02-23-2013, 05:12 PM
Erida sent her servants to fetch both Magrete and the Magus, keeping her wrath in check until both were in her presence.
"You two have been conspiring against me!" she accused them.
"In what manner, Your Highness?" the Magus asked curiously.
Erida pointed at the Magus. "You arranged a midnight meeting between my husband and that...that she-dog there!" she stormed. "On the eve of my wedding, yet! How dare you try to ruin my happiness!"
The Magus stood stolidly before her, his face expressionless.
She turned her fury upon Magrete. "So, you are in love with my husband, are you? Ah, don't deny it! I heard your little confession to the queen! You thought you could steal him away from me, didn't you?"
"Milady, I swear I did nothing--" Magrete began to protest.
"Spare me your lies!" Erida snapped at her. "You think he loves you more than he loves me, his lawfully wedded wife? Do you?"
"If you want the truth," spoke the Magus, "he does."
Erida stared at the Magus in disbelief. "How dare you presume such a thing?!"
"His Highness the prince bade me arrange the meeting himself," the Magus continued. "I agreed to do so, not only because he was smitten with Magrete, but she is also my own goddaughter."
Now it was Magrete's turn to be astonished. "You? You were the one my mother told me about, and who left me all those little gifts and books for me when I was a child?"
"Yes," he replied. "'Twas I who did those things. Fate bought you back to me, dear Magrete, after I left you to become tutor to His Highness so many years ago."
Magrete stared at the Magus, no longer the youthful Adonis, but a man in the prime of his life. She dashed forward and embraced him, happy tears shining in her eyes. "Ah, dear Godfather! I am so happy to have met you at last!"
Erida looked at the two with contempt. "So, now the truth is out," she sneered. "You, Magus, cast a spell over my husband the prince to make him fall in love with your goddaughter and forsake me! Well, your little plan has fallen through, Magus! As crown princess, I can have the both of you condemned to death. To conjure spells against any member of the royal family is treason in the eyes of the law and the Church!"
"You forget, Highness," the Magus said, "only the king himself can condemn a man to death. And you have no proof of it."
"My word is proof enough," retorted Erida. She then turned back to Magrete. "And as for you, you baggage--I'll see to it that you never lay your pretty eyes on my husband again!"
With that, she flung a burning oil lamp at Magrete's face. Magrete shrieked as the flaming oil incinerated her flesh and tore into her eyes, blinding her. She fell unconscious to the floor, her once beautiful face a charred ruin. The Magus rushed to her side and cradled her in his arms, howling and weeping over his goddaughter's ravaged flesh. Erida stood over them dispassionatly.
"Take the wretch out of here," she ordered the Magus. "I shall speak to the king about your own trechery against me later."
The grieving Magus gathered his goddaughter and carried her away, his brilliant mind already at work seeking the perfect form of retribution against the arrogant princess. But first, he had to tend to the injured Magrete. It would take all of his skill and knowledge to undo the damage, but it would be worth the effort.
He took her into his chamber and bound her burned flesh in strips of fine Egyptian linen. Then he pored over his books for the remedy to restore her face and eyes. He labored the entire night over her, mixing potions, incanting spells and tending to Magrete, lying in agony from her burns. Cinna, his faithful dwarf servant, assisted in every way he could, forgoing his own rest to aid Magrete. Finally, all that could be done for her was finished.
"For the next ten days," the Magus instructed his servant, "she must remain here in my chamber, and the bandages must not be removed before then. If they are, her sight and skin will not be restored."
"Yes, Master," Cinna replied.
"Go to the prince," the Magus continued. "Tell him what came to pass."
"I shall, Master," Cinna said, and trotted off on his stubby legs to deliver the message. The Magus sat in his chair, brooding, simmering with anger over Erida's crime.
When the prince heard of what happened to Magrete, he was frantic with worry. He dashed away to his tutor's chamber to see for himself what trechery his wife had brought upon his one true love. When he saw the mummylike form of Magrete, he fell to her bedside, weeping, clutching her one unscathed hand.
"Ah, my love!" he wailed. "My Magrete, my pearl! How could she do this to you?" He touched the bandages covering her head. "How I long to see your beautiful face again!"
"Her face is torn, burned," said the Magus. "She must remain thus for the next ten days, or she will not be restored."
The prince stood up. "I will have her moved to a private apartment," he said, "and have a servant or two to tend to her."
"No, Highness," the Magus said. "In order for her to be fully restored, she must remain here. I will tend to her myself. She will be safer here from the princess."
"Very well," the prince agreed reluctantly. "I will leave it in your hands. Only, please, restore my love to me! I will do anything, anything at all to have her back with me!"
