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Aurora, I’ve just realized I have no idea how the curse will be broken. I think Heinrik is beginning to really care for Ingrid, but I’m not sure what will trigger the end of the curse, I write frantically in my notebook.

What is the exact wording of the curse?

I have to think hard to remember exactly what I said. I was upset and didn’t follow the general guidelines fore spelling out a curse and how to break it.

As best as I can remember, I said “By day you will be a beast, whose face reflects the ugliness of your soul and whose soul reflects the fairness of your appearance. By night you will have your human form. Until you know love, real love, you will remain this way.”

Know is an abstract word, so it’s hard to say. My best guess would be that Heinrik has to admit that he loves someone other than himself. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, but that would probably be the easiest kind for him to admit. From the sound of it, he has developed feelings of some sort for Ingrid. Encourage him to figure out exactly what those feelings are. I believe your test is nearly over.

My test is nearly over. I may soon be a sorceress. The thought gives me pause. I’ve rather gotten used to this life. After I pass my test, I’ll spend most of my time traveling to the different places where I’m needed. I’ll have a home, but I won’t be there often. And despite my many complaints, I’ve come to consider this place home.

Spells and curses, these two children have somehow wormed their way into my heart.

I kick at the table next to my bed. How did I get myself into such a mess?

I leave them alone for the night. I no longer fear for Ingrid’s safety, at least not at Heinrik’s hands, so I see no need to watch over them. Their conversations should be their own.

Ingrid is happy when I arrive in her room the next morning. She chatters on about something Heinrik told her about. After a while, her face grows serious.

“Have you seen Bear this morning?”

“I’ve locked him out in the gardens. You don’t have to see him if you don’t want to.”

“Thank you. He really scared me yesterday. I don’t know what happened to him.”

“I don’t know either, child.”

Sadness hangs over her like a cloud. I rack my brain for a way to cheer her up. I’m reminded of the day she arrived and an idea forms. I push a few tendrils of my magic out into the hallway and pull a few sparks from the torches. I make them dance around outside her door briefly, just enough to grab Ingrid’s attention. Her eyes snap to the pieces of flame, following their flickering path. When they disappear from sight, she stands.

“Did you see that?” she asks.

“See what?”

“There was something in the hall. Something small flew past my door. Do you think it was a fairy?”

“Maybe it was. Go and find out,” I encourage her with a smile.

“Aren’t you coming? You said you always wanted to catch them.”

“I’m too old to chase fairies now, dear. You chase them for the both of us.”

Ingrid takes off down the hall and follow after making myself invisible. I keep the lights within her sight but always out of reach. When she reaches the great hall, the sparks change course. They fly upwards, swirling around the high ceiling. Ingrid watches in awe, laughing with glee. Eventually the sparks fade and Ingrid is left alone. She seems much happier than when she was thinking about Bear. Her cheerful mood stays with her the rest of the day.

I’m surprised when, after going to see Heinrik, Ingrid returns to her room in a matter of minutes. I wander towards the part of the lodge where Heinrik usually roams and run into him fairly quickly. He’s fuming.

“What’s wrong, Your Highness?”

“I’m sending Ingrid home tomorrow.”

“Why? I thought she had decided to stay.”

“She’s being idiotic. I won’t let her remain here.”

I can see I’m not going to get any useful information out of him, so I head to Ingrid’s room to find out more. To my surprise, she’s angry as well. I’ve never her seen her so upset. Sad, yes. But never angry. She’s always seemed too gentle to get mad.

“Ingrid?” I ask cautiously.

“What?” she yells.

“Is something the matter?”

“I don’t know. Heinrik is angry with me.” She deflates, more confused than angry now. “I was telling him about the fairies I saw today. He accused me of making it up, but I didn’t! When I told him that, he started yelling at me. He-he told me he was going to send me home. But I don’t want to go!” She bursts into tears.

I rub her back and send her to sleep.

Ingrid can’t leave. Heinrik is nearly in love with her, he must be. I’m sure if he has time to cool off, he won’t want Ingrid gone, but it won’t happen in one night.

A smile steals across my face. Time is something I can give him.

Luckily, winter is well on its way. It’s a simple matter to gather the cold air and water necessary to create a blizzard. By morning, the snow is knee high and falling fast. Ingrid spends the day alone, mostly staring out the window. She holes up in her room when the sun sets. I seek out Heinrik.

“Did Ingrid leave?” he asks.

“No, the snow was too heavy for her to leave.”

He nods. I think he looks relieved. “Good. I don’t really want her to leave.”

“May I ask why you were so angry with her?”

“Ingrid said something about fairies and magic. I was angry, but I was scared too. What if that witch who cursed me has come after Ingrid? What if she is trying to sabotage me?”

I weigh my options and decide honesty is the best way to handle him. I drop my disguise, rolling my shoulders as I adjust to my natural form. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time as myself. I raise a hand as Heinrik steps toward me, freezing him in place. Anger distorts his face.

“You!” he snarls. “You couldn’t just leave me alone? You have ruined everything!”