A Visitor: Day 24 of 31 Days.
For Day 1, click on the image above.
The Enchanter slipped in almost without notice. Jewel, the bride of the prince, the upholder of the standards of the kingdom, had made a fatal mistake: she had forgotten to close the gate.
In her righteous busyness, in the rush of skewed priorities, she had neglected to do the simple and inglorious things that needed doing in the kingdom. More important to her in the moment were the jobs that would be noticed when they were completed and rewarded with praise.
No one noticed a door slightly ajar. No one, that is, except the one who had been waiting for just such an opportunity.
“My, how beautiful you have become,” he said to Jewel when he found her standing vulnerable in her chamber.
She spun around. “What are you doing here? Get out!” she demanded.
In the corner, her Advocate’s face seized with pain. Only one man belonged in the bride’s chamber, and the Enchanter was not that man. She should never have even spoken to the intruder. Jewel should have screamed! She should have run to her Advocate and hidden, appalled by the intrusion of this uninvited guest, and her Advocate would have doled out an appropriate punishment, sure and swift.
But Jewel did not. So taken was she with her own beauty that she mistook it for strength and power, and she decided, in that moment, to protect and defend herself.
“I underestimated you, Obscurity—but that is not your name anymore, is it?” the Enchanter asked with silken words that slipped around Jewel so seamlessly, she hardly knew what was happening.
“I am Jewel,” she said, raising her chin and looking down at him as best she could, though he was taller than she.
“How fitting,” he smiled, easy and relaxed. Jewel could not help notice how perfect he looked, and not at all terrifying like she remembered.
“I do not know another woman who could have adapted so easily to being the queen of her own kingdom.”
She was not the queen, and it was not her kingdom, but she did not correct him. Even though she stood ridged and wary, she was pleased by the words.
“You don’t need to worry,” he continued, sprawling himself across her couch and looking at her with a grin. “I’m not here to bring you back. I can see that you belong here, and I came to congratulate you. You’ve done well, Jewel. Very, very well.”
She was suspicious, but it was kind of him to notice. No one understood her prior life quite as well as the Enchanter, so no one would appreciate the transformation as much as he.
“In fact, I am astonished by how well you resemble the prince.”
Jewel’s ears pricked up. “Do you think so? Do you really?”
“It’s uncanny.” He let the words roll off his lips slowly, like honey.
“It’s nice of you to say. I’ve worked hard at it.” She didn’t mind taking the credit for the effort because it had been slow and agonizing and she deserved to be noticed for it.
“I can tell. It’s a good thing your people have you as such a fine example to look to. Your prince has been away for quite some time now, hasn’t he?”
“Yes, he has.” In some ways, it felt like the prince had just left. In other ways, it felt like an eternity.
“Are you planning anything special for him when he returns?”
“Well, you see, I don’t really know when he’ll be coming back.”
“Oh?” The Enchanter looked surprised. “I wonder how he could leave such a beautiful bride with no plans to return?”
“He’ll be back,” she said, but Jewel suddenly felt very foolish, like a child who doesn’t yet realize she’s been abandoned.
“I’m sure he will. I certainly would not leave you alone for long.” His smile was easy and charming.
Jewel stood awkwardly in the middle of the floor, listening to the Enchanter’s words and feeling very, very alone. “You should go,” she said hoarsely.
“Yes. But thank you, Jewel. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the prince as clearly as when I look at you. Why, if I had seen what the prince saw in you, I would have taken you for a queen myself. Keep this up, and the prince won’t recognize you when he gets home!”
“You are very kind,” Jewel mumbled, but her mind was confused. The words seemed disingenuous, but she could not work out why.
“In fact, perhaps we can have of truce,” he continued. “It’s a bother to be at war all the time.” The Enchanter yawned a slow yawn. “Of course, I will give you all the credit. The prince will be so pleased to find that because of you, we are now friends.”
Just like that, her unexpected visitor left, quietly as he came. Jewel was left standing in her room, back to the mirror, alone.