“’Nuala’? That’s an interesting name,” Ernst remarked, warming up some tea for Frieda.
Frieda, laying down on her father’s chair, rubbed her swollen belly, thinking of the daughter she carried inside her womb. “I wanted to break with tradition, since her father isn’t here.”
“I like it just fine, Frieda,” Ernst said, carefully stirring the water before he moved away and knelt next to Frieda, putting his hand on her belly. She smiled as her father felt around, trying to sense any motion that his granddaughter might convey. Even though his hands were enormous compared to a fairy, he had a gentle touch that calmed Frieda and helped her to relax.
“Was it like this for you and mother?” Frieda asked.
Ernst nodded. “Your mother had complications of her own while she was carrying you. I fear that I may have cursed you, since my own mother had issues carrying me; it would seem to run in the family.”
Frieda sighed and laid back, closing her eyes. “It’s not going to be much longer, is it?”
“No, maybe another month, possibly six weeks. Your mother is preparing the tribe for when it comes,” Ernst said, standing as he heard the tea kettle whistle, moving over and taking it off of the fire and pouring the hot water into a pair of cups. He carefully put a pair of tea bags into the cups, then mixed in some sugar, waiting for the cups to cool slightly before he picked them up.
“I wish Gerhard had stayed,” Frieda said, trying to contain her disappointment, “Maybe he would have if he knew I would bear his daughter.”
“Gerhard made his decision, Frieda. You can’t change that now,” Ernst replied, carrying a cup of tea up to Frieda, “You have to move on and do the best you can. I’ll be here for you, as will your mother and the rest of the tribe.”
“But what if I can’t do it? You know how we are, father – fairies have a reputation of doting on their fathers; she might rebel against me.”
Ernst chuckled as he handed the smaller cup to Frieda. “I suppose she’ll just have to dote on me instead of him. I handled 12 of you; I think I can handle another one, even if I am getting old.”
Frieda sat up, opening her eyes and taking the cup. She felt movement inside herself and smiled. “Oh! She’s moving! Can you feel her?”
Ernst reached over and put his hand on Frieda’s belly. “Oh, yes. She’ll be ready soon, there’s no doubt about it.”
Frieda took her father’s hand and admired how smooth his skin seemed to be, even at his more advanced age. He was already into his 40s and despite life in the tribe, still looked 10 years younger than his actual age.
“I don’t know if I’ll be ready for her. It all seems like such a new experience to me,” Frieda said, looking up to her father.
Ernst took a sip of his tea and smiled. “It is a new experience for you, Frieda. I’ve gone through this 12 times with you and your sisters; don’t be discouraged.”
Frieda took a sip of her tea; it was almost too sweet, but she enjoyed it all the same. Father always did like to have sweet things. I guess that’s why mother fell in love with him, despite their circumstances.
Frieda frowned and put her tea aside. “Father, I’ve never asked you for fear of offending you, but why did you have my sisters?”
“Your mother convinced me it was my duty to the tribe. She told me that I was such a good man that it was important that I propagate as much as possible throughout the tribe. I had tried to convince her that I wanted to be monogamous, that instead she bear more than one, but tradition is a hard thing to break. Plus, I think she feared that your grandmother would accuse her of being selfish, keeping me to herself.”
“Grandmother was always harsh with you,” Frieda remarked.
Ernst nodded. “She did not approve of our love, I am certain of that. She believed that love has no place in the fairy world except between father and daughter. If she had her way, all husbands would be bound and gagged except for the rituals; fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and we are all the better for it.”
“I could never understand why she tried to keep you and mother from me when I was little; it wasn’t until later that I learned that she wanted to ‘keep little Frieda from getting strange ideas’ from you.”
Ernst let out another chuckle as he recalled his mother-in-law. “Yes, she didn’t want you to get attached to anyone except your daughters. I’m sorry to say that she did have a point, as you feel the loss of Gerhard now.”
Frieda looked away. “I didn’t think I could love anyone until I met him,” Frieda smiled, “I almost saw him like a doll when I first met him.”
“Yes, you did try to keep him clean and take him places he shouldn’t have been,” Ernst said, taking another sip of his tea, “I must admit that it was very cute, though. You were still quite young children, for all intents and purposes.”
Frieda laughed. “Yes, I thought of him as a little brother. It wasn’t until much later that it turned into something more, but at the time I really wanted to know what it felt like to have a brother.”
