Theodoric and Molpe started spending more and more time together. It wasn’t noticeable until Otrere was asked to watch over Camilla one night. Being a smart woman, she didn’t ask what the two might be doing, and instead did her best to comfort the little princess, who demanded to see Mama.
“No, sweeting. Come on. I’ll stay with you, just let’s go back to bed,” Otrere pleaded gently, wrapping her arms around the young girl.
She gave a prayer of thanks to Hesperia that for now, the babe didn’t understand why both Theodoric and her mother were absent that night and a couple of others. She just wished that Pallas was as ignorant.
The men had had a brief disagreement by themselves, she knew that much. Pallas had tried to dissuade Theodoric from the path he was headed down, but Theodoric had told him that he had been practically raised for the task, and this was as much his choice as Molpe’s.
Pallas hadn’t wanted to speak about it to her, but he’d spoken to Clodius, who had told her as much as he could.
“Pallas thinks that love leads to death. Theodoric thinks death leads to life. They don’t see both are right.” The blond man had looked pained, and Otrere could only imagine the sort of tension that could be happening in the men’s quarters. She was glad that she slept alone, aside from the plant in her room.
However, who would be the next father of her child wasn’t the only decision that Molpe had to make. Sickness and war closed in around them, and she knew that she would have to move. Otrere didn’t even have to bring it up.
“I’ve heard of some of the larger islands being unoccupied. I can’t let us get caught up in chaos.” She’d clutched Camilla close. “They say that there’s a storm brewing to the South, and it will head our way if we don’t leave.”
And so the small tribe collected what they could, and travelled to the nearest port. A woman with a ship agreed to give them passage to an island that was known yet unoccupied.
“Too isolated for the likes of most, but I’ll send word to your kinfolk, Lady Molpe. You’re wise to get out now. They say the South rivers will run with blood before long, the way things are going.” She chucked Camilla under the chin. “And this little princess is best being far away from it.”
“I know.” Molpe’s gentle gaze turned steely. “She is my priority.”
The woman had nodded to herself, and they had loaded up the boat with possessions. It was a week before they reached their destination, and Camilla had certainly loved it, yelling out in exuberance as she ran on deck, often trailed by Theodoric, who laughed and swept her up in his arms, or placed her on his shoulders. A couple of the women on board had looked at Molpe’s men with admiration, but Otrere had noticed Molpe looking right back at them coldly.
It was three months since they had arrived. Molpe had gone on shore with Camilla first, and asked Hesperia to bless the land she now owned with her light. Sunlight had come out from behind the clouds, and Molpe had knelt, her hand on Camilla’s shoulder. Then they’d been allowed ashore, Otrere of course being first. They’d brought everything and Molpe had commanded that the men start to build shelter, giving them precise commands that could be in no way misunderstood or ignored.
That mood lasted even now, that cold, distant mood that was so unlike her lady. Perhaps it was the journey that had been the problem. Molpe had been hideously sick.
Otrere froze, standing as she was by the new gardens, her hands covered in dirt from planting.
She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed it. Surely Molpe had, and surely she knew what must be done now.
Dropping her tools, she rushed towards the new nursery, past Clodius playing with Camilla, past Pallas, past…past him, and towards where she knew her lady would be. She’d been spending so much time in the nursery on her own. Why not in her own rooms that had been built? Why not there?
Because her lady was thinking of other things. Of how the empty cot would soon (how soon? How long had Molpe hid this from her?) have a tiny occupant, how Camilla would soon have a sibling, and how soon, Theodoric might die.
“Molpe!” she called, as she rushed in, panting. Now, it was obvious – a soft curve to Molpe’s usually flat stomach. How big might the baby be by now?
“My lady, I know,” she puffed. Molpe looked at her and she wanted to crawl back outside.
“Know what, Otrere?” she asked, coldly. Otrere gulped, summoning her courage.
“You’re with child again, my lady. With Theodoric’s child, although you two…you did not…” She gave up, and Molpe stepped back.
“Otrere, I…” She glanced down at her stomach, her hand resting gently there. “I am…”
“You cannot deny it! You are with child, and you know what must be done.” Otrere wrapped her arms around Molpe gently. “You know, my lady. He must give his life for the life of the child. Those are the laws. You cannot go against them, you of all people. How long have you known?”
“Since the voyage,” Molpe said, softly, in a voice that spoke volumes of how her heart must be breaking. Otrere wrapped her arms tighter around the queen.
Molpe pulled back, placing a hand on her stomach. “I wanted her to know her father before he died.” She looked down at the floor.
“Life must be given for life, my lady. You know this as well as I do.” Otrere felt as though she might cry, for her poor, poor queen.
“Then it must be done.” Molpe did not look at her. “The island cannot risk losing Hesperia’s blessing.”
“It’s for the sake of Camilla, my lady.” Otrere tried to comfort her, and Molpe turned away fully, heading for the door without so much as a glance back at her closest friend.