Long ago and far away, nestled in a serene valley surrounded by great mountains, there existed a beautiful kingdom called Cascadia and this kingdom was ruled by the wise and recently widowed Queen Naomi, a woman much beloved by her subjects.
Her husband, the short but precognitive King Charles, had been ruthlessly murdered a bare two months after discovering that he would finally become a father. The kingdom mourned the loss of their King and feared for their future as the only person that stood between them and the murderer of their King, the evil sorcerer, Malash, was the three month pregnant Queen.
But Naomi rose to the occasion, and with the help and assistance of the three fairies from the magic firm of Banks, Brown and Taggert, Malash was kept at bay and the kingdom prospered.
Six months after her beloved husband's death, Queen Naomi gave birth to their child, a boy, and as the precious bundle was placed in the tired Queen's arms, and as she kissed the downy soft curls adorning his head, she vowed that she would protect him from all evil, or die in the attempt.
The great day had arrived. The baptism of the young Prince. The celebration was in full swing as Cascadians came from far and wide, as villagers poured into the castle, all eager to get their first glimpse of the three month old Prince.
But today was more than just the baptismal. Queen Naomi, under the advisement of the three fairies, had conspired to further secure her kingdom by arranging the union between Cascadia and her neighboring kingdom, Vancouverle. The union would be cemented by the betrothal of Prince Jacob to the heir of King William. Today, both Queen Naomi and King William would sign the betrothal papers and the two kingdoms would begin a new era.
<*> <*> <*> <*>
The castle was ready, it's pale pink, marble walls scrubbed spotless, every tree and bush pruned and festooned with streamers of satin ribbons, and from every turret, archway and door, hung thousands upon thousands of small, white, twinkling lights, magically provided by the fairy firm of Banks, Brown & Taggert. Beyond the moat, the three fairies had arranged for a small rainbow to hover over the castle, bathing it in it's rich, muted colors and in the moat itself, gilded lily pads, carrying silver candles, floated like stars from the sky.
From every fountain gushed water painted every shade of blue to commorate the Prince's sparkling eyes.
The Queen stood on her parapet, overlooking the gardens, her son nestled in her arms. She gave him a small bounce and laughed delightedly as his giggles floated out over the warm, spice scented air. One chubby little hand reached unsuccessfully for a bit of red hair that had escaped from under the Queen's crown. Naomi grinned as his face scrunched up and those small baby lips pursed in concentration as he tried again to ensnarl the strand. But this time, Naomi assisted her son by lowering her head just enough so that eager fingers could grab and gently pull.
With a loving smile, she rubbed her nose gently against his, watching as his eyelids fluttered and his own grin widened. She rained soft kisses over silky smooth and baby sweet skin as his legs kicked in delight.
"Your Majesty, King William and his entourage have arrived. It is time."
Naomi turned to face her aide, Sir Rafe and she nodded as she addressed him, "Thank you, Rafe. Is my Lady Megan returned?"
"She awaits the Prince in the nursery, Your Majesty."
Naomi nodded and shifted her child up as she crossed back inside and walked to the nursery, where Lady Megan would prepare the Prince for his first appearance at court.
<*> <*> <*> <*>
"HER MAJESTY, QUEEN NAOMI!"
Horns heralded her entrance into the Grand Ballroom and as quests made way, she swept in, elegant head held high, her velvet gown of rich forest green swaying gently as she approached her throne. Behind her, Lady Megan followed, the Prince in her arms.
Sir Rafe stepped forward as the Queen took her seat and the Prince was placed in her arms. He brought his staff down once, signaling silence. The doors at the far end of the hall opened and Rafe announced, "HIS MAJESTY, KING WILLIAM OF VANCOUVERLE, AND HIS SON AND HEIR, PRINCE JAMES."
William strode down the red carpet, every inch the King. Tall, blonde and handsome, with serious blue eyes, the widowed King found himself enchanted by the Queen sitting regally before him.
And behind King William, walked the eight year old Prince James, eyes locked on the bundle in the Queen's arms.
Prince Jacob. His ---- betrothed.
A baby. A - little - baby. Ugh.
As William and his son took their place beside the Queen, Rafe once more brought down the staff and announced, "AND NOW, QUEEN NAOMI PRESENTS YOUR OWN PRINCE JACOB!"
