It was quiet in the house and most of the inhabitants were asleep. The owner of the complex was in her office, too worried about her taxes to let sleep overcome her just yet, but the night was still young; she had time. She glanced out of the window at the second moon, it was barely in the sky, telling her that the sun wouldn't be rising for at least another quarterday, if not longer. Currently she was less than halfway through the pile of receipts from last month's clientele. It was the eighteenth and final thirty-three day month of the year and the paperwork was due in to the high court census estimates by the first day.
The first day marked the middle of the second winter, where the planets elliptical orbit was furthest away from the sun and from that the year would grow into its first summer. Frankly Enyo couldn't wait for the second winter to be over, she swore that every year it felt a little colder, though she knew realistically that was just the age seeping into her bones. She'd owned the house for many years now. It had been passed onto her by her own mother as her mother had done before her and even further back for many generations. She had one young daughter who would own the business when she was old enough, but right now she was attending the great university on the inner planet, Nus. It was always nice to go on holiday there and visit her, especially since there was little variation in the weather there and its regulated temperature made for relief when it came to the hot summer months and the bitter cold of winter.
Still, Enyo thought, Cratus was home and she never really would want to live anywhere else. Not with the family business to run at least. Hers wasn't the wealthiest Fabulin out there, but it was an established house. There were certain family lines that frequented the place, trusting in the judgment of her family when it came to picking quality seeders.
That was the part she loved about her job, seeing the faces of the clients when they turn up with the good news that, yes, they are expecting a child. She knew it was the jewellery makers that made this system the financial hub of their star network, but in her mind this was the most important job.
One of these days, however, she was going to have to hire an accountant. She could only stare at her receipts for so long before the numbers started to blur into oblivion. Why did she have to tell the government how many of their clients had children? Surely it would be easier for everyone to declare how many children they had. There must have been thousands of Fabulin on this planet producing millions of children, and she barely had hundred successful clients this year. By the time the high court had gotten through all the information from all the other houses it surely would have been easier on everyone to conduct a planet wide census. After all, somehow the government had managed to collect the number of births from those rare women who bore children through marriage anyway.
Enyo sighed deeply into the quiet. She complained about this every year. She didn't mind the task in honesty, it just took her a little while to get motivated. "Four hundred and twelve Mida for a healthy baby girl to the Orseis household." She said out loud, trying to concentrate on her work once more.
Suddenly there was a distant knock, "Thank heavens," she said, hurrying to the door, welcoming the interruption despite the lateness of day.
On her doorstep was a young girl. Enyo could say with almost certainly that she couldn't have been any older than eighteen and she was definitely far too young to look in as much of a state as she did. Her hair was the white blonde colour that was common in this area, but it was filthy and matted, hanging down to her hips, her pale skin looked as though it had been unwashed for several weeks and a few spots of dirt that looked suspiciously like dried blood and possibly the most haunting part of her was her golden eyes, they were hollow, dull and lifeless; this girl had seen a great deal of life's cruelty in an immensely short space of time. In the girl's arms was a bundle of cloth, and Enyo's eyes flew open wide to see it move and then for a soft cry to come from it. The young girl hushed the baby in her arms and turned to the older woman.
"Can you take him?" She asked. There was no preamble. No explanation.
Enyo was too shocked to speak for several moments suddenly stuttering out a gasp of "What?"
"You're a seeding house right?" she persisted,
"Well, yes, but..."
She thrust the bundle towards Enyo, "Then you can take him."
"We can't just take boys of the street; this is a Class Three house! And we can't even begin to take anyone who isn't at least fifteen or we can't determine their features."
"He's noble stock I promise," she said ignoring the last half of the statement. "You've got to take him."
"He's a baby. I can't take a baby. Look, there's an orphanage not too far from here I can show you."
"No!" The girl shrieked suddenly, "You know how they treat male children in those places. I want him safe," She looked down at the small child in her arms with a look of adoration, "But I can't keep him, my mother won't let me go home unless he's gone."
