Author Topic: Birth of a Prince  (Read 210 times)

Nasir

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Birth of a Prince
« on: April 24, 2020, 12:16:22 PM »
Timing, as they say, is everything. It had been under a year since Nasir had come to the throne of Valentia, under a year since the harem complex had seen murder and torture in the wake of the former king's death. Less than six months since the new king had formally both married his chosen concubine and announced that she would be crowned his queen once she had given birth to their first child. So many things had changed in the country, yet the transition had been a surprisingly smooth one. The people who lived in the capital professed nothing but absolute faith in their young king and his circle of advisors. They would certainly not have believed that, at this moment, both he and one of those advisors were waiting anxiously outside the harem complex, unable to relax until they heard news of what was going on within.

Nasir had settled in well, not only to his new role as king, but also to that of being a husband. Being a father, though, was a role he was uncertain of, but what was making him even more nervous was the knowledge that his beloved Safiya was at this very moment struggling to give birth to their child. He was smart enough to know that childbirth did not always go well, and this was an important birth. The very future of Valentia depended on it.

"What do you think is going on in there, Ezra?" Nasir asked as he paced the floor, the hem of his robe trailing against the floor behind him.

In contrast to Nasir's pacing, Ezra was deceptively still, standing by the wall, his hands folded at his back. He was as concerned as his friend and king - it was not just Safiya giving birth today. Almost as soon as the news had reached them that she was in labor, his own wife - Teres - had gone into labor, leaving both men on edge as they waited for news.

"I am sure they would have sent for us if something had gone wrong," was all he could say in answer to Nasir's question.

"Do you think so?" Nasir said, pausing in step to gaze at his friend. He knew Ezra was likely as nervous as he was, but his friend was just better at controlling his emotions. "I do not know what I will do if anything happens to Safi," he confessed, sure Ezra felt the same about Teres.

"Women give birth every day," Ezra said, though he could just as easily have been reassuring himself. "And in conditions far worse than here in the palace. They are in the Goddess' hands."

Nasir sighed. He knew his friend was right, but while he professed that the women were in the hands of the Goddess', they were also in the hand of the midwives and the other women involved in the births. "I envy you your faith, my friend," Nasir said, reaching out to give Ezra's shoulder a squeeze.

Ezra's smile was a little rueful. "All those years in Gelre seem to have had some effect," he said, half-amused that his time in exile had thrown up skills for dealing with something so very personal with calm. "Tell me, do you hope for a son or a daughter?"

Nasir frowned at his friend's question, which he should have known the answer to without asking. Everyone in Valentia was hoping for a prince and an heir, though in truth, as a father, Nasir would be equally happy with a daughter - one who was as lovely as his Safiya. But before he could make her queen, she needed to give him a son. The future of Valentia was depending on it. "Are you asking me as a father or as a king?"

"As a man." Ezra's eyes were wise with understanding that it was a loaded question, but it was one that could distract his friend from his worry for just a little while.

Nasir turned away to resume his pacing as he contemplated his friend's question. He steepled his fingers beneath his bearded chin, but there was really only one way he could answer. "Every man wishes for a son," he said, though that was not his answer. "As a man, I would be just as happy with a daughter as a son. As a man, I only wish for a healthy child, and for Safi to come through the birth safely. As a king, however, I must hope for an heir, and I do not believe Valentia is ready to accept a woman on the throne, and so I must hope for a son."

"Teres tells me that Safiya has been praying for a son," Ezra offered. "I feel sure the Goddess will not ignore such prayers. She alone knows where we are headed. She will provide what you need, whether you know it now or not."

"And if what we need is a daughter?" Nasir asked. He had only just claimed the throne for himself; he did not think the country was ready for such drastic change just yet. He was already making changes that might have been considered radical only a few short years ago. How much change could Valentia stand?

"Then you will have a daughter." Ezra sighed softly. "Mystery is in all Her ways, Nasir. We just have to trust that She knows what She is doing."

From the other side of the door into the harem complex came the muffled sound of a thin wail - a newborn's cry.

Nasir was about to ask his friend what it was that he was hoping for - a son or a daughter - when the sound of a newborn's wail drew his attention. It was perhaps the most welcome sound in the world, but until he knew Safi's fate, he could allow himself to feel happiness or relief. In that moment, it didn't much matter whether the child was a son or a daughter; it only mattered that his child and his wife were safe and well.

"One of us is a father," he murmured, unsure to which of them the newborn belonged.

Yet, scant moments later, a second wail joined the first, and Ezra visibly relaxed, letting out a low laugh. He passed his hand over his face, rubbing his beard for a moment before letting out a heaving breath.

