I always wanted to be a knight. It was hard, to find a knight to train me because of the prejudice against my sex. Finally, I found a wonderful knight to take me on when I was thirteen. His name was Lorant.
In fives years time my training was complete. They were vigorous, long years. When you are female, training to be a knight is the same as if you were male, except for one thing: women are emotional and rational at the same time. When a woman trains to be a Knight, she must also be trained to harden herself and know when to listen to emotion over rationale, and vice versa.
After the five years, but before I would be Knighted, I was sent out for a year to travel alone, as was tradition. There were several restrictions laid upon me, and certain guidelines and directions which I had to follow. I did exceptionally well, and the year went by quickly.
When I was nineteen, Lorant presented me to the King and all the Knights of the High Council and whatever family they had. My family, of course, was in attendance, silently cheering me on. There I swore the Knight's Oath, and was knighted Lady Knight Kai Lani.
After this, the High Council assigned me my first mission. The Changeling King was missing, and his distraught mother sent an urgent request for aid. Since I was so young, and this was my first mission, a knight named Ceri was assigned to accompany me. He had just married, and his new wife had also been present at my Knighting.
So, we set off to the Changeling Kingdom to investigate the disappearance of their King. The Changelings were magical creatures who were able to change into an animal, plant, an inanimate object. This would make it difficult to find the King. So difficult, in fact, that it took months to find out his location. He was being held by the Dark Mage, the enigmatic power behind the corruption of the human monarchy.
Sometime during the search for the Changeling King, Ceri decided I was competent enough to continue alone. Soon after that I learned the location of the King, and made my way there. It was not difficult after that, and soon I was leading him home. Once I got him to his home, he was able to recover.
There was a celebration for the return of their king. I talked with the people, ate, drank, and danced. I played and danced with the King's children. It was a lovely night.
The next day, I was getting ready to make my way home, when I was called to the King's court. I nodded, and followed the messenger. As I entered the room, the Changeling King rose from his throne and spoke to me.
"Is there any way in which I may repay you?"
"Sire, I cannot accept money, or gifts. I do not wish to have such possessions."
"Then how am I to show you my thanks?"
I paused and considered for a moment, then I responded. "May I ask to speak with you, Sire, in private?"
He was puzzled, but the King agreed. I followed him through a series of small passages, and then we arrived to his study. He offered me a chair which I took, and he sat across from me.
"Now, my Lady, what is you response?"
"I want a child," I said flatly. It was understandable that his face was taken over by a look of alarm. It took him a few moments to compose his thoughts and reply.
"My Lady, I am a married man . . ."
Laughing, I replied, "No, it's not like that, my lord."
"Then what. . ?"
"You have magic," I said.
"Ah, yes. Of course. Forgive me," he said, his face a little flushed.
"Well, what do you, King?"
"It is a fitting gift; a life for a life." He stood, and motion for me to do the same, which I did. He set his dark hand upon my abdomen and closed his eyes. I watched, and saw light emanating from his hand, and felt a burning sensation course through the surface of my skin. There was a burst of heat inside me, and then it was over.
"There," was all he said. I nodded, and left the room. It was late afternoon, and with a final farewell to the royal family, I set off for home.
In a short nine months, I gave birth to a little girl while visiting my cousin. I named her Lealani. Quickly she grew, after the manner of Changelings, for she was a Changeling child.
In their natural form, Changelings are colorful in appearance. Lealani was dark skinned, and her short hair was pink. Her eyes were blue as the sky. As she grew, I found she looked like me, but with Changeling features.
Eight years passed, and though my fellow Lady Knights became fewer, I remained. I developed lasting friendships with other Knights. My closest friends were Ceri, and another Knight called Llyr.
I was reading in my book of Knight's Poems, when I heard a knock on my door. Lealani sat on the floor by my desk, playing with her little rag dolls. I got up and the little girl followed at my heels. I opened the door, and saw the face of Ceri's wife, Gilgaer. Her little fairy sat upon her shoulder, and behind her there was a younger woman in a dark cloak.
I smiled and said, "You and your fairy I know, Gilgaer, but who are your friends?"
