Season Content Notes: attempted genocide (off screen), child murders (off screen), prejudice, violence, abuse references
Elisabeti went into labor in the middle of the human army camp. She and the other wolves were crowded into a fenced area. It had been used as a pasture for horses before their arrival. The army had been generous with tents, at least. Or, the materials to make them. In the rush to get the pregnant wolves to safety, there had been no room in those first few carts for the people who could support the pregnant women. A few midwives would be arriving the next day, which did Elisabeti no good.
The other pregnant wolves crowded around, trying to give her what comfort and support they could. The fighting wolves who traveled with them as guards had healed enough to wear their human skins. They, not one of them a parent, were pressed into help. One had rounded up whatever cloth he could find and was boiling it to swaddle the newborn. Another had, he said, been going to the speak with the soldiers. He hoped they might know a human midwife or give them more supplies.
The last crouched awkwardly by Elisabeti’s side, waiting. One of the pregnant wolves, who had given birth in human skin before, did her best to instruct he and Elisabeti in what to expect. In howl-song.
She was most definitely not a singer.
The contractions were spaced well apart, and all the wolves wondered what they should hope for — the longer the labor, the more danger for both mother and cub. But if the labor lasted long enough, the midwives would arrive. Surely that would be better than a group of pregnant wolves trapped in fur and three unmarried fighters doing what little they could?
Elisabeti labored through the night and into the morning. The wolf guard who went to the humans came back empty-handed. The human guards had agreed to carry his request to the camp commander. But he claimed to have no supplies to spare and would not send one of his few medics to help a wolf. The clothes were as clean as they could be. Their fuel being spent profligately to keep the water hot for cleaning. Most of the other pregnant wolves were thinking how grateful they were to be birthing in fur. Those few who had experience with human births were worried — the contractions were increasing, but Elisabeti’s water had not yet broken.
By noon, one of the pregnant wolves — her name was the silver of moonlight and the scent of witch hazel — left the crowded tent to find a long, thin stick. It was a risk, she knew, even if she could explain to the guards what needed to be done. But Elisabeti weakened the babe would weaken with her. They were almost out of time.
With a combination of wolfish body language and her very basic howls, she got one of their wolf guards to strip the bark from the stick and scrub it with the hot water. But at that point, they hit a wall. She couldn’t get them to understand what was needed. Or perhaps they didn’t want to understand. She would have tried explaining to Elisabeti, but the woman was wracked by constant contractions and barely clinging to consciousness.
Finally, finally, one of the guards realized (or perhaps accepted) what she was trying to say. Hesitantly, fearfully, he squatted down in front of Elisabeti, poked the stick up between her legs and into her birth canal. He winced several times, started to pull away. But the wolf whose name was the silver of moonlight and the scent of witch hazel growled at him each time. It had taken long enough and too long; she would not let him stop now. Finally, the stick reached far enough and met resistance. After a moment, he gave one firm push. He was rewarded with a sudden gush of liquid pouring down Elisabeti’s legs, over his hand and arm, and splashing into his face.(1)
The babe came quickly after that, before Elisabeti lost the ability to push. The other pregnant wolves licked Elisabeti clean and ate the afterbirth. By wolf custom, this would bring them luck in their own births. More importantly, it brought her comfort and relief. The fighters did a competent job of cleaning and swaddling the babe and lay them on Elisabeti’s stomach. She was so exhausted she could barely move but managed, with much encouragement and a wolf under each arm, to hold her child to the breast and still the quiet cries. So quiet were the babe’s cries that the wolves fur puffed on end to hear them. A babe so tired they could barely cry was a babe who nearly died in the birthing.
Thankfully, Elisabeti had little bleeding. She relaxed as the fighters washed her with the hot water and the babe suckled at her breast. With rest and food, she should recover.
Late that evening, the cart carrying the midwives arrived. Too late to help with the birth, they bustled in and took over support for the new mother, letting the other wolves rest and recover from their long vigil.
Shortly after, Aswathi came. He had looked for Elisabeti at the pasture gate, where she had met him each time he arrived with another cartload of wolves. When she wasn’t there, he sought her out, fearing what might have happened. The midwives would not let him close, but he saw that she was sleeping peacefully with the babe still on her chest. He saw also how little the wolves had. He had known many of them still traveled in fur, and few brought bags or baggage but had not realized what it meant.
He had little himself — he received his pay packet once a week and sent most of it to his parents. But he had a little. What he had, he gave to the midwives. “Get what she needs,” he said. “If there is any leftover, use it for the others.”
They did not know what to make of this human man who was so interested in their packmate. But he had been friendly and polite to them on their long journey that day. He even distracted the wounded from their pains with many silly stories of his mule. So they decided he meant well and thanked him. There would be extra food for the new mother and more fuel to heat water for the next birth.
Having done what he could, Aswathi bedded in the back of his cart so he would be rested for another long day tomorrow.
Lot of changes for everyone to navigate. Hopefully they are through the worst of it, right?
Next week we’ll be starting Meadowsweet (season 1)
Think of it as Firefly meets noncon ‘why choose’ romance. (Sort of.)
Anonymous post to the Galactic Reddit AITA
I’m the captain of a small trading ship, and I have a problem.
I have a ridiculously high sex drive thanks to that damn parasite from Verda, and I can’t afford surgery to remove it. I tried to control it, but I nearly destroyed my crew a dozen times before I found something that worked:
A sex slave.
I buy a slave from people who are going to work her to death, give her good quarters, good food, and a percentage of each trading run. All I expect is that she be available for sex, mostly with me, sometimes with the crew. A lot.
I’ve had 3 so far. Two saved enough to buy themselves free and got a nice set up on the world of their choice. The third kept trying to escape so I ditched her at our next plantfall with the clothes on her back.
We’re on our way to a so-called ‘Personnel Processing Platform’ to buy the next one.
Am I the Asshole?
(Content notes and trigger warnings out the ass on this one, for obvious reasons.)
(1) For those curious, it is actually medical practice in the US (and presumably much of the world) to poke a long stick up there and break the water if it doesn’t break on it’s own. Obstetric nurses use a plastic stick with a small hook on the end, but anything long, thin, and rounded or blunt should work just as well. Or a sharp end if used carefully enough, but I wouldn’t want to try that myself.
The Price of Survival, S1 E1
The Price of Survival, S1 E8
Bound by His Oath, S1 E1
How NOT to Save the World, S1 E1