Although Duckburg was used to reading the name "Scrooge McDuck" over and over again in their newspaper every morning, there was one page where nobody ever expected to find his name: the Engagement Announcements. They had to read it at least three times before they could be sure the words were real. They would have thought there was apparently a second Scrooge McDuck in Duckburg if it hadn't been for the picture, but there it was, along with the outrageous claim that "Scrooge McDuck and Millionaira Vanderbucks are proud to announce their engagement..." blah-blah-blah... They saw it, but they couldn't believe it.
Most rolled their eyes at the prank and wondered how much McDuck would demand in the lawsuit against whoever had played it. Some shook their head at the misprint that would surely cost the paper its existence by this time tomorrow. Others went back to bed, not thinking it was safe to go into work if they were seeing things. Here and there, an unlucky patron in a diner or coffee shop choked on their pancakes or scrambled eggs. Several women who insisted more loudly than anyone that it was completely ridiculous, ludicrous, and impossible slammed the paper down on the table and sighed as the last thread of a wild hope snapped. Then there were the few rare men who believed it without a second thought because they could easily imagine the motive behind it and snickered, "Typical rich guy. Never thought McDuck went in for that kind of thing, but good catch."
And in one secluded, dilapidated old house, behind the boarded-up windows and walls covered in ivy, its lone occupant burst into laughter.
"Scrooge getting married?! That old tightwad? What kind of joke is this?" The man so stingy, he wouldn't buy a cup of water if he was on fire, now paying for a wedding, a honeymoon, and another head permanently under his roof? Magica de Spell couldn't even imagine what had happened to warp reality so extremely. Had Scrooge lost his mind? Had he been replaced by some imposter? Did he lose a bet? Was he being blackmailed? She found the latter possibility most appealing, although she couldn't explain why.
Magica recognized the name of Millionaira Vanderbucks as the richest woman in the world, but she couldn't remember seeing her picture before. She studied it carefully now. She supposed she was good-looking enough but nothing particularly special – nothing that would make a man like Scrooge take such complete leave of his senses. How had she done it? What could she be holding over him? It took her less than a second to answer her own question – money, of course! This was obviously just another business transaction for Scrooge – a convenient way to quickly increase his fortune. The practice was certainly common enough among the rich, but Magica had always thought Scrooge above things like that. So he was no different from the rest of them after all, the old fool!
"Oh, Scroogey dahling, you disappoint me," Magica said, shaking her head and still smiling at the absurdity of the situation. To think the great Scrooge McDuck was now resorting to such measures to make money! Clearly, he was slipping; he hadn't thought this through. He'd regret his rashness once he realized he was the one who'd lost on the deal. Millionaira Vanderbucks may be a tall, beautiful, successful, powerful businesswoman, but she was nowhere near good enough for Scrooge McDuck. He was an explorer, a pioneer, addicted to adventure; she was a spoiled, high-maintenance princess. He wouldn't be satisfied with that for long. He needed someone with strength and wits to match his own, an opponent who wasn't just a match for him at the negotiating table but on the battlefield. Anyone less didn't deserve the honor of being married to Scrooge McDuck...
Magica slammed her fist down on Scrooge's picture. What was she thinking? Where had all that come from? It was no concern of hers if Scrooge McDuck was foolish enough to throw himself away on some hussy in a business suit! She glared down at the photo of his fiancée. What made her so special? Had Scrooge fallen for the extra couple billion dollars, her beauty, or both? How had she managed to snare Scrooge McDuck? What did it matter?!
Magica shook her head violently and flipped the paper over even more violently, hiding the image of the happy couple. Congratulations to the both of them! She couldn't wait to watch the battle for the assets that would ensue when their divorce began! She laughed gleefully again at the vision. It was inexplicable how this had started, but it was easy to see how it would end. Poor Scroogey – if she was cunning enough to trick him into marrying her, she'd be smart enough to take him for all he was worth. Well, it would serve him right!
The sorceress clenched her fists, stood up, and began pacing around the room to expel the angry energy building up. Typical of that Scrooge to ruin her morning like this! He'd been the most aggravating, frustrating, infuriating presence in her life since the day they'd met! All because of that dime! The first coin that the richest duck in the world ever earned! The coin that held the power of all the courage, strength, knowledge, perseverance, and honor that went into making his fortune! The strength that would be hers as well if only she had the coin! With one spell, one amulet, she could make his power her own! If Circe's theory about the power that could be extracted from coins touched by wealthy men was correct, the first coin held by the wealthiest of them all must be more powerful than all others combined! She had to have it! It shouldn't have been this hard! Since when was a cold-hearted, greedy old miser like Scrooge also such a sentimentalist that he refused to part with one lousy dime?! It wasn't doing him any good, but there were no limits to what she could do with its power! He should have sold it to her that day and saved the both of them all this trouble. She hadn't known a moment's peace since the first time she'd lost it. No matter how many times she stole it back, she couldn't keep one measly dime of Scrooge's for more than a few hours at most, and this upstart Millionaira was getting his entire fortune, his name, his self, everything?!
"It's not fair!" She hadn't meant to scream like that. Why should she? She wanted nothing from Scrooge except that dime! If this Millionaira wanted Scrooge McDuck, she was welcome to him! Magica couldn't wait until she finally got her hands on that dime and she was through with Scrooge forever! Until then, married or not, he was still her adversary; married or not, nothing about their game would change... well, maybe she'd no longer be able to send him threatening valentines. What would his wife think of that?
Magica reached out and slammed her fist against the side of her bookcase, trying to shut off her imagination. All she succeeded in doing was hurting her hand and knocking several books to the floor. She kicked at the pile and hurt her foot against the heaviest one. She picked it up and raised her arm to throw it across the room but stopped – she didn't need to pull a muscle as well.
She gritted her teeth in frustration and looked at the book in her hand. It was the only piece of fiction in the entire house, but it was thicker than several of her spellbooks combined. She'd bought it because it reminded her of Scrooge... and she thought it might give her some tips on how to beat him, why else?! So far, all it had taught her was a million or so different ways of wording his catch phrase. She flipped through it now, desperate for a distraction, stopping at random intervals but finding a different description of Scrooge on every page:
"He had lived far into old age, but one could never think of him except as he was on that sketch – as a young man."
"He was a man who had committed the one unforgivable sin: he was proud of his wealth."
"The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it... The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it."
"You, who loved your work, who respected nothing but work, who despised every kind of aimlessness..."
"I work for nothing but my own profit. I earn it... I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I made my money by my own effort..."
Useless! It couldn't show her how to convince him to give up his most prized possession, and it certainly couldn't explain why he was suddenly doing something as crazy as getting married! She began flipping in the opposite direction, not paying very much attention anymore, which was why she didn't notice where she stopped next until it was too late:
"My dear, it's the first thing ever made of Rearden Metal."
She slammed the book shut. Ugh, she hated that part! She had read it once before she knew what happened there and never again since. She never bothered to think about why, she just couldn't stand to read it. All that fuss over a worthless trinket because one woman was too stupid to appreciate the full meaning of it and another was too afraid to go after what she really wanted so she went after the first fruits of a great man's labor... Stupid book! She shoved it onto the shelf behind her and forced her thoughts back from the dangerous territory that part always took them. There was only one way to figure out what was really going on with Scrooge. She marched across the room to her crystal ball.
This was what she got for not keeping a close-enough eye on Scrooge lately – if she'd been more vigilant, she would have known about this engagement long before the newspapers ever had! Last time she checked on him, he'd been planning some treasure hunt in Malaysia – when had he found the time to fall in love and get engaged? Well, maybe this would give her some answers. The fog in the crystal cleared to reveal the familiar image of Scrooge sitting at his breakfast table with his nephews; he didn't look happy.
"I don't want to hear another word about it, boys!" he was saying, much more angry than she usually saw him with them. "No matter how much you don't like Millie..." Millie, eh? "...you had no right to treat her like that. You could have seriously hurt her!"
"We weren't trying to hurt her, Uncle Scrooge," the boy in red said. "Just scare her away!"
"You don't know her!" the one in blue added. "All she wants is..."
"I know Millie far better than you do!" their uncle insisted. "If you boys had bothered to get to know her at all, you would see she's a wonderful woman, and I'm lucky to have her."
"You gotta believe us, Uncle Scrooge! She said she was gonna..." the one in green tried to say.