"What, no 'hello'?" Isi, the little fairy, feigned an offended tone. Gilgaer rolled her eyes, and I laughed.
"Come in, please." I opened the door completely and all of them entered. I brought Lealani out from behind me and held her by her small shoulders. "You remember my daughter?"
="" yes,="" s="" grown="" so="" much.="" gilgaer="" smiled="" as="" i="" pushed="" lealani="" forward.="" she="" embraced="" girl,="" and="" gave="" her="" a="" small="" kiss="" on="" the="" cheek.="" size="3">
"Baby, why don't you go play upstairs, so I can talk with our guests?"
"Okay," she said cheerfully, and skipped off to the stairs. I turned back to my guests.
"Now, what brings you here, Gilgaer? Who is your friend?"
She explained to me that he husband was in stasis in some unknown place, and what had occurred that day. She then introduced me to her friend, whom she named Athene. Gilgaer left it to Athene to explain their reason for coming.
She told me what had befallen her in the cave she dwelled in, and how the Knight Llyr rescued her. She said that he had left before she was able to properly thank him. She concluded by saying, "So now I search for him. I wish to give him proper thanks."
I nodded, understanding her want. "I'm not sure I can help you, I'm afraid." I paused before continuing. "Your husband, Gilgaer, and Llyr were on the same mission. The last I saw of Llyr was at the High Council meeting last month when they were assigned."
"Then you can't help us?" Athene asked with disappointment in her light voice.
"I didn't say that. Ceri and Llyr were on the same mission, but they had different things to carry out. I don't know where he is at this moment, but I know where he was going. I can take you there, but I must first consult the High Council. They will want to know what you have told me."
"Yes, that is another reason for my coming," Gilgaer agreed.
"Well, you all look tired and worn. I'll let you rest the night here, and tomorrow afternoon we will go to the Council building to gather the Knights. Then you will tell them what has become of Ceri." Gilgaer nodded, and Athene dropped her head.
I showed them to the guest rooms, and then I put Lealani to bed. We all slept deeply and soundly.
I was four and a half months pregnant with Leilani when the Changeling King invited me to his 63rd birthday. I checked with the High Council to see if it was alright to go. They gave me leave to go and provided me with a carriage since my swollen belly did not permit me to ride a horse.
When I got there I was greeted by the King and his family. To my surprise he had ten children and he introduced me to each of them.
The eldest I had met briefly before. He was man about the age of twenty-five. He had bright blue hair with dark purple eyes. He was very charismatic and charming. His name was Adrian.
His wife I also met. She was a lovely woman of fifty-five. She had bright red hair and green eyes. She was a sweet woman but she also had a spicy edge to her. The Queen told me that she would give me tips about pregnancy and giving birth later.
After all the introductions had been done I said to the King, "Your Majesty, I did not know you had so many children. You must feel so blessed."
"I am," He said smiling fondly at them, "How has your pregnancy been going? Smooth I hope."
"Smooth enough, Your Majesty."
"Good, good. Now let's get you out of the cold and into the warm of my castle."
Unlike most castles, the Changeling King's was not cold or drafty. It was protected by magic so that in the summer it was cool and in the winter it was warm.
The Changeling celebration for birthdays lasts for six days. During that time wild feasts and parties are held at night. In the daytime guests are supposed to take time to remember significant points in his or her life, read a book, or talk quietly.
When I got to my room I took a nap knowing the festivities at night were surely to wear me out. While I was sleeping, there was a knock at my door. I got up, put on my robe and opened the door expecting a servant of some kind. To my surprise I saw two beautiful, green, almond-shaped eyes staring up at me. It was Princess Jaid. The thirteen-year-old princess had bright green eyes and unusual black hair and, unlike most Changelings had pale, porcelain skin. She smiled up at me. I smiled back.
"What can I do for you, Your Highness?"
"Well, usually we have people help you get ready for the party but I told them that I would help you because I'd like to get to know you." The little Princess beamed with sincerity. She was already dressed in her celebratory dress. It was a bright purple, puffy dress that came up to her knees and had elbow-length sleeves that fell off the shoulders.
"That's very sweet, Your Highness, come in."
