Name of the Demoness

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  "Push once more!" said the midwife.

    Exhausted and sweaty from her labor, Freya firmly gripped the arms of her friends kneeling beside her and leaned up from the pallet--taking a deep breath, groaning with effort--she pushed with the remainder of her strength. Expectantly, the other women held their breath; all eyes focused on the laboring woman.  The room grew quiet except for the sounds of her exertion. The world seemed to pause, waiting for the result....

    Freya fell back and the midwife held up the infant.   It began to cry.

    The midwife briefly inspected the baby and laid it on Freya's stomach, where it squirmed and wiggled. The women began to excitedly whisper among themselves.  It was a girl-child.

    Freya leaned up to watch her infant. "So this is the little creature that changed my life," she thought.  She couldn't help but smile.

    Despite her exhaustion, Freya anxiously waited for her turn to hold the child.  But first came the blessing: thanks to the Goddess Mother for a successful birth--and a female.  The midwife cut the cord and handed the babe to the waiting Priestess Lyris.  But the priestess frowned.  She took the child over to the window and threw open its shutter, allowing in the last of the day's sun.  A light breeze ruffled the priestess's robes as she studied the infant's face.  The room suddenly became silent.

    "What is it?" Freya demanded.  "What is wrong?"

    Lyris shook her head.  "I'm sorry, my child."  She gave the baby back to the mother and pointed to a black mark on the child's forehead.  "It is the mark of the Demoness Gilou.  Before tomorrow's sunrise, she will come to collect what she has claimed.


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