The sound of the hammer as it struck the steel blade on the anvil woke Tagalong Tirconnel from a deep slumber. Work had already started in her husband's forge. She had overslept again. It seemed like she was tired all the time.
She blinked bleary-eyed at the sunlight pouring through the window and slapped it. The child growing in her belly took that moment to start kicking. She clutched her belly and glowered. "Yeah, yeah, you want out about as fast as I want you out."
The dwarf slid her feet over the side of the low bed and tilted herself forward cautiously. Children were one of the greatest perils of marriage. Tagalong had known that she would find herself in this condition eventually when she married her childhood sweetheart Hannigan O'Flanagan Tirconnel three years ago. Grumbling under her breath, Tagalong grabbed a broom and headed into the front room of her home.
Stepping into the house after hours of supervising his apprentices, Hanni ducked as the broom came swinging at his head. "Hey, pay attention. I dinna do it on me own."
Tagalong Tirconnel rolled another step closer to her husband and swung again. Four years ago it would have been a mace or an axe in her hands. "You stuck it in. You just had to keep sticking it in."
"It ain't me fault the eelskins broke. Just bad timing, Tag."
"Bad timing, my ass. You did it on purpose. It didn't break. You put a hole in it."
Hanni licked his lips. "Darlin' Tag, Taun is coming by this morning for your regular check. Don't ya want to get–?"
Tag swung the broom and Hanni fled through the door. They had been going through this as a morning ritual ever since the healer Taun informed Tag that she was pregnant. She got up in the mornings sickish and irritable. Hanni spent many hours just dodging missiles until she began to feel a bit better up in the day and mellowed for a time. Tagalong was nearly as round as she was tall. She crossed her arms, resting them atop her hugely swollen belly, and glowered at the doorway.
Hanni peeked around the door at her. "Nothing says you're loved like a big belly, Tag."
"Only with you." Hanni headed for the smithy where Tag rarely went since she had begun to get noticeably swollen.
As a stonemage, Hanni's weapon-smithing provided a substantial income from myn who wanted, and could pay the heavy prices for, charmed weapons. While he was no Eldarion Havenrain, Hanni did good, practical work. As a result of that, Tagalong could afford to put her riches from the hoard of the arkenwyrm into other things, such as being the largest patron to the Azure Circle Mage School.
Tagalong settled on the sofa and a servant pushed a footstool under her feet. She had hired some of the older children from the Dynannan Temple Orphanage to work for her. The girl placed a small table at Tag's elbow, and another one set out tea and cookies.
A soft knock at the door preceded Taun entering the house. He carried his satchels with the straps crisscrossing his chest. "How are you feeling today, Tag?"
He set out his equipment on the low table to the left side of her.
"How the hell you do you think I'm feeling?" Tagalong grumped with her arms folded. "Like a damned beached whale, that's what I'm feeling like."
A tiny smile flitted across Taun's features. "Eelskins are the most popular form of birth control, but they aren't the most effective."
"You talked to Hanni."
The umber rose deepened in Taun's face. "Yes. But he's right, Tag."
Tagalong gave him a petulant look. "If you say so."
Taun sat next to her, grasped her wrist, and closed his eyes to Read her. "You are close enough that I could induce labor, if you wish. I know you want it over with."
"I'd like that." Tagalong's eyes gleamed at the thought.
"Then you have two choices, I can stay here until you deliver. Or you can come and stay at my home for the delivery."
"What about the boys?"
"I'll have Florry watch them if you would rather we did it here."
"Do that. Hanni's going to hear every bit of what I go through." Tagalong rubbed her hands together gleefully. "Every bit of it."
"Then we'll do it tomorrow. I always like to give Florry a day's warning."
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