Naomi rose and stepped forward, allowing the blankets surrounding the child to fall to the ground. She raised her arms, baby held firmly, and the hall erupted in cheers as the light brown curls and laughing blue eyes were revealed.
The noise seemed not to bother the young Prince at all, as sturdy little legs kicked in glee and his very un-princelike chortles filled the room.
Prince James had come prepared to be bored, to spend the evening hiding yawns and trying to shut out the noise, but as the sound of Prince Jacob's laugh reached his sensitive ears, as the sweet sound filled his soul, pale blue eyes widened, and he found himself spellbound as the tiny, energetic bundle was lovingly lowered into it's crib.
As the party swirled about him, as his father danced with the strange Queen, James walked as if compelled, to the side of the crib. He peeked in and was surprised to find sleepy blue eyes blinking back at him. One hand reached out, hesitant, and before James could pull it back, the baby grasped a finger and James found himself literally, figuratively and spiritually captured.
He smiled. Jacob smiled back. James wiggled the captured finger and grinned in delight as Jacob's eyes got round, as the baby gave a surprisingly strong tug. James leaned in and made a face, puffing out his cheeks, curling his lips and crossing his eyes. He was flabbergasted and thoroughly enchanted when instead of crying, baby Jacob tried to copy the expression.
Prince James might not know exactly *what* betrothed meant, but he decided that Prince Jacob might be kind of fun after all - as long as Prince James didn't have to change diapers.
<*> <*> <*> <*>
It was almost midnight and the last Lord had passed the Prince, the last tickle had been given and the last *goochie, goochie goo* had been said. Prince Jacob had proven his good nature by not crying once during the evening, and many a charmed look had been given to Prince James, who even now, stood resolutely guarding his new *toy*.
Trumpets once more blared and Sir Rafe made one last announcement.
"YOUR MAJESTY, MAY I PRESENT FAIRIES BANKS, BROWN AND TAGGERT!"
All attention was diverted as through the double doors, three sparkling balls of light flew, hovered, then materialized into three, big, strapping, handsome men. The head fairy, known only as Banks, floated toward the Queen, his wand in hand, wings fluttering.
"Your Majesty, we have come to bestow our gifts upon our beloved Prince Jacob."
Naomi stood, a wonderous smile upon her face. "We are honored at your presence, Fairy Banks. Please, approach."
Banks floated to the crib and as he gazed down upon the innocent child, his wand moving gracefully over the curls, he chanted, "Our Prince has been blessed with a beauty that defies description, and his gentle nature is self-evident. So to thee, Prince Jacob, I give the gift of adventure. Your thirst for knowledge, for understanding, shall lead you down a path of wonderous discoveries and delight, bringing you great wisdom and intelligence."
His wand circled gently and small, colorful crystals floated down which solicitated a round of giggles from the receipient. Banks then floated back and was replaced by fairy Brown, who also floated above the crib, wand circling as he intoned, "Your intelligence and wisdom is now a given, so to you, my Prince, I give humor driven. A wit and charm shall be yours, dear Prince, to aid in our wish to keep you from harm."
Brown drifted back, to make room for Taggert, but before the last fairy could approach, the candles in the Ballroom flickered and a cold chill swept through the room. The doors flew open and a tall figure swathed in deathly black and muted purple walked sedately to the center of the room. The man wore a black skull cap that appeared to be part of the shiny black cloak that swirled about the body of the man. In his right hand he carried a jeweled staff adorned with a clear crystal the size of Jacob's round rattle. Several quests, including King William, shrunk back at sight of the staff, all knowing full well it's evil power.
As Prince James instinctively stepped in front of the crib, a small, childlike growl issued forth, but before he could rush the invader, Queen Naomi approached the man.
"It would seem, Dear Queen, that you are having a party. I can assume that *my* invitation was regretably lost in the mail?" His voice slithered across the room and at the word *my*, one slender, pale hand rested delicately over his heart.
"Not at all, Malash. You were *not* invited." The Queen spoke with a strong voice, a voice that belied her fear.
The dark, inky black eyes, set deep in the delicate pale face, blinked at the Queen, feigning surprise. "Why, your Majesty, considering my ties to your son, how is it that you failed to invite me, your future son-in-law?"
"How dare you make such a statement! You will have nothing to do with my son, you hear me, Malash? I do not fear your sorcery."
"You should, my Queen, you should. Good and foolish King Charles promised me his first born if I would but do him one simple favor. I did. Prince Jacob is mine."
