Today's post describes the world of his birth.
|Miramare Castle, Italy|
My story is not set in Italy but I thought this view might be seen from one of the King's castles in Lerata.
The queen of Lerata died, leaving behind her husband, King Reymound, and a son, Prince Alton. Mourning the loss of his beloved wife, Reymound was not inclined to remarry. But a king cannot consult his own needs without also considering the needs of an entire country. His counselmen urged him to secure a queen for Lerata.
One of the lords of Lerata presented his daughter, Mara, a young woman who had been introduced to the royal courts only a few months before. The lord soon convinced the king that Mara was the most suitable candidate, and the king married her.
King Reymound was a good man as well as a great king. His heart still grieved for his first wife, but he tried to be good to the beautiful young Mara. She soon sensed, however, that her position as queen made her little more than a pawn for the kingdom...and a dispensable pawn, at that.
In those days, children were considered a blessing and barrenness considered a curse. As the years went by with no prince from Mara, the people began to wonder whether she was a suitable queen after all. Mara grew increasingly bitter and unhappy.
Prince Alton quickly became his father's chief pride and joy. The boy showed an amazing aptitude for kingship. Even at a young age, he was a leader of men, loved by the people. King Reymound soon discovered that he could take his son with him anywhere. Alton excelled at his lessons, both in school and in life.
Reymound's love for Alton only deepened Mara's bitterness, but relief came to her at the fifth anniversary of her marriage. She was with child. Mara exulted in the knowledge that this event would crush the naysayers who whispered of her inability to bear children, and she longed to see her son rise as his father's new favorite prince. Here, at last, was her chance to get what she wanted.
At the appointed time, a son was born. King Reymound and Prince Alton were away, meeting with an ambassador from a neighboring country where there had been some unrest.
"It is a son," announced the doctor. He carried the newborn, upside down, by his ankles across the room and handed him to a woman.
Mara took a deep breath, trying to calm the postpartum trembling in her body, and stared up at the rich burgundy canopy over her bed. A faint smile spread over her face. "A prince," she murmured. "Prince of Lerata. My son."
The wail of the newborn suddenly cut through the silence like a knife aimed at her heart.
"What are you doing to him?" she demanded. Suspicion clouded her vision. She did not like this doctor.
The doctor raised an eyebrow. "He must be cleansed from the birth, my queen," he stated.
"Leave him alone! All of you! He doesn't like it!" Mara hissed. She shoved her arms against the bed, struggling to sit up.
"You must not sit up yet," said one of the attendees, rushing to her side. "You are too weak. You will faint. See how you are shaking!"
"Bring me my son," Mara insisted. Her eyes were wide and wild.
The doctor raised his eyebrow again; and the woman, suspending the newborn over the basin of water, pursed her lips and shook her head over this breach of tradition.
"But my queen," the woman began, wavering between her fear of the queen and her fear of what might happen to a baby who was not properly bathed.
"I care not for your superstitions," Mara snapped. "Bring him to me at once."
Reluctantly, the woman carried the babe to new mother.
With her son safely in her arms, Mara breathed a sigh of relief. She suddenly felt happier and more contented than she had ever felt in her life. Her baby was beautiful.
"Newel," she whispered. "His name shall be Newel."
The doctor looked at her sharply. "It is customary, I believe," he said stiffly, "to let the king name his own son. Perhaps we should await his return?"
Mara's eyes flashed angrily. "He is MY son, is he not?" she demanded. "If my husband wished to name him, he should have been here." Her eyes settled once again on the babe in her arms and took on a softer hue. Then, in a tone that was half lullaby and half triumph, she repeated, "Newel...son of Mara...prince of Lerata!"