Once Upon a Time...

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Draped in the finest silks, The Queen sat upon her throne looking for all the world like a marble statue given life. Her skin showed no hint of the sun, nor did her hands carry the mark of a single day of work. Jewels had been sewn into her dress, and feathers of tropical birds braided through her hair. She held herself with the knowledge that she was as fine as the works of art that hung upon the throne room walls. The Queen was beautiful, ethereal, and frankly made The Midwife feel like a downright idiot for showing up wearing her second-best shawl. Royalty did that to a person, no matter how old or wise one might be.

"Midwife," The Queen said, her voice filling the grand hall. "I have been told you were the one who attended to the birth of my child. Is this true?"

The Midwife gave a slight bow. "I can't say for sure, Your Majesty. How old is your child?"

"He shall be of age this spring."

"That's almost a good twenty years ago now, isn't it? I've brought a lot of people into this world, and most of the births run together, if I do say so myself. You walk in, slap the baby, and advise the parents not to name it after a type of sheep. Or a wandering bard. Gods above, that's the worst. Do you know how many Gilberts have been named after that one prat who won't stop singing about his tragic love affair with a magician's daughter? I swear, a few notes of a song, and suddenly their grandfather's middle name isn't good enough anymore!"

The Queen didn't seem to mind the aside and simply waited for The Midwife to stop before she spoke again. "I would be the Queen you attended on," she said with a curt tone in her voice.

"Still doesn't narrow it down, Your Majesty. I get called to assist with everything from foxes to the Gods themselves. I am The Midwife, and my hands open the doors to this world. You will have to be a bit more precise. Was there anything unusual about the birth?"

"I gave birth to twins."

"Not ringing any bells."

"One of the twins was a serpent."

The Midwife snapped her calloused fingers. "Ah! I thought you looked familiar. Yes, yes, now I remember. First one that came out was a nice healthy boy with rosy cheeks and a good pair of lungs. Perfect for a future king. I do believe I suggested the name Arvid. Old-fashioned, but rather good for a king. Did you go with that one?"

"Yes, but–"

"Good, good. King Arvid. Short but strong. What about the serpent? I think I saw her as a good Kjersti. Nice dependable name, that."

"No, we–"

"Why not? Kjersti's a perfectly fine name. You could trust your coin purse to a Princess Kjersti, no doubt about it."

"We did not name the serpent!" The Queen stood, causing the silk of her gown to fall in less pleasing ways. "That horrid creature escaped out the window as soon as it slithered from the womb!"

The Midwife wrinkled her nose as she turned over the worn-out memory in her head. "No, she didn't. I wrapped her up in a nice cotton blanket and handed her to one of those ladies-in-waiting hanging about. No defenestration during that birth at all."

"That is what I have told my husband, and that is the truth of that day! And now the blasted thing has invaded this castle because it wants a bride!" She stared The Midwife down, only to find her well-practiced gaze fizzling before it could reach the older woman.

"First off," The Midwife said, her voice as steady as the rocks below her feet. "You really should have lead this conversation with the fact that she's currently here. Secondly, I do recall recommending you name the child, baptize her in the name of whatever god you follow, and raise her to be the sort of serpent that doesn't go around killing people. Now, why didn't you listen to my advice?"

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