• Graded • Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Faith goes into labor under less-than-ideal circumstances

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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:40 am

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The side effect of that ability was that Faith did not feel the sorrow for a full trial, having given it to Cren, she was free of it. Padraig, of all the people in the world, knew how much Aeon's death had affected her. The death of a friend combined with being helpless to save him or bring him back, those things had hit her hard, but she had dealt with them as she always did ~ pragmatically, a piece at a time. Each step, she just quietly looked at the emotions she was feeling, she felt them and tried to put them in a place. It left her with a deep sadness at Aeon's death, which under normal circumstances she would have been relieved to have been rid of for a trial. However, right now she had other things on her mind.

She used the ability and the man she used it on started to cry, to sob. The sorrow her felt, her sorrow, overwhelmed him and he became unhinged. Faith watched, frozen for a moment as he descended into some sort of hallucination. It was ironic that she felt compassion for him in that moment. Having hallucinated Alexander himself over the time since she'd been kidnapped, Faith felt her heart go out to the man who she had harmed in this way, but he had brought it on himself. They were attacking a pregnant woman, threatening her and taking her to a man who wanted to turn her baby into an undead thrall so that it could eat it's way out of her. So fear and common sense won, but as the man called Cren was lost in his own internal reverie of hate and pain and self loathing, Faith watched, wide eyed as he took his own life.

Then, as she struggled to get up, one of the other men pushed the body on to her and Faith turned, twisting on to her side in order to protect her child. If the weight of the man landed on her, he might harm the baby, she knew, so she turned, sticking her elbow up. The purpose of doing that was so that she would have leverage to get him off her in a moment.If she was still on her back, he might harm Bun but might also pin her. She was strong, there was no doubting that she was stronger than she looked, but still. There was only so far that went and leverage was an issue for her.

So, she turned and she tried to give herself as much leverage as she could. As she did, as she turned she kicked, hard at the man who had pushed Cren's body on to her. Her aim was a sudden, sharp kick to the groin, figuring that she'd used a number of abilities on them and now might be a time to remind them that, actually, she could fight damn well. "THERE ARE TWO OF THEM LEFT IN HERE!!" She yelled at the top of her lungs. She didn't need to do that, she and Padraig could share telepathic communication, but that wasn't the point. They were unnerved. "THEY ARE WORKING FOR ALEXANDER!" Let them be unnerved. "ONE IS CALLED STIG." Faith yelled, knowing that Padraig could hear her, and that the two of them in here could too. She worked to get out from underneath the body of Cren, with the aim of continuing to fight as much as she could.
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Tue Jan 09, 2018 10:50 am

There could have been half a dozen or more inside that carriage with Faith. The number of them would only matter so long as Padraig could finish the two on top of it first. They were the cause of him not being able to get to her just yet. It only mattered that Faith was there, and her ability to call out to him and continue putting up a fight only lit a fire under the scholar.

The dagger pulled out of the light, thanks to Qylios, had served him well and as Borely came undone, Padraig kicked his twitching body off the rolling coach and onto the streets. With any luck the whole thing had attracted the city guards' attention and the corpse would make part of a trail for them to follow. If they bothered. Something similar had happened once before after all and they'd hardly seemed interested, much less engaged. He was starting to wonder if they were in league with Alexander, or at least turning a blind eye to his activities.

There was still the driver to deal with however before he could get to Faith. With his hands still on the reins, the man twisted in his seat to look back at him balanced there. Padraig rarely if ever had taken advantage of the shield made of the same suns'light as the blade. Typically he ignored it. In this instance he reached out, took hold of the thing and rather than using it to defend himself, he used it like a bludgeon and slammed it into the man's face. Then letting go the shield again, his intention was to grab hold of the man by the collar, shove him off the seat and carriage, and take his place on the bench, reins taken in hand to draw back and slow the team of horses to a stop.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:53 pm

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There are many distinctly different envelopes of pain. The type that is granted with a kick to a man's groin is almost taunting in the way it allows a man a few ticks to realize what is about to engulf him. Tork was not looking at Faith as her foot shot out to bring his balls flush with his ass. Even as she started shouting to her partner on the roof, Tork began delivering an order to her to shut up.

It died in a wheezing gurgle as his eyes bugged with the agonized sensation of his entire organ assembly being slowly crushed within a shrinking ribcage. He swayed as if uncertain of which way to fall as color drained from his face. He leaned just little too far out the door and was forced to extend his arm to keep from following Borley's ragdoll tumble into the street.

