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They said that the kingdom of Ablon would never fall – right up until the night that it did.
It should have been a night of rejoicing. It began so – as the queen lay in labor to bring her seventh child into the world and the kingdom collectively hoped that it would be a seventh son, who would embody good luck and prosperity.
None even dreamed that their enemy lurked just outside the city, waiting for workmen to stop the flow of the mighty Ablon river, for which the country was named. When the river was filled with mud, and its old path ran dry, then the soldiers would march along that dry riverbed and into the city.
The city, so wrapped up in its rejoicing, never knew what hit it. And it was hit with slaughter.
The invaders tore through the city, making no distinction between man, woman, or child. Their young king led the march, straight to the palace.
The guards were not prepared for such a force and melted under the attackers’ swords. They reached the banquet hall, where the king of Ablon was raising another toast in honor of the son he hoped his wife would give him that night. His six elder sons were seated at the table together.
They died together.
The conquering king went alone to deal with the queen and her child. It was only a baby. He had nothing to fear from one just born.
A servant had clearly run ahead to warn the queen, for maids stood in position to bar his way. They were easily dealt with. When the king pushed past them, he found the queen seated on the bed, the swaddled newborn in her arms. She glared at him with the fury of a thousand warriors.
But she was only a woman, and weak from childbirth. The king stepped forward with impunity, his sword raised…
“You come to pluck this one from my arms, even as you slew my husband and six sons?” she asked. “And will you slay me as well?”
The king drew short, for something in her tone unsettled him.
“If you surrender the child, then I will let you live,” he promised her.
Her face twisted, but she pushed the child away from her with no hesitation. “Take her. It’s nothing but a worthless girl-child. A daughter of blood and misfortune. She no doubt brought this evil upon us this night. Go ahead. Kill her. It is said that whoso harms a daughter of misfortune brings the misfortune upon themselves.”
The king drew back. Though not a superstitious man, he still held respect for the higher powers. He would test the woman’s words. Raising his sword again, he stepped forward with renewed purpose.
She didn’t even flinch, merely laid the child on the bed in front of her. Even with the blade’s tip pressed against the bundle of blanket, she just stared at the king with that determined calm.
“Why do you hesitate?” she asked. “You’ve killed thousands already this night. What’s one more? A mere babe – a girl-child. Quick now, and run her through. She has been born in blood. Why should she live when her brothers do not?”
The king had never met such a woman – a mother so calloused to the child she’d just birthed.
He withdrew his sword and sheathed it. “A girl-child is no threat to me. I will show her mercy, as well as yourself.”
No emotion crossed the queen’s face, even now. “Very well.”