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Speakers almost always have more than one child, except for Sypha’s mother. Sypha was born late and after a long, traumatic labor. It took her mother “an age and a day” to bond with her newborn- but she always said “that day after the the age was like breaking a dam and all my love just burst forth.” Her parents decided that it was enough for them just to have her. And despite convention Sypha never wanted for friends or companions. She ran underfoot of the caravan with all the other children.

 

“Little devils,” the adults would say. “Little devils!” the children repeated back. They made a fun game out of playful annoyance.

 

Sometimes Sypha wonders if Speaker children still play little devils, now that actual devils walk the land.

 

As with her first two pregnancies, Sypha has a tendency to wander. In this state she always feels like part of herself is detached- somewhere outside her body but close by. She follows it up and down the infinite stairs of Dracula’s castle and through all its nooks and hidden places until every corner of the monolithic structure is familiar. She spends whole days in the mysterious engine room with all its gears and machines melted by her hands, remembers the power and strength it took. This was something Trevor and perhaps even Alucard would never understand, having only fought Dracula face to face. All creations are imbued with a part of their architect. fighting the castle didn’t feel the same as fighting the man. The engine and all its moving parts held a spirit that Dracula, by the time he was ready to die, had long since abandoned.

 

Sometimes Sypha talks to the portrait of Dracula and Lisa, hung in a red painted room with scarcely four paintings. If Dracula’s old soul lives in his world engine, his old heart lives in that picture.

 

Trevor and Alucard won’t let Sypha wander alone very long. She hears Trevor’s heavy footfalls echo through the room long before he wraps gentle arms around her, rests his chin on top of her head.

 

“I am not a statue for you to lean on.” She says.

 

“But you let me do it anyway.” Trevor retorts. Just for the cheeky tone of his voice, Sypha blows a freezing breath up into his face.

 

“Ah! What was that for?” She steps away and flicks his icy nose.

 

“Being rude. It has been almost fifteen years, Treffy. Surely you know how I will react by now.”

 

“Don’t call me Treffy…” Trevor mumbles. He looks so pathetic that Sypha loses interest in teasing him, instead stepping back into his space, kissing him with magic-warmed lips. It’s a fun distraction for a few minutes (because though she’s only ever said it to Alucard but Trevor is an excellent kisser, which he agrees.) Until the baby decides it’s had enough.

 

“Ow!”

 

“Fuck! Why did you do that?” Trevor clutches his chin where Sypha headbutted him. She doesn’t care to feel sorry for it while her side is blooming in pain.

 

“Your child has kicked me in the ribs.” She grits out.

 

“Our child.” He corrects. “It’s probably Alucard’s doing now that I think about it. Simon was never so fussy.” Ahh. She really is going to kill Trevor one day.

 

“Go sit against that wall,” Sypha tells him. To Trevor’s credit he does it immediately. Alucard had once brought up that perhaps Trevor was attracted to authority. It was a fun few days staving off winter boredom, testing that hypothesis. Trevor quickly gets the idea and helps Sypha down to the floor where she leans back into the vee between Trevor’s knees. The pain is beginning to subside.

 

“Mighty Sypha, struck down by an unborn infant. That never ceases to amaze me.”

 

“You think I am mighty?”

 

“You’re the mightiest magician I’ve ever met.”

 

“You’ve only met one.”

 

Trevor laughs. Sypha feels it roll down her spine and for a moment, the baby stops fussing inside of her. “True. But you’ve set the bar quite high.”

 

Sypha hums. “I do not feel very mighty when I am like this.” It is, all in all, a grand reduction of the complexity of her feelings. To name every facet and flux of how she feels would take enough time to see the autumn leaves drop twice over. Probably. And it is by no means information that Trevor has not heard before. Sypha has spent fifteen years with her two loves, and has never been one to conceal what she thinks.

 

“Hmm. I could throw some rocks around outside for you to blast with fireballs?”

 

“Perhaps later. I don’t want to move.”

 

“Am I a good enough chair at least?”

 

Sypha pats his thigh. “You will do.”

It is much later when Simon comes barrelling through the open doors breaking their contemplative silence. Truth be told Sypha might have fallen asleep there on the ground with no doubt that Trevor would let her rest while his legs fell asleep. But one cannot live in their household and expect more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

 

“Mama! Papa! Tati is juggling you have to come see!” Simon threw himself over the pair and rolled off just as quick. He may have the features of a Belmont, but the boundless energy was purely Sypha.

 

“Oh? How exciting. Trevor, help me up.” Sypha exclaimed. “Where is he Simon?”

 

“In the kitchen and I told him to keep going until you saw but that was ages ago! Come on!” The two trundled off, Simon skipping about and Sypha obviously waddling as fast as she could. So much for not wanting to move, Trevor thought. Then he thought again.

 

“Simon? What is your tati juggling?”

 

The boy turned around, his grin an acre wide.

 

“Knives!”

 


 

 

One of the disadvantages to living where they do is that the nearest town is over a mile away by foot. And the villagers are… less than enthusiastic about their new neighbors. Over the years there had been a few attempts to evict the family that always ended in frustration on both sides. Of the three nearby settlements Sypha, Trevor and Alucard have only had consistently easy relations with one. And it is thanks in no small part to Laura.