"Don't start that again," Scrooge groaned impatiently as he checked his pocket watch. "You boys have had your fun, but the jokes are over. I'm done discussing this with you."
"But..." his first nephew tried to say anyway.
"No buts!" Scrooge stood up and grabbed his hat. "I can't make you like her, but you will respect her as long as you live under this roof."
His nephew in blue crossed his arms and said, "That won't be for much longer if she has her way."
Scrooge rapped his cane hard against the floor. "That's enough! I won't hear any more of your ridiculous stories! I have a lot of things to take care of today, including, thanks to the fiasco you three made of our last treasure hunt, finding a wedding gift for Millie, and Mrs. Beakley's taking you to get fitted for your tuxes today. I'll see you boys at dinner tonight. And I expect you to be ready to accept that I am getting married and stop being jealous of all the time Millie and I spend together." With that, he turned and marched out, apparently without noticing that his nephews were too crushed by that last speech to venture speaking up again.
That was certainly an unusual performance. Magica had never seen Scrooge so harsh with his nephews. It was also interesting that they apparently didn't approve of "Millie;" the discovery pleased her, although she didn't bother to examine why. The little pests usually had great judgment – they had helped ruin more than enough of her plans against their uncle to make that clear – and Scrooge always trusted them. What had happened to him? Maybe Millie was having a bad influence on him. This also pleased her.
Scrooge's supernatural stalker watched as he left his house and walked down the street alone. If only someone had gone with him, they might have a conversation that would give her more clues! Fortunately for her, the loner talked to himself frequently, but she had to watch him walk almost all the way downtown in silence before he growled, "Those boys... think they know everything! I was sure they'd be happy for me! Millie was right – they're just jealous! They never treated Daisy like this... I guess she and Donald aren't as in love as we are..." His expression softened, and Magica hoped she didn't puke all over the crystal ball. Thankfully, his empty, lovesick gaze soon became serious. "She and the boys will get along, eventually. We'll be one big, happy family... the one thing I never had..." He shook the moment of weakness off. "It's my decision, and it's none of their business! I have to be firm, I can't let them ruin this!" Just like Millie advised you, Magica theorized. "They better not try to ruin my wedding again with any more of their pranks, or I'll... oh, I don't have time to worry about this right now!"
Scrooge stopped at the curb and looked around at the stores surrounding him as he waited for the signal to change. He shook his head at the view as if in defeat. "Oh, what am I doing?" he groaned as he walked past store window after store window. "What can you buy a woman who can afford everything? Where can you find it at a good bargain?" Magica grinned when she heard that; apparently, his new crush hadn't changed everything about him. "Jewelry? A new hat? A new limo? A yacht? A lake? No, no, she deserves more than that! She deserves something very... very special. But what's special enough for her? Oh, I'm not cut out for this kind of thing! I have no experience! What would the wealthiest woman in the world want most from her future husband? "
I can tell you what one woman would want most from you, dahling, Magica thought before she could stop herself. She tried to laugh it off – maybe he should give that to Millie and see how she liked it!
Magica froze at the thought. She'd only been joking, but... No longer paying attention to Scrooge, she stared straight ahead, her eyes widened in shock at the idea that was forming: What if he... then if she... if I could... She blinked and noticed the bookcase on the far side of the room. She dashed over and grabbed the book she'd opened earlier, turning to the same place where she'd last closed it:
"If you are not the coward that I think you are, you will exchange it."
She read and re-read the whole scene before slowly closing the book again, the wheels turning in her head and her eyes glinting with excitement. For the first time, the familiarity of the situation wasn't discomforting but inspiring. "If it worked for her, why shouldn't it work for me?" she asked before breaking into triumphant laughter. "Oh, Scroogey, you have no idea how happy you've made me! I'm going to solve your problem, and you're going to solve mine!" Now that he had a rich snob of a bride, she knew exactly how to get the one thing she wanted from him! She just had to set the stage properly.
Magica replaced the book and went back to the crystal ball. Where was Scrooge now? She had to move quickly. He was staring through the window of a dress salon. If he kept going in the same direction, she could see which jewelry store he would reach first. She waved her hand, and the image faded away. The timing was perfect – she couldn't wait. "Don't worry, Scroogey dahling. You'll find the perfect gift for your precious Millie today – I promise!" She raised her arms and teleported away in an explosion of smoke and laughter.
"Maybe I could give her Duckburg's entire shopping district and let her pick her own gift – I own most of it already," Scrooge suggested to himself. "No, she has plenty of her own chains of fashion and jewelry stores..." That was about the hundredth idea he'd dismissed in the past minute, and he was getting more and more frustrated with himself. He knew finding the right wedding gift for his future bride would be tricky; he never expected it would be next to impossible. Why was this turning out to be so hard? He was about to marry her; he surely knew her well enough to know what she liked...
"Try looking at this another way – what would you want?" he asked himself – they had so much in common after all, right? A set of treasure maps to unexplored territory? The deed to land with an unmined gold deposit? A new high-tech sub that could dive deeper for sunken treasure than any others? A hiking trip through the mountains? He discarded them all without questioning why.
Of all the times the boys could pick to start making trouble! They should have been helping him with this! That Guidebook of theirs probably had a section on Selecting The Proper Wedding Gift! Maybe he could call and ask Donald for advice. Then again, although his nephew had happily agreed to be his best man, he hadn't seemed too thrilled about the wedding itself. Scrooge hadn't asked him why, but he decided the less he talked with Donald about his marriage, the better. Unless he paid some consultant to make the decision for him (*shudder*), he would have to settle this on his own.
The world's former most eligible bachelor paused in front of a jewelry store window. He realized for the first time that he hadn't looked at jewelry very closely today – too common, too mundane, of course, but it might be worth a glance. The display was like a splash panel of gems and gold... the prize he'd wrestled out of that lonely valley all those years ago in the Yukon wilderness... He turned his eyes away from the sight and his back on the memories. He was about to hurry on when the door opened and a saleswoman came out.
"Good morning, sir! You look like someone who's on a mission," she said brightly.
Scrooge eagerly seized at the distraction. "Indeed, I am, miss," he answered. "One of the most important missions of my life." That was an exaggeration – why had he felt the need to emphasize it that way?
"Looking for something special?"
"Aye – something very special for a very special someone!" he confirmed.
"Well, you're in luck – we specialize in Very Special Things For Very Special Someones." She stood aside and held the door open, gesturing for her potential customer to enter. Scrooge McDuck had never been known to indulge salesmen, but how could he turn down any offer of help in his situation? He stepped inside.
He was glad that the store was empty of all other customers and employees. The salesgirl stepped behind the counter and asked, "So, what are we looking for? Anniversary? Birthday? I'm So Sorry, Honey?"
Scrooge chuckled lightly before answering, "No, none of that yet. I need to find the perfect gift for the woman I'm marrying." He steeled himself for what he knew would happen next – how he would have to reject the highest-priced item in the building, then the second-highest price, and work his way down one item at a time until they resigned themselves to showing him their merchandise in his acceptable price range. It was the same routine for everyone who tried to make a sale to Scrooge McDuck.
"Oh, I see. Well, this is one of our most popular choices for that occasion," she said while, to his surprise and relief, placing a diamond bracelet on the glass counter with a price tag that didn't make him feel like fainting. She must not know who he was.
Feeling more relaxed at the discovery, Scrooge shook his head. "Thank you, but I was hoping for something more unique."
"Oh, of course. Well, how about this?" she asked, putting the bracelet away and bringing out a diamond necklace.
It was definitely more impressive, but, "No, she already has plenty like that. Have you got anything more original?"
"How about this ring from our most prestigious jeweler? Brand new design, just arrived this morning," the woman suggested.
Scrooge took the ring in his hand and examined it closely. It was certainly interesting – three different colored bands (one gold, one white gold, and one silver) braided together and sprinkled with diamond dust. What would Millie think of it, though? "Do you think she would like it?" he asked the salesgirl.
She shrugged. "I'm not sure. Personally, this has always been one of my favorites." She handed him a ring adorned by a large opal with four tiny diamonds and four tiny emeralds placed around its edge so that the whole thing looked like a star.
Scrooge held the rings up side by side. "I can see why. I wonder which she would like best."
"We're having a discount on rings today, if you'd like to buy both to be on the safe side."
