Rough and unpolished, but wanted to get it on here. Another from the universe of my creation…
“Hundreds of years ago, there was a brave little girl just like you girls, who grew up to be an extraordinarly brave woman,” the nurse smiled at her three charges,
the oldest of whom sat up importantly.
“Is this the tale of Princess Jayanara? I love this one!” Amira was at once bossy, looking at each of her sisters with superiority as she correctly guessed the story to come, and at once eager.
Lady Zainab looked up from her embroidery and half frowned, her features flickering in the candlelight. She wasn’t sure she entirely agreed that Jayanara had been extraordinarly brave, and was slightly disturbed that her daughters so loved the tale. “Niru, do you have to tell them this one, again?”
“Mother, please,” Amira whined, and her sisters both turned to her as well, their kohl-lined, wide pleading eyes a perfect copy of the eldest’s. They were learning far too fast and well.
“Oh, all right,” Zainab laughed. “But remember – it’s all make believe!”
Niru gave her a sharp look at that, but it disappeared as quickly as it had come, and she settled down to tell the story. Zainab shook her head, and allowed herself to be swept away despite her disapproval, even as she pretended to concentrate on her stitching. The night was warm and stormy, and Niru’s voice was deep and enchanting against the howl of the rain-laden winds.
The girls gasped, hid their eyes behind splayed fingers, and whooped at all the relevant parts – finally, they reached the part where almost all of the kingdom has been invaded by the conquerers and only one city was left standing, and one sole princess defending it in her father’s stead.
“And the conquering emperor himself rode to the front of his army and called up to Jayanara as she glared down from the ramparts. ‘Princess, you can join me,’ he called up to her. ‘Marry me and we can rule this city together! Join me – or be my prisoner! There is no other option left!’ And, indeed, it did look that way. The city was captured – the emperor’s might was too great…” Niru paused for effect, and Zainab almost laughed at how on tenterhooks the girls were. They all knew the ending.
“…but the great Princess Jayanara took a deep breath and cried, for all present to hear, ‘I will never join you! I would rather die than join you. Let it be known to all present that I, Princess Jayanara, remained loyal to this land, and to my people, until my dying day – and that I chose death instead of betrayal!’ And with that, without a second thought, before any of her ladies could do anything, before the emperor could say another word, she jumped!”
Niru paused as all the girls gasped. Zainab could see how impressed they were, and her worry returned.
“The emperor was furious beyond words, but what could he do? And all around him, Jayanara’s father’s army, her army, though defeated – cheered. Her people, too, cheered. Though the city finally fell that day to the invaders, nobody ever forgot the brave Princess Jayanara, who chose to die rather than to betray her people by marrying the emperor.”
There was a silence, interrupted only by the ever present wind and the rain lashing against the palace walls. Zainab allowed them a few moments of awe, and then stood, clapping her hands once to break the spell.
“Thank you, Niru. Now, girls, I think its time you all got to sleep!”
There were protests, but they were half-hearted – her youngest’s eyelids were drooping. Niru led them away and once they had all been bundled away to bed, she returned to Lady Zainab’s side. She had nursed her, once.
“Why do they like that story so much?” Zainab shuddered. “I mean, you could argue that she did the wrong thing – if she had married the emperor, she could have at least exerted some control, it might have been better for her people…”
“What does it matter? It’s all fantasy,” Niru said, in a very pointed manner. There was another silence, an awkward one this time. Zainab did not look the nurse in the eyes. The history books of their homeland might be edited by victors as all history books are, but fragments of truth inevitably found their way through to ears through all sorts of means, not least through children’s fairytales.
Niru must have taken some pity on her, because then her voice softened. “They’re too young to think about all that, Lady Zainab. All they hear is that a woman was brave and defied what was expected of her to do the right thing.”
Zainab nodded. Amira was not so young anymore, though. In a year or two, the time for tales for her would be past, and before they knew where they were she would be married and gone. She felt a stab of sadness in her gut as she thought that, and pushed it aside.
“Right you are, Niru. Well, we had best be getting to sleep too…”
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
If you want to read all the ones from the universe am creating all together, click the category ‘from my own fantasy universe’! Constructive criticism always welcome.