The twins had been brought to the Countess during a bad harvest year when they were just ten years old. They were poorly dressed but neat and clean and their blonde hair was done in two long and thin braids on either side of their faces, which reached all the way to their tummies and tied off with a piece of red raffia. They stood in front of her tightly holding hands looking solemnly at the ground. A tear on the cheek of one of them fell to the ground. They were the mirror image of each other and though at first glance they looked as identical as two peas in a pod, on closer examination the face of one was slightly rounder than the other and her eyes were a fraction closer together. The miserable image of their emaciated father stood behind them pathetically blabbering but she had mostly blocked him out; these peasants were all the same, always suffering… She remembered him saying something about them being too poor to support eleven children and how eternally grateful they would be if she could take them into her employ. They didn’t even need to get paid, he said, just fed and sheltered in exchange for their hard work. Apparently they were very hard working and she could always use a new pair of hands or two at the castle the way they seemed to drop off lately. Flies were hardier than some of the people that worked for her.
Reaching into the folds of her ample skirts she withdrew a small pouch with gold in. Her large rings obstructed her fingers as she tried to get a coin out. Such vulgarity the exchange of money but an inevitable necessity. She threw it at the father, who greedily grabbed it despite his earlier protestations, and agreed to take the girls who had both started to cry now, but quite modestly at least. Clutching the coin tightly in his hands he knelt down, hugged them and told them to be good and do as the Countess said. Quite a touching little scene she thought to herself but it was time he went on his way and they got to work.
“Darvulia! Darvulia where are you?”
The portly witch rushed into the chamber drying her hands on her apron.
“Darvulia we have new help, won’t you please show them to their quarters” she said as the corner of her mouth formed a little wry smile.