23. Roshani

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Roshani pushed open the doors to Kasra's nursery and strode in with her back tall and her shoulders straight. His nursemaids were already awaiting her inside, and they each bowed forward upon her entrance. Roshani raised a hand indicating that they could rise.

"Is the prince ready?" Roshani asked them.

"Yes, your majesty," the head nursemaid replied. She moved to the back of the room, where an elaborate crib of sculpted gold and bronze stood. She reached inside and picked up Kasra. The baby was wide awake already, despite the early hour, and he grinned happily as the nursemaid brought him to Roshani.

Roshani chuckled at his enthusiastic demeanor and took him in her arms. He was indeed prepared. The servant women had dressed him in a beautiful dark blue and gold tunic, with copper buttons all the way up to his chin. The dark tuft of downy hair on his head was neatly brushed out, and his green eyes had been underlined with thick kohl.

Some of Roshani's happiniess at the sight of him turned to fear as his dress reminded her of the importance of this moment. Though the little boy had no idea what it meant, today was the crown prince's choosing ceremony.

Roshani waved a hand to dismiss the nursemaids and she turned to exit the room, Kasra tucked securely in her arms. The priest would have everything prepared by now for the ceremony- all that was waiting was Kasra himself.

A retinue of guards followed at Roshani's heels, red turbans covering their hair and bronze breastplates over their chests. Roshani always had guards following her, but this day there were much more than usual. For such an important ritual, she intended to take every necessary precaution.

Roshani hoisted Kasra higher on her shoulder. She hissed in annoyance when he gurgled and grabbed at the emerald jewel that hung from her ear, pulling at it sharply.

"Stop that," she chided him, pulling him away so that she could give him a stern look. He pouted his lips at her, and his fist reached out toward her earring, opening and closing in a clear gesture of demand. His brow furrowed in consternation when she didn't immediately give in. Roshani sighed, reaching up to swiftly unhook her earring and give it to him. His face instantly brightened. He turned the jewel over and over in his hands, fascinated by the way it sparkled in the light. Roshani watched him with amusement, continuing to walk down the column-lined corridor.

A pair of guards dressed in bronze metal breast plates pushed open the doors to the chamber when Roshani approached. The men and women waiting inside instantly quieted as Roshani entered, regarding them coolly. The only noise was the swish of Roshani's lengthy gown dragging across the marble floor and the unintelligibly gibberish of Kasra as he marveled over the earring.

Noble men and women lined themselves along either side of the room. The most powerful lords stood solemnly in the front rows, with a clear, unobstructed view of the ceremony. The other minor lordlings and ladies craned their necks in the back. In the corner of her eye, Roshani caught sight of Farah in the second row, her dark eyes following Roshani's steps.

The priest awaited her in the very center of the chamber. He wore dull, saffron colored robes secured around his frame with a sash. The material was grainy and worn, not at all comfortable looking. Roshani never understood the priestly philosophies that made them deny themselves the comforts and pleasures of life. Hadn't the gods gifted humanity with all manner of wonderful things for their use? In her view, honoring the gods was best achieved by enjoying the world that they created. She shrugged off the thought, approaching the elderly man until she stood right before him and the ritual objects he had arranged.

The priest had meticulously set up the ritual beforehand, Roshani knew, all according to the minute and precise details laid out in the Book of Kings. Not even one thing could be out of alignment, or it would invalidate the entire ritual. Roshani wasn't concerned by it- the priest knew that he would not live to see another sunrise of such a mishap occurred under his supervision.

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