Delah leaned ‘neath the willow, picking at a pomegranate. Her appetites had increased, the crones had said it was a good omen. She heaved a happy sigh, to be with child of Dumuzid. To have been blessed so by the gods; O it was a joyous affair for all. Upon hearing the news, the lads of the local village had carried her aloft in their arms as she giggled. Through the village and to the orchard where they unceremoniously, yet carefully dumped her on the ground.

Celebrations went long into the night. The shepherd was na’er to be found anywhere. The village was aglow with torches; men bet on races and women laughed at the falls. A name went the cry; a name. Delah had yet not considered a name and held her palm flat to the revellers. “I have no such name chosen. My apologies to thee.” The revellers cheered anyway. “To the unnamed child!”

She awoke to baskets of apples, plums and pomegranates; delivered in the night whilst she was asleep. For the health of the mother-to-be and for the child to grow. Barefoot she walked, still clothed in the simple linens of a Sister, but respect and name grew before her and the people offered gifts wherever she travelled. In one village, before the lake and mighty willow, a crone offered her the charm for protection. Delah smiled at the crone and begged not to receive such a thoughtful gift; for Delah had no reason for Fate to intervene, such as is with a child of the gods.

To the willow she walked; to sit beneath her majestic canopy and consider. If a boy, he shall be Lamu; if a girl Lahamu. To have a child of the gods, O Dumuzid had blessed them so. People came and sat with her, respectfully in silence. Occasionally, a child’s head would poke from round the trunk, face agog and awed. Delah would smile at them; then frown menacingly until they ran, giggling and tripping in the grass.

Flowers bloomed on the trees and flowers and the crops were ripening for harvest rapidly. Every market day that passed; Delah grew more aware of her new godly presence. More fruit was delivered upon waking. She took an appetite for charcoal and for date. Bees drank to their full from the flowers; the Valley was alive. Birds flew overhead in formation in the cloudless skies. At night She looked down from above, clear and bright.

The pregnancy had not gone unnoticed. Lilith picked at her long nails with the pointed dark dagger; the night fell, dark and long. Undercover of darkness, Lilith came unto the Earth and looked upon the mortal; this Delah that had conceived of Dumuzid. She was asleep and pale. A mere mortal, delicate and with flesh that does bleed. Lilith pointed her dagger at the sleeping figure; gods must be born to gods, not unto the weak and fearful, for the children themselves would be weak as a mortal. Fragile and proud; Lilith pointed her dagger and thrust.

The blade did not strike Delah but the air above her. Lilith smiled and withdrew the dagger and disappeared back unto the night.

Delah awoke come the morning; unaware of any fascinations or events during her sleep. She yawned widely and picked a plum. The juices of the flesh bursting forth onto her chin. She tried to stop them but they dripped through onto her clothes. Upon finishing the fruit, she walked to the stream, to wash and clean her clothes. The plum juice had left marks upon the front of the dress, droplets scattered and blurred as they had soaked into the linen.

Removing her clothes she stood naked before the stream, washing herself first and then her covering. She washed the stone of the plum finally and buried it before the stream. Wishing it fortune she walked onward; to the villages and beyond, assisting as usual but spared the temple duty and walk required of a Sister. Her strength would be needed for other things.

At night she took to staying before the communal village fire. She needed the warmth and the company. She also needed a supply of oat that she had taken a fancy to and moved closer to the grain merchant. The fire burned day and night; for the villagers and for visitors to gather around, taking in the abundant heat and tale.

As before, she still awoke to baskets of fruit; but now someone, somewhere had added a small bag of oat to her daily delivery. She smiled and nodded thanks to the onlooking wife of the grain merchant, who nodded back with a finger to her nose.

Delah giggled once more.

To Chapter Forty-Three – Aftermath

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