An excerpt from a 9.900-word short I am publishing on Amazon. The story takes place on Roma, in the same "universe" as THE FOURTH but two centuries before the novel
Born Girl on Roma - (A girl is born!)
Later in the dead of night Tal San was wakened by the sound of a baby crying. He sat up with a smile, pushed the slave wife off of his bed and left the chamber to see his new son. Damarc had also been woken up and met him in the corridor as they headed to the chamber behind the kitchen.
The second wife was leaving the chamber when they met her. She had a strange look on her face, she seemed frightened.
“Where is my son? Why are you acting like that?” He asked her, then followed the sound of the baby crying to the door to the slaves chamber. He stood at the door and looked at the second wife who was cowering in the corner. “Is he deformed? What is it?”
The second wife was sobbing but shook her head. The crying stopped.
“We must go in father.” Damarc told him, “We must see the boy for ourselves.”
Tal San opened the door. His first wife knelt next to his fourth. The fourth wife was holding the baby to her swollen breast with a small smile on her face. Meanwhile the first wife looked grim.
“Why are you so frightened?” Tal San, worried but becoming angry. “Tell me what is wrong with my son!”
The first wife opened her mouth to speak but then shut it and looked lost. “I do not understand how this could be.” She said looking at Tal San and Damarc in turn.
“I won't beat you for this. Genetics is not your fault.” Tal San said. “I must see it for myself, I am the father after all. Show me my son!”
The fourth wife removed the baby from her breast and turned it over so that its head was supported in her cradling arms. “She's perfect.” The female slave said.
Indeed, the newborn child was a girl, not yet able to focus on the blurry things moving around in front of her. Tal San's legs lost energy and he sat down on the floor. Damarc was leaning against the wall with a slack expression on his face.
“How is this possible? In a century since the arrival no female has been born on Roma.” Tal San said in words hardly more than a whisper.
“Is this a miracle?” Damarc asked, bringing a word he had remembered from his tutoring classes to his lips. “Is that what this is?”
“If this upsets you, I can bury the child and no one will have to know.” His first wife told him, and he knew she was serious. Even killing a slave wife was a high crime, even if you were allowed to do almost anything else to them. Killing a born girl would legally be the same as murdering a boy, probably. Tal San could hardly think through all the implications.
Tal San was befuddled. He was looking at something that was supposed to be impossible. Something that had indeed been impossible before that moment.
“You are going to be famous.” Damarc said, feeling a bit jealous. That thought helped the information bouncing around in his fathers head fall into place. This was not a bad thing. This was good. This was a very good thing. This could be the start of the salvation of the people of Roma.
Being a noble and one who was on the cusp of entering the upper ranks of Roma society made him a minor celebrity. A crowd would gather in the morning to hear the announcement of a new son from him. They had come for a few days, growing ever more sure that the birth would happen.
A smile crawled across the lips of Tal San.
“Bring her and the child to my chamber. I want to keep an eye on the girl until morning.” Tal San told the first wife. The second wife was entering as they left.
“This night is historic. All of Roma will celebrate her, they will reward me handsomely.” He told his son as they passed through the kitchen.
“How can one have a girl as a son?” Damarc asked “I don't grasp this yet.”
Tal San laughed, “We will have to use one of the old words from the past. A word that hasn't been uttered on this world in a century. She is not a son, she is, my daughter. Your sister.”
“Will she be a slave? Will she be free like males are?” Damarc asked. “I've never seen a female wear clothes before. That might be strange.”
Tal San laughed. “A lot of people are going to be confused.”
The next morning, when the sky was still orange, a large crowd of men had gathered. A few had brought their slaves bearing baskets of fruits, cheeses, wines and even breads. These people planned to give them to the new father, obviously trying to curry favor with someone who might be in a position to help them soon.
When Tal San bearing the female child and Damarc came through the gates onto the raised platform next to the people-filled streets a great cry of joy was sounded. For a full minute or more there was a celebration as if this were a joyous occasion for them as much as for Tal San.
The crowd noticed that Tal San and Damarc did not join them. They started quieting down and watching. Tal San noted that one of those in the crowd was a scribe he knew from the Acta Publica. This would make big news for the whole Roma society quickly.
The crowd of men waited for his announcement to make it official. It was custom, you had to say it even if you thought it cheesy, you were supposed to say “A son is born!” The confused crowd wondered what was taking so long. Let the merriment begin already.
Tal San walked to the edge of the platform, held the child high and then moved two fingers to let the cloth fall.
“A daughter is born!”
The crowd was silent for a long moment. Then whispering and talking took over as everyone tried to shout over the others. Meanwhile Tal San and Damarc re-entered the estate through the wooden gates and shut it behind them.
The 9,900+ word short ebook Born Girl on Roma, will be available on Amazon. The cover is kind of terrible but I can change that later.
THE FOURTH is $2.99 or free to read with Kindle Unlimited