The Fourth Princess of Bengal
The fourth princess of Bengal? Is this not mistaken? Were there not three queens?
There is no mistake. As for the queens, there were four.
Chapter 14 : The Moon That Dawns Under the Sun
Return to the early days of Bengal, when the clouds of war that had covered the land for centuries had finally dissipated, leaving a land that was fertile, and skies that were clear and bright. Imagine the young king, walking through his menagerie with a queen on each side and one trailing behind or striding afore, how he might gaze up to the blueness of the sky and marvel at the distance of the world. For thus he gazed, struck now with time, a sensation he had not experienced before. No longer did every morning begin with a war council, no longer every night a slight fear of death, and from the moment he met his first wife, Satti was able to see the beautiful world in which he now had the freedom to live.
And Satti saw, as he looked, the shape of the moon in the blue sky of day. The sun rules the day, the moon lords the night, was that not so? Satti asked his queens. Why should the moon impose on what is clearly, so clearly, the sun’s domain?
The daughter of Jarma sought to answer this unexpected question. “The sun is so bright, the moon is drawn to the beauty of the day.”
“Is not the sun curious as to the beauty of the night? Has the sun seen the stars?”
“The sun sees all, for he is light, and light bends around the folds of our linear sight to worlds we can not see nor imagine. He sees the stars, each a torch in the black folds of night, and he sees the moon where she rocks.”
The answer seemed to please the king, yet still he watched the moon in the light of day, and being a curious, scientific man (if in wanting to be this meant he was), he began to seek the same moon in the nights following. Such a pale wisp compared to the sun nonetheless shone most brightly when the ruler of her own skies.
One night, as the king watched the moonbeams sparkle over the roof below his window, he noticed movement as that of swaying grasses. A small white flower was growing at the edge of the moon’s light, and for the nights following, Satti watched its progress; until, before his very eyes, the flower unfolded and grew into a pale woman with streaming silvery hair. She looked up at the sky, then turned towards him, and he saw that her eyes were white as coconut milk. Before he could call out, she stepped out on a ribbon of light and vanished.
The following night, Satti watched for the woman, but she did not return. There was no flower, and no silvery hair.
It wasn’t until after Satti’s first daughter was born that he saw her again.
While wandering his menagerie as the night came on, admiring the nocturnal beasts, he spotted a small white flower beneath the moonbeams of a bird’s white wing.
“Is it the same?” he wondered aloud, drawing towards it in his curiosity. “Will I see again the impossibility of a flower becoming a woman, or was it the painting of a tired mind?”
And the flower, as if in response to his voice, reached up toward the light and grew into the woman.
“Who are you?” asked the king, wondering if perhaps she was some goddess come down to earth.
“I am the Moon that dawns under the Sun,” said she.
“Ah, so when the moon moves, you do not appear,” he said, in all his wisdom.
She lifted a hand and stepped through the bars, shimmering as she did. “No. I am always here.”
“If you are the moon, then—”
“You may think of me as a daughter of the moon, if you must.”
Unwilling to frighten her away, Satti held back his questions as to her eternal nature. “Daughter of the moon, I am enchanted by your beauty. Will you stay with me a while?”
She smiled sadly, as though knowing his enchantment was caused not by her beauty but by her mystery, and she agreed to stay for a while.
And for a while she did, and Satti grew truly enchanted with her.
For a while more she stayed, and she grew enchanted with Satti.
The while turned to an unspoken forever, and Satti made her his fourth queen.