TITLE: Steam Palace
Lady Victoria Stratton cradled the dead baby in her arms. She huddled on her magnificent brass bed in the center of the master bedchamber of Stratton Manor. The beautiful girl was blue and still. For a heart-wrenching hour, the newborn had gasped and gurgled, then her motions ceased. Another child dead--gone before she could even meet her father. Curse that wretched King and his demands.
"I'm so sorry," said Beatrice. Her husband's sister approached, a youthful widow with no business at this manor. The oil lamps flickered against the night. "Please, let us lay her to rest. She's in God's hands now." She held out her arms to receive the corpse.
"No!" How could a mother not hold her child? "Everyone, leave me! Now!" The attendants gathered up the bloodstained birthing towels and shuffled off. Victoria motioned to Beatrice who followed. "You. Stay. I wish not to be alone."
She reclined in her bed, pressed the baby to her breast, and stroked her back in forlorn hope. Beatrice sat at her side and caressed Victoria's head and shoulders. Victoria slumped, unable to maintain her vigil. A newborn's cries awoke her.
"My baby! My baby is not dead!"
The tiny body had rolled away in the night, her eyes unblinking, her body cool and stiff. "NO!"
Beatrice stumbled out of a chair. "What?"
"Shh! Listen." The cries echoed from elsewhere in the manor. Victoria wrapped the body and rushed from the room, dizzy from her ordeal, and traced the sound.