The final sovereign of the Middle Kingdoms signed the petition with a flourish and then fanned the ink to dry it before handing it to the footman. The youngest of the thirteen kings, he was a handsome man with dark brown hair and a neat beard.
“Well done!” The Emperor accepted the completed document and unrolled it to its full length, nodding his head in approval. The charmed parchment, when signed by all thirteen human kings and their Emperor and witnessed by three representatives from the Fairy Alliance for Ethics, would bind the fairy Malady from the human lands, in particular from attending any more christenings with her nasty little gifts.
“It was your child upon whom Malady bestowed her final curse, so it is fitting you be the one to summon the Fairy Alliance to hear our judgment.” The Emperor handed the pearl and ruby conch shell to the youngest king.
“Thank you, Your Splendor.” The man raised the device to his lips and blew several short, eerie blasts. Almost immediately, three fairies materialized in the center of the golden throne room. The breeze of their arrival ruffled the heavy crimson hangings along the long walls and set the tiered chandelier tinkling.
“We’ve been expecting your summons,” Pleasentia said, swishing her gauze dress and smiling at the men gathered in the darkened room.
“Hurry and get this over with.” The fairy Budbud snapped her wizened fingers, and in them appeared a large gold seal. “Recite the document, sprinkle on the fairy dust and let us ratify it. We’ve better things to be doing during the blue moon’s night.”
The third fairy held a crumpet dripping with jam. “Is this about Mali?” Gary asked, licking his fingers. “You know, her gifts really don’t—”
“We don’t want to hear any more of your excuses!” thundered the Emperor. “We have the right to bar specific fairies from our midst if we so choose. In fact we have the right to bar all fairies from the human lands, and then where would you get your precious gold?”
“Oh, do shut up, Hubert, and get on with it,” Budbud said. “We all know you aren’t going to ban all the fairies. You want our spells as much as we want your gold.”
The Emperor flushed and cleared his throat. He began to recite the document, which cast the first threads of the spell that would prohibit Malady from entering human lands until the parchment was burned three times with the feather of a red gold phoenix.
“We the people…”
“They always start their documents that way. Why do they do that?” whispered Pleasentia.
“Hush, dear.” Gary patted her hand. “Let them have their fun.”
“We the people, in order to maintain a more solid union, to provide for the common defense of ourselves and our posterity, do hereby declare the fairy Malady banned and barred from the Middle Kingdoms forthwith. She is forbidden from attending the christenings of any human children, be they noble or common, even if those christenings take place outside the Middle Kingdoms, and should she seek to harm, injure or otherwise take revenge upon any human, let her—”
In a blast of light followed by a billow of reeking smoke, the fairy in question exploded into the vaulted throne room, her wiry hair standing on end. She stamped her feet upon the crimson carpet and the walls trembled.
“What charade is this?” she cried. “Banning me, the great Malady, from your puny human lands?”
The Emperor stared at the wicked sprite in dismay, his mouth hanging open, as the other occupants of the room coughed and waved tendrils of smoke from their faces.
“Keep reading, Your Splendor!” insisted the youngest king. “We shall not traffic with her. Let her see how she likes bargaining with the Sun Demons for her precious gold.” But the Emperor let the parchment droop in his grasp.
“Better not make that face, Hubert.” Malady cackled, raised a hand and an icy globule of magic appeared in it. She hurled it at the Emperor, striking him in the head and immobilizing him. “It might freeze that way!”
Budbud harrumphed. “Always butting in where you aren’t invited. You leave these humans be!”
“I will not!” screeched the black-haired fairy. “I curse these humans! I curse them and the horses they rode in on!”
“Can’t we leave the horses out of it?” asked Gary. “What did they ever do to you?”
“Okay, scratch the part about the horses.” Malady sketched some glowing runes in the air before she wiped them out with a quick hand. “But as for these foolish humans, these so-called nobles who reject my gifts, let them be forever cursed!”
Since the other kings were too intimidated to move, the young king beside the Emperor snatched the document from his limp hands. “We the people, yes, yes,” he said, racing through the text.
“Let them never bear another male child—” shrieked Malady.
“If she should seek revenge, blah blah, let her be banished by the representatives of the Fairy Alliance who stand here—” shouted the king.
“Let them bear only female children from this day forward—”
“Banished to east of the sun and west of the moon for a thousand years and a day!”
“Only girl babies for every king, every duke, every single noble in your stupid, pitiful lands!”
“So be it rote!” The young king snatched the philter of fairy dust from a gaping footman and doused the parchment.
“So be it rote,” echoed the twelve kings.
“Mmmfh!” rasped the Emperor.
“So be it rote,” agreed the three fairies, who’d observed the chant-off with great interest. Budbud hopped onto the Emperor’s dais and stamped the document with the golden seal. A ripple of pale light bloomed outward from the paper, dissipating as quickly as it appeared.
Upon the completion of the banishment, Malady doubled over with hateful laughter. Still chortling, she exploded out of the throne room in much the same way she entered, leaving a burned patch on the crimson rug.
With a gasp, the Emperor tore the icy skein from his face. “Surely that curse won’t stick,” he panted. “Will it?”
Other prologues can be found at: