My Kingdom for a Weasel

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  1. Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a wise and benevolent king. In his youth he wrested power away from his corrupt uncle, and married a young and beautiful princess who was beloved by the people. Together, they brought the land to a new age of peace and prosperity.

    This is not his story.

    Not far from the royal castle- a mere few days travel through the dark enchanted forest- was the tower of a great and renowned wizard, the most skilled magician in the kingdom. He wandered far and wide, winning the hearts of fair maidens and honing his arts, collecting knowledge long buried. Many went to his tower seeking his advice or pleading for instruction in the arcane.

    This is not his story either.

    This is the story of the successor to the throne, the young and reluctant King Roland; of Winifred, more commonly known as Claudia, the wizard's first and last apprentice; and of the strange and remarkable circumstances which brought these two together. A long quest awaited these unlikely heroes, and our tale begins in the most unlikely of ways, with the unlikeliest of characters.

    This is the story of a weasel.

    My Kingdom for a Weasel
    A Fractured Fairytale by Ozzie and Ocha

    The procession of princesses on Friday afternoon had been the last straw.

    "Your Majesty," Wentworth had begun, for the fifty-fourth time that week, "you really ought to be thinking about these things. You won't be a young man much longer, and the future of the kingdom depends upon you providing an heir."

    "Wentworth, I'm twenty-five," Roland had pointed out sharply, tugging the equally sharp point of his sword out from the practice dummy's chest. "I turned twenty-five last month."

    The Castle Steward remained unfazed, stubbornly lifting his grizzled chin. "Precisely, Your Majesty. Why, when your father was twenty-five-"

    "Yes, yes, I know. He'd already overthrown a tyrant, captured the heart of a princess, and I was on the way. And look what good it did him. He and mother both succumbed to Dragon Flu by the time I was ten. And anyway, Wentworth, as you are so fond of pointing out... I'm not my father."

    The man went on as if Roland had never spoken. "I've arranged for several very likely candidates to grace us with their presence this afternoon. If Your Majesty would please, they will be arriving just in time for tea in the rose garden."

    Roland's jaw slackened, and he turned to stare at his steward- the man who had been his only true parental figure for the last fifteen years- in abject horror.

    "Tea," he repeated, sheathing his sword. "In the rose garden. Today. With princesses. Plural."

    "You cannot expect to simply go gallivanting about the kingdom however you please for the rest of your life, Sire. You must begin to think of your duty and responsibility to the throne you sit upon."

    That was quite a stretch, in Roland's opinion. He would hardly call the occasional stroll or fencing session that he managed to get away from his advisers for "gallivanting about". The last time Roland had been more than a mile away from the castle, he'd been on a diplomatic visit and buried in paperwork and court "pleasantries" the entire time. He could scarcely breathe, let alone gallivant anywhere.

    And that, really, was the crux of it, more so than not wanting to marry some twitter-patted, dimwitted, mincing princess. He didn't really know whether he wanted to get married at all, and he certainly would rather marry a woman with a brain, if not for love... but really, Roland wanted to get out of the drudgery and bullshit of court life and politics and actually live his own life for once. He wanted adventure. He wanted to see the kingdom that he was supposed to be ruling. He wanted to be something other than, well... a king.

    He wanted to learn magic.

    There was a tower that could be seen from the ramparts of his castle, and Roland knew- everyone knew- that this was where the great wizard Egon dwelt. Building a tower that could be seen for miles was sort of an odd thing to do when you wanted to discourage visitors, but Roland supposed that the trials of the surrounding enchanted forest helped keep unwanted quest-goers at bay.

    It certainly did a good job of getting him hopelessly lost. It was a shame that maps were utterly useless when the trees didn't stay in one place.

  2. "No, no, please masters stop chewing on that," a sweet voice filled with despair could be heard in the woods. If there was ever the quintessential damsel in distress, surely she had that voice.

    Wait, let's back up.

    Winifred, had awoke with the dawn. It was her custom to do so. As it gave her time to attend to chores, and just enjoy the morning before her master, the great wizard Ego awoke. He tend to rise before noon so the morning was usually Winifred's to do as she liked.

    The morning was like most and if it took her a little longer to get started in the day, only she knew. The summoning she had been working on the night prior kept her up late indeed. Being the apprentice to the greatest wizard in the kingdom wasn't easy, but it was very rewarding.

    Winifred had just finished making lunch, but she had not seen her master. He was easily distracted at times, but to not come down to eat? Climbing up the stairs to the level his bedchamber was in the tower she knocked on the door. There was no response. She knocked a second time, and still there was nothing. She was considering her options when she heard a clatter.