It seems such a small thing, to extend your arm. But a blow to the groin makes any movement that defies the body's need to curl into a fetal ball an unrelenting damnation. The only upside for Tork was that the severity of the pain made it virtually impossible for the hand that now clenched the rooftop rail to come unclenched, even with his full body weight swinging out to sag against the outer wall of the coach, as it now did.

But he would recover. Tork knew he would. And despite the pain, the resolve to carve his initials into this woman's lungs kept him focused, and promised to be sated in a shrieking fury of blood and ignored pleas for mercy. For now, his own dismal squeal of pain became his focal point as he powered through it with hateful rage, building it slowly back to a roar of vengeance. Maybe Alexander would be denied his own personal vengeance, but Tork told himself that when the old monster learned of the torturous ordeal to which he would now subject this wretched harridan, he too would be satisfied.

Padraig could have perhaps ended Tork right then had he not been wrestling with the surprisingly resilient Crank. It was almost as if the pain delivered frontally with the shield countered the previous shot to the jaw, and gave the thug some sort of punch-drunk balance. He had no weapon but the reins, and effectively backed from Padraig enough to lure the rescuer in to where the slack in the leather straps now gave him the means of strangling him.

No matter the couple of blows he received in the process. Padraig may have thought he was on the verge of knocking the fellow out, when in an instant, the brigand was all energy and surged up to make his attempt to wrap the leather cords around his neck. His success was only partially achieved, catching one of his enemy's arms to the point of lashing it ineffectually to his throat and forcing Pad to use the other arm to prevent having his throat entirely encircled.

Crank, however, was also committed to this with both arms and the two men's motions were more impacted by the swaying of the wagon than they were by the unbalancing moves they attempted on each other. Eyes, separated only by inches, glared hate and the promise of death into each other as the road flying beneath them beckoned them both with equal welcome to its shattering embrace.

Inside the coach, Stig had only the remaining wit to grab Crennon's discarded knife. He held it before him in terror with both hands as he crouched back muttering, "Cren... Cren...why? Why'd'ja do it? You said you'd be there for me! Whadoo I do? Whadoo I do? Al's gonna kill me when he finds out!" Wild eyes, set against green skin, cast about for a sign of some way to salvage the debacle, and his life. The only focus he seemed to be able to retain was the ability to swing the blade with insane warning at Faith anytime she appeared to be trying to struggle from beneath the body.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:17 am

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She felt it connect, her foot and his groin and Faith let out a yell of pure rage. "Try and hurt a pregnant woman would you? WOULD YOU?" There was hysteria hitting in, there was no doubt about it, but it was fuelling her, adrenaline pumping and allowing her to not give in to the terror she was feeling. "COWARDS! Filthy, stinking cowards!" She continued to fight and to struggle, refusing to be silenced or stopped. She was terrified of the situation but Faith realised something in that moment. She was not afraid of them. Not one of them and she had never been more clear.

She was small and pregnant, there was no doubting that, but Faith was determined that she was getting out from underneath where she was pinned. "Don't you wave that at me!" It was ironic, really, that she sounded like she was telling Stig off. It was what she did sound like, like his mother might have. Should have she thought, suddenly, wildly. And then, she put all of her perhaps surprising levels of strength into pushing this damn dead many off her.

Assuming that she got out from underneath the corpse, Faith stood and immediately, she used her ability to shape her own ectoplasm, pulling it and turning it into a glistening black-grey sword, the blade of which moved in a viscous fluid shimmer and emanated cold. If she hadn't managed to get out from underneath the corpse before, she'd summon the sword and use it as leverage. Either way, she was determined to get out from beneath him. "You filthy, cowardly scum, I'm pregnant. PREGNANT!" The fury in the former slave's eyes was undeniable and as she held the blade, her comfort with it and ability to use it were evident in the ease of her movements. "Jump off, now, or I end you. I swear to Famula, Vri and Moseke, I might die in the doing of it, but you will die by my hands. Jump. NOW!" She meant it completely and she snarled the last at them. The solidified ectoplasm would remain solid for a good half-break, which was a lot longer than she needed, she knew. If they hesitated, or did not immediately comply, she would attack without pause, and she would not hesitate to kill.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:29 am

As a scholar and scientist, a sense of calm, focus, measure were all of them Pad's strengths. He wasn't temperamental by nature, rarely given to outbursts of temper or rage. But Crank in spite of several onslaughts of fist, foot or shield to the face, didn't seem to have the good graces to die. Faith was inside the carriage in the grips of madmen, their child was also in peril. That's where he needed to be and the driver was starting to piss him off.