He instantly put both rings down. "That won't be necessary, miss. I'm sure she has more rings than she knows what to do with anyway," he said firmly.
"A wise decision, then," she said as she put them away. "Maybe she would like a set – matching necklace, matching ring, matching earrings..."
"Nice try, but I don't think so..." said Scrooge, until he thought about it for a second. "Do you really think she would?"
"I couldn't say. I need more details. Why don't you tell me about her... what is she like?"
Scrooge shrugged. "Well, she's the most beautiful, richest woman in the world, she... she has several different companies, she made a fortune just like I did..."
"What is she interested in? What does she like to do?"
"I... I don't know, I haven't thought about it much," was all Scrooge could answer.
"What do you two like to do together?"
"Oh, you know, just get together and talk, nothing too expensive..."
"Sounds thrilling," she observed in a tone that Scrooge couldn't tell was sincere or sarcastic.
"Well, she's not exactly a thrill-seeker," he reluctantly admitted, remembering their disastrous trip through the jungle.
"Just like you, right?"
"Not exactly..." Scrooge repeated helplessly.
"Oh, so it's one of those 'opposites attract' stories, is it?" the saleswoman guessed with a smile.
"Aye... No... I don't know," Scrooge mumbled. He was mercilessly wracking his memory for everything he knew about Millie, but all he could remember talking about with her was money. Other than the fact that she loved money as much as he did, he realized he knew almost nothing about her likes, dislikes, or her values. He didn't know if their personalities were opposite or not, let alone in what way. Why hadn't it ever seemed important?
"Well, good for you," the woman said confidently. "Personally, that never made much sense to me. What's so romantic about fighting all the time?"
"Oh, we... we never fight," Scrooge assured her. He had never said it before, and, although it was completely true, thinking about it now, it struck him as odd. Millie never fought, argued, or even disagreed with him about anything. That should be reassuring, but something about it felt wrong, unnatural. His sister and her fiancé had always fought. Donald and Daisy were always fighting. He and...
Scrooge picked up his cane. "I'm sorry for wasting your time, miss," he said, "but I don't think you have what I'm looking for. Like I said, I need something very special."
"I understand," the salesgirl said as he headed towards the door. "When my husband proposed, he didn't settle for any cheap store trinket, either."
Intrigued, Scrooge stopped and turned around. "Really? What did he give you?"
She beamed as she answered, "An heirloom ring passed down through his family through three generations. His great-grandfather bought it for his sweetheart, and then they passed it down to his grandfather to give to his, and they passed it down to his father, and then it was his turn. It's one of a kind. Ooh, it was so romantic!"
"That sounds special, all right," Scrooge observed.
"Maybe you have something special like that that she would like," the woman suggested.
"My family had to sell all our valuables over the past few generations," Scrooge said despondently. "The only heirloom I have left is that stupid pocket watch... er, long story."
"I see – you don't have any one-of-a-kind treasures of your own? Nothing with special, sentimental value even if it's not worth much money?"
"Nothing except this," Scrooge answered with a laugh as he pulled the end of the string holding his Number One Dime out of his coat.
"A dime?" the salesgirl asked incredulously.
"The very first coin I ever earned, back when I was a ten-year-old lad wandering the streets of Scotland with my shoeshine kit," Scrooge explained. "The bum paid me with a worthless American coin, so I kept it to remember my promise that I would never cheat anyone or let anyone cheat me again. And when I left home to seek my fortune, it inspired me to go to America, the land of opportunity. It took over twenty years, but all my wealth started with this." He held it up, impressed that the saleswoman seemed to admire it as much as he did. "It may be worth only ten cents to you, but it's the most valuable treasure I own."
"That's special, all right," the woman said, staring at the dime almost hungrily.
"Aye..." Scrooge agreed, raising an eyebrow. Something about that expression looked familiar. "Say, we haven't met before, have we?"
The woman shook her head rapidly. "Oh, I don't know. Do you shop here often? I get so many customers, it's hard to remember them all."
"No, but... never mind, I'm sorry." Scrooge scolded himself for his paranoia as he began to put his dime away, but he stopped mid-gesture. "My first, most valuable treasure..."
"What a romantic gift that would make," the salesgirl remarked.
Scrooge looked directly at her. "You really think so?"
"Oh, absolutely! Any woman would be touched by such a gift."
"Of course, who wouldn't?" Scrooge thought aloud. "What could be more special than a man's most treasured possession?"
"Especially one with such a story behind it."
"It's not just a souvenir from an important story. It's the symbol of my entire wealth. It represents everything I stand for. Most people don't understand, but surely she would appreciate it, right?"
"I'm sure she'd be as proud if you gave that to her as you were when you earned it," she answered. "After all, she's marrying you."
"Aye, it's like... like a knight bringing home a trophy for his lady after returning from battle in the days of old," Scrooge mused aloud. "What could be better than my first trophy from my first battle? Just what she deserves!" He slipped the dime back into his coat and began looking around the store. "You've given me a great idea, miss. Tell you what, I'll take…" He spotted what he needed in a nearby cabinet and pointed to it. "...this, please."
The saleswoman unlocked the case and took out the bare platinum chain. She had just put it in a box when Scrooge took a wad of bills out of his wallet. "This is perfect!" he said excitedly as he waited for his change. "Thank you kindly for all your help, miss. My... that's the first time I've ever said that to a salesman!"
"My pleasure, dahling," she said with a wink as she handed him the box with the chain.
Something about the look made Scrooge feel uneasy again, but he pushed it aside; he got what he needed. "Wish me luck," he said, tipping his hat. "Thank you again."
"Good luck, dahling, and please... don't mention it," she said as the door closed behind him. She walked up, locked it, and watched until he had turned the corner and walked out of sight. The coast clear, she raised her arms and transformed in a quick flash of light.
"Phase 1: success!" Magica de Spell said with a hearty laugh. She was very proud with herself; it had taken every ounce of her restraint not to reach out and snatch that dime right out of Scrooge's grasp, but he would have fought her for it or, if she had managed to escape, come and taken it from her before she could melt it down. With this plan, by the time he realized she had it, it would be too late, and even if it wasn't, he'd have no right to fight her for it. "Now, time to get on with Phase 2." She was about to teleport away when she remembered. She walked over and unlocked the door to the back room, causing three unconscious but otherwise unharmed bodies to fall over the threshold. "Sorry, dahlings," she said, dropping their keys on the floor before she disappeared.
Magica's next stop was the Duckburg office of Flintheart Glomgold.
"This is the best gem I have on hand," Glomgold told her, as he dropped a cut and polished diamond the size of a kiwi on his desk. "My mines sent it over last week."
"That should do," Magica decided.
"Fine, what are you offering?"
"Its use in my latest plan against Scrooge McDuck."
"Hmm... tempting, but I prefer cash," he told her, taking the stone back.
Magica reached into her bag. "How about I toss in a free foof bomb?"
Glomgold glared at her. "You wouldn't dare?"
When he could see again, he wasn't surprised to find that the sorceress and the diamond had vanished. "That witch! It's not fair! I could be twice the crook she is if I had gadgets like that!" He now had two options – get the police involved in his business, or let her keep it.
When you did business like he did, sometimes you had to cut your losses.
Spying on Scrooge McDuck in her crystal ball had always been Magica's favorite activity whenever she was bored, but she had never watched him as frequently or intently as she did over the next two days. She couldn't move on to the next step in her plan until he completed his part, and she had to be ready to act as soon as he did. Finally, his wedding gift for Millie was ready. The two of them had just taken a romantic stroll through the park, and Magica had kept a close eye on their every move, urging Scrooge to hurry up and get it over with before the two of them made her gag. Scrooge couldn't know what a goofy fool his infatuation with this woman made him, or he wouldn't have been able to live with himself.
At last, the two lovebirds sat down on a bench, and Scrooge took out the jewelry box. "Our wedding day's almost here, dear," he said.
"I know," Millie sighed overdramatically. "I can hardly wait! It feels like it's taking forever to get here." Magica believed she was sincere, although not for the reasons Scrooge obviously assumed.
"I know," Scrooge agreed. "It feels just like my last day at sea when I was boy, waiting on deck for my first sight of the American coast – you know time's passing, but you never seem to get any closer."
"Yes, exactly, dear," she said dismissively (Scrooge, unsurprisingly, didn't notice). "But I try to remember we can't rush these things. A wedding worthy of Mr. and Mrs. McDuck requires careful planning and patience. We want everything to be perfect on our special day, right?"
