This week, we get the real deal on Shad, the official midwife of Feathermoon.
Celesse was his first. He never counted Eurydice, because no matter how she plead, promised, or punished, he always refused her that final step. No, it was the woman he chose to be his wife with whom he finally joined under the shade of a great oak on the shores of Lake Elune’ara. She was beautiful, graceful, so much the ideal woman that he’d been sure that it was love. That it was forever. He didn’t regret those six months, two of whirlwind courtship and four of everything men bemoaned when they shunned marriage. Was it any surprise that he also didn’t regret the kiss that had ruined it all?
In an occupation where these things should have been months preplanned, his first was a surprise. He’d offered some help at the start, but to be there for the terrifying, bloody end of it hadn’t been on the menu. To this day, he’d still never had one that bled as much as that first one. It had taken all his training not to run, but in the end, it was worth it. Most Riders made their way in the world by killing. He considered it a blessing that he’d found another path to take. Nerida O’Connaugh was a most satisfying first child to have to his midwifing credit.
Like most boys, he could count his father as his first. And like so many boys he was so certain that No Really, His Father Hated Him. Why else had he been such a draconian instructor? He’d once made his son sit for three days and nights in the freezing cold of Winterspring, refusing him shelter until he’d felt the pulse of a pine. Even then, he’d never been satisfied. Never once praised him. But he’d show the Dreaming bastard. He’d be twice the druid his father ever was.
There was no question that Fells was his finest. Though his mother had taught him about love, it had been Fells who taught him how, and in the flickering shadows of the waterfall that blurred the bliss of fireworks into a shimmering glow, he’d thanked her for her patience in spades. She wasn’t everything he’d ever dreamed of, but it turned out everything he’d ever dreamed of was pretty stupid, and he never could have fathomed what it was like to actually be happy with someone. She didn’t try to make him into someone he wasn’t; she transformed him effortlessly into who he was supposed to be. Even if she’d only live sixty years more, he knew they’d be the best he’d ever see.
If he had to pick just one, it would have to be Felicia that was his finest, as she demanded that she be born all of fifteen minutes before her twin. Regardless of who’d come forth first, they’d both been his greatest triumph: twins gotten on a once-barren woman thanks to his magics, and a difficult delivery for which he didn’t have to call in more competent help. She–they–were proof that he wasn’t a failure, and the best gift he could offer to the woman he loved. And during the long nights full of screaming infants, that was the thought that kept him sane.
Era was definitely his finest. After the months they’d struggled for control of the plague-ravaged body they shared, the panther would surely have felt fully justified simply slaying his captor and/or taking over entirely. Instead, he’d taught the lonely child what it meant to be a cat, and gradually helped shape him into a man. That they’d grown into equal brothers only made Shad all the more grateful that Era had endured his years of obnoxious condescension. How had he failed to see then that he’d never really been in charge at all?
His last was something of an awkward topic, at least outside of their little family. Sure, he’d been the one to propose the arrangement and insisted that all things had to be equal, but that didn’t make it any less strange to be pulling Zeve down to the mattress with him. But oh, he’d moved as slowly and gently as he would have while treating a wounded tiger, forestalling both flight and fight from both sides of the dance. Of course it wasn’t perfect; he’d have been concerned if it was. But in the end, Zeve’s words always put it best: it was Right.
Technically, his last wasn’t finished yet, but it was his most recent. Baby Boy Windwhisper (as he was presently known) would not come into the world for months yet, but he’d already made his mark. Shad didn’t get many kaldorei clients for obvious biological reasons, and those he did had always been, if not ready, then grateful for the blessing. But in so many ways, his last was also his first. Corrienda was the first to complain of being too young. She was the first for whom he’d researched the remedies taught by whores who’d disposed of unwanted baggage. And even though he hadn’t had to put them into practice for her, she was the first he had to struggle not to despise.
Tarquin was his last. The Riders pledged allegiance to the black and red, not directly to him, but all jobs and orders ultimately filtered through the Boss’s nimble fingers and trickled off his wicked tongue. Shad didn’t know him very well, but did anyone, really? He knew enough; he’d put his life in the man’s hands as both ally and adversary over the years, and his heart still beat, and that was all he needed. Really, if anything made Tarquin special, it was that: Shad didn’t need a damned thing from him other than trust.