"Oh please, you may call me Jaid. That is, if I can call you Kai."
"Of course," I said.
"Great! Let's start with your dress." As we picked through my suitcase Jaid asked me.
"How come your husband didn't come?"
"Did your father not tell you," I asked puzzled.
"Tell me what?"
"Well, dear, I'm not married."
"Who is the father then," The Princess leaned in expecting to hear a secret.
"There is no father." Now Jaid looked at me as if I were crazy.
"When I rescued your father, I did not want any gift save one: A child. So he used magic to give me a baby," I put a hand on my stomach and smiled. Jaid flashed me a radiant grin.
"That's the loveliest gift. I wonder if father will give me one."
"You're too young."
"Well maybe," She relented, "Won't it be hard to raise a baby on your own?"
"From what I hear it's hard to raise a baby period, alone or not."
"Yes. . ." Jaid said thoughtfully. I pulled out a beautiful yellow dress. Its skirt was made up of hundreds of strips about one and a half inches wide. It was perfect for dancing "That one! It's perfect! Go try it on." When I emerged from the behind the changing shade Jaid gasped. "You look beautiful! Now let's do your hair." Jaid braided my hair and coiled part of it into a small bun and let the rest of the braid hang down. I put a red rose in my hair.
"There. You look perfect."
"Now, let's go."
"Listen Kai, our parties are wild unlike humans quiet dinners. Are you sure you want to go?"
"I know what to expect."
Birthday parties for changeling's are held outside in a large field or valley. Guests gather around large bonfires to eat and dance. Large pillows are placed around the fires so if you were tired you could rest.
The King's party was in a grassy valley surrounded by hills that was at the back of the castle. The bonfires were lit and the guests were arriving, it would begin when the first star in the sky was visible.
I was honored by being invited to the King's circle, the largest bonfire. Jaid and I got there right when the sun began to set. There was no particular seating arrangement so I sat next to Jaid. The King greeted me.
"Lady Kai I just want to apologize before hand if anyone offends you during the celebration. We all go mad with the festivities and our inhibitions are gone."
"There is no need for apologies, it is only your nature," I smiled.
"You might want to get something to eat before the first star appears."
So I followed his advice and piled my plate with bread, fruit, salad and beef and filled my cup with delicious fruit punch. I ate quickly for the sun was setting fast. Jaid seated herself at my right.
"I can't wait for the first star to appear. Oh I absolutely love birthday parties!"
"They are invigorating and delightfully terrifying," I commented.
"Hello Jaid," called a voice from behind us. I turned to see Prince Adrian. "And hello to you Kai."
"Adrian," scolded Jaid, "have you lost all your manners already! It's hardly even dark out! Address her properly!"
"Lady Night Kai," he corrected himself just to satisfy his sister.
"Good evening, Your Highness."
"Hope you enjoy the festivities," he said and left. Jaid sighed.
"He has no sense of propriety. Sometimes I wonder if-" but Jaid was interrupted by a loud woman shouting and pointing to the sky. As everyone raised their eyes to see what they knew they were going to see, the music started. At that instant all the changeling's jumped up and began to dance. All the humans there got up and danced also. Such wild, yet fluid movements.
By the first time I sat down to rest and nibble on a pear, all of the stars were out. I watched as people danced. Some were in pairs, some were alone, and some had even formed groups where at most five people danced together. The Changelings would half shape shift into trees or water or other things while dancing. It was an incredible sight.
My eyes were just about to close when I saw two legs right in front of my face. I sat up. It was Adrian. His pupils had almost dilated to the size of his irises giving his eyes a frighteningly wilder look than the one they already possessed. He smiled
"Dance with me Kai," he said his voice almost singing.
"But I don't know-" we were already dancing. Although I didn't know the dance I found that I was no longer in control of my feet. We moved so fast that everything around us was blurred. I cannot begin to describe the dance for it was so complex. It was so exotic, so unknown to me. I loved it, regardless of the mysterious partner I had.
He ended the dance dramatically by dipping me at the final drumbeat of the song. We were of course out of breath.
"You are a breathtaking dancer, Kai," Adrian complemented as he bowed rapidly.
