' Second Son '

by A. K. Naten


For disclaimers, etc., see Intro.




The hour was late when Gwynneth finally climbed the stairs that lead her toward her sleeping chambers. She was exhausted and her body, heavy with child, ached as she trudged slowly. Despite her fatigue, Gwynneth wanted to see Anton. She had been so overwhelmed on her prior visit, she hadn't really had a chance to be near him and touch him. And she so needed to touch him. Now that the initial shock of seeing his battered body had worn off a bit, she wanted to make a physical, as well as emotional connection with him. She was sure that if Anton were able to sense her presence in any way, he would want it as well.

Upon reaching Anton's door, Gwynneth was surprised to find that the iron latch handle appeared to be locked. She jiggled it and pushed against the heavy wood, but still it did not budge.

Frowning, Gwynneth knocked on the rough surface. "Hello?" she called out quietly, thinking that perhaps someone was inside with her husband. "Could someone let me in, please?" No one answered, and the door remained silent and still. The Lady sighed in frustration and turned away, walking slowly down the hallway toward her room. Who would lock the door, and why?

She was just about to turn the corner when she heard the distinct sound of hurried footsteps and the clanking sound of a key in a lock. Turning around, she saw Victor standing at her husband's door and unlocking it, his arms full of rags and medicine bottles.

She hurried toward him. "Victor," she called out.

The elderly physician jumped in alarm, abruptly pulling the door shut again and nearly dropping his armful of supplies. "My Lady, w-what are you doing here?" he asked with surprise.

"I've come to see my husband, of course." Noticing that Victor's hand was tightly gripping the door latch, she gave him a speculative look, "Why on earth did you have the door locked?"

"Er, I...I," Victor stammered helplessly, "I had to go and fetch a few things." His eyes darted away and he shrugged, appearing flustered. "I just didn't want anyone to...disturb My Lord."

Gwynneth frowned again at the physician. Sometimes she didn't understand him at all. "Well, no matter. You may unlock it now. I wish to sit with him for a little while before I retire for the night." She stepped back and motioned for Victor to open the door.

The elderly physician felt himself breaking out in a cold sweat. He had been in the midst of changing Lord Anton's dressings when he realized he needed fresh bandages and poultices. He had been leaving Anton's wounds uncovered for periods of time, wanting to expose them to the air so that they had a chance to dry out and thus begin to heal. In doing so of course, he had also been exposing Anton's body. This evening, figuring that he would be gone only momentarily and the young Lord would be safe if he locked the door behind him, Victor had again left Anton's body uncovered. And now, here Lady Gwynneth was, demanding entrance. How was he to keep her at bay and get inside to cover Anton's deception?

"Victor?" Gwynneth's voice brought the doctor back to attention. "Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing's wrong, My Lady, uh...it's just—"

"If nothing is wrong, then let me inside to see him." Gwynneth's voice had become stern. She was annoyed with the older man's reticent behavior. First Marina had acted strangely, and now Victor was being odd. She had a very bad feeling that something was dreadfully amiss with her husband, and she was sure that the doctor and Lady Marina were intentionally hiding the severity of his condition from her, or something. She made to reach for the door handle, but Victor stepped forward, blocking her with his body.

"Ah...," he stammered helplessly, "I-I'm sorry, My Lady, but you cannot see him right now."

"I beg your pardon?" Gwynneth's eyebrows crept up to her hairline.

Victor's face flushed and he dropped his gaze shamefully. "I cannot allow you entrance."

"Are you denying me access to my own husband, sir?" The young Lady's tone was indignant, her eyes flickering.

"My Lady, please...you don't understand!" Victor begged, shaking his head. He was frantically trying to formulate an excuse when Gwynneth suddenly gave him a shove backwards, causing him to nearly drop his armful of rags and bottles. Thinking only about the glass in his arms, Victor unconsciously released the door handle to juggle his load. Quick as a flash, Gwynneth made her move, grabbing hold of the metal latch, pushing the door open and rushing inside.

"No, My Lady! No!" Victor yelled out and ran in after her, causing two bottles to go crashing to the stone floor anyway.

Knowing what Gwynneth would find, Victor walked toward the bed slowly and came to stand behind the Lady. He closed his eyes, awaiting the explosion. After a long moment of silence, however, the physician opened his eyes, wondering at the strange quietness. The young Marchioness was standing stock still at her husband's bedside, and Victor inched a few steps closer so that he could see her face.

