On Myrddin Publishing’s blog this week, I posted part of a chapter from my forthcoming novel EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS which described how Princess Adora came to be born. Here is what happened nine years later. (You can read the preceding section here.)
As was the custom, lost in the eternal fog of ancient ritual, if the thing produced from the loins of woman had been a male, it would have been quickly removed from the chamber as though it had never been created. No mourning would occur and no announcement of the failure would be made. A female child was placed into the breast cradle and offered a nipple to suck and encouraged to dine with great passion from that first day forward and for as long as the motherly teats gave milk.
Adora, the little princess, noted the arrangement, standing quietly beside the nursing lounger, watching her mother lovingly press the new babe against her large breast.
“What words have you to say to your new sister?” asked Queen Dorothea nine years after birthing little Adora.
“I suppose I will say ‘Welcome to Sannan’ to her.” The pretty girl thought for a moment. “What shall I call her?”
The queen smiled, her chubby cheeks flushing as they often did when she was delighted.
“Let’s call her . . . Lumina. She is so bright. How is that?”
“Lu-mi-na. Yes! I like it!” exclaimed the girl.
“So it is done. The naming. A lovely name for a queen. Almost as great as Adora. Now let the realm know my second daughter is to be called Lumina—Princess Lumina.”
The chief maid exited the slumber chamber to pass the news to the court crier who would make the official announcement.
“What will happen to the other babe?” asked Adora.
The nursing maids chuckled. Such a beautiful, naïve child, they seemed to suggest. Once she returns to her tutors, she will learn more of the customs of Sannan.
“It’s none of your concern. Go and make play for yourself.”
Adora turned to the basket on the floor beside the great slumber seat. In the basket the babe gurgled, threatening to cry, its tiny feet wriggling above the basket’s rim. She wanted to step closer and get a better look, to see if this one was as cute as the babe resting on her mother’s chest sucking the nipple.
“Sometimes the goddesses bless us with extra measure,” the glad queen spoke in a soothing voice. “As always, we must dispense with males, the sons and brothers, fathers and uncles, lest they return our great realm to ancient depravity and ring loud the bellicose bell. You must remember the history of womankind.”
“I do,” said Adora. “I listen to my tutors always.”
“As you should.” The queen spoke to her maids a moment. When she returned her eyes to Adora, she said: “I hire only the best tutors for you, so you can trust what they tell you.”
Adora stared at the babe in the basket. The queen saw her abject attention and waved at one of the nursing maids.
“Remove the waste,” commanded the queen.
When the basket was taken out, Her Majesty turned as best she could, rolling on her side upon the slumber seat, and gazed at her elder daughter.
“When your time comes, little one, a suitable sire will be arranged for you. You need not trouble yourself until then. After the necessary coupling you need never have to see that beast again. Until then, you have plenty of lovely girls to play with. So go on now and play. Those twins Countess Nadal has . . . you always get on with them, don’t you? Delightful girls.”
“Do not show a sour face. The maids will think you have erred in some way. And we shall not call you Adora any longer, for you won’t be adorable any longer.”
“But, Mama, I want—”
“I’m sorry, Mama.”
“Mama? You forget who you are, child!”
The girl bowed her head. “Yes, Your Majesty. Forgive me, Queen Dorothea. I’m only a child.”
“Very well, forgiven you are.”
After a moment, Adora raised her eyes to her mother.
“May I keep it for a pet?”
The queen stared at the child, then shifted her weight upon the great slumber seat, tucking the newborn daughter into the cleft of her elbow with a warm smile. The nursing maids gasped, fearing that the newborn would be crushed.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Already you fancy a pet? You’re not yet of the age for that.”
“I just want to play with it.”
“You must know such creatures will grow into adulthood, just as you shall. It is not a good thing. Not much of a pet then. By such age it will be dangerous. They surely will be violent.”
“I only wish a pet for now,” said Adora, daring to raise her eyes to the queen. “If it please Your Majesty. I think caring for a pet will teach me many responsibilities.”
The queen chuckled. She rolled over onto her back once more to hand off the newborn babe to a nursing maid.
“Better you had a canine or feline for that kind of lesson, or even a small dragon would do as well. Not a male babe.”
“I beg you, Ma—Your Majesty!”
“Begging? That’s not very becoming of a princess.”
The queen thought for a moment, her chubby fingers stroking her daughter’s soft cheek.
“Very well, child. You shall have the male babe as a pet. Yet only until it reaches the size you are now. Then it must be set aside as the others are. Before it can do any harm.”
“What will become of the babe then?”
“Likely it will be sent to the workhouse for training. All the males we keep become either warriors or laborers, as you should know. The lesson needs teaching to you this week. Ask your tutor for the lesson about males. Only the tests will determine which path it goes. If a warrior, then we may need a few battles to be able to determine who of them is worthy of service for our younger women.” She raised her voice for the note taker’s benefit: “We owe a battle to Anjoz, don’t we? They dare encroach on our south shore once more.” Returning her attention to the princess, she continued: “Those warriors who are victorious will endure and serve. Those who do not pass become at best common laborers, at worst farm fodder.”
The girl gasped, as though expecting a pinch of pain.
“And laborers do not touch maidens.”
“Correct, child. Your tutors have taught you well. I shall add to their wages.”
“Will there be a battle soon?” asked Adora.
The queen chuckled. “Why soon?”
“I wish to know if it will stay or go before I devote my attention to caring for it.”
The queen patted the girl’s head. “You will make a fine queen some day, Princess Adora. You are always planning for the future and wanting it now. Such a delight!”
The queen gave the command and the basket was retrieved with some effort and returned to the slumber chamber.
Set on the floor at Adora’s feet, the male babe wriggled and cooed contentedly in the basket as though nothing awful had happened or was about to happen. That was as it should be, thought Adora as she gazed down upon her baby brother.