In the modest, yet far from sparse home of Marquis Hayden of Gakkvisa, barely a whisper could be heard. This was a stark contrast to how is usually was because, while the Hayden’s manor was famous for many things, peace and quiet was not one of them. Usually this fort manor, which was located at the nation’s not-so-peaceful western border, was brimming of burly soldiers who kept the noise level in the household quite high.
But not this night. This night, the only sound that could be heard over the crackling fire was the rhythmic pacing of a worried father. Suddenly a woman’s screams interrupted the silent night and Marquis Hayden clenched his fists anxiously. As the screaming intensified, the sturdy man moved towards the nearby stairs, but before he could put his foot on the first step, an even sturdier woman blocked his path. Her skin was darker than the other people in the room and, when she spoke, she spoke with a heavy accent.
“Th’ mistress told ye to wait ‘ere, Marquis, ‘n’ I’ll see to that ye do as yer told.”
Grunting, the man backed down. Sympathetic hands landed on his shoulders as Marquis Hayden slumped down in front of the fireplace.
“Don’t worry, baby brother! Dalila is a strong lady – she will be fine.”
Hayden knew his brother was right, but that didn’t stop him from worrying about his wife. He had fought too dearly to get her and he refused to lose her to childbirth.
The screaming came and went for several hours before finally culminating into what Hayden could only take as a dying cry for help. It took all his willpower not to storm up the stairs in that very instant, and, just as he was about to give in, his wife’s shouting stopped – only to be replaced by the thin wailing of a new-born child.
“Congratulations, brother!” chuckled Hayden’s older brother as he gave the former a big hug. “To think – my baby brother – a father!”
Hayden found himself smiling widely in joy, happily accepting his brother’s embrace, but soon his face stiffened slightly. Why hadn’t the nurse called for him yet?
At that moment, the door at the top of the stairs slowly opened and without bothering to be called for, Hayden forced his way past the burly woman and rushed up the stairs. Even from the bottom of the stairs he could see the grave look on the nurse’s face; something wasn’t right.
As soon as Hayden entered the bedchamber, his eyes fell on the bed where his tired, but otherwise fine, wife cradled a small bundle. Apprehensive, Hayden approached the bed. As he came closer, Hayden saw the adorable face of his child peering up at him through squinted eyes and he instantly forgot all his worry and felt himself awash with love. ‘What a beautiful baby!’
Subconsciously, Hayden’s gaze traveled to the child’s chest and he couldn’t help but be a bit shocked by what he saw. Standing out against the surrounding skin was a small, pale-blue tattoo, shaped almost like a tear.
“An ice-bender?” he asked amazed, feeling both pride and joy, but when he looked at his wife, Hayden only saw worry and sadness reflected back. “What is it, my love?”
Dalila averted her gaze, pulling her child into a tighter embrace. Salty tears ran down her cheeks when she finally answered her husband in a shaking voice: “It’s a boy. . . .”