Gwynneth's blue-green eyes were wide, her mouth was agape and her face was completely drained of color. She wore a mixed expression of astonishment, dismay and appall. She did not know what to make of the sight her eyes beheld. She did not see the terrible injuries that had been inflicted on the body laid bare before her, she saw only that the body had the face of her husband, but the attributes of...a woman?

The dark brown hair was that of her husband; the dark eyebrows, straight nose, strong jaw – all were features on a face she recognized as Anton's. But the pale, exposed skin and long, lean physique of the body upon the bed was not recognizable to her. The figure was broad-shouldered with gently muscular arms and sinewy legs like a man, yet it possessed definite female attributes. There were smallish breasts that were round and firm and tipped by large, dark pink nipples. A well-toned stomach and trim waist tapered down to jutting, angular hip bones and some very non-male anatomy between smooth but muscular-looking upper thighs.

Gwynneth could not believe what her eyes were seeing. She could not reconcile the discrepancies. Her mind whirled and whirled as she tried to make sense of the situation and grasp what was happening. This person before her appeared to be her husband – was supposed to be her husband – but that could not be possible. Lord Anton, the Marquess of Weldon, was a man. This person was a woman.

Gwynneth's feet finally moved and she took a stumbling step backward. "Wh-what...what is this?" she rasped, her voice barely a whisper as she slowly turned and gave Victor a pleading look. She was trembling, her eyes still wide with alarm and her face a ghostly white.

"My Lady—" Victor began.

"What in the name of God is going on here!" Marina's sudden appearance made Victor jump, but not Gwynneth. The young Lady just continued to stand and stare, flabbergasted and shocked beyond comprehension. "Victor! What the devil have you done!?" Marina hissed.

"It wasn't my fault! I tried to stop her, but she forced me out of the way!" the old man defended.

Comprehending the commotion, Gwynneth turned again, this time holding a shaking hand out to point toward the bed. "I-I don't understand...w-what is the meaning of this?" Her glassy eyes searched her mother-in-law's angry, worried blue depths, desperate for answers and explanations.

Marina ignored her. "Oh damnation!" she cursed, quickly rushing over and covering Anton's body with a rumpled blanket. She spun around and faced Gwynneth, reaching out to grasp her by the arms. "Gwynneth...," she paused, feeling a genuine loss for words. "Oh my dear, there is so much to explain." she said, shaking her head.

But Gwynneth didn't even look at her; she was still gawking at the now-covered figure on the bed. Marina could see that she would not have the girl's attention until she got her away from Anton. Slowly, wordlessly, she directed her back away from the bed until she could sit her down on a nearby chair. Gwynneth did not resist.

Marina sighed and held on to Gwynneth's hands, wanting to physically keep her grounded as she spoke to her. "Before you jump to any conclusions, you must first understand that none of this is Anton's doing. None of this is her fault. She only carried out the role and duty that was thrust upon her at birth."

Gwynneth finally looked up at Marina with even wider-eyed incredulity as the words 'her' and 'she' echoed in her head. Her head began to swim with black spots and her stomach lurched nauseatingly. She brought a hand up to her chest and scooted forward on the chair, meaning to stand up. "I-I don't...feel...well...," Gwynneth barely got the words out before her eyes rolled skyward and she slumped backwards in the chair, fainting dead away.

Marina closed her eyes and sighed, holding a hand up to her forehead. This would change everything, and she was not prepared for that. "Victor," she barked out, "help me take her to her chambers. I shall explain things to her when she awakens."

Victor sighed wearily, "Yes, My Lady."



It was just shy of midnight when Gwynneth slowly awoke to the feel of someone dabbing her forehead with a damp cloth. Her eyes fluttered open, struggling to focus on her surroundings and the face that hung near. She soon recognized Marina leaning over her, and realized she was in her bed, in her own chambers.

"Finally you're awake. I was beginning to worry." Marina's voice was gentle, her blue eyes serene as she spoke.

Gwynneth stared at her for a moment, recalling a strange dream where those eyes held a panicked, stricken look as the elder Lady spoke bizarre and impossible words. Thank goodness it had all just been a dream.

"Oh, Lady Marina," Gwynneth murmured, "Oh, I've just had the most dreadful nightmare...it was horrible and unbelievable!" She closed her eyes and shook her head. "I dreamt that Anton was...that he was really a...a woman." As she spoke, she saw a grave look overtake Marina's face. Her heart began to thunder inside her chest and she swallowed against the lump that arose in her throat. She sat up slowly, "Tell me that it isn't true, My Lady. Tell me that it was all just a terrible, preposterous dream."

