Dawn found the group in the snow. The rest of the night they had journeyed higher up the mountain, in an attempt to evade the snakes.
"They shouldn't . . . be able to follow . . . us here," panted Tristan. The snake's venom was starting to take its toll on him; even he couldn't resist that much venom for very long.
Cynthia felt a twinge in her belly. It was similar to what she felt when a growing cycle was about to start, but not quite the same. This feeling was actually familiar to her, but she couldn't quite place it at the time as she was more worried about how red Tristan's face was getting. "We should find some shelter soon. You need to lie down."
"Hey," called Demetri from up ahead, "I found a cave. Hurry up and get over here, before I turn into charcoal."
"We're coming!" Cynthia called back. "Come on, Tristan, we can rest just up ahead."
The two supported each other to the mouth of the cave, where Cynthia gently lowered the tall boy to the floor. "Are you alright, Cynthia?" asked Tristan softly, barely able to remain lucid.
"That's my line," remarked Demetri as he helped Cynthia manoeuvre herself into a sitting position next to Tristan. Her stomach was now so large that it spilled onto her lap, even when she leaned back against the wall, making getting comfortable a difficult task. "You both really need to start worrying about yourselves at this point. How are you two doing?"
"I'm fine, but Tristan's got a fever," stated Cynthia as she laid a hand over Tristan's forehead.
"We should probably stay here a few days, to let the venom work its way out of his system. If he moves around too much, it'll only make things worse. The same goes for you, Cynthia. Now get some sleep, we all need it."
Too tired to make any sort of smart remark, and too worried about Tristan to care, Cynthia stared at the now unconscious form of Tristan. His brow was furrowed and sweat began to trickle down his face as his body tried to fight the snakes' venom. Cynthia ignored a twinge in her stomach as she nuzzled her head under Tristan's arm and wrapped her free wing over the both of them before falling asleep.
Dusk came slowly. Cynthia was already awake to witness the sunset when Demetri finally opened his eyes. He looked to the mouth of the cave to see her sitting there, wings outstretched so they cast a shadow over him. She turned her head to look at him. "You forgot to consider the angle of the sun when you chose your bed." She turned to reface the sunset and the last vestiges of the sun as it drifted below the horizon. "Tristan's gotten worse. I don't know what to do for him."
Demetri stood and walked over to the slumbering form of Tristan. His breaths were shallow and his clothes were now soaked in sweat. Demetri swore under his breath. "That was some potent venom. He might not make it."
"Isn't there anything you can do for him?" Cynthia begged, now at Tristan's side.
"I don't know. I don't have experience treating snake bites. I know we'd need an anti-venom if we wanted to treat him, but I wouldn't even begin to know how to make one."
"Are you saying he could die?!" Cynthia's wide eyes were met with Demetri's blank, tight-lipped gaze. "No! What about you? You drank the snakes' blood, and I saw a few bite you, surely you must have produced some sort of antidote in your blood."
"It's possible, and it really is the only thing we can try at this point." Demetri reached for the sword sitting on Tristan's belt and used it to cut his wrist. He held the wound over Tristan's open mouth and watched as the crimson blood dripped away. He did this until the cut stopped bleeding, then tore off a strip of his shirt to use as a bandage.
"Here, let me help you with that," offered Cynthia as Demetri fumbled with the cloth. "Are you going to be alright?"
"I-I'll be fine," he panted heavily. "Just . . . just let me rest a while."
Cynthia turned her attention back to Tristan, who was just beginning to wake. "Nn, where am I?"
"Shh, we're in the mountains, remember?"
"Ugh, why do I taste blood?"
"Well, you were getting worse, so Demetri gave you some of his blood, since his body's made an antidote of sorts to the snake venom. "
"He did WHAT?!" Tristan shouted, now fully awake.
"Shh, not so loud. Demetri's trying to sleep."
"He could have killed us all with that sort of stunt! What was he thinking?"
"He saved your life, Tristan. Show a little gratitude. I -" Cynthia was cut off by another twinge in her belly. She placed a hand on the massive orb of flesh, feeling the muscles beneath contract. Understanding shot through her mind like an arrow as she realized just how big of a problem they were all in.
"What's wrong, Cynthia? Are you in labor?" Worry saturated every one of Tristan's fevered features.
Cynthia turned to him and pasted on a smile. "No, I'm just hungry, is all. I'll ask Demetri to go find us something when he wakes up."
Tristan wasn't sure if he believed her or not, but he didn't have the strength to argue the matter. He leaned back against the cave wall with a groan. "I feel like I've been trampled by a horse."
Two hours later, Demetri finally reawakened. Cynthia was pacing the length of the cave, while Tristan napped.
"It's too cold here," she mumbled to herself, "but if we go back below the snow line the naga will find us and probably kill them. Oh, what to do, what to do?" She stopped her pacing for a moment as she felt another contraction.
Demetri watched her continue with her brooding for another minute or so before speaking. "You're in labor, aren't you." The way he said it was more like a statement than a question.
Cynthia gasped, jumping a little, before noticing Demetri staring at her. She knew lying to him would be pointless. "Yes, but it's just the early stages now. We really should worry more about Tristan. He's gotten better, but I don't think he'll be able to heal very fast in this climate."
"Aren't you uncomfortable standing like that? You really should sit down."
"I would, but my legs fell asleep, so I was trying to wake them up. Besides, I think better if I'm moving." She rubbed her belly as she felt another contraction. "What about you? How are you holding up?"
"Thirsty, but I think I can manage." He took a glance at Tristan. "We really should move him to an area with less snow. Do you think you can manage a hike down the mountain."
"I think I'll be fine as long as we don't go too fast."
And so the two of them carried Tristan down the mountain and found another cave to rest in. This one had a hot spring bubbling within it. "Even with the warmth and my blood, he's still going to take a few days to fully recover. He took in a lot of venom."
Cynthia placed her hands on her stomach and winced. "Urgh, I probably shouldn't have done that. I need to lie down." She carefully maundered herself down the wall and into a seated position.
Demetri walked up to her and placed his hands on her belly. Cynthia gasped at how cold his hands were. Having given Tristan back his coat, since he needed it more than her at the time, her stomach was exposed for all to see, and seemed even bigger for it.
"C-cold. Your hands are really cold, Demetri."
"You're going to lay soon. Why didn't you tell me the contractions were already this strong?"
"Honestly, I hardly noticed them over the weight. They're no worse than when I was egg laden at school. I guess since I laid so many there, I just sort of got used to it. Nngh!" Another contraction struck her and she felt the entire brood shift as one of the eggs got into position for laying.
Tristan woke at that moment, seeing Cynthia in pain. His own weakness forgotten he rushed to her side. "Are you alright, Cynthia?"
"I'm fine, Tristan. Go back to sleep, you need to rest."
Tristan looked over at Demetri, who's tight-lipped expression betrayed Cynthia's words. "She's in labour, isn't she?" Demetri could only nod in response, head suddenly reeling. "You need blood. You can't work if you're thirsty."
"But she could be ready any minute now, I need to stay. What if there are complications? And you're in no condition to be handling a girl in labour."
"There'll be worse than complications if she starts bleeding, and I'll be fine. Go and hunt, I'll call you if there are any problems." Demetri hesitated, but could not argue with the look in Tristan's eyes.
"I'll be back soon," he promised, then disappeared into the forest.