Kings and Lords: Lineage
The warm afternoon breeze blew a gentle caress across the back veranda which overlooked the fields behind the King’s sprawling secluded property in the Northern region. The private estate, a single level stone dwelling, sat atop a lush plateau, with an unspoiled valley beyond. The property had been in Zerin’s family for generations and also held historical significance. Ironically yet perhaps fittingly, one of the earliest known writings which foretold of Zobulan’s future destiny of peace was inscribed in stone deep within a cave that lay in the distant valley. Though the ancient message had spread over time through the writings of Zobulan’s esteemed Scribes, due to the importance of this place, Zerin in particular had grown up with a keen awareness of the foretelling’s believed significance.
It was on this serene afternoon that Shadarra, now wife of the fated King, stood gazing from the back veranda out over the scenery beyond. She was about to step indoors, but lingered to observe her husband hard at work — not in the capacity of a King, but simply as a man providing for his family. They had been working hard in cultivating a garden adjacent to the estate in order to make them as self-sufficient as possible, limiting the necessity to venture into the nearby village as often, considering their stay here was in secret. Ordinarily there would have been a full accompaniment of servants attending them while here, but the secret nature of their situation only allowed for the attending servitude of Nahlia, who held a senior position of service at the castle and was someone whom they trusted. Thus, without the usual surplus of help, tilling a garden — work that ordinarily would have been done by commoners — was being done by a King.
Watching him now, Shadarra found she loved him just a little more for that.
The decision to embrace this life together was not one that had been made lightly by either of them, but the incredible potential of their union — one that could result in the uniting of two bloodlines that for centuries had battled each other for the throne — was not something that could be disregarded or allowed to slip past. And yet, even if the possibility of a child between them did not become a reality, Zerin had pledged his once-repressed love for Shadarra and asked her to become his wife, regardless of the outcome of producing an heir between them. Shadarra often reflected on his words spoken to her when he proposed.
‘You are enough for me, even if our union could not bring eternal peace to this realm. You will bring eternal peace to my heart, and that is more than I could ever dare to hope for. Whatever does or does not come from this point forward, we will face it together,’ he had said to her as he had opened his heart and asked for hers.
The inexplicable man they knew simply as the Doctor had then made the impossible — genetic compatibility between two races who had never been able to cross-produce — a very real possibility. He had then enabled them to journey to this place swiftly and secretly by means of the TARDIS.
It had now been just over two months since being married in private by Zerin’s trusted friend, Ezrim, overseer of the Northern realm. And even though a relatively short amount of time had passed, Shadarra was growing increasingly anxious that there was not yet a sign that she and Zerin would be able to have a child. This changed nothing in terms of their love, but what this could mean for Zobulan was crucial.
The Doctor had said he would return to check on them in a few months’ time, and if a child between them did not seem as if it was going to be possible, then they would devise what to do next in altering the Doctor’s plan in all this. If their marriage succeeded in uniting the two hostile sides of Zobulan then it could change the future of the realm. If not, the people of Zobulan would never accept a royal marriage between the opposing Jezrians and Krendorians. It simply was unheard of. She knew Zerin, a man who had fought his share of wars, was prepared to fight another battle if it came to that. He would no longer let his love for her be suppressed by the dictates of convention, no matter the consequences. She silently prayed each day it would not come to that.
Zerin had sensed her growing more anxious, continually seeking signs of possible pregnancy. For Jezrian women, pregnancy lasted seven months, and the first sign was a telltale reddened flush of color around the wrists, along with a slightly elevated temperature. He had caught her inspecting her wrists so often, that the day before, in a half playful yet half serious gesture, he had wrapped strips of white cloth around each wrist, kissed them, and told her she never needed to seek an outward sign of his love, which was all that should ever matter for them.
