Chapter 8 : The First Princess
Although the queens took over the raising of their daughters, they did adhere to some of the king’s wishes for the royal children. The princesses were given toy soldiers along with dolls, they were dressed in trousers as often as dresses, and were set free to run through the obstacle courses of the soldiers as often as they attended lessons in music and dancing. And each spent some time of each day in the menagerie.
The eldest princess of Bengal was afraid of cats.
She would watch the tiger from behind the bars, with attentive eyes, wary, as if the tiger was only staying in the cage because it pleased him to do so. It distressed her father to see her like this, as he reminded her that as he was a son of cats, so was she, and she replied that not all people got along with their families.
Satti was delighted, however, at Tigra’s skill at fighting. The young princess was not particularly big or strong, but she was graceful and precise. All of Hat’va Palace would hold its breath when she fought, for the silence was as the wind over a field or a river into the sea, moving, endless, and full of power. Soldiers vied for her attention during practice, for it was said that each man who fought with the princess gained a new skill… and that she gained three. By the time she was 12, she could best all of her father’s men in archery, most in knife-fighting, and a good number in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay.
This had to appease the king, for Tigra would not eat eggplant (a decreed part of their diet), she would not yell war cries (a scheduled morning exercise), and most of all she would not spend a day in the wilderness catching fish with her bare hands. She hated fish almost as much as she hated lessons in the counting house, and no promise nor entreat nor threat from her father would change her mind.
“You will never find a husband!” said he. “I don’t want a husband who can’t keep track of his own household,” she declared, “and what husband needs a wife who can catch fish? Am I a princess or am I not, Father?” And Satti looked to her mother, and her mother smiled and looked to her daughter, and Tigra flicked her hair and went back to her dancing.