The woman’s dark blue eyes and pearly white teeth glinted as she made this bold announcement. The king wanted to scoff, but felt rooted to his chair. The royal court leaned forward to listen to her every word as she held out her hand to the astonished royal family. It was all exactly according to plan. “Come to me, Prince Otto,” she beckoned imperiously.
To everyone’s surprise, including his own, the strong, young prince got out of his chair and started walking over to her.
“Don’t actually go!” the queen begged.
“What are you doing, your highness?!” the courtiers clamored.
“Otto!” his father boomed. “Sit down!”
“I can’t! I have no choice!” The prince squeaked in bewildered panic as he joined the beautiful woman in the centre of the throne room.
“No, he doesn’t,” she confirmed, grinning and putting her arms around him. “He’s mine now. And he will stay under my power until you are willing to negotiate, your majesty.”
“You-- you witch!” King Valant spat.
“Enchantress,” the woman corrected him. “There’s a difference.” She took a moment to look around the room, thoroughly enjoying everyone’s helpless confusion. “Well... we’ll be in touch,” she said, and began laughing. And, leaving behind the echoes of her mischievous laugh, the two of them vanished.
Prince Otto and his captor promptly reappeared under a grape arbor in a sunny garden. The enchantress stopped laughing.
“You know, what he said wasn’t really funny,” she confided, dusting her hands. “But I always feel like I need to laugh to make the best impression.” She began walking down a pebble path that led to a snug cottage with a thatched roof. “Come along, sweet prince.”
The prince followed her into the cottage, unable to make his feet move anywhere else. The cottage seemed normal enough. No cauldrons or bats. He shut the door behind him. She walked toward the kitchen. “Now what, my lady?” he plucked up the courage to ask.
“Now we wait. You don’t have to look so pale, you know. I’m not going to torture you,” She was tying her golden hair up in a knot, but turned to wink at him. “At least, not in any conventional ways.”
“Are you going to seduce me?” Prince Otto took a step backward, blushing. Barely turned twenty-one, he was a pure prince at best, inexperienced at least.
The enchantress put her hands on her hips indignantly. “Now, see here! There’s a lot more to an enchantress’ work than corrupting people, I’ll have you know! Why does every man think I’m going to seduce him?”
Probably because you put your arms around them and say they’re yours, the prince thought bitterly, but, not wanting to appear hostile, said aloud, “Because you’re so beautiful.”
She smiled. “Well, thank you for the compliment, but no, that’s not why you’re here.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, why am I here?”
“You haven’t done anything wrong yourself, so I suppose you have the right to know,” the enchantress shrugged, lifting an apron off a hook on the wall and tying it around her silky purple dress. “Have a seat while you listen. Would you like some lunch?”
“I would love some lunch,” the prince answered politely. “I am quite starving.”
She chuckled. “They always have to give those long speeches before midday meals, don’t they?”
“And by the time we get to the food, it’s gone cold,” Prince Otto agreed dolefully.
His captor took out a griddle and placed it on the stove. “Well, my dear, I was hired to teach your father a lesson, and this is how we’re doing it. You are to be my hostage until your father is willing to listen to reason. I think I’ll make pancakes for lunch.”
“Don’t you like the idea? I have some fresh strawberries from the garden to go with them. You like the idea, don’t you?”
Prince Otto found himself unable to disagree, even though blueberries were actually his favorite. “Strawberries sound lovely.”
“Good!” She began mixing the batter, humming pleasantly. Her hostage glanced out the open window, and at the latch of the unlocked back door. Neither his hands nor feet were tied. Her back was even turned. He was fast on his feet, and there was plenty of daylight left.
“Um, why can’t I run away?” Otto asked plaintively from his chair. “Why am I so--”
“Enchanted by me?” His captor finished with a mischievous grin.
“I was going to say obedient.”
“Get used to it. Not a single person has broken out of my spell since my school days.”
The prince frowned and adjusted his place on the chair. Time for another strategy. “Who hired you, my lady enchantress?” he asked.
“Now, now, if you don’t know who they are, they won’t have to kill you if things go south.” She blew on the palm of her hand and easily lit the stove with a small roar of blue flames.
Prince Otto gulped. “Okay! Next question. Why hold a prince hostage? Don’t people usually abduct princesses?”
The enchantress shrugged again. “Your family doesn’t have any princesses. We had to improvise.”
“And...” the question that was worrying him the most. “What if my father doesn’t listen to reason?”
She buzzed her lips rather like a horse-- if that horse was a graceful, feminine horse, that is. “Of course he’ll listen. With a cute little son like you, who wouldn’t?” Pancakes sizzled on the griddle.
He didn’t like that. “Little... son...” he muttered. “You can’t be any older than I am!”
With a laugh, she flipped the pancakes over. “I appreciate your saying so, but... Enchantresses can live for a very long time, my dear.”
“How-- how old are you?” he ventured to ask.
“Oh, a gentleman never asks, and a lady never tells.” She placed the steaming pancakes on two plates and loaded them with strawberries.
“That makes for a boring conversation.”
“Only where age is concerned.” She sat down across from him at the little dining table and smiled charmingly. “Would you like a dollop of whipped cream, your highness?”
“Yes, please.” Prince Otto accepted it politely, and resigned himself to eating breakfast for lunch.