    Prepared for the worse, Winifred surrounded herself in her best shields and forced the door open, raw power in the palm of her hand. She looked left, then right, but there was no sign of anyone, neither the wizard or an intruder. Then she saw something move on the floor near his bed. It was his robe. Cautiously she approached, and then nearly jumped back as a furry little head popped out of the clothing.

    For a long moment the apprentice and the weasel just looked at each other. "Master Egon?" she asked in horror. She couldn't believe it, her master had turned himself into a rodent!

    For the rest of the day, and into the night she tried every spell she could come up with to try to revert her master to his proper form, but in the end her work was in vain, and she fell asleep at a work bench, the weasel curled up beside her.

    Now we can go back to now. For you see she saw no choice but to find another powerful wizard to help her break the spell, so she packed up some belongings in a pack and ventured out. The weasel for his part chose to ride up near her shoulder, but was finding the clasp on the strap of her pack very interesting and tried to chew on it.
  3. Roland had expected to encounter strange things in these woods. After all, strange things happened all the time when wizards were involved, and there was quite a large amount of involvement when a wizard sets up a tower and practices magic willy-nilly within easy journey of your castle. He had, so far, been lucky in that he hadn't wandered into slowsand or been mobbed by animals of unusual size. In fact, his journey so far had been disappointingly unremarkable barring just how unremarkable it really was. Where were the forest trolls, the cursed ruins, and the brownie pranks that so often plagued travelers? He'd been ready for much worse than what he'd gotten thus far.

    However, the scene he happened upon now was not one for which Roland was prepared.

    "My dear lady," he began, as he rounded the trees which separated him from the source of the plaintive cries, "Forgive me. Are you aware that you are wearing a live weasel for a shrug?"

    Perhaps, thought Roland, she was an enchantress, and he'd finally happened upon the adventure he'd been hoping for. Or at the very least, she could give him some damn directions.
  4. Winifred was far too busy talking to the weasel about the importants of buckles on straps, and really he should know better, as well as wondering if she would be able to purchase a horse once she got to the village on the edge of the forest, that she had not realized she was not alone on her path until the gentleman spoke.

    Looking at the man before her, he was dressed too nicely to be a huntsman. Oh no, it wasn't some lord's youngest son set off to find the great wizard to assist him on his quest? Master Egon disliked that type horribly and had at least once tried to have her dissuade the would be adventuerer. What followed was some insulting suggestions and a proposition that had the wizard nearly turning the boy into a newt when she told her master what happen.

    So of course she was completely sensible and caution with this young man.

    "I can't shrug him off he's my ma... My, my familiar." Great she sounded like a crazy person! Oh well. At least her master didn't seem displeased with her. Better a familiar then a pet. Now all she needed to do was figure out what he was doing there. Getting rid of him was probably a good idea too. "Where you headed to the wizard's tower? Because if you are it's quite pointless, he's on holiday."
  5. Familiar, she said? That at least explained why the young lady was speaking to the varmint as if it might be persuaded. Roland's advisers had, at least, seen to it that he got a thorough education, and some basic knowledge of the magical community had been included. Wentworth had prevented much further than that, but at least Roland knew that familiars were magical servants. Paired with her statement that the Wizard Egon was on "holiday", it was a safe bet that his hunch was correct: He was speaking to a magic user.

    Wait a minute.

    "Holiday?" he asked, cursing his luck. "Where? For how long?"

    Of course the wizard would be gone just as Roland went looking for him. Not only was it par for the course in Roland's dull life of monarchy, but wizards were notoriously an inconvenient lot. He really ought to have planned for this contingency. As it was, all he could do was hope that this enchantress or witch or whatever she was could help him track the man down.
  6. Winifred shrugged. "Where do wizards go when they choose not to be here? As for when he will return, I know not,MIT it will not be soon. Perhaps a month, perhaps a year." Cryptic answers were of course a very important talent for a magic user, especially one as popular as the wizard Egon. As such, he was instructing his apprentice to practice the art as well.

    She knew if he was on sort of vital quest he might not be persuaded by her answers, after all trickery was assumed often by the lay people in regards to magic, to prove their worth. Frankly she found that such a trick would be a waste of the wizard and the seekers time. "I will tell you this. Though he is gone, his tower will not be any easier to find, it will indeed be more difficult. If your task is urgent then I suggest you seek another means. I myself have my own task and am in no interest of being distracted by another's quest no matter how imperative it is." Because every quest was of the utmost importance, at least to the quester. "I am not however disinclined to give advice, as long as you don't hassle me."

