The night was long. Even more so for one whose wife is in labour. Dharmasena moved his seat closer to the couch where Vasumati lay. He put his arm around Vasumati and helped her into an upright position, against the headrest of the couch. He pointed at the cradle that was being readied by two maids. In the light of the lamps, the cradle gave new hope. The couple looked at each other and smiled through the pain and apprehension.
The daadi's hurried steps spoke more of her eagerness to deliver the heir to the throne than of concern. But, one look at Queen Vasumati brought a frown to her face.
Through her pain, the queen clasped Dharmasena's hand and placed it over her womb. "I wish your heir arrives today, Dharma."
"A princess is as welcome, Devi." Dharmasena pressed his hand gently against her belly. The past months had seen bitter sweet debates between them, with Vasumati wanting a boy and Dharmasena wishing for a girl.
"No, I shall not last beyond this...." Vasumati gripped his hand tight as another contraction racked her body. She let out a loud scream.
The daadi took the liberty to lay a hand on Dharmasena's shoulder.
"Prabho, your presence might be of little help."
The sheer concern in her tone made him rise to his feet, his heart beating faster.
He took himself to the corridor, Vasumati's moans piercing through his being. The priest Katyayana was waiting for him.
The tense look on the king's face told Katyayana everything. He smiled and showed the king, his astrological charts which he hoped would partially shift Dharmasena's attention.
"The Queen's chart shows signs of a girl child, Annadata," Katyayana began,"but yours says you will beget a daughter and a son."
"Twins? No wonder Vasumati is undergoing such pain!" Dharmasena exclaimed, his joy and concern doubling.
Katyayana hesitated at the inconsistency that had struck him ever since he began the astrological calculations. In his vast experience, the priest had seen a lot of ambiguous predictions and had seen how reality sometimes deviated from the prediction. That had made him objective about the whole process of calculation and prediction. But he cited this only then the predictions turned out to be disappointing to the ones seeking it. A loud scream from the inner chambers made his heart skip a beat. . The silence following the scream was excruciating. The two men stood rooted to the spot. Then they heard it. The bawling of an infant. Dharmasena breathed in.
"Jayatu Anagheshwari!" He and the priest called out in unison to the guardian goddess of the fortress after whom the city was named.
The midwife brought the infant out to the corridor. "It is a princess, Prabho!"
"My little Queen!" Dharmasena took the infant into his arms and looked at her with wonder and joy. "And the Queen?" The king turned anxiously to the midwife.
"She is exhausted beyond the limits, Prabho. "I need to go back to her." Dharmasena's face fell as she retreated into the chambers.
Katyayana saw a cloud in his mind and a momentary shudder passed through his spine. "Anagheshwari!" he whispered, not wanting to increase Dharmasena's worries by voicing his fears.
Dharmasena cradled the newborn, his heart leaping every time he saw her move in his arms. The infant settled into his warmth and her cries faded into drowsiness. Her half closed eyes rested on her father.
"Father's pet!" Katyayana exclaimed, touched at the mist in Dharmasena's eyes. "She is going to take after you, Dharma!" Dharmasena was too taken by the infant to notice the personal address. The priest smiled and continued, "She will excel at anything she sets her heart upon! But the planets choose to show me more about her heart. Fearless to the core, she will become the shelter, the refuge to many. She will travel across the breadth of Bharata varsha. Her company will comprise of the royalty, nobility and the commons. In other words, she will take after you, Annadata."
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Abhaya - Narakasura Vadha Retold (Available on Kindle)Historical Fiction
Dharmasena cradled the newborn, his heart leaping every time he saw her move in his arms. The infant settled into his warmth and her cries faded into drowsiness. Her half closed eyes rested on her father. "Father's pet!" Katyayana exclaimed, touch...