Shadarra was determined to take such an attitude. She was a strong woman, not one to be oppressed by doubts or fears. She had learned to carry on after losing both her parents to illness when she was a young child. Her uncle, former King Kezra, had taken her in as his own, and she had been reared beneath the strict sense of duty that comes from being raised within the monarchy. The good of the realm, she was taught, was to be first and foremost; and both she and Zerin had placed this ahead of the unspoken love that had grown between them since he had taken the throne and they had silently become so much more than amiable acquaintances and allies.
Yet they had now embraced their love and were learning to give this the place of importance in their lives that had once been denied, now separate from a sense of self-sacrifice to duty. But not a day went by where she did not think of the long-awaited harmony that could be reached for both her and Zerin’s people if a child between them could actually become possible.
And today just might be the day that such a longed-for dream became a reality.
Shadarra had recently been feeling what might be possible symptoms, but had tried not to read too much into them. Her temperature had increased slightly the past few days — one of the reasons she had so diligently been looking for the outward sign of flushing around her wrists. But today she felt even warmer, almost uncomfortably so. It was a warm afternoon, but not hot by any means. Yet she had become quickly heated when working outside. She had made her way from the garden to come indoors to cool herself and get refreshment, yet she had still not yet removed the strips of cloth to peek beneath for confirmation of what she was feeling.
Nahlia had gone into the village that day, and so Shadarra was alone as she turned from the veranda and made her way back in to the estate. She went to fill a pitcher of water, intending to bring some to Zerin as well. As she made her way into the modest kitchen and reached for the pitcher beside the sink, she was unable to complete the task. Her eyes were transfixed on her outstretched wrist, her mind warring with the need to know what might be beneath, yet fearing another disappointment. Her need to know the answer one way or the other finally outweighed her apprehension, and as she tentatively untwined the wrappings from her wrists, she was so riveted on what was revealed beneath that she did not hear Zerin as he came in.
She drew a soft gasp as his arms came to embrace her from behind, drawing her to him. One hand reached forward to gently take the shed piece of cloth from her grasp as he spoke softly in her ear.
“I thought we agreed that no outward sign of our love ever needed to be sought. We have each other. That is all that matters for us.”
Shadarra turned in his arms, tears now tracking down her cheeks as she lifted her eyes to his.
“Oh, my love,” he whispered, wiping her tears with his thumbs before cradling her face in his hands, “whether our love results in one lineage, this changes nothing for what we do have, within our hearts.”
She pressed her face to his chest as he tucked her head beneath his chin, wrapping her in his arms. She drew a shuddering breath before tipping her face back up to his. “Zerin, I…”
He silenced her words with his lips as his head dipped forward, his arms drawing her closer. She sank into him with a sigh of pleasure, then refocused her thoughts. He withdrew only when she pushed lightly against his chest, intent on telling him this. “I need you to know…”
“That I love you?” he finished for her, nuzzling her porcelain cheek, grazing her fare skin with his lips. “That you are so much more to me than thrones or kingdoms?” he whispered into her neck. “That you—”
“That I’m pregnant,” she whispered back.
He went completely still. Slowly, he pulled back, his eyes wide and focused on hers. “You’re…?”
She nodded vigorously, her own eyes shining. She placed her hand in his, and slowly he lifted it.
For several heartbeats he simply stared. His fingers then gently traced the rose-tinged flesh of her wrist, awe and disbelief and swelling love radiating from his eyes. His hand then drifted to her belly, palm pressing over where new, precious life lay protected within her womb.
“We really did this,” he whispered in wonder.
“We did this,” she echoed, closing her hand over his.
Their eyes locked, and for this one sacred moment none of this was about a history-making lineage or the uniting of the Jezrians and Krendorians into a single ruling bloodline. This was about a baby created in love. This was a child that existed because this man and this woman loved each other wholly, unconditionally.
With a watery laugh and her entire being exuding joy, Shadarra took the face of her stunned husband in her hands and kissed him with renewed fervor. Regardless of whether this child was destined to one day rule Zobulan, all either of them cared about in this moment was that their love had resulted in new life, and their legacy of love was one that would live on and endure.
It had been nearly four months since Zerin and Shadarra had begun their new life together — and begun new life. They had just returned from a leisurely riding excursion through the rolling hills surrounding their modest estate. It was the first time Shadarra had ridden in weeks. Some of the early nausea she had experienced from the pregnancy had made the jostling of riding an unpleasant activity, so as that particular symptom had eased, she had been eager to resume one of their favorite activities. Zerin had been cautious of the idea of her riding. He had been endearingly-protective of her, but the more he hovered, the less endearing it became. When he called their ride short, and then insisted on stabling her mare so that she would not exert herself with the task, Shadarra had finally had enough, and an all-out row broke out between them.
Nahlia was nearby working in the garden, not surprised when their argument began. She had sensed the tension simmering in Shadarra for the past few days but knew these two would simply have to work it out on their own.
“I am perfectly capable of doing this myself,” Shadarra stated sternly, clearly miffed. “And for that matter, I was capable of riding for much longer today. There is no need for you to treat me like—”
“Like you are carrying a child and need to take precautions?” he cut in gently, taking the reins from her hands and beginning to guide the mare to the stable, despite his wife’s protests a moment before. He paused to place one hand over her now slightly-swelling belly before continuing past. “I am only doing what is bes—”
He stopped short when Shadarra stepped in front of him in a few quick strides and reclaimed the reins from his hands. “You are doing what you think is best and refusing to listen to me.”
“Shadarra...,” he warned, and the cautioning tone made her blood boil. He reached again for her hands but she darted from his grasp.
“Just because you are the King does not mean that you are the final authority on everything under the sun!” she snapped.
“Apparently I need to make the decisions in this situation because your decisions are lacking in reason!”
“I am lacking reason?” she shot back. She dropped the reins to the ground, letting the mare wander contentedly through the grass. Zerin cast it a quick glance, but was more focused on Shadarra as she tromped over to their sprawling garden. She picked a large ripe vegetable from a vine, similar to an Earth-variety tomato, but bright orange in color. “This,” she called out indignantly, “is more than you would even allow me to carry yesterday! You protest even when I try to undertake a simple task in the garden.”
He hastily reached her, picking a similar vegetable and lifting it in his hand. “This is not what you were attempting to carry yesterday.” He quickly picked four more, thrusting them out before her. “This is what you were unreasonably trying to labor with!”
Nahlia continued working quietly, suppressing her humor at the young couple. She was soon brought in to the argument by a royal command, however.
“Nahlia,” Zerin addressed her, his voice growing more tense, “will you please tell Her Highness that her actions are indeed reckless considering her condition?!”
Shadarra quickly broke in. “Yes, Nahlia, I value your logical input. Would you please tell His Majesty that he is being utterly unreasonable?!”
The aged woman gathered up her basket full of freshly-picked greens. “With all due respect to you both, I am wise enough to know not to take sides between two quarreling lovers. I’m afraid you will both have to reach a compromise together.” With a small smile, she left the garden to return indoors.
Shadarra’s eyes flicked back to Zerin, his face flushed with exasperation, then down to his armload of produce. She dropped her own to the ground as her hands came up to cover her face.
His own load was dropped and forgotten as he took a quick step towards her and wrapped her in his arms. “I’m sorry. Shhh…shhh. I’m sorry,” he soothed. “I never wish to be in conflict with you. Never.”
She lowered her hands from her face, now bubbling with laughter. Seeing her reaction, his own face transformed from concern to one of humor. Soon he was laughing with her, their earlier feelings of opposition fading.
He smoothed her flowing hair back from her face as their laughter died down and he spoke softly. “I only want you and our child safe and well.” He took both her hands in his as he continued solemnly. “We both know how fragile life can be and have witnessed its loss much too often in our lives. If anything were to ever happen to you, I…”
She pulled one hand from his and silenced him with her fingertips upon his lips, her eyes soft yet radiating strength. “I am strong, and so is our child. I would never take undue risks, but you must learn not to fear every action I take. You cannot drive us both insane with worry over my condition with every child we have,” she reasoned.