“It is unique; there’s nothing quite like it,” Ernst remarked as he thought of his brother, wondering what he might be up to, “I hope my own brother is making a good life for himself, finding a decent girl to marry and having children of his own.”
“Do you think one day we could go see him? Introduce him to his niece?” Frieda asked.
“That would depend on what your mother says. It’s the 20th century, so perhaps she would allow us some leeway. Who knows, maybe in another hundred years, we’ll live together with humanity and abandon these old tribal customs,” Ernst answered.
“I hope she would. I’d like to meet any cousins I might have.”
“Allow you to do what?” Elsa said, entering the small hut, carrying a bag of berries.
Frieda tried to get up and bow toward her mother, as was customary, but Elsa came over and held a hand on her shoulder.
“No, don’t get up,” Elsa said, “You need rest. You’re several months pregnant and I know how comfortable your father’s chair can be.”
“Oh, thank you, mother. I am not sure I can manage a full bow with Nuala,” Frieda said.
“Nuala? Who is that?” Elsa said, hanging the bag of berries in the small kitchen.
“Our granddaughter,” Ernst replied, smiling.
“No, no granddaughter of mine will have such an obscure, non-traditional name. We agreed that she would be named Emma,” Elsa said, turning to look at Frieda and folding her arms.
“But mother, she’s my daughter. Do I not have a say in her life?” Frieda asked.
“I am still the queen, Frieda. She will be my granddaughter and I’ll not have the others refer to their future leader with a sneer.”
“Elsa,” Ernst chastised Elsa, “Be kind. Frieda is allowed to have a say in the being she is creating.”
Elsa sighed. “Oh, very well. ‘Nuala’ it is. Where does it come from?”
“It’s Irish in origin,” Ernst answered, “I believe a name related to mythology and legend from there.”
“I think it means ‘lamb’, mother,” Frieda added.
Elsa chuckled and moved next to Frieda, putting her hands on Frieda’s belly. “I name you Nuala, future queen of the Stamm der Saar. May you bring honor to the tribe,” Elsa said.
Frieda felt her daughter move inside her again, almost bouncing against Elsa’s hand. Frieda looked at her mother and smiled. “I think she approves, mother.”
“Oh, I’d forgotten how joyous this can be!” Elsa laughed, kissing Frieda on her forehead, “She seems as if she is ready to come out.”
“Not quite yet, dear,” Ernst said, putting his hand over Elsa’s, “But soon. Another month at least.”
“I almost can’t wait,” Frieda said, laying back again, “I feel like I’m about to pop and I’m always hungry now.”
Elsa moved away and pulled out a couple of berries from the bag she brought inside. She came back and handed them to Frieda, motioning for her to eat them.
Frieda looked at the berries and frowned. “Blackberries?”
Elsa nodded. “Yes, I decided they would help stave off your bouts of hunger. I ate many of them when I carried you and they always seemed to make me feel better.”
Frieda awkwardly smiled at her mother but stuffed the berries into her mouth all the same. As she chewed, the taste seemed to calm her nerves; swallowing them, the pangs of hunger dissipated.
“Wow, that really seemed to work! Thank you, mother,” Frieda said.
Elsa caressed Frieda’s face and smiled. “Have as many as you want. Your father makes an exceptional tea with them.”
Elsa walked back to the kitchen, looking for a pot to cook with.
“Mother, could I and father go visit his family?” Frieda asked.
“I’m not so sure that’s a good idea, Frieda,” Elsa replied, clattering some cookware as she dug out a pot, “Your father didn’t leave on good terms with his village.”
“But mother, it’s been a long time and I may as well be part of their family. I want to see if I have any cousins.”
“Not while you’re pregnant, Frieda. You have a duty to your daughter; maybe after she’s born we can arrange something,” Elsa said, finally finding the pot she was looking for. She filled it with berries and then added some water to it, hanging the pot over the fireplace.
“But I’m doing nothing else. I can handle it; so can Nuala,” Frieda protested.
Elsa looked to Frieda and frowned. “What did I just say, Frieda?”
Frieda looked down, trying to hide her disappointment. “Maybe and not while I’m pregnant.”
“See, I knew you were listening. Explain things to her, dear,” Elsa said, turning back to stir the concoction in the pot.
Ernst took another drink from his cup, then smiled at Frieda. “My father disowned me when I told him I was going to live with fairies, while my mother sobbed uncontrollably. My sister hugged me goodbye, as did my little brother, then my father told me I was no longer welcome there or in the village anymore – and that he’d see that it would stay that way.”
