For a long, long moment Naida sat there and first she nodded, then she shook her head and her lower lip pouted out. “That’s nice,” she said, waspishly and bent around her cramping middle. “It doesn’t make me feel any better to know I’ve got Goddess bits. Right now they feel like my womb is trying to claw its way out of me and run screaming around the cataract!”
“It will get bett---“
“Be silent, you nasty little fox!” She snapped and leaped to her feet. “I’m going. I’m going now! I want out and I want a real home and I want my mama! I want my papa! I have them, they’re so close and you’re all making me sit here and wait and wait!” She gathered her robe around herself, flung her cloak over her head and stormed out into the dirty rain.
Bodhi’s eyes opened and he said. “She’s determined.”
“She’s going to get herself killed!” Kurama snapped. “The stones falling out of the sky now aren’t just dust! It’s another round of pumice from another volcano!” She skittered out of the tiny chapel, with Sybaris whipping out of the lamp behind her, calling after her. She didn’t slow down because she knew that Asteri was right outside.
Except he wasn’t. She crouched as pumice fell all around her, and water, and sooty raindrops plowing into the ground. She was under a tiny overhang of rock and yipped as a stone bounced off the ground and hit her in the nose. She sneezed and then howled.
Far, far above, in the inky black sky, came a faint roar back. “NAAAAAIDDDDDAAAA!” Kurama howled into the storm. “ASTERRRRRRRRIIIIIIII!”
Jahi leaned on his stick and looked out over the rain-washed city. His wife’s power, while pregnant, was astounding. With her blood circle they could knock the worst of the ash cloud out over the sea instead of smothering them all, and hardening everyone’s lungs with wet pumice.
He couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking he heard a falcon’s cry, and his old nightmares, when that be-damned roc stole away his baby girl and nearly, oh so nearly had stolen his own life away as well, though little Efra was his life as much as the blood that ran through his veins.
It wasn’t as though the roc had savaged him, but he’d hung on far longer than he should, clutching at Effie’s swaddling clothes, before the bird had shaken him loose and he’d nearly burst open when he landed, though it was in a shallow pool, or on the edge of it. One fingerwidth higher and he’d have lost the use of his legs or died.
He turned his his little girl’s shrine and pricked his finger, letting a drop fall upon her scarab. She was on her way home. Making her own way home. Amani was dreaming of her almost constantly, when she wasn’t dreaming about Efra’s little brother, dreaming his way into existence in her womb.
Strength to you, my child. I have loved you from the moment we looked into each other’s eyes. That will never go away, even after I have gone to the afterlife.