Enyo's heart saddened as she heard this short explanation, she didn't need the whole story to infer the rest. It was very rare for women to breed out of their class boundaries and such a young girl, with such a young child, could only mean that she'd fallen in love with some man below her class, gotten pregnant with his child and her mother, the head of the household, rejected her daughter and her relationship.
It was a favourite of romance novelists; the high class and high powered woman falling in love with an insignificant lower class male and somehow, just somehow, everything turning out alright.
Clearly that wasn't always the case.
Not that all of those who bred, or even rarer, married below their class divisions had to fight their families for permission to do so, but the higher up the classes you looked, the stricter they became. The girl was probably telling the truth when she said the child came from noble stock, with this extreme reaction towards one so young she was probably Class Three, maybe even Class Two. The class of her lover, however, was much harder to determine.
"What do you want me to do with him?" Enyo asked finally,
She smiled and passed her son over to the other woman. "Just take care of him, maybe if when he's older you can give him a position in the house. He can live a life with the respect he deserves."
Enyo didn't reply, but instead nodded looking at the child in wonder. He was certainly a very cute baby. Enyo saw the woman about to turn and walk away into the night before she stopped her.
"Hey," she called, "What's your name?"
She smiled softly, "Euryba,"
"Look, Euryba, would you like a bath and maybe something to eat? You can't go home looking like that."
Euryba smiled in return, "You're very kind." She said and followed the other woman into the house.
Euryba sat in the second bath that Enyo had drawn. After soaking and scrubbing the worst of the grime off the young girl, she had decided the bath water was too dirty to help Euryba get any cleaner. In the end she had to ask her to get out so she could clean the bath tub, then she brushed through the girl's near-white tresses and finally put her back in the fresh water.
She had become a little more forthcoming about her recent past once she was sitting in the comfort of the hot water. Enyo's estimations had been about correct; Euryba was seventeen and roughly a year and a half ago she met and fell in love with a Class Nine boy.
Enyo had been shocked by this. How such a wealthy young girl had met what frankly amounted to a slave labourer she had no idea. She hadn't wanted to ask questions on what she knew to be potentially sensitive topics, but in the end she didn't need to ask. Euryba explained their story softly as though scared to speak it out loud. It turned out he was a gardener. He had been hired to tend the small estate that her mother owned. Everyday she'd sit at her window after her lessons to watch him and he watched her in return.
After she had become pregnant she knew that she wanted to keep the child and raise it with Krios, her lover, but her mother had outright condemned it. He had been fired and sent away to goodness knows where and Euryba had found herself turned out onto the streets.
"He's a beautiful child," Enyo said stroking her finger over the small clenched fists.
Euryba smiled down at him where he lay only half awake on a blanket on the floor, "Thank you. He looks a lot like his father. I wonder if I'll ever know where he went to."
"Maybe," Enyo replied, comforting the young mother even though she didn't believe it, "You never know how these things will turn out,"
"I'd like to think so; it's easier that way, for now at least. Reality will kick in soon enough, but I can keep my fantasy with me."
Enyo simply nodded letting the silence fall for a while, the sounds of splashing water lulling the baby into sleep.
"Will you visit him?" She asked, breaking the silence once more.
A solemn shake of a head was the reply, "I doubt after this I'll be let out of the house. I would love to see him again, maybe in the future."
"Has he got a name?" Enyo asked feeling that this was an important choice for Euryba to make to keep some ties of her son with her.
"Not yet," she said, "but I was thinking, maybe it's a bit presumptuous, but I'd like for him to be called Astraios."
Enyo smiled, it was a name that clearly indicated the future for her son that Euryba looked towards, "Astraios; father of the stars. I think it's perfect."
As the third moon rose, signalling that the dawn was drawing near, Euryba made to leave. Enyo had given her a set of her daughter's old court robes, Name had been insisting that her mother get rid of them for years, but Enyo hadn't the heart to throw them away.
