A girl, a princess, an heir to the throne.
Do appearances count for nothing?
Deidre felt the pain of a million knives as she was laid down upon the birthing-bed. Her husband Tristram paced back and forth in a frenzy of worry. He had never witnessed a birth. He had heard plenty, but it made no difference. This time, it was his own child. His own wife lay there in horrible pain. He felt so many emotions all at once; love, for his wife and new child, hate of the pain that she endured, thankfulness to the gods for giving him the fertility... he could hardly keep one thought stable in his mind.
Deidre screamed in pain and Tristram shook where he stood. He heard the midwife call to the delivering woman.
"Deidre, milady, you must push."
Deidre groaned and yelled once more. Tristram vowed that he would make sure all the servants treated Deidre and the baby very well to make up for her pains.
Deidre once more screamed in pain and then was silent. A wailing cry echoed from the room and Tristram almost fainted. The baby?
"Oh gods! What fallacy is this?" cried the midwife after separating mother from child.
"What? What is wrong with my child?" asked Deidre loudly. There was a scuffle as the midwife backed up.
"No, milady, you mustn't. Please -- " she tried to persuade, but Deidre grabbed the child from the midwife's hands to gaze on it. Her eyes opened wide.
"What is this thing?" she cried aloud, dropping the baby upon the bed. Tristram ran in only to see it drop. He ran to catch it but Deidre shoved him away. "No," she cried, laying back down to deliver the afterbirth in a cry of pain. She made no attempt to care for the child.
Tristram picked up the naked child. A girl, he noticed. His eyes traveled up her small body only to land upon her face. He gasped in shock.
The girl was horribly malformed. One side of her face looked as though it had been dragged down by a horrendous weight. Her eyes, however, remained normal; a stunning blue. And although she was ugly, Tristram saw no real horror to her. In fact, he still felt the love of his heart fall upon the child.
Deidre finished delivering the afterbirth and lay upon the bed weeping.
"Is the pain this great, my wife?" asked Tristram caringly, holding her pale, slender hand. Deidre shook her head.
"My child..." she muttered through her sobbing, and tristram shook his head in return.
"She is not so ugly, dearest one of my heart. Look upon her once more," he urged, trying to show the child to her, but Deidre pushed the child away.
"No. She is not my child."
For the first time Tristram saw ugliness in his wife and learned what it really was.
"Well, she may not be beautiful of face, but I am sure she will be beautiful of mind."
Deidre was silent.
"In any case, what shall we name her?"
More silence. "I have always been fond of Adonia," chimed Tristram.
Deidre laughed. "Bah," she snorted. "I have the perfect name for it."
"Wretched? Wretched!" cried Adelina, presently.
Wretched had been drawing in her sketchbook her father had made for her when she heard her servingmaid's cry. "What is it, Ady?" Adelina came running into her room.
Ever since meeting, Adelina and Wretched had been friends. They were introduced at the age of five, an age at which no child can serve for another; rather, they were playmates. Never had Adelina once looked at Wretched in a judging way. She loved her as her own sister. Out loud, at the Queen's orders, Adelina was forced to call Wretched by her real name, but in private, she called her Wrey.
"Wrey, your father calls for you, though forces me to do so instead," she said, grabbing some dirty laundry from Wrey's bed.
"If he pesters me once more for my appetite!" cried Wrey jokingly; she was so very thin that her father often doted on her by giving her fatty snacks to make her rounder. "You'd think as king he would yet come to an end on such foolish things and focus on the kingdom!"
"Only when you are Queen, milady," chimed Ady, laughing. Wrey laughed back and nodded.
"I go then," she said. "Oh, and make sure that Clarinda gets a turn at the sketchbook, will you?"
Ady was silent. "Why do you insist upon me being so kind to that .... " she trailed off, seeing the expression on Wrey's face.
"Mean or not, she's still my sister," said Wrey dutifully, "and we must treat her as such."
"I hate the way she treats you! How your mother treats you!" she paused. "I hate it, Wrey."
"Well, I guess that will all change, when I am Queen," joked Wrey.
She left her room and headed to the throneroom where her father sat. He was looking over some parchments when she walked in.
"Ah, my child, come forth," he said kindly, gesturing for her. Wrey did as much. "For such a long time I have searched the land, child, for a good suitor for my loveliest of girls, and I have finally succeded!" he cried. "Oh, a joyous occasion, daughter of mine!"
"You have found Clarinda a husband?" she asked, and the king laughed.
"No, dear child, I have located one for you. For you are much lovelier than ever imaginable; kind hearted, wise, strong, and witty! Oh, any suitor would pine for you, my dear!"
Wrey looked down. "But my face, father."
The king lost some of his joyous demeanor. "That can be overlooked, dearest. The best of a veil would do the trick. Or a story of your bravery in the face of death, in which you were wounded."
"I'd much rather tell the truth; I was born cursed." Wrey looked back up, the left side of her face suddenly illuminated by a shine of light from the king's spectacles. Tristram did not wince, but internally he could not help but stare for a moment.
"My child, I daresay you are correct. However... you being my first heir... we must make some small sacrifices to marry you if it comes to that. And lying would not be the worst thing to do." Wrey tried to protest, but the king waved her away. Wrey bowed and left his throne.