It is a great honor to be a Keeper of Arilinn and lead a circle of magic-workers, but the price can be higher than you ever dreamed.
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The pain had started.
Hilary was aware of it even in her sleep, but, knowing that her body needed at least another two hours' rest, she tried to ignore it. But the gnawing discomfort deep in her body would not be ignored; after an hour she gave up the futile attempt and threw on a robe, slipping silently down the stairs to the still-room to make herself a cup of golden-flower tea. She knew from experience that it would numb the cramping pain, at least a little. It might also, she thought, settling back into her bed, make her sleepy. At least that was what the other women said. Somehow it never seemed to work that way with Hilary. It only made her arms numb and her head feel fuzzy, and the room seemed unbearably warm as things swam in and out of focus. The effects of the tea wore off all too quickly, and the heavy cramping pains, contractions, Leonie called them, became worse and worse, moving up from her abdomen to her stomach to her heart, so that she felt constricted and aching, struggling for breath.
She had only to call, she knew, and someone would come. But in a Tower filled with telepaths, help would be there when she absolutely needed it ... and she didn't want to disturb anybody unless she had to.
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