Evylynne, who was heavy with child, knew that tonight was the night. Mellow candlelight flickered with a dreamy, butter-cream glow as the sweat beaded on her forehead.

Not that it bothered her, of course. Her eyes were a glassy turquoise – the result of the opium the midwife had delivered. Yes, tonight, her mind assured sluggishly, my baby girl will be born into this world. Her thoughts slurred. This-this world…pray..pray it does not swallow her whole like a …a monstrous beast. And, through the fog of her muddled thoughts, she felt a sudden chill. Yes, the world could be cruel and hateful, chewing you up and spitting you out in a pile of brokenness.

She herself had known such brokenness. After he had muttered sweet whisperings of love in her ear and had promised her the world spinning on a golden thread, he had left her, sore and helpless in the hay, impregnated with his child. He had left her the way the warmth will sometimes leave you when you are sad.

And so she had been…for awhile. She had been miserable because it was a terrible secret, one that she could not hope to keep, but somehow did. She stayed hidden – pretended to be ill while the swollenness of her belly grew. Like a warm, luscious fruit turning gold in the sun, it brought her happiness.

Still, the midwife was paid well to hold her tongue, and through the haze of the opium, Evy prayed that she would.

Rippling pains shot up her abdomen, and she heard herself screaming, but it all seemed far away. Deep in the back of her mind, a part of her mewled in a tiny voice, your daughter is coming, but then she drifted away on the befuddling smoke – her cries turned into an angel's song, and she slipped into darkness.

Meanwhile, in the black of night, a man laid – dead – in a ditch, his eyes blunt, like the blade that is dull and has lost its shine. And the Solari…

they rejoiced.