"Perhaps it was just the physical exertion that took your breath away, for it couldn't be my dancing."
"But it was," and with that he danced out of sight. I returned to my pillow and fell asleep.
When I awoke the stars were all still out but the bonfires had been reduced to hot, glowing, and red embers. On my right Jaid was sleeping peacefully with a great big smile on her face. On Jaid's right, Adrian intently watched the stars. That wild look that had frightened me before was still there and one corner of his mouth was curved in a half smile.
"I love the stars don't you, Kai?"
"They are beautiful," I answered briefly.
"Interesting how a few dots in the sky have dazzled people centuries before us and how they will continue to dazzle people centuries after us."
"They are magical."
"You are avoiding conversation with me," he said turning his eyes on me though his head stayed in the same position, "No matter it is not night for conversation. I will leave you alone. You should get some more sleep." And he closed his eyes and began to sleep with the same expression he had when he was awake.
I awoke to the warmth of the golden rays of the sun. I opened my eyes and had to blink several time for dew had settled on my eyelashes. I looked around the fire was reduced to smoking char. Jade was still sleeping soundly beside me and Adrian was gone. The sun was not far up so I estimated that it was about nine-o'clock. Breakfast was at ten so I decided I had enough time to bathe and get ready. I got up as quietly as I could. Half of the people were gone already.
"Good morning Kai," yawned Jaid.
"Oh did I wake you," I asked.
"No, not at all. Where ya off too?"
"Well I was just going to go bathe and get ready for breakfast."
"Oh I'm hungry. I guess I should get ready then too." She ran off but she stopped and turned around and waved quickly. "See you in the Grand Dinning Room," she called and dashed off.
So I walked back to the castle. I walked into the Grand Hall and realized that I did not know where the bathing rooms were. I looked around seeing if there was anyone to give me directions, there was no one. I frowned. Suddenly I heard the clunk of boots on the white marble floor. I turned around and there was one of the princes. His name was Gray and it was a fitting name for his eyes were gray fleck with dark gray. Prince Gray's hair was red like his mother's but with purple highlights. He was twenty-three.
"Ah! Your Highness," I curtsied, "I'm afraid you're lovely castle has me lost."
"Lady Kai," He bowed, "And just where are you trying to get to? I still get lost sometimes too."
"Well if you could kindly point out the way to the bathing rooms."
"Ah yes," he said putting one hand behind his back and pointing to the stairs to our right, "If you take those stairs they'll lead you to the East Corridor. Follow the corridor to the end door. That door will lead to the East Wing. The first double-doors to you're right are the bathing rooms." He smiled warmly.
"Thank you, Your Highness," I said while I curtsied. He bowed and continued down the Grand Hall.
The bathing rooms were large, round, bubbling pools of warm water. Around them they had candles, incense, bubble bath, oils, scrubs, hair soap, washcloths and scrubbing tools. On the walls encompassing the pool were shelves that held towels and robes. The pools themselves were ring-shaped, six feet wide, five long and five feet deep.
I shed my clothes and stepped into the heavenly water. I dunked under to get my hair wet. I relaxed for few minutes and then began to wash myself. After I washed my hair I got out and wrapped myself in a rode. I picked up my clothes and left the room and went to my room. I picked out a green dress to wear and pinned half of my hair up.
I was walking down a flight of stairs which isn't very easy when you're pregnant. My back was hurting and my energy wearing and I still had lots of steps to tackle. I was frustrated because normally I would have jogged down these stairs. I heard the tap-tap-tap of someone descending the stairs quickly. I knew it was inevitable that whoever it was would see me in this state and I hated to seem helpless. Suddenly Adrian came into sight.
"Kai," he exclaimed and rushed to help me. He put his arm around my waist and held my arm as if I were lame.
"You're Highness this really isn't necessary," I said trying not to appear irritated.
"Nonsense," he replied ignoring my mood, "Even a lady knight needs help once in a while." I relented and we proceeded down the stairs. "Especially if that lady knight is with child." We were silent for a moment and I hoped it would stay that way but the Prince spoke up again.
"I hear you play the flute."
"Yes, yes I do."
