“Jaessa Elizabeth Dagon. That sounds absolutely perfect,” he agreed and leaned over to kiss his sleeping daughter in his arms. Smiling with tears in his eyes, he looked at Leigha as he settled back against the pillows and said, “She is absolutely perfect. Thank you, my love.”
Leigha smiled tremulously as he closed his eyes, his breathing now uneven and labored, and his pallor grayish white from the seemingly small exertion he had made. The baby snuggled closer in her father’s arms and all was silent as both rested. Leigha sat quietly watching them for several minutes, capturing the precious moment to hold in her heart forever. Her heart broke anew as she wondered if God would grant them more times such as this.
“Leigha, there is yet one more thing to be done now.” Robert startled her from her thoughts as he spoke and opened his eyes, showing the faint spark of life that still remained as he gazed lovingly at her.
“What is it, darling?” she asked as she took his hand in hers, deeply concerned about what other matter there was yet to face that might draw from him the last of his strength.
“The amulet, I have not asked what happened to it, and frankly, I haven’t cared before now,” he answered, his voice trembling and his eyes cold as he spoke of the dreaded object, “but I have a daughter, and by tradition, it is rightfully hers and must come from me. I would have given it to her upon her marriage but since I am to die long before such a time will come, I wish to give it to her now. I am praying that unlike what has happened to me, it will bring only happiness to her. So please tell me where it is. It was not left in Constantinople, was it?”
“No, I believe that Father has it,” she replied, her eyes misting as she thought of that terrible night when Stephen had taken it. Shaking her head to rid herself of the painful memories, she continued, “I saw him replace it in its pouch. As far as I know, he has not removed it since.”
“Please go to him and have him bring it to me now,” Robert spoke with a rasping voice.
“Surely this can wait until later,” she exclaimed, her worry over his evident weakness drawing tense lines in her brow as she spoke. “You are tired and must rest, my darling.”
“No. I have you and Jaessa here with me now, and this may be the last time that I will be able to be alert to all around me,” he said sternly. Lifting his hand slightly off the bed and signaling towards the door, he commanded, “Go and bring me what I have asked. I will give the amulet to my daughter now.”
“All right then.” Leigha nodded slowly, her heart catching in her throat at his words. Reluctantly rising from her seat, she said, “I will go, but you must rest. Here, I’ll take the child.”
Leigha reached down to her sleeping daughter as she spoke, but Robert held out his hand to stop her. Smiling warmly at his wife, he shook his head slowly and drew the child closer to him.
“Do not worry about Jaessa, she will be safe here with me while you are gone,” he said quietly as he nestled the babe in his arms.
“Yes, I know that she will,” Leigha said with a smile. Bending over her husband, she gave him a light kiss and stroked his face with her hand before turning to go. “I will be back as soon as I can.”
“Please hurry, Leigha,” he whispered after she had left the room, closing the door softly behind her. His tears were falling once again as he gazed down at his child, and he cried softly into the silence of the room. “I know that the seconds are speeding past and that I will not last this day through. Oh god! That I could but know you and watch you grow, Jaessa! You will be well taken care of, I know, but there is little in this world that I can give to you. I pray that the gift that I do give will not bring tragedy to you as it has to me, ‘tis all that I have left to give you now.”
The afternoon sun went behind the gathering clouds, taking its rays from the room as Robert lay his head down against his daughter’s and let his tears fall freely. The infant awakened and squirmed until Robert regained control of his emotions and soothed her, cradling her lovingly in his arms as he waited for Leigha to return. He shivered in the dusk of the now darkening room, feeling his strength of mind and body draining quickly from him. He knew instinctively that the next time he slept would be his last, and his heart bled with his grief.
“Please God, allow me just a little more time,” he prayed, and he was answered as the sun came swiftly shining through a break in the cloudy skies beyond to brighten his room once again and stop his shivering with its warmth.
Dagon’s Blood ~ Virginia Lee
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