High in the white tower of the castle the queen, who normally occupied the rarefied heights enjoyed by the second most important person in the kingdom, was rapidly – if only linguistically – descending down the rungs of the social ladder with frightening speed.
“Gosh!” She said as her contractions started.
“Damn!” She exclaimed as her waters broke.
“Fuuuuuuuuuck!” She screamed as she was held down upon her bed by the midwives, twisting and writhing as though she were being horribly molested by unclean spirits. In truth she had, but that was about nine months ago and the unclean spirit had been the King, whom regarded washing as something for the ‘little people’ to worry about.
Finally, her descent was complete as she sank into guttural grunts and hisses, practically biting at the women who tried to help her with only the occasional “That BASTARD!” punctuating what had now become animal noises and a teeth-clenched grimace that threatened to crack her molars.
The Queen wasn’t really built for bearing children, which was ironic as that was really all the royal families considered a woman good for. She was beautiful – of course – slender as a champagne flute and as intoxicating to the King as such a glass’ usual contents. Those slender hips and narrow waist were all well and good for courtly fashion and laced-up dresses but when it came to carrying and pushing out a baby the size and weight of a knight’s helm? Not so much.
In time, of course, the deed was done and the midwives told her what a beautiful daughter she had given birth to. They were lying of course, there are few things so ugly in this world as a newborn baby, covered in blood and mucous, screaming and bawling and twitching its barely formed limbs but still, there are protocols and traditions to follow in these circumstances and even if it had been born a cancerous lump of drooling deformity they’d be cooing at the same time they were calling for a priest.
The Queen herself didn’t care so much, she was exhausted and wanted a drink. She lay there, delirious with exhaustion, muttering to herself “Never again,” over and over and gulping down goblet after goblet of wine. The child, meanwhile, was cleaned up, swathed in expensive and embroidered children’s clothes and presented to the King and the court like a hunting trophy..
The courtiers offered courtly congratulations on the beauty and regal bearing of the child. The soothsayers offered sooth to the effect that the baby would be brilliant and powerful. The faerie godmother – a fraud of course – cast her blessings over the writhing little pink princess and gifts were lavished upon her before she’d even been out of the womb for a quarter of an hour.
It was all a sham.
She would grow up to be an entirely unremarkable princess in an entirely unremarkable monarchy.
Meanwhile, down in the village, the Blacksmith’s wife gave birth – with bovine ease – to her eighth child, her first son.
He would turn out very differently indeed.
Slight, reworking of an old story, because I have some other ideas for this series.