In order to be in a position to get at him with the traces, to meet him eye for eye, Crank would be forced to abandon driving and get up on his feet. But he'd moved too quickly, forcing Padraig to withdraw one hand from the fight in order to stop himself being strangled to death. It limited his options and without a thought, he let the dagger and shield go, leaving them to return to the suns'light beating down around them.

There were ancient, unspoken and unwritten agreements between men. Those who knew one another and those who didn't, who liked each other or no. You didn't disparage another man's mother. If you saw a man dining with a woman that wasn't his wife, you didn't go reporting his conduct to the wife in question. And above all, even when locked in mortal combat alone or in mass, there were codes of conduct that were sacrosanct. There were tactics never considered, no matter their odds of success. For men. For women typically, not so much.

But these men had broken other codes...Rules related to honor, women and children. All bets were off. Circumstance, proximity and all that. Padraig didn't need that one hand free after all. Assured that he was balanced well enough, and in this instance the man's grip on him was more a help than a hindrance, his eyes never left Crank's as he brought one knee up, crushing and swift, in a way that Tork, dangling off the side of the carriage could probably relate to. Maybe even the Immortal's looking on, the male ones anyway, would collectively wince in sympathy.

But the scholar wasn't done. In the same split trill that his knee made contact, with his free hand, he slammed the butt of his palm up and into the man's nose as if to drive it in through his skull. And as if the sentiment behind it might add extra force to both maneuvers, he snarled into Crank's face, "Die already, you fekking son of a bitch!" Then having done it, he turned and stomped down on Tork's hand on the rail with the heel of his boot. Hard.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:11 pm

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Even though the feeling of one or two fingers snapping beneath his boot, and the accompanying screech of pain, gave Padraig a fleeting moment of grim satisfaction, it also took his focus away from Crank for a crucial instant. The man had fallen back from the blow to his crotch. But unlike Tork, his immediate peril of falling beneath the trampling hooves of the frightened horses, gave him steely resolve to act through the debilitating pain to push and spin himself against the front of the coach, twisting the reins tighter around Padraig's throat.

Crank's manic voice croaked through the haze of desperation, "I'll take you with me, you son of a bitch!" he gasped, grinning in fatalistic rage to see that the reins, while not inflicting any strangulation, were now too tight to simply slip over Padraig's head. In his madness, the driver tucked his feet against the underside of the buckboard and started to push, drawing Padraig inexorably toward the trampling edge. It was only the pain from the blow to Crank's crotch that slowed his progress, and gave Padraig the extra ticks he needed to find a way of defeating the crazed driver's 'mutual annihilation' approach.

Tork had, unfortunately, just been getting hold of the door jamb with his other hand when Padraig's boot crushed two of his fingers. He was a man well experienced with pain, and it fueled his rage rather than overwhelming his resolve. That resolve now took the form of the shadow of death, framed in the coach's doorway, and staring at Faith. He clearly was beyond any further concerns over the woman's strange abilities, now embodied in the black sword gripped in her hand.

He did not even seem to notice Stig; gave him no signal of any strategy to come at the woman from two angles. No, he was going to kill this woman himself, and not her blade, not her powers, not her empty threats, not the equal resolve in her eyes, and not the fear of Alexander's disappointment would stop him. No, he did not even notice Stig, whose wild eyes were of a different sort...

As Tork stepped in, raging in fury, he yanked Cren's limp body up one-handed. The swift, adrenaline-fueled ease with which he did this undermined Faith's swing of her blade. It caught and sank into Cren's ribs and became part of the bundle that Tork slammed back into her. And while she had now risen enough to avoid being pinned on the floor, she was pinned against the wall, easy prey for the knife now cocked and ready to strike.

And strike a knife did. But not the one Faith's horrified eyes were locked upon. There was a shriek of sheer anguish that Faith might have thought was coming from her own desperate throat. But the hilt of a knife suddenly appeared in the middle of Tork's chest, clutched in the white-knuckled grip of Stig, whose simpleton's strength and panicked insanity overpowered Tork. Stig flung him out the door with no more effort than tossing a sofa cushion as he raged after him.