She thought that this was a perfect way to give them a new lease of life. It was far better than letting them lie stagnant in the house gathering dust. She opened the door to let Euryba through, "Tell him about me," She asked, "and thank you, for everything."
Euryba bent to place one last kiss on her son's cheek before whispering, "I'll return some day, I promise, when you're older."
And just like that she walked on into the waning night until Enyo could see her no more.
Across the city there was a cry as the harsh pains of what had undoubtedly been a long and hard labour were felt by a woman not so young as the one who had also recently given birth. She was twenty nine and her name was Hemera. She was heir to one of the largest Jewellery manufacturers in the whole system, but theirs' was a new business; only a few generations old, and as such the new money had not quite elevated to the Class One level of those who were her peers in wealth.
But she was getting there, her grandmother had pulled the company from a little local Class Five shop to the large corporation that it was today and Hemera's mother Nyx had only served to expand the business and now the responsibilities were soon to fall on her shoulders come her thirtieth birthday.
However currently the clarity of Sapphires, the ownership of prime mining spots on the fourth moon and the price of silver were far from her mind as another contraction ripped through her.
"You're almost there dear, just a few more pushes," Her mother encouraged her "You're doing wonderfully," A midwife was standing by making sure everything went smoothly.
Hemera was cursing in her own head and then (as there was another blasted contraction) not so much in her own head. She was sure that she was crushing her mother, Nyx's fingers, but as she had (as was not uncommon practice) decided to not get married and instead have children from a Fabulin, she had no husband on whom to vent her pain and therefore was going to have to forget politeness and respect for her own mother and simply try not to injure her too greatly.
She had been at this for what must have been over a quarter. When was this baby going to be born already? She thought bitterly; she was starting to resent it.
"One more push," said the midwife ensuring Hemera that her hard work was going to be coming to an end soon, "One more and you'll have your baby."
Crying out once more from the pain she pushed as hard as she could. A soft cry wine of her baby pierce the night and suddenly she had no idea how she could have ever thought resenting her child was possible. Her heart was so full of love that she was sure it would burst.
"Congratulations," the midwife said placing the tiny being into her arm, "It's a girl."
Hemera and her mother exchanged a soft smile before both looking at the new-born, this was the heir they had been looking for not that Hemera wouldn't have loved her child just as much if he had been born male, but this was a secure future in her arms as well as a beautiful child.
"What would you like to name her?" the midwife enquired.
Hemera looked into her daughters pink eyes, they would almost certainly fade to the gold colour common in this region but for now they were the colour that all newborns had; even those whose eyes became blue started out with pink eyes, or so she had been told. She stroked one finger down the tiny nose and marvelled at how something could be so small and yet so perfectly formed.
"Gaea," she said, her eyes not leaving the infant, "My little Gaea."
"Mama," the five year old called from the bedroom, despite Enyo having told the boy that he had a real mother elsewhere as per Euryba's parting wishes; she let him call her his mother. She was in truth probably too old to look after a child so small, but the seeders in the house loved having the little child around, they had adopted him as one would a son, or maybe for the younger of the seeders a small pet.
She sympathised with their need to care, their lives were about providing children for others, but they rarely got to leave the complex let alone actually see any of their children, she had had one young mother, before any of the current seeders, who had insisted that the man who had provided her with child should meet it at least once, it was against standard practice, but in truth Enyo hadn't seen why she shouldn't let him. She had been only seventeen years old herself, and a hopeless romantic, if her own mother had been there that day the young lady's request might have been turned away.
The look on his face as he held his child for the first and last time was definitely worth it in Enyo's eyes. He became brighter and free as he handed the child back to its mother he smiled openly and thanked her with a sincerity that was impossible to fake.
Afterwards though she had seen why seeders weren't normally permitted to see their children, the sadness in his soul after the mother and child had left dulled his eyes and for many a week he was in such a state of depression that Enyo feared for his health. She had thankfully never been asked to let a seeder see their child since; if she had she would have had no idea of how to respond.
"Mama!" the small boy called again as Enyo opened the door to his room.
