The baby was crying again.
Bellesta groaned and lifted her face from the pillows, gazing over to the mass of rumbling elf beside her. Her fingers slipped through her hair, pushing it back and away from her eyes as they adjusted to the dim light. A faint wailing came from the next room over, one she'd gotten used to waking up to in the past months.
"S'yer turn. I had t'get up last time." Feliche mumbled into the sheets. He made a dramatic effort to roll over away from his mate, pulling the blankets until he was cocooned and she was bare. Bell tugged on the covers, hissing inwardly once exposed to the night air.
"I've gotten less sleep than you, you go." Bell protested. Feliche glanced up at her pass the mass of fabric. He grunted irritably.
"S'hungry, I don' have milk comin' from m'nipples...s'go, dammit."
This had become a nightly argument. Despite the tiredness of both parents they kept it up only to sharpen their wits. Zalintha had been fussy for a week or so, woken by the pain of teething or the gnaw of hunger in her stomach. Bellesta blessed the fact that soon, the breast feeding days would be over.
She shivered when her bare feet reached the cold wood floor. The beams creaked quietly as she rounded the corner and set eyes on the crib. Within it, Zalintha writhed and sobbed. Her tiny head was thrown back and her chubby arms and legs flailed. Bellesta very carefully scooped her daughter up from the crib, murmuring with her lips against the soft skin of her daughter's forehead.
"Shh... hush my little one. Mommy's here now." Bellesta set herself down in the nearby chair and undid the top of her nightgown. It pooled around her waist before she lowered the infant to her breast. Zalintha began to suckle greedily, and the crying ceased. Silence was a silver moonlight that filtered through the window. Bell let her head lean back, eyes still fixed on the tiny girl in her hands.
She was beautiful. Her skin was pale, a faint green tint to the hair already growing. Tiny hands kneaded at Bell's breast while her large silver eyes stared back up at the protective presence of her mother.
It had been no secret the trials and tribulations Bellesta had gone through to become pregnant. For the first time in years, the pain of the drama around her fertilty seemed like distant memories. Having a child changed her world, dispelling the anger and vengeful day to day thoughts that occupied her for so long. Gentle fingers ran over her daughter's ears and head. Her skin was smooth and untouched by that which had made her mother's touch so rough. Rocking back and fourth in the chair, Bellesta hummed from deep in her throat to provide background noise to the quiet sucking.
There were so many daunting tasks ahead, in raising a child. Bellesta wanted Zalintha to grow up in a stable household, surrounded by stable people. It was not a trait she, nor Feliche had been known for. There were friends to help, a support net of those who would make sure Bellesta had the resources she needed to be the best parent possible. Despite the nearly overwhelming help, she was still afraid.
Bellesta's eyes cast downward at her daughter again, who had stopped suckling and found herself comfortable enough to fall asleep against her mother's breast. Thoughts of returning to bed for another precious few hours of slumber came forward, but Bellesta couldn't will herself to move. Gaze fixed on the serene face of her daughter kept her immobile, legs simply refusing to lift her no matter how many times she told them they should.
It wouldn't always be this way, her mind told her. Her daughter would grow, and become a toddler, then a child, then a teenager. She would never stop growing. Quiet evenings gazing at the life she had created would be but a short chapter. She would savor each moment and drink in the bliss of motherhood before she no longer could.
Duty, afterall, weighed heavily in the future.
Omen would need a new Dreamer, when she passed. He would need an heir, the next one in the cycle. It was not a question, but simply a fact that had exsisted in Bellesta's life since she took on the mantle. Her eyes moved from her daughter to her own arms, mentally counting each line that marred up her skin, traveling towards her wrist. They were counting marks of failure and sins. It was all she had left of her own mother, aside from lingering feelings of hatred.
With a heavy sigh her head tilted back. She would do better, be gentler. She'd been telling herself this every day since Zalintha had come into the world. She would do better than her mother. A creeping fear still rose from her stomach, questioning and poking holes in her logic.
There was a memory she couldn't shake. A feeling that dragged her down even now. She remembered her mother, in the back of a cave, as she lay dying. Bellesta had not cared, not even enough to end her life in mercy. She watched, for hours, as the woman perished. She took in a sick joy in every whimper of pain, in every twitch and gasp and croak until her mother lay still and dead. She'd left the body there, left it to rot and disappear forever. It was revenge, delight in hatred and suffering.
There was a sinking fear someday she'd be that woman, dying, as her daughter looked on. Would her training inspire so much hatred and fear? Could she use violence as a tool on her little girl? Would she have a choice? It was the way Omen's Dreamer was created. The dreamer could not be weak, could not relent. Bellesta's own training had nearly killed her many times over. She had grown to hate her mother for what she had gone through. She'd become a monster for so long, coaxed out of the shell of a Bear by the man who slumbered the next room over.
He'd saved her. Zalintha had saved her. But no matter how they had tamed the beast inside of her, the hatred for how she got there never left. Becoming the Bloodbeast was as much mind and soul as it was physical.
A secret kept guarded from her mate, from her allies, was the truth of the title. It passed from mother to daughter when the latter killed the former. Just as Bell had stood by and let her mother perish, Zalinthia would do the same to her. It was simply the way of things, it could not be changed or ignored. Without it, the chain was broken, and Omen would be without a Dreamer to guide him. It was a duty larger than her, Bellesta would continue to reassure herself with. A duty that insisted it be followed. Someday her daughter would understand. It was her sacrifice, sacrificing her daughter's love for a greater being.
Her gaze flicked down again, Zalintha slumbered, ignorant to the future picked for her since before birth. Bellesta swallowed. Each day it became harder for her to face that duty. She tried to imagine what her daughter would look like grown, look like carrying the title.
She tried to imagine Zalintha, standing above her as she died. The sudden squeeze and pain in her chest was unbearable.
"I can't do it." She whispered, admitting to herself for the first time. "I can't."
Zalintha stirred, but didn't wake.
Bellesta stared longingly at the baby in her hands. Her resolve and faith crumbled beneath the weight of motherhood, the feather-light child she cradled. She couldn't do it. She couldn't damn her baby to the fate she'd already damned herself to. Her gaze turned to the window, murmuring again, as if to affirm.
"I can't do it. I'm sorry, I can't."
She reached around her neck, pulling the necklace away and staring at it. A twinheaded charm reflected the moonlight.
"I can't be this anymore."
What may come to pass, many years down the road. SPOILER: EVERYONE DIES.
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