Her panic at his approach was overcome by the feeling of being ‘shunted’ aside in mind, a presence tugging at her as the brutish… the vile… the dashing prince reached her side, his smile one that rivalled the sun for beauty and joy.
“Dear lady, wash your pots no longer.” The Prince spoke in a sonorous voice, his actions over-acted… his actions full of charm, manners and gentleness. “For tonight, you shall go to the ball.”
“I can’t-” her tongue was co-opted, the denial forming behind her teeth faltering and giving way to a single word, “wait.”
“Of course you cannot,” the Prince smiled, an expression that didn’t reach his calculating eyes, gaze full of arrogance… self-confidence. “Come by the Royal Palace at 6, we’ll have you made presentable yet.”
“What can we do about Prince Hasseldorf? Any attempt at dissent towards his actions… the guards would have us dragged off in chains.” The fisherwoman sighed over her bowl of stew to a group of fellow concerned ladies, having assembled in one of the barns belonging to the vegetable trader and his merchant wife.
“There is not a lot we can do, I fear.” The midwife stated solemnly. “That kind of magic, it is strengthened by success. And we all know how successful he has been, from our daughters, younger sisters and relatives whisked away and left bereft of his attentions.”
“Maybe that’s it!” Exclaimed the vegetable merchant. “If all those successes have made him believe in the lie of magic, what if he were to fail? Might his charming charm shatter, his influence severed?”
“Might? The Laws of Magic would mean it must. But who has the will to rebuke his attentions and that aura of dominance? It has defeated the chaste, the wilful, the sapphic, and the committed.”
“So,” the baker mused, “the problem is that to break the spell a woman must rebuke his advances, but the spell’s strength makes that impossible?”
“That’s right.” The fisherwoman nodded, helping herself to another ladle of stew.
“Well.” The baker smiled, her eyes alight with mischief. “Give me three days. In three days, the Prince shall rue his cloak of falsehood and disguise.”
“Prince Hasseldorf, I bring news from outside the palace.” A courtier spoke in hushed tones, hoping to be the first to bring the arrival to the insatiable womanizer.
“Speak then, but be quick about it.” The Prince replied with a rolling wave of his hand, the contempt on his face plainly visible.
“A great beauty has arrived in the city, a young niece of the baker I believe. She is currently at the bakery now.” The courtier smiled brightly as several gold coins were deposited in his hand, the Prince looking very much interested and much less disdainful of his presence.
“Take that for your troubles. More will come should she prove to be as great a beauty as you say.” The vain Prince declared, checking his reflection in one of the many large mirrors around the palace. “Go, and have my carriage made ready.”
She was indeed a great beauty. Long tresses of flaxen hair spilled down her back and shoulders. A simple grey peasant dress worked as the perfect counterpoint to a visage that one would expect from a princess, an empress, a goddess. Her eyes were doe-soft and wide to the world, and her figure curved and soft. It was easy to see the similarity to the baker, save many years of toil and exposure to coarse flour and dust. Stepping out of his ornate carriage drawn by the finest horses of the royal stables, he walked over.
“I was told we have a new visitor to the town, but no one said how beautiful that visitor was.” He smiled, offering his hand. “Perhaps you would care to see the palace and stay for dinner?”
She turned to look at him, her eyes flicking up and down his body for a moment before she smiled “Thanks, but no. I have plans.” As she declined, a frown of uncertainty flickered across Hasseldorf’s face.
“Plans can easily be re-arranged, especially for fine dining of food only royalty can afford. Not to mention fine dresses to dance in?” The Prince spoke insistently.
“I said no, Prince Hassledorf.” The beauty replied, drawing herself up to stare the man down. Her smile had faded, replaced by a stern glare.
“You would turn down royalty?” The Prince asked incredulously, sweat beading on his forehead.
“I would were someone of noble birth present. You, on the other hand, are a brute. Your honeyed words are sickly and rotten. Your look is ridiculously. Your opinion of yourself inflated. You think yourself charming, but you are simply a sad, pathetic cad. Go away, back to your palace. I will have no part of your desires, nor demands of my company.”
Her arms folded across her chest, directing a questioning look to the Prince. The snapping sound came out of no-where, a ripple of force shimmering out of his head as he was knocked back by the shattering of his charm spell. He shrieked once before clawing his way back to his royal carriage. Sobs wracked his body, requiring several attempts just to bark the order to return with haste to the palace.
Entering the bakery, the woman smiled as the baker rushed over to hug her. “Oh, that was amazing. Thank you, thank you so much my dear. You came and you broke his spell.”
“And what’s more, with that backlash, I doubt you will have to worry about any more malevolent charms on that one, dear aunt.” The beauty smiled, before waving her hands in front of her in a slow, elaborate pattern. With a slight pop, the illusion broke to leave a flaxen haired young man in a grey robe standing there. “I believe I will stay for a few days though, just to make sure. And to sample some of your famed sweetcake once more.”
“For what you just did?” The baker beamed. “You can have all the sweetcake you want.”