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.