Challenge #01079-B347: Epic Levels of Pettiness

Inspired by Gallafreya's prompt. Magical entity turns up to claim child, only to be told, snarkily. "We had twins! You can have that one, it's only a girl. We, of course will keep our firstborn son for ourselves. 18 years later the results. -- Knitnan

When the wicked witch came for the child, the Prince and Princess had what they thought was a happy solution.

"We had twins," beamed the girl who had bargained a life for magic. "We'll keep the son and heir and you can take the other one."

"It's only a girl," dismissed the Prince. "Of little import to the crown."

The words burned her, though she did not flinch. And as she lifted the babe, she gave the infant the best blessing she could think of.

"You will always be more than people think you are." And she took the baby away.

The Prince and Princess eventually became King and Queen. They shed no tears for their lost daughter. Merely rejoiced in their sons. But this is not their story.

The witch named the new baby Belladonna, and knew that it was a poison. She told the girl her story just as soon as she could understand it. And while she grew, Belladonna learned.

She learned Glamour from the Faeries. She learned of herbs from the Dryads. Water magic from the Merfolk, light magic and deception from the Whisps. She learned of fire and resilience from the Dragons. And even learned how to learn from a wise old frog in a bog.

Everywhere the witch would wander, Belladonna followed. And Belladonna learned. She took in all the stories that those she met would tell. She saw the pattern of the way things were. Reasoned that she could pull a thread and make the cloth of life into the way that things could be.

And, when she came of age, Belladonna had a plan.

She took all her magic together, and wove a charm on a single jut of bedrock that was well away from everything. Everything that was unloved and unwanted would come there. And she would build from it.

From the tailings of dwarven mining, she used Dragon fire to make a new stone she called Spurnrock. It was stronger than any stone made by nature, and Belladonna built a new keep out of it. A new castle. A new city.

The unwanted came in hordes. Many of them girls. The orphans, the abandoned. The third sons, the failures, and those who were told again and again that they were stupid.

Belladonna taught them all. Gave them a home and a trade. Gave their hands things they could do. And her city grew. Peasants and serfs and paupers. Beggars and highwaymen. All those shunned by the elite came to her. And were given new lives.

They could leave if they wanted. But none of them wanted to.

Finally the courtiers of the world realised that, while it may be nice to earn land, it was useless without the people tending it. They had no clean clothes. No new clothes. No food to feast upon and, most importantly, no taxes to fund themselves with.

Belladonna knew her parents, just as well as she knew her brother on sight. They came on their knees before her and begged her for her largesse.

"You valued me not a jot. You shed no tear for my absence from your cradle," she said. "I was only a girl, after all. Now I am become Queen of the Onlies. My realm is all that you never valued. Would you exchange me for your son? Trade that which you value most for that which you valued least?"

Her brother cried out that this was unfair. Her parents cried that they would, they would, only please forgive them their thoughtlessness and give them their peasants back. And her brother cried anew at this betrayal.

Belladonna appeared to think on the bargain, knowing that her adoptive mother the witch would be laughing her curly shoes off at the sight. "You know what? I don't really want what you have to offer. Go grow your own food, and see how valuable it is, then. Tell your son to go wandering as a pauper, and see if only a girl will have cause to love him as he is. And if you learn anything at all, come back and tell me of it. You have a year and a day. Fare well."

Nobody would forget for seven times one hundred years, that even the lowest of the low had their proper value to a King or a Queen.

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