The Price and the Cost
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The Price and the Cost
"The price is high enough," the old queen replied.
"And the cost will also be high. Not your life, but that is the extent of your guarantee. As for the price, most goes to pay for the ingredients of the potions. Turning you into a young woman isn't a matter of waving a wand. For my living, I ask less than your brute soldiers wrest from a single village in a year."
"It is a high price."
"So it is. Turn it down."
"No. My youth once again is worth it. Worth far more than a score of villages. The soldiers will just have to be more persuasive this coming harvest time." She smiled at the witch's wince.
The dread sisters can put a lot of knowledge into a peasant girl in a decade, she thought, but the result is still a peasant girl. She ruled a rich land. Only soldiers could keep it from being conquered. Soldiers required pay, as well as certain other inducements. And almost none of the peasant women who were among the other inducements came from villages which had paid their full taxes. The peasants were too self-centered to see the necessity. Oh, well, that was one of the limitations which made them peasants.
The ingredients were already at hand. The wisewoman guested and prepared the chamber two days and one night. Then the queen fasted and bathed. She entered the room alone and in a plain shift. The scents were already dizzying before the witch began anointing her, and those smells were worse. She could remember drinking several concoctions, standing still while the witch danced around her, herself spinning until she dropped to the floor, giants coming out of the floor and gnomes out of the ceiling. Which images were true and which were drug-induced she couldn't say.
When she awoke, she ached in every bone. She was still dizzy, hungrier than she could remember being, and thirstier than hungry. She was also slender and smooth-skinned. The best she could estimate from what she could see without a mirror, she was about 14. Her breasts were slight and her mound dusted with some light fuzz. The shift from the night before, the only clothing in the room, draped over her and fell below the middle of her calf.
All her clothing would have to be replaced, but that was minor compared to the new body. She'd put the servants on the job today. Thinking that, she called for a servant. At least, she tried to call.
She could hear nothing. "Every piece of magic," she recalled, "has a cost and a price." Quickly she pushed over a chair. The crash was loud in her ears. She wasn't deaf, she was dumb. She would roast that witch over a slow fire, but that was for later. Now she had youth, and she was going to enjoy it. She nearly skipped out the door and strode toward the great hall.
"Stop there, girly," the huge soldier said, "where do you think you're going?" She tried to speak, remembered she couldn't, and pointed instead. "Well, you aren't. Come with me to the sergeant of the guard." He grabbed her arm and hauled her with him. He headed towards the barracks used by the soldiers on castle-guard duty.
She didn't know what would happen to a young girl hauled into that barracks who couldn't explain herself and couldn't complain. But, as she trotted to keep this soldier from pulling her off her feet, she began to imagine.
The End The Price and the Cost Uther Pendragon firstname.lastname@example.org 2003/08/05 2004/03/24 Another story involving magic: "Igrayne" This story is indexed under: etc. Stories not in other categories This story is coded (M+f magic nc). The code, magic, means: Magic, or ghouls, or that sort of background. For more on the story codes and how to use them to find the sorts of stories to interest you: "Story codes for readers" The directory to all my stories can be found at: Index to Uther Pendragon's Website