“Indeed he did,” Roland said, winking. “Panic to the extreme, so I rushed to our prince’s side.”
“It makes sense. That leaves me with just one question, then,” she leaned toward Roland, eyes twinkling dangerously.
Prince Otto thought he knew what was coming next and braced himself for an onslaught of powerful magic.
“Why didn’t you knock?!” The enchantress surprised them all by yanking on Roland’s sleek ponytail.
“Ow, ow, ow! The hair is off limits, Mag!”
“So is bursting into my house uninvited!”
“Mag?!” Prince Otto repeated in disbelief.
“It’s a stupid nickname, don’t you dare repeat it!” she snapped.
Roland pulled his hair free. “Like ‘Marguerite’ is any better of a name!”
The enchantress raised an eyebrow. “Hmph. Better than ‘Roly-Poly!’”
“Hey, that’s mean!” Roland’s arms instinctively went to hug his sides which were not always so trim.
“Aren’t you missing the point?” Prince Otto interrupted their childish squabble. “If you were both hired from opposite sides, and you both want me as your prisoner--”
“Just to return you safely!” Roland protested.
“--Then doesn’t that make you enemies?” Otto finished.
Both enchanters stopped and looked at him in faint surprise.
“Oh, come now,” Marguerite said, folding her arms. “That’s nothing new. We’ve always been enemies.”
“Since the first day of school,” Roland agreed. “Spit wads and flaming paper airplanes.”
“I thought you were lovers,” Princess Beatrice said around an extra strawberry.
Both enchanters stopped to look at her. Prince Otto braced himself again. Enchantress Marguerite gave a shrill laugh.
“Lo-- ha, ha, ha! How droll! Roland!” She now grabbed his ear in a vice-like grip. “You have your own house, keep the snippet-of-a-princess there next time!”
“Snippet?” Princess Beatrice echoed, affronted.
“Don’t interrupt,” the enchantress said, holding one stern finger out to the princess.
“But, Maggie my dear,” Roland wheedled, head tilted to avoid pain. “The king said it was urgent!”
“Oh yes, so urgent you had to burst in here and eat four helpings of pancakes! See if I ever feed you again!”
“My dear, you love me too much not to feed me.” Roland grinned, turning on the old charm. It was only about 20% of his most powerful charming ability, but it still could have melted butter. The lady fair was unimpressed. She glared and let go of his ear, stepping back.
“This has gone on long enough.” Her hands clenched into fists and caught fire like the heads of two matches.
“Finally, some action!” Roland bounced forward and a wave of water flew from his fingertips and down to extinguish his rival’s flames. She was soaked instantly. Marguerite shivered slightly and then zapped him with the ions in the water, making his hair frizz dramatically.
“Again with the hair!” Roland snarled, sending a sheet of ice under her feet. “I warned you it was off limits!”
Marguerite jumped over the table gracefully and landed on her feet behind Prince Otto. Pulling a gleaming knife out and placing it over his throat, she said, “As much as I love our little spats, Roland, I’ve got work to do. Shall we go, Prince Otto?”
“Don’t hurt him!” Princess Beatrice screeched, flapping her tiny hands.
“Where are you going to run to?” Roland drawled, shaking the ice off his fingertips. “There’s nowhere you can go that I won’t find you.”
The ruby on the knife handle glinted. “Overconfidence is unattractive, Roland.”
“Maybe we can talk about this?” Prince Otto suggested. “You don’t have to fight over me!”
“Don’t we? I’ve got money waiting on this.”
“Please, let’s not fight!” Beatrice cried.
“Yes, Mag, put the nice prince down.”
“Otto,” Marguerite said into his ear. “Run as fast as you can.”
“Out this door, naturally.” The enchantress opened a door behind them that had appeared only a moment before.
Leaving his hope of freedom, his friend, and the frightening servant of his father behind, Prince Otto ran through the new door-- unwillingly, but as fast as he could. It was pitch black for a bit, and then he very nearly ran into a pine branch. Green needles combed his tawny hair. He looked back to see Marguerite wave her hands and make the black-cloud-surrounded-door disappear entirely.
“Where are we now?” he asked his fair captor.
The enchantress sighed and wrung out one of her soaked sleeves. “We are in those woods you mentioned-- that coveted piece of land between your country and the next.” She looked up with a smile. “Shall we see what all the fuss is about?”