One of the Wolf Clan men turned out to be Nudd, and after minding his own business all day, he cornered Greta when they stopped to camp for the night. Nudd could not say how happy he was, and he could not thank Greta enough for removing what he called the curse around his mother and his home. Nudd came across as a very agreeable fellow, and Greta realized that being agreeable was what Nudd was best at. Nudd began to tell all about the women Devon and Hyfer were seeing, and that turned to farm life and the oft repeated refrain that one day Nudd hoped to find a good wife, too. He only punctuated his one-sided conversation with occasional glimpses at Mavis. He did not seem to notice how Briana covered her grin every time that happened.
Greta got rescued when Dunova and a few of his men came over to request a story. She gladly told the story about how Beauty in the ancient days found her cousin Raini in this very wilderness with the help of an old dwarf named Bain. She told how they sheltered from a terrible storm in the house of a Troll, and lived to tell about it. She told how they came safely home and Raini met Beauty’s birth-mate and fell in love.
“His name was Koren,” she said with a glance at Briana. She saw Briana listened, but her attention was all for Alesander.
“Tell us how you and your brother made it safely through the forest of the Bear Clan,” Dunova said. And with a look at Nudd, for once Greta did not mind telling the tale. After seven years, it had become what Mavis called an elf perfected story so it was a good one, punctuated in all the right places.
On the second day, they passed an invisible line into what Dunova called Raven territory. The hamlets and farms all looked the same to Greta so she would never know. At the end of the day, they came up to the expected stockade, behind which lay the village of the Raven Clan. Like before, word had somehow gone ahead, and the whole village, and many from the countryside turned out for yet another feast in Greta’s honor.
Greta’s only comment was, “I really should get out more often.”
Dunova and a chief man of the Raven Clan, brought the women straight to the house of the woman healer. They had a man in the village by the name of Gwydden, who they called the village healer. The woman Eofach was the midwife, and presently, she seemed too busy to talk.
Greta stopped in the doorway to give a blessing before entering, but her nose added a thought. “I smell pain killer and a sleep aid.”
Eofach looked up from her mixing and cooking. A right good chemistry set, Greta thought. “If you can tell that from the aroma, you may be the druid they say,”
“I have some drugs already prepared. How far along is the patient?”
Eofach stopped and appeared to concede something in her mind. “Ardwyn is in labor, but her mother ran long so I expect her to do the same. Her husband Meloch will fetch us if we are needed. Gwydden the healer is with her to watch, though I would not expect the man to deliver the baby.”
“You are concerned because there has been distress with the mother and child,” Greta surmised.
Eofach nodded. “I fear the baby is turned the wrong way, and if that is so we may lose both mother and child.”
“Lady, there is a feast for you and for the goddess tonight,” Mavis spoke in her soft way.
“Briana.” The young woman still stood in the doorway, basking in the late afternoon sun and watching. “Tell the men I will be along once this matter is settled, one way or the other. You will have to stand in for us until we can get there, whenever that might be. No promises,” Greta sent her armor away and recalled her dress, her red cloak and hood, and a medical bag that she wore on her shoulder like a purse. She turned to Eofach. “I carry no miracles.” Eofach closed her mouth and nodded again.
“The baby’s heart is erratic,” Mavis said as they entered the home. Meloch paced and worried outside of the bedroom. Apparently, Gwydden the healer threw him out. Greta pulled the stethoscope from her medical bag. It had been a gift of her little ones in ancient days.
“She is not full sized yet,” Gwydden said, referring to Ardwyn’s state of dilation. Eofach nodded as the three women entered the bedroom. Mavis went straight for the towels and took them out to get the water boiling, not that Greta had any hope they might be made sterile. The cleanest ones she would keep dry to wrap and warm the baby after birth. Mavis had done this work before.
Greta took Eofach by the hand and helped her listen through the stethoscope, first to Ardwyn’s heartbeat, and then the baby’s heartbeat while Greta checked the woman’s pulse. Then she let Gwydden listen and insisted he stay when Eofach wanted to throw him out.
“If a twelve-year-old boy got injured in battle, which of you would seek to help him?” Greta spoke as she helped Ardwyn turn to her side. Gwydden and Eofach looked at each other before Gwydden answered.
“We both would.”
“And so you should work together and stop this his-work, her-work business. One day, Gwydden may be needed to save a life of a young mother and Eofach may save an old warrior from certain death, even if not today. Today, the baby has turned, but there is compression on the umbilical cord. Pray it isn’t wrapped around the baby’s throat, because Doctor Mishka is prepared to perform a caesarean if necessary, but it is not preferred.”
“I once saw a baby cut from the mother’s stomach,” Eofach said. “But the mother had already died.”
“It can be done so the mother and baby both have a chance for survival, but it would be better not to risk it. Sometimes, just changing the mother’s position can relieve the pressure on the cord.” Greta listened again with her stethoscope as Mavis came in with cups of very strong tea.
After things get settled in the village of the Raven Clan, the crew heads toward the last Celtic village in the north, the Dragon Clan, but they find they are not alone. The Wolf and the Wolv. beginning Monday. Meanwhile, Happy Reading.