Catch up on The Bloodied Briar Story before you read Part 9: Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5 • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8
A Parent’s Gift
Lorelei rested one hand on her large belly and the other wiped sweat from her forehead. Cooking had become such an effort in recent weeks. Everything had become an effort, even sleeping.
Lorelei had been hiding in this tiny cottage for close to six months now and her hiding was nearly over. Her stomach felt enormous and her baby was due any day now.
Lorelei knew it would be a girl as surely as she knew that once the child was ready to travel, Lorelei would give her away and never see her again.
What else could she do?
As far as Lorelei knew, there had never been a child born before who was half Demon and half Ang’El. Because of who her parents were, the child would be hunted by both sides to be used, controlled, studied, or killed. Lorelei would not allow that to happen to her daughter. As much as she wanted to keep her child, keep her and raise her and love her, Lorelei knew that her first and most important responsibility was to keep the child safe. Someone more powerful than Lorelei could come at her for the child, or worse, in Lorelei’s times of darkness she might willingly give up her daughter or even hurt her. Lorelei knew that in her times of darkness there was no trace of goodness to be found, she was a risk. Lorelei could not for a moment place her daughter at risk like that.
Her daughter’s father could not protect his daughter either, he did not know about her. For all the love he bore Lorelei, his loyalty was to the Ang’El above all else. If he knew about his child, he might bring his daughter before his superiors. They might kill her as an abomination.
Lorelei could not risk that either.
So, she endured this pregnancy alone except for the help of a few trusted witches. One of them, Vivian, would return to the cottage shortly to stay for the birth and then spirit the child away to be hidden in a safe place.
They had chosen a family. They would not know who the child was, but they would be able to give her a good life and deal with any powers she had inherited. Vivian would be able to check in on her from time to time. It was a good deal, even if Lorelei would never see her daughter or Vivian again. It was for the best, although it broke Lorelei’s little black demon heart.
For the first time in her life, Lorelei was doing the right thing.
Strong magic kept Lorelei and her unborn baby hidden and safe. No one could find them unless Lorelei willed it. Unfortunately, that did not mean that her dreams were always safe. Lorelei’s dreams had been invaded before, but it had seemed like her masters wanted their wayward demon back. There had been no hint that they knew why she had vanished. Lorelei prayed that remained the case, an act that was somewhat ironic for someone like her.
Tonight, as Lorelei managed to sleep between kicks and bladder squashing her dream felt different.
Lorelei found herself in the presence of Baelur, one of her masters. He was a manipulator who used his words and his mind more than he used magic or force. He had a mind so vile and sadistic that he had been known to horrify other demons.
“You should have come to us to make a deal, my beautiful demon. You have to know how much this child is worth to you.” Baelur’s voice was soft and inviting. His smile was charming and his manner non-threatening. Lorelei knew that it was all an act.
Baelur shook his head, his smile staying firmly in place. “Come now, Lorelei, even as a demon, lies do not become us.”
“Somewhat ironic coming from the king of lies and twisted words. Why are you invading my dreams?” Lorelei stared Baelur down, hands resting on her hips even though she wished to rest them protectively on her belly. He would get nothing from her. Baelur might be able to bring her into this dream realm but he could not control her in it and he could not force his way into her mind and her memories. Her secrets were hers, as long as she kept them to herself.
“We know about the child, Lorelei. You were misguided to think that you could keep it from us. You must have known that eventually, we would find out. Why not make a deal?”
“If there was a child, what sort of deal could even be made?”
Baelur already knew the deal he would make, why else seek her out? Lorelei had hoped this moment would never come to pass. An unrealistic hope maybe, since both Demons and Ang’El had seers, farseekers and diviners. Someone could easily see something.
Lorelei was not powerful enough to keep the truth from the eyes of Fate. Not even with the assistance of the ancient witches.
“You will be released, you just need to give the child to us. Not only that, we could make it possible to have a life with your lover.”
Lorelei forced out an amused sounding laugh. “Have you offered this deal to others who were actually pregnant? I am not even with child and I cannot imagine giving up a child for the sake of such a flimsy agreement. What would you do? Turn us into flies and let us live a few moments before you squashed us? I know how your deals work, Baelur.”
“You would live a long, happy and satisfying life together as humans -if- you give us the child.”
Lorelei knew they must desperately want the child if they were willing to make such a deal. She could not lie, it was tempting. There was no other way she could be with him without intervention, and a long life together would lead to other children. Mortals having mortal children that would not be cursed or hunted. As a human, Lorelei would no longer suffer the dark days when she was nothing but a Demon. Her times when she lived for nothing beyond chaos, destruction, and pain. She could be free of it all and loved.
All it would cost was her daughter.
Lorelei was a demon but even she was not so evil as to condemn a child to the literal hell that it would endure.
Lorelei laughed again at Baelur. “A tempting offer to be with my lover, and perhaps if I had something to bargain with I might negotiate. You really should not believe all the rumours you hear. I am simply exploring the world and finding amusements. I will return when I feel like it or I must.”
The smile fell from Baelur’s lips and he bared pointed teeth at Lorelei. If he hoped to scare her, he would have been disappointed with her lack of reaction. “If we find you and the child there will be nothing but pain for you. Accept the offer.”
“Goodbye, Baelur. Thank you for the entertaining conversation.”
Lorelei forced herself painfully from the dream world. She rushed outside. Her heart was racing, and she felt like she might throw up. She was terrified that they would find her now that they knew about her and her daughter. Her denials would not deter Baelur if he believed he was right.
Lorelei doubled over, her hand gripped the wooden railing and she cried out in pain. Vivian had told her not to stress herself because it might bring on the birth. It seemed it was too late for that. The contractions had started.
Her daughter was coming now.
Lorelei found some comfort in that thought. As soon as her daughter was born she would be taken away, and she would be safe.
Her waters broke shortly after and thankfully, Vivian rode up shortly after that and got her back inside. Vivian aided Lorelei through her labour until the baby was ready to come and then the hard work truly began.
Lorelei hurled curses that would make a hardened demon turn pale before she took a deep breath and braced her body. Her feet pushed against the wooden frame that Vivian had erected. She pushed down her body with all her strength, even though she was exhausted she pushed. Her lips parted in a long scream before she collapsed back. She heard the cry of the child and felt her heart soar with joy.
Vivian smiled up at her, the bloodied child cradled gently. “As expected, she is a girl. A perfectly normal girl.”
Vivian’s words eased her mind. There was no outward obvious sign of what this child was. “Good, that is good. She will be unremarkable.”
Vivian cleaned the child and wrapped her before placing her in her mother’s arms. “Are you certain you do not wish for the father to know?”
Lorelei shook her head, looking down at this perfect creation in her arms. “I am certain He cannot for he might be too honest to allow her freedom.
Vivian nodded and moved back between Lorelei’s legs. “Let the child suckle, it often makes this last part easier.”
Lorelei did as she was bid. Tears streamed down her cheeks as her body expelled the last of her pregnancy. A growing part of her did not want to give her daughter to strangers while she remained alone. But she could not hand her over into demonic hands just to be with her beloved. Nor could she keep her and protect her, as tempting as it was to try in this moment.
Perhaps if it had been the Ang’El who had made an offer…
No, no one could make an offer that would be in the best interests of this child and so Lorelei had to do what she intended. Nothing mattered beyond the safety of this innocent. Even a demon could see that.
The scene faded away and Briar put her hand to her cheek. Tears soaked it.