Butler clenches teeth and pushes out another mewling infant, all slime and blindness. She has been bent under the weight of the forge for six days and is wrung out with the work as she pushes on into the seventh.
The mewling thing rolls into a viscous hoop and crashes into its littermates, who stir at the contact and sleepily mouth prophecy about the fall of empires. Butler blocks it out, too labor-weary to brook the future.
There is a clock burning down in her head, clicking on past overtime. She is due hazard pay, of course — tries to guess what she’s owed between rounds — drags her bruises over the carpet of amniosis hungry grasses. Hunkers down, pulls at the sugar water looped about her neck.
She is sick of sunlight through tent doors and the musty smell of canvas baking. Her brood is lousy company, too young for anything but portents and tongues of fire. She should never have come to Jeru, should never have followed that bearded star west.
She clenches teeth and braces herself against the twelfth and last, worse than all the rest, fine-featured and crowned in gold. She wipes herself from his brow and leaves him to his hungry sisters.