"Exactly!" Scrooge agreed. "Mr. and Mrs. McDuck will have the grandest wedding Duckburg will ever see!" In a rational universe, Mr. and Mrs. McDuck would be having the cheapest wedding the world would ever see. Magica's first theory had been correct – Scrooge had completely lost his mind.
"Oh, dear, you're the best!" Millie gushed.
"Only the best for the best," Scrooge quipped. "Speaking of which, I have something for you."
He held the box out to Millie, who didn't bother to hide the greedy look in her eyes as she took it. "Oh, Scroogey, you shouldn't have!"
"Yes, Scroogey, you shouldn't have," Magica involuntarily muttered under her breath. That's what you want, you fool! she reminded herself. You need her for your plan! This was exactly what she'd been waiting to see, and she was thrilled, ecstatic, glad! Why shouldn't she be?!
"I wanted your wedding gift to be something very special," Scrooge told his fiancée. "So I had this made yesterday."
"Oh, what could it be?" You could actually see the visions of platinum, gold, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and rubies dancing in her eyes as Millie opened the box. Her face instantly fell as soon as she saw the contents. Magica silently congratulated her on how quickly she put her smile back on, although it was obviously unnecessary – in the state he was in, Scrooge probably wouldn't have noticed if she tossed it in a trash can. "Oh, it's... it's..." She apparently hadn't rallied her faculties enough for speech.
"My Number One Dime," Scrooge finished for her. "You remember what I've told you about it. The first coin I ever earned. The first fruits of my labor. The beginning of the McDuck financial empire. The start of my fortune." He lifted the chain he'd bought from Magica out of the box, now holding his dime in a small, round, silver frame at the end; it made a beautiful pendant... or so he thought, Magica quickly added to herself (Millie obviously didn't think so). "I had this made for it yesterday," Scrooge went on. "I wanted you to have it."
Millie resorted to the oldest double-meaning in the book: "Oh, honey, I don't know what to say."
"I knew you'd love it!" Scrooge rejoiced. Although she must have been expecting it, Magica was still shocked when he reached up and clasped it around his sweetheart's neck; she'd been counting on it for her plan, yet she couldn't believe she'd just seen Scrooge McDuck part with his first coin so easily! He held the charm in his palm as if admiring the effect. "Ah, perfect," he sighed. "I've told you how proud I am of this coin, haven't I?"
Millie finally recovered enough from her disappointment to perform to her usual standards. "Yes, and I'm so proud of this honor you've given me, Scroogey, darling," she said sweetly before kissing him on the cheek. Magica thought she saw Scrooge flinch at the term of endearment, but she couldn't be sure (she also didn't know why she now smiled for the first time since the couple began their date). In any case, he was beaming with rapture again as Millie continued: "I'll wear it everywhere, to show everyone that I'm the only one worthy of Scrooge McDuck's greatest treasure!" Magica's smile instantly transformed back into the glare of hatred she'd worn all afternoon.
"You're my greatest treasure now," Scrooge pointed out as he threw his arm around her.
"And you're mine!" she replied, snuggling against him.
Magica covered her eyes with her hand and decided she'd seen enough – if she watched them for much longer, she might throw up. Fortunately, Millie seemed to have had enough, as well, and brought the moment to a screeching halt. "Oh, no, look at the time," she moaned, looking at an apparently invisible watch on her wrist. "I have to hurry home to get ready for my bridal shower."
Her oblivious, lovestruck fiancé nodded. "Of course, dear," he said as they stood up. "Want me to drop you off?"
"No, no, that's all right. You go on home, dear. I'll see you at the florist's first thing tomorrow."
"Have a good time tonight, darlin'," Scrooge said before he kissed her good-bye. "Be sure to save the receipts for all the gifts!"
"Always!" his bride sincerely assured him – all right, so they apparently did have some things in common.
The two walked off in opposite directions, but Millie waited until long after Scrooge was out of sight before she decided it was safe to drop the facade. "Oh, of all the stupid, sentimental nonsense!" she moaned. She removed the pendant and scowled at it. "Ugh, I knew McDuck was an eccentric one, but this is crossing the line! Three cubic acres of coins worth millions of dollars, and this is the one he chooses to give his bride?! I got engaged to Scrooge McDuck, and all I got was this lousy ten cents?! ARGH!" She took a deep breath and calmed herself down. "Relax, Millie, dear," she told herself. "Soon, all those coins and all his billions will be yours, and you can buy the entire diamond industry if you want. After all, as far as eccentricities go, it could be much worse. Pretending a... a dime is something to be proud of is a small price to pay for becoming Mrs. McDuck. Wait 'til the girls hear – they'll be even more jealous that I got off so easy!" She cackled briefly over the thought. "How nice of Scrooge to give them this consolatory goldmine of mockery. I can just see it now. 'Why, Millie, what a charming pendant!' 'Yes, I think my niece made an art project like that yesterday in kindergarten!' Oh, I can't wait! 'Why, girls, don't you know it's one of the most valuable coins in the world – a coin Scrooge McDuck got shining shoes seventy years ago? Yes, that is so weird, isn't it? Yes, he must be some kind of freak, mustn't he? Well, the price of victory, you know.' Hah! First chance I get, I'll find a coin dealer who thinks it's worth a few bucks and get rid of it, then go to Scrooge in such anguished tears, he'll buy me a real necklace to cheer me up!" She laughed gleefully at the prospect as she walked down the path to her waiting limousine. "Let's go, Boffums," she said to her driver. "This blushing bride-to-be has a lot of guests to greet... and a lot of expensive gifts to unwrap!"
Magica sat through the previous speech torn between two emotions. One was excited joy that her plan had succeeded, that Scrooge had done exactly what she wanted with the dime, that it was exactly where it needed to be, and that it would be securely in her grasp any day now! The other was a mixture of disgust and rage. Didn't this dimwit know that she now had the most powerful, most valuable coin in the world? Magica had been desperately trying to get her hands on it for years, and this airhead had it handed to her practically on a silver platter and treated it like garbage! You would think if she loved Scrooge's money so much, she would also be able to respect and admire the man who was able to earn such a fortune! That dime represented everything it took for him to make the fortune she wanted so badly, and she couldn't even take pride in it! Scrooge McDuck considered her worthy of bearing the primary symbol of his pride and honor, and she was ashamed of it, unable to see past its literal ten-cent value! How could anyone be so dense?! How could Scrooge be so blind?! How could he not see that this woman had no concept of his value? How had he ever fallen for someone who so clearly didn't deserve him? Did he really think that dime meant as much to her as it did to him? That she would appreciate it as much as...
Magica focused on the image in her crystal ball, stopping the question from fully forming in her mind. Millie was smiling contentedly in the backseat of her limo, no doubt congratulating herself on how securely she had Scrooge wrapped around her finger. And she now had the one thing Magica wanted more than anything in the world – mission accomplished! "Time to get ready for Phase 3," Magica said to herself, clapping her hands in anticipation. It would have been easier if the snob had thrown it into the nearest trash can, but this would work, too; this was what she'd gotten Glomgold's diamond for.
She still had to figure out when and how to strike. The sooner, the better; the longer she waited, the more time there was for something to interfere. But she couldn't just walk up to her front door with such a specific request, or it would look suspicious; she had to intercept her somewhere public, find an excuse to bring it up casually... She remembered Millie's plans for this evening. That just might do!
The sorceress walked over to her full-length mirror. She didn't need a full disguise like she had for dealing with Scrooge, but she needed to blend in. She transformed into a black evening dress, complete with a matching handbag. She packed Glomgold's diamond inside, along with some cash and a few foof bombs and flash blinders just in case of an emergency. While she was putting her other magic supplies away, she picked up Circe's amulet – the key to unlocking the powers of Scrooge's first coin. She decided to take that with her, as well; it would be the safest way to carry the dime home. She slipped the chain over her neck and tucked the amulet into her dress. Nothing to do now but wait until the "blushing bride-to-be" was in the right place. She returned to her crystal ball, but Millie was too boring to watch for long. She decided to switch over and see whether or not Scrooge had gotten to tell his nephews about his gift yet and, if so, what they thought of that.
To her disappointment, she had missed the beginning of the scene. "You did what?!" his three nephews gasped at once.