Marina closed her eyes and sighed. She supposed she could attempt to convince the young blonde that it was all a dream, but Gwynneth's suspicions would surely remain aroused, and Marina knew that she would discover the truth eventually. When she reopened her eyes, they were sad and resigned. "I'm sorry Gwynneth, but it is true."

Gwynneth's eyes went round and wide as she stared at her mother-in-law, not wanting to believe her ears. But Marina's somber countenance told her that she was not lying. It really was the truth. Her husband was a woman.

The young Lady's stomach lurched sickeningly and she quickly scrambled off the bed, rushing to a nearby chamberpot and emptying the contents of her stomach into it. Marina rose from the bed and calmly walked over to assist her, silently handing her the wet cloth and guiding her back to the bed.

Gwynneth lay down on the bed and curled up into a ball, her eyes staring but unseeing as she reprocessed everything she thought, and hoped, she had dreamt.

Her husband was not a man. Her husband, whom she'd come to treasure, adore and love more than anyone, was really a female. A woman. A woman...a woman...a woman. The words echoed inside her head, taunting her, torturing her, horrifying her. How could it be? It was inconceivable.

Her mind whirled furiously, recalling all the incredible, awful truths she'd learned in the past few days: her brother was a vicious murderer and was now dead; her father was dead too, probably killed by her brother's own hand; and her husband, who was intentionally maimed, perhaps mortally, by her own brother, was really a woman...a woman. Gwynneth's eyes fluttered shut and she released a small whimper as the tears began to run down her face.

"I know this must be a great shock to you, Gwynneth," Marina's voice was quiet as she sat down on the side of the bed, "but you must not blame Anton. She had no choice but to live this way, just as her father and I felt we had no choice but to make her live this way when she was born. You must understand that it was done out of absolute necessity, and that Anton never intended to deceive you, or anyone, simply for folly."

Gwynneth opened her eyes but continued to stare unfocused, not sure what to think or what to believe at this point. She wanted to cry; she wanted to vomit; she wanted to scream until her lungs collapsed and she lost consciousness. She wanted Marina to be quiet, but the Lady continued.

"When I gave birth to Aldred, Edgar and I were thrilled. A fine, first-born son. Weldon's future was all but secured. Of course, it's best to have several sons, so when I became pregnant again, we naturally hoped for another boy." Marina sighed and clasped her hands together in her lap. "At that time, Wesley of Rencor had come to power and taken over the throne. Every kingdom throughout the land was in turmoil. I don't know how much you knew about Wesley, but he was a most cruel and wretched man. He took young girls away from their families, claiming them as his own subjects and forcing them into a life of torturous servitude. He gave them to his sons and brothers as 'gifts', to use and abuse for their personal pleasure." Marina's voice wavered and she closed her eyes for a moment to gather herself. "Edgar swore that no daughter of his would go through a hell such as that. And he refused to marry her off to someone at a ridiculously young age or hide her or spirit her away someplace. So, he decided that it would be better for Antonia to be raised as a boy."

The use of Anton's female name finally made Gwynneth's eyes focus, and she gave Marina a look of astonishment.

"I know it all seems incredulous, but you must understand that Antonia is...well, she has always been special. Very special. Her birth was difficult. I nearly perished, as did she." Marina said solemnly. "When we were told it was a girl, we were so unhappy."

Gwynneth frowned at the Marchioness Dowager, unable to believe that parents could think such a thing about their own newborn baby.

"That may sound dreadful, but with things being the way they were, announcing the birth of a girl was the same as announcing a death sentence."

Finally, unable to keep her thoughts to herself, Gwynneth sat up. "So you just...made her into a boy? Just like that?" her voice was scratchy and incredulous, her eyes accusing.

"It wasn't something we just decided on a mere whim, I assure you. We agonized over it...I cried every day for a fortnight." Marina held the young blonde's accusing gaze. "Finally Edgar decided that, in order to protect our daughter and keep her close to us, we had to conceal her true identity. So, we publicly announced the birth of a son. Antonia became Anton, our second son."

Gwynneth stared in astonishment. She could not comprehend how a mother and father could force such hardship and confusion onto a little child.

