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In Butay’s twentieth year, a shadow fell across the Dominion, and Prince Chowming called his advisers together. “There is a shadow across the Dominion,” he said, repeating the narration. “What can we do about it?”
“It is merely a recession,” said Lord Miserly. “It affects only the peasants. Things will improve if left to themselves.”
“Or,” suggested Lord Fairplay, “we could stimulate the economy. It is long past time for you to find a wife, and a royal wedding would solve both problems.”
Prince Chowming’s resigned sigh was drowned out by the shouts of “Hear, hear!” from the other advisors, and the word was spread.
In the Rival Kingdom, word reached the ears of Princess Hatchet. She had once kidnapped Prince Chowming to marry him by force, until that dragon intervened, and saw a second chance to get him in her clutches—I mean, unite the two kingdoms. She summoned her royal consort, Hapless the (former) merchant. “I know you need to settle some accounts with your associates in Aht-Lann-Tah,” she told him. “Go ahead and take care of business. I’ll see you in a month or so, yes?”
Hapless was suspicious, as Hatchet had not let him out of the castle since the wedding, but he did indeed wish to settle his accounts. And if Hatchet thought he’d return without being dragged back by force, so much the better. He wasted little time in departing.
As soon as he was out of sight, Hatchet hurried to her cellar and uncovered her magic mirror. “Mirror, mirror,” she said, “Have I a rival to the hand of Prince Chowming?”
“But one,” the mirror replied. “Among the boatbuilders dwells the maiden Butay. Only she stands in your way.”
“Your rhyming lacks meter,” said Hatchet, “but no matter. By the power of Google, I command thee: find me a spell that will put an end to my rival!”
“Killing an innocent is bad juju,” the mirror warned. “But I have found you a spell that will be just as effective for what you need.”
“Can it be broken?”
“All spells of course can break, but how much effort does it take?” The mirror told her how. “And it wears off after a month.”
“No problem. She can sleep for a month. By then, I’ll have Prince Chowming.”
Butay was storming her way home, and everyone gave her wide hips a wider berth. She had caught her fiancé giving the butcher’s daughter his own salami, and she made sure that the end of their engagement was loud and public. In her rage, she nearly ran down an old woman in her path.
“Greetings, young lady,” said the woman. “Would you like to try my wines? I have only the finest.”
A bit of an ugg, Butay thought, but… “You know, I could use a good drink right now.”
“Then by all means, try some.” The old woman gave her a bottle. “My gift. If you enjoy it, seek me out. I will be glad to sell you some more.”
Butay wondered what the catch was, but didn’t care all that much. She uncorked the bottle and took a deep swig. “Good stuff,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
“Enjoy!” The old woman, who was actually Hatchet in disguise, waved and walked away. Butay took another long drink, then yawned. “Wow,” she said. “I need a nap.” She went home and laid down.
And there she stayed.