A/N: I've decided to get a start on this new side-story that's been running through my mind. Like the summary suggests, it's the story of Jane and Alec's childhood, before they joined the Volturi. This story takes place in a medieval Italian village. More details at the end, since I don't want to spoil anything.
Also, there is a somewhat graphic birth scene in this chapter, so if that's not your thing, then I suggest you move on (nothing explicit).
The flickering light from the hearth cast a dull glow around the room. Three women huddled together, each face drawn tight with worry as the fourth lay on her palette, breathing heavily.
"Come now, Felicity," said the eldest. Though she was the voice of authority among the women, her face was still young. Her ruddy hair was matted and tangled with the day's discord, all thoughts of her own appearance pushed from her mind. Her work-hardened, calloused hand held that of the younger woman while another set of hands fluttered.
Felicity's prominent belly jutted out before her, inhibiting her movements and keeping her idle. The girl cried out as her stomach hardened once more, the pains stronger than they'd been just minutes ago.
The woman furthest from the laboring mother had her fingers clasped around her whittled cross, her mouth moving in silent prayer. As the older woman reached beneath the skirts of the dress Felicity wore, her brows furrowed in unbroken concentration.
"The babe is nearly here," she said soothingly. "You'll need to push down."
Felicity's pale eyes widened, fear emanating like waves of heat.
"That babe won't be birthed without you pushing," she said practically. "Go on now."
"I cannot," said Felicity, her head moving from side to side. "Lord help me, I cannot—"
"The Lord is helping you, girl," snapped the pious one. "He's giving you children."
"Hush, Rosamund," said the third woman. "Be quiet."
Rosamund returned to her prayers, her knuckles turning white with the force of her grip. Felicity cried out—a guttural, primal sound— as another pain gripped her.
"Feel that?" asked the redhead. "That's your babe asking to come out. Now push, child, before it is too late."
A new kind of fear came over her—one that did not revolve around her.
Felicity steeled herself against the fear and the pain and gave a little push, gasping at the fire she felt between her legs.
"I know it hurts, sweeting," said the kinder of the three. "It'll be over soon."
"Unless there's two," said Rosamund unhelpfully. "Hiltrude said she looks big."
"Rosamund, keep quiet!" snapped the copper-haired woman, Hiltrude. "Gisela, come here and be of some help."
Rosamund, returned once more to prayers and the light-haired, heavyset woman called Gisela brought over a basin of water from the river.
"Has that been heated?" asked Hiltrude. "We can't have them getting cold."
"Them?" asked Felicity, fearful and tired.
"Hush child, and bear down," said Hiltrude sternly. "The quicker they're brought out the quicker it'll be over."
Felicity felt the ring of fire intensify and with a great breath, she spread her legs and bore down. The babe's head pressed against her sharply and she felt the urge to retract once more, but she kept on.
"That's it, sweeting," said Gisela. "You're quite close."
Felicity felt her breath run out and with a great gasp of air, the babe slipped back again.
"Again," said Hiltrude, unrelenting. Felicity obeyed and again, she felt her child move.
"That's right," urged the midwife. "Almost there now."
Felicity had heard the stories of women in her village. She knew that when women often died while giving life to their children. She knew she could bleed and she would be dead. She knew that the child could damage her inside, and she might be lost. She knew that the babe, who had grown big and strong within her, was in need of the air God had given the people to sustain life. She knew that without it, her child would most certainly die.
Burchard was frantic for another son to add to his arsenal, and Felicity was going to give him one.
"That's it, child!" cried Hiltrude. "Good girl!"
Felicity felt the child moving again and again and her body, ever pliable, stretched to accommodate it. She knew when the little fleshy head had emerged and the child's shoulders began to slide through. She felt the fire—she screamed at the fire—but continued onward, bound and determined to see this through.
"One more, and I think we'll be done!" said Hiltrude. Rosamund's praying heightened in volume as the child slipped into Hiltrude's hands, quiet and still.
"It is a girl child," the woman declared, maneuvering the small body in her hands. Felicity, exhausted, looked up from her place and sought out her new daughter.
The babe was still and quiet as Hiltrude jostled and patted her, determined that she should wake up and cry.
And cry she did.
As Hiltrude's hands rubbed up and down the tiny back, the tiny girl let out a high, gurgled wail that filled the house. A chorus of childish cheers were heard outside and the small door was flung open. Audovera rushed inside, breathless and excited, moving right to her mother.
"Oh Mama, is it a brother?" she asked, bright eyes glued to Hiltrude.
"No, it is a new sister," she said gently, handing the newly-blanketed babe to the girl. "Take her to the fire and see that she warms."
Felicity felt a pang of envy as she watched her husband's oldest child rush away with her infant, placing her down before the hearth.
"Such a pretty baby," she cooed. "What shall she be called?"
"Has the priest arrived?" asked Rosamund. "There must be a christening!"
If the babe died before the holy words were said, her soul would surely be damned to hell.
Everyone, save the newborn, fell silent before Rosamund's voice called out again.