 

“The head is in good position. You will begin labor before Saint Leopold’s feast. I am certain.”

 

Laura goes to remove a steaming teapot from the fire while Sypha rights her clothes. She has an extensive collection of old dresses that once belonged to Lisa Tepes and some skirts she will throw on over a shirt from Trevor or Alucard on a lazy day, but still she prefers the outer layers of her Speaker robes above all else. Today is definitely a skirt-and-shirt day. When Laura returns Sypha graciously accepts the heavy mug.

 

“I would rather have given birth on the road compared to all this waiting.”

 

They sit opposite each other at the table, and the midday light filters beautifully through the edges of Laura’s tight curls.

 

“False contractions are very common. I’m surprised you’ve never had them before.”

 

“My children are not so indecisive.” The two women laugh and Sypha feels the comfort of conversation settle in around the room. They talk of everything and nothing, Laura having no other women to visit and no reason to leave unless called upon.

 

Shortly after Sypha’s departure with Trevor, that bittersweet goodbye from a freshly traumatized Alucard wearing smiles like a poorly tied bandage- Laura entered the picture. She was only a girl of fifteen who walked up the castle steps on a friendly dare. The way Alucard tells it, after opening the door “she cowered for at least a minute then came to her senses and wouldn’t leave me alone.” Ever since then Laura has been availing herself of Dracula’s accumulated texts and putting to use long forgotten techniques in midwifery for laboring women of towns near and far. She also dabbled in herbology. And astronomy. And several ancient languages. Whatever she could get her hands on. Alucard’s friendship and Laura’s own hand in saving the lives of many a prodigal son have protected her from the persecution of the Church.

 

It isn’t long before their bright afternoon sun settles into a warm orange glow. Sypha has no qualms about traveling home alone in the dark. It does, however, raise an interesting opportunity.

 

“Would you like to make a wager?” she asks Laura.

 

“Depends on the bet.”

 

“How many minutes past sunset it will take before one of them comes to fetch me.”

 

“Are we betting on his mood also?”

 

“No. Those men will not dare say I belong at home in my condition but I can tell when they think it.”

 

“True enough. Alright then– I’ll say no more than thirty minutes for both.”

 

“Ten minutes maximum on one.” Sypha won’t say that Simon woke with a stomach ache that morning. The only way Trevor would leave his ill child’s bedside was a full frontal assault on the castle. The women shook hands and settled in to play the waiting game. Mothers in the village were starting the chorus of leaning out their doors to call wayward children home for dinner. Candles in their windows turned the darkening landscape into a cluster of stars pulled down from Heaven.

 

Laura owned a relatively new timepiece, a luxury given in payment by a foreign lord from the eastern caliphate of her homeland. When it showed exactly nine minutes past the lighting of the tavern torches, a shadow fell on the door.

 

“Ha! That’s one crown to me.” Sypha declares.

“Not quite.” Laura replies when the door opened and four bodies spill into the room with cursory greetings. Alucard holds a sleeping Simon in his arms. Marie walks up to her mother and rolls her eyes.

 

“I told them we would be fine riding back but they insisted on coming.” She says. Only Trevor has the decency to look guilty.




 

 

It happens like this.

 

Minutes before the end of November the 16th Sypha wakes in a puddle of pinkish, lukewarm waters. Her abdomen is aflame in furious tightness, coming in waves that blend one into the next into the next. She kicks Alucard off the bed. Trevor comes running at the sound of screams- he’d been in Simon’s room down the hall assuring the young boy that his dreams of a banshee weren’t real.

 

An hour passes and Sypha keeps barking at the two men to stay put, hold her hand, don’t go rushing off to get help. She feels twisting in her gut and knows the baby will be born long before a galloping horse would hope to reach the closest settlement.  

 

In one moment Sypha is pacing around the threadbare carpet of the bedroom, Trevor on her left and Alucard on her right. A fire has sprung up from nowhere and their sheets are all pulled to the ground. In the next moment her knees hit the floor and a squealing daughter comes sliding out from where Sypha is bloody and split, almost too quick for Alucard to catch her in his bare arms.

 

Almost.

 

In three hours their grand, luxurious bed has doubled its occupants. Sypha lays propped up in the middle. Trevor and Alucard have each taken their sides and make nonsense noises at the baby in Sypha’s arms. Their fingers gently intertwine across the bundle wrapped in Trevor’s shirt. Across their six legs Simon and Marie lay in a dead sleep. Even the largest bed in their large castle could not hold the entire family without overlap, but the heavy press of bodies against one another is eagerly welcome.

 

The baby cheeps in her sleep, dreaming of the faces of her siblings and her parents, who won’t sleep at all in the coming days. Gently, Alucard reaches out and thumbs a line down the baby’s soft blonde hair. She will be thoughtful and outspoken. She will test the patience of every Belmont, Tepes and Belnades until only the thinnest protective layer of familial love remains. She will be a whirlwind, little Lisa. For now, she sleeps.