She sat down on the bed next to him letting him clamber into her lap and snuggle himself into her chest, sniffling all the while.
"What is it Rai, sweetheart? Did you have a nightmare?" She spoke in quiet tones trying to calm the crying child, he nodded in answer but didn't speak. "You know nightmares can't hurt you, they're not real."
"But they're scary." Astraios insisted, not feeling any braver now that he was awake.
She petted the boy's blond hair soothing him, "I know they are dear, but I'm here now, nothing's going to harm you."
"Do you want to tell me what it was about?" she asked.
The child frowned hard, but nodded anyway, "The house was burning and you weren't there." He said, tears falling once more.
A very simple nightmare, but one that Enyo was sympathetic towards, feeling that no-one was there for you was a thought that would truly terrify anyone. No-one really wanted to be alone for very long.
"I'll always be here if you need me," she said softly, "and your mother thinks of you all the time too." She didn't have any way to verify her statement, but she felt it was completely true none the less.
"Will mother come and see me one day?" he asked, it was a common question, one that they both knew the answer to, but they liked to pretend.
"I don't know, but I'm sure she'll try," she said, she hadn't heard from Euryba since that fateful night, but she knew it was unlikely that she would be allowed by her mother to come to visit her son.
"Why can't she come and see me?"
Euryba was not going to explain the real reason to one so small, "I don't think she's allowed out of the house much."
"Like the Fa-Fabulinus?" he said, stuttering around the technical term for seeders.
"Something like that sweetheart." She said with a smile. "Are you ready to go back to sleep now?" she asked.
The little boy nodded wiggling under the covers. Enyo tucked them in around him and kissed him on the forehead, "Goodnight little one."
"Night mama," Enyo got up and went to leave the room, turning off the light.
"Mama?" said Astraios, quietly this time.
"Mother will come here to see me one day," he said voice full of conviction, "I know it."
"I believe you, sweet dreams dear."
She closed the door behind her and walked shakily to her room, she wasn't going to cry, Astraios was in a good home where he was well fed, he had a roof over his head and he was in the care of twenty one people who absolutely adored him, it didn't matter that his biological mother couldn't keep him. It was hard to disagree with such a certain tone. His mother would be there to see him one day, and it would be wonderful.
If only it were true.
"Mummy, Grandmamma is saying naughty words again."
Hemera resisted the temptation to roll her eyes into the back of her head. She knew exactly what could cause that kind of reaction in Nyx. The shuttles were on the blink again, or they'd hit a huge rock that needed blasting so a second ship would need to meet them with explosives. Rather than taking some initiative and sorting out some of these simple problems themselves the workforce always referred back to the head of the company, who frankly had better things to be doing.
Now normally Hemera would be bearing the brunt of dealing with the problems herself now that Nyx had handed control of the company over to her four years ago, but currently she was in her tenth month of her second pregnancy and so her mother had requested that Hemera keep of her feet until she gave birth three months from now.
"Did she now?" she said to her little girl, "Well that's not very nice of her is it?"
Gaea shook her head, "No."
Hemera smiled warmly, she couldn't help but feel lighter and the tiny look of seriousness on her daughter's face. "I'll talk to her. You go play with Khaos,"
"Okay," she said cheerful once more and skipped off to find her servant friend.
Hemera obviously wasn't going to tell off her mother, but she thought it wise to find her and see what the matter was; it took quite a lot to rile Nyx so.
Knocking on the door she greeted her tired mother, "Hi, mum."
"Hello dear," she said, bringing her hand from her face where it had been rubbing the bridge of her nose.
"Gaea came to tell me that you were swearing, and so naturally I'm here to tell you off." She spoke in a light-hearted tone and smiled, "What's happened?"
Nyx sighed putting the communicator back on the desk and sitting in the chair, "Nothing serious, bloody contracted ship took the wrong cargo of fuel supplies and can't get back with their load, I've sent an emergency fuel supply back, at the expense of the fuel providers who obviously cocked up, but it's just more hassle than I need. All the people I spoke to were so incompetent, it's a miracle that they can manage to breathe and keep their hearts beating at the same time."