"Aye," their uncle answered calmly. "I only wish I'd gotten the idea sooner and saved us a lot of trouble."
Scrooge began heading up the staircase, but the boy in blue called after him, "Why just your Number One Dime? Why not give her a really valuable treasure, like your goose egg nugget?" Scrooge cringed at the question and ran up the stairs as if for his life.
"Well, that answers one question," the one in red said. "At least he still remembers Goldie."
"Not enough," the one in green added.
"Maybe we should remind him."
"We just did."
"Maybe he needs a bigger reminder."
"Why don't we ask Goldie?"
With that, the three boys ran off with matching sly looks on their faces. Evidently, Magica wasn't the only one planning something. She could only assume the object of their scheme had something to do with an upcoming wedding they obviously weren't looking forward to. She wished them luck (any plot against Scrooge should be amusing for her, after all!) before going back to check on the future Mrs. McDuck – still getting ready. She spent the next few hours alternating between watching Scrooge and checking in on her mark as she waited for the time to pass.
Several hours later, Magica zapped herself over to the Swelldorf Brasstoria Hotel's grand ballroom and slipped casually out from behind a pillar to mingle with the crowd. As she made her way over to the guest of honor, she wondered if Scrooge was aware that he was marrying into the world of the status seekers he'd always disdained... Priorities! Remember why you're here! she commanded herself. She helped herself to a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter and tried to act casual while she lingered near her target.
"Isn't this a gorgeous hotel, girls?" she heard Millie say. "This time next week, it'll all be mine!"
Her audience didn't seem to share her enthusiasm. "You haven't got the ring yet, Millie," one of the women surrounding her said challengingly.
"Don't count your billions until you've walked down the aisle," another warned.
"I appreciate your concern, ladies, but I assure you, I know what I'm doing," Millie answered confidently. "I've gotten farther than anyone ever has, haven't I?" This elicited a chorus of groans of envy from her entourage; Magica sneaked a brief glance at Millie's face and saw she was relishing every bit of it.
One woman gestured over her shoulder towards the staircase before saying, "The boys' betting pool is still open. My husband still says there's no way Scrooge McDuck will ever go through with it."
"Pity you two don't know Scrooge as well as I do," Millie said smugly, riding high on the pride of taking home a greater prize than any of her fellow gold diggers had ever achieved.
"You really think you can pull this off, Millie?"
"I don't think I can, darling, I know I can!" was Millie's oh-so-original reply. "It's not as hard as it looks, you know – all it takes is the right balance of money, beauty, and superior charm. Scrooge was such an easy catch, there's really no honor in the conquest."
"You'd better be careful, dear. Scrooge McDuck is one tough customer. I remember seeing him on News on the March."
"Was that the documentary about how he made his fortune in the Yukon Gold Rush fifty years ago?"
"I remember that one. It said that he once kidnapped a woman and held her hostage for a month – and it had the newspapers to prove it."
A chain of gasps, giggles, oohs, and whistles went round the circle at that. Even Magica raised an eyebrow. Millie, however, sounded perfectly unruffled when she said, "The operative term being 'fifty years ago.' I've had no trouble with him in that area – he has no interest in anything like that nowadays." She actually sounded like she was bragging about her good luck.
"That certainly makes it easier," one of her companions moaned.
"Sounds weird to me," said another.
"Scrooge McDuck has always been a weird one."
"Where's your honeymoon going to be – the African jungle, the South American rainforest, or an ancient Egyptian tomb?" The group laughed as if they had never heard anything funnier.
"Or maybe a crumbling, old, haunted castle at the edge of a Scottish moor?" The laughter increased.
"Weird hobbies are worth indulging – when they bring home money," Millie said nonchalantly, ruining their pathetic attempt to plant a thorn in her bed of roses. "Besides, from now on, I intend to indulge them from the comfort of a luxury hotel suite in Hawaii."
"Is it true that he erases and reuses ticker tape?"
"Of course!" Millie answered proudly. "That saves more money to spend on me."
"Is it true that he never spent the first gold nugget he dug up fifty years ago?"
It was Millie's turn to laugh now. "None that I've seen! Hah! Who in their right mind wouldn't spend the gold they found?!"
Magica decided that was as good a segue as she could hope for: "Is it true that he's saved the first dime he ever earned seventy years ago?" she asked before taking another sip of her drink.
Half the audience laughed at her question, but the other (obviously more ignorant) half merely rolled their eyes, evidently finding it too absurd to be amusing. Millie answered evasively, "Well, one doesn't accumulate a fortune by splurging on ice-cream sodas every day..."
"I thought I heard that, too," someone chimed in, and more murmurs of agreement followed.
"Come on!" one girl said incredulously. "What kind of softie would save the first coin he ever earned as a child? An infamously greedy old curmudgeon like Scrooge McDuck, right?"
That was apparently the switch that turned her companions' laughter back on. Magica joined them. "I know! Outrageous, isn't it?" she said, gesticulating wildly with her glass so that the contents flew out and splashed all over the queen of the evening. "Oh, I'm so sorry, dahling!" She grabbed a napkin from her nearest neighbor as if in a blind panic and darted to the side of the woman now dripping with champagne.
"Well, I never!" Millie snarled. She shoved Magica away from her, but the latter, although perfectly calm and focused on the inside, continued frantically wiping at her neck and shoulders and apologizing: "Oh, what have I done? How could I be so clumsy? Please, let me help you..."
Millie continued trying to rebuff her attempts at help, but to no avail. "I think you've done more than enough already!" Magica finally let her shake her off, as her hand snagged the chain around her neck, pulling the pendant free from her dress.
"Ooh, what's this?" Magica gasped in feigned surprise, unable to resist taking the dime in her fingertips. So close...
Millie snatched the charm away from her and cleared her throat before narrowing her eyes and answering in a cryptic, lofty tone, "The price of victory." Magica would have laughed at the performance if she didn't have so much at stake.
Magica seized the pendant back so swiftly she almost (accidentally) choked its wearer. She held it in her open palm and squinted at it. "Ooh, an 1875 American dime!" she said, as if in awe.
Millie pulled away and held the coin in her own hand as she looked at it. "Yes, just a little, no-special-occasion gift from my fiancé. Poor Scrooge has more money than he knows what to do with, so he just uses coins for all these silly, trivial things, like making jewelry," she bragged. She held the coin up at the end of its chain for her audience to see and continued in her infuriating tone of nonchalant superiority: "You ladies must know what that's like, right – so much money, and so little things to do with it? Just one of the many burdens a woman has to bear for her husband, so I got off to an early start."
Magica wouldn't have been able to pry her eyes away from the dime if she tried, but she heard the snickers and jeers from the group around her turn into hisses of impotent envy through gritted teeth. Someone rallied herself enough to say, "Yes, a woman must bear it when her man can't afford to spend more than ten cents on her."
This pathetic attack nonetheless gave someone else the courage to add, "Men can be so thoughtless. Why, on our first anniversary, I told James exactly what kind of tiara I wanted – diamonds set in platinum – and the cheapskate got rubies set in gold. Ugh! Oh, dear, I owe him an apology now – I told him it was the most tasteless thing I would ever see in my life."
Millie was unfazed by the few supportive snickers her opponent generated. She held the coin in both hands and almost made Magica sick by pressing it against her heart. "Tasteless, yes, but it's the money that counts. When a man's banks are literally overflowing with coins, they just don't seem special to him anymore. You should see the things he does with his gold doubloons, but, oh, silly me, of course you know what that's like?" The threatening tone in which she spoke the last words and the look in her eyes as she roved over each face in her circle successfully killed any further hopeless attempts at mockery. Obviously thoroughly enjoying herself, she continued to rub it in: "Remember, patience is a woman's greatest virtue. Every man has their whims, after all, and we all must tolerate them as best we can – the cost of doing business. You can't expect him to share his billion-dollar empire if you can't indulge his vanity a little, can you? No matter how ridiculous the source of it is!"
Her lecture now over, Millie released her hands from around the pendant and almost doubled over with laughter. Nobody joined her. Magica was trembling from the strain of holding back the fist now clenched at her side. She knew she ought to get on with her plan, but she didn't trust herself to speak – an unexpected complication; she hadn't known this would be so hard for her to watch.
She heard someone else speak up, though: "Yes, congratulations, Millie, dear... I can't wait to see your wedding ring. What's it made of? A quarter?"
