[This is a multi-part story. We previously read how Liana prepared a “special” cup of tea for Miko the pirate while he bullied her into agreeing to his proposal of marriage.
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Sura paused as she wiped her father’s face with a cool cloth. Though it was well past sundown and the village had gone to sleep, she thought she’d heard footsteps. She put down the cloth and walked into the main room, where the only light came from the faraway stars outside the open window.
“Pssst, Sura,” came a voice from the dark.
Sura watched a form detach itself and shape into her cousin Nami. “Whew. I thought you were a ghost from the other side. Why are you out so late?”
“Strange news.” Nami put a cold hand on Sura’s arm. “You should know right away.”
A snake of dread coiled around Sura’s stomach. “What is it? Let me get you some juice and bread.”
“Just juice please.”
Sura put a candle on the table and fetched the juice. “What happened?”
Her cousin sat on a pillow next to the low table. “I was getting flour from the village when they brought him in.”
Sura sat down next to her. “Who?”
The flames danced in twisted shadows upon Nami’s face as she spoke. “Miko.”
“Miko.” Sura frowned. “But he’s supposed to be with Liana. It’s near the baby’s time. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to see to Papa after his injury, and Miko assured me he would send for the Queen’s own nurse. What do you mean… brought him in?”
Nami leaned forward. “They carried him on a stretcher of cloth and branches. He was moaning like a madman and had the bloody flux.”
“Horrible.” Sura shuddered. “Does anyone else have it?”
“The doctor ordered a check and no one does. The last was a baby already passed on three moons ago.”
Sura sat in silence for a moment. “Has he…”
“This evening.” Nami sighed. “They can’t save you once it gets that far. He had been in the monkey jungle.”
“Who knows?” Nami shrugged and sat back. “Healthy warriors can get it same as the old and weak. My father says that on ships–”
“Not that.” Sura held up a hand to stop her cousin from rambling on. “The jungle. What was Miko doing there when he was supposed to be looking after Liana? And who’s with her now?”
Nami picked up her cup of juice and sipped it before answering. “He was taking the short route to the Royal Hall. One of his men got him to talk a little before the fever burned up his mind. Liana had agreed to marry him and he was going to ask for the Queen’s permission.”
“Liana would never agree!” Sura burst out. “She hated him! I didn’t want to leave him with her but Papa is all alone.”
“Shhhh.” Nami warned her. “Never say that again. Liana must grieve mightily. Do you understand? Miko is a beloved warrior and she is a newcomer.”
Sura thought about the two warriors who had died while bringing Liana home. And now Miko. Three valuable men no longer here to serve the Queen. At any moment, Her Majesty might decide that Liana was too great a liability to keep around. “Yes, you are right. Liana must be very sad.”
Nami nodded and finished her juice. “Miko was so concerned for his bride to be that he sent his medicine aunt to help deliver her babe. That’s the second part of the news.”
“Adoka?” Sura jumped up. “She is evil! I must go to Liana at once. Will you stay with Papa, please?”
“Of course, cousin.” Nami stood and embraced her. “Get some rest and leave at first light.”
Sura shook her head. “I must go now. I’ll wake a night guide and pay him extra.”
“Mama’s gold ring.” Sura’s eyes filled with tears. “It’s only a thing. She would not want Liana and her baby to be murdered by that crazy woman.”
[to be continued]
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