Once upon a time, a princess was born. She loved laughter, dancing, and playing clever games. She was bold and cunning, a fitting heir to the ambitious king and proud queen. The princess had also been blessed with a capacity for magic far beyond normal, thanks to a pact between the fairies and the royal family. The kingdom rejoiced to know their next generation would be ruled by such a promising monarch.
When the princess was still young, but old enough to know what was going on, the queen gave birth to another child. A male child. In him were present all the signs of future promise soothsayers had seen at his sister’s birth, and the kingdom was overjoyed. A king. The courtiers all flocked to vow their allegiance to the new heir, and the servants all begged leave to serve him. The princess was forgotten.
Forgotten by all but her mother, who realized that her daughter needed more loyal companions than mere servants or fickle courtiers. The queen cast about for suitable ladies in waiting, and found two to assign to the princess’ particular care. The court whispered about the queen’s choices for such highly esteemed positions, but none could argue with her majesty’s command.
One was tall for her age, and awkward, one of the many offspring from the mottled union of a knight and a peasant woman. The story of her parent’s love was romantic and idyllic, but the court had trouble accepting such a half breed as a lady. She was accepted grudgingly as a suitable companion when she became one of the few to solve one of the princess’ riddles.
The other was the only child of the king’s advisor. Having a child at such an age would usually have made tongues wag, but the royal advisor and his wife were both so ugly and ancient that the whispers were more fantastic than sordid. That the two could naturally produce such a child, one as delicate and lovely as a porcelain doll, was considered absurd. Yet in that kingdom, changelings were not as shunned as in others. Instead they were regarded with fear and respect.
Both companions were neat and polite, skilled in needlework and all other niceties. Both, though one so tall and the other so small, were lovely in looks with roses in their cheeks and grace in their steps. Neither were as beautiful as the princess, a necessary quality in a lady in waiting, and instead appeared as supporting flowers to her showy red rose. The three together made an unusually brilliant bouquet.