I'm going to pay for that one later...
I walked out into the gardens of the palace and sat down near one of the ponds to think. It otherlanders are coming to the Attic, then maybe I can find out what's happening in my world. Depending of course on what world they're from.
Suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw a pair of eyes peering out at me from behind the bushes. "Come here." I motioned kindly and the little peasant girl walked forwards slowly.
I reached up and pulled an apple off a tree, handing it to her. She eagerly held out her hands and took it from me but paused as she lifted it to her mouth. I gasped in surprise as I realised what had happened. As soon as her lips had touched the apple it had turned to solid gold. She handed it back to miserably and I stared in surprise as she proceeded to sit down beside the pond and cry her little heart out, her tears turning to gold as the brushed past her mouth.
"You've been cursed." I said gently and she nodded. "Come," I held out my hand to her. "We'll go and visit the Queen."
Her eyes widened and she slipped her little hand into mine as we walked back through the gardens. It was bad news for us if the Trickster's power had so advanced.
As I expected, her Majesty listened stony faced to the little girl's plight. She had taken the appearance now of a beautiful middle aged woman with fiery hair cascading down her back in ringlets, dressed in an emerald green gown with a matching cape.
She clicked her fingers and a servant appeared at her side, bowing and scraping. She ordered twelve apples be brought to her, each one of equal size. The servant wasted no time and then she called the little girl to stand before her.
Each apple she pressed to her lips and watched as they transformed. I knew what she was looking for, the magical pattern of the curse and how it was woven.
Eventually she took the twelve apples and placed them in a circle around the little girl, instantly an pale blue aura sprang up around her with loads of dark wiggling threads. "How long since you have last eaten child?" she asked, her voice loud and frightening. The little girl held up seven fingers and then pointed to her mouth. "Seven months without speech or the ability to eat?" the Queen gasped. "I see."
She began to mutter under her breath as she used her hands to unweave the curse from the little girl.
After what seemed like an age, Queen Aria staggered back, her strength gone. "It is done." she whispered. I was at her side instantly and caught her as she almost fell. "Bring the girl to Cook." I ordered the servants as I lifted her Highness to carry her to her rooms. "Tell her everything that has happened." I could feel the Queen's disguise shifting beneath my hands and I hurried to get her out of the sight of the servants.
"Thank you." a small voice rang out, clear and piping. I turned to see the little girl smiling at me as she was fussed over by the serving ladies. I nodded to her and left.