"NO! I SAID NO! I MAY BE AN IDIOT, BUT I KNOW WHAT'S WRONG! CREN WAS WRONG! YOU WERE WRONG! CRANK AND BORLEY WERE WRONG! ALEXANDER IS A MONSTER! AND I'M NOT GOING TO LET HIM, OR CREN, TELL ME WHAT TO DO ANY MORE!"

He suddenly flinched and ducked back as he spun, fearing that Faith might be about to spear him through with that ugly black blade. He became newly aware of the bloody knife in his hand and dropped it immediately, as he fell to his knees in the cabin, tears nearly erupting from his eyes. "I'm so sorry, lady. So sorry...Kill me if you want. I've done Cren's things too much...I deserve it...Alexander scares me, but I'd rather have you kill me than go back. He does awful things. I'm...not a smart boy...I'm not...but this is wrong. I'm not THAT dumb...I know THAT much."

His babbling became indecipherable as tears wracked his speech.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Basilisk » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:03 pm

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Despite all that was going on, Faith was still in the process of childbirth. Nature, as usual, was uncaring of the situation, and so it was quite contentedly taking it's natural course. While the tension and stress of the situation had probably distracted both Faith and Padraig from the impending arrival of their much anticipated Bun, something else had been waiting for just this moment. Before their wedding, the Immortal Karem had passed some of her power into Faith. Nothing had changed in the little healer, however, and that power had laid dormant. Now, as pregnancy hit its climactic moment, the power that Karem had gifted finally took full form. And it hadn't been gifted to Faith at all.

As Tork died, there was a fierce growl emanating from on top of Cren's lifeless body. Or at least, it would have been fierce, if it hadn't been high pitched and squeaky. And if the owner of the growl hadn't even been tall enough to reach Faith's knees. Still, the wolf puppy was big for a wolf puppy of it's age, and it hopped off Cren's body and put itself between Stig and Faith, clearly not ready to trust Stig with Faith's safety. However, for all it's little fierceness, Faith would find that it responded quite readily if she spoke to it, and would stand down if asked too.

On the drivers seat of the carriage, Padraig still struggled with Crank, attempting to avoid mutual destruction. All it would take is a moments distraction, for either man, and the distracted party would lose the struggle. Fortunately for Padraig, it was Crank who fell victim to this distraction, letting out a cry of pain as a mouthful of small, but still sharp, teeth sunk into the back of his leg at his tendon. The source of the bite, as it turned out, was a large-for-its age wolf puppy, and it yipped happily at Padraig once he had a moment to acknowledge its presence. Then the wolf puppy vanished.

Back in the carriage, a second wolf puppy materialized next to the first, joining its sibling in guarding Faith until she told them to stand down. Both growling in puppy fierceness at Stig, who was probably feeling more and more like events in the carriage were rapidly losing all semblance of rationality, not that his own actions had been all that rational to begin with. When told to stand down, both puppies would hop up onto the seats next to Faith, looking for all the world like they were waiting eagerly for her labor to finish.

 ! Basilisk wrote:
Surprise! I told you there'd be puppies, Faith. =] For the sake of clarity, there are only two wolf pups. And yes, the pups are there because Bun, or Buns as the case may be, is Blessed with Velduris. The wolves, and the requisite Blessing, should go on the kidlets NPC write up in your CS. Color, eye color (remember the kids will have the same eyes as their attached wolf), and personality of the wolves is up to you. The Velduris Wolf Puppies are about the age as the puppies in the picture below.


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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Faith » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:59 pm

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On any given trial, Faith was always aware of how her emotions, her feelings and thoughts impacted on Padraig. The nature of the bonds they shared meant that she needed to be aware of that, at all times. Concern on her part, after all, turned to worry on his. He did the same and yet, no matter that they both did it, it didn't work. It certainly wasn't working to-trial and her own fear and determination to live and to kill these bastards was amplified by his in a continuing and, currently, empowering circle. However, at the sight of Tork, the look on his face and the knowledge of what was about to happen, Faith felt fear and determination grip her heart in a vice of pure ice and it was just hers. It was kill or be killed in that moment, she knew it. "PADRAIG!" She screamed, but she didn't hesitate, not for a trill. This man, no this monster, this beast was trying to harm her, trying to harm their baby and that was not acceptable. Not at all.