Marina continued, needing to explain further. "As Anton grew, I knew that she was something special. I knew that some day, in some way, she would do or be something extraordinary. I can't explain it. I just knew. Perhaps it was because of the difficulties and challenges she faced, or maybe it was in spite of them, I cannot say for certain. I just know that she ended up being a better young man than any other young man. Even my own son, Aldred."

At the mention of Aldred's name, Gwynneth's heart skipped a beat and her expression darkened noticeably. Memories and thoughts rushed through her head, and she was struck with the sudden awareness that the child she carried inside her was indeed Aldred's, not Anton's. She had still been holding on to a sliver of hope that the child had been sired by her husband. The realization of that impossibility made her sick, and her stomach began to roil again.

The Marchioness Dowager did not miss the change in Gwynneth's demeanor. "I know how despicable and cruel Aldred was. It shames me to think that my own son could have done such terrible things, and I am truly sorry for what he did to you."

Gwynneth's chin began to tremble and she dropped her eyes for a moment. She wanted to tell Marina that it was far too late to be sorry for anything where Aldred was concerned. Apologies could not make up for the fact that she was carrying the child of the man who had raped her.

"You must understand, Gwynneth, that when Aldred died, Edgar was placed in a very difficult position. Your father still expected for us to fulfill our end of the bargain and forge an alliance."

Gwynneth looked at her with incredulity, "B-But surely...," her voice scratched as she voiced her thoughts again, "...surely Lord Edgar knew how absurd it was?"

"Of course he knew – he and I both knew," Marina nodded. "And Anton was against it. Completely, vehemently against it. She wanted no part of it whatsoever."

"Then...why?" Gwynneth asked, truly not understanding.

"Oh my dear, don't you see? We had to. Your father knew that Edgar had a second son – a very well-regarded, very unmarried, second son. Edgar couldn't renege on the agreement and risk making an enemy instead of an ally. He couldn't very well tell your father than Anton simply refused to make the alliance and marry you, even though she did."

Gwynneth closed her eyes and shook her head. Hearing all this was compounding her dismay and confusion.

"I suppose, if Anton had wanted, she could have easily run away. I'm quite certain she considered it. But, as always, she remained loyal to her father and obeyed his wishes. Just as she always fulfilled her duties and played whatever roles her father asked her to play, so she agreed to play the role of husband too." Gwynneth was quiet as more tears trickled down her cheeks, and Marina allowed her to just sit and think.

So many things began to make sense to Gwynneth. Her mind churned as she began to recount the many things she'd always found curious or odd about Anton. But as she considered the revelations and truths, she also considered how many lies and falsities she'd been force-fed for so long – not only where Anton was concerned, but with her own family as well. It made her sick to think that she'd been lied to for so long about so many things. She felt her shock and dismay slowly begin to turn into hurt and anger.

"I feel like a fool...like a puppet. My life is a travesty." Gwynneth finally said, her voice a strangled whisper. "I have been deceived and lied to my entire life...about every one and every thing. I have found that I never knew my brother at all. I have found that my father died and I wasn't even afforded the chance to say goodbye to him." She wavered for a moment, sniffling as tears dribbled down her cheeks. "And now, worst of all, I have found that the one person I truly trusted...the one I truly loved...is not the man I thought he was. He's no man at all!" The words were mixed with a burst of tears, and she covered her face and began to weep.

Marina looked at her and felt real pity. She knew she was partially responsible for Gwynneth's distress, and she couldn't imagine what kind of impact all this must be having on the young woman. But now that the truth had been exposed, she wanted Gwynneth to know everything. And, knowing how Anton felt about Gwynneth, Marina was sure that her daughter would want the truth to be known as well. They just have to hope that Gwynneth would agree to keep the secret safe.

"Gwynneth," Marina started, but faltered, not quite knowing what to say. "My dear—"

"Do not call me 'dear'!" The young Lady pulled her hands away from her face and clenched them into fists, pinning Marina with intense blue-green. "You were responsible for the biggest lie of all! You created it! You enforced it! You compounded it by involving me!" her fists shook with newfound anger and humiliation.

Marina worked her jaw but held her tongue. Gwynneth's lashing out was to be expected, but Marina had to make her understand some things before she went too far. "Gwynneth, listen to me," she reached out to touch the young Lady's hands, but Gwynneth pulled away, glaring fiercely at Marina instead. The Marchioness Dowager pursed her lips, telling herself to be patient. "Gwynneth, you know that Anton cares for you a great deal. Despite everything, despite all the falsities, her feelings for you are genuine. Of this I am certain."