Frieda looked at her father with surprise. “They really did that?”
“Yes, I was there with him. Ernst’s sister was the most accepting and wished me luck; I offered her to visit the tribe any time she wanted, the same with his brother,” Elsa answered, still working on her concoction.
Ernst nodded. “My mother and father barely recognized me, but my sister knew who I was the instant I returned. My little brother just knew; I guess in a way that only brothers know,” Ernst said, “My parents were traditionalists and could not believe anyone would willingly stay with fairies, especially as a communal husband. They didn’t understand how much I loved your mother.”
“Neither did my own mother, for that matter. She thought I was already carrying you when your father said he would stay; she couldn’t fathom how any man would be willing to stay for reasons other than his daughters,” Elsa added.
Frieda winced. “Well, grandmother did kidnap you, father. That wouldn’t normally be the makings of a great marriage, if I understand human courtship correctly.”
“Human courtship varies and is a real mess, Frieda.” Ernst laughed. “Arranged marriages are still popular and common, for example; there’s no love involved. That was true for my parents, for their marriage was one of convenience rather than romance.”
“As opposed to our way of doing things, where we kidnap boys to raise as husbands?” Frieda asked.
“Frieda! It’s tradition!” Elsa chastised Frieda.
“It’s barbaric, mother,” Frieda replied. “I won’t kidnap and raise Nuala’s husband. I want her to find love on her own, not force her into something that she may not want.”
“Keep it up and I’ll renege my permission for you to give her that name,” Elsa threatened.
Frieda rolled her eyes. “Yes, mother.”
“Don’t give me that, Frieda. Tradition is all we have, or we’ll end up destroying ourselves.”
“Dear,” Ernst interrupted, “calm down. Frieda just has my sense of right and wrong; it’s a human trait.”
Elsa sighed. “Not you too, Ernst. I’m trying to prepare her for the first of the next generation and we can’t afford to break from tradition.”
“Elsa,” Ernst said, calmly and clearly, “She is our daughter and she is allowed some leeway. For the sake of your granddaughter, allow Frieda to raise her how she sees fit.”
Elsa stopped working and looked to Ernst. “I cannot allow it, Ernst. My mother kidnapped and raised you alongside me; I did the same with Frieda’s husband and she will do the same for her daughter’s. I am the queen of this tribe and my will is the law.”
Ernst finished up his tea and set the cup down, then folded his arms. “You are first and foremost Frieda’s mother. That comes before anything else, including royal titles.”
“No, Ernst, I am-”
“Elsa!” Ernst commanded, “Family comes first. You are in the presence of our grandchild; conduct yourself accordingly.”
Elsa narrowed her eyes at Ernst, but closed them and shook her head. Frieda knew her mother hated losing an argument with her father, but in this case he was right – these arguments were not good for Nuala.
Frieda suddenly felt a sharp pain in her abdomen and leaned forward, grasping herself. “Oh! That hurt!”
Elsa raced over to Frieda and put a hand on her back, holding her hand with the other. “What? Is she coming?”
Frieda winced and shook her head. “No, I think she just got too excited,” Frieda sighed, “I wish her father was here. Gerhard made things so much better.”
Elsa sighed. “I knew I should have forced him to stay. That is what I get for breaking tradition.”
“Oh mother, let it drop. He was just too young,” Frieda grumbled, still holding her belly, “And that wasn’t tradition.”
“The princess’ husband has to stay with the tribe, Frieda,” Elsa said, “That’s why I picked you. I had hoped he would remember that when he was given the choice to leave or stay. I’m sorry that he wasn’t the man you thought he was.”
“He was still a boy, mother. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Please, let us focus on something else,” Ernst interrupted, “We are doing no favors to your health nor the health of your child with these arguments, Frieda.”
Frieda sighed and nodded. “Can you sing to me, father? I need your voice to help me rest.”
Ernst smiled and took Frieda’s small hand, holding it in his palm. “It is always a pleasure to sing to my daughter. Whatever you need, I am here for you.”
Elsa helped Frieda to lay back, being careful not to block her essence glands.
“I will have a concoction for you by the time you wake up, daughter,” Elsa said, “it will help calm your body and the child.”
Frieda closed her eyes and squeezed her father’s hand, then addressed her mother. “Her name is Nuala, mother. You agreed to let me name her that.”
Elsa chuckled. “That I did, Frieda. That I did.”