How did I stray so far from my path? Joanna lay on her side in the over-sized bed. The quilted blanket that was tucked up over her shoulder was more for security and comfort than it was for warmth. It was far from chilly in the spacious room. Her mocha eyes, puffy and red with grief, were locked on the crackling fire in the hearth a few feet away. All I have ever wanted was a child of my own This had been the fifth child she had failed to carry to full term. What seemed to be so easy for so many had proven time and again to end in emptiness and sorrow for the Magincian woman. This time, however, she knew that the fault lay with her own decisions, it had not been a normal miscarriage. Her time in captivity, held by that most unnatural servant of Dealthagar, had unlocked issues in her mind that she had been so afraid to address. She was a compassionate woman by nature and during her time entrapped she had begun to feel pity for Sularis, her captor. It had been the only shred of warmth she had known for so many long months in his holding. It had enabled her to deal with the situation, until that moment in which she had devised her own freedom. During that time she had been impregnated, an experiment of his master's to see if gargoyles and humans could breed. She had birthed an egg which had not survived. As despicable as his actions had been, Sularis had been the only consistent man in her life at that point with his devotion. If one could call it that. Her mind had clung to that warped ideal, and it was this desperate act which had later made it possible for her to develop emotion toward her guard, the noble Arunadar. Humanis she might be, but human men had failed her so many times in this one area she so desperately longed for. She had been cast aside so many times, Arunadar's dedication had been accepted, nay welcomed. Now she lay staring at the flames in the fireplace, locked in the turmoil of her mind. Nature had not been accepting of her trying to have a child with her beloved guard. She had been punished for the attempt. The aftermath of her body's rejection of the half-gargoyle would take her womb a good deal of time to heal. She had expected another egg, based on what had been done to her by Sularis, but instead the child had at first grown like any normal human child. And later, beyond any natural human process. Gargoyles have talons, which the human female's womb is not designed by nature to contain. Every cherished kick the child administered had scratched at the placenta. Eventually, its claws had become so developed that it had ruptured its own source of nourishment. Both her body and the child had sensed the peril, and Nature had begun to take over. The unborn child's panicked writhing had torn its mother's womb on the inside, and birth had been forced by a healer for her own survival. Her internal scarring would remain for the rest of her life, and decrease even further her chances of becoming pregnant in the future. She had been truly and severely punished for going against Nature. It was a lesson she would dearly take to heart.