“Hey, listen, you gotta help me,” pleaded Brooke. “I brought all the things you wanted me to find last time: Tongue of Newt, Eye of a Fire Salamander, Hair of a Banshee, Crystallized Heart of an Ice Giant. It just—it didn’t work. It didn’t work at all!”

The Enchantress stepped out from behind her beaded curtain, gazed at Brooke with newly-wakened disinterest, and stretched her lithe arms. “What can I do for you, darling?” she asked, eyelashes aflutter. She wore heavy makeup, including dark purple eyeshadow, that made her green eyes stand out.

“Un-Do IT!” Brooke exclaimed, balling her hand into a fist and slamming it down onto the oak tabletop. “The Prince was supposed to climb up to my tower and rescue me and fall madly, deeply in love with me, but he didn’t!”

“Ah,” the Enchantress replied. “Well, he’s a fool, then. The magic worked like it should have, but the problem is you can’t make anyone do anything, so sometimes it doesn’t work, no matter how hard you want it to.” With a flick of her wrist, the Enchantress caused a pair of coffee mugs to materialize and fill with coffee. Then another flick, and there appeared before them a couple of tiny dishes with tiny spoons and lumps of sugar.

“Tell me all about how it happened. In order to fix things, I have to know all the details.”

The Enchantress sat in a green-padded velvet chair, and as she walked over to it, Brooke couldn’t help but notice how her purple dress hugged her curves in all the right ways, in all the right places. The Enchantress seized her coffee mug, dropped in a lump of sugar, and set the spoon in before turning her wrist in circles to make it stir. She motioned to the chair before her desk.

“Come. Sit.”

Princess Brooke sat, the metal rings of her leather armor clinking as she did so. She set her sword down beside her, on the floor, and then grasped the coffee mug, picking up a lump of sugar in her thumb and forefinger and dropping it into the cup.

“Okay,” she said with a sigh. “So here’s what happened. The last time I saw you, I was 16 years old. My father brought me here, a fair maiden from any fairy tale, complete with pink gown.

“I remember you,” said the Enchantress.

“Well a lot’s happened since then. I expected that the Prince—Derek of the kingdom of Summerdale—would ride up on his white steed, ask my father for my hand in marriage, ascend the stairway—I don’t have hair like Rapunzel, and anyway, that would hurt—and that would be that. We’d ride off on his steed toward our happy marriage, our happy future together.” Here, she paused to take a sip of her coffee. “Well, he was a prince alright, and he did ride up on a white steed, and sure enough, he did give me a ring, that belonged to his grandmother. It was a band of silver crossed over gold. He said that he would marry me as soon as he completed knightly deeds worthy of me. Then he rode off, and I waited, and waited, and waited. I turned 18, and then 20, and then 25, and eventually, I got really tired of waiting. I decided that I would go and find Prince Derek and see what he’d accomplished thus far.”

The Enchantress nodded and then casually whisked her long black hair from her shoulder, brushing it toward her back. “I’m surprised your father let you leave the castle. It’s dangerous out there. There are dragons and such.”

“Oh, I know,” said Brooke, pointing to a large scar on her left arm. “Here’s where one got me pretty good. But I’ve learned how to deal with the dragons. They’re not nearly as troublesome as men!”

Here, the Enchantress spat out her coffee in a spray that coated the table. “WH-WHAT?!” And then she laughed uproariously before making sigils in the air, summoning cloths to clean the table. She made fresh dishes with new sugar cubes appear, whisking away the old ones into the netherworld. “Oh, I’ve had my own troubles, goodness knows,” said the Enchantress, and Brooke noticed how the woman wore her age well. Hell, the Enchantress might be the answer to my woes, Princess Brooke thought. Things haven’t worked out with men, but maybe that’s for a reason.

The Enchantress crossed her powerful legs and sipped from her coffee mug once more. I’ve never been with a woman before, thought Brooke. But what would it be like to have those powerful legs wrapped around me like a serpent?