"I should like to hear it sometime." And we went silent again. All of the sudden I felt a strange sensation in my stomach.
"Oh," I exclaimed and stopped abruptly. I put a had on my stomach and smiled realizing what had happened.
"What is it?"
"The baby's kicking for the first time!" It felt weird like little flutters but there's really no way to describe it.
"May I?" He asked but he had already put his hands on my stomach. The baby kept kicking and a warm smile spread across the Prince's face unlike his usual mysterious half smile. A few more moments and then it was over. Adrian didn't say anything but just looked warmed as we stepped off the final step into the Grand Hall. Adrian released me and slowed his gait to match my slow pace. I am a tall woman but Adrian was taller because he had a longer legs.
Down the hall were double doors that were fifteen feet tall and eight feet wide. That was the Throne Room. To the right of the Throne Room were double doors that were eight feet tall and four feet wide. That was the Grand Dinning Room. He led me in and helped me get seated. I gave him my thanks, closed my eyes and silently wished him away. Unfortunately, his seat was next to mine. When I opened my eyes, he was still there. I inhaled and bowed my head and stared at my swollen belly. It then that I noticed it was twice as big at four months as it was supposed to be.
"Huh!" I exclaimed.
"Huh?" Adrian asked.
"Oh, I was just noticing that my stomach is a lot bigger than it should be at this time."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is," I said, perturbed.
"Not for a Changeling birth," he grinned.
"Really? Human pregnancies last for nine months."
His eyes widened. "Oh . . ."
The rest of the guests arrived, and the meal was served, and there was not much conversation. Soon it was over, and all the food was gone. Adrian was already gone by the time I was only halfway risen in my chair. Rising from chairs was slow going these days. I was slightly relived that he was gone, but angry that he had left before helping me as he had before.
I began climbing the stairs again, with difficulty because ascending was more difficult than descending. "Sure he helps me down, but does he help me up? Noooo." I grumbled. "I have to do it myself!" I braced my back with my hands and rested on the fourth step. "With a stomach the size of a pumpkin. . ." I took deep breathes and Long breaks about every fifth step. There were about . . . three-hundred of them. It was slow going. Finally, halfway up I gave up and just sat down, waiting for someone to pass.
Someone did, a few minutes later: the Queen. "Oh! Dear, do you need some help?!" She exclaimed, apparently appalled that no one had.
"Yes, if you please." I said, thankful and immensely relieved.
"I'll take you back to my quarters, then. We can have that baby talk." She winked. I smiled as she helped me up and led me to her quarters. A maid helped me to sit in a chair, and the queen sat opposite of me. "Now then, Kai," She began. "What would you like to know?"
"Anything you can tell me about the labor and birth"
"Well, Changeling births a have a set time in which the labor lasts for fourteen hours. I'm not sure how it will go for you, however, being the only human in our knowledge to give birth to a Changeling child. It seems that although you are human, the pregnancy is proceeding as a Changeling pregnancy would. Had we known this would happen, I don't think my husband would have requested you presence."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, as Changeling pregnancies go, you look to be due any day now," the queen smiled.
"Oh!"I exclaimed. My hands moved to embrace my belly and a wild grin crossed my face. "My family ought to be here, then." I glanced up and looked at the Queen with my eyes hopeful.
She smiled and said, "Of course, dear. I have already sent a summons to them." She patted my hand and winked. "They should be here within the day."
"Oh, thank you!" I teared up a little.
"Now why don't I take you back to you room so you can rest a little until the evening comes?"
"Yes." She helped me up and walked me back to my room. I sat down on my bed and sighed. Ah, peace! I thought. I picked up my flute and began to play a soft song. It reminded me of the sea. As I played I felt the ocean breezes blow and smelt the salty air. The crashing of imagined waves breaking on an imaginary beach gave me the beat. When the song ended, I sighed, sorry that it was over. I opened my eyes and screamed. For there in front of me was a person. Not just any person. Can you guess who it was? That's right, Adrian! My flute went flying in the air, and suavely he caught it behind his back and hand it to me with a smile. I grabbed it and sank resentfully back against the pillows of my bed.
"When did you get here?" I asked, hiding my chagrin.