"Magnatrude!" she cried. "Trudy, come at once!"
A small girl rushed into the house, dark hair all asunder atop her small head.
Her eyes fixated on her mother.
"Where is the priest?" asked Rosamund worriedly. "Has Father Alexander arrived?"
"No, mother," she said, shaking her head. "Might I go see the babe?"
"No, you may fetch the priest," she said urgently. "Go quickly and take Bero with you."
"Do not argue with me, girl," said Rosamund, her temper bubbling dangerously. "Go now before the babe freezes!"
Magnatrude's eyes widened with childlike fear and she tore from the house, leaving the door open. Though it was midsummer, the air was cool and Felicity felt it over all her skin. Trudy could be seen through the gap snatching up her little brother's hand and pulling him forth, urgent.
"It is of no use," said Rosamund, displeased with the delay. "I shall say the holy words, for I know them well."
It had been Rosamund who had said the words for Gisela's last son Otker, when Father Alexander had been held indoors by the heavy snow some winters passed. She moved to the two girls and took the babe from the child, holding her expertly. She placed her cross on the child's covered belly and kissed her softly on the forehead, speaking the words clearly.
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…" she said, crossing herself with her free hand.
The three women and the small girl followed suit, Felicity's arms heavy and tired. The babe squawked when her blanket was adjusted and the women took a soothing breath when the words were said and the child continued to wail.
Felicity felt another pain.
"That'll be the ending," said Hiltrude, "or perhaps another babe. Give it some time and we'll see."
Gisela sidled forth and sat herself next to Felicity, holding her hand as tightly as she dared. Rosamund returned the baby to Audovera, who rushed forth to present the child to the new mother.
"What shall she be called?" wondered the child, letting the babe suckle at her finger.
Felicity turned to the child who was just seven years her junior and contemplated for a moment, waiting.
"Jehanne," she said softly, touching the baby's cheek. "She shall be called Jehanne for my mother."
Felicity's mother had never known her daughter, as she had fallen victim to one of the terrible stories women often hear when they are with child. Her father's other women had raised her in her mother's stead.
Another pain hit her.
"Hiltrude!" she called out, fearful. Vera, still so young, watched with widened eyes as her mother stepped forth, gently moving her daughter from her path, sending her to the side of the room.
"Hand the child to Gisela," ordered Hiltrude. "Let me see if we are doubly blessed."
Little Jehanne was removed from her mother's grip yet again as Hiltrude turned to Felicity's hardening belly, pressing down. Felicity felt a nudge deep within herself and she groaned out loud, letting her tears loose.
"Now child, bear down," ordered Hiltrude. "This one's been inside long enough!"
Felicity bore down once more and felt the same thing she'd felt before—the beginnings of birth. Gisela did her best to comfort the wailing infant while babe and mother both cried.
The child was hungry.
"Push down, Felicity!" shouted Hiltrude. Rosamund had returned to her cross and was praying fervently, remembering quite clearly how just four summers ago Hiltrude had nearly been taken from them while birthing her twin boys. All the women, Rosamund included, silently prayed that Felicity would not give Burchard two girls—he could forgive one girl, but two would try his temper.
The fire returned to Felicity's body and with all the same feelings as before, she forced the child from her womb and into the world.
"Where is Father Alexander?" moaned Rosamund, seeing the child's imminent emergence.
The door flew open once more and the small doorway admitted two figures—one hulking and big, the other, small.
"Good God!" cried the priest, turning quickly from the birthing mother. "The girl told me the child had already come!"
"One has," said Rosamund, gesturing to the fireside. The priest had only a moment to waste before Felicity's second child was born into the world, needing no help from Hiltrude to cry.
"Good God in heaven, we have a boy!" cried Hiltrude, holding the naked, squirming son in her dirtied hands. "Father, there has been another son for the house of Baudry!"
"Praise be," said the priest smilingly. Hiltrude tossed a scrap of fabric over the child and lifted him gently up to the priest, who repeated the same words Rosamund had said over the girl.
"Two boy babes?" asked the priest, craning to see Jehanne by the fire.
"No, Father," said Rosamund reverently. "A girl and a boy."
"Very fine," praised Father Alexander. "Have they been named?"
"The girl is Jehanne," said Felicity weakly to the old priest. "For my mother."
"And the boy?" he asked.
Felicity thought for a moment, only one name coming to mind in her fatigue.
"A strong name for a strong lad," said the priest, returning the child to his mother. "Now, I shall return to the parish and let you women clean up. It smells like livestock."
Felicity's cheeks pinked as she watched the priest go, knowing very well that any strange or foreign odour had come directly from her.
Birthing was not a particularly clean event.
Trudy was the one to take Alexander to the fireside to be with his sisters, keeping him firmly swaddled in his swatch of cloth. Both babes cried for milk as Hiltrude went about changing the hay of Felicity's palette.
"Bring them to me," ordered Felicity gently. The two little girls stepped forth with the small bundles in hand and placed one in each of Felicity's arms, stepping back to let the mother do what her body was designed for.
