Hey there! This is my third published story for Fairy Tail. Everything in this story is pre S-class Exams. If you've read that far, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, I don't want to ruin the surprise for you. ;) This story is basically Lucy's and Natsu's adventures in a parallel universe where the arcs resemble classic fairy tales. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Fairy Tail belongs entirely to Hiro Mashima, not to me.
I. The Catalyst
Once upon a time, in a part of the globe unmapped by cartographers and envisaged by sailors, there resided a hidden peninsula country known by its inhabitants as Fiore. It was a peaceful land, brimming with magic and mystery, ruled by King Jude Heartphilia and his beautiful queen, Layla. The citizens of Fiore loved their monarchs, who were much celebrated and rejoiced.
They lived in great happiness for many years, until one evening Layla returned from a stroll through the castle gardens looking very gloomy. The king, unnerved by her sorrow, asked, "What's wrong, my dear?"
"The kitchen maids, look at them," she said hollowly, gesturing to a merry young woman as she polished the banister, whistling a lullaby. "Look at how happy they are. They have little babies to take care of, families to love. I want a child."
King Jude was shocked, but after much consideration decided that a son would be good for his kingdom. He would, after all, need an heir to his throne.
The royal couple tried for many months, but no sign of a child came to Layla's attention. With each passing day she spiraled deeper into her depression, until she grew pale and sickly, racked by savage headaches and most days refusing to get out of bed. The king was distraught and sought out the greatest healers in Fiore to cure his wife.
Healer after healer said that there was nothing they could do. Even the elusive Witch of the East Forest, Porlyusica, sighed in disappointment and shook her head as she inspected the ailing queen.
"She is simply depressed," Porlyusica diagnosed, standing. "There is no cure except for her happiness to be restored. Her yearning for a child brought this on, you say? Then a child she must have."
"That can't be the only solution!" the king cried, tired of hearing these words. "There has to be some kind of medication she can take to make her feel better!"
"There's nothing I know of, but perhaps I can try and invent something," Porlyusica sighed, mainly to soothe King Heartphilia's rage. She knew that there was little she could do to battle a depression this progressed. If the queen's life force dimmed any further, she would die.
"You just want more money!" King Jude accused spitefully. "Get out of my sight, evil witch! I need a healer who knows what they're talking about!"
Porlyusica's face turned red. "I don't want your filthy money! This is why I hate humans, ungrateful, greedy, irrational animals, that's what you are!"
"How dare you insult me!" King Jude screeched. "I am the King of Fiore! Guards, take this witch to the dungeons!"
Everyone turned to look at Queen Heartphilia, who was struggling to sit up on her elbows. The king rushed forward to help her, hovering anxiously. He had not heard her speak in several days; the sound of her voice, even upset like this, was music to his ears.
"Guards, release this woman immediately," Layla ordered. A few guards hesitantly loosened their grip on Porlyusica. Some turned to the king, who was technically the one supposed to be giving them orders. He was too absorbed with his wife, so they did as they were told by the respected queen.
Porlyusica pursed her lips at Layla, peering at her calmly over the rim of her square spectacles as beads of perspiration formed on the queen's brow. Even sitting up was becoming an effort. Nevertheless, Layla pulled herself into an upright position and gave Porlyusica a regal stare, fair and kind. But the witch could plainly see that Queen Heartphilia's brown eyes were as dark and hollow as earthen tunnels.
"I'm sorry for my husband's rash behavior, madam," Layla said. "Thank you for coming all this way to see me, even if there is nothing you can do."
"...Well," Porlyusica said after a long pause. "There is something I can do, but it is very dangerous. I am reluctant to tell you of it, but it seems I have no choice.
"There is no antidote for depression, as I've already informed you. However, the direct cause of your particular depression, the lack of a child in the household, does have a solution. I know of a physick that, when consumed, will give you almost one hundred percent certainty of conceiving a child for one night."
Queen Heartphilia, for the first time in months, looked hopeful. The king swallowed nervously; Layla wanted a child more than anything, but the witch had warned them it was dangerous.
"What's the catch?" he asked Porlyusica suspiciously.
"The first thing is that the potion requires rampion, which is only grown in the personal garden of Sir Jose Porla, in Phantom Lord Castle. I must warn you, in my experience Jose has not been kind nor understanding, and he will push you to your limit when it comes to payment. He doesn't wish for money. He only seeks power. I don't recommend giving it to him."
"Surely we can grow rampion here," Layla said.
"No. It only grows in Phantom Lord Castle. And even if you did somehow find a way to grow it here, you would still need the seeds from Jose," Porlyusica pointed out.
"I'm sure we'll work something out," King Heartphilia hastily assured in an attempt to cheer up his wife. Bargaining with some old fart wouldn't be a problem. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes," Porlyusica said solemnly. "My queen, you are very weak and childbirth is no walk in the park. The chances of you surviving are slim, and even if you do you will never be truly healthy for the rest of your life. Are you sure you want to risk it?"
"I just want a baby," Layla insisted, staring into her husband's eyes and begging him to understand. "My life won't be complete without a child anyway, so I'm willing to take the risk."
"Very well," Porlyusica said primly, picking up her medical bag. "I will take my leave, then. Bring me the rampion in three days' time, and I will have the physick ready the day after."
Layla clasped the king's hands tightly in her own, smiling breathlessly. "Can you believe it, dear? We're going to have a baby!"
The king could only muster a forced smile and nodded his head. He couldn't bring himself to say that no kid was worth Layla's life, not after seeing her sunny smile for the first time in weeks.