The sound of her cub coughing roused Honey from her sleep. The next sound had her bolting upright and grabbing at little Goldfinch, trying to spare the furs from the vomit as well as trying to comfort the now-crying babe. The sickly sweet smell emanating from Goldfinch’s body, and from the shared bed-bowl made Honey inwardly groan. It would have to happen on a night when she was alone — Greenweave was out on a rare sea-fishing trip, so handling the mess, and the babe, was up to her.
Or so she thought. Cider peeked her head into Honey’s den. "I was walking by, and heard. Is she all right?” the older elf asked.
Another cough hit, followed by vomit, and Honey instinctively turned her infant daughter so that her face was down, and she could pat her back, making sure the babe didn’t choke. Honey felt the frustration and fear rush in and overflow onto her cheeks. “I don’t know,” she answered weakly. "This just started, but I don’t know what’s wrong, and Greenweave’s away sea-fishing. Even Father’s not in the Holt — he’s out hunting with Thornbow!”
“I’ll get some water, and some extra furs for you. I’ll see, too, if Dreamberry has a tincture you might use,” Cider offered, and then was gone, leaving Honey alone with the helpess babe.
“Well, Goldfinch,” Honey whispered, “your first illness is certain to be unforgettable.” Another wave hit, and the now-knowing mother held her daughter once more over the already soiled furs. Honey was grateful that in the almost complete turn of the seasons since Goldfinch’s birth, the cub had not been sick until now.
By the time she was done, Goldfinch had certainly emptied the contents of her stomach, and she started screaming. The den stank of soured milk and wet furs, and Honey could hear her daughter’s innards burbling, then felt warmth on her arm as her Goldfinch soiled her moss. Looking down, Honey saw green where normally the color would be brown. It was going to be a long night.
Honey changed the moss covering her daughter’s bottom, and looked up with relief as Cider returned, Dreamberry following. Neither of the older elves commented on the state of the den, or Honey’s tears. Cider offered Honey the water skin, then took Goldfinch from her arms and started cleaning the screaming babe. It allowed Honey a moment to clean herself off before reaching for her daughter and offering her the breast.
Dreamberry, meanwhile, had removed the furs from the bedbowl and taken them to the base of the Dentrees to be cleaned later, and had returned with fresh ones. Then she assessed the infant, commenting on the cubling’s fever and disappearing to get something to help with it.
Cider sat quietly, offering no comment, only constant company, and a moist cloth for Goldfinch’s head. Honey was grateful for the quiet, confident support, and found herself drifting off to sleep when Goldfinch coughed again. Thankfully, it wasn’t followed by vomiting, and Honey quietly said, “Maybe that part has passed?”
Cider nodded, saying, “I hope so, for both your sakes, but I wouldn’t count it out yet. My guess is that she’s got a bad cold — thus the cough and fever. The vomiting may come from coughing so hard. The diarrhea, well….”
Cider’s voice trailed off as Dreamberry returned with some wormgrass and leather-leaf tea with sugartree syrup. “The tea is to settle her stomach — it’s weak, and I don’t think she should have much at that, just a few drops should do. The syrup might help the cough. Again, just a few drops should take care of it.”
“Aye,” agreed Cider. "I used the same on my little Bugfluff when he was a babe smaller than your Goldfinch.”
Honey smiled at the affection in Cider’s voice, and at the use of Moss’s cubname. He was older than she, so she’d never had occasion to call him by that name. Cider’s love for her son shone through, though, and Honey could imagine that though he was grown, he’d always be “Bugfluff” to his mother. She looked at her now-sleeping infant and wondered if she could ever think of the babe as anything but Goldfinch.
She yawned, and Dreamberry spoke up, “Let’s get you back in bed. It will be a long night for you without your lifemate if Goldfinch has another go at it. Do you want me to stay?”
Honey considered protesting. She didn’t want to be seen as weak, but she also knew she needed the help if her babe got sick again. She nodded.
Dreamberry looked at Honey questioningly, then said, “By the way, did you eat or drink anything out of the ordinary the past day or two? It might account for some of what your little one is going through.”
Honey thought about it for a few moments, shaking her head. “I… don’t think so.” She thought a little longer, then said, “No… wait. I did have some handtree and smokeweed tea last night. I had a headache… I added some honey to the tea. I didn’t know it would hurt the baby.”
“It’s hard to say what might upset a wee one’s tummy. I wouldn’t advise drinking that combination again while you’re still nursing,” Cider stated. “I hope that’s all that it is, love. A cold, and a bad reaction to your tea. I’ll be staying, too, that way you’ll have more than enough hands. Now, let’s get you, the cub, and both of us to bed.”
Gratefully, Honey allowed them to help her. She was grateful Cider had been walking by when she had. Honey knew she could have asked anyone in the tribe for help, but it was nicer when she didn’t have to ask.