LadyStar: Escape from Widow Island, Part One
Because who doesn't love a little serialized fiction about lady fighters?
In this new multi-part serialized fiction story for The Mary Sue, LadyStar: Escape from Widow’s Island tells the story of Jessica and her team of fighters pitted against their teacher during the last phase of their training as Ajan Warriors. Check out more LadyStar books here.
“Men die that evil be not eternal.”
— Jayha, Historian of the Six Kings
Thirty-One Miles East of Kulnas Forge
“She keeps screaming at me, but I don’t understand her!”
Alanna hurried to keep up with Shannon. The sky was overcast and it was nearly dark. The sky over Widow’s Well always seemed to be darker than normal. Shannon gestured as she walked. Cici ran to catch up to the two taller girls.
“Is this the pregnant woman? The one with the wooden bracelet?
Shannon nodded. “She’s sweating and she threw a bowl on the ground and broke it. I think she’s going insane or something!”
Alanna opened the flimsy door and entered the wooden shelter. A servant girl was dabbing the woman’s brow with a damp cloth. She was exhaling heavily and gasping for air. Cici ran up behind Alanna and stared.
“She’s in labor. Get the nurse. The one Reina told us about.”
“We already tried. She’s not there. The boy at the market said she rode to the next town to get aeschus and some kind of medicine that I can’t pronounce the name of. What are we supposed to do? How do we help her if we can’t understand her?”
“I can help Alanna! I got my Lantern and the Emerald Lens has healing power!”
“She’s not sick, Cici. She’s pregnant.”
“We have to do something!” Shannon exclaimed. “Maybe I can find Reina. Maybe she can help!”
“Reina‘s here! That’s her carriage!” Cici bolted out the door, running like only eleven-year-olds can. In a matter of moments she had covered the distance to the black coach as Enken guided it to a stop near the dreary town’s meager stables. Cici jumped up and down while Reina disembarked. Shannon couldn’t hear what the youngest Ajan Warrior was saying. The Vicereine laboriously made made her way across the dusty street. Cici all but ran in circles around her as she picked her way with the end of her staff.
Enken reached the small shelter first and helped the Vicereine navigate the threshold while Shannon held the door.
“Where’s Jessica and Talitha?” Shannon asked.
“They are mapping the Shroud. I expect they’ll rejoin us later tonight,” Enken replied.
Reina leaned her staff in a corner of the tiny shack and took her heavy cloak and cowl off, allowing her light gray hair to fall across her back. She tried to crouch and winced as intense pain wracked her legs and back. Enken hurried to her side and supported her weight as she settled to a painful kneeling position. Finally she was near enough to the bedroll to attend to the woman.
Reina performed a quick examination and asked a number of questions in what sounded like the same language Shannon couldn’t understand. The woman tried her best to answer. She sounded like she was pleading with the Vicereine, holding the Kulnas noble’s shoulder as she did so. About halfway through her third outburst she clenched her teeth and groaned urgently, as if something heavy had just been placed on one of her feet.
“Alanna,” the Vicereine beckoned. The oldest Ajan Warrior went to the woman’s bedside and crouched.
“Next door there is a galley and stove. Find the stovekeeper and see about a basin of water about the right temperature for a hot bath. If no water is on, get a pot from the culinary and put it on the fire. Understand?”
Alanna nodded and hurried out the door. Reina motioned to Cici, who practically jumped across the room at the chance to help.
“I want you to go across the street to the Bearwick. You know the house?” Cici nodded. “In the back room there is a linen cabinet. I want you to get me as many wool cloths as you can carry. Not longcloth, only wool. Do you know the difference?”
Cici desperately wanted to answer yes, but hesitated, trying to figure it out.
“Longcloth is thin, like a tablecloth. Wool is thick, like a blanket. Understand?” Cici nodded again. “Hurry quick.” The youngest girl dashed out the door.
The woman continued to gasp and exhale, both hands holding her enormous midsection. The Vicereine looked into Enken’s eyes, but did not speak. His expression paled.
“What.” Shannon asked. “What!”
“No time for explanations. The baby is coming now,” Reina said. “Enken, get the helico store out of the carriage and a mortar. Shannon, you help her keep her shoulders up…”
Minutes later, while Shannon held the mother’s hand and the others watched, the Vicereine of Kulnas skillfully delivered a baby boy to his Rotenshan mother, wrapping him in a makeshift blanket of clean wool. He cried for only a few moments and then settled down. Reina laid him in the bedroll facing his mother. He looked at her with newborn eyes and touched her face with a tiny hand.
The Vicereine did not speak. She grimly washed with the remaining clean water.
The baby’s mother sang to him in the peaceful quiet of the little wooden shack until his eyes closed and he drifted to sleep. Her voice became quieter and quieter as she stroked the shock of black hair on his head. Enken squeezed Alanna’s hand. The mother’s voice stopped at the same moment she stopped breathing.
Shannon gasped and shook her shoulder. Then shook it again. The woman didn’t move. She looked to Reina for help, but the Vicereine just stared into the basin, hands flat on the wooden table, her hair hanging loose.
“What happened? What do we do?!” Shannon’s face was stricken with outrage and grief. Enken controlled himself as best he could. Shannon could see the angry struggle in his face before he turned and walked out the door without a word. Cici stared, open-mouthed, unable to believe what she had just seen.
“We do nothing. The Curse of the Newborn Prince can only be dispelled with the death of the sorcerer who cast it.”
“What do you mean?! What sorcerer!?”
“The curse is a choice. A mother’s life or her child’s on the day she gives birth. Naturally, no mother wants to see their child die, so she chooses to sacrifice herself. It is a Cryptic’s way of desecrating life and destroying courage.” Reina abruptly grabbed her staff from the corner of the shack. “They take mothers and wives while leaving the children behind to haunt the fathers.”
Shannon’s tear-stained face was frozen in absolute disbelief at the pure evil she had just witnessed.
Reina looked into her eyes. She wore a stony expression in response to Shannon’s unspoken rage.
“Now you know what we’re up against.”
Prepare for battle and don’t miss next week’s chapter as the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled continue their impossible quest to Escape from Widow Island!
W. Scott’s LadyStar series is celebrates its fifteenth year in 2015 with the release of a brand new collection of thrilling fantasy stories filled with romance, magical creatures and spectacular battles! Visit the Official LadyStar Bookstore and join the adventure!
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