Friday, 23 December 2011


"Darling, what's the matter now?"  The Queen was trying to sound interested, but actually she was just irritated.  Teenage daughters were a lot more trouble that she'd expected, and it wasn't even as if the wretched child were her daughter.  Just part of the baggage of marriage, it seemed, like a husband thirty years older than her who preferred reminiscing about sex to actually having any, a duty to appear to the general public far more often than was good for her, and having to re-learn all the etiquette she'd managed to ignore at finishing school.
"I hate my name!" Smaragd, the King's eldest daughter, was having a tantrum.  She beat her fists on the bed, and kicked the bedposts making the canopy above sway dramatically.  "It's a stupid name!  Why did you call me it?"
"Don't ask me," said the Queen, her own frustrations rising to the surface.  "Ask your father."
"Mmm, ask me, mmm, what?" The King, attempting to hide from the Court Magister who wanted more solomonic decrees from him, came into his daughter's bedroom.  He sat down on the bed, narrowly missing sitting on her head, and then looked down for her.
"What's the mmm-matter, dear?  Aren't you well?"
"I hate my name!" yelled Smaragd.  "I hate, hate, hate it!"
"She wants to know why she's called Smaragd," said the Queen, sighing just a tiny little bit to herself.  "I think it's lovely," she lied.  "It means Emerald, you know."
"And we didn't, mmm, have a lot of mmm, choice, either."
Silence greeted this pronouncement, and the King looked a little surprised.  "Has it, mmm, really been so long?  Oh, mmm, that could be a problem-mmm soon then."
More silence, this time with both women in the room staring at him in what he suspected was not adoration or respect.
"We had a com-mmm-petition to name you, mmm," he said, thinking his way back through his memories.  "We were, mmm, fighting a rather depressing war at the time you see. Mmm.  Mmhmm.  Back then there were Svingotts to the south of us, and they were mmm, aggressive.  Every mmm, two or three years mmm, they'd start another mmm fight.  And that would escalate, mmm, into a war.  It was mmm, exhausting.  So I decided, mmm, that we needed to crush them-mmm absolutely.  So we had an mmm, competition to name you.  Whoever provided me with the best mmm increase in army size mmm won the right to name you."
"I think I remember the Svingotts," said the Queen.  "Very... virile men as I recall."  She smiled, unnoticed by the other two.
"You let someone else pick my name?  I could have been called anything!"
"Well, not really, mmm.  There were only three Barons at the mmm time who could raise armies mmm, so you'd have been named by one of mmm, them.  And they would all want mmm my favour."
"So you liked Smaragd?"  Smaragd couldn't have looked any more aghast or appalled.
"Not really.  But like I said, I didn't have mmm-much choice."
"Which Baron won the naming right then?" asked the Queen.  "It can't have been Harald, he'd have named her Haradette or something like that."
"That's worse!"  Smaragd hurled a cushion at the Queen, who caught it and threw it back.
"Um.  None of them," said the King.  More silence and stares met that announcement, so he reluctantly continued.
"A dragon turned up and offered its services.  It pointed out that it effectively gave mmm-me air-power and mmm, trebled my effective army size.  Mmm.  It won straight-away."
"You named me after a dragon?"  Smaragd's face had gone pale white with shock.  "That's so uncool!"
"Umm. Not quite. Umm.  We named you the name the dragon wanted, hmmm, wanted to be the name of the person mmm its son married."
"Wuh?" said Smaragd, not believing her ears.
"You betrothed her to a dragon and named her so that the dragon would marry her?" said the Queen, who was a lot quicker on the uptake.
"Umm.  Yes," said the King deciding that the Court Magister was far preferable to the screaming that was now issuing from his daughter's mouth.

No comments: