Here’s the bonus epilogue scene I promised in the end notes of Fractured Flowers! Ember’s had her babies, and it’s time for her and Herne to name them.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
“How are you doing, love?” Herne asked, peeking into the room.
I was sitting up, back against the headboard, sore as hell. The whole natural birth thing wasn’t a go for me—Ferosyn had quickly determined that I wasn’t built to spurt out three babies in a row, so he had put me under and when I woke up, I was neatly stitched up and high as a kite on pain meds. The triplets were all good, and now—a few hours later—I was comfortable as long as I didn’t move around much, and the babies were all in their sleeping baskets, sitting on the bed next to me. The wet nurses were there, ready to feed them. The medication I was on wasn’t safe to pass through to the girls, and Ferosyn said that from what he could tell, my milk wouldn’t be enough to feed all three. Mr. Rumblebutt was sleeping on the other side, snoring away.
“I feel like somebody punched me in the gut, but the drugs take the edge off,” I said, still staring at the babies. It amazed me that they had come out of my body, that Herne and I had created these little blobs of joy who would grow up to be goddesses. The girls were tiny—so tiny it frightened me. I wasn’t a maternal person, but I already knew I’d fight to the death to protect them. I loved them fiercely already, but I was grateful for the nannies who would step in and help make the job so much easier.
Herne settled down next to the three baskets on the massive bed. I’d never seen him look so proud as he leaned down to inspect his children. “They’re beautiful. Even though they’re fraternal, I think they all look like you,” he added, glancing up. “I know this sounds whiny, but I wish I’d been able to see Danielle when she was a baby. I wish I’d known about her from the beginning.”
Herne’s other daughter was the result between Herne and an Amazon. He hadn’t known about her until a few years ago, but he was doing his best to make up for the missing time. In fact, she was waiting for me to feel a bit better to come in and visit.
“You know that she’s part of our family,” I said. “Danielle is your blood, and there’s no way that I consider her any less your daughter than these three here.” I wanted to make certain that Herne knew that I wouldn’t ever push Danielle to the side. In fact, she and I got along great now, and I looked forward to her visits. She was excited about the babies and wanted to be here to help with them for the first month.
The room felt cavernous. Our castle was massive, and we had enough room in our suite that I could have fit my whole house back on Earth inside. Cernunnos had sent us hundreds of lightning flits and they were scattered around the castle, illuminating the chambers and hallways. They provided a soft, comforting glow.
“I know, and I’m grateful that you accept her so readily. Her mother certainly leaves a lot to be desired,” he said, grumbling. “So, what shall we name them? Their name-day is coming up shortly and we have to make the announcement to the village.”
I still hadn’t gotten used to the fact that we were in charge of an entire village of people—that we ruled over a massive area of land in Annwn. We had talked about going back to Earth to live, and Herne was there part time as it was, running the Wild Hunt since Yutani hadn’t been able to make a go of being the leader. But leadership wasn’t Yutani’s forte. In my heart, I felt it had been unfair for Herne to ask him to take the job. Everything was sorted out, though, and Herne was back at the job he loved. But I didn’t want our children growing up on the streets of Seattle. When they were a bit older, maybe. I missed my home. But I was growing used to the wilds of Annwn, and the vast sea a thousand feet below where our castle overlooked it had become an old friend. I would go there and sit by the shores, thinking and interacting with the elementals.
I looked at our children. The firstborn was wide-eyed and observant, that was already apparent. Her eyes glinted with the energy of water and I knew that my Leannan Sidhe heritage would come out in her, even though she was a baby goddess.
“I’d like to name her Mara, after the sea.” I stroked her face and she gave a little gasp and pressed her cheek against my fingers. A deep sense of connection raced through me as she opened her eyes and held my gaze. “She’s strong, this one. She’s going to grow up wild and free, and stubborn. I can sense it.”
Herne smiled. “Mara, it is.”
“Do you want to name our second-born?” I asked, wanting him to participate. Our second daughter had eyes that already seemed to focus, and she felt grounded in the forest to me.
Herne picked up her up, holding her to his chest. After a moment, he nodded and said, “Nightshade. She’ll be a cagey one. I think she carries both your Autumn Bane heritage as well as my woodland energy. Ten to one she’ll be able to outshoot us with a good bow by the time she’s ten.”
“Nightshade…I like it,” I said. “What about our third princess?” As we stared down at our third daughter, I thought I detected sparkles emanating from her hands. Magic, uncontrolled and unconstrained. She carried magic in her soul. I pointed to the gently drifting sparks. “She’s a born witch.”
“Well, her great grandfather is the Merlin, so that doesn’t surprise me, actually,” Herne said.
“Do you want to name her after your mother? Morgana?”
He shook his head. “No, she deserves her own name, not to live in my mother’s shadow.”
I thought for a moment. “Let’s name her Ionie, after the priestess who served Selene.” Selene was a moon goddess, and her head priestess, Ionie, had fought against creatures of the sun who came to disrupt the Moon goddess’s lands. It was a little known legend, but Ionie had been a powerful sorceress and priestess who had singlehandedly protected her temple. I’d been learning a lot from my tutors as I had studied, adjusting to life as a goddess. While I was pregnant, there hadn’t been much else for me to do except read and hold court.
Herne considered the name, then booped me on the nose. “Ionie, it is. So, Mara, Nightshade, and Ionie. I’ll inform my mother and father and we’ll set the date for their Naming Ceremony. We need to pick guardians for each of the girls.”
“You know who I want to be their goddess-mother.”
“Angel, I assume?”
I nodded. “I can’t think of anybody I’d trust more. And she’ll be going through the Gadawnoin soon. If we need a backup, then I suppose your mother—”
“What about Raven?” Herne asked.
I stared at him, shaking my head. “As much as I love Raven, she’s barely into adulthood herself. She and Kipa are finding their way as a couple and they’re engaged. I don’t want to saddle them into responsibility like this. While we’re all immortal, the fact is the gods-parents are an important part of the children’s lives.” I shrugged. “I think actually, asking Cernunnos and Morgana remains the best idea. I’ll ask Angel and Raven to be their faerie-god mothers, which is a lighter hearted task.”
Herne finally agreed with me, and so we settled that matter. As the babies woke for their feeding, the wet nurses gathered near the bed, each one shouldering one of our daughters so we could be near for the feeding. I wished my parents could be here to see their grandchildren. I wished, in some ways, that we were back in Seattle, just a normal family on a normal street. But that life was long gone, and our daughters would grow up as the goddesses they were. Herne scooted so he was sitting beside me, and he rested his arm around my shoulder.
“I love you,” he whispered. “Thank you for everything. For being you. For loving me. For moving here to be with me. For our daughters.”
“Hey, it’s what I want,” I said, snuggling so that I was resting gently in his arms. I yawned, exhausted. We had our babies, and that was enough for me—Ferosyn had obeyed my wishes and, after the births, made sure there would be no more. Three children was more than enough for me.
As we sat there, drifting along while the babies gurgled as they fed, Danielle gently entered the room and we motioned for her to climb aboard the massive bed. She curled on the end, accepting Nightshade—who had finished nursing. We were quiet, the minutes ticking away the afternoon, but everything felt perfect. And while I knew that ‘happily ever after’ didn’t really exist, we were happy for now, and that was enough.
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