"We both are," he said. "Congratulations."

"How can this be possible?" Nasir asked, not really expecting an answer. It wasn't so hard to believe that both women were with child, as they had been married at very nearly the same time, but to have given birth at nearly the same moment could not be coincidence.

"They do everything together," Ezra said with a faint chuckle. "This should not have been such a surprise." Though, of course, it had been. Safiya, they had been expecting; he had been sure Teres had another month to go before she was due to give birth, though.

"Not everything," Nasir corrected his friend. "When do you think they will let us in?" he asked, though he wasn't really expecting an answer to that question. He assumed someone would come inform them what was going on soon; he also knew it would not be a good idea to enter the harem uninvited.

"I should imagine Baba or Sasha will come for us soon enough," his friend mused thoughtfully.

Nasir

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Re: Birth of a Prince
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2020, 12:17:34 PM »
"Perhaps Hatice. There is more to giving birth than simply delivering the baby, I understand."

"Yes, yes, I know that," Nasir agreed impatiently. Though he had spent time in the harem as a small boy, the ways of women and childbirth had always been something of a mystery. A mysterious miracle, he'd always thought. Now that he was older, he understood the biology of it, but that had not done much to ease his worries. "But what is taking so long?"

Ezra chuckled softly. Now that they could hear the babies' cries, he was not so worried, having faith that the women of the harem would have come for them if there was any suggestion that Safiya or Teres were in difficulties. "Put yourself in their place, my friend," he suggested. "Would you want Safiya to see you immediately after spending several hours of hard manual work?"

Nasir blinked. As king, it was not necessary for him to partake of hard manual work, but he understood what his friend meant. He was not the kind of king who sat on his laurels and was unafraid to get his hands dirty now and then. "No, I suppose not," he admitted. "I am sure you are right."

"And they are women," Ezra added. "They care more for how they present themselves, I am sure." In fact, he was certain of that. He had watched Teres prepare herself for the day plenty of times by now, and it was still just as fascinating every morning as it had been the first.

Thankfully, Ezra did not point out the fact that the act of childbirth was a bloody business and that the women wouldn't want them to become alarmed by witnessing that. "I am sure," Nasir murmured in response, though he wasn't sure his friend's reassurance made him feel any better. He would feel better only when he saw Safi and their child for himself and knew that they were well.

They were kept waiting for another tense half hour, listening to the babies growing quieter all the while, before a flushed and smiling Baba opened the door to the harem itself. The old keeper of the harem was positively beaming as she bowed to the king.

"They are ready for you, majesty, lordship," she declared, stepping aside to invite the two men in.

Ezra glanced at Nasir, holding back to let him go first. The king needed to know just a little more urgently than he did, after all.

"Thank you, Baba," Nasir said, a faint smile on his face as she invited them inside. "Come, Ezra," he said, as he stepped through the door into the harem, his friend right on his heels.

The womens' quarters were abuzz with joyful murmurs, heads bobbing up and down as curtsies were made in Nasir's wake. Sasha was waiting at the door to the birthing rooms, looking decidedly more frazzled than Baba, and certainly more tired, but smiling all the same.

"You have a son, majesty," she told Nasir after a perfunctory curtsy she could only get away with because she was Idris' wife. "And you have a daughter," she added to Ezra.

Nasir nodded his head to acknowledge the other women before arriving at the birthing rooms, where Sasha was waiting. Though he outwardly looked the epitome of calm, inwardly his stomach was tied in knots, his nerves frazzled. He would only relax when he saw Safi and knew she was well. The news of a son took him by surprise though, and he exhaled in relief, turning a smile on Ezra.

"A son, Ezra. Bless the Goddess," he said, giving his friend's shoulder another squeeze.

"Indeed." Ezra patted his hand, jerking his chin toward the rooms behind Sasha. "Go ahead. I am sure we will meet one another in a few hours to celebrate in private."

"Congratulations, my friend," Nasir told the other man, happy for him, but happy for himself, too. Still, some nervousness remained and would until he saw his wife and son for himself.

"And to you. Go, I have my own wife to see to." It said a good deal about both men that their first concern was for their wives, rather than to glory over their newborn children.

"Give Teres my regards," Nasir told his friend, before turning and giving Sasha a nod to indicate he was ready to see his wife.

With Hatice already there to show Ezra to where Teres was resting, Sasha lead the way for Nasir, showing him into the light, airy room that overlooked the private gardens of the infirmary wing. Safiya was sat up in bed, tired, a little disheveled, but awake and well, a small wrapped bundle lying on the wide bed beside her. She met Nasir's eyes the moment he came into the room.