She was going to kill him.

Yet her body did not respond how she wanted it to, how she needed it to. Adrenaline was a wonderful thing, yet nature was taking over and whether it was just time now, or because of the panic and fear she felt or even, she supposed, because the Immortals were having a laugh, Faith's body was in labour. Her movements were slower, because she was shaking from head to foot and even though she was doing her best, she couldn't make herself move well enough, quickly enough. "NO!" She was not going to die this trial, she was going to bring this baby safe into the world. If she had to kill everyone in the vicinity, then she would be doing that. Right here and right now.

"AAAhhh! GET OFF ME!" By now, her voice was trembling and terror was striking at her, washing over her in waves. Desperation turned to ashes in her mouth as she realised that there was nothing she could do, nothing that was going to stop him from just... and she screamed.

Except, it wasn't her that was screaming, she realised. It was Tork as Stig plunged a knife into him. As Stig threw Tork out of the door, Faith stumbled sideways and she looked at Stig in shock, amazement and then concern as Cren's body let out a growl. Faith's eyes widened as a small bundle of cute fluffyness came into view and put itself between her and Stig. This is why Theodore Venora laughed when I attacked him with a brush! she thought, wildly, realising that she had strongly resembled that little wolf. "It's fine, it's, please... OH!"

Faith had been a slave until she was eighteen arcs of age and she had been subjected to all sorts of abuses, but the pain which hit her lower abdomen and extended up her back, around her sides and down her legs was like nothing she had ever felt before and she let out a cry of pain. "Padraig! I need... oh, there's a wolf. Why is there a wolf?" She tried to focus on the wolf-pup. But the pain was too overwhelming, even for the young woman with such incredible endurance and discipline; everything, everyone had a limit and this was beyond Faith's. "I.. please.. help him. Help my husband, please?"

As she slid down the wall, the pain hitting again, Faith was more than a little sure that this labour, unlike the false illusion of one she had endured in Rharne, was not going to last for twelve breaks. Somehow, then, there were two of them. Two puppies, yipping about and she looked up at Stig as she let out another whimper of pain. The wolves were growling at him and she spoke in as calming a tone as she could. "Please, please.. he's alright. It's alright. Shhh, puppy. Where the heck is Nir'wei when I need him?" Sitting on the floor she looked up and, as she caught sight of Padraig bursting through the door, Faith sobbed. He didn't need anyone to help him, and as she saw him she knew that it was going to be alright.

"Padraig... the baby is coming now. None of this is mine, not my blood." He'd be worried about that, she thought in a disjointed and rather unclear way. "Stig... this is Stig. He killed the craziest one, he wanted to .. it's Alexander... turn the baby into an undead, that was the plan. But not deliver it, let it eat it's way out. They were taking me to him, but... Owwww... It's happening now, Padraig, and I'm not ready." Tears, held in and kept in check, fell down her cheeks and she shook her head. "I'm not ready. I thought I was better, but I'm still seeing things. Wolves. I'm seeing wolves, Padraig." Faith's skin was ashen white, she was covered in blood and wild looking silver eyes watched him and Faith had something else to say, but instead let out a low groan. "Tell it I'm not ready!"

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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Padraig » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:17 pm

How the hell was Crank able to put up a fight like this one, and still manage to control a team of horses and carriage? Even going so far as to use the reins themselves as a weapon. It was unnatural, couldn't, shouldn't be able to be done. But the time to question that knack wasn't now, and the time to wonder would have been an luxury in any case, and was long past. Padraig only knew that each trill that passed by was another one that Faith and their child was in danger. If Crank's determination was driven by fanaticism, so was his. But in very different ways. The man stood between him and Faith, and that was all that mattered.

He'd let the knife go once, but it only took an instant to get it back. It meant reaching a hand out to the light that could be otherwise used to try and pry the noose off his neck. But it was the better of two options. He reached out, pulled the thing from the air, and in a flash, sliced through the reins in the small space between his throat an the man's hand. And what seemed like a half trill later, he plunged the knife into the man, just below Crank's rib cage. Padraig didn't take the time to consider whether the yelp of surprise and pain occurred in the wake of his own actions or the bite of a pup that had suddenly appeared from nowhere. Didn't really matter in the end.

