Bryony turned, one arm stretching out across the pillow. Her hand clenched and unclenched, as though trying to find purchase. She made a sound of distress, but didn't wake, slipping further into the dream.
"It's now!" The woman cried.
"Now?" The man reacted in pure panic. "It can't be now! It's too soon!"
"We have to stop." She slid off her horse, staggering as she hit the ground. She bent over, putting her hands on her knees. "Ooooh. This one's coming fast!"
"The last one was fast!" He complained, rushing to her side and holding her up against him. "Can you ride? I can put you in front of me on my horse."
The woman's scream made it all too clear that it was far too late for that. Her legs gave way, and he laid her down in the dirt, working frantically to strip her down as her belly heaved and twisted. She was soaked from her birth-water, and her breeches clung to her as he ripped them away, with each of her cries cutting the air and lending him the sort of calm that only comes with extreme terror.
"I need to get something spread beneath you, love," He said evenly. "I'm just going to go to my saddlebag - "
"No!" The woman's hand reached down, gripping his with a claw-like intensity. "I need to push. I need to push now." The final word carried an emphatic undertone that can only be spoken by a woman in hard labor. He wasn't stupid enough to argue with her.
She pulled herself up, bearing down with each contraction, and a few moments later, the babe pushed out into his father's hands.
And promptly slid through his fingers, landing in the dirt.
"Ah!" The man cried, picking him up, wiping him clean with his shirt. The babe gave out a hearty, robust cry, and the mother heard it, sagging back in relief, tears streaming down her face and into her matted, blonde hair.
"Is he okay?" She asked, weakly, still panting from her efforts.
"He's fine," The man said, staring at his son in wonder. He lifted his tiny hand. "He's beautiful, love." He carefully wrapped his shirt around the child, placing him in his mother's arms before he turned to fetch his saddlebags and make them both more comfortable.
"I never thought a son of mine would be born on dry land, much less in the dirt," The man remarked with a smile as he tenderly pushed his saddlebag under his wife's head to support it.
"I guess he couldn't wait any longer," She said, stroking his dark, downy hair.
"He was ready for an adventure, and that's the truth of it," The man agreed.
He smiled down at his wife, his blue eyes sparkling, but they soon clouded over, became troubled, as the widening pool of blood on the ground began to writhe and move like a living thing, sprouting vines that reached out, twining around the mother and babe. The man's blue eyes changed to forest green as the vines overtook him, slowly wrapping around his throat, dripping with blood...
Bryony sat up with a start, rubbing her face and taking a deep breath. This wasn't the first time she'd had the dream, but this time, the details were a little easier to remember. The words were clearer. She opened the drawer on her nightstand, reaching in for her journal and her pen. She'd almost filled this one up. She'd need to buy a new one soon.
Her glance moved over to the bookshelf across the room, noting row after row of journals, filled with thoughts and dreams and meanderings that played through her mind. She closed her eyes, concentrating again so she wouldn't miss anything. Then she put her pen to paper and wrote:
The smell and warmth of the earth around them
The insects, milling around the grass and the way the horse's tail swatted the flies away
The deep rusty smell of the blood as it mingled with the earth
The light of the sun through closed eyelids
Eyes the color of an evergreen, deep and fathomless, like a sea in the fading light
She closed the journal, chewing on the end of her pen, wondering where that came from. The sea wasn't usually green, though it could be, in some places. Or so she'd been told. His eyes were just...deep. Full of secrets and longings.
Secrets and longings.
She let her mind ponder that as she reached for the glass of water she kept on her nightstand, realizing at once that she'd overslept as soon as she saw the clock.
"Shit!" She exclaimed, leaping out of bed.