The Other McCawber Girl
by Amanda Rohrssen

Prologue

From a world that's never-ending,
From a sky beyond the skies,
A child is born and love is made
Alive

Spock's Beard, Snow

The scream erupted out of the depths of the chamber, resounding through the entire estate and turning the heads of all within its ubiquitous clutches. A shudder of indescribable pain rippled through the manor. It was time.

The castle stood high and proud, haughtily overlooking the small village some distance away as it always had since the McCawber family had settled there long ago. Like his father before him, Moloculo McCawber had taken his place not only as head of the household but also as the head of Transylvanian society. The power behind the McCawber name had always been backed by money, and Moloculo was always sure that his word was final where business matters were concerned. The McCawbers were well known for their shrewd business conduct, and when it came to family it was seldom a different affair.

A second scream tore through the castle.

"Are you sure you can't do something?" snapped Moloculo, gripping his wife's hand as her scream quelled into soft whimpering.

"I've already given her more than I should have," the doctor replied reproachfully. "It's almost over," he added with a softer tone to the laboring woman. "Just a couple more pushes and you can rest."

The woman nodded her pale head wearily, her ebony hair plastered against her head, drenched with sweat, and her gray eyes glossy. Though she was in tremendous pain, she could not hide her excitement and clutched her husband's hand tighter as she began to push again.

Just beyond the doorway a pair of large black eyes watched with anxious fear and anticipation. A tiny hand gripped the doorframe as the child drew slightly closer until another agonized shout pierced the air, halting her mid-step.

Silence descended suddenly, save for the child's own raspy, shallow breathing. What was wrong with her mother? Her eyes widened and she took a hurried step backward, releasing the doorway as soon as a terrified, ear-splitting cry erupted throughout the room. The doctor was holding up something strange that was covered some kind of slime. The girl shook her dark locks of hair in disbelief, taking another step backward as she stared at what was making the noise.

"What . . . what is that thing?" Moloculo asked under his breath, a look of sheer incredulity on his elongated face.

The doctor stood with his back to the woman, who had collapsed back onto the bed from exhaustion after a single glimpse of the newborn, but at just an angle for the father to be able to look upon what had just come into the world.

"I-I'm not sure . . . it . . . it looks like-"

"I know what it looks like!" Moloculo snapped. "I want it taken care of. Cut those off!" He pointed hastily to the infant. "I don't want word of this to anyone, do you understand?"

The doctor looked from the calming baby to the scowling businessman and smiled cunningly. "Then it's gonna cost extra."

"Fine. Just get it over with before my wife wakes up! I'll pay whatever amount you wish."

As the doctor walked across the room with the infant, the small girl standing outside of the doorway crept closer, curiosity overcoming her initial fear. She took a step inside of the doorway, just near enough to clearly see what the doctor was doing. A sideways glance told her that Moloculo wouldn't catch her because he was busy tending to his wife, so she focused all of her attention on the table to her right.

The creature she had seen was no creature at all, but a tiny baby. It had a beak like her, feathers as white as hers, though a little bloodstained, and it had big gray eyes that reminded her of her mother. With that thought she chanced another glance toward Moloculo, then looked at the resting woman. It was then that she understood: the baby on the table was her sister. Only one feature was a little unnerving for her, though with the realization that the baby was her sister it didn't bother her so much anymore. But what was the doctor doing to her?

A flash caught her gaze and she gave a small gasp. The knife glinted in the light again before the doctor brought it down upon the infant's back, sending a barrage of tortured shrieks through the castle.

Moloculo's head turned toward the noise with a grim expression until he caught sight of his daughter. "Morgana, get out of here! I told you to wait outside!"

She didn't have to be told twice. She whirled on her heels and tore blindly out of the room, trying desperately to get away . . . but her sister's screams continued to follow her.