Shyheart dipped the rag into a bowl of cold water then lifted it, not bothering to squeeze the excess water from it. She used the sodden rag to wipe her infant son’s head and body, trying to cool him off. He’d been feverish for two days now, and she was getting worried.
Lightgaze stirred in his sleep, and then shivered. Though he was burning with fever, prickles appeared on his skin. He coughed and began crying even as he woke up. Shyheart dropped the rag into the bowl, then picked up her son.
Cedarwing entered the den. He had stepped out to relieve himself, and returned as soon as he could. Shyheart nuzzled little Lightgaze to her, putting his head just above her shoulders and patting his back. The baby coughed again, and Cedarwing moved to her side.
Tears filled her eyes. **I don’t know what else to do. The poultices aren’t working, vapors don’t help… and he won’t suckle, either.** Her feelings of helplessness poured out to her lifemate, and he wrapped his arms around both mother and child.
**We’ll get through this, beloved, all of us.**
She turned her violet eyes to meet his green. “His cough sounds worse.”
Cedarwing nodded. “It does. But we both know what it is to have a summer cold. They’re sometimes the worst.”
“His cough does sound productive. But his fever…”
He cut her off. “It will come down.”
“How can you be so sure?”
His sending flooded her, reminding her of other cubs and their illnesses. Of Sunlight’s terrible cough when she was barely walking, of Lynx’s fever when he was only a moon old, and of the illnesses of other tribal infants through the turns. His sending was filled with confidence, and it encouraged her. Little Lightgaze’s illness really was nothing new. It seemed that all babes got sick… but most got better. In fact, she couldn't remember one who hadn't recovered from a summer cold.
Lightgaze had stopped wailing and was moving around, rooting at his mother’s shoulder. A sense of peace filled her, and she moved him toward her breast where he began to suckle.
Cedarwing, sitting beside her now, smiled and said, “See… he’s getting his appetite back! He’ll be better soon!” He lay down on the furs, inviting her to rest with him.
Suddenly, she was exhausted. The nights and days of worry had taken their toll. Carefully, so as not to disturb her suckling infant, she lay them both down and all three of them fell asleep.