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Lars turns to me. “I suppose we can’t keep it from you. Prince Heinrik has been cursed.”

I examine my fingernails. “Perhaps I got a little carried away. I may have been harsh, but you can’t argue that he didn’t deserve it.”

“You!” Lars draws his sword, but hesitates. “You…have a point. And to be honest, I can’t really argue with what you’ve done. The prince needs to learn to start looking outside of himself. But that does not mean I agree with what you’ve done.”

“Well, we must make do with what we’ve got. I’ve been tasked with watching over the girl and making sure this debacle ends well. Can I count on your help? And your silence?”

He nods.

“Good. I can conjure furniture and any supplies we may need. If, by some miracle, the prince notices and thinks to ask where they came from, tell him you bought them at the village. And as miserable as it may make the poor girl, you and your friend should stay away from her as much as possible. If the girl is to fall in love with the prince, she can’t be around the two of you. Or any other male, for that matter. We need to make him as loveable as possible. Between your counsel and influence and my magic, we might just have a chance at making this work. Perhaps we can teach our prince a lesson.”

Lars finally sheathes his sword and leaves to keep watch. We don’t know how the beast will behave, but I personally expect it to be a loveable thing, if it’s to be the opposite of the prince.

I move from room to room, creating sparse furnishings for most of the rooms. I try to be creative, to give the girl options for entertainment. I make a music room, a small library, and a comfortable room with a desk, fully stocked with paper and pencils, some embroidery and sewing supplies, and a chess board. The only exception to my frugal decorating is the girl’s room. I make it as lavish and as comfortable as I can. The poor child is being torn away from her family and I’m not too proud to admit that it’s partly my fault. But only a small part.

I run into the beast a few times, and as I guessed, it’s a gentle creature. It seems to be ambling aimlessly, exploring its surroundings. It sniffs me curiously when we cross paths, but doesn’t show much interest otherwise. I avoid doing magic in front of it. I don’t know if the prince will remember his time as the beast, but I’d rather not take the chance. I don’t want to risk him finding out I can do magic. He may make the connection that I’m the one who cursed him. And I certainly don’t want him to think I’m trying to help him. It’s not as if I’ve done something wrong and am feeling regret. I simply want to pass my test.

Shortly after I conjure and deliver lunch to Lars and the beast, Lars yells for me. I scurry to the front hall to see the other man, Karl, holding a small bag. A girl stands next to them, shrinking in on herself as she looks around.

Our prisoner has arrived.

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