Chapter 15 : The Daughter of Moon
For three days the fourth queen of Bengal labored in childbirth, until at last, when the moon was full at its zenith, the babe was born. The other queens had held her hand and cried encouragements through the long ordeal, and at its end, all sighed in relief and sudden wariness.
“She is too small to have caused this great a trouble,” remarked the daughter of Laumphon, tenderly wiping the tiny fingers and toes of the newborn.
“Can I see?” asked Tigra, from where she hung on the leg of her nursemaid. The infant was lifted up into the light of the fire, and the first queen collected her child. “Tigra, my princess,” she said, holding her close to the white queen, “this is your littlest sister. She will look to you for guidance.”
The second queen carried her daughter to the bed as well. “My little Snow, do you see the baby?”
“She is white, like Masha,” noted the child.
“And as Masha cares for you, so you must care for your baby sister. She will look to you for grace.”
Not to be outdone, the third queen now approached the bed, her own baby in her arms. “Lynx, my darling, as dear to me as my life, you will lend strength to this child even littler than you.”
“She cannot understand,” said the first queen, tapping Lynx on the nose. Lynx blinked slowly in response and reached for her mother’s hair.
“She understands,” said the daughter of Laumphon, then they looked down to the white queen who was stirring.
“I felt like a wave on the shore,” she whispered, “pulling away, drifting, and had you not been here to support me, my sisters, I would have washed back to the ocean. If your daughters grow as wonderful as their mothers, this babe in my arms will be the happiest, most loved child in the world.”
The second queen knelt by her side and dried her tears, and touched the newborn light on the head, and the third queen turned toward the window in pleased embarrassment.
“Shall we let him in now?” the third queen asked, and the other queens laughed quietly in response.
Buthraman Satti, the Beast King, was found pacing under the moonlight in a shadowy hall, restless with worry, exhausted by the ordeal as if he had been doing anything besides pacing under the moonlight for three nights. “Is it finished? Are they well?” he asked, running up to his third wife and placing one hand to her head, the other to Lynx’s.
“You must see her,” responded the queen, and Satti ran.
“Ah! My light in the dark, my sun of the stars,” said the king, his heart pouring forth from where he had held it back.
“I am well, Satti, I am well,” responded the queen, and her lids were heavy but her eyes bright.
“Is this the daughter or the son of Moon?”
“Your daughter, my king.”
Satti touched the infant gently. “A name for the princess… Panther, perhaps? White Tiger?”
“Her name is Saeng.”
“Is that a cat?”
“It is her name.”
“The name of a cat?”
“The name of your daughter.”
And though Satti presented other, more feline names to his wife over the next month, she was unmoved, and on the day of naming, the silver-haired daughter of Satti was named Saeng.