Lord Dalius burst through the heavy oak doors of his keep, gasping for breath. He’d had to run lest too many people see him in such a state.
“That wretched hag!” he shouted into the emptiness.
With a quivering breath he stepped in front of one of his many golden stand mirrors. What he saw was even worse than expected, and Dalius nearly collapsed in dismay. Dark, tangled fur covered every bit of his hunched body. Bestial yellow eyes stared out from a ruined face, complete with a squat nose and thick tusks jutting from his lower lip.
It was all so unfair.
It happened during his morning ride. Some old lady was waddling across his path, and all he’d done was lightly tap her with his boot to speed the woman on her way. Perhaps he shouted at her a bit as well. Nothing too vile. How was he to know she was some sort of witch and would overreact and curse him so terribly? Now he was monstrous, and the only hope he had of regaining his former beauty was some nonsense about true love’s kiss that had spewed from the woman’s mouth before she waddled away, cackling like a crow.
Dalius growled in frustration.
How would he possibly go about getting someone to fall in love with him when any woman with a lick of sense would run screaming after one look at his beastly visage? It seemed an impossible task.
Perhaps he could kidnap a girl and hold her prisoner in his keep, slowly winning her over with his superior wit and charm. Could such a plan succeed?
Dalius laughed bitterly. The girl would be even more frightened by the fact he had taken her and only grow angrier the longer she was held captive. The idea was obviously absurd, and he regretted ever conceiving such a thing.
He supposed there was nothing to be done. His glorious public life of basking in the adoration of women and petty jealousy of lesser men was over. He would have to live out his days in the solitude of his keep.
It was almost too horrible to bear.
Dalius sighed as he gazed upon his monstrous reflection. The idea of living out his time alone was made all the more daunting by the fact his favorite pastime had been taken from him. Countless hours through the years he’d spent standing before one of his many mirrors, admiring his own beauty. Truly, he’d been the gods’ finest work. How dare that old woman meddle with such perfection.
The seed of an idea blossomed in the back of his mind, and Dalius smiled.
It couldn’t be that easy, could it?
While he enjoyed the company and attention of women, Dalius had to admit he always felt as if he was doing a favor by allowing them to bask in the glow of his presence. Men, on the other hand, were hardly even worth considering. Dalius often wondered how they weathered the pain in their necks from looking up at him all the time.
No. There was only one person he truly loved in this world. Only one person was deserving of it.
Slowly, Dalius pursed his lips and leaned toward his reflection in the mirror, remembering the man he’d been before the hag’s curse. His lips touched the glass.
There was a flash of brilliant white light, and Dalius was returned to his former self.
Just like that.
“Thank the gods,” he said. Then, thinking better of it, “More like thank myself. It was my own unequaled cleverness that solved this. That’s for certain.”
He studied the specimen of masculinity standing before him. His eyes followed the outline of his chiseled jaw, the broadness of his shoulders, the depth of intelligence in his gaze, the hair parted just so. Had there ever been so perfect a being?
In that moment, every lofty opinion Dalius had ever held of himself was justified.
No doubt the hag had thought to teach him a lesson or some such. She failed to realize that her lot and that of her ilk was to forever toil in the shadow of their betters. Men like Dalius could learn nothing from such as her. That wasn’t how the real world worked. There would be no moral to this story.
With a wicked grin, he headed for the door. He felt very much like tracking down his horse and going for another ride. With any luck, he would encounter the old woman once more.
It seemed only fair that he kick her once again.
Paul Miller lives near Dallas, Texas with three amazing children and writes whenever he can find the time.