[This is a multi-part story. We previously read that Sura’s cousin Nami delivered the news that Miko had died a strange death and Sura should return to Liana at once.
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Waves of pain came hour after hour, until she didn’t know when day turned to night. She became too weak to follow directions and decided that it was time to die. Pleased to join her family in the land beyond, Liana relaxed into a light rest. When she opened her eyes, Sura was there again, though she had already gone. Soft words. Cool hands…
“Where is…” Liana whispered, but she was too exhausted to finish her words.
“Shhhh,” Sura said, and the pains surged again. But this time Sura helped her and the baby finally came.
“It’s a boy!” Sura helped Liana hold him, placing pillows around them.
Liana gazed at the tiny face, the sparkling dark eyes. “Don’t let them…”
“We’ll help you,” Sura whispered. “She’s not the Queen’s nurse. She’s Miko’s aunt. And he died. You’ll have to act grief-stricken.”
“Who helps?” Liana glanced at the door.
“I put a sleeping herb in her juice.” Sura smiled. “You taught me well. But she will wake soon. And as much as she would like to cause trouble, she leaves for Miko’s funeral. You and I will journey to the Royal Hall, to show your baby to the Queen. My cousin Nami will join us.”
Liana closed her eyes. This was too much information, too overwhelming. And Sura seemed to understand. After she helped the baby start to nurse, she left the room.
She returned with bread, fruit, and juice for Liana. “Eat and rest. Don’t worry about anything else right now.”
Liana nodded and tried to relax while feeding her infant. She marveled at the strange sensation and the softness of his skin. He was so precious! A wave of love and protectiveness rose in her. She would not allow any harm to come to him!
“So, the babe is finally here.” Adoka stood next to Liana’s bed. “Boy or girl?”
Liana abruptly woke from her doze. Where was Sura? “Boy.”
“He looks healthy.” Adoka stared down at them. “But Miko was a healthy, strong warrior and died two sunsets past.”
“Miko’s dead?” Liana created a picture of her beloved Ken in her mind and her eyes filled with tears. “How could that happen?”
The older woman kept her gaze fastened on Liana’s face, as if to measure her every reaction. “It’s a mystery. Apparently he was here, with you, and headed to the Royal Hall. He took the short route through the monkey jungle. It is full of dangers.”
“What kind of dangers?” Liana asked, though she knew perfectly well nothing in the jungle had killed Miko.
Adoka shrugged. “The blue tree snake. One bite can kill a man in three minutes. There is the honey spring. It tempts the thirsty with sweet cold water, but it is poisoned. Then there is the sucking sand that grabs your feet and swallows you like a sea monster.”
“How horrible!” Liana shuddered. “But Miko would know to avoid these things, wouldn’t he?”
“If his mind was filled with thoughts of a bride,” Adoka sneered, “he might not have been paying attention.”
“Yes,” Liana sniffled. “I feel responsible. We spoke of marriage. Miko was not sure the Queen would agree since my baby is under the protection of the gods. He was conceived in a storm, by the storm itself, you know.”
Adoka rolled her eyes. “So I have heard. The Queen loves her stories of the gods and their interference with our lives. I believe humans interfere with each other’s lives more often than not. Even hastening their ends in some cases.”
Liana pretended not to understand. “Of course. Like in battle. Miko was a great and powerful warrior. What a terrible loss this is for our island family! The Queen will be distraught.”
“The Queen.” Adoka’s lips twisted. “Yes, she will be told of all that has happened.”
“I shall never love another man!” Liana burst out passionately. “He was my true heart. I am devastated by this loss and shall devote my life to my child and my Queen and nothing else.”
Sura rushed into the room. “What is it? I was gathering herbs and heard yelling.”
“My nephew Miko is dead,” Adoka said. “He and Liana were to be married. You know he was here because he gave you the news of your father. Then he left for the Royal Hall and became violently ill in the monkey jungle.”
“How terrible,” Sura said, embracing the older woman. “What a huge loss. I’m so sorry for your family.”
Adoka hugged her. “Thank you. I was very proud of him.”
“What about me?” Liana cried. “He was to be my husband! He said he’d care for my storm baby same as his own!” A true wave of grief crashed over her as she said these words for her lost love Ken, the man who would never meet his son, their future incinerated by the volcano, her heart in ashes with her real home and family. And yet… here was family with a new baby.
“Oh, you poor girl!” Sura ran to the bed to comfort Liana, kissing the top of her head. “You’ve been through so much. But you must stay strong for the baby.”
Liana nodded and sniffled. “He is my life.”
“What will you name him?” Adoka asked.
Pressing her face to her baby’s head and inhaling his powdery scent like a drug, Liana murmured, “Kenzi.”
[to be continued]
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