Malash drew himself up to his full height and was no longer the wounded *guest*, instead, power, heat and evil radiated out from his body, forcing the brave Queen and her subjects to step back in horror.
"I am here to collect that which is mine."
A low growl filled the room and Malash, expecting to find an animal, found instead, an eight year old boy, ready to do battle. Malash grinned malevolently as he spoke, "My, my, if it isn't the mighty and fierce Prince James, ready to defeat a minor sorcerer such as myself. Perhaps I should show the dear boy some of my *minor* powers?" And he raised his staff, but before his power could be unleashed on the small boy, Banks, Brown and Taggert placed themselves between James and the sorcerer.
"I think not, Malash. You would do well to leave. You do not want to test our powers." Banks threatened.
"Oh, my good friend Banks. Perhaps I should leave, it's so draining to be unwanted. But ---- before I go, I too have a gift for my Jacob, or should I say - a promise?" And with those words, his staff he did raise and his voice cried out, "For twenty-one summers, Prince Jacob shall know happiness, shall be the light that guides. But for a promise broken, for a good deed done, if not delivered to me, your Prince shall die on the day he becomes twenty-one."
"Failure to give that which is desired, shall result in a watery death for sweet Jacob and all shall mourn before his funeral pyre."
A great black mass rose from the crystal, widened, chilled and darkened the room. All eyes followed the living, breathing mass of evil as it made it's way about the room. It seemed to swallow them all, and just as it would engulf the kingdom, there came a huge and horrible laugh, the blackness burst into thousands of tiny particles that disappeared as they hit the floor.
And Malash was no longer in their midst.
Naomi rushed to her baby's side, picking him up and cradling him to her breast as she faced the three fairies.
"Please tell me you can stop this most evil spell?"
Banks shook his head sadly, "No, my Queen, our magic is not strong enough. However, hope still lives. Taggert has not yet bestowed his gift."
Fairy Taggert flew to Naomi's side, hovering over she and the innocent, sleeping babe. His forest green wand glowed brightly, his voice spoke, soft and mellow.
"Should the curse come to pass, my magic cannot stay your death, alas. But ---- the intent of this evil Lord may be thwarted by true love, for only through the kiss of life, shall you be restored."
The wand circled the baby's head, brighter than the sun, as sparkling jewels in every color of the rainbow rained down on the Prince.
It was the best that could be done. All prayed it would be enough.
Queen Naomi had faith in her fairies, but she was also a practical woman where her son was concerned. In the following days, she set about to ensure that her son could not - would not, meet a watery death.
All fountains were stilled, the only road to a nearby harbor was blocked, and with the assistance of her fairies, every river and stream was diverted *away* from Cascadia. Every nearby lake was drained, the water stored in small barrels for the populace. And finally, every well was filled with dirt and planted.
On the fifth day following the curse, King William and Prince James took their leave, to the disgust of the young Prince, who felt that he should be left behind to guard his playmate. He'd spent five days playing with Jacob and had even learned the fine art of diapering. Now who would protect him? Change him?
As the young prince rode away, he gave one last look and vowed to return - soon.
The three fairies were sequestered in a broom closet. Removing water hazards and magic counterspells were fine, but they would not protect the Prince if Malash should decide to *take* that which he expected to be delivered.
"We could turn him into a wolf pup, Banks. Malash couldn't hurt him then....", suggested Taggert.
"Unless he visited a famine upon the animal kingdom, you doofus. No, our plan must be better than that. *We* must take the Prince deep into the woods, raise him ourselves, and return him *on* his birthday. Malash would be thwarted. If he can not claim Jacob before sunset on his birthday, the spell is broken. Malash is defeated."
Brown snorted at his boss, saying, "We? Three fairies raise a Prince? Are you daft?"
"Three fairies will not raise him. Three woodsmen will. No magic. Nothing Malash could trace. I will be Simon. You will be Henri, and you Taggert, will be Joel. Now both of you, give me your wands, now."
The two men looked at each other, eyes wide in panic. No more magic? How were they to have fun? Banks held out his hand, wiggling his fingers, "Now, gentlemen, your wands."
Amid petulant scowls and whines, two wands were handed over.
Banks took his wand and waved it over each of them, removing their wings and dressing them in the leathers of a woodsman.
"There. Now, off to tell the Queen. This will break her heart, but she will know it is for the best."
As they stepped out of the closet, and made their way to the Queen's chamber, dour mutterings could be heard......
".....I'll be damned if I'm going to change diapers......"
"......who's gonna burp him? Bathe him? Not me, I can tell you that.....no, sir!"
"......and what about Fairy Olivia? I had a hot date with her tonight......"
".....and how come Banks didn't have to rhyme his gift? He's so good, he doesn't have to rhyme?"
:( :( :( :(
Queen Naomi did indeed know that Banks was correct in his plan. And with a breaking heart, she gave over her son. The three *men* took their leave and the lovely, broken hearted Queen watched as the three rode away, deep into the woods, and she cried for all the moments she would miss, for his first steps, his first Winter Solstice, for each year that he grew, for every *first* she would never see.......and the tears fell, unrestrained, until they faded from sight.
"......some one catch it.....jeesh, that little bugger can move....."
"....where did it go? It was right here.....how could you let this happen, Joel?"
"......oh, shit, I stepped in it."
"YOU WHAT? YOU STEPPED ON THE PRINCE?"
"Don't be silly, Simon. I stepped in the diaper shit. It's all over the floor, thanks to Joel."
"Could you guys argue later? We've got a six month old rugrat running around diaperless....he'll catch his death......"
"THERE HE GOES, HE JUST CRAWLED BETWEEN YOUR LEGS, HENRI!"
Henri bent at the waist just in time to see a pink butt scuttle past, and wild baby giggling telling him he'd missed the baby by *that* much. He turned and ran after the child, who could move faster than any living creature known to fairies.
"How does he *do* that?"
"Stop your yapping and catch him!" Simon yelled.
With a triumphant, "GOTCHA!" Joel swooped down and scooped up the errant child. He held him up to his face, nose to nose and said, "Bad Prince, very bad Prince," to which the young Prince simply reached out a fat little hand and squeezed the large nose - hard. Then laughed uproariously.
Simon took the baby from the now whimpering Joel and as he kissed the soft curls, he admonished, "Joel, he's not a dog. He's our Prince and just a baby. He was having fun. And how the hell did he get away?"
Joel looked sheepishly down at the floor as he answered, "I just turned away for a second....to get a safety pin, you know? And when I turned back, *poof*, he was gone. I think he's magic, Simon. I do."
The *magic* baby was currently having a ball trying to twist off Simon's nose, and chortling happily. Simon just smiled, a smile that could only be described as *dreamy*....."Good baby Prince, sweet baby, that's it....let's get you diapered. These silly men can't do a simple thing like diaper an innocent baby...umph..." and he set him down on the large communal table in the small woodsman cottage that had been their home for the last three months. He pulled a clean diaper from the large stack, expertly folded it, tucked it under the squirming butt and before the baby could blink, he'd powdered, pinned, straightened and kissed.
"There. Now, where are his clothes? His little blue jumper?"
"Uh, right here, Simon." And Joel handed over the now wrinkled jumper. Wrinkled *and* sweaty.
"Shit, Joel, what did you do with it?"
"Well, I was running after him, and getting all sweaty and I just....."
"Never mind. Get the green jumper......Yeah, that's the one....... okay, baby, I'm gonna slip this on, one little leggy-leggy, two little leggy-leggy, pull up....." as he talkled, his voice sing-songy, the other two men just watched, astounded. This was the King of Fairies. Cooing. What was the world coming to???
Finally, the Prince was clean, pampered and dressed. And lord, it was time for lunch. Which meant a mess, and a poop. A fairies job was never done.
"Um, Simon. We can't go around calling him Prince, and we certainly can't use his given name......shouldn't we give *him* a new name too?"
Simon glanced up from his task of lightly brushing the soft curls, his face a study in concentration.
"Good point, Henri. Well? Anyone got any suggestions?"
"Uh," Joel said, scratching his head, "I've always been partial to Horatio."
"Joel, you're hopeless. I can just hear us now.....Oh, Horatio, time to come in......I *so* don't think so.....how about Clarence?" Henri added.
"God, you two are pathetic," and Simon gazed down at the now quiet bundle in his arms and said, "Well, young sir, what name catches your fancy?"
Bubbles escaped the tiny mouth as the *young sir* said, "Bwair", and reached for Simon's nose again.
"Blair. I like it. And it has a good sound to it. An energetic sound. Blair it is."