    She grinned, knowing that she was the one with all the cards as it were. He could go off looking for the tower, but he'd be doing that for weeks at least. He would be wandering until she returned her master back to himself. Looking at the weasel she sighed, why'd he have to go and do a thing like this! "I'm headed for the village to purchase a horse, will you come along?" Maybe if whatever advise he needed he liked he'd purchase the horse for her? That would be a fair trade she thought.

  7. It occurred to Roland precisely one minute into her answer that she had just laid claim to being on a quest. Roland himself had no particular quest, other than to learn magic from Egon, and to find a quest in the first place. Perhaps in assisting this young lady, he could kill two birds with one stone. It wasn't as if finding the tower would make Egon's holiday any shorter, after all, and Roland was in no hurry to head back to his throne.

    "I'd be happy to accompany you, milady," he told her courteously. His advisers might groan at seeing him treat a likely enchantress as if she were a court jewel, but his advisers damned well weren't here to see it, and Roland thought it seemed wise to avoid offending someone with the power to turn you into a toad. "But perhaps we should trade introductions first."

    Right. Introductions. That raised a question, didn't it? What was he going to tell her? She must not recognize him, he realized with a start; there had been a distinct lack of bowing and scraping, as tended to happen when he talked to people outside the castle walls, and she'd made no queries into what the king was doing out hunting for wizards. Surely she couldn't be just that composed, as he had seen her attempting to argue with a weasel only a moment before. Roland wasn't inclined to invite either bowing or prying, and so he concluded that the best approach would be to simply avoid any mention of royal heritage.

    "I'm... Roland," he said, clearing his throat. "And you are?"
  8. "Roland, what a fine name," she told the young lordling with a pleasent smile. There was a thought, a tickle of a memory at the back of her mind from his introduction, but it evaded her. It likely wasn't important but some sort of association that had little to do with the man standing before her.

    "My name is Winifred," and as soon as she said her name she winced, for she wasn't suppose to use it. Not because of the legends of giving a person your name gave them power over you. That was nonsense unless you went around doing blood packed contracts with demons. No, the reason she wasn't suppose to give her name was much simpler, reputation. She needed to start building one, and a name like Winifred would not game her respect she wished to earn. She didn't want to be 'Little Witch Wini' after all.

    Blushing fiercely she held out her hand, as if to stop him. "I'm not suppose to go by that name. Please forget you heard me say that," she pleaded, obviously embraced. "If you would be so kind, please call me Claudia." She gave him a weak smile, then to change the subject. "Shall we start for the village? It's this way," and she pointed down a path that looked to be easy to navigate.
  9. Roland began to wonder just what he was getting himself into. His companion couldn't decide upon her own name, she conducted arguments with members of the family Mustelidae (Roland spent a brief moment here to be annoyed at his tutors for drumming useless information into him such as the scientific classification of weasels rather than how to enchant a blade or turn oneself invisible), and she didn't recognize her own king (although he was immensely grateful for that last fact). Perhaps she wasn't an enchantress at all, and was simply mad.

    It could be very difficult to tell the difference with magic users, after all.

    But a madwoman was still more of an adventure than he'd stumbled across so far, so Roland decided that royal beggars couldn't be choosers and politely offered Winifred- er, that is, Claudia- his arm. Manners were manners and ladies were ladies, even in the middle of the woods with no one to see, he reckoned.

    "Lead on then, Lady Claudia." He cracked a grin. "I don't suppose you're willing to tell me any more about this quest of yours while we're on our way."
  10. Winifred was delighted when Roland offered her his arm. It was an indication of good manners, something that was usually only begrugenly extended to her by those blue bloods that thought apprentice was more like a servent, not an heir. Then again the Wizard Egon was not like some wizards that took on half a dozen apprentices at a time. He actually had no intention of one and once Winifred moved on it was unlikely he'd take on another one again.

    But then he had to ask about her quest. She couldn't very well tell him the truth. Winifred didn't want to lie either, lies had a tendency of biting you in the ass. She gave him an enigmatic smile. "It is something of a tedious matter. I must break a curse for someone. Not knowing the finer details I am hoping to learn it's secrets from one wiser then myself."

    Perfect, it was the truth and it didn't give Roland any details, other then she was no fool who thought she had all the answers.

