Chapter.1

In Which We Witness Gildy's Spells

Feathers whirled from the frantic movement of a chicken as it squawked indignantly. Gildy smirked with satisfaction and pulled a foot away from its pecking beak.

"You'll be sorry for this!" It screeched, "You will!"

Suddenly the chicken tilted its head, and stared at the young Witch with one surprised eye. "I can still talk! Ha! I shall bring my Kingdom's entire army down upon you, you foolish child Witch!" The chicken darted past Gildy, running for its life with head low and wings half open. Gildy took a step to the side and turned to watch it better.

"Foolish eh? The spell just hasn't taken your voice yet, you poult!"

The chicken slowed and looked doubtfully over a brown-feathered shoulder, only to collide with a nearby bush in another flurry of feathers. Pulling itself together, it turned and attempted a baleful glare. "Ha! A trick! A 'delayed' part of the spell-indeed! Your foul lies do not fool me, little Witch! You are just trying to slow me down." The chicken bobbed its head to itself, then pecked hard at a twig on the ground. "Why, I ought to...to..."

"To what, henny?" Gildy asked sweetly.

"To peck your toes off!"

"My, my. Well they will not be missing you much in your kingdom; you were not much of a Prince. They might even be grateful to me back home, no doubt you'll be more useful as a chicken." She casually strolled over to the indignant hen. "That is, only if you make it home unplucked. After all, who would think a Prince had been turned into a hen? Perhaps you'll become better acquainted with how your more common subjects face hunger day to day. Now listen, about the removal of your curse, I'd prefer to tell you before the spell takes your voice away."

The hen Prince scratched at the dirt nervously and muttered. "This is not right, this is not a traditional curse." The chicken took a few steps forward with wings half open and beak lowered threateningly. Supposedly threateningly.

"Change me into something more suitable at once! I am at least worthy of a true quest, or a frog, and a male form! This is just-not done!" The hen puffed his chest feathers and lifted his little beaked chin. "If you do so immediately, with an apology, I shall perhaps endeavor to intervene with Father's expected ire. I may in fact suggest mercy—to an extent." Chest feathers still puffed arrogantly, he turned his head and tilted it to look up at her with one eye expectantly. Gildy blinked at the moment of silence and looked back at the Prince.

"So, to be freed from your curse, a maiden must keep all your eggs, unharmed. All the eggs you lay until a month has passed since the first egg. She must keep them unhatched and at her bedside."

"Absurd! Bgat!"

Gildy eyed the chicken.

"That is impossible, if I can't speak! The eggs would be eaten or start to rot, if not hatch! Truly, you are too much." The hen clucked irritably at her, then fluttered his wings in dismay.

"Fine then."

Gildy thought for a moment. Really, being turned into a hen was rather fitting for this Prince; she had chosen him for this spell after witnessing his cowardice and arrogance.

Although when his pride was insulted, he showed something that could be mistaken as intelligence and bravery. It would seem insults do him good…Gildy knew better, it was stupidity. Most Princes were grateful these days when they were cursed. The poor cursed Prince who prevailed through his curse and returned victorious to his kingdom with a Princess in tow was the only admired type these days. What Princess doesn't know to watch for talking frogs to kiss now? Hers was the first chicken curse to be used on royalty, that she knew of. She grinned at the hen. Still, it was only fair to allow for a clue to his potential rescuer.

She wondered how many Princes would try to rescue him.

When she had completed her spell, she walked away from a loudly squawking hen wearing a tiny crown. Pleased with herself, she smirked over her shoulder.

"Oh, go lay an egg, Fowl Prince!"

The Princes and Princesses had it far too easy these days; all the curses and their solutions were so predictable. It really was no wonder they were all so lacking in the intelligence department. She had gotten bored of the traditional curses and spells fast. It was time for someone to put a bit more imagination and challenge into the curses and spells on the royalty, for their own good.

Of course it wasn't merely for, well, Gildy's own personal entertainment. She could not wait till she could really pull off more complicated, detailed spells, but she would get there.

Frowning, Gildy came to a halt. Where was her kitten? He was always wandering off…She sighed and began the search while considering more possible curses for the Princes and Princesses. The common folk aren't so bad, it is the royal youths who need new curses. Gildy stubbed her toe on a root, and scowled at it. Branches above her rustled and she looked up cautiously, a ready spell on her lips. Wide green eyes stared down at her.

"Creeper!" She eyed her kitten, spread eagled on the trunk with claws piercing the bark. Gildy looked around her. Good, no-one seemed to be around. Hands on her hips she stared up at the kit.

"You got stuck up a tree again? Come on now, you're a Witch's cat you know, that's really embarrassing." Creeper blinked wide eyes at her, ears facing outward, and yowled pitifully. "All right, all right." She chanted her charm and the kitten warily relinquished it's grip, allowing itself to float down.

"I ought to try and find a spell that will prevent this sort of thing. You were supposed to be looking for new victims, Creeps." The kitten's purr rattled its little fluffy black body as it was pulled from the air into a hug.

