tiny clothes and blankets for their youngest child, had kept a strong front up when Bryce had fretted over her and worried.
Bryce? Bryce worried, worried to almost to the point of sickness—something that made Nan rant at him, informing him bluntly that he better take care of himself as they were too busy with the Teyrna to worry about his fool self—and tried to claw up some of the excitment that Eleanor felt as the babe quicken in her womb and her belly swelled.
But all he could do was worry, worry that he would lose his wife, worry that this child would be born sickly and die, that Eleanor would only have the chance the cradle a dying babe and not the strong babe she told—reassured herself—him was quickening in her womb.
He worried that the babe would be born still and silent, he worried what that would do to Eleanor. She had grieved each child they had lost, lost before they could be properly called babes in the name. She would mourn for this one more then the others, Bryce knew, as this one had lasted to term, this one had seemed to prove that they would thrive.
It would break her heart if it died, but Bryce—selfishly, horribly—would prefer a dead child to a dead wife. It was a thought, a desire, that he shared with no one.
"It's been hours," Brannon spoke softly, his eyes fixed on the ship taking shape under his hands and blade. "Shouldn't it have been over by now?"
"Babes," Ser Kenneth began, his voice a deep rumble, "do things in their own time, and nothing anyone does will make them conscious of our time; you can beg, you can cry, you can shout, and it won't make much difference—expect make an upset babe that will attempt to deafen you with their displeasure."
"Those words will hearten them to their new sibling, no doubt," Aldous remarked dryly.
"I speak the truth," Ser Kenneth shrugged his massive shoulders almost dismissively. "The boys should already know this by now, considering they should remember the little Lady's birth and such."
Aldous made a noise in his throat, unconvinced, as he turned back to entraining said little Lady.
They were all startled when a loud scream of almost frustration echoed from behind the door.
Bryce stood as sudden silence took over both rooms, leaning forwards as he strained his ears to hear the muffled words.
"My baby…my baby…" he could just make out Eleanor's weak voice, the muttering of the mid-wife and Nan, but he couldn't hear anything from said baby.
Bryce felt his heart sink as the moments passed and the despair in Eleanor's voice grew.
Then suddenly there was a loud and disgruntled wail that was the most beautiful thing that Bryce had heard in years.
"And now it's over," Ser Kenneth laughed as he clasped a heavy hand onto Bryce's back. "They've got a set of lungs on them."
Yes, they did. Strong and clear lungs, there was no hint of weakness or obvious breathlessness in the disgruntled wailing of his youngest child. If he hadn't waited in silent agony, he wouldn't have even known that the babe was worryingly silent for so long.
Somehow, Bryce thought this child would be a different kind of trouble compared to his other children. And somehow, Bryce didn't mind and was almost looking forward to it.
Nan clucked her tongue as the newest Cousland flailed and wailed as she bathed the blood and womb from her skin and knew without a doubt that this Cousland would be more trouble than her elder siblings.
"Not even ten minutes old, and already causing your mother grief," Nan groused as the babe almost screeched in dismay as Nan washed the blood from the copper curls—that she had obviously inherited from her grandfather, Bann Mac Eanraig, and something the Storm Giant would no doubt be delighted about when he met his newest granddaughter—covering her tiny head, her small face scrunched up in a scowl.
Nan hadn't been impressed when the babe was born silent nor was she impressed by the mid-wife's fussing as the Teyrna weakly called for her baby with increasing dismay.
A firm smack to the buttocks had made the baby wail in a disgruntled manner and allowed the Teyrna to weep slightly in relief.
The babe's lungs were strong and clear from the sound of her wails, all her fingers and toes were formed properly and in their correct place, her limbs were strong considering how she was waving them about while Nan washed her.
She may be a bit small—a lot smaller than her elder siblings were, Nan would admit grudgingly to herself and no one else—but nothing some good feeding wouldn't fix—despite the mutterings of the daft woman they had to relay on now their old mid-wife had retired.
The only thing of note that Nan would remark about was her eyes. It seemed the newest Cousland didn't want to favour either side of her heritage and sported different coloured eyes; the left was the stormy green of the Banns of the Storm Coast while the right was the blue of the Couslands.
An interesting look, an unmistakable look. No matter what, Nan knew, she would always know this Cousland from just her eyes as there was no hiding them.
"You are going to be trouble, aren't you?" Nan almost huffed as she towelled the babe off and began dress and then swaddle her despite her flailing limbs that seemed determined not to be restrained. "You won't get the best of old Nan."
The little Cousland scowled up at her with a red face and a renewed wail of disapproval as Nan allowed a small grin of triumph cross her lips as she held the swaddled babe.
The little Cousland would have to try harder to best her, Nan thought to herself smugly as she turned.
She nodded in approval to see that the elves had stripped the bed and remade it with fresh linen—the soiled sheets had been bundled up and would be discreetly disposed off when young eyes wouldn't see—and had helped the Teyrna into a new night-gown with a laced up front—for easy access for the babe to feed—and had propped her up with plump pillows.