    "What were you seeking ma-mighty Egon for?" It would be useful to know when she got her master back to his normal self, who was watching Roland intensely. Wait, no, was he looking at the buttons?
  11. Roland reflected once more on the great amount of bother that would surely ensue if Winifred- no, once more, it was Claudia- were to discover that she was talking to the king of the realm. He didn't feel too comfortable with deception, but in this case, the truth would only do more harm than good. At the least, it would only cause delays and make both of them feel very uncomfortable.

    "I was hoping that he could apprentice me for a bit," he confessed carefully. "Or if nothing else tell me where to go to study. I'm interested in the business of adventuring, and a little magic is all but necessary for that."

    At least, that's what Roland had deduced from every adventure that he'd ever heard of or read about.

    For a moment, he debated whether or not he might be better off asking his lovely new companion for assistance in Egon's stead. Given what he'd observed of her behavior thus far, however, he couldn't say that he was too keen on the notion. Particularly not in light of her-

    "No," he admonished the weasel firmly, gripping it by the scruff of its neck as it attempted to seize the laces of his glove between its teeth. He turned a suddenly understanding gaze on Winifred. "New pet? He's friendly enough but you've got to teach them not to nip. I had a ferret when I was a small boy, myself."
  12. "Apprentice?" Winifred nearly choked on the word. Fortunately for Roland he explained himself. He was not interested in a true apprenticeship. In fact he did not sound like he wanted to be a wizard, sorcerer or even magician. No what he wanted was much more dangerous. He wanted ADVENTURE.

    Winifred opened her mouth to speak when her master chose that moment to do a very weasel like thing. Winifred turned red and nodded taking the weasel back. "Yes, we're still getting use to each other," Winifred confessed. She was confused. She knew he was still intelligent. He had been keeping with her after all, but there had been difficulty with communication. The spell Egon was under was most pecular. She was glad he wasn't completely animalistic, but he sure had the habits or a weasel.

    "Familiars are more intelligent then a wild beast, but they are still animals, with the instincts there of." It occured to her that maybe since he had had a pet of a similar spieces Roland might be able to give her advice on those odd behaviors her master was exhibiting.

    Maybe it was fortuitous she met this young lordling with a dangerous taste for adventure.
  13. Roland was beginning to suspect that Winifred (he simply was never going to be able to think of her as anything else) might just be a bit green rather than mad. She didn't look much older than he was... although Roland was well aware how little you could trust such things, especially with enchantresses. For all he knew, she was over a hundred.

    "Right. Familiar." They were more like servants than pets, really, weren't they? Roland eyed the weasel with some curiosity. "Does he have a name?"

    While they had been talking and walking, the geography had evidently chosen to shift around again. The village of Hartmoor was now within sight, just beyond the tangle of brambles that marked the edge of the Deep Forest. They were now less than an hour's ride from his castle (which he personally found a little bit worrisome, considering he only had about that much time before someone discovered he'd gone missing, and he'd already been wandering around in the woods for a healthy portion of the afternoon).

    "You said you needed a horse? Allow me to cover the expense," he offered. It was the least that he could do when she was being so accommodating.

    He just hoped that no one in town would recognize the king without his crown...
  14. "Name?" Of course he would ask for the weasel, her master's, name. It was the normal thing do ask in a discussion about a new animal companion. However Winifred had not prepared for that. After all she didn't expect to meet someone practical in her front yard. Still though, she was an enchantress, despite still being an apprentice and quickness off thought was necessary.

    "Khnurn," she replied with a grin. Her master had, well, weaseled out of her hand and had climbed up her arms so that he could be perched on her shoulders. The little head was nuzzling her, and it came to her mind that he approved of the name.

    Strange, Ego was a good and kind master, but had never been overly affectionate. At least not with her!

    Still she strolled with Roland, and she mused again over his fine manners, for he offered what she hoped he would, to purchase her horse. Kind gestures such as these made Winifred think much more kindly of the world of nobles. Most were still frogs in disguise, but some were honestly of the golden heart variety, or at the very least keen enough to know it wouldn't hurt to have an enchantress think good of them. Winifred could live with the latter if the world was truly an awful place, though she tended to not think so.

    "That is a most kind offer and I am more then willing to take you up on it. I am also willing to give you some advice about your goal," Winifred offered in return. She thought nothing of what they appeared like together as they walked out of the woods and into town. Not that town gossip really mattered but she might have been a bit embarrassed, after all Roland was an attractive young man and only because he had been engaging her in conversation had she not had time to ponder too deeply on just how attractive. "Where would be a good spot you think for finding a horse? Near the inn?"
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