Both babies suckled and Felicity was barely aware of Hiltrude disposing of the afterbirth under the large tree outside. She cared not that Rosamund was deep in prayer or that Gisela was gently wiping her face with a damp cloth. She didn't notice Hiltrude chastising the other children for being loud when they were finally allowed back indoors.
She did notice, however, when Burchard returned from town, his boisterous noise waking her from her light slumber.
"We have been doubly blessed, sire," said Hiltrude, excited. "Felicity has given you two children."
"Two?" boomed Burchard eagerly. "Two sons?"
"A daughter and a son," said Hiltrude carefully. "One of each."
Burchard harrumphed at the news and Felicity felt herself growing sad… what if he shouldn't love their children?
"Where is he?" he boomed. "Felicity!"
She jerked into full awareness as her husband called for her, rounding the corner.
"Where is my new son?"
"Here, sire," she said, holding the babe in her left arm out for him to see.
The child was asleep, his rosebud lips smacking.
"He's been christened?"
"What has he been called?"
"Alexander, sire," said Felicity carefully. "A good strong name for a strong lad." She repeated the holy man's words.
"Mmm," said Burchard lowly, reaching forth to remove the coverings from his son. As the cool air hit the child's belly, his eyes opened and he let out a hearty wail of protest.
Felicity feared that Burchard would be cross—he was so quick to anger—but to her delight, he just laughed.
"My boy indeed," he said jubilantly. "What a fine man he shall make."
The girl-child whimpered quietly in her mother's arms at the sound of her brother's cry, but her father took no notice.
"Quiet it, Felicity," said Burchard brusquely. "Hand it to the girl."
Audovera stood close to her father, watching him with wide, idolizing eyes.
"Hello father," she said happily. "We have a new brother!"
"Yes," dismissed Burchard. "Now take that whimpering girl to the fire and keep her quiet."
Vera, put out by her father's dismissal, did as she was bid and took the squirming baby away from Felicity. Burchard gently covered his small son back up with his swatch of fabric, looking quite proud.
"Keep that fire going and make sure my boy stays warm," he ordered, looking directly at Gisela. "Then come and meet me in the loft."
Gisela had already given Burchard two sons and no girls, and Felicity knew he was bound and determined to get as many sons off of his women as he could before the end of their cycles.
Felicity looked down at her infant son and sighed, knowing better than to think that Burchard would be pleased with a girl. When Felicity found out she was with child, Hiltrude had told her of the terrible melancholy that had gripped their husband when he found out that Vera was a girl-child, not the son he'd craved. If it were up to Burchard, every child would be a son.
Felicity was very pleased indeed that she'd given Burchard a boy. Now it was her duty to keep the child alive through the coming winter months.
She dreaded losing her children to the cold.
She was distracted from her macabre thoughts, however, when little Alexander's eyes opened once more, his gentle baby blue gaze fixed on the deeper, wiser eyes of his young mother. The boy wiggled under the furs that kept the two of them warm, and Felicity let her hand trail down to his soft belly.
"Sweet boy," she cooed, trailing her finger down his soft cheek. "My boy."
The baby's eyes drooped once more and as easily as breathing, he fell back to sleep.
She wondered when he'd be hungry again.
"Hand the child to me," said Gisela quietly, having snuck up behind the new mother. "You need to rest."
Felicity was hesitant and unnerved, wanting to keep him close.
"He'll come to the fireside to keep warm," she said. "I promised Burchard I'd keep him warm."
Felicity saw the subtle urgency in her gaze, knowing that Burchard didn't like to be kept waiting, so she handed her baby over to Gisela, who in turn handed him to Rosamund. Gisela pulled the fur coverings up higher on Felicity's worn body before she took a step back, surveying the scene with careful eyes.
With a jump of surprise, Gisela turned on her heel and scrambled to the rickety ladder that led to the uppermost regions of their home. Felicity watched as her friend disappeared and the quiet rumble of exchanged words reached her ears. Just moments later, she heard the familiar sounds of Burchard's coupling and she knew that already, little Alexander was setting to become the older brother to Gisela's next son.
A/N: According to SM and the Twilight Wiki page for Jane and Alec, the two were born to a Frankish soldier and an Anglo-Saxon woman around 800AD. It wasn't uncommon in those times for men to have multiple wives (even priests sometimes had more than one wife, though the children of clergymen were rarely recognized since priests were thought to be celibate). I've taken the liberty of naming Alec and Jane's parents, as well as their father's other wives and their children. More information about the number and ages of the other children will be revealed as we go along.
"Jane" wasn't actually a name in the 9th century... the name came from "Jehanne". Alec's name is "Alexander" for the same reason. History suggests that "Jane" and "Alec" were more nicknames than actual given names. Also (in case you didn't catch it), Audovera is sometimes called Vera, and Magnatrude is called Trudy (just like Jehanne will be called Jane and Alexander will be called Alec).
Expect this story to be in tandem with SM's original storyline.
Let me know what you think!