The Magus looked at the prince. "Anything at all?" he repeated.
"Anything! Just name it, and it will be so!" promised the prince.
"Very well. I ask for a large length of crimson silk, enough to cover a person's body. It must be flawless in its weave, with no fraying at the edges, and no crooked edges from the blade which cut it."
The prince was bewildered by such a strange request, but he knew his tutor was a powerful magician who could work miracles with any object he touched, so he agreed. By next morning, he had procured from the silk merchant the finest crimson silk cloth and gave it to the Magus. Then he waited for ten long days, each passing day more agonizing than the last.
Erida, meanwhile, stayed in her apartments, admiring herself in the mirror. She had another maid to tend to her needs, a plain woman who posed no threat to her. The court treated her with the proper deference as befitting her rank, but they bore no love for her, especially after hearing about what she did to Magrete. Her husband the prince no longer lay with her, keeping to his own apartments. The commonfolk griped about her in the streets, mocking her haughty ways. Erida found herself cold-shouldered by all, but she paid them no heed. Once she was queen, she thought, they would be more courteous to her. Magrete was all but forgotten to her, a sour note in her perfect life.
Ten days passed. The prince stood by nervously as the Magus undid the bandages from Magrete's face, muttering incantations--or were they prayers? As the last length of linen fell to the floor, Magrete sat up in bed, her lovely face and beautiful sapphire eyes fully restored to their original beauty.
"Are you well, my dear?" the Magus asked her.
Magrete blinked and saw her godfather for the first time in ten days. "Yes, Godfather, I am well."
The prince rushed to embrace her. "Master! You have worked a miracle!" he exclaimed. "You have restored my love to me!"
The Magus rose. "Now you must come with me, Highness," he said. "We have business to attend to. Cinna, you come along as well, and bring the silk. Magrete, you must remain here for a while longer; you will be safer here."
The Magus, the prince, and the dwarf left the chamber and made their way to the apartments of the Princess Erida. They stood before the door of her chamber, watching herself preen in front of the mirror.
"All right, Cinna," said the Magus. "You know what to do."
Cinna nodded. "Your Highness," he simpered in the doorway. "I humbly ask permission to enter your chamber to present you with a gift from the Magus."
Erida turned away from the mirror. "A gift? For me? Bring it here, little man, and let me see it."
Cinna waddled over to the dressing table and presented her with the crimson silk with a great show of humility. Erida examined it carefully, but found nothing extraordinary about it.
"Strange gift," she said. "A length of silk, that's all it is."
"It is not ordinary silk, Your Highness," Cinna said. "It is enchanted."
"Enchanted?" asked Erida. "How?"
"Everyone knows how beautiful beyond compare you are," Cinna told her. "It is a shame that it won't last forever."
"What are you saying?" Erida demanded.
"In time, as you grow older, your beauty will wither like summer flowers in the autumn. The roses in your cheeks will fade, your face will shrivel and sag with age. Your graceful walk will turn into a hobble."
"Don't go on!" Erida shrieked.
"Ah, but the Magus has provided a means to preserve that beauty forever," Cinna continued. "The means contained in that length of crimson silk."
"You mean with this silk, I can stay young and beautiful forever?"
"Forever and ever and ever," Cinna answered. "Use it, and you shall remain as beautiful as you are now. Don't use it, and watch yourself shrivel into a dried fig."
Erida looked at the silk in her hands. "What must I do with it?" she asked.
"Simple," Cinna replied. "Just stand on that stool over there, and drape yourself all over with it, head to toe. No part of yourself must be seen from under it. Then close your eyes, and picture yourself as eternally beautiful, but say nothing. That is what my master has instructed me to tell you."
Erida climbed upon the stool and covered herself with the silk. The light fabric concealed her completely, dangling over the edge of the stool. She closed her eyes and imagined herself as forever beautiful, with everyone fawning and flattering her, showering her with gifts and praise. She felt the enchantment beginning to work upon her, but not in the way she expected.
The Magus and the prince entered the chamber. With an angry shout of "Now!", "the Magus whipped away the silk to reveal the Princess Erida's beauty forever preserved--in cold, hard marble.
"Well, Your Highness," the Magus addressed the statue on the stool, "you will never worry about losing your beauty from aging. And everyone will pass by to admire you, wherever you may stand."
And so Magrete and the prince were married. Their lives were long and happy, blessed with many children. The Magus remained at court, as the future king's most trusted advisor. As for Erida, she still resides in the palace garden among the flowers and trees for birds to perch upon her proud head, year after year after year...