One had even thought to re-braid the Teyrna's greying fair hair when they sponged the sweat from her—Nan was almost impressed by their forethought—while another was making the pain tonic that would be mixed with the Teyrna's water for when she had finished feeding the babe and easing the worry of her husband.
It would aid the Teyrna with her sleeping and ease the lingering soreness from birth, Nan approved of the elf getting it ready.
She didn't approve of the fool mid-wife still hanging around, frowning to herself as she wrote in her book and possibly worrying the Teyrna with her concerns.
If her hands were free, Nan knew she would have gladly thrown the woman out like she had once thrown the Teyrn out during the birth of Fergus.
Instead Nan shot the woman a scowl and made her way to the waiting mother, holding the wriggling baby close, and was almost amused by the disgruntled pitch of the mewls the baby was uttering as she couldn't wriggle free from her blanket.
The Lady's stormy green eyes lit up, despite the exhaustion pulling at her face, and reached out with slightly shaking arms.
Nan settled the baby in her mother's arm, guiding her Lady's arms until the babe was cradled to her mother's chest before she stepped back and allowed her Lady to tug the gown aside and give her child the first feed.
A good feeder, Nan noted in satisfaction. No problems latching on, she was feeding strongly, and that meant it would be easier to feed her up.
The mid-wife made a sound as she noticed the Teyrna feeding, making a motion as she was going to move towards them, and Nan stopped her in her tracks with one look.
Her 'help' wasn't needed anymore, she had already shown herself to be overly fussy and even useless.
Nan had been there for the birth of all three of the elder Cousland siblings, she had cared after the Teyrna and the babe each time and didn't need some green mid-wife sprouting her opinions and making the Teyrna unduly worry about things.
"Father will be pleased," the Teyrna spoke softly, shifting slightly so she could run her fingers against the fine copper curls that covered her daughter's tiny head. "He always despaired that none of his children inherited his fiery locks."
"Let's hope the Bann doesn't attempt to give her a ship in his pleasure," Nan remarked dryly, leaving off the word 'again' though it was clearly heard by her Lady as she let a small smile curl her lips and gave an amused huff—obviously too tired and sore to properly laugh.
"I'm sure he'll remember that a ship is not a gift to give to his newly born grandchild," she replied, remembering the pride that made her father's chest puff out when he saw that Fergus had inherited the stormy green eyes of the Storm Coast and his declaration that he would get a ship built for him as soon as he could.
Thankfully, she had been able to dissuade her father from that idea though she knew that he had built a ship—not for Fergus like he first declared, but for Brannon that had showed himself to have the salty blood of the Storm Coast despite Brannon inheriting his father's Cousland blue eyes and dark hair.
"What's the baby's name?" the mid-wife asked, interrupting their conversation without a care—Nan really didn't care for her.
"Kenna," the Teyrna decided after a moment, "her name is Kenna Cousland."
"Fitting," Nan snorted slightly as she glanced at the babe's copper curls—born from fire fitted her well.
The mid-wife nodded as she noted it down.
"I suppose we should put your husband out of his misery," Nan spoke wryly making her Lady smile slightly and nod as she shifted.
"Only Bryce though," she told Nan in a weary tone. "I know the children will be worried, but—"
"Leave them to me, m'lady," Nan interrupted with a firm tone. "I send them off to bed, they can wait till the morning."
A flicker of relief went across the Teyrna's pale face which just made Nan more determined to make sure that the Teyrna was able to properly rest soon.
She was tiny, was Bryce's first thought when he caught sight of the baby that Eleanor was cradling with a tired but loving smile.
For the first time since he first saw Fergus, Bryce felt too big and even clumsy as he carefully lowered himself onto the bed beside his wife.
"Do you want to hold her?" Eleanor asked him, already moving to hand her precious daughter to him and he almost panicked—what if he hurt her? She was so much smaller than her elder siblings had been.
But he automatically accepted her, arms remembering easily what to do as he cradled his youngest daughter close.
"What's her name?" he asked quietly, noting with some relief that she had a good weight to her—not as fragile as her small size seemed to imply.
"Kenna," Eleanor told him, already half-sleep as she leaned more firmly into the pillows.
"Go to sleep, love," he chuckled, leaning to brush a kiss on her forehead. "I'll look after her for you."
Eleanor hummed slightly as she drifted off as Bryce pulled back.
He glanced town and meet the curious mismatched gaze of his youngest daughter.
"You're certainly unique," he told her softly, smiling as she seemed to make a face at him. "That's not a bad thing, Pup."
Her soft face seemed to convey doubt as she watched him.
"You're going to cause trouble for Nan, aren't you?" Bryce asked her, amused. "Not even an hour old, and already showing such attitude."
She yawned almost pointedly as she wriggled closer to him.
Bryce chuckled as he held her closer; his fears and his worries had fled the moment he saw both his wife and child safe and healthy, and he finally let himself feel some excitement for his youngest.