Gwynneth shook her head, "Well I am not certain. I am not certain of anything anymore."

"Anton loves you." Marina held the accusing green gaze, "And I know that you love her."

Gwynneth's eyes darkened and she shook her head harder, "No...no! I loved Anton, my husband! The person lying in that room is not my husband!" She pointed a finger toward Anton's room as her voice escalated in volume and conviction.

"The person lying in that room is your husband, Gwynneth! It is Anton!" Marina argued against the young woman's vehemence.

"No...no, no, no!" Gwynneth murmured, covering her face with her hands. "I don't know who it is in that room...I don't know what it is!" She flung her hands away, suddenly furious as the hurt and sense of betrayal began to intensify.

Again, Marina understood the blonde's anger, but she would not let her disparage her daughter. "I will tell you who and what Anton is," Marina said, leaning forward and pinning Gwynneth with her own fiery eyes. "Anton is my daughter...and she is my son. She is Edgar's sole heir and as such is the Marquess of Weldon. And yes, she is your husband!"

"But that isn't possible!" Gwynneth cried, again flinging her hands outward in exasperation. "We are two women! Two women cannot be married! It's unnatural!"

"As far as the church and everyone else knows, you are a man and a woman, joined in holy, sanctified matrimony."

"But it's a lie! We're living a LIE!" Gwynneth cried fretfully. "Oh my God! The things we've done! The sins we've committed! Oh if anyone knew!" she wailed, holding her head in her hands.

Marina scooted very close to Gwynneth, forcing her to lock eyes with her, "Anton has lived her whole life as a man, and she's done it successfully, with no one ever knowing the truth. Her physical constitution makes no difference. She is Lord Anton of Weldon – she is the Marquess and Master of this Manor. No one knows any different...and I expect that you shan't tell it any differently either."

Marina's menacing tone surprised Gwynneth. She looked at the older woman, trying to gauge her expression. Was she being threatened?

"Just as Anton must always remember her role and her duties, so you must remember yours as well, Gwynneth," Marina said firmly. "You are the wife of the Marquess of Weldon. And you are the mother of a future heir."

"No, I am the mother of a bastard!" Gwynneth spat hotly, tears burning in her eyes.

"That may be true," Marina arched an eyebrow, continuing calmly, "but again, no one knows that, and no one must know that. For your sake, as well as Anton's."

Gwynneth narrowed her eyes at her mother-in-law's ominous-sounding words. "What do you mean?"

"I simply mean that it would do as much harm to you as it would to Anton if anyone were to find out that not only is your marriage an hypocrisy, but that your bastard child is the product of an illicit, pre-marital coupling with another man." Lady Marina's voice was calm, her message clear.

Gwynneth's mouth opened in shock, "Are you threatening me, My Lady?" she asked, her voice low and tremulous.

The Marchioness Dowager smiled falsely, "Not at all, my dear. I'm merely suggesting to you that you have as much at stake here as Anton does. As we all do." she emphasized her point with a stern stare. "You are carrying Edgar's grandchild. Regardless of whether or not the child is Anton's, it remains a blood heir of Weldon, and it belongs to Weldon."

"Y-You mean to take it from me?" Gwynneth said in disbelief, placing a hand protectively over her hugely swollen abdomen.

Marina paused dramatically, an eyebrow arching sharply as her blue eyes flicked down to Gwynneth's stomach, then back up to stormy green-blue eyes, "No. I only mean that the child must remain here to be raised and groomed to someday take over Weldon. I expect that you shall stay as well, but if you find that, after all this, you cannot bring yourself to be in Anton's presence, then some other...arrangement shall be made for you. Regardless, the child will stay with Anton."

The finality in Marina's firm tone was clear. There would be no negotiation; there would be no argument, and Gwynneth had none. She could not believe it. She was being told, essentially, that she did not have a choice. Not only was she married to someone who was now a complete stranger and an aberration of nature to her, but she was to be a prisoner here at Weldon as well. The child that she carried – the child that she now knew for certain was the product of Aldred's abusive sexual assaults on her – belonged to Weldon, and she had no say in any of it. She suddenly felt very nauseous.

"You must please excuse me, My Lady," Gwynneth finally whispered, touching her stomach as it churned, "I wish to lie down. I feel very unwell."

Lady Marina nodded and rose from the bed, but before she left the room, she turned back. "Gwynneth," The young woman wouldn't look up at her and Marina sighed, feeling exasperated. She hated being callous, really; her daughter-in-law did not deserve it. Oh why did everything have to be so complicated? "Gwynneth, I do not wish for us to become...enemies over this."

