A/N A retelling of my all time favorite fairy tale!

The Truth About Beauty

Chapter 1: In which a Wizard and a Prince get their Comeuppance

It happened the way it happened because of a minor wizard by the name of Maximilian Charlatani. Max wasn't bad, as wizards go, but he failed to attract the patronage of a noble lord with his magically trained operatic rats and out-of-thin-air strawberry-rhubarb tarts, particularly since they were heavy on rhubarb and light on sugar (the tarts, not the rats, who were heavy on Wagner).

Max, always a clever lad, wasn't about to waste his life magicking warts off for the local merchants. When wizardry failed him as a career, he pursued another of his talents: flattery. Max was a master sycophant. No one knew better how to feed a wealthy man's ego, and he did not hesitate to do a little well-judged boot-licking when necessary. Before long, the talented Max was installed as a court entertainer on the estate of the local baronet. This, in his view, was only a stepping stone to greater things.

Max had, in the lonely and somewhat hungry days when he was teaching the rats the words to Die Walküre, had an idea whose potential would carry him into the highest courts of the land. He was going to write a book, an enormous book, about every one of the royal peerage in the kingdom of Fliddle. It would be titled

A Comparison of the Aristocratic Persons of Fliddle in Order to Determine, by Examination of their Mannerisms and Habitations, Which Be the Most Truly Noble

Max would travel from court to court, surveying the ways in which the various lords and ladies of the kingdom lived, in order, as the title of the book explained, to determine which of them was the most noble. Of course, every aristocrat would want to win the title of "Most Noble" for himself and would show Max the best of everything. The kingdom of Fliddle, being divided into no less than eighty-four principalities, was replete with every type and rank of nobleman, and it would take Max several years to visit them all. By the end of this time he planned to have collected money enough from nobles bribing him to give them a better ranking in the book, that he would be able to retire to a nice palace in a hot climate and hire pretty girls to serve him sherbet.

The plan worked exactly as Max had envisioned it. The nobles all but fell over themselves to be next on Max's list. After two and a half years of high living, his palace/pretty girl/sherbet fund was already adding up to a large figure.

It was about this time that the wheedling wizard found himself lodged in the Castle of Savage Mountain, just as the first snows of winter set in.

Contrary to its name, Savage Mountain proved to be a pleasant place, even in the winter. The mountain was only a little one, covered with a lush forest perfect for hunting. Hunting was what the prince of Savage Mountain did best. Although Max didn't much care for chasing deer through the snow, he found plenty to do inside the castle, flirting with the ladies and enjoying the magnificent meals prepared six times a day. Even without bribery, the principality was well on its way to the top of Max's "most noble" list. Everything was going splendidly, until the winter solstice boar hunt.

The prince of Savage Mountain wasn't a bad sort. If the history books can be trusted (doubtful) he had only two faults: 1) he was a terrible tennis player and 2) he cared about nothing but hunting. Morning, noon, or night, you could bet your last silver penny that the prince, if not actually hunting, would be talking about his latest kill, or examining his equipment, or picking out the horse he would ride through the forest the next day. The walls of the castle were lined with mounted heads.

On the evening of the winter solstice, the prince was in a very good mood as he rode home from the day's hunt. He was sweaty and covered with the blood of the giant boar seven of the servants were struggling to drag along. It had been a particularly vicious boar, and the prince liked nothing better than a rousing fight. His horse trotted into the courtyard, and the prince dismounted, whistling as he tossed his reins to a groom. He never noticed the old woman until she stepped in his path.

"A very large boar, you have there, my prince," she cackled.

The prince, always vulnerable to praise concerning his favorite hobby, smiled delightedly. "Yes, isn't it? He was a real fighter too." He puffed out his chest so that the woman would be certain to catch sight of the prominent blood stains coating his shirt.

The crone's eyes glittered beneath the hood of her cloak. "But tell me, my prince, why did you need so large an animal?"

"Er…" The prince was caught off guard. He'd never before had to explain his belief that big=good. It was at this crucial moment that Max entered the courtyard. The prince brightened. "I had to get a big one because we're being rated, don't you know? Chap over there is writing a book, Most Noble Comparisons of Fliddle Examinations, or, er, something like that. At any rate, what sport could be more noble than hunting? Savage Mountain has to make a good show, after all." The prince was quite pleased with his explanation, considering that he'd thought it up right there on the spot, when thinking wasn't even one of his strong points.

"A good show?" The old woman's voice had an edge to it. "You sacrificed the boar's life for the sake of appearance?"

"Yes," the prince said happily. "And he'll appear just fine over the hearth in the great hall."

The old woman shrieked in rage. Lightning flashed, and when the spot faded from the prince's vision he saw …

Well, one wouldn't describe her as beautiful, but she was certainly imposing with those fourteen inch tusks waving over his head from her height of nine feet. "I happened to be that boar's fairy godmother," roared the fairy godmother.

"My dear madam, I had no idea!" said the prince, and even though he wasn't a coward, he took a large step back.

"I have a problem with my godson's being slaughtered for the sake of some worthless prince's vanity!" There were flecks of spit flying off the fairy's tusks.

"Most ghastly mistake. Never intended the least offense in the world, I assure you! In fact, I'd no idea the pig had any relatives at all. Seemed a lonesome type chap."

The fairy wasn't impressed. "Everybody is related to somebody, you nitwit. Don't think for one minute that you're going to get away with this."

"I say!" The prince fingered his collar nervously. "You can't kill a prince!"

The fairy drew a deep, calming breath. "No, I can't," she admitted reluctantly. "Fairy godmothers can't kill anyone. Union regulations."

The prince was visibly relieved.

"But don't think," roared the fairy, "that there aren't things worse than death."

At this point, Max tried to make a discreet exit. He was halfway over the drawbridge when the fairy caught sight of him.

"Not so fast you little boot-licking, yellow-bellied rat!" she thundered, and froze him where he stood, with one foot suspended in midair. "I'll deal with you in a minute."

The fairy now drew herself up and cleared her throat. A dignified expression crossed her hairy face, and she obviously felt strongly about whatever she was going to say. "As a registered member of the godparents' union, and a recognized participant in the poetic justice league, I hereby have the duty," she smiled nastily, "and very great pleasure, of punishing you for the unjustified slaughter of my godson. I hereby condemn you, the Prince of Savage Mountain, to take on the form of a beast. And since you are so concerned with appearance, you shall keep this form until such time as you can convince some unfortunate maiden to see beyond your exterior. Let's see how you enjoy being the hunted."

She now turned her attention the immobile Max. "As for you, you spineless parasite, you will share his fate until the spell is broken." There was a clap of thunder, a puff of smoke that smelled like bacon, and the fairy disappeared.

To Be Continued

A/N Thanks so much for reading! I'd really appreciate a quick review. If you are enjoying the story, please check out my original (co-authored) novel, The Magi Letters, currently being serialized on my blog: www dot themagiletters dot blogspot dot com. Or just click the homepage link on my profile!