Brooke continued her tale. “Anyway, my father sent me with one of his knights to go and seek out the Prince, as was my wish. I knew that because of the spell, as soon as he saw me, it would be love at first sight, like Romeo and Juliet. I envisioned all of these romantic things happening to me. But there I was with Lord Vertai, and we searched high and low, making our way through dragon-infested lands toward Summerdale. Eventually, we found him in a tavern, making passes at a tavern wench named Irena. Prince Derek was surprised to see me, and suddenly, interested. But the thing is, I no longer wanted HIM. So I swore off men forever and learned that I have a way with dragons. I learned to lure them in, trap them, ride them. There’s no better dragon-rider in all the land. If need be, I can rid a place of them. That’s how I make most of my money these days. And Prince Derek hasn’t stopped seeking me out. In every town I enter, he has men asking about my whereabouts. I can’t have this continue. I need to end the spell. That’s why I’ve come here.”

“Love spells are not easily undone,” the Enchantress answered, and then yawned mightily. She set down her mug.

“Then, like, re-focus it or something! There MUST be something you can do!”

“Oh, there is, there is…but I require a different form of payment for this type of service to be rendered.” She motioned toward the beaded curtain, where beyond, her bedroom lay. Then she held out her hand toward Brooke. “Is this a payment you’re willing to make?” she asked.

Brooke smiled and set her own hand into the Enchantress’. “Oh I am most willing,” Brooke answered. As they entered the room, the Enchantress’ dress fell to the floor, revealing her naked olive skin. Brooke felt a vibration tingle through her as she removed her leather armor and then her undergarments. She felt the hands of the Enchantress, first at her hips, and then roaming up toward her breasts and then down to hips again. A gentle push, and she was on her back on the soft bed.

“I’ll make you forget all about Prince Derek,” said the Enchantress, licking her lips.


Eventually, they emerged from behind the beaded curtain, satisfied, the price having been well paid. Fully clothed once more, it was time to focus on what Brooke had originally come for; breaking the love spell that bound her to Prince Derek of Summerdale, the buffoon who chased tavern wenches. Brooke seized the leather satchel attached to her belt and began taking out all the things she’d brought to reverse the spell with: the Tongue of Newt, a tiny, forked thing that fell like a gummy candy onto the table surface; the Eye of a Fire Salamander, hard and dark like a black marble, but warm to the touch; the Hair of a Banshee, thin as a filament and nearly clear, reflecting the light in strange ways; and the Heart of an Ice Giant, which she handled with a tiny pair of tongs, brought for the purpose. As she plunked it onto the table, it gave off a constant vapor.

“Wonderful!” said the Enchantress. She seized a copper bowl from beneath the table and brought it to the surface, along with a bundle of sage. With the sage, she unwound it from its bundle and spread the dried leaves like a nest within the bowl. Then with a wave of her hands, she took the other items and set them into the nest. She searched for, and found a book of matches, striking one and dropping it into the bowl, as the contents sent forth a light show, bathing the room’s interior with various colors.

The Enchantress sat down, holding out her hands to Brooke, who had seated herself at the opposite end of the table. “Give me your hands. In order for the spell to work, we need to focus together on dissipating the energy of the love spell. The magic will go where it will, now; some of this is uncontrollable. There is no saying what the side effects of dissipating the magic will be. It may give you strange powers, new understandings, and this love will be spread, a little bit, to those around you. We will try.”

Brooke gave her hands to the Enchantress, who began to hum in low tones, the notes of a song. The lights fantastic continued to dance around the room to grow stronger, more hushed, stronger again, and then all at once, a loud CRACK issued forth. The Enchantress had been clenching her eyes shut. She opened them now, looking around to see that the lights were gone, as were the items that had been in the bowl only moments before.

“It is done,” she declared. “There is nothing more that I can do for you for the moment.”