Of course that meant that while he was free to get inside the carriage, there was no one to control the carriage. He might not know much, but he did know that a team of runaway horses and no one at the reins could result in a carriage turned over at the least, with Faith inside. He climbed over the seat, grabbed the reins and hauled back on them in order to slow and stop the horses, and then identifying a long wooden lever beside the seat that must act as some sort of break, he pulled and engaged it before jumping to the ground and racing to the door of the carriage.

Flinging it open he climbed inside and almost ran Stig through before Faith stopped him. Not that he was opting out of it completely, but all that blood and Faith's insistence that the time was now, knocked the man down a notch or two on the list of priorities. He noticed the two wolf pups belatedly, and ultimately though he'd no idea where they'd come from or why they were there, they at least seemed intent on watching the other man in the carriage.

"You're not seeing things Faith. There are wolves," he told her while looking her over for obvious injuries, not convinced that none of that blood had come from her. Nothing that had happened to now was nearly as worrying at this instant than the thought of her being in labor, here, after all that she'd been through. What Alexander had planned was an abomination and the man would need to be dealt with. But that time wasn't now. "If the baby has decided it's now," he said. "Then it's now." And she wasn't exactly in any condition to be taking a quick stroll to the Order or the nearest midwife. "Tell me what I need to do," he said.
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Missed Carriage [Faith, Pad]

Postby Maltruism » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:06 pm

Image
No, it really didn't matter. Not the knife, nor the bite of the wolf pup, nor the competing levels of fanaticism warring between Padraig and this last foe. All that mattered, in regards to pure, triumphant satisfaction, was the look of blanching, wide-eyed terror on Crank's face as he fell. By the time Padraig finally got the carriage stopped, he did not take the time to see the twisted, broken wreckage of the ex-driver's body, ripped and spread as it was, among the spokes of the wheels, the strappings and braces of the harness tree, and the chunks still impaled by various hooves; all that mattered then was the screams of his pregnant wife within the coach.

Stig came closer to death right then than at any other time during the whole episode. Was it not for Faith's cries, The simple-minded minion would have been run through on a husband's instinct alone. Her additional cry regarding the source of all the blood undoubtedly had a great calming impact on how he interpreted the scene inside.

But the pain in her expression, and the grim reality of how little he could do to change that, caused much of the world outside the coach to fade to insignificance. The only thing that truly registered was how, a few bits after taking his wife in his arms, a pair of guards threw open the door, looked around in slowly fading alarm, and then slipped in to drag Stig from the scene.

If either Faith or Padraig were of a mind to protest that the fool was perhaps not the villain the situation may have indicated, they would be relieved to hear the guards shouting down angry accusations with the statement that he was needed for questioning and was not to be harmed. It might then have dawned on them that it sounded as if the number of voices outside was in the dozens or more.

And more it was. The out-of-control chase had drawn many spectators as it had careened over the cobblestones. Many had given up early, dozens of blocks back. But the spectacle atop the wagon, one man dispatching two thugs promised drama and heroism. Most did not even know of the situation within. But the man's haste to get inside drew the curious like a magnet.

What added to the draw was when the first fallen bodies were recognized by this or that citizen. Cren was known to have been a fallen man, broken and twisted, only to be resurrected in the cause of evil. Stig was known to be his idiot sidekick, and there were some among the crowd who were ready to call for mercy on his behalf, but as the guard took control of him, they instead focused on learning what was going on in the coach. Both Borley and Tork were identified with little sadness. Crank was unrecognizable for some time, but seeing what he'd been up to had given the crowd little cause for sympathy, whoever he'd been.

More and more people arrived as time passed, the rumor of labor now spreading through the crowd as mothers instinctively knew the unique pattern of the cries from inside the coach. The arrival of a doctor known to specialize in childbirth added to this certainty. And a few vague descriptions of the man who'd been seen hurrying inside were eventually confirmed to be Padraig, the new husband of the well-known healer and cook, Faith.

Many of the gathering crowd came forward, offering help. But the guards kept a narrow cordon to allow any entry or exit of any professional personnel the doctor felt would be necessary. Where alarm and fear had prevailed for the bits during which the carriage had rushed through the streets, now there was a growing anticipation of celebration. The suspense became more and more unbearable. Second only to the unbearable pain Faith was experiencing inside.
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