Authors: Jody Wallace
A WINTERTIDE SPELL
a short story by
This book is a
work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of
the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be
construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events,
locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Jody Wallace (Meankitty Publishing)
Cover by Jody
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and
This ebook is licensed for the original buyer only. This
ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people at sharing sites, loops,
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work of this author.
Author’s Note to Readers:
“A Wintertide Spell” is a
stand-alone prequel to Jody Wallace’s fantasy romance novel
A Spell for
. There is also a 1300 excerpt from “Field Trip” by Jody Wallace at
the end of this document, an SF-romance novelette rated PG-13.
Blurb for “A Wintertide Spell”:
If the King is fated
to love thirteen women before he turns fifty, is he still husband material? One
cold, snowy Wintertide Eve, Queen Geneva of Foresta tracks her straying spouse
in an attempt to discover where it is he goes at night (a motif that may
reoccur later in life, when she has twelve dancing princesses on her hands.)
As she labors over the solution to her husband’s curse, King
Reginald is attempting to discover a solution for a problem of his own--and for
the entire Middle Kingdoms.
Length: 7500 words
The last hair of the King’s tawny
fur coat disappeared around the corner. Queen Geneva maneuvered herself out
from behind the flower seller’s cart before she lost sight of the sneaky
bastard who called himself her husband.
Maneuvering herself was no simple
matter, all things considered.
The saleslady shot her a knowing
look. She selected a bouquet of small purple blooms, a Kingdom Foresta
specialty even in the cold, infertile season, and offered it to Geneva. “Might I
interest you in a posy of heartsease?”
“Thank you, no. I’m in a rush.”
Normally she would converse with her citizens, but right now she was both angry
and incognito. Her lower back ached, and dirty road sludge weighed down her
nondescript cloak and gown at the hem.
“I would be in a rush, too, were my
babe due any day,” the seller observed. “Luck to you, madam.”
Geneva tugged her hood closer to
her face and hurried past, her fury increasing with every cold, miserable,
plodding step. Wind gusted down the streets of the capital city as if blown by
giants, funneled by the tall buildings on either side. Wintertide was one day
away, and the Wintereve Feast was tonight. By all rights she and her husband
should be warm and cozy at the castle’s hearth, toasting one another with
mulled cider, stringing cranberries and awaiting the birth of their third
Due any day, indeed!
She was far too pregnant and
exhausted to be trailing Reginald as he skulked toward his latest assignation.
Her feet had bloated over the tops of her sheepskin-lined boots. False
contractions hardened her womb so frequently, it stole her breath. Yet here she
was, lumbering along as quickly as she could, because there was no one else she
could trust with such a delicate mission. Not even Nurse Binny, home with
Princesses Susannah and Calypso. Instead of enlisting the older woman’s help,
she’d told her she had to purchase last minute Wintertide gifts. Binny, bossy
as an old fairy, had threatened to call the court healer to prevent Geneva from
But Geneva was Queen. She was the
Queen of Foresta, the pregnant Queen of Foresta, the pregnant and cranky Queen
of Foresta, and by the Dragon, her will would be done.
Her will would be done by everyone
except her sneaking, cheating skunk of a husband.
Geneva reached the corner of Flower
Street to see Reginald whip into the little alleyway where she’d nearly caught
him the first time. Her heart lurched at the sight of him, and she resisted the
urge to call out. To beg him to stop whatever he was doing, to renounce whoever
he was seeing, and come home with her. Instead she waddled down the sidewalk,
her huge abdomen earning her more space as men and women made room for the
pregnant lady with the scowl.
At least Foresta was a polite
kingdom. If anyone had given her trouble on one of her unhappy scouting
missions, she might have had to retract the law currently in place that forbade
putting criminals, or people who annoyed the King and Queen, to death.
Geneva walked faster, hoping to
finish this. Yet once again, when she reached the alley, there was no sign of
Damn and blast. Where could he be
going? The narrow passage led straight to Sundry Street. No detours, no doors,
no ladders, not even any garbage. The cleanest alley in all of Kingdom Foresta,
and her husband managed to hide in it.
Next time, she would bring the
magic sniffing pig, if she could coax the animal out into nasty weather like
this. Not as inconspicuous, alas, but more effective than her human eyes.
Geneva squeezed between the
buildings, the press of bricks on her body icy through her thick, woolen cloak.
She inspected every brick and cobblestone, again, desperate for an explanation.
She longed to put an end to the King’s deception, but she was not a woman to
accuse without proof. Seeing him disappear in an alley wasn’t enough.
But she would find evidence. And
once she had it, she would wield it like a rapier.
She was damned good with a rapier.