"They're not so bad, they just panic when something goes wrong."
Nyx chuckled lightly, "You've always been far too kind." She then stood and started shuffling through the papers and putting them in the large cabinet to the side. "Anyway, love, you shouldn't be worrying yourself over it right now, I managed this business for thirty years; I can manage one bad morning."
"I know, but I thought I'd ask anyway, it's still my company too whether I'm with child or not."
"This sitting around doing nothing is driving you insane isn't it?"
Hemera moaned her distress, "Three more months, mother! Don't misunderstand me, I'm happy to be having this baby, but being so big I can barely move is as boring as sin. I'm itching for an argument."
"The argumentative urges might just be hormones dear."
The pregnant lady laughed in agreement, "It doesn't stop sitting around all day being boring. The only fun I have is when Gaea wants me to play with her, but I can't even run around and do that anymore."
"It's not long now my dear, maybe you could take up flower arranging to pass the time."
Hemera let out a pretend gasp of shock, "You mock me in my time of need! You are indeed cruel, mother."
"As only a mother can be dearest, I've had many years of practice after all." Hemera relaxed her position coming out of her fake strop and chuckled along with the older woman.
"I'm going to get something to eat, if you need anything then just call me."
"I'll be fine dear. I'll see you at supper,"
They kissed each other's cheeks affectionately before Hemera left to make her way to the kitchen; she suddenly had a real craving for the native stews of Sito.
Hemera was just tucking into the warm stew that had been kindly prepared by the cook when Gaea barrelled in dragging her friend Khaos behind her. Khaos was a young boy who was just a little older than Gaea. He was the son of the maid, Eos, a kindly woman who had cheerfully also taken the role of Gaea's nanny when the need arose.
"Mama, mama, mama!" Gaea shouted gleefully.
"Gaea, Gaea, Gaea," Hemera called back, gently teasing her daughter, "What is it dear?"
"Can me and Khaos go play in the field?" She asked, as enthusiastically as she had before.
"I don't think that's very safe sweet heart." Gaea's mother said in that reserved tone that only mother quite knew how to use.
Gaea just continued to bounce on her toes, "We won't be alone, will we Khaos?" She said, turning to face her quite friend who up until that point had been hiding behind Gaea shyly.
He shook his head, cheeks flushing lightly and didn't raise his eyes, "No, miss." He said with the respect he always showed, Hemera, even though she didn't insist on it, especially not from one so young.
"Yeah!" Gaea spoke again, "Eos said she'd take us if you say it's ok, please mama, I want to play outside." The little girl's tone was so pleading that Hemera couldn't find the heart to deny her daughter.
"Well as long as you're with Eos the whole time, and I want you back by half day, and you mustn't go off on your own."
Gaea rolled her eyes, "Of course mama," Then she pulled her friend behind her and out of the kitchen door, "Eos!" she cried, "Mama said we can go! Let's go, let's go, let's go!"
Watching her daughter tear out of the room she couldn't help but chuckle, both Eos and Khaos must have been incredibly patient to let Gaea boss them around so, Hemera was surprised that Khaos hadn't gotten his arm pulled out by his friend yet, Gaea was forever dragging him from place to place. She would have to teach her daughter some proper manners sooner or later, but so far Gaea was too young to see how her behaviour could have been in anyway rude, she had, after all, said please.
Chuckling Hemera turned back to her stew, fortunately still warm. Her daughter would grow to be a very headstrong woman.
She suddenly stopped halfway through her meal. She knew what could make this better. Sweet fruit paste. She shuddered at the thought of the strange combination even though her mouth was watering at the idea.
Cravings were a very strange thing indeed.
A/N: This story is completely written, but entirely unedited. I'm editing as I go so hopefully that will mean the time between updates should be relatively short, but not instant. Hope you enjoyed, and if you would be so kind, show the review button a little love. :3