At that, a slow, gleaming smile overtook his face, the one that always made her a little weak in the knees. “Every child? Does this mean you are not angry with me to the point of banishment from our bedchamber?”
She answered him with her lips, but not in the form of words.
They finally broke the kiss, his hands trailing leisurely down her arms where he reached her hands and took them in is. “Might I suggest we negotiate a compromise?”
He released her hands as her arms came up to twine around his neck. “That is one of your great strengths,” she conceded with a sparkle in her eyes at the man who had once negotiated the end of one of Zobulan’s most prolonged battles, and was doing a fair job at diffusing this one, too.
He dipped his head to place a lingering kiss to her jaw, then the side of her neck. “Mmm…one, yes. I also have a few weaknesses…”
“Before your weakness completely overtakes you,” she replied playfully yet breathlessly, “just what are you suggesting?”
He pulled back to look in her eyes as he replied. “That I will be a little less cautious if you will be a little more so.”
“And thus we would balance each other,” she concluded, brushing a soft kiss to his lips, “complement each other…”
“As we do so perfectly,” he agreed, voice dropping to a husky tone.
Their tender kiss of apology and forgiveness soon became decidedly more fervent. Zerin guided Shadarra down onto a blanketing of soft grass, his lips never leaving hers as his hands began adoringly exploring her blossoming curves.
“We…we can’t…,” Shadarra managed to whisper between kisses, her protest made with clear reluctance. “Nahlia…”
“Has gone indoors,” the King assured his bride, again seeking and finding her lips between whispered words. “And she has become quite accustomed to adapting to our needs for…privacy…”
He looked down at her and smiled, adoring the way he could make her porcelain skin flush pink.
When an extraordinary blue box appeared in the lush meadow beside the estate on that sunny afternoon, the two who were being paid a timely visit hardly took notice, wrapped, quite literally as they were, in each other.
The Doctor had told them when first arranging all this that he would be able to journey a few months ahead to check on their situation in order to have an idea of just how he would have to proceed. For him, the time that had passed had been mere minutes since seeing them last — just enough time to let the recovering TARDIS regain strength from the distance that had been traveled before attempting to move a limited amount ahead in time.
As the TARDIS door creaked open, it didn’t take the Doctor long to spot the royal couple a few meters beyond, obviously preoccupied. The Doctor tugged on his ear and glanced back at the TARDIS. He always did have spectacular timing. Any other time he might have tactfully excused himself and returned later. Possibly. Manners weren’t always his top priority. And considering he was still in the midst of trying to work out this whole grand scheme and the TARDIS still limited in her traveling abilities, he didn’t exactly have the luxury of waiting and returning at a later time.
He cleared his throat as he ambled a few steps closer. When that failed to get results, he called out cheerily, if not loudly. “Hello! Hope I’m not interrupting. Well…obviously I am. And thankfully we’re not on Shlezoria where such an incident would have me on the receiving end of rather sharp and pointy spears…particularly during mating season. They get a touch moody then when faced with…interruptions. Not that I would know that from first-hand experience, mind you…”
He had finally gained their attention, Zerin quickly helping Shadarra to her feet to stand beside him, both readjusting their disheveled clothing.
“Doctor,” they simultaneously greeted, simultaneously breathless.
“We knew you would be returning in several months’ time, but did not know the exact day,” Zerin added, still recovering his bearings after the interruption, and still in awe that this man could appear from time and into thin air.
“Weeell, I like to keep a bit of a mystery. Makes arrivals more fun, don’t you think?” Zerin and Shadarra glanced at each other, and the Doctor cleared his throat, realizing a second too late that such a statement didn’t ease the awkward timing of his arrival. “Um…well…anyway, I didn’t know the exact date I would be returning, either. But this is the farthest my ship was able to travel at the moment. After another day of recuperation she’ll be capable of traveling the full year ahead to bring you both back.”
