The night Lyra gave birth was a night foretold in legend. It was a night filled with magic, where anything was possible. The moon was full and an aurora borealis filled the sky with prismatic fire.
Every magic practitioner had been preparing for this night for years, decades even. Some of the more long-lived species had been preparing for centuries. It was a night that only came around once every thousand years. It was a night where the veil between worlds was at it's thinnest, where wild magics roamed the land and if you knew how to harness such power, it was a night where your deepest, darkest wishes could come true.
On this fateful night, in a castle bathed in moonlight and star fire, Lyra was hoping desperately that her child would not be born soon. She was a queen whose bloodline included a few sorceresses of note. Though Lyra had never married, she had taken plenty of lovers of noble birth, whose lineage probably included a few magic practitioners of their own. Legend spoke of children born on nights like this to parents with magic in their blood, and the chaos that it caused had rippled through time.
When it became clear to Lyra that her child would be born on this night, she had begged her midwife to find some way to delay her child's arrival. The midwife, a practical woman in her fifties named Saoirse, who had given birth to eight healthy sons and had helped birth at least four times that many grandchildren. She had explained to the queen that there was nothing she could do to delay her child's coming longer than a few hours, and it would be dangerous for a woman of the Queen's age- especially this being her first child- to delay longer than necessary.
Lyra knew the risks, knew she wasn't as young as most women birthing their first child. She had wanted this child for as long as she could remember. She knew that she would most likely die bringing this child into the world. Saoirse had brought up the risks months ago. It was a sacrifice Lyra was willing to make, though. As prepared as she was to die giving birth, she had never prepared for a child born on a full fae moon.
A child born on a night like this could be blessed beyond measure or cursed beyond belief, depending on the whims of the Gods. If legends were to be believed, most were cursed and that did not bode well for her child.
There was no help for it now, though, as her baby's arrival seemed imminent.
Her contractions were coming faster; the pain was more intense, her moans sharper. There was nothing else but the pain. Even Saoirse's coaching her to breathe barely pierced her consciousness.
Time meant nothing as the night- and Lyra's labor progressed. The only evidence of its passing was the moon's silvery glow shifting as Lady Luna glided gracefully through the sky's prismatic fire.
"You're almost there," Saoirse assured the Queen, using a dampened cloth to bathe Lyra's mottled face and neck. "Soon it will be time to push, my lady."
Lyra nodded in understanding as another contraction overtook her- it was the only idea that could have pierced the haze of pain she was in- and those words gave her hope. She felt a surge of sudden energy, the end was in sight, she knew she would hold her child soon and that realization gave her a second wind.
It seemed like just moments later that Saoirse ordered Lyra to push. The Queen grunted as she did so, her grunt turning into a scream just moments later as the pain intensified to the point of being almost unbearable.
Time stood still as Saoirse kept ordering Lyra to push, then to rest. Over and over. Even Lady Luna seemed to hover in the sky, ever curious about humanity, waiting on bated breath as events unfolded beneath her.
Lyra finally felt her child's body pass from hers, she sagged in from relief and exhaustion. Moments again turned to an eternity as Saoirse worked on the infant, clearing its mouth and rubbing its skin brusquely.
Just as Lyra was about to ask if the child was alive, she heard the mewling cries as her baby took its first breath. Lyra felt a sob of relief escape from her lips as she reached for the bundle in Saoirse's arms.
"It's a girl, your majesty," Saoirse announced to her Queen proudly, as if she'd given birth herself.
A delighted smile spread across Lyra's face as she pulled the bundle of rags and inconsolable cries against her chest. The tears in her eyes spilled down her cheeks as she looked down at the red face of her new baby daughter.
"Don't cry, my little one," Lyra cooed softly.
At the sound of Lyra's voice, the baby stopped crying and looked up in wonder, suddenly quiet and intent on studying the face above hers.
The Queen's heart swelled with love and joy at seeing this. Her smile couldn't have grown any wider; her tears couldn't have been any happier.
"She knows me," Lyra breathed in awe.
"What will you name the Princess, your highness?" Saoirse asked a few minutes later.
Lyra had thought about names for months and had told no one what those thoughts had been. Looking down at the perfect face of her daughter, who was looking back up at her almost expectantly, she knew what name she wanted to give her.
"Astra," the Queen finally answered after a moment of hesitation.
Lyra couldn't pull her eyes away from her daughter's. She felt mesmerized by Astra's perfect bow-shaped mouth, her wide, expressive eyes, and the little sounds the infant made as she lay in her mother's arms. The princess had dark hair, much like Lyra's, but unlike Lyra, her eyes were dark blue.
Saoirse reached for the princess, "I should take her to the wetnurse, she will need to eat soon, your majesty."
Reluctantly, Lyra handed over her daughter to the midwife after kissing Astra's perfectly rounded cheek, "You are right," and as if on cue, the newborn started fussing and turning her head to the side, seeking comfort and sustenance.
