IT WAS A wild night, the eve of Samhainn. A biting gale roared down from the north, spitting snow. It tore through the trees like some mad thing, stripping away the last of the dead birch leaves and tangling in the pine boughs to make the trunks sway and groan. The snow and leaves whirled together in a frantic dance to the howls of the raging wind.
But the ghostly music was not loud enough to compete with the screams of the woman in labor.
Ogryvan mac Glynnis, Chieftain of Clan Argyll of Caledon, paced the circular stone room next to the family’s living quarters. The midwives had refused to let him be at his wife’s side during her ordeal. As her cries sundered the night, his anger and frustration grew. He quickened his pace in a futile attempt to dispel the mounting tension.
The room’s only door creaked open. In raced a small child. Ogryvan scooped his three-year-old stepson into his arms. The boy’s eyes were wide with fear, and tear tracks stained his pale cheeks. He buried his head against Ogryvan’s burly chest.
“Papa, where’s Mama? Wind noisy!”
Despite his concern for his wife, her son made him smile. Peredur hadn’t reached two summers when Ogryvan had defeated the boy’s father in the dubh-lann for the right to become Hymar’s consort. Too young to remember his real father, Peredur had readily accepted Ogryvan, and in response, the chieftain had been pleased to treat the boy as a son of his flesh.
He brushed away the tears on the lad’s cheeks. “The bairn is coming, Peredur.”
“Bairn! Can I go see?”
Ogryvan shook his head. “It’s women’s work, son. We men must wait until it’s done.”
“Soon. I hope.”
Another scream ripped the night, longer and more shrill than the rest. Peredur squirmed. “Lemme go!” He pummeled Ogryvan’s chest with impotent little fists. “They hurting her!”
He squatted to set the child down but did not release his hold. “Your Mama will be all right.” He hoped.
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