“Thank you, Enchantress,” said Brooke, taking up her sword and leaving for now.


As Brooke left the cottage of the Enchantress, she walked over to the Crossroads tavern, where Lord Ventai waited, drinking a pint of amber ale. Her stomach rumbled, and she realized how hungry she was, having neglected her need for food in her quest to satisfy other urges. She felt a fluttering within for a moment as she hoped the love spell hadn’t hit Lord Ventai. But when she entered, he clapped her on the shoulder just like always and offered to buy her a pint. She accepted and ordered a breakfast steak and eggs as well.

As she waited for her order, she looked around the room. I wonder who’s going to fall in love with me? But no one seemed to take any particular interest in her. They were playing darts or making boasts about dragons they’d slain, or making bets at the gambling tables. Maybe the love spell was erased completely, Brooke considered. Soon, she was served, and ate her breakfast with great relish, savoring it.

“Good news!” exclaimed Lord Ventai, raising his pint into the air. “Your Prince Derek has been located, the next town over. My intel sources say that he is currently at a tavern called the Duck and Crow, on the west end of Rodalia. Let us go there and see what has held him up so long!”

“There is no need for that,” Brooke replied, and took a sip from her pint glass.

“My Lady, do not be silly! We have come all this way. Do you not want to see your Prince and fall into happily wedded bliss?!”

“Things are not so simple, my Ventai. You know that. Life is not a fairy tale, and I am no longer some helpless princess waiting in a tower for a knight on his white steed to ride up and rescue me. There is nothing to rescue me from. But yes, let us go and see Prince Derek. I do have something to give back to him after all these years.” She reached into her pocket and felt the cold reassurance of the ring that nestled there. She’d give him back the gift that was to bind her to him for all eternity. When they’d finished their beers, Princess Brooke and the knight Lord Ventai headed out to find their horses and ride.


But as they stepped out of the door of the tavern, all they saw was a blur of dust kicked up by the rode. Their horses bucked and neighed as they stood attached to their hitching posts. The red dragon barreled down the road and then stopped, a cloud of dust swirling up around him. When the dust cleared, Brooke and Lord Ventai looked up at the dragon, who wore sunglasses, and was standing with his arms folded, red scales glistening in the sunlight. Brooke felt a tingle coating her arms like a shield of personal lightning, and at that moment, she understood all too well whom the love spell had hit: the dragons of the world.

“Hey baby,” said the red dragon, that breathy whisper to his voice. “Want a ride?”

Brooke rolled her eyes. When she’d been recruited as a dragon rider, she thought it would be exciting and noble and that the dragons would be these impressive creatures of great beauty and blessed silence. She never expected the dragons to have attitudes, loves, personalities. She wasn’t prepared for this. But she did need a ride to the next town, and her feet were sore already. Maybe I can use the way this love spell has played out to my advantage. She decided to play along.

“How much?” she asked. “And do you know how to get us to the Duck and Crow in Rodalia?”

“Free for you, hot stuff.” Then he looked at Lord Ventai with a gaze of barely-concealed contempt. “Five gold coins for the page boy.”

Lord Ventai sneered. “I’ll take my horse, my badly-scared horse, thank you.” Then he turned to Brooke and said, “I’ll meet you there if you’re taking flight.”

“Sounds good to me,” she replied.

The red dragon lowered himself onto all fours and leaned down to allow Brooke to strap on her riding saddle. Brooke grumbled. She hated having to ride dragons, but the alternative was equally repugnant to her. She didn’t particularly want to spend more time getting to Rodalia than was necessary. She wanted to find Prince Derek and whatever wench he was currently fawning over, give him his stupid ring back, and be done with it. So she climbed up onto the dragon’s leg and struggled with the saddle, tossing a strap over and then working it under the dragon’s belly, tightening it like a belt.