Stroking her familiar's fur, Gildy headed back for the cottage she'd inherited in the forest. Luckily the past few generations of scattered Witches in her family had kept up on the spell that allowed it to be found by its inhabitants easily—no matter where the Enchanted Forest put it. When the cottage was in sight, she paused and shifted restlessly. It was still light out. Creeper meowed questioningly.

"I think we could at least do one more curse or spell today, don't you?"

"Mrrowr."

Gildy looked at the black kitten. "What? Oh. Well I think I figured out how to do that, but I mean, really, would you control yourself if I did? You'd have to protect it and all. Not that I'm agreeing to do it."

"Mow, meeowr mrow-re."

"I don't know, Creeps…that one might bring Morwen over with a scolding, if the mouse was smart enough to look for her. Besides, if I turned someone annoying into a mouse for you, it would only be fair to let him or her keep their voice so they have a chance at rescue. Would you want to listen to the griping all the time?"

"Mraw. Rowmmrih."

"Oh, you think that would be part of the fun." Gildy looked at her smug kitten in amusement. "I suppose it would, for you, at first. It would get old though."

Gildy turned away from the cottage as they continued discussing mice, breathing in the scents of her garden as they faded behind. She laughed at the ideas the kitten eagerly shared on how to torture a mouse Princess, demonstrating with a ball of moss she'd made for him. In an acceptable way, of course.

Still, the idea made her just a little nervous. It would have to be someone really deserving. She knew other cats fantasized about their Witches choosing a mouse form for their curses, but she could not remember if someone had done it. A Prince or Princess with doting parents becoming something as hunted and helpless as a mouse could have some pretty bad consequences for a teenage Witch.

The forest quietly closed behind them and shifted ahead subtly. A knight came charging out of the path ahead.

"Defend thyself, foul Witch! Remove this curse from the fair Princess, or I shall—shall—cut you!"

The young knight brandished his sword and Gildy looked up in surprise and interest. Creeper looked at the knight from his position on Gildy's shoulder, then disinterestedly began to wash his nether regions. Gildy sighed in disappointment.

This one had an actual sword, and the armor was almost put together right…but he was brandishing a sheathed sword.

"Which fair Princess are you talking about?" She asked. He was probably another one who just ran off and challenged the first Witch he saw. She didn't seen any sign of an enchanted Princess though.

"Which one! Which one, she says!"

"All right, which one?"

The knight's nostrils flared and he frowned at her. "The two-faced Princess with two left feet."

"Ah, yes." Her first real curse, although she'd only been performing curses and spells on people for a couple years now. Had that princess still made no progress? She shrugged a shoulder.

"I'm not sure she's ready to be rescued yet."

"I beg your pardon?" The knight asked indignantly, slightly lowering his sheathed sword in astonishment. She couldn't resist.

"Why don't you ah, put away your sword and I shall explain." He looked at her suspiciously for a minute. She shrugged her unoccupied shoulder at him. Suit yourself.

Warily, he lowered the sheathed sword, and Creeper paused in his bathing for a moment to watch with interest. Still watching her with a suspicious gaze, the knight was trying to sheathe his sheathed sword in thin air at his hip. She watched the sword approach his hip in search for the sheath three times before the knight realized something was wrong and looked down. His face turned red. Feeling a little bad for the knight, Gildy casually gazed off to the side.

"If you knew the Princess at all before she was cursed, you would realize she'd been cursed for a reason. Not—" She said quickly, as the knight's mouth opened, "just because I am wicked. I don't think she has learned her lesson yet, not from what I heard her saying just yesterday when I checked on her."

"Who are you, little Witch, to judge the Royalty! You've a sharp tongue of your own."

"I'm a Wicked Witch! Doing things like this is my job!" She scowled at the knight, annoyed. She was being advised by a guy who tried to fight with a sheathed sword! Just who was the smarter one here?

"Nevertheless, that is hardly much of an explanation. Perhaps Morwen ought to teach you how to be a proper Witch."

Gildy shoved her oversized Witch's hat back from her forehead a bit and snorted quietly to herself. Morwen, a proper Witch? Although powerful, Morwen was the type strangers had to think about before deciding she was a Witch. Besides, Morwen was not pursuing a career as a wicked Witch. She stamped her foot, glaring at the knight.

"I could tell you why, and you would agree!"

"Then why don't you?"

Gildy shifted her feet and felt Creeper's nose brush her cheek. She blushed and looked off to the side defensively. "None of your business."

The knight stared at her a moment, then shaking his head, opened a pouch at his waist and withdrew a cord, which he used to tie his sheath to his belt. She could see its belt loop had broken, causing the sheath to come with the sword.

"What is your name, little Witch?"

She glanced at Creeper. Maybe this guy wasn't the dumb sort of knight she'd really thought. He seemed more like how a knight should be. Although a bit absent minded. The Princess he was attempting to save really wasn't good enough for a real knight.

"Gildelaine. Gildy. The…The…Wicked Witch of the Wailing Shadows." She added on impulse.