A day in the life of two Mages.
Armand, an exiled Mage hiding in Paris, and his cousin, the rogue sorceress Mathilde, discuss the issue of Mathilde’s cursed son Prince Renaud, now living under the name ‘Luc.’
Luc had been memory-wiped by his birth mother Mathilde. She continues to hide him, keeping him under the enchantment for over two years since his supposed ‘death.’ He’s now suffering a bout of smallpox.
Mathilde wishes to redeem her formerly-evil son with all his trials and hardships, but Armand feels she’s going about her magic the wrong way.
Three knocks sounded at Armand’s door. When he turned the crystal knob to pull it open, the invisible woman swept in with a gust of air.
“He has smallpox, this is terrible!” The tearful, cracked voice came disembodied from near his chair.
“I’m sorry. I have nothing that can cure Sans-Magie diseases. Only elixirs for pain, or to help him sleep.”
Mathilde reappeared as her true age, already seated upon his leaf-patterned chair. “I know you can do little for him.” She clutched the fabric of her cloak in her fists. “I must come to terms with the fact he could die from this.”
“No magic from either of us can stop it.” He went to his bookshelf and pulled a slim volume from it. “Healing… from what I remember there’s no spell which cures Sans-Magie diseases, and even if there were, it would be a crime.” He sat in a chair and flipped pages in his book.
“I can heal a bullet wound, but smallpox? It’s outside the reach of my mind’s imagery and the touch of my hand.”
“Could you heal all the sores?” Armand’s mind scrambled for ideas.
“I was able to vanish some… but they keep reappearing.”
“There is something inside him, in his blood,” Armand theorized. He closed and set down his book of spells. “That’s why I believe the Sans-Magie doctors make cuts into people to let their blood out. Has a doctor tried that technique?”
“Docteur Vernier told me he can come back if he has time. Bleeding him? I fear that would do more harm than good.” She buried her head in her hands and sighed.
“Tildie.” The childhood nickname escaped him as he walked over to touch her shoulder. “I know you love your son with your whole heart and soul. I can never imagine—” Lost for words, he simply conjured a gift. A bouquet of white roses materialized on the table in front of her.
“Merci, ” she whispered.
“I thought… you could take them to his room, and the fragrance would give some relief.”
“A kind thought, Armand. Everyone enjoys the scent of flowers.”
“I’ll brew more cider with sleeping potion. I have enough apples for a new batch.” He gestured to a pile of fresh-looking apples in a wicker basket.
“I’ll use the potion in moderation. He can’t sleep constantly, for he dreams of his old life.” She lifted a white rose from the bouquet.
“If he recovers and survives, what will you do?”
“I haven’t come to that yet. I only live day to day for now.”
“I have a question.” Armand went to the other chair and sat down, an ache of tension in his temples that screamed for a stiff drink. “Well, perhaps advice, regarding your… er, salvation of your son. Prince Renaud. Or Luc Bisset, as you have nicely re-christened him.”
“What is your question?” Mathilde craned her neck to gaze over the room. Silvery fog from the Brouillard Déroutant spell drifted about the ceilings and wall.
“We’re in private,” Armand assured her. “It’s safe to call him what he is. My question is—do you plan to have Renaud live the rest of his natural life under the identity of Luc?”
“Yes! And why not? I saved his life, but because of the terrible thing he did, he deserves penitence.” Mathilde clasped her hands in her lap and gave Armand an intense gaze. “I thought a great deal about this. I didn’t do everything out of a rash decision, as you might think.”
“And what have you planned?”
“I designed his new life as a pauper rather than a prince, in the hope he learns humility and goodness.”
“That is all noble, Mathilde,” said Armand. “Yet still very unlawful. And what’s more, at least in my opinion, you took away Renaud’s choice of free will.”
“That’s utterly ridiculous. I did not take away—”
“Yes, you did, Mathilde. Did he ask for his memories to be stolen?”
She frowned. “No. But I wouldn’t have told him of such a thing in the first place.”
“He may have already met people who knew him. If he hasn’t, he’ll meet them eventually. Have you thought about what may happen if Prince Christopher and Princess Rosalind visit Paris by chance? Fate has a way of causing people’s paths to cross.”
Mathilde held a stubborn look of innocence, turning the long-stemmed rose in her fingers. “But their palace is such a long way away. This is a vast city—”
“You are playing ‘God,’ Mathilde. It’s the truth. I feel you should stop your Memory Curse on Luc—or Renaud.” His mind raced with possibilities. If she broke it, set her adult son free, she could evade the Mage authorities and stay safe. Her child was a man, for heaven’s sake. He could deal with what life fated for him.
“Break my spell?” She shook her head, placing the rose back in its vase. “It’s not a curse. It’s a charmed spell because I saved him from an early death.”
“It’s a curse. Have you done anything to punish him? I understand his catching smallpox was natural, no fault of yours. But tell me, did you ever punish Luc for wrongdoing?”
“Oui. Yes, I did perform a… little pain curse on him one time when I saw him behaving badly.”
“Unbelievable! Pain Curse?” He gripped his chair arms tighter. How could she? “That’s Dark! It’s what cruel-hearted Mages are thrown in the Glass Dungeon for! I can’t believe this!” Armand couldn’t help but feel a sense of sorrow. “My dear little cousin. My God, Tildie. I remember when you were a child. A charming girl, the belle of Fontaine-Enchantée—”
“I vow to refrain from doing such things to him again,” said Mathilde with a penitent air, her voice trembling.
“You’re a puppet master ruling over a puppet.” Sorrow stung Armand’s eyes as he became more disturbed about this. “I know you love your son. If my child had lived… I would have wanted—” He broke eye contact with Mathilde and stared at the ceiling. “Her father, the baker… he said her stillborn was a girl. I would want my child to live free and make her own decisions—” A wall of tears hit Armand’s eyes and throat; his voice cracked.
Jeanne, and the baby she carried.
Thirty years ago, and the pain unearthed itself after he’d buried it under liquor and studies.
“I’m sorry to remind you of her.” Mathilde rose from her chair to approach him with a swish of her skirts, a comforting hand on his shoulder. She bent down to give him an embrace. “I wish I could’ve met her.”
“So do I,” he whispered, regaining his composure. He rubbed a fist over his right eye and focused on the matter of Mathilde’s child. “If you love someone, you must let them go. Not keep them in a prison of their mind. Or control them with more and more curses.”
Mathilde stood straight. “I’m not ready… and his brother must believe he’s dead by now.”
“But that’s not fair to him either. To believe a lie.”
Her dark skirt retreated away from him; she paced back and forth a few times. “I just want to wait until he gets well. Then I’ll separate myself from him. Let him live alone… but I don’t feel ready to just lift the enchantment and turn him into Prince Renaud again. I wish for him to learn some lessons first.”
“I think I understand.” Armand sighed. “But you’re attempting to raise an adult man, a fool’s errand. May I ask you—exactly why you didn’t let him know you’re his mother? Why do you insist on calling yourself his aunt?”
She frowned. “Because that would make him inquire who his father was. I don’t wish for that complication.”
“Understandable.” She’d disclosed nothing about her relationship with the man who must’ve been a wealthy nobleman. Today wasn’t the day to press her about it.
“Merci for the roses, Armand. I ought to go back to him soon.” She took the bouquet of roses and prepared to teleport home.