Saoirse gathered the infant in her capable arms and left, promising to return as soon as the baby was settled to finish seeing to the Queen's needs.
With the baby gone, the exhaustion from laboring hit Lyra hard. She leaned back against her pillows heavily, feeling weak but elated all at once. She was alive, her child was alive and she couldn't wait to watch Astra grow up.
The Queen's eyes drifted shut as she began imagining how her daughter would change as she grew. She would have Lyra's ebony hair and hazel eyes. She would be smart, educated and someday would rule Faerden as Queen. A smile spread across Lyra's face as she fell into an exhausted slumber.
It wasn't until Lyra heard someone clear their throat gently, that she realized she had fallen asleep. When Lyra opened her hazel eyes, she was shocked to find the wetnurse, Lily, standing hesitantly before her.
"I'm sorry to bother you, your grace, but I came to see if the baby was hungry," Lily murmured. She was shy, and her blue eyes had never quite met the Queen's in all the months she had resided at the castle.
Lyra was speechless for a moment, her mind raced with a thousand dark thoughts. "I thought Saoirse had already brought the Princess to you," Lyra stated, confused.
Lily's face brightened, "It's a girl? Oh bless, I knew it!" she was so happy, it seemed Lily had momentarily forgotten her shyness, "What did you name her?"
"Astra," Lyra answered distracted by her growing suspicion that something was wrong. Lily should already be in possession of the Princess, not in here questioning Lyra.
"So beautiful, your highness," Lily was almost chortling, she was so thrilled by the news of the Queen giving birth to a girl child that she didn't notice Lyra's panicked expression.
"Lily, I need you to do something for me," Lyra whispered fearfully, her face growing very pale, "It's very urgent that you discover Saoirse's and Princess Astra's whereabouts immediately."
The sharp tone in Astra's command brought Lily back down to earth where she finally noted the Queen's pallor and panicked eyes. She curtsied and nodded gravely, then quickly scurried off to do the Queen's bidding. She wisely refrained from verbalizing anything more before she left.
Once Lily had left, the Queen sat up and began to shift her tired body to the edge of the bed so she could stand up. She couldn't stomach lying in bed while not knowing where her child was. She tried to push herself to a standing position, but she was weaker than she realized. It took her another attempt to be able to stand up fully without faltering.
The door opened just as Lyra was about to charge from the dais her bed rested upon to demand answers from her staff. It was Lily's face that appeared from behind the door and she looked scared. Lyra felt herself fall back to sitting on her bed, her instincts telling her she'd been concerned for good reason.
"Your majesty, I've found Saoirse," she whispered, tears forming in her pretty blue eyes.
"Where is my daughter?" Lyra's voice was raspy and harsh, her throat suddenly dry and swollen shut with fear.
"I - I don't know," Lily hesitated, "I found Saoirse in the nursery, your majesty," Lily's voice broke over her next few words, "She... hung... herself and I didn't find any sign of the Princess."
It felt like someone had punched Lyra in the stomach. She heard someone keening loudly and with such soul-crushing anguish, it took her a moment to realize that it was coming from her. She had never felt so lost and uncertain before, her heart broke into more pieces than she could fathom possible. That beautiful dream from earlier shattered in her mind's eye and all that was left was despair.
Guards rushed into her room at hearing the Queen's anguished cries, the leader of which knelt at her feet before asking, "What is wrong, your majesty?"
It took Lyra a moment to be able to speak, she could barely breathe from the weight in her chest, she had to forcibly pull air into her lungs before being able to speak, "Saoirse is dead and my child is missing! You must find my daughter now!"
"Yes, your majesty," the guard saluted smartly before standing and motioning for the rest of the guards to hurry and follow him. He quickly strode from the room, his face set in grim lines, as everyone realized how dire the situation was.
Once the last of the guards had filed out, Lyra felt even more despair set in. This betrayal was beyond anything she had ever anticipated. She had prepared to die or bury her child. She had never thought her child would be kidnapped and taken away by her very own midwife- a woman who had worked at the castle since she was a child. She would have counted Saoirse as one of her most loyal of servants. The pain of the situation was blinding and almost more than Lyra could bare.
Lily tried to soothe her, but there was no relief for the Queen, who shooed the wetnurse away eventually. Lyra managed to get up shortly after the younger woman had left and started pacing around her opulent room, slowly and carefully. As the hours passed, she was updated frequently as to the progress of her guardsmen, but no one knew where Saoirse had taken the child, or where she might be now. There hadn't been enough time for Saoirse to leave the castle and make it back to hang herself. She had to have given the child to someone who left the castle grounds once the princess was in their possession.
After her guardsmen had thoroughly searched the castle grounds and still had found no clues as to what happened, Lyra finally succumbed to exhaustion. She had been awake for almost two days straight at this point, she had given birth and had her child taken from her. She had spent hours waiting for news. When she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer, she slept restlessly, the nightmare her life had become had just begun.