Anyway, without further ado, here is the first installment of Reah:
A heavy rain had fallen for endless days, an extension of the rain season which had lasted longer than any in memory. The woods, soil, even the rocks were saturated with rainwater. The animals insignificant enough to go unnoticed and undisturbed on goblin land – thrushes, grouse, squirrels – spoke in hushed chirrups about their small lives; the fledgling that had yet to leave the nest and what they could do for the next night’s supper though all the nuts and seeds were going rotten under the steady rain. Their little voices were tinny in the woods’ hollow spaces where they had tucked themselves and their offspring away, safe from the rain.
In a somewhat bigger hollow than those inhabited by any rodent or bird, a many-layered cave worn deep into the side of an ancient stone hillock by generations of sweeping brooms, a goblin dame was having contractions. She was well-prepared for the coming child; it was her first, an event she had spent her entire life in preparation to complete. The dame had swept the cave floor smooth, made up a whelp-sized cradle, and set aside swaddling for the whelp infant when it arrived. She even had cloths ready to clean up after the mess of birth.
The dame could hear the soft echoes of animal families, hidden out of sight beyond the sheeting rain, and for a moment she feared being alone, despite her hulking bull mate who reclined in a corner of the cave, dozing and awaiting the new whelp’s cries to awaken him. But a moment was all she was allowed and the next another wave of pain tingled through her body.
The pain of her contractions was greater than the dame had ever anticipated while seated before her dame-mother or dame-grandmother while they spoke of the torment of birth pains. Such proclamations had always been followed by a lecture on how it was the great duty of goblin dames to bear whelps stronger than their father so as to aid the goblin race. As a gangling, the dame had always focused on the purpose of childbearing and rearing, never feeling the slightest concern for the discomfort it would include. In her moments of fiery agony, far from her dame-mother’s instruction, she wished that she had paid closer attention to the details of distracting oneself from pain and the formulas for time-tested poultices that could stave it off.
The dame knew the pain would end after the child came, that was not her fear, but she kept glancing at her mate in his corner, tucked away like so many of the smaller creatures and snoring lightly. If she were to release a cry, to make any noise at all, she might waken him and by alerting him to her anguish, bring down his scorn on her own head. Goblin dames were not to feel pain; they could only make their offspring weaker that way, instilling in them the same cowardice. So the dame dug her serrated upper teeth deep into her lip when the next pain came, but she carried on with her preparations, never pausing.
Nothing paused for the whelp’s birth. The bull’s snoring continued unaltered as she emerged from her dame-mother’s womb and took a breath to scream. Her dame-mother’s pace as the dame felt the end near and moved nearer the cradle faltered, but never stopped. The dame breathed easier as she reached between her own legs to catch the whelp, cupping the tiny, fragile head in the hollow of her palm. The whelp screamed, wailing as cave air flowed into her lungs, but the dame continued at her pace, severing the cord that bound them together and laying the whelp infant in the cradle. Then she retrieved the extra cloths to clean the blood and afterbirth from the floor. Above all, the dame was relieved that her mate still slept; it would not do to have him see the cave that had been passed from his bull-great-grandfather in such disarray. Outside, it rained steadily, the chatter of lesser woodland things carrying just well enough for the whelp’s sharp ears to pick them up above the ceaseless patterning.
It was, in fact, several minutes after the dame had taken her from the cradle and begun suckling the whelp to quiet her down that the bull awoke. He snorted mightily, rising from his perch with a creak of his bones. The dame did not look up. She felt possessive of the still half-slimy creature in her arms, with its loud sucking and smacking, and refused to give any indication that she had noticed her mate. The moment she saw him and he knew that she had, she would be expected to surrender her new possession. The dame tightened her grip on the little thing, making it squirm, though not causing enough discomfort for it to stop feeding.
The bull stood over them. He blocked the lamplight, and the dame could hear his breathing, still rough from sleep. Still she did not look up. The bull extended a claw; she saw it out of the corner of her eye. He paused a moment. When the dame did not move to respond to his nonverbal command, he grunted.
“Give it here,”
The dame shied away, holding the whelp infant close to her breast and baring her teeth with a snarl.
“I’m holding it.” The blood pockets created when she bit her lip in pain overflowed down her chin.
The bull glared.
The dame’s mouth relaxed; she looked away. What her dame-mother would have said if she had seen such a display of attachment. It was well within her rights to refuse her mate, but never for such a sentimental reason.