Millie beamed. "What a wonderful idea! After all, Scrooge's 1916 quarter is the rarest, most valuable coin in the world, so expensive that no one can afford to buy it from him – we might as well put it to some use."
"Oh, you poor dear! Only spending ten cents when he could have afforded twenty-five! How cheap!"
"Now, girls, let's be fair. After all, the first coin ever owned by Scrooge McDuck must be pretty valuable. I bet such a collector's item could be worth an entire dollar!"
"Maybe even five dollars!"
"Have you gone to have it appraised yet, Millie?"
Millie ignored the sarcasm and said as sweetly as ever, "We'll see soon enough, I hope. Oh, I can't wait to show you all what a nice profit I make on it!"
"Why, Millie, surely you intend to keep such a meaningful gift close to your heart 'til your dying breath?"
Millie held the dime up again and said in a very different tone, "This hideous thing? Hah! Are you crazy? Just because Scrooge is insane doesn't mean I am. Trust me, first chance I get to make something off it, I'll take it."
Good to know, Magica thought. She took a few steps closer to the future Mrs. McDuck and asked her, "How much were you planning to ask for it, dahling?"
"I don't know," Millie said with a shrug. "I've never tried selling a dime before."
"You'll have to be careful," Magica warned her, reaching out and placing her fingers behind the pendant again. "I'm sure the collectors will be tripping over themselves to make you offers for this!"
As Magica had hoped, another woman scoffed, "Oh, please, it's not rare, it's not valuable, who in their right mind would want to buy that?"
Despite her effort to hide it, Millie seemed to agree. She pulled the dime out of Magica's grasp and sneered at it. "Well, if I could sell Scrooge McDuck a marriage, selling this shouldn't be too difficult," she tried to say in her customary superior tone.
"Not at all, as long as you find the right buyer," Magica assured her.
"Oh, and I suppose you have someone in mind?" Millie asked, annoyed at what she apparently took as a condescending offer of help.
"As a matter of fact," said Magica, trying to keep the eagerness out of her voice, "I was thinking you should sell it to me."
"You want this ridiculous thing?" Millie laughed. "What for? Are you a coin dealer?"
Magica shook her head. "No, not for me, for my uncle."
"Your uncle?" Millie repeated skeptically.
"Yes," Magica answered. "After he became rich, he started collecting coins for a hobby – a special type of collection. He is trying to get one of every type of American coin from every year as far back in history as possible."
"How interesting..." some woman observed.
"Indeed," Magica agreed. "My cousins and I are always keeping an eye out for the coins he still needs."
"Why?" someone asked.
"Because whoever brings him the most coins gets the most left to her in his will," she explained.
"Now why didn't my grandfather think of that?" another woman groaned.
"The 1875 set is almost complete, except for the dime," Magica explained further. "He's been looking for a dime from that year for months. It would be worth a lot of points if I could bring one to him." She rubbed her hands greedily as she looked at the coin.
Millie's eyes lit up. "You don't say? You must have been waiting a long time for an opportunity like this, then..."
"It's all I've been able to think about ever since the day I first learned about it," said Magica, her eyes and smile full of excitement. "Now it looks like this could be the opportunity we've both been waiting for."
"So it does," Millie agreed. "What are you offering?"
Magica fished Glomgold's diamond out of her purse. Their audience gasped at the size and quality of it as she said, "How about a trade – this diamond for that dime?"
"I'll give you two, no, three dimes for that!" Magica pulled her arm away from the woman.
Millie bent down and looked closely at the gem, starstruck. "That's definitely a profit..." she mumbled to herself, probably picturing how much better that would look around her neck. But Magica had revealed too much to make this an easy sale. Millie straightened herself up and said coolly, "Not bad – what else?"
"What else?!" Magica gasped.
"Well, from what you said it can bring you, this dime is worth a lot more than that little bauble, isn't it?"
"That dime will make me rich beyond anyone's wildest dreams," said Magica. "What can it do for you?"
"That's up to you," Millie told her.
"Oh, come on, Millie, take it," one of her friends whispered to her. "Before she changes her mind."
"You're not going to find a better offer anywhere else," whispered another.
"Sure I am – right here," Millie whispered in reply before turning back to Magica. "You must want this pretty badly, Miss... uh..."
Magica cursed herself for not concealing that better, but it was too late to deny it now. She crossed her arms and said lividly, "More than I've ever wanted anything in my life."
"Well, then I think it's worth a little more than that trinket you have there, don't you?" Millie suggested, gesturing towards the diamond.
Magica smirked and said, "I had no idea it was worth so much to you."
Millie's smug smile disappeared. "What? I never said..."
Magica nodded her head. "Of course, I understand – it's the first coin ever earned by the richest duck in the world, and it means more to him than all the coins he's ever made since. It's his pride and joy, the embodiment of his strength and honor, a treasure he could never bear to part with, but he gave it to you. Who wouldn't be honored by such a gift? I understand why you can't bear to sell it. It's priceless to you, just like it is to Scrooge. There isn't enough money in the world to tempt you to part with it. Who can put a price on sentimental value?"
The snickering in the audience had erupted into outright laughter by the end of Magica's speech, and, as she had expected, Millie was desperate to clear herself of the absurd accusations. " 'Pride?' 'Treasure?' 'Honor?' "Priceless?' " she repeated, flabbergasted. "Are you mad?"
"I was afraid you were," Magica replied.
" 'Sentimental value'... What value? It's a dime!" Millie exclaimed. "It's worth ten cents, nothing more! It doesn't matter who earned it, when, or how – ten cents is ten cents."
"You're right! What was I thinking?" Magica placed the diamond back in her purse and pulled out a dollar bill. "This is still an exorbitant profit for ten cents, but I'm feeling generous today."
The gesture seemed to stun Millie. "What?! But... but we were..."
"I thought you weren't interested in that 'trinket?' " Magica asked innocently. She turned to the woman who had been interested in it earlier. "How much were you offering again?"
"Now, now hold on... I think a little extra compensation is warranted when..." Millie's voice trailed off.
Magica attempted to help her out: "...when a woman has to part with her beloved husband's precious treasure?"
Magica knew she'd won when she saw Millie flinch under the increased laughter. "I have no interest in such pathetic 'treasures'," she declared. "But I do like that diamond..."
"Don't be so hasty," Magica warned her. "I'm sure you could get a much better offer somewhere else..."
"I told you s-"
"Shut up!" Millie hissed at her friend before she could finish. "The diamond for the dime! Take it or leave it!"
"Well, if you insist, dahling," Magica said with a nonchalant shrug as she took out the jewel again.
Millie unclasped the chain from her neck but still seemed reluctant to give it up so easily. "The chain is extra," she snapped.
"Fine, keep the chain," Magica told her.
"Of course – you don't need it anyway..." Millie snapped the coin out of its frame. She held the dime out, and Magica extended her hand for it. "...but you do need this," she said, without releasing it. "And I'm your only hope for getting it."
"And I'm your only hope for gaining anything by getting rid of it," Magica reminded her, trying to control her temper. They were at a stalemate, and she could see no way out. She had nothing else to bargain with. How was she going to convince Millie to hand over that coin?
"Not necessarily," Millie pointed out. "Maybe I could find your uncle and ask him what he'd be willing to pay for it directly..."
"And how do you plan to do that?"
The question seemed to cause something to occur to Millie for the first time. "Just who are you, anyway?"
Magica thrust the diamond into her face. "Enough of this! Give. Me. That. Dime!"
Millie started at the unexpected display of passion and shrank back from the murderous glare now facing her. Magica could tell the other woman knew she was done negotiating and that she intended to get what she wanted by any means necessary; for an instant, she even let herself enjoy the sight of the woman cowering before her threatening gaze (clearly, she didn't like confrontation any more than she liked adventure, and she had none of Scrooge McDuck's courage – what would he say if he knew?).
Magica held out her hand again. "Now," she ordered.
Millie gulped and tried to collect herself. "Of course, this way, it's under the table," she tried to say casually. "All right, I guess it's a fair trade." She placed her hand over the diamond, but Magica held it fast and narrowed her eyes even more. Millie dropped the coin in her palm, and the sorceress gave her the gem. Sold!
