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Brent C. Smith


Prince Humphrey raises his glass and smiles in turn at each person around the table. “A toast! To the future! May it bring us our heart’s desire!”

Every glass is raised, tilted to the prince, and then to the lips of its holder.

Prince Leopold, Humphrey’s Younger Brother

Look at you, Brother, with that smug look on your face. So charming! So handsome! So heroic, the way you impaled that marauding dragon on your lance and saved Manfred’s kingdom.

If I hear “gallant” one more time, I’m going to tell Rico to bash some heads. He’s eager to please.

And Princess Leonora, with your flawless skin and cherubic face, why do you stare at him so intently? It’s me you should gaze at. I’m going places! You’re only marrying him because he’s older, and heir, and good with a lance.

Not if I can help it. Enjoy this while you can, Brother. The bribes were expensive, but the army is mine now. I have plans. Big plans.

Princess Leonora, Humphrey’s Betrothed

Why do you never respond?

All those notes I’ve left: “Let’s run away together. Yours –L,” “My heart belongs to you. –L.

Are you ashamed of your unconventional looks? I adore scars. The way your lip pulls up on one side in a permanent sneer proclaims “Bad Boy” to the kingdom. I idolize bad boys.

You’re twice the man this princely peacock is, with his shiny lance, all smiles and manners, sunshine and gallantry. Ugh! Humphrey isn’t the only one who can impale things. This dagger concealed in my gown is sharp and eager.

A strong woman should be able to marry a man she chooses.

A man like you, Rico.

Rico, best friend to Humphrey and Leopold

Look at me!

Look at me!

Stop looking at Humphrey! Look at me!

I’ve seen how you eyeball me when we’re alone. I’ve read the love notes you leave where I’ll find them, each signed with a loving “L.”

I’ve done everything you asked. I’ve delivered your secret orders to your army. They’re camped in the woods. Soon, you will rule the kingdom, and we can finally be together. Rico and Leopold.

Now, look at me!

King Manfred, father of Leonora

I hate these ceremonial pants. They chafe, like you, Prince Humphrey. What are you up to? You’ve slain the dragon, and won the hand of my daughter as your reward. You’ve charmed the queen, and my subjects love you. The kingdom will be yours someday.

Is someday not soon enough? My scouts have told me all about your army in the woods. Do you think that I will not rise to your challenge?

Youth these days are so impatient. Why can’t you bide your time? Marry Leonora. Make heirs. That’s what princes do. That’s what I did—married that shrew of a queen, instead of the magical Volanda. Now, she was something. The enchantments she could cast! That thing she did with the petrification spell—

Bah! Prince Humphrey, you aren’t the only one with plans. I haven’t kept my throne for so long by suffering upstarts.

Queen Felicity, wife of Manfred

I see you Leonora, ungrateful daughter. I see your hand rooting around the folds of your dress like a hungry squirrel. I know what nut you have there. My wedding ring.

Did you think I wouldn’t miss it? Are the coffers of your strutting prince so bare that you have to steal from your own mother?

Well, dearest daughter, you won’t end up like me, farmed out to a handsome, impotent buffoon that can’t put his pants on right-side-out without help.

First, to take care of your pretty prince, I’ll ask Volanda to curse him. She’s followed me for years, lurking in the shadows. I could’ve put a stop to her yearnings long ago, but I knew her talents would prove useful.

Then you and I will talk.

Volanda, the Royal Witch

My ring. For years I’ve shed a tear,

each time I longed to hold you near.

The king once promised you to me.

Instead, he wed Felicity.

But, now the story turns quite tragic.

As payment for a simple magic,

a trickster robbed her bedside stand,

and now you glitter on my hand.

The prince gasps, his eyes wide. The goblet falls from his hand to shatter on the stone floor. Smoke billows around him and the others stare, listening to him retch and choke within the opaque cloud. No one moves to help him as the prince’s struggles grow quiet, until finally the smoke dissipates. A glistening green toad crouches on Humphrey’s seat, its eyes bulging at the royal family, sounding a single, forlorn ribbit from deep within its rotund chest.

Who did this? They turn on each other.

Prince Humphrey

Freedom, at last!

Volanda could’ve warned me that her invisibility potion tastes like a mix of ear wax and armpit. I almost spit it onto the floor. That would’ve been a sight, the smoke fading and me standing there with a sheepish look on my face and a frog in my hand.

Poor froggy, you probably won’t survive the night. Before long, one of them will decide that a prince-turned-frog is a threat to their ambition. As for me, I leave them to their schemes.

Ahead of me lie open skies and distant lands.

Brent C. Smith is a software developer hunkered down in the perpetual winter of Portland, Maine. When he’s not pushing buttons for the Man, the characters in his head are making him push buttons at home so they can get out into the world. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and his fiction can also be found online at Daily Science Fiction and New Myths. You can also look for him at or on Twitter at @SpecFic_Brent.

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