A not so grimm fairytale, p.1
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       A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale, p.1
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           Ann Somerville
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A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale
A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale

  Ann Somerville

  ‘A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale’ Copyright © 2007 by Ann Somerville

  Cover image © Vladimirs Poplavskis - Fotolia.com.

  All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  For more information please visit my website at https://logophilos.net

  Published by Ann Somerville

  A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale

  Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away (which couldn’t exist in the real world because of a totally implausible economy) there lived a handsome Prince (who was also totally implausible because he was thirty, tall, disease-free and darkly beautiful, despite a total absence of modern medical care and a distressing lack of fibre in the general diet.)

  This prince, Alferonzo, was as clever as he was handsome and so had been appointed by his father, the King, to be Chief Justice throughout the land of Qarte. (Fortunately, Qarte was his father’s kingdom or there’d have been hell to pay.)

  Prince Alferonzo was not what one might call a ‘people’ person, but then that wasn’t a requirement for a Chief Justice. All a Chief Justice needed was a comprehensive knowledge of the laws of the land, immunity to corruption, and a secure back exit from the courthouse for discreet getaways. Prince Alferonzo was overqualified on all three counts.

  The Chief Justice presided over the second highest court in the land (for the king himself was naturally the highest authority.) By the time claimants arrived there, they were desperate and angry, but the prince never let the emotions sway him from a strictly impartial application of the law. No one left his courtroom saying he was biased, though many were even more desperate and angry than when they arrived.

  (This, as Prince Alferonzo, was to later to discover, was possibly not a good thing.)

  He prided himself on his unprejudiced judgements, and congratulated himself that the rule of law remained untarnished by his actions. When his father died (after a long, fruitful life, in his sleep, in the arms of his favourite concubine, Alferonzo always piously added when he thought about his father’s demise), Alferonzo would be a just and beloved ruler.

  He had the first part right, at least.

  The Kingdom of Qarte was a civilised land, so it recognised the regrettable necessity for divorce. Prince Alferonzo spent a good deal of his time on the bench adjudicating between warring couples. It was, he freely admitted, not a part of his responsibilities that he enjoyed, but merely endured, for the sake of the law and the benefit of the children involved.

  For the couples themselves, he had little sympathy. It was not, he would tell them, necessary to love your spouse, merely respect, or at least tolerate them for long enough to produce heirs. His own parents had done this, and he, Prince Alferonzo, himself had done so, begetting an heir, a spare, and the spare heir’s spare. He and his wife saw no reason to have anything to do with each other after that, and indeed, did not. If it was good enough for royalty, he would tell his disputing couples, it was more than good enough for them. However, he found that most were in thrall to the idea of emotional entanglements, and insisted on using the court as a way of punishing each other for their faults. There was, he had long ago discovered, nothing to be done but make the decisions for the fools, and send them on their embittered way. The world would be a much better place, of this he was certain, if people did not make decisions about their lives based on the demands of their kidneys (for these, the people of Qarte believed, were the seat of romantic love.)

  Or parts lower down, Prince Alferonzo often considered.

  So it came to pass on this day of hearing one divorce after another, that Prince Alferonzo was in a more than usually tetchy mood, and a less than usually patient frame of mind. When a couple came before him with no children and uncomplicated finances, it took him less than half a minute to decree that their property should be divided equally, and to undecree them man and wife.

  “Next case, Bailiff,” he said, handing the papers over to his clerk.

  “Wait!” the ex-wife cried. “He left me for a younger woman!”

  Prince Alferonzo stared over his glasses at her (he had perfect vision, but since he looked ridiculously young for his age, he’d take to wearing the things to make himself seem older and presumably wiser.) “No-fault divorce, madam. Take your vengeance upon his clothes like other women do.”

  “But he bought her jewels with my money, and gave her my mother’s wedding bracelet for a birthday present! He told me I’ve grown too old and ugly to love!”

  “Then you’re well rid of him. Bailiff, next ca—”

  He found himself unable to speak or move. The rest of the courtroom and the ex-husband were similarly afflicted. Only the woman, eyes ablaze with fury, could move and she did so, stalking up to the bench to fix him with her angry gaze.

  “I am of the line of the great witch, Drowenna, and though we oblige ourselves to obey the rule of law, I have inherited something of her powers. I stayed my hand, thinking the famous Chief Justice, the Prince Alferonzo, would punish my faithless lover, but now I see that you are just a man too, with a man’s foolishness and lack of pity. So now I abandon the law and create my own justice! I call upon the blood within me, and damn you, oh disloyal spouse, to spend your life without the sex you sought with your bitch!”

  Her ex-husband screamed as his trousers disappeared into thin air, and his penis fell to the floor, twitched a little, then fell still. Where it had been attached, was now nothing more than smooth, hairless skin.

  The woman turned back to Prince Alferonzo. “As for you, oh heartless judge of the affairs of human kind, I will give you a taste of what you condemn women like me to. You will appear old and ugly until the day you find the one who will be true and faithful to you forever. And trust me, that day will be a long time coming.” She laughed nastily. Prince Alferonzo might even have described it as a cackle. “Now—farewell!”

  She disappeared into a puff of purple smoke, and suddenly everyone could move again. The sounds of horrified gasps and then shrieks drowned out even the ex-husband’s wailing. The shrieks, Prince Alferonzo realised, were directed at him....

  “Hideous!”

  “He’s so old! And bald!”

  “Nose like a bat!”

  Prince Alferonzo held out his hands, and to his horror, found them wrinkled and blotched, like those of a man in his eighties. But when he touched them to his face, they felt just the same.

  “It’s a glamour,” he said firmly and loudly to the disgusted faces below. “Nothing’s really changed.”

  “My dick fell off!”

  Prince Alferonzo wondered how the man would piss, but felt it was probably the least of his concerns. “Yes, well, that’ll teach you to put it where it ought not go. Pick it up and go away. Bailiff! Restore order!”

  But order could not be restored, until in the end the courtroom had to be cleared. Only then, and with complete dignity and no sign of the panic he felt, did Prince Alferonzo go to his chambers, and there, in his dressing mirror, could he see what the child of Drowenna’s line had done to him.

  His valet, Wat, came to his side. “What do you see?” Prince Alferonzo asked his manservant.

  “I see my prince,” his valet said simply. “What do you see?”

  “My grandfath
er.” He touched his head—no matter what the evidence of the mirror, he still had all his hair. But who would come close enough to discover that, looking like this. “I’m cursed by the line of Drowenna.”

  His valet blanched. “Tis said a curse by Drowenna is utterly unbreakable, save on the one condition given by the witch. What will you do, my prince?”

  Prince Alferonzo looked at the straggling, wispy grey hairs across his balding pate, the slack, wrinkled cheeks, the sunken eyes and the receded jaw, the nose that dribbled down his face like melted wax.

  “It’s very simple, Wat. I find someone to whom appearance is not important, who’ll be faithful and true. How hard can that be?”

  Wat smiled, and Prince Alferonzo took that as agreement. All he had to do was get on with his plan and soon he’d be restored to his normal, unfeasibly handsome self. Simple.
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