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Despite the vast size of the lodge, not to mention the fact that in the time we’ve lived here, there have never been more than five people in it at once, Ingrid’s absence seems to leave it feeling even emptier. After three days of nearly tangible sadness, I decide to act. It’s simply unbearable. I must do something to cheer up Heinrik.

I never thought I’d say that.

Unfortunately, I can’t get through to the beast so I have to face the man. I enchant a mirror to show people who are far away, but only for a short time. As the sun sets, I track down the prince.

“Begging your pardon, Sire, but there’s something I think you should see. I was cleaning one of the smaller rooms when I found a strange mirror,” I explain as I lead him to the room. “At first it seemed normal but then I was thinking about how much I miss Ingrid. Next thing I know, I’m looking at her in the mirror! It must be some sort of magical artifact.”

“I don’t know why you’re dragging me down here,” he grumbles, but his eyes are bright with interest. It’s the most animated I’ve seen him since Ingrid’s departure.

“I thought you might be interested in seeing how your family is doing,” I lie. Well, not completely. He might want to check in with his family. But I’m hoping he wants to see the girl. But I know if I say that he’ll only protest.

Men are so stubborn sometimes.

I leave him to the mirror and quickly cast an invisibility spell on myself and sneak back inside.

He stands, motionless, for a while. When he finally opens his mouth, nothing comes out. Eventually he manages to make a noise, a whisper.

“Ingrid.”

The mirror shimmers briefly and Heinrik’s reflection disappears. A small room appears, cluttered and unkempt. Ingrid sits on a broken chair, out of place in her elegant dress. She leans on a small table, careful to avoid the mess on it, and sighs.

“Ingrid,” a shrill voice calls, “are you going to sit there all day? Make yourself useful!”

Ingrid grimaces. “I don’t want to ruin my dress!”

“Then change into something else! Honestly, ever since you came home, you’ve been so full of yourself. You’re no better than the rest of us!”Heinrik clenches his hands, his knuckles turning white. Does he feel defensive of her?

How interesting.

Ingrid’s father appears in the doorway of the room. He sits heavily next to his young daughter.

“You’ve been avoiding me the past few days. Will you please answer my questions?”

Ingrid nods.

“Are you going back?”

Ingrid frowns. “Do you want me to? I thought you were happy I came home. Don’t you want me to stay here?”

“Times are hard, Ingrid,” he protests. “I struggle to earn enough money to feed our family. Your siblings are able to bring in a little extra money, but not enough. As much as we have missed you, it has been easier with one less mouth to feed. And it puts me at ease to know you’re being well taken care of.” He doesn’t say more, but I get the impression that Ingrid was chosen to go to the prince because she contributed the least. As much as her father loves her, I think he sees her as a burden. And by the look on Ingrid’s face, she’s come to the same conclusion.

“I’m only here for the week, Father.”

“I see. Are you happy there?”

“I suppose I am. I didn’t think so when I was there, but that I’m gone, I miss it. I miss Bear, and Marta, and Lars and Karl.” Her voice becomes so soft, we almost can’t hear it through the mirror. Heinrik and I both lean forward to catch her words. “I even miss the prince.”

“Does he treat you well?” her father asks with concern. “What does he want with you?”

“He is very kind, though I don’t think he means to be. I still don’t know why I am there, but he leaves me alone. I’m quite bored most days, to be honest.”

“And who are Bear and Marta?”

“Marta is the housekeeper. She’s very kind to me, but she’s busy, so I don’t see her as often as I’d like to. Bear is my pet, I suppose. I think the prince gave him to me so I wouldn’t be lonely while he’s gone during the day.”

“Very well.”

The image and sounds fade as the mirror’s magic runs out. Heinrik leans his head against the mirror, looking thoroughly defeated.

I follow him silently as he wanders for the rest of the night. He mutters to himself, happy that Ingrid has decided to return but confused by the rest of her words.

“What does that mean, I don’t mean to be kind? I don’t mistreat her. I would never be unkind to her. I hardly ever see her. I barely speak to her. And why wouldn’t I want to be kind to her? Does she think I want to be cruel to her? What could make her think that?” He stops, deep in thought. “I’m a prince, not some peasant. I was raised to be chivalrous. Do I seem like a cruel person?” The thought unnerves him and I leave him to his musings.

I do believe our beast of a prince is slowly becoming human.

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