"Look what we did."

Nasir halted near the door, pausing a moment to take it all in - the sight of his wife, awake and well, a small, wrapped bundle beside her that had to be their son.

"We?" he echoed with a chuckle. "I am afraid I had very little to do with it," he admitted. Oh, he'd done his share, but it was Safi who'd carried the infant for the last nine months and who'd given birth. He crossed the room to her and took both her hands in his, kissing the palm of each hand. "I must confess I was worried, sevgili," he admitted, a little ruefully.

She smiled, her fingers combing tenderly through his hair as he kissed her palms. "It has been a long day," she agreed. "But I am well, and we have a son." The sheer joy of having fulfilled her duty at the first try was palpable as she smiled at Nasir, hoping he was reassured by the sight of her.

"A son," Nasir echoed, clearly relieved. All was well - they could pray for a daughter next time. "May I see him?" he asked, almost afraid to look, though the boy must be well, or she would not look so happy.

"Of course." She laughed, gesturing to the baby boy swaddled in soft cloth beside her. "He is your son, Nasir. You may even hold him, if you wish it."

"I do wish it," Nasir said, though he was not too sure how to pick up an infant, much less hold one. He supposed he would learn, as would she. "How do I ..."

"Here." She demonstrated, lifting the tiny boy up from where he lay to settle him into his father's arms. "He was very noisy when he first arrived - I am surprised you did not come bursting in at that moment!"

"I considered it," Nasir confessed, as he awkwardly took the small bundle into his arms. "He was born first then?" he reasoned, assuming Ezra's daughter came after.

Nasir

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Re: Birth of a Prince
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2020, 12:17:53 PM »
"Yes." Safiya giggled softly. "Just barely. Teres seemed determined to catch up and overtake for a short while there!" It had been an odd experience, to give birth in the same room as her best friend who was also giving birth, but it was an experience she would not have changed.

"And she is well?" he asked, as he pulled away the wrappings just a little so he could get a better look at their son. He needed to be sure he had all his fingers, after all, and looked fit enough to be a prince.

"She is," Safiya assured him, watching with a soft smile playing at her lips. The tiny hands Nasir uncovered were wriggling, fingers clenching and opening as the baby boy smacked his lips.

Though small and red and wrinkly, Nasir did not think he had ever seen a more handsome boy in his life. Of course, he was biased, but he was glad to see his son was fit and well and handsome. He couldn't help but chuckle at the infant's expression. "He does not look entirely pleased to have been born," he said, brushing a finger tenderly against the baby's cheek.

"He will have to learn to live with it, because he is not coming back in," Safi responded with a snort of laughter. She felt sore and beaten up, but for now, her physical aches were nothing in the face of seeing her son in the arms of his father.

"He is a fine lad, Safiya," Nasir praised them both. "He will make a fine prince." They would be sure to teach him to be such. Nasir carefully tugged the wrappings back up over the newborn's hands in hopes of making him comfortable. "He will need a name."

"He will," she agreed softly. "A strong name for a strong prince." She reached out, gently stroking her fingers against Nasir's cheek. "You look weary, sevgili," she murmured. "Was the day so worrying for you?"

"I was worried for you, Safi," he confessed, lifting his gaze from his son to his son's mother, a soft smile on his face. "I am relieved you are well. And the little one, too. Praise the Goddess," he added, for good measure.

"I am strong," she assured him. "It was truly not so hard as it may have seemed." Her smile deepened. "I will give you more sons, I promise you. We will build a strong family together."

"And a daughter," he added with a soft smile. He was glad they'd had a son, but he still hoped for a daughter someday, if only to please her. "I am glad you are well," he told her, leaning close to brush a kiss against her lips, brief but affectionate.

She smiled into his kiss. "I am very well," she promised. "And eager to sleep beside you again, but I am told I am not allowed to for some weeks yet." She pouted at this thought.

No, of course not. Because the temptation would be too great, and she needed time to heal. "There is nothing that says I cannot stay with you here, so long as we do not share a bed," he said, though he wasn't too sure. There were lots of rules when it came to these things that he hadn't concerned himself with.

"I think both Teres and I will be staying in the harem until we are recovered enough that physicians believe we are allowed to return to our husband's beds," Safiya warned him affectionately. "But there are no rules to state that we may not be with you in the daytime. I will not be far from your side, sevgili."

"I will ask the Goddess for patience, askim," he told her with the hint of a smile. He kissed her again before lowering himself onto a chair beside her, their son still cradled in his arms. "So, what shall we name him? If he is to be a prince, he should have a princely name."