"At last! It's mine! All mine!" The feeling of the dime in her hand obliterated all context of the situation from Magica's mind. She forgot where she was and who she was with. All she could remember was that the Number One Dime was now fully, legally hers, and no one, including Scrooge, had any claim on it! It was hers! All hers! She had done it! Her plan had succeeded! She had earned it fair and square, the first coin ever made by the strongest, smartest, bravest, fiercest, wealthiest, hardest-working, most determined, most ruthless, greatest industrialist in the history of the world! All its power was now hers! She laughed wildly as she placed it in her amulet. Just look at it! What would Scrooge say if he could see who was wearing his priceless treasure now?
"Sheesh, don't get so carried away," Magica distantly heard Millie say. That brought her close enough to Earth to realize it was probably time for her to go. Still laughing, too high on her triumph to care about her dignity or the need to avoid suspicion (nothing mattered now that she had her prize, nothing else could ever matter again!), she spun around, holding her amulet up high, and danced away, still repeating, "It's mine! All mine! At last! It's mine!" until she was out in the street. "What are you looking at?" she snapped, still laughing, at the doorman who was watching her very quizzically. His confused look was the last thing she saw before she vanished.
Magica continued to rave about her victory once she was alone back in her house in her regular dress. "It's mine! I did it! I won! I finally won! You hear me, Scrooge? Your Number One Dime is all mine now, fair and square!" She ought to zap herself over to his mansion and show him right now! No, she ought to get back to Rome, up to Vesuvius, and make the preparations for the spell! But why rush? She hadn't stolen, extorted, or tricked anyone out of the dime this time. She had bought it! It was legally hers! Scrooge had no legal right to take it from her this time! She could wait as long as she wanted to melt it down, and there was nothing Scrooge could do about it!
In fact, as she looked down at the dime in her amulet, Magica suddenly felt disappointed when she thought of how she'd have to melt it down for her spell. All the hard work she'd gone through to get it, all the battles she'd fought with Scrooge over it, all the nights she'd dreamed of this day, only to destroy it... what a waste! Now that she had Scrooge's dime more securely in her possession than she ever had, Magica realized she couldn't bear the thought of destroying it... at least, not so soon, not without taking the time to properly savor her victory. After all, there was no need to hurry. The dime was her legal property now; Scrooge couldn't stop her even when he learned the truth. How long would that take? Was Millie wondering the same thing? Back to the crystal ball!
Magica saw Millie still surrounded by her entourage at the party.
"That was a risky move, Millie."
"How are you going to explain this to Scrooge?"
"I'm not," Millie answered confidently as she admired her new diamond.
"You don't think he'll notice it's missing?"
"Not with any help from me," Millie assured them. "When he does, I'll cry, say I lost it, was too afraid to tell him, and make him feel so sorry for me, he'll buy me a real necklace to cheer me up."
"You really think he'll believe that?"
Millie laughed. "He'll believe anything I tell him. Besides, I don't see how I could make him believe what really happened to it if I tried. I almost don't believe it." She shook her head, and Magica waved her hand, dissolving the scene, satisfied at the impression she'd left on Scrooge's gold digger.
As she clutched the amulet in her hand, Magica couldn't help but wonder how justified Millionaira's claims were. Did she really have Scrooge as duped as she thought? Was he completely blind to the truth about the woman he was marrying? Would he really go through with the wedding? She didn't care about him, they had almost nothing in common, she didn't value him or anything about him, except his money. He apparently wasn't even attracted to her – not the way a husband and wife were supposed to be. Scrooge marrying her would be as tragic a waste as melting down his dime. It was so disappointing to think he was foolish enough to fall for her act.
But there was still time. He had until they'd walked down the aisle to come to his senses without having to pay dearly for his mistake. Magica wouldn't count him out until then. She took his dime out of the amulet and held it between her thumb and forefinger. She decided then that she wouldn't do anything with it at least until after the wedding, after the wedding was called off, or after Scrooge learned she had it, whichever came first. She wanted to watch until the end of the story, and she wanted this in her hand when the end came. When Scrooge found out, she wanted him to know that she had felt no urgency to create her amulet because she knew he had no right to stop her now. She hoped she'd be watching when he found out his sweetheart had sold his most prized possession to his arch enemy – she wanted to see the look his face when he learned she'd beaten him.
There was something else Magica realized she wanted to see: the look on his face when Scrooge discovered the truth about his bride. She inexplicably felt more confident that he would before he said, "I do." In fact, Magica was almost tempted to go to his wedding herself and see just what transpired there. No, there was no "almost" about it. If the wedding wasn't called off, she would go; that would be his last chance to come to his senses, which he would do if it went that far. Magica refused to believe that such a challenging adversary of hers could be so easily outsmarted by that worthless snob. She'd never forgive Scrooge if he was.
Magica kept a close eye on Scrooge up until the day of his wedding. She got neither of her wishes. He never learned either why his bride was really marrying him, or what she had done with his Number One Dime. Magica found she was glad – it would no doubt make for an interesting show this afternoon.
She had prepared to sneak in, but her own impatience doomed that plan. She'd arrived too early; she was the first guest in line for the wedding – there was no crowd to hide in. She preferred it this way. Scrooge's stoic butler robotically motioned her forward without bothering to see who she was. She signed her name right there in the guest book and wrote the message, Congratulations, Scroogey, darling! She wished she could see the look on his face when he saw that... oh, not another one, this was getting monotonous!
As she'd predicted, there was no wedding, although the deciding factor was a surprise.
It had, indeed, been an interesting show, but Magica was at first lost with what to do with herself afterwards. If Scrooge lived through this day, it would take him a while to wrap things up with his former fiancée and for the matter of his Number One Dime to come up. Nothing to do but head home and wait for him to come to her.
It was approaching midnight when Magica heard her front door kicked down by someone who hadn't bothered to check that is was unlocked. "Where is it, you witch?!"
It was amazing how her ears heard "witch" but her mind heard a different word every time he said that. Always the gentleman! Magica had been lounging in a chair with her back to the door, twirling her amulet in the air, wrapping its chain around her fingers. She turned her chair halfway around so that she was facing him sideways but didn't bother to alter her relaxed posture. "So, you're still alive?"
"Just barely," Scrooge clarified. He was still in his tuxedo. He saw what she was spinning in the air and began to dash towards her. She stopped and wrapped her fist around the amulet. He stopped in the same instant, judging it best not to make any sudden moves.
"Is your trigger happy girlfriend right behind you?" Magica asked, unconcerned but curious.
"Her flight should be well on its way back to the Yukon by now," Scrooge explained. "And she was so furious, I think she left behind any desire ever to see me again."
"She did seem quite upset."
"Well, I deserve it," he conceded with a shrug. "I made a fool of myself."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, dahling – we all make mistakes."
His eyes narrowed. "You know the biggest mistake I made in this farce?"
Magica cocked her eyebrow mischievously. "Do you?"
"I didn't find out until Goldie decided she'd scared me enough and I was finally able to go back and confront Millionaira."
"You and Millie must have had a lot to talk about."
Scrooge flinched at the name, but his voice was perfectly steady when he said, "Yes, and eventually I got around to demanding my Number One Dime back. She informed me that she had sold it to a woman who showed up the day I gave it to her and seemed very eager to buy it."
"How unlucky for you! Did you ask her for a description?"
"I didn't need to. I marched right over here."
Magica now turned so they were face to face. She clasped the amulet around her neck and leaned back with her hands behind her head. She saw Scrooge tremble with fury as he looked at his dime dangling from her neck. "And what are you going to do about it?" Magica asked him, grinning from ear to ear.
Scrooge's eyes burned with hatred, but his voice was icy as he asked, "You don't seriously expect me to let you keep that without a fight?"
"Go ahead – then it can be the first coin you didn't make square."
Scrooge grasped his cane in both hands like the fighting staff it usually resembled. "That's the first coin I ever earned, and I..."
"Gave it away," Magica reminded him. "Now I earned it, fair and square."
Scrooge's expression changed, as if he'd noticed something for the first time. "You haven't done anything with it yet!"
"Why should I? It's mine now. I can wait as long as I want before..."
Scrooge interrupted her this time: "...creating your 'Midas Touch' amulet made from coins from the world's richest men... why that coin?!" he barked. "There are plutocrats all over the world who own billions of coins they'd be happy to sell you! I have a bin full of billions of coins I've earned that I would be happy to sell you! Why do you have to have that coin?! You don't even need it!"
