Ayneth writes home
This letter is sent just before the Feast of Timoine and will arrive in Valdis sometime before the Feast of Anshen.
Alysei Ayneth astin Velain to Alysei Athal astin Velain, king of Valdyas, and Ravei Raisse astin Brun, queen of Valdyas.
Dear brother and sister,
You will probably have had Namak’s official announcement already, but I still want to tell you that you have a nephew! His name is Ayneith Shishe Radan Ozman astin Velain, “Prince Radan” in daily life. (I like the way our names are so entangled in his name.) “Ozman” means “prince”, of course. He’s a pretty golden colour, like a shelled walnut, with lots of black hair –Grandmother saw a red sheen in the sunlight, though– and hungry all the time but that seems to be normal.
I’m still in the Temple of Dayati where he was born. I hadn’t intended that at all, but the high priestess had invited me to look at the new building and I thought I should do that before I was so close to my time that I couldn’t manage it any more: two weeks to go, should have been safe! But before looking at any new building I went into the temple hall (already built and beautifully decorated, no two pillars the same just like it used to be in the old temple) to pray, and there Radan decided to come into the presence of the goddess. “You’re hardly the first woman whose waters break at Dayati’s feet,” the priestess said. They took me somewhere cool and sheltered, I later saw that it was the gallery around the kitchen garden, and I was surrounded by midwives. I sent for Grandmother because I’d promised, and the Valdyan midwives also came because they had promised. There were six or seven women attending me at one point, not counting my maids Khanu and Ishi who go with me everywhere and Raith who was at my side almost at once.
Well, it was easy. I’d thought that I was so much a Velain that I’d have a hard time of it, but Namak isn’t a big man and Radan did come two weeks early. When I had him suckling furiously at my breast, all wet and slippery, I thought “oh? was that all?” but later I was exhausted, and slept as much as I could in between Radan insisting that he was hungry. What he got that first day was more like honey than milk, but that also seems to be normal and I have real milk now, so much that I could feed another one. (This makes me think that I’ll ask the priestesses if they have any orphan infants, perhaps I can feed another one.)
Namak wasn’t let in until we had both been washed, and we were in a comfortable bed– still in the kitchen garden gallery, being the coolest place in the whole temple complex. It turned out he’d been cooling his heels for hours outside! But the midwives, especially Grandmother, didn’t hold with men at a birthing. Which is strange, because Moyri told me (she had it from her mother) that both the priests and the priestesses of Dayati used to help deliver babies before the Khas. Not that he could have done anything, I suppose, with all those other people there. I for one was too preoccupied to do anything except squeeze Raith’s hand and breathe or push when someone told me to.
This morning I thought I could stand for half an hour (an overestimate on my part, they had to bring me a stool with a cushion) so we dressed the sprog in princely clothes and went out into the temple yard and I named him to the gods. Then Namak took him out of the gates (the temple gates, not the city gates) and showed him to the people. There were thousands of people in the square in front of the temple, spilling over into the streets. This is of course the place where the old temple of Micalacuk used to be, so you know how large it is. The new temple of Micalacuk that’s being built at the old harbor isn’t nearly so large, but much more handy to work in, the clerks tell me.
I don’t know if this will do anything for my status here– I don’t intend to have myself reduced to being only the heir’s mother, one viceroy’s wife and the other viceroy’s mistress. I could have told you that Raith wouldn’t marry Namak, however circumspectly he asked her; but he’s negotiating with an Ishey princess, or law-woman, or whatever the Ishey have that’s noble enough, and we’ll have her coming to dinner as soon as I can sit up a whole evening, because I want to be in on it. I do intend to go back to what I’ve been doing, overseeing the rebuilding of the city and talking to everybody I can reach so they know they’re being appreciated. Grandmother is going to show me how to carry Radan in a sash and strap him to my front, and when he’s a bit bigger to my back, so I can take him along. It will probably mean a guard of soldiers as well as Ishi and Khanu, but if that makes Namak happy I won’t mind, people know me well enough now not to be alarmed anyway. (Or I can get someone to teach Ishi and Khanu to guard me, won’t that surprise people? I suspect Khanu, at least, already knows how to handle a knife.)
Athal, be assured that I’m happy and so are Raith and Namak, and as we said when you were here, happy rulers make for a happy country. I shall find a painter to make a likeness of the sprog to send you, so you can show that to the family and everybody. I don’t suppose you’ll be coming here soon, and even if you start the moment you get my letter he’ll probably be walking when you arrive. (And yes, we’re planning a spare; but not just yet.)
Love to both of you, your children (three? or four already?) and anyone else who might want my love,