The Princess, the Pie, and the Sorceress
by Kit Campbell
“Uh, my dark queen? There’s a princess at the door.”
Morgwyn, sorceress, looked up from where she was spreading models of her minions across a map of the countryside to find one of her dwarves standing in the entrance of the hall, hat clutched in his hands. “What?”
The dwarf swallowed. “There’s a princess at the door.”
There was, indeed, a princess at the door. She was beautiful, of course, dark hair curled and twisted into an elegant updo, and she wore a thick cloak of the finest wool over what was, no doubt, a ridiculous gown. Behind her was a large traveling trunk that she could have in no way carried herself. Morgwyn could just make out the backs of a couple of attendants as they fled down the mountain pass.
Morgwyn almost asked if she could help her, but caught herself in time. “Yes?”
The princess sighed and rubbed one temple. “I’m dreadfully sorry about all this.”
‘All this’ seemed to be the princess and the trunk, though that didn’t clear anything up. “And?”
“None of this was my idea. You may rightly tell me to go away, and I shall do so.”
With what non-existent attendants, Morgwyn wanted to ask. “I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” Should she have cursed her by now? Probably, but it had been a long day of plotting, and she could use a distraction.
The princess hesitated. “My father said he’d sent you a message on the subject.”
“Let’s assume he didn’t.”
“Of course he didn’t.” The princess pinched the bridge of her nose and grumbled something under her breath that might have been curse words. “My father sent me to live with you because he wants to give someone the right to prove that they’re ‘worthy’ of my hand by rescuing me. From you.”
Morgwyn went to shut the door.
“I know it’s ridiculous,” the princess continued, “but to be honest, I’m happy to get out of there. The marriage schemes are getting out of hand.”
Morgwyn paused. “Fed up, are you?”
The princess eyed her suspiciously. “Yes.”
“Willing to, say, share some information on Daddy Dearest and his troop complements? Or at least about the numskulls I can expect to head my way?” Ridding the land of some budding heroes was something she could get behind.
“Absolutely,” said the princess. She held out a hand. “I’m Jessamine, by the way.”
Morgwyn wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with said hand, so she just shook it. “Morgwyn. Let me show you to your lair. Leave the trunk, I’ll send a dwarf.”
“Really, can’t resist pie?” Morgwyn repeated as she leaned out over her battlements, peering down the mountain.
“No.” Beside her, Jessamine re-oriented the potion they had made and pushed lightly on the top to check how easily it would tip. “He once told me that my hair looked lovely, but it would be lovelier if I would accent it with baked goods.”
“Well, he’d better hurry. I have a few dwarves that also love a good pie.” And Morgwyn had used her grandmother’s lemon meringue recipe. It wasn’t easy to get lemons up here in the mountains.
As if on cue, a knight rode around the corner, his horse looking a bit distressed, probably by the size of his rider.
“Political alliance,” Jessamine said.
Both women hunkered down as the knight approached the front of the fortress. “Hail, evil sorceress!” he called. “Release the princess or face the consequences!”
Morgwyn stood and leaned over the edge of the battlement. “Oh, sir knight, it would please me to do battle with you for the sake of the princess. However, because you have come so far, it would be unkind of me to begin until you have rested. Please, partake of this pie I have prepared for you.”
The knight slid off his horse and sidled toward the pie. “What spell have you laid on it, foul temptress?”
“On the pie? None at all,” answered Morgwyn truthfully.
“Well! It is good to see an enemy who knows the law of chivalry!” The knight pulled off his gloves and then his helmet, revealing a balding head whose shine said that it had not been washed recently. “I gladly accept your offer.”
“Now?” whispered Jessamine.
“Not quite—okay, now.”
The princess tipped the cauldron over the rampart, the potion landing squarely on the knight, though it also got the pie. There was a bright spark of green. When the smoke cleared, there was no knight to be seen, though a large calico cat, wearing cat-sized armor, was there in his stead.
“Huh,” said Morgwyn. “It doesn’t normally do the armor too.”
The cat took a bite of the pie—now stained slightly green—then lay down and went to sleep.
Morgwyn and Jessamine lay on the rug in the grand hall, staring up at the ceiling that Morgwyn had enchanted to show spinning galaxies and stars. They’d just finished banishing the latest suitor—they’d taken to sending them about five hundred miles south, to make their way wherever from there.
“Is there anyone your father could send that you wouldn’t want scared off?” Morgwyn offered a hand to Harold—Jessamine couldn’t quite remember his actual name, so they’d rechristened him, and he didn’t seem to mind—and scratched the cat behind the ears as he rolled closer.
Jessamine was quiet. Morgwyn turned to look at her, at her profile as she watched the ceiling, hands folded on her stomach.
“I don’t think so,” the princess said finally. “I don’t think the sort of person—the sort of person who would think they could ‘win’ someone through some silly task, and a task that could potentially hurt other people—would ever be someone I could love.”
“What will you do? Will your father keep sending people up here forever?”
“Maybe.” Jessamine rolled onto her side, propping her head up on one hand. “If the royalty all fails, there’s always farmboys and plucky orphans and any number of other people that could potentially be heroes.”
Morgwyn sat up, gathering the cat onto her lap where he purred contentedly. “Couldn’t you ask him to stop?”
“Oh, believe me,” Jessamine said. “I have.”
“His royal majesty respectfully asks you to return home,” recited the courtier at the door. His hands were shaking, but overall his composure was admirable for having shown up unexpectedly at a sorceress’s fortress. “He apologizes for sending you up here and subjecting you to the evil sorceress’s will, which is more formidable than he had formerly suspected.”
Meaning he had thought Morgwyn would be a pushover. She narrowed her eyes at the courtier, who managed to pale more.
Jessamine stood beside Morgwyn’s throne, ebony and carved from solid obsidian by her dwarves. The princess glanced down at her, but her expression was hard to read. Well, Morgwyn was an evil sorceress.
“What makes ‘his royal majesty’ think that I would give up my prisoner that he has seen fit to give me?” she asked, mostly to watch the courtier fidget and stammer unhelpfully. The man did not disappoint. “I will think over this proposal. Wait outside until I send for you.”
The courtier gazed at Jessamine as if she would help him, but when she said nothing, he finally bowed and went.
Morgwyn steepled her fingers in front of her, leaning back in her throne. “Sounds like your father has finally come to some sort of sense.”
“Do you…do you want to go back?”
Jessamine made a noise back in her throat, one that could mean literally anything.
Morgwyn stared at her hands. “Because, despite what I said, it’s up to you. I won’t keep you here if you want to leave. But…”
“Well.” Morgwyn cleared her throat. “I’ve…I’ve liked having you here. You’ve got great ideas. That thing with the rock dragons? I would have never come up with that on my own. And you’re good with the potions too. And the dwarves like you.”
Jessamine sat down on the dais beside the throne. “The dwarves.”
“They hardly ever like anyone.”
She made that noise again. Morgwyn wanted to strangle her. Instead she rubbed her face and groaned. “Okay, fine! I like you. I like you and I want you to stay, and rule by my side when I take over the countryside and bring the citizens under my fist.” She slid further down in the throne.
Jessamine stood, looking out at the door. After a long moment, she finally turned to face Morgwyn. And she was smiling.
“That’s what I want too.”
They sent a surprised and scared courtier back to Jessamine’s father with a pie as a peace offering.
It went with a bite out of it, and Morgwyn had to deal with a purple and very grumpy cat until the spell wore off.