“And for you it has only been mere minutes since you had seen us last?” Shadarra asked in wonder.
“I am still trying to comprehend such things,” Zerin added, taking Shadarra’s hand and lacing his fingers through hers.
“Don’t try too hard,” the Doctor sagely advised. “It can give a headache to the best of them.” He then glanced pointedly at Shadarra’s slight, yet noticeably rounded tummy. “And apparently from the looks of things, you two are getting along brilliantly, and congratulations are in order.” Zerin beamed at his wife, and the Doctor added rather proudly, “Oh, I am good, aren’t I?” Shadarra simply smirked while Zerin fairly scowled. The Doctor’s grin faded. “Yes…well…that is to say, the original plan was apparently a success, but obviously thanks to the two of you as well.”
“Can you stay?” Shadarra asked hopefully. “Just for a short while. We do owe so much to you, and a celebratory meal in your honor is the least we can do.”
“Yes, please,” Zerin agreed. “We cannot offer you the finest hospitality the palace would afford, but all we have here will be shared.”
“Thank you,” the Doctor replied, “but I need to return as soon as possible. Now that I know everything is well and in order here, I can proceed with…the next part of the plan.”
Zerin and Shadarra simply nodded, knowing what the next step for the Doctor was going to be. Under other circumstances they might have been confounded by the fact that the Doctor was willing to go so far as to step in and take Zerin’s appointed place in the expected marriage to Rose, but despite the obvious reticence in the Doctor’s eyes when the matter was first brought up, there was also another undeniable emotion there. One that Zerin and Shadarra were equally familiar with themselves. Rose had not admitted to it when Zerin had pointedly asked, and the Doctor’s reluctance to discuss the matter was even more evident. But also evident were the feelings the Doctor and Rose held for each other. A man would not be planning what the Doctor was about to undertake if this were not the case.
“Well,” the Doctor concluded as he glanced back again at the TARDIS, then back to them, “you two have an eventful year to finish. And you have so much to look forward to ahead.”
“And what of you?” Shadarra asked softly.
The Doctor’s smile was brief as his eyes flicked downward. “Oh, every day is an event for me.” He turned to leave then, but paused, looking back. “And you two just…be happy. Hold on to what you’ve found. Not everyone can or does.”
They stood hand-in-hand and watched as the Doctor disappeared inside the TARDIS, then faded from sight, the echo of Time carried off on the wind.
Nearly four more months had passed since that day. This was again an eventful day for Zerin and Shadarra, but not in a way they had ever experienced.
The sound of Shadarra’s anguished screams echoed down the long halls of the estate. She had been in labor for over twelve hours, and each minute that passed felt like an eternity. As was the custom for royal births on Zobulan, an official was to be there to document the occasion. Ezrim, Zerin’s trusted friend and overseer of the Northern realm, who had also privately officiated Zerin and Shadarra’s marriage, was on hand for the event. An event the anxious father-to-be was beginning to fear would never come to pass.
Dawn was breaking on a new day as Zerin burst forth from the bedchamber where Nahlia, an experienced midwife, was still within attending to Shadarra. He nearly collided with Ezrim as he ran down the hallway.
“What is wrong?” the man questioned the clearly-distressed King.
“What is wrong?” Zerin repeated incredulously, his voice nearly shaking. “Can you not hear her screams? It has been hours and the child has still not come. I must go into the village and find help right away. I should have disregarded the need for secrecy and had a physician on hand from the start,” he berated himself. “The Doctor himself should be here,” Zerin continued, voice rising higher. “This was not a usual conception and is clearly not a normal labor. Something has gone wrong. He could help. Where is the man who calls himself a physician when he is needed most?!” Zerin yelled.
At that, Nahlia slipped out of the bedchamber and into the hall.
“Your Majesty, calm yourself,” she attempted to soothe him as she quickly approached. “The labor is progressing as it should. There is no sign that your wife or child is in undue distress. Where you are needed right now is at her side. Now come.”
