Chapter Thirty-Seven

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A small sound woke Riona from her restless sleep. She sat up on her hands, the smooth wooden floor creaking slightly beneath her weight. With Myrddin in his chair and Luc occupying the bed, she had simply curled up with a blanket before the hearth. Her stomach was roiling and uneasy, and she felt the chill in the air with her very bones. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness.

"Riona?" it was a woman's voice, soft and cautious.

Riona stood and moved toward the door. "Gwen?"

The queen was wrapped in a dark woolen shawl, strands of her black curly hair barely stood out against her brown face in the darkness.

"What are you doing here?" Riona questioned.

Gwenivar seemed to hesitate, her bottom lip quivered. "I need to see Luc."

"You should have come in the day," said Riona.

The queen shook her head. "Myrddin does not approve of—" Gwenivar did not finish the thought. "Please, I must see him."

Riona took Gwenivar's hand and led her silently toward the bed where Luc lay asleep. At the sight of him, the queen let out a small gasp of pain. She sat on the edge of the bed and gazed at the Knight.

"Has he awoken?"

"Myrddin is keeping him sedated. There is no need to wake him and force the pain of healing upon him."

Gwenivar wiped quickly at her eyes. Riona lit a candle and cast a glance at Myrddin. The druid was still fast asleep in their chair, head leaning heavily upon their chest, open-mouthed. Riona set the candle on the bedside table and hovered there. The queen seemed to be deciding something, then as if suddenly unafraid, she leaned forward and gently kissed Luc's forehead. Before Riona could react to this impropriety, a sudden stabbing pain sliced through her pelvis. With a loud gasp, she doubled over, one hand clutching her stomach.

"Riona?" Gwenivar was instantly at her side, both hands gripping her tightly.

The pain subsided, and Riona straightened, but then in an instant, it returned. She whimpered as she bent over at the waist. The queen's eyes were pierced with worry.

"I don't know I just, Ungggh..." her voice trailed off as another wave of pain overcame her. She crumpled entirely to the floor, stomach twisted into knots as nausea welled up beneath her tongue. The pain was constant but rose and ebbed in swells like the sea. She tried to stand. As she moved to support herself on her palms, she glanced down. The fabric of her dress below her belly was stained dark red with blood. Riona's pulse quickened, and she felt her face drain of color. She scrambled back on her hands, leaving a thin trail of blood beneath her.

"What is happening?" she hissed in a pained whisper.

The queen's eyes held both concern and surprise in equal measure. "Were you not expecting your blood?"

Riona's lips parted. "That...that is not possible!"

Gwenivar's eyes glinted, and she pointed to the stain. "I would think that the evidence says otherwise."

Riona let out a groan and then said through gritted teeth. "I have never-I amn't-I am barren!"

The queen's eyes were wide, and they scrutinized Riona's face. "You arrived deathly ill, could Myrddin's magic have changed that?"

Riona stared at her in horror. "This is going to happen from now on?" her voice was pitched high with fear. She cast a quick glance again at Myrddin to make sure they remained asleep.

"Often enough," Gwenivar said gravely, but her lips were tugged into a smirk.

Riona lay back on the floor, her hands still tangled in the fabric of her gown. Gwenivar took Riona's arm and helped her to stand. Riona's face was red and hot with embarrassment, but the queen stroked her hair comfortingly. Gwenivar lowered the woolen shawl from her head and wrapped it about Riona's waist.

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