Chapter 1: A Joyful Birth

For the first time in living memory, the Lady of Year-Dancing House did not come to the Hall of Year-Dancing on the appointed day. Amerasu y'Senditu no'e-Sa'onserei was birthing her second son, and the ceremony went on without her.

Iyu'unigato, husband to Amerasu and Lord of Asu'a, could not be absent on Year-Dancing Day, but Amerasu was well-attended. Her younger friend Briseyu Dawnfeather and Mezi'athu the healer had excused themselves from the rituals to be with her.

Mezi'athu handled the birth with quiet, confident skill, despite the rarity with which Zida'ya children were born. Amerasu suffered very little pain, and within hours the birthing was complete.

Mezi'athu cleaned the child, wrapped him in a length of sun-yellow silk, and handed him carefully to his mother. "Here is your son, Amerasu," she said with a calmly joyful smile. "Now you are twice blessed."

Amerasu took her son in her arms and smiled more radiantly, the corners of her eyes crinkling in amusement as she looked on his squinched-up, angry little face. Whereas her elder son Hakatri had been born quiet, almost solemn, this new baby was yelling so loudly in his outrage at being born that his skin was suffused with red.

"Calmly now, little one," Amerasu said, offering her breast. "I'm not your enemy!" The baby settled down to feed, making small angry noises and gazing reproachfully up at his mother. His eyes, when he opened them, were a surprisingly deep golden color.

Briseyu reached over to pat gently at his white-furred head. He stopped eating long enough to look curiously at her, then turned back to his mother with a grunt that said plainly, "How dare you disturb the prince at his meal?"

Briseyu laughed delightedly and removed her hand. "Forgive me, your Highness!" She flashed an impudent grin at Amerasu. "Your son is very clear-spoken," she said.

Amerasu nodded, a look of pride on her face. "That he is," she agreed. "Hakatri is my quiet one," she said, looking down at the now-sleeping infant, "but you shall be Ineluki, he whose words sparkle like diamond." She smiled once again. "My son and I will be fine, now," she said. "Go, both of you, and see that the name of Ineluki i-Sa'onserei is duly entered in the Book of Year-Dancing."

Mezi'athu bowed her head. "As you wish, my lady." She turned and left the room. Briseyu stole a last look at the newest child of the Zida'ya and followed.

Much later, when Renihu lit the sky, second in brightness only to Mezumiiru herself, Hakatri and his father came to visit their newborn kinsman.

"We missed you at the ceremony, Mother," Hakatri said gravely. "But of course you had good reason to be absent."

"Indeed she did, my son," Iyu'unigato agreed, the faintest hint of a smile touching his stern lips. "Never before has a child been born on this day."

"Yes," Amerasu replied as Iyu'unigato picked up the baby. She knew that her husband and elder son were both proud and happy, but it was not their way to be demonstrative. She had a feeling that her younger son might be different.

Ineluki awoke as his father passed him to Hakatri. Looking up at his brother, he smiled for the first time.

Amerasu shared a long look with her husband. "I think they will be very close," she said.