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When Brienna was conceived, it was a joyous occasion in O’orn.  The first child of Tiban and Branlei was the first princess O’orn had known in many generations.  When the pregnancy was announced to the people, it was as if a new sun had risen on the world.  All of O’orn celebrated the miracle.  O’orn would have a new sister.

Branlei had always been healthy and strong, but something strange happened during the first few months of her pregnancy.  She became young again.  At 41, she was not considered old, not even too old to bear a child, but a good, healthy middle age.  She became 21 again.  The few gray streaks in her hair faded away, and the glowing golden hair of her youth returned.  The few wrinkles she had around her eyes and neck completely left her body, and her skin became smooth and tight and creamy.  She had the energy of ten boys.  Other women looked at her in wonder.  Not only did she continue doing the work she had always done, but she took on new duties–physical labor, reading, sewing, cooking.  She was a new woman.

The baby came at the proper time, healthy and strong, with powerful lungs.  The hundred O’orn waiting breathlessly outside the home of Tiban and Branlei all heard Brienna’s welcoming cry.  Then, the cord was cut and Brienna’s life-blood was ripped away from Branlei.  Suddenly, Branlei began to fade.  Her skin turned gray.  The light in her eyes faded.  Her strength waned, and her milk quickly dried up.  Tiban called for the healers, but there was nothing they could do.  Branlei was dying.  The light that had grown inside her for nine months was gone.  It had not been Branlei giving life to her daughter.  It had been the daughter giving life to her mother.

Late that night, Tiban crept into Brienna’s nursery, gathered her into his arms, and took her into her mothers room.  Branlei was sleeping, her breathing rough and ragged, as Tiban sat down on the bed next to her, and lay Brienna on her mother’s breast.  The tiny babe looked into her mothers weak, sleeping face, and smiled.  Branlei’s eyes flickered open and the two women stared into each others souls for many minutes.  Branlei reached out and laid her hand on top of Brienna’s smooth head, and began to cry.  The light returned to her eyes.

From that moment, all of O’orn knew that their new princess was truly a gift and a miracle.  She was their greatest treasure.


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