"I had thought to name him Nasir, for his father," she confessed softly. "But perhaps it would be confusing, to have both a king and a prince who share the name."

"He will be his own man; he should have his own name," Nasir said, gazing down at his son once again. The little prince would, of course, not be a man for many years, but Nasir thought it better than he have a name to call his own.

"There are many noble names," she mused, watching them affectionately. "Baran, or Sadir, or Osman, perhaps. Strong names. He is your legacy. He should have a name to match."

"Hmm," Nasir considered. There were many names, indeed, but only one that would fit their son. "Perhaps we should think on it," he suggested. There was no need to give him a name just yet, so long as he had one before he was formally presented.

"He does not need a name until he is presented," she agreed. "But the heralds will announce that he is a prince tonight. There will be celebrations in the streets, I am sure."

"Very well. What name do you think suits him?" he asked, pulling the blanket away just a little bit to better see the newborn's face.

She tilted her head, studying their son's red face for a long moment. "I like Osman," she admitted, lifting her eyes to his. "Osman Nasir, Prince of Valentia."

Nasir couldn't help but smile at her suggestion, especially at the addition of his name to their son's. "It is a good name," he admitted, and its meaning was a noble one. It meant "one who is born to show the right path". Not even Idris could find fault with that. "What do you think, yavru?" he asked of the bundle in his arms. "Do you agree it is a good name?"

There wasn't much of a response from his newborn son - a bubble of spit at his lips and a quiet gurgle, a sudden flail of one arm before settling once again. Safiya giggled quietly. "I think he likes it."

Nasir chuckled at his son's response to his naming. "I think he does, too," he said, though they could not really be sure. Names were important and not something to be given lightly, in his opinion, especially when one was a prince.

"He will grow into it," she predicted fondly, carefully adjusting her lean against the pillows, taking extra care to hide the wince that came with that movement. She knew Nasir was a worrier, after all.

Thankfully, he was too enamored with his new son to notice, though it wasn't for lack of caring or worrying. "He is a fine son, Safi. You have made me very happy," he told her, lifting his face to prove his words with a shining smile.

"As you have made me," she countered affectionately. "We have done what we promised the people we would do. They have a prince, a secure succession. They will rally around you even more, I am sure."

Nasir

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Re: Birth of a Prince
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2020, 12:18:10 PM »
"And you will be their queen," Nasir reminded her. It was something he'd decided before they'd been wed, before she'd become pregnant with their son.

She laughed a little. "They will be more inclined to accept that now I have given you a son," she said, watching as the newly named Osman's fist flailed toward his father as he smacked his lips.

"He is a lively one," Nasir remarked, amused by his son's flailing limbs and smacking lips. "Would you like to hold him, askim?" he asked, offering her the small wriggling bundle. He did not know if she'd had the chance yet, and he knew how important it was for a mother and child to bond.

"I will have plenty of time to hold him," she said, her smile never fading as she spoke. "I have been holding him for quite some time already. This is your time, sevgili." As she spoke, that little fist found purchase on Nasir's coat, tiny fingers curling into the silk brocade to hold on tightly.

"Very well," Nasir replied, chuckling as he looked down to find tiny fingers clutching his coat. He reached to dislodge those fingers from his brocade and let the boy clutch his father's finger instead. "He has a strong grip," he said, further proof of their son's good health.

"He is a strong boy," Safiya said proudly. "Teres had a girl, did they tell you? She was louder than him when she came into the world!"

"Yes, they told me. Ezra is with her now." Nasir chuckled again as he recalled his reaction upon first hearing the newborns. "I could not tell one from the other when they were crying."

"Oh, Osman was definitely the first," Safiya assured him. "It was almost as though she was trying to outdo him with wailing for a moment there." She beamed as she recounted this. "He was quick to be calm, though. Much like his father."

Nasir chuckled again. "If you had seen me pacing outside the harem, you would have thought me calm," he confessed, reaching for her hand, even as he cradled their son in his other arm. "I was worried for you, sevgili. For you both."

"And we are both well," she promised, curling her hand into his to squeeze reassuringly. "Weary, perhaps, in need of time to heal, but well."

"Thank the Goddess for that," he murmured his thanks. Though he was not quite as faithful as his friend, he could not ignore the need to give Her proper thanks.

"I will be back on my feet in no time at all," Safi promised confidently, though she knew she would need plenty of rest in the days to come.

"But for now, you must rest," he told her. Though he had not witnessed the birth, he had waited and worried all through it. He knew she must be weary and perhaps even in pain, though she didn't mention it. He knew how dangerous childbirth could be, and he privately promised to give thanks to the Goddess for sparing his Safiya. He touched a kiss to her hand, a soft smile on his face.