“Oh, baby. Tighter,” said the dragon. “You know how I like it,” and he moaned softly as Brooke adjusted the straps. Brooke ignored the dragon. Dragons were so silly; good company, sometimes, but they always had attitudes, racing around, trying to be so cool. Ever since they got hold of a sight-stone to see into the Other Realm, they went around singing blues songs or trying to imitate guys named James Dean or Steve McQueen. Lord knows where they got the sunglasses from; probably hired some wizard to make them.

Brooke climbed onto the red dragon’s back. “Oh yeah, just like that, baby,” he said, adjusting his sunglasses.

“Can we just go?” Brooke asked, getting more annoyed by the minute.

“Alright, baby,” he said. “Hold on tight.”

Together, they soared on toward Rodalia, Brooke glad to be off her feet for a while. They couldn’t hold a conversation well mid-flight, and the dragon seemed blissfully occupied with riding the air currents. Then he pitched straight downward. Brooke yelled, clinging on for dear life as the dragon barrel-rolled toward the ground while spitting a ball of fire.

“WE’RE GOING TO DIE!” Brooke screamed.

But the red dragon pulled up just in time, crunching down on something. He picked his teeth with a sword and then tossed it behind him. Brooke caught it by the hilt.

“Sorry; saw a knight. They’re so tasty. I haven’t seen one of those in a while.”

“As long as it’s not my traveling companion, Lord Ventai, we’re good.”

“Nope,” the dragon replied. “This one was one of those yummy blond fellas.”

And then all at once, the dragon came to a stop. “And…we’re here.” Brooke clutched at her racing heart as the dragon hit the ground on all fours.

“You’re welcome,” the dragon replied. He stood up on his back legs and puffed out his chest before folding his front legs/arms and looking down at Brooke. “You come back any time you need a ride, okay, baby?”

Brooke gave him a thumbs-up and the dragon flew off after giving Brooke an affectionate air-kiss. Princess Brooke looked around, trying to see past the dust that the dragon had kicked up upon landing. She saw a building that looked like a tavern and began walking toward it, following a dirt path that led on. Then a shiny blue dragon landed by the side of the road, as though waiting for her. “Hey, baby,” he said, snapping his fingers in a silent rhythm. “This is your captain speaking. You need a ride, right? I’m the fastest thing in the skies. I’ll get you there like time doesn’t exist.”

Oh my goodness, you can stop trying to be cool now, Brooke thought. And yet it was oddly comforting that the dragons were suddenly in love with her. I guess I’ll never have to worry about having to fight them off anymore, or them trying to eat me.

“I’m good, but thanks,” said Brooke, continuing on down the road. But the blue dragon was persistent.

“You haven’t even told me your name, hot stuff,” said the blue dragon. “Lemme tell it to you like it is. You don’t need to walk, when you can fly, and you don’t need to fly, when you can have a fly dragon to ride on. Some of us fly low, you know, like hoverboards. Don’t you think you ought to give it a try? Won’t we have fun?”

It did sound tempting. But she didn’t like to give her own personal power away, whatever was left of it, and besides, the building wasn’t that far away. She thought she could even make out the image on the sign and see a painted duck and crow. I can make it. She walked along. “I think I’ll be alright, but thank you,” she said.

“Any time,” the blue dragon replied, and flew off.

But it wasn’t long before she heard another voice, this time behind her.


“Lemme guess, baby?” said Brooke, rolling her eyes. Act like I haven’t heard that one before. “And you’re gonna offer me a ride, right? Gonna offer me a fun time?” Brooke paused and looked behind her.

“Ooh,” said this dragon, flipping a cigarette between his talons rather awkwardly before accidentally snapping it in half, the pieces dropping to the ground. But no matter; this dragon had some sort of purse-like satchel and simply reached into it for another cigarette, pulling a new one from the pack as though nothing happened. This time, he tried to light it, and the whole thing went up in a tiny ball of flame, which the dragon flicked away, and it fell to the Earth like a miniature falling star. “You real cool, baby, real cool,” said this one.

