This day, January the Third, of the year 467 in the Human Era, there was born a prince, Aleksander Johann of Conté. A naming ceremony will be held in the primary audience chamber on the Eighth of January.
A crowd was gathered around the signboard of the Dancing Dove. Here, at the stronghold of the city's crooked royalty, an ironic announcement hung for all to see. Those who passed were drawn in by the murmuring mass of the populace. When they drew closer, they could read of the birth of a new member of the royal family of the realm (thought it has been argued as to whether they are truly the royalty in Corus). The announcement was tacked over the others on the board; those that announced goods for sale and local happenings were covered. The palace scribe's bold lettering stood out to those who strolled by. What also stood out was the gossip of those surrounding it.
"Ain't the queen too old for more young 'uns now?" asked a mot in a rough, grayish dress who carried a basket filled with produce.
Her neighbor, a tough-looking cove, answered slowly. "I 'spose so. She near 'bout fifty, far as I know." He dug his grimy hands further into the pockets of his dusty breeches.
The woman shook her head. "Magicin', 'm sure. What can't them mages do these days?"
Another woman piped up with a knowing look. "Even magic can't get a babe for a mot that old. Me mam were forty when she had me baby sister and that were bad enough, even then. Canna imagine a babe at fifty."
The babble continued as more theories emerged. Magic was a common one, but others suggested intervention by the gods. Many were certain that if they wanted to, gods could cause any event the chose, be a birth or a death.
One young woman added, "Could'na be a by-blow, could it now?" She brushed greasy hair behind her ear. "S'pose the king coulda found a younger mot with his lady's permission, iffin his wife wants another one."
Another woman retorted, "Why'd she do that? After all the time there've been littles runnin' round the palace, I wouldn'ta wanted another." The gossips laughed.
"Still," persisted the greasy-haired woman, "could'na the babe not be the queen's?"
The man with his hands in his pockets drawled, "We'll see at that namin' ceremony, won't we?" The others bystanders agreed and slowly began to disperse, spreading the news of the young prince as they went. The woman with the basket of produce went home to tell her man. The man with the grimy hands spread the news at the soldiers' barracks. The news flew through the city's taverns, gambling dens, and pleasure houses.
Never since the crown prince's naming had so many cityfolk turned out to welcome a new member of the royalty. Roald and his five siblings were in attendance and dressed in their finest. The queen looked radiant and the king looked proud as they presented their seventh child to the land of Tortall.
The queen sank into a chair, cradling her six-day-old son in her arms. When she had realized that she was with-child nine months past, she had been so shocked that she hadn't believed Duke Baird. She had seen three other healers before she truly believed it. She had felt blessed by the Goddess, as she had today, when she presented the young prince to his people. Aleksander had deep gray-brown eyes and black curly hair, much like his father's locks, though they had faded a bit toward gray. Jonathan leaned on the back of his wife's chair. "He has your chin," he said, stroking the child's cheek.
"And your nose, my lord," she added, smiling up at her husband. The child's face was calm as he slept. It had been an exciting day for him. Just as Thayet was about to lay the baby into his cradle, the door opened and in came the other six princes and princesses of the realm, still dressed in their fine clothes. Thayet smiled, seeing them all together. Shinkokami, who had come in with them, lifted the baby from her mother-in-law's hold. It was strange, having a new baby when her other children were old enough to have their own (which many of them did). Lianokami, who had followed her parents into the room, was the oldest of these grandchildren. She peered eagerly around Alek's swaddling clothes, trying to get a glimpse of her new cousin.
"He's so squishy-looking!" She seemed surprised and everyone laughed. Alek had woken by this time and seemed ready to join in with the noise, though not happily. Shinkokami rocked him slowly until he calmed down.
Lianokami and Shinkokami had been staying with the lord and lady of Mindelan in the Yamani Islands until a few weeks before Alek was born. They had returned quickly, as had Kalasin. Her son Binur and her daughter Alani, though, had stayed in Carthak with Emperor Kadar. Thayet was incredibly thankful that those who had come had been able to witness the birth of their youngest sibling.
That evening, after everyone had left, the royal couple retired to a private sitting room. Alek was soundly asleep again and Thayet and Jonathan could relax. Thayet lay on a chaise lounge and Jonathan stood behind her. He tenderly rubbed her shoulders and she sighed. "A baby… I forgot how much caring for one takes out of you."
"We'll be fine," said the king, "after all, we've done this six times before."
The queen laughed and closed her eyes. "I suppose so."
From the Journal of Golda Potter
Resident of the Lower City, Corus
March 23, 468 HE
Three days past my babe were born. It is sad that her pa may not see her. Perhaps he is wotching frum abuv. My girl, who I named Lyra, will never no him. Today my frens came to greet the little won. They all sed how butiful she was, how her muther must be prowd, and wished me grat luck with her. I hope she may grow up well. I hope her life will move beon the Lower City where I have worked meself to death these long yeers. Perhaps won day she will live somewhere nice.
My baby owns to a bit of brown hair – perhap more will cum soon, and eyes so green and wide as to start clean out of er skull. She may grow into them eyes with the Goddess' help. I will rite agin tomoro. The babe cries for me to feed er.
From the Report of Thamius of Cortland,
Lord Provost of Tortall
To My Lord,
King Jonathan of Conté
July 19, 468 HE
This report is of great importance and is to be read immediately. It pertains to recent happenings in the Lower City:
At the fourth hour of the morning on the eighteenth of July, a young woman was found dead on Fortuneteller's Walk. She was laid out, arms crossed on her chest, one eye opened and the other closed. This fits the pattern of a serial killer who of late has stalked the women of the Lower City, especially the Cesspool. Six other women have been found laid out in a similar fashion over the last four weeks.
The young woman has been identified as one Golda Potter, who works as a flower seller in the markets of Corus. My men have located the woman's home along an alley near the Daymarket, Westly Close. She had one baby girl, a few weeks old, who was taken to the foundling hospital in the Lower City.
At the seventh hour of the morning, guards were on patrol in the area in which the killing took place. A suspicious looking man had come into the area twice and had seemed particularly interested in what was going on. He said he had heard of the case and asked after the woman's family. The third time the man came by, the guards became suspicious of his knowledge of the case. He was taken into custody shortly before the eighth bell.
While in custody, it was observed that the man, who gave his name as Micalo Pach, seemed to have been drinking and had recent bruises on his arms, as if he had been fighting. After being shown portraits of the seven victims and being interviewed by the guards in charge of prisoners here, he cracked. Scribes at the station recorded the confession. The trial for Pach is to be held in a week's time. It will be a private trial, with only the families of the victims and the guards involved in attendance. I fear that if the trial was held openly, a riot could be caused. The people of the Lower City have been caught up in fear over these killings and would be quick to act if they discovered that we have this man in custody.
Thamius of Cortland
Lord Provost of Tortall