"I will." She smiled as she leaned back against the pillows, unafraid to show him her weariness. "He will be calling for his supper soon enough. Must I give him up to a wet nurse?"

Nasir arched a brow at the unexpected question. "I think that is for you to decide," he told her. He wasn't like the sovereigns of the past who imposed their will on, not only their subjects, but their wives and concubines. He had only one wife and wanted no other, and intended to let her choose how she wished to raise their son.

"I should like to try and nurse him myself," she admitted softly. "I know I will have to give him up to a wet nurse when I am better, but surely it would not hurt to feed him a little myself?"

"As you wish," he replied, giving her hand a gentle squeeze, that soft smile still on his face. There was very little, in fact, that he could deny her, and he could not deny her this.

"Thank you, sevgili." She seemed to relax a little, reassured by this permission to do something that was not normal for a woman who was expected to be crowned queen in the coming weeks.

"I only wish to make you happy, Safi," he told her, which was the truth, but he also wished for something else. He wished to change the old ways in Valentia in order to help his country and his people to prosper.

"You do, Nasir," she promised him. "You have always made me happy. Even when we were children, and you would steal sweets for me, just to make me smile. I have always been happy when you were near."

He chuckled at the memory of that. "My mother was not so happy with me then," he confessed, though he'd been indulged enough that he'd never received any harsh punishment for his childish transgressions.

"We were very young," Safi said in amusement. "She had not yet decided who she wished for you to take as your concubine, clearly. It could just as easily have been Merrim."

"Yes, well, her first mistake was in not letting me choose," Nasir said, though everything had worked out well, in the end. He had always favored Safi over all the others; even his mother had to have seen that. At least, until he'd had to leave to save his own life.

She laughed, just barely concealing the wince that came with the shifting motion in her body with that outburst. "I thought she did let you choose, in the end," she pointed out. "If it were not for her, Teres and I would have died when your uncle's death became known. I will always be grateful to her for taking us with her when she went to the Palace of Tears."

Nasir smiled. His mother had favored Safiya, but it wasn't until he'd returned from exile in Carib that he'd realized how much. "And I will always be grateful to her for that," he said. More than grateful really. He knew it was only because of his mother that he still lived.

"She will be impossible to evict from this room when they tell her she has a grandson," Safiya then predicted, expecting to spend a lot of time in the company of the woman who had groomed her to be Nasir's lover.

"I cannot deny her that, as long as she doesn't move into our quarters," he said, with a smirk of amusement at the thought. "Let us enjoy our privacy while we have it."

Nasir

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Re: Birth of a Prince
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2020, 12:18:23 PM »
"She walks in on your quarters often enough as it is," Safiya teased him, but she understood the need to keep his mother at arm’s length sometimes. Lady Shahista could be a little overbearing in her affection for her son.

It wasn't that Nasir didn't have a good relationship with his mother that made him speak that way. It was only that he thought a full-grown, married man should have the right to privacy, where his own wife and quarters were concerned. "I shall speak to her," he promised, adding, "Gently."

"She loves you, Nasir," she reminded him softly. "You are all she has left. I understand her need to be close, truly I do. And she has never been anything but kind to me."

Nasir frowned, realizing he might have come off a little harsher than he'd meant to. "And I love her," he countered. "We owe our lives to her," he added, quite literally. "I only wish her to understand that there are times when a man wants to be alone with his wife. If she wants another grandchild, she will understand." But not right away.

"I am sure she would like us to fill the nursery here in the harem entirely on our own," Safiya giggled softly. "That, I think, may be beyond even us."

He laughed, jiggling the bundle in his arms a little, though there were no audible complaints. "We will give her more grandchildren, in time," he said. They were both still young, so there was no rush.

"And our children will grow up with Ezra and Teres' children, and Idris and Sasha's," she said affectionately. Of course, there was no sign yet that Sasha and Idris had even consummated their marriage, much less planted a seed together, but she lived in hope.

"And we will not force them into an unwanted betrothment," he said, as might have been the case in the past. He hoped he could uphold that promise. Too many marriages were arranged for political purposes.

"We will try not to," she amended his statement. "We cannot know what the future will look like, Nasir. There may come a time when we may have to overrule our children in the furtherance of peace."

"I hope not," he said, looking again at their young son, so blissfully unaware and at peace, asleep in his arms. He could make no promises, for no one knew what awaited them in the future, but he could hope.

But that was what that baby boy represented - hope. Hope for Valentia's future, and for theirs. There would be others to follow, no doubt, but right now, in that moment, Osman Nasir stood for the future of his country, and his parents' dreams of a better world.