Brooke smiled. The dragon offered her a cigarette, but she refused.

“I wasn’t gonna offer you a ride—well—not that kind,” said the green dragon. “If you wanna talk about the other kind of ride, well, I think that could be arranged sometime…”

Brooke rolled her eyes and continued walking down the road. She heard the voice of the dragon behind her.

“You ever been with a dragon before? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Honey, once you go dragon, you never go back…”

She kept on walking. Eventually, this dragon, like the others, gave up and went along on its way. I’m parched, Brooke had to admit, and another beer sounded real good right now. She walked in to the Duck and Crow, pushing open the swinging doors of the tavern that looked like an Old West saloon, and scanned the room. Behind the bar, a balding man was drying glasses with a towel.

“What can I get for you?” he asked.

“Whiskey on the rocks, please.”

“Coming right up,” the bartender answered. This was a nice tavern, but it was decorated here and there with stuffed crows and ducks, and that gave it a strange feel. This is a place where things go to die, like dreams of happy marriage, thought Brooke. The bar was filled with patrons, and she visually scanned them until she saw the person she’d come to confront; he was seated at a back table, playing cards and flirting with a tavern wench, gazing at her assets barely covered by a black lace camisole.

Brooke walked over and slipped her hands across Prince Derek’s shoulders from behind, letting them wander down over his chest. “My betrothed,” she purred, and she felt him stiffen up bodily, like a cat spooked. She could see the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. She heard the false sincerity in his voice as he replied, “Oh, my dear Princess Brooke. How ever did you find me? I’ve been looking for you for so long.”

“You’d have found me sooner, my darling Prince, if I were hiding in that woman’s corset. Turns out, I was at the castle this whole time, waiting for my Prince to ride up on his white steed and rescue me so we could ride off into the sunset together. What a wonderful story that would have been.”

“Indeed, it would have, my darling,” said Derek. “I wanted to be your fairy tale prince. I wanted to come back with tales of great deeds and daring adventures.”

Brooke took the ring from her pocket and set it onto the table in front of Derek.

“We don’t always get what we want in life.” Then she stooped down and whispered into his ear. “But sometimes, it’s for the best.” Then she slipped her hands back from his chest, and his shoulders, and sauntered out of the bar with her dignity restored and intact. She walked out of the Duck and Crow, pushing open those wooden saloon doors, feeling like a new woman at the dawn of a brand new day. She didn’t need Derek any longer, nor anybody to rescue her. The world was hers for the taking at last. Lord Ventai rode up.

“Everything go according to plan?” he asked. “Have you secured your Prince from his current preoccupations?”

“It’s over between me and Derek, my Lord Ventai, but it’s for the best.”

“Oh,” he said, voice tinged with regret. “I think I understand. It’s unfortunate; I was hoping that the two of you would be able to restore what had been lost. But it is a wide world out there, and there are other Princes.”

“Oh, yes,” Princess Brooke replied.

Soon enough, the green dragon came barreling toward her, through the sky, bringing forth a cloud of dust and scaring Lord Ventai’s horse, who reared up on its hind legs. The dragon landed, perched on its back two legs, and lit a cigarette.

“So, baby, have you given what I’ve said some thought? Are you ready to take a ride on the wild side?” He arched one of his scaled eyebrows.

Brooke smiled. He flicked a lit cigarette in her direction and she deftly caught it and began to smoke.

“Yeah; there you go,” said the dragon. “You look real cool. And I can take you anywhere you want to go—anywhere, baby…” He adjusted his sunglasses.

“You know what?” said Brooke. “I think I’m ready for that ride after all. She took her leather harness from her pack and snapped one of the straps as she looked at the scaled creature standing before her. The dragon let out a low hiss of contentment. “And I need you to put some pepper on it.”

The dragon moaned. “Anything you want, baby,” he replied.