~ Cousland Castle, Highever, 5th Drakonis 9:14 Dragon ~
Kenna stared, almost puzzled, up at her elder siblings as they peered into her cradle with curiosity making Eleanor smile slightly and Bryce to grin.
"She's tiny," Fergus pointed out as Caitlyn reached out for one of Kenna's little fists.
"Is she meant to be this small?" Bran asked as he frowned in worry while Caitlyn gave a delighted smile when Kenna's fist clamped down on one of her wandering fingers.
"I don't know," Fergus frowned almost thoughtfully. "I think you were bigger."
"She's perfect," Caitlyn declared in a tone that dared her brothers to disagree with her.
Neither did so; they knew better as Caitlyn only had to wobble her lower lip and make her big blue eyes a bit watery to bring the adults' wrath upon them—they also weren't going to say anything against their new sister while in front of their parents.
"I like her red hair," Bran offered at the same time as Fergus said; "Her eyes are pretty."
Together they grimaced as Caitlyn looked up at them unimpressed by their attempts to agree with her while Kenna gummed at Caitlyn's finger, happily ignoring her elder siblings.
"I'll never get grandchildren from them," Eleanor sighed slightly forlorn making her husband laugh.
"I think it's a bit soon to think about grandchildren," he told his wife, a grin still pulling at his lips as he watched his four children. "They haven't even started shaving yet."
Eleanor hummed, seemingly unconvinced, though smiling as she watched her children bond together.
"Is she meant to be this quiet?" Brannon asked as he brushed his fingers against the fine cooper curls of his youngest sister.
Kenna stopped gumming Caitlyn's finger and seemed to eye him with her dual-coloured eyes—why she didn't have eyes the same colour, Brannon didn't know, though he supposed it was nice that Fergus wasn't the only one with their mother's stormy green eyes, well kind of—made a face at him.
"I don't know," Fergus told him with a shrug as he made a face back at Kenna. "You two just slept when I first saw you."
Kenna gave an open-mouthed expression of babyish joy—flashing her pink gums to them as spit bubbled on her tongue—and almost cooed up at Fergus, waving her free fist at him.
"She's happy," Caitlyn cooed with a delighted smile as she brushed her thumb against the fist clutching her finger. "She likes us."
Brannon wasn't so overjoyed as his younger sister. Kenna was a baby; babies liked most things after all.
~ Cousland Castle, Highever, 7th Drakonis 9:14 Dragon ~
A raven hopped onto the open window of the main bedchambers of the Castle, keen eyes noting the sleeping forms of the parents in the bed before dismissing them as they caught sight of the cradle.
A flap of their wings pushes them into the room and then the raven's form twists and grew to the form of a tall woman with long white hair.
Golden eyes glanced towards the sleeping Couslands, a twist of her magic seeping into their minds kept them from stirring as she moved with a predator's grace towards the cradle that held the youngest Cousland.
"Such a tiny thing to be thrown into this chaos filled world of mine," Flemeth muttered to the sleeping babe. "But you are a Cousland, you will not cower from chaos. No, you will stand with burning resolve and fight—but what will you fight for? What will you change? I don't know, and that makes you so interesting."
Flemeth almost grinned in delight, a bare of her teeth as she stared down at the unaware babe; unaware of Flemeth, unaware of the woman of legend and great power had come from her Wilds to see her, unaware of what made her truly unique, unaware of the power she held.
"Death and rebirth have changed you," she informed the babe. "It has made you more, unique in this world and the last—a new player for this game. It is a good thing that no magic runs through your veins, the thought of all that potential going to waste locked up in some Tower? It's maddening."
She brushed one finger across the soft fine copper strands that covered such a fragile head.
"The world is full of possibilities, and you will see them all," she muttered softly, "which will you choose? Which will you nudge others to choose? I don't know, but I can't wait to see what you will do."
She'll grow, she'll learn, and she will be fierce—all Couslands were, fiercely loyal, fiercely stubborn, fiercely bold in every action, Fortune favours the Bold after all—but she will never know the true depth of her uniqueness, she'll never have to confront the memory of death and fear and doubt until she was moments from death herself—that will be her memory though, this Cousland child's memory not the memory of who she used to be and would never fully remember.
No, this Cousland may have an inkling sometime in the future, but she'll never truly know—Fate had been merciful to this child despite the heavy burden of a 'gift' they had bestowed on her in turn.
She leaned back from the cradle and smiled down at the babe.
"Live, young Cousland, grow strong and you will stand above your siblings," Flemeth told her. "You will stand against the chaos, you will bring change, and the world will know your name, they will tremble in your wake."
Flemeth turned, she had sated her curiosity, and with a twist the woman of legend was gone, and a raven retook her place.
Kenna Cousland frowned in her sleep as the raven soared out of the window, a sleepy snuffle leaving her before she settled into a deep sleep—unaware of the powerful force that had visited her, unaware of the prophecy the Legend had bestowed upon her, unaware of what made her unique.