"I came in a little after you started playing. Which was marvelous, by the way."
"Thank you," I said, pleased against my better judgement.
"Would you play another one?"
"I'd rather not. I'm tired. One song was all I had in me to play after climbing all those stairs by my lonesome."
"Ah, well, if you're too tired. Perhaps, if by your leave, I could play it?" He ignored my little bit about the stairs.
I shrugged and said, "By all means." I handed him the flute and fell back against my pillows and closed my eyes.
The song began. A kaleidescope of color burst behind my closed eyes. I gasped and opened them to see the room changed. The colors were not as they had been before, and neither were they in the same positions. I got up and walked past him to the mirror. I was changed too. I did not look like me. In the reflection my belly was no longer swollen, and my hair color was bright purple; my eyes were yellow, and my skin dark. I looked like a Changeling. But the clothes were to archaic. It must be someone from the past. Slowly I figured it out. The song was about an ancient Changeling queen. Adrian made the song come to life by illusion through the music of the flute. I sat back down and watched the story unfold. But soon I became tired, and fell asleep.
When I woke, it was late; almost evening. I found that was covered by the blankets on the bed. The flute was on the table beside the bed. I rose a splashed my face with water. Soon someone came to help me dress for the evening. To my surprise it was my mother. We embraced and she expressed her joy at almost being a grandmother, like she had a thousand times before. I rolled my eyes, and then she helped to get ready. Then we both made our way to the party grounds.
I seated myself on a pillow after grabbing myself all sorts of food, as I had the night before. We all watched the sky for a sign of the first star. A half an hour later it appeared and everyone got up and danced. I however remained in my seat and just watched the people dance. Adrian came and sat next to me after a while.
"Why aren't you dancing," he asked me.
"I prefer watching, I'm not much of a dancer."
"If you say so," and he got up and danced away.
I remained seated for a while. Then I got up to get some more food. I ate and returned to sit. I eased myself down and finally I was there.
"Would you mind kindly getting off me?" something asked. I looked down, for the voice had come from under my rear.
"Um?" I said uncertainly.
"Yes, I'm talking to you." Then she recognized the voice. It was Adrian.
"Ah! What are doing doing as a cushion?"
"Oh, that." He shifted back into a person and I fell off him. "I just wanted to see people's reactions." he said this as if it were the most natural thing in the world. How infuriating. I really didn't know how to respond to that, and while I was pondering a response, he lifted me up and whisked me off to dance before I could protest.
"You know, despite your earlier claim to not being a good dancer, you really are," he said amiably.
"You're too kind." I said with little enthusiasm. My stomach was starting to ache strangely. Then there was a shock of blinding pain, and I stumbled.
"Is anything wrong?" he asked.
"No," and we resumed dancing. Then there was another shock of pain, worse than the first, and I cried out.
"Something is wrong," he said, concerned. There was a third shock of pain. I cried out again and then fell and lost consciousness.
I woke to fins myself on a bed, with people standing around: my parents, the Queen and Adrian, and the midwife. I closed my eyes and moaned. I felt beads of sweat forming all over my body, which was wracked with pain.
"What happened?" I asked weakly.
"You're in labor," my mother said.
"No kidding!" I yelled. I took a deep breath and said, "I mean, why did I pass out?"
This time the midwife answered. "Your body was in shock, it seems. The human body has never had to go through a Changeling birth. But not to worry. While you were asleep, you body made the correct changes to carry out the rest of the birth."
"How long have I been out of it," I said, my throat tightening.
"Two hours." I moaned again. Twelve more hours of this.
"Do all these people have to be here for this?" I asked, specifically meaning Adrian.
"My son and I shall depart shortly," the Queen responded kindly. I would have smiled at her with thanks, had my body not been in pain.
"Now," the midwife said, "you needn't be awake for most of the labor, dear." She held up a bottle of strange liquid. "This will make you sleep until two hours before birth, which is when you will need to be awake," she smiled with good humor. I nodded in understanding. She poured the liquid in my mouth, and it burned down my throat. In a few moments I was fast asleep.