Magica stood up. She tried to ignore how agitated his questions made her feel and answer calmly, "If coins owned by the wealthiest of the wealthy possess power like Circe theorized, the coin owned the longest by the richest must have the most power." It was exactly what she told herself every time the very same questions occurred to her.
"What if you didn't need it? What if you could get rich without some magic spell?"
Magica crossed her arms and smiled, calmer at the change of subject. "What are you getting at, Scroogey?"
"How much do you want for it?"
Magica burst out laughing. "What are you offering?"
"Anything you want!" Scrooge yelled desperately, dignity no longer a concern. "I'll pay anything for it, name your price, just give me that dime!" He took a deep breath and sighed but sounded no less angry or determined when he continued: "You're right, Magica – you bought it fair and square. If all you want is wealth, you can have it, but I need that dime back!"
"Of course all I want is wealth!" Magica snapped. Scrooge seemed as confused by that response as she was.
"So name your price!" he screamed again.
Magica snickered and said, "You can't afford it, dahling." She didn't know what that meant and didn't care to know.
Scrooge's voice was dripping with cold hatred as he said, "It's not money you want from me, is it? You just enjoy this, don't you? Having me at your mercy, begging for my life?"
"Would you prefer I want nothing but your money, like your precious Millie?"
Scrooge grabbed his head in both hands and closed his eyes. "Don't bring that up!"
"It's because of 'that' that you're in this mess," Magica pointed out.
"No, it's because of your obsession! You haven't given me a moment's peace since the day you first walked into my office!"
"If it helps, the feeling's mutual!"
"I've never done anything to you!"
"You think I enjoy this?!" Magica demanded. "Always chasing after you, spying on you, trying to come up with new schemes – you don't think that gets exhausting after a while? Me, 'enjoy' this? Do you have any idea how much I hate you?!"
"Then why don't you leave me alone?! You put yourself and me through all this trouble just to get your hands on one little dime?!"
Magica clutched the amulet at her neck. "Well, now that I have that dime, you should be happy to know I will leave you alone!"
"Oh, no you don't!" Scrooge waved his cane above his head. "I don't care how much you paid that faker Millionaira for it, I'm not leaving here without that dime! If you won't name a price, it's worth ten cents, and if I leave you another ten cents, I won't be stealing anything!"
"Ooh, what an impressive rationalization," Magica observed sincerely.
"Thank you," Scrooge said in the same tone before it changed back: "Now hand it over!"
Magica held the amulet up. "You want it, you'll have to take it." And she put it down the front of her dress and backed against the wall as far away from him as she could get to make her point.
"You thieving witch!" Scrooge was beside himself with rage. As badly as he wanted his dime back, he didn't want to commit murder, and he was sure he would if he let himself get anywhere near Magica. He glared at her and imagined strangling her with the chain around her neck. He imagined wiping that infuriating grin off her face by bashing her head in as she begged for mercy. He imagined ripping her dress off and ripping that amulet from around her throat and...
Scrooge started as he realized what he was thinking. His breath came in frightened gasps as his eyes panned of their own accord from her face down the entire length of her body. It struck him for the first time that it was the body of an attractive woman. All the times they'd fought before, Magica de Spell had never been more than an enemy (or occasionally a reluctant ally) to him. Why would he notice this tonight? His gaze roamed back to her chest where she'd dared him to reach for his dime. It wasn't like this was the first time they'd found themselves in this situation...
"General Custer's Last Stand!"
"And here comes Sitting Bull!"
"Which means we're sitting ducks!"
"Speak for yourself, dahling."
Maybe if they hadn't been running for their lives from a storm of arrows, he would have thought more about what she'd done there.
"What are you smirking at?" Magica suddenly demanded.
Had he been smirking? "I was thinking how if that tactic didn't work for me, what makes you think it'll work for you?"
She blinked. He knew that she knew what he was referring to. The memory of it didn't seem to fluster her like she had just flustered him. How did she do that? How did she get to him like this, make him so furious, make him think such crazy things? He'd never met anyone, either an enemy or a woman, who could do this to him, except...
He shook his head as if that could stop the memories. Why, oh why, did he have to think of that night now, of all times? Nothing he felt now could possibly be compared to what he'd felt that one night. There had been none like it since. He had never met another woman since then who could drive him to such a point. It suddenly struck him that he should have! He'd been about to get married, and he had never thought of the woman he'd chosen to be his wife that way, not once. Even when they joked about having kids, it hadn't been serious enough for him to consider the implications. He had known she was beautiful, but it was the same type of neutral admiration one felt for a beautiful painting. She had never stirred him; he had never desired her. How could he have? He thought of the constant, violent, agonizing passion he'd lived in for a month with the only woman he'd ever desired – nothing he felt for that dainty snob had ever come close. Not only had he never loved her (only the figment of his imagination that he had let her convince him was real), he had never been attracted to her. He had been in love with the idea of having a real, complete family and almost sold himself to her in exchange for that illusion. And his punishment for such shameful foolishness was to find himself at the mercy of Magica de Spell for no discernible reason...
"What do you want from me?" he screamed at her.
Magica blinked in astonishment, confused about where the question had come from and annoyed by the question itself. Why was she doing this? If she couldn't let herself know, she certainly couldn't tell him. "Nothing!" she screamed back, gesturing towards her chest and the amulet with his precious dime. "You want this from me, remember?"
"Do you really want to fight me for it?"
"Do you want to fight me?"
I want to kill you, Scrooge thought to himself. I want to make you pay for all you've put me through. I want to show you who's the stronger one here. I want to punish you for what you've done to me. I want to... He grabbed his head again. These had been his exact thoughts that night, too! He raised his head and looked up at Magica, trying to remind himself she was his enemy. He looked her directly in the eyes and relived every battle they'd ever fought, every time she'd ever stolen his dime, every trick she'd ever played on him, the way his heart pounded in panic every time he found out she was in town or planning a new scheme, the way his blood raced in fury every time he heard her name, the sense of helplessness she forced him to feel before her power and his determination to rise to meet her challenge... Instead of emphasizing the contrast between his feelings that night and now, the memories only seemed to make them seem more similar. He was now faced by another woman whose strength was a match for his, against whom victory was only possible through surrender. He hadn't met a woman like this, as strong as this, as challenging as this, in over fifty years. Only now that he admitted it was he able to put that night aside. There were no ghosts of the past between them. It was just him and Magica now.
"If it's a fight you want..." His mind wasn't clear enough to finish before he lunged for her. She tried to dodge him but failed. They struggled viciously against each other, him trying to get the amulet and her trying to stop him. "Why do you want this so badly?" he demanded, trying to distract her.
"Its... power..." she gasped.
"That's not true, is it?" He hadn't planned to say it, he had no idea why he'd said it, and he didn't care why he'd said it – nothing made sense anymore. He stopped trying to get the coin and simply held her beneath him. "Is it?!" She fought her way free, and they were on their feet before he got her against the wall. "Why do you want it?" He wanted to hear her say it!
"Why do you want it?" she echoed.
"It's mine now!"
"Why? Why did you have to have it?!"
"It was yours!" She tackled him to the floor. Her necklace came free and dangled over him as she held him beneath her. He didn't try to grab it. He smirked at her as if that tortured confession had been her surrender and he had won. She had the dime, but he had the knowledge that she had only wanted it because it belonged to him, because it was the first fruits of his labor and embodied everything she admired and envied in him, because being strong and clever enough to get it from him made her feel more powerful than any magic ever could, because owning it somehow made her feel like he belonged to her, too. Now they both knew. He would pay for that! He would give her what she wanted now!
Before long, he managed to get the upper hand again. He grabbed the amulet, but she grabbed his wrist at the same time and wouldn't let go. The action somehow made his head suddenly clear again; he became frighteningly aware of what was happening and tried to pull away. She laughed arrogantly, "What's wrong, Scroogey dahling?" His last coherent thought was how much he hated her and that now he would punish her for reducing him to this.
It was late in the morning when Scrooge McDuck walked out of Magica de Spell's house. He was alone, wearing his tuxedo from yesterday's disastrous ceremony, and (at least outwardly) calm. He had his Number One Dime in his right hand. Magica had given it to him willingly, right after she'd magically mended his jacket and thrown that to him ("Sorry, I got carried away"). Her last words to him had been, "Fair trade, dahling."
Scrooge's first coherent thought as he walked home was that last night was supposed to have been his wedding night.