I won. I won i won i won. Ha. Hahahahahahahha.
Laudo couldn't sleep sometimes, and he often passed hours by watching people in the streets go by. The third time he found Amala going by at midnight he got up and went outside to meet her.
"Are you okay?" She jumped.
"Are you okay?" She jumped.
"Yes, yes… i'm looking for Altu, you know, one of those flowers best picked at night." She had no gathering basket.
"Amala, about the King," he started.
"What? I'm fine, you know that."
"But not just the king, about the Prince," he said. Small pause. "Edmund."
One sniff. Two. Then came torrents of tears, soaking his sweater. He let her weep for a while, moving them to a small grove of trees.
When her face was relatively dry, he gently asked, "What happened?"
She thought a moment, then: "You know the Queen was barren for many a year? Her husband came to me in the middle of the night to ask for a child. And Queen Snow-White asked for - what else? - golden-yellow hair that grows fast for her child. Who asks for that? Mostly i get requests for healthy children! And hair. What importance is hair? She could've asked that the child will have good eyesight or an unbloodiable nose or- or- something useful. Growing fast. That just makes it worse! You want to trim it each week? What if she wants short hair? And what are you going to do with all that hair, make a ladder?" Laudo positioned himself to hear a lot more of this. "But ask for hair she did, and being a fool, i tried. Not hard, but i tried. Of course she sent but a single hair, probably from her endless trimmings, as she couldn't stand pulling a fresh one. Do you know how hard it is to make a baby from two hairs? It's pretty hard. With most people I'd've demanded a lock more if they want a child, but the King said this was to be secret, and I thought not of this outcome.
"You know Michael was called away urgently the day after Zel- Ed was born? Well, the third day, Her Vain Self came with the Princess and soldiers. She complained of the lack of hair, as though the baby wasn't absolutely beautiful anyway, and she thought greedily of my Edmund. Oh, Ed," and she cried a few minutes more. "I missed him so, after they were switched. I didn't dare do anyting without Michael, and he never came back. The new baby was nothing like Ed. She cried too much and she didn't have a lovely fluffy head and those eyes- but now, now she's my own dear, i'm afraid i love her more than my true child.
"But what am i saying? She is my true child, i wouldn't give her up for anything, not even… not even Ed. He should be happy where he is. They have fresh food to eat at every meal, and never worn-out shoes, and no one dares point and glare. Oh how i wish," she sighed, and stared into space. After a minute or so Laudo cleared his throat and she continued.
"But i was always afraid the Queen would do something, except the King wouldn't let her, surely. But he let her switch the babies. What was she thinking? The fool. He has magic blood in him, likely he'll be a Warlock. And he looks nothing like either Royal Family with their pale skin. He must feel so out of place. But poor Zel, she has not hair. Of course she doesn't, that's what caused so much of this trouble. Hair! I hate hair." And she grabbed handfuls of her own deep brown locks, as though she would tear it out then and there. Laudo said nothing.
"Why Marizel?" He interrupted her thoughts at last.
"I made it up on the spot. Mari- was from Marik, Ed's middle name, and -zel, well… i didn't want her to lose that enirely." She was silent a moment or two.
"How obvious was it? That Zella's not mine. By blood."
"Not very to those who don't know you. We always suspected something, but we're well brought up about those who don't look like family." Laudo had three boys who looked nothing like him.
The sun started to come up over the horizon.
"I best be off," said Laudo. "The bread needs put in the oven."
"And i had better get back before the Princess Rapunzel wakes."