I woke at the time I was supposed to. There were fewer people in the room. It was just my mother and the midwife. The pain was so intense now that I had to concentrate to hear the encouraging words of the midwife. Those two hours were agonizingly slow. But soon it was over, and there was a screaming baby in the arms of the midwife. I sighed and fell back against the pillows at my back. I brought my hand up to my face to wipe the sweat away, and I closed my eyes.
"I'm going to go clean this little girl up," the midwife informed me. I nodded. Then it hit me.
"A girl! Oh! A baby girl, mother!" I cried joyfully.
"Let me go fetch your father, dear," she said softly, and left the room. The midwife returned with a clean little baby and placed it in my arms. She had dark skin like most Changelings, and she had a little tuft of bright pink hair on the top of her wee head.
"Oh!" I inhaled softly, through tears. "She's so tiny!"
"They usually are," my father laughed as he entered the room, with my mother following. "Can I hold her?"
"Yes, someone is going to have to." I handed her to my father and fell right asleep.
I woke up again, but I was in a different room. It was not the room I had been staying in before. It was bigger. And nicer. A serving woman entered from another part of the room and informed me that someone was here to see me. I told her to let them in. Another serving woman came in and lay my baby in my arms and told me that she needed to be nursed. I brought the babe up to my breast and covered her with a blanket.
The maid entered again followed by none other than Adrian. I quickly coved my exposed breast.
"How are you feeling," He asked sounding like a normal person.
"Fine," I said a little embarrassed.
"I'm glad. What are you going to name her," he grinned.
"I'm not sure. I haven't thought about it because I thought I would have her in there nine months."
"Hm," He said as he sat in a chair, indicating he planned to stay for a while, "You're probably wondering why I'm here, especially at this time."
"My parents wanted to know how you were, and to say that they are sorry you can't attend tonight. Also to give you their congratulations on a healthy baby girl," He said diplomatically.
"Oh. Thank you," I said not knowing what else to say.
"There will be a servant outside your room if you need any help with anything. Just ring that bell," He pointed to a bell on the table beside my bed. "Also my parents tell me I am to be at your disposal."
"Oh. Um, okay. Thank you." Again I did not know what to say. The baby finished drinking. Adrian got up and took the baby from me. He smiled down at the infant as he bounced her a little.
"She sure is beautiful," He said in an awe-stricken voice as he placed her in the crib next to my bed.
"Yes," I said holding the covers close under my chin. "I'm gonna get dressed."
"Oh," He said and quickly exited the room.
I put on a black dress that had a green sash around the middle. I was so relieved that my stomach had reduced in size. I walked over to the crib and watched my sleeping babe. Adrian came back in a few minutes later.
"Okay," He said excitedly, "Let's talk names!"
"How about Rei?"
"Liadin is a prettier name though," he pondered.
"I'm not sure. . ."
"Poppycock, She does need a name. We're not going to go around calling her 'girl' or 'Kai's baby'. Now let's see. . .Eira?"
"I don't think it suits her." He proceeded to offer names but none of them fit. He sighed.
"Well I've given you all the names I can think of."
"Hm. . ." I said thoughtfully, "What was that Queen's name? The one from the song?"
"That one! It's perfect," I looked down at her. "Your name shall be Leilani." Adrian walked next to me.
"Little Lani," he said, "You have much to do." He bent over and did the most unexpected thing; he kissed the baby on her brow. Then he grabbed my hand with both of his and softly kissed it. This gesture startled me and I quickly drew my hand away from his grasp. He looked down, as if hurt. Perhaps maybe he was. Then he looked back up and smiled the smile that at first had unsettled me. "Farewell, Lady Knight. If you have need, call on your maid. And remember," he said as he approached the door. "I am at your disposal." Then he left to join the festivities.
The next evening I was able to join the party again. I danced and laughed and drank and made conversation with many different people. I had just finished dancing with Prince Gray and decided to get a drink. I went to the drink table and there it was. A bottle of wine. I had not had alcohol in four and a half months. I pour myself a glass and took a sip, swished it around, and swallowed. It was better then I had remembered.
"Does it taste good," A familiar voice queried. I turned around.
"Jaid! How are you I haven't seen you in a while."
"I'm good, I heard that you had your baby. Leilani right?"
"Yes," I smiled.
"What does she look like?"
"She has pink hair and beautiful blue eyes. She's the most darling thing I've ever seen."
"I should like to meet her."
"Come and see me tomorrow, then you can see her."
"Alright," Jaid said and danced off.
I decided to sit and rest a little and drank more wine. I hadn't seen Adrian since he had kissed my hand. I expected him to pop in unexpectedly, but he didn't. The King sat down next to me.
"Good evening Your Majesty."
"How are you and your baby dong?"
"I hope you've enjoyed my birthday. It ends tomorrow you know."
"Really? Where has the time gone? I'm having such a splendid time."
"When will you be leaving?"
"I planned on leaving a day after tomorrow."
"Alright, good night," and he left. After that I feel asleep and stayed asleep until the morning.
When I awoke I went straight to my room to check on Leilani. A maid was rocking the crying babe.
"She just started crying I think she's hungry," The nurse informed me as she passed Leilani to me. I sat down and fed Leilani and the maid left. About twenty minutes later she was full and I put her down for a nap. There was a knock at the door. I went to the door and opened it. Jaid stood there smiling.
"Come on in." She walked over to the crib. Leilani was still awake. Jaid reached down and stroked the chubby cheek.
"Can I hold her," Jaid looked at me expectantly.
"Sure," I said picking up the tiny person and carefully handing her to Jaid. Jaid smiled warmly.
"She's so. . .small. And very beautiful. She looks like you a bit." I smiled. "Well," Jaid handed Leilani back to me, "I have to go to breakfast. I'll see you later, okay?"
"Alright," I said.
I rocked Leilani in my arms hoping she would fall asleep. She didn't. I tried everything I could think of to get her to sleep but the stubborn little thing refused to close her eyes. I rang for my maid. She entered.
"Would you get Prince Adrian to come here, tell him it's about Leilani."
"Yes milady," the maid bowed and exited.
Ten minutes later the maid returned with Adrian.
"What's wrong," He asked.
"I can't get her to fall asleep. I was hoping you would know. . .well anything to get her to sleep." I said desperately. He smiled
"Perhaps if I play her a lullaby," He said picking up my flute. I put Leilani in her crib. He began to play a soothing melody. The colors in the room changed and the lighting dimmed. I looked back at Leilani to see if it was working. It was! He finished the song and whispered, "There."
"Thank you," I said in a low voice. He grinned.
"Anytime," he bowed and left.
I spent the rest of the day watching Leilani. During that time I had to call on Adrian twice to lullaby her so sleep. The second time he stayed for a little while and talked to my mother father who were there too.
Tonight was the last birthday dinner. I danced with as much people as I could. It was a perfect night. All the changeling's were at their wildest tonight. Dancing faster than before, I however took many beaks in between dances.
At midnight I sat down after dancing with Prince Gray. I took a sip of wine. Adrian popped into my view.
"Dance with me one last time?" He held his hand out and waited for my response. I downed the rest of my wine and took his hand. Immediately he put his other hand around my waist and whisked me off. We danced faster than the first time. I don't know how long we danced but I found myself smiling. At the end of the dance he bowed and then kissed my hand. "Good night Kai." I returned to my pillow and fell asleep.
I woke up right after the sun had risen. I went back to my room and packed up my things. Leilani was asleep in her crib. I picked her up and called my maid to help me carry my things down to the carriage. Along the way we ran into Adrian who gallantly offered to carry my suitcase. I let him and dismissed the maid and thanked her for all her help.
"I hope you enjoyed your stay here," he said.
"Yes of course I did," I smiled at him.
"I'm glad." We went silent. Then he asked "When shall we see you both again?"
"I don't know," I answered truthfully.
"Well I hope soon."
We made it outside. My parents were waiting by the carriage and the royal family lined up to bid us fare well. I shook hands warmly with everyone, Jaid hugged me, The last in the line was Adrian and he kissed my hand again.
"Goodbye, Lady Knight Kai. And goodbye little Lani," he said and kissed Leilani's temple,
I got into the carriage and was off. It was an end to one of the most amazing week in my life.