The blonde finally turned her head and looked at her mother-in-law, but said nothing.

Marina took a step back toward the bed, her voice calm and her eyes softened. "We never meant for anyone to be hurt by all of this. Most especially you."

Fresh tears flooded Gwynneth's eyes and she shook her head lightly. "But I am hurt, My Lady. I'm hurt and I'm confused...and I'm angry!" Her voice wavered unsteadily and she gritted her teeth against the onslaught of tears and emotions.

"I know. And you must know that I truly am sorry for that."

Gwynneth gave an incredulous huff, "I think it's quite obvious that I don't know anything. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to believe. ...I don't know what to do."

"Everything I've said to you tonight is the truth. If you need someone to blame for the lies and deception, then blame me. Do not blame Anton." Marina said quietly. "Please...don't make any rash or fool decisions. Take some time and consider all the things I've told you."

The distraught blonde stared harshly at the older woman for a long moment, then Marina finally turned and left the room.


Gwynneth had no idea what the hour was as she lay upon her bed. She had cried so much for so long that her head ached and her stomach hurt. Thoughts of every kind ran rampant through her mind. She felt betrayed, insulted, ashamed, and sickened. She felt as though her feelings, and indeed her very life, had been trifled with in the most horrible, humiliating way imaginable.

She brought her hand up and stared at her wedding ring...the ring that had been placed on her finger by a dashing young man...a dashing young man who, after a rocky start, turned out to be a most wonderful husband...a wonderful husband who turned out to be...a complete and utter lie. Tears again welled in her eyes as she thought about her marriage to Anton. She remembered how uneasy and edgy Anton had seemed on their wedding day. At the time, Gwynneth had thought that her husband-to-be was simply feeling nervous and overwhelmed, just as she had been. Now, of course, she knew better. She thought back to their wedding night and a shiver raced up and down her spine. She squeezed her eyes shut at the recollections.

It was one thing for a woman to masquerade as a man, but for her to actually marry another woman, and then have intimate relations with another woman...that was the most horrific thing of all.

How had she done it? Gwynneth thought, finally giving voice to the most troublesome thought of all. How had Anton made love to her if he was really a woman? For a moment, Gwynneth's mind boggled as she considered the possibilities. She supposed Anton could have used some kind of prop, but she had no idea what or how. She'd never heard of such a thing. It was outrageous. Her head began to swim and her stomach seized up as she thought about all the times her husband had made love to her, but never once took his clothes off nor exposed himself. She remembered thinking it a bit peculiar...she remembered thinking a lot of things peculiar, in fact.

That's because it was a lie...everything was a lie. Gwynneth's eyes closed again as more tears slipped out. It was all so awful...so unbelievable. So many secrets...so much deceit and deception. She didn't think she would ever be able to look at Anton again, not knowing what he was and what he'd done. She would surely go mad. Lying alone in the darkness of her room, a feeling of desperation began to grip Gwynneth as she considered how trapped she truly was. She felt the urge to flee...to run away from everyone and everything and just escape. But where would she go, and how on earth would she get there in the condition she was in? She would need help. ...But I have no one who can help me...there is no one I can trust now...oh God in heaven, please...please help me! Tears began to course down the young blonde's face, and her stomach again seized up painfully.

As Gwynneth cried, she began to feel very sick in her stomach. As the feeling crawled up her throat, she drug herself off the bed, reaching a chamberpot just in time. She vomited into the pot, the cramping in her stomach bringing her to her knees. As she tried to steady herself, Gwynneth began to feel pains deeper, lower, as though her whole abdomen was clenching tight and cramping. The aches stabbed deep within her womb. Oh dear God, she suddenly thought, the baby...the baby is coming!

"Oh God...oh God oh God," Gwynneth began murmuring as she struggled to her feet, her mind becoming frantic. She had to get someone...she had to get help. She staggered to the door and yanked it open. "Alice!" Gwynneth called breathlessly, "ALICE!" Her voice echoed off the darkened stone corridor. "Someone help! Someone please help me!"

Gwynneth's head begin to spin and everything started to fade to black. She thought she heard someone calling out to her, but she couldn't focus on it. She leaned against the wall and began to slide down helplessly, finally coming to rest on the cold stone floor. The last thing she thought before she completely lost consciousness was, ...Save the child...let me die.


...To Be Continued...

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