“She is in agony!” Zerin protested. “Men dismembered in battle have not faced such anguish! You cannot tell me this is progressing as it should.”
He scrubbed both hands down his face as Nahlia continued her attempts to reassure him. “She is in a great deal of pain, yes. As are all women when bringing forth a child. Trust me. I know. I cannot count how many births I have assisted in, and one thing is common to all: pain. But her labor is following its due course and your wife is faring as well as to be expected. But she needs your courage right now. Can you give her that? If not, I’m going to have to ask you to wait out here so you do not distress her further.”
Shadarra’s cries again filled the air, followed by a plea for her husband.
Zerin steeled himself, determined to give her anything and everything he could. “She needs me. I will not leave her side until our child is born unless you give me the word that more help is needed.” He fixed Nahlia with a look of intensity. “I am trusting you to tell me the second anything goes wrong.”
“If it does, you have my word,” she assured him calmly.
Ezrim placed a hand on Zerin’s shoulder. “The most precious things in life often come forth from suffering. My wife also anguished with all three of our children, and each was born healthy and strong. Just support her with your courage, as Nahlia wisely advised, and Shadarra will do the rest, my friend. She is a strong woman.”
Zerin nodded, his jaw clenched as he hurried back down the hall to his wife’s side.
An hour later, the sacred, history-making record of the birth of Prince Zephrim, so named after Zerin’s father, was written and sealed by the realm’s overseer as custom dictated. The new royal family would have just a few remaining months together in peaceful solitude before the Doctor would be returning to bring them once again to the ruling city, presenting Zobulan with its future.
An exhausted Shadarra lay with her head to her husband’s chest as she cradled their newborn son in her arms. Zerin sat behind her, supporting and encircling her in his arms as his right hand held that of his son’s, the entire tiny hand fitting securely between his father’s two fingers.
Every finger and toe had been accounted for — nearly every delicate eyelash as well as the new parents marveled at the perfect, tiny being who had made his entrance into this world. His soft, fair skin tone was that of his mother’s, but with a fine covering of dark hair and the equally dark eyes of his father. He was, quite visibly, not only a representation of Zerin and Shadarra’s union, but the union of Krendorian and Jezrian blood. This child would one day rule a kingdom, his tiny hand destined to hold the power of governing two peoples joined as one.
But not today.
Today he was simply a precious child born of love, his innocent eyes yet to see the splendor and grave responsibility one day awaiting him. For now, his parents would simply shower him with their love, and one day raise him to carry his royal heritage, taught to rule with wisdom and a hand of peace.
“He is perfect,” Shadarra whispered, a weary yet joyous smile lighting her eyes.
Zerin brushed a kiss across his wife’s temple. “You both are,” he answered with emotion. “I have seen so much of fighting and destruction and death, but what you have brought to my life is the beauty and wonder and joy I had once never known…never thought possible.”
Shadarra tilted her head to look into his eyes. “I wish everyone could know such a measure of love.” She paused in reflection, her thoughts not only on those of both her and Zerin’s people, now united as one, but of the man who helped make all this a reality. “Do you think a man such as the Doctor could ever find these things in life? We know the burdens of a ruler overseeing a kingdom, but what of a Lord overseeing Time? How lonely a life of ceaseless travel must be,” she murmured. “Yet he is not alone. He has a woman who was willing to sacrifice her life for his own in the face of Eilam’s threats. He has Rose. And still…there seems to be a sadness behind his eyes. Such deep longing.”
“Mmm, I know the look well…,” Zerin reflected, stroking her hair, “…believing that what I longed for most was unattainable for someone such as myself.”
She settled back again into her husband’s embrace, her voice hushed as the baby slept peacefully. “Do you think it’s possible that a man like the Doctor could ever find these things in life? Have this kind of love?”
Zerin paused in contemplation before answering, a smile coming to his face that was equal parts joy and disbelief over the recent events of his own life. “If there is just one thing I have learned from such a man, it is that anything…anything is possible.”