Women are declining on Eleutia; they make up but 20% of all Eleutian births. Soon, the people of Eleutia will die out.
“Bartholomew!” Gato said, racing down the hall. The big cat appeared, and the puma bounded beside him as he ran. “Elise and Jaron are having their child.”
He prayed to The Fates, to Father Sky and Mother Terra. Give us a girl child.
When they arrived at the couple’s Clan home, he flew through the door. “Well?”
Elise’s father shook his head. “Soon.”
The mother-to-be, Elise, looked well, her color good, her naked body glowing with health. She would do fine.
Let it be a girl child, he prayed again. “Has your water broken?”
“Yes.” Elise hissed on a contraction.
Gato stepped forward and threaded his fingers through Elise’s. She smiled up at him when another contraction hit.
“Breathe deep,” Makena said to Elise. “That’s it.”
As Alpha, he poured calm and purpose into her, while the healer wove his hands in the spell to dampen pain.
“We are eager to see our newest Clan member,” he said to Elise.
She snorted, grasping her belly with her free hand. “Not as eager as I, Alpha.”
His laugh boomed, and the others grinned as well, except for Jaron, who gnawed his lip, eyes a hawk’s on his mate.
He, Elise, and Makena walked and walked until Elise froze. “It’s time.”
Jaron sat on the birthing chair, arms held wide, and Elise took her seat in front of him.
Gato moved beside her, holding one hand, Makena on the other side doing the same, while the healer stood at her head, his hands working their Small Magics, and the doctor did what doctors do to help bring CatHome’s newest citizen into the light.
But the Small Magics could never contain all the pain, and after long, long moments of pushing and pausing, Elise screamed.
With a final push, the child crowned, then poured from her body into the doctor’s waiting hands.
“Is it a girl?” Elise said.
“A beautiful cub for the Clan to love and adore,” Gato said, though his heart ached. “A handsome boy, Elise.”
A bit of air went out of the room. All CatHome had hoped. There were so few female births. Too few.