Story Time: A Paladin’s Tale (Chapter 2: Cradle)

He was seven when his baby sister was born. His father’s absences had grown more frequent with the rise of his mother’s tummy. One night, she howled like a she-wolf: terrified, Micah ran for the Widow Shannon to get help. The bustling, sturdy dwarf woman took charge, but gruffly put the boy in his place, forbidding him from coming into the house until she said so. This was no place for a child. She ordered him to wait in the warm but pungent stables with the broken-down mare. He knew his reign as the Lord of the Small Realm was over. Something had taken his place, to be put in the barn with the stink and waste, and his mother didn’t protest? Terrified his mother would die because of her exploding body, because whatever made her look that grotesque was surely a demon, and trying to kill her. Micah didn’t know what was worse: hearing his mother’s screams, or not hearing them. Hours passed. For a boy of seven, the ticking of clocks or ferryman’s schedules did not mandate the sense of time. He had the primal sense of time as a wolf or dog would—instincts and senses were his timekeepers. He would hear the calm mutterings of the Widow Shannon, but nothing he could understand. Maybe the Widow made the demon? Maybe she was friends with the devil, and was hurting his mother? The mare sighed bored breath, and paid him no attention. But Micah could not be calmed.
Then he heard the most terrifying sound of all: a baby crying. His beautiful mother had become a freak and malformed with…a baby? Wasn’t he enough? This baby had tried to kill her; of this he was certain. Since his father was nowhere to be found he would have to kill it if it was truly an imp. He saw an image in his head, something with biting teeth, all bruised, pulpy-purple and black, with horns, like one of the Draenei (of whom he was terrified). His father had told him tales of imps and devils who stole into the house late at night, and bit on cheeks and spit in the milk. The heavy wooden door closed, and the widow waddled down the garden path, to her own home. It was nearly dawn. In her exhaustion, she completely forgot about Micah. If his father had been home…well, what? This was a blank page in Micah’s mind. He loved his father, and his father meant wild stories, a dance with his mother, her laughter, and her silent times. He could tell a wild tale, growing more animated with Micah’s widening eyes. His father fed off of innocence and trust.
He went into the house, and went to his mother’s room. She was sound asleep, and breathing—her breath was the air of his life. Next to her bed, was a tiny bed holding a large grub-maggot thing wrapped in blankets. He’d have nothing to do with it, except maybe kill it, like a bug, if it so much as harmed his mother. His mother didn’t seem to be alarmed, but still, he needed to keep her safe. She stirred. “Micah, everything’s all right…go to your cot and sleep, sweetheart. I’ll get you some porridge in the morning.”

Three months went by, and they were both housed at the Widow Shannon’s daughter’s house. After the baby was born, Micah’s mother’s blood did not stop, and her drained lifeless body was what the Widow found in the late morning light. The boy, thank the gods, was still sleeping. The daughter was kind enough, though, but had a brood of her own to take care of, much less the orphan elf children of questionable parentage.
In the benign neglect, left to his own devices, Micah peered in on his baby sister. He had had nothing to do with her until this moment. But the other children didn’t play with him, and his sullen pity was tiresome. He was drawn to her cradle. She was in her little bed, the one she had been placed in as a newborn, and was already growing out of it. She had a healthy baby appetite, and took whatever milk mixtures were fed her. All chubby, milk-fed, and angel skin, she delighted in her own universe. Micah wanted to hate her. If it wasn’t for her, he would be home with his mother, and maybe even his father, and everything would be perfect. The Widow had explained to him, very gently, but honestly, that his mother loved him, and loved this baby, too, and it was up to him to be her family. He wanted none of it. He looked down at her, with the intent of harm. Like she had hurt him. When his face peered over, she smiled her tiny baby smile, and reached up and put her chubby fist out, grabbing a handful of his hair, pulling him near. With her other hand, she touched his cheek, and cooed. It was so fast, he had no time to think. This baby loved him! She smiled…at him! She had green eyes like his mommy’s,  and reddish tinge to her fuzzy hair, and look—a big line of drool was coming out of her toothless grin, and she didn’t care! He laughed out loud for the first time in weeks. The baby smiled even bigger, mimicking his face. She grabbed his finger with her fist, and held on so tightly, he was sure she was the strongest baby ever born. And she was his sister.
Nothing else mattered.

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