Orpheus woke up fully aware of the dark magic clouding his mind again. His room was pitch black and the music box had long since ceased its hypnotic melody. He was wide awake now, already dreading the prospect of yet another day with this damn curse hanging over his head. Orpheus rolled over in bed and tried not to think about the last time Constance had lay beside him, kissed him...

She was the only woman for him, but until he officially broke up with Penelope he could not in good conscience ask for her hand in marriage. It was unfair for everyone involved and he felt horribly guilty. He blamed the curse, but maybe that was just an excuse now.

Orpheus lit the candle that rested on his bedside table. Its flame bathed his room in a flickering light by which he could see his writing desk. Sometimes it soothed his soul to write poetry, but not tonight. All he could do was watch shadows dance across the ceiling and listen to the drunken revelry downstairs.

Eventually he decided to join them. As he descended the stairs, the barman caught his eye and waved him over.

"Have a good nap, did you? Your voice all rested up for tonight?"

"Not tonight, Charles," Orpheus replied. "I could use a drink though."

The barman frowned. Bards brought customers, gave them a reason tot stay and come back again. But Orpheus didn't really need the money anymore. He enjoyed what he did, just not tonight. Not with the curse clinging to him like a leech.

"It'll cost you, in that case," Charles said. "Oh, and Ursula wants her rent early."

"Then tell her to go buy herself one of those 'instantly drunk' potions from Sorceress Callisto, or the one that cures alcoholism. I don't care which."

"She'll need more simoles for that, I think." Orpheus sighed, then handed over the currency to cover both rent and ale. But the ale was for him. "I warn you: it's a bit stale."

"I know." He drank it anyway, and called for another.

The barman frowned again. "Are you certain? You can be a little...depressing when you're drunk."

The bard merely grunted in response.

And so the evening wore on in this manner. His thoughts receded into a daze. That is, until Constance entered the tavern. She was clad in her usual maroon gown that framed her collarbone, neck and bosom perfectly. She was a thin, fair-skinned creature who wore her brunette hair in a braid. Surely a goddess of elegance.

"Why not try to woo her, hey?" Charles suggested, catching the way Orpheus watched Constance. "Y'know, sweet talk her a bit. Maybe give her a rose or something. Dames love that sort of thing."

"I can't," Orpheus lamented, sipping ale from his pint. It left a bitter taste in his mouth, and not just because it was cheap ale. "The fates hate me. You know that. Sister Iris says the Watcher has compassion for all Her subjects, but I don't know."

"None of that," the barman waved a hand dismissively. "I want you to march right up on that stage and play a song. Women fall in love with you when you sing."

"I told you I'm not playing tonight." the bard snapped, but another voice answered him.

"Not even for me?" Constance asked sweetly. Merciful Watcher, how long had she been standing there? "I came all this way hoping to hear Chartreusesleeves."

"Uh. y-yes, of course. For you." Despite his eloquence, the bard found himself quite speechless in her presence. He took to the stage, cleared his throat, and began playing his lute. Its rich, melodic sound hushed the crowd. As he sang, his eyes strayed in her direction. Constance was smiling wistfully. The village drunk got up to dance and a few other patrons followed suit. Soon she was twirling along with them like the graceful thing she was.

The bard continued to play. He just wanted her to keep dancing. When the song ended, she clapped the loudest as he took his bow and left the stage.

"With a voice and hands and a mind like yours, you could do so much better than this place." Orpheus looked up. A lady hovered over him. She seemed familiar somehow yet he could not recall her name.

"I'm sorry, miss," he said sincerely. "I feel as though I've seen you before but your identity escapes me."

"As it should be," the lady grinned. "Don't worry; I get that a lot. You may call me Violette. I work for the crown to a certain capacity, and I know King Ulysses has shown some interest in you as well. There was talk of making you the official royal bard. You've done quite well for yourself."

"How do you know these things?" Orpheus narrowed his eyes. He was starting to grow wary of this Violette's sudden appearance.

"It's my job to know things, sweetie," she replied without hesitation. "I also know you love that pretty little thing over there, but you feel as though you can't get close to her. Someone put a spell on you? No matter: I can get close to her for you."

"Why would you help me?"

Violette shrugged. "I simply noticed you were all alone and thought you might appreciate some company. It all right if you'd prefer the company of a dame such as her. I'm not offended. My point is, I can find out what she thinks of you, and if all goes well maybe I could even put in a good word on your behalf."

"I assume there is a catch." There always was.

"Ah, right you are," the spy agreed. "Nothing in this world is free, especially when we have taxes to pay. My services aren't exactly cheap, but I'll give you a discount because this sounds like fun."

Orpheus couldn't believe he was about to purchase a spy's services for such a personal matter that he should be able to handle alone. Violette at least had the potential to be an interesting acquaintance. Maybe the Watcher really was looking out for him, or maybe this would all end in failure.

)O(

A/N: Violette actually has three fatal flaws. She's uncouth, licentious, and a bit of a compulsive gambler. She should be a fun character to write. Also note that this story was translated from its original Simlish. Please review!