Chapter 16

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Galen tried not to look at what the midwife was doing between Zana's legs, which was difficult, because he had been seated at the headboard to hold Zana's hand, and was literally with his back against the wall. So he stared down at their intertwined fingers, knuckles white from the intensity of Zana's grasp, and stroked her arm with his free hand. Zana was staring up at the ceiling, trying very hard not to cry.

The room stank of blood. That was the other thing that was hard to ignore.

Finally, the old chimp straightened, drew the bedcover over Zana's legs, and walked to the water basin in the corner of the room to wash her hands. Her old, wrinkled face was unreadable when she came back to sit on the edge of the bed opposite of Galen. She put her hand on Zana's arm and spoke only to her:

„That baby in your belly isn't moving anymore."

Zana nodded. Galen could hear her swallow.

„That baby also doesn't have a heartbeat anymore."

Zana drew a long, wet breath. A sigh, a sob.

„That baby must go now, or it will take you with it into the spirit world."

Zana pulled her hand away from under the midwife's hand, and covered her eyes. She was sobbing now, through clenched teeth, still trying to suppress her anguish, trying to maintain her composure.

Galen wiped his own free hand over his eyes.

„You need to drink this tea, as much of it as you can, all the time would be best," he heard the midwife's voice. „So that your bleeding stops. And this one, you drink one cup every four hours, and during the night, every five hours. This one will make your womb pull together and push out the baby."

Galen drew a deep breath and let his hand fall into his lap again to see what the old chimp had dropped on the nightstand. Two leather pouches, one of them red. „The... the red one is to push out the baby?" he asked hoarsely. Despite his misery, he was faintly curious which herbs she was using, but didn't dare to ask. The healers and midwives looked with distrust at the learned young doctors from the big City down south, and he didn't want to alienate her.

„No, that one is to stop the bleeding." She didn't come forward with an explanation of the ingredients.

„I'll make sure she drinks the tea," Galen promised. He rose and followed the healer to the door. „What if... if the bleeding doesn't stop?" he whispered.

„Then you have to call Doctor Lemar," the old woman murmured. „And he'll need to take out the bleeding womb. Otherwise your wife will die. She may still die from that surgery."

Galen jerked back. „But that... that would mean she'll never have another baby!" Zana had kept her baby secret from him for months, because she was worried he'd demand an abortion. She had wanted this baby so much. She would never agree to this surgery.

He shook his head. „Oh, we... we won't do that. That... surgery. I'm, I'm sure it won't be necessary. You're a very knowledgeable healer, and I have complete faith in your skill."

The old woman looked at him with something like pity in her eyes. „Your wife looks as if she had been torn apart by wild animals. She is very lucky to be alive herself. But the damage to the child was too great."

„But the cuts over her belly weren't that deep," Galen wondered. It couldn't be true, it couldn't. „Not even the muscles were injured!"

„You told me that she had a fall, and that she probably fell on her belly," the old woman reminded him. „Something was torn inside, and that is what's bleeding so much. She can bleed to death on the inside, just as one can bleed out."

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