Disappointed and tired, she exited
the other side of the alley and stared up and down Sundry Street, searching
amidst all the last-minute shoppers for her husband’s glossy brown head and
confident stride. His broad shoulders. His strong arms and manly chest. Most of
all, his rascally smile—the one that had seduced her seven years ago, when
she’d been a mere baron’s daughter and he’d been the most eligible bachelor in the
So what if one of his birthing
gifts was that he was destined to love thirteen women before his fiftieth year?
They’d both been confident she would be his one and only, that the gift was
somehow a trick.
She’d been a fool. Fairy birthing
gifts always came true. Always.
Had Reginald grown tired of married
life? Of her? Their marriage bed had been warm but celibate with her advanced
pregnancy. From his secretive behavior, to the gold disappearing from the
castle accounts, to the strange way he’d begun to treat her, the Queen was
convinced Reginald had moved on to his next fated love.
Geneva’s only consolation was that
whoever this woman was, she too would be left behind when Reginald met lady
At least she, his Queen, would be
his first love, his wife and the mother of his daughters. All daughters. Only
daughters. For Malady’s curse, the Female Curse, meant no boy children would be
born to any nobles in the Middle Kingdoms forever more.
And it was all Geneva’s fault.
Of course, none of this mattered at
the moment. As she warmed herself in the Dandy Fairy Pawn Shop, considering the
gift of magic flutes for her daughters and a knife in the dark for her husband,
Geneva’s first real contraction hit her like a horse’s hoof. Wetness trickled
hotly between her legs.
Early, but not unexpected.
“Exquisite choice, madam.” The
proprietor approached her and tapped one of the flutes with a long finger.
“Guaranteed to play at least one hundred melodies.”
“Give me three,” she said, gritting
her teeth against the pain, “and then give me your fairy-fone.”
The man raised his eyebrows.
“Excuse me? This is not a public fone booth. You can’t just walk in off the
street and demand the use of my private device.”
This babe, number three, would not
take as long as her others. To the Hinterlands with all this subterfuge.
Geneva dropped the hood of her
cloak and gave the man an icy glare. “Your fairy-fone, citizen.”
He paled and bowed at the same
time, nearly striking his forehead on the glass counter. “Your Highness, yes,
your Highness, at once.”
Geneva, with the fone, used her
status to obtain the fastest conveyance available. No time to get someone from
the castle, but she did know a guy.
The driver, who arrived before
Geneva had suffered through a third contraction, said nothing about the fact
his Queen was unescorted in town. She’d earned a reputation for eccentricity
since marrying their King. Unlike most ladies of the nobility, she dirtied her
hands with castle tasks and planned to educate her daughters to do the same.
Of course, she didn’t tell the
driver she was in labor right away, either, although the Dandy Fairy Proprietor
might have guessed. That delightful fillip would be in all the broadsheets and
gossip rags soon enough, and there was no need to panic him.
“Pay this man well,” she said to
the steward when she alighted at the castle gates. “The babe comes, and he made
sure I arrived home in good time.”
The steward and driver blanched in
tandem. Her anxious staff exploded in a flurry of activity. Bells began to
toll, and a flock of messengers were sent in search of the absent King,
believed to be, like she’d claimed to be, shopping for last minute gifts in
She wished them better luck than
When the guards insisted on
carrying her to her chamber, Geneva didn’t argue. Her legs had grown numb and
her skirts wet, yet not once did the nervous men flinch away.
She only wished her womb were numb,
but instead it twisted and throbbed as the babe readied herself. A pain shot
through the Queen’s lower back, sharper than the rest. Her throat tightened
with woe. Would this babe ever know a happy family or had her husband doomed
them all to dysfunction?
Damn Reginald, and damn the fairies
with their dubious christening gifts! All the misfortunes of their family—of
the Middle Kingdoms—could be tied to those devious creatures. At the same time,
it would be hard to exist so comfortably without their aid, their enchantments
and their healers.
When Geneva arrived, Binny jerked
open the chamber door and immediately began scolding. “I told you not to go out
in this weather. I told you you’d bought enough gifts. I told you the healer
wouldn’t let you go.”
The nurse’s voice faded into a buzz
of annoyance as the Queen’s watery gaze fell on her two young daughters, seated
on the edge of a divan, their eyes wide with concern. The guards set her
carefully on her feet and scurried off to tend to other duties.
“Hello, darlings,” she managed
between pants. “Mama is going to have your baby sister tonight.”
“Papa says we’re to have a baby
brother. I helped him break the Female Curse last week.” Susannah’s unruly,
dark hair did not suit her serious nature. She had, however, already showed
signs of one of her happier christening gifts—canniness. “I thought I should
warn you, Mama, so you won’t give our brother a girl’s name.”
The Queen sighed. They’d tried to
protect Susannah, but their eldest daughter had somehow concluded the Middle
Kingdoms were in trouble, however indirectly, because of her. Probably learned
it from her father, who loved to lecture his daughters. Five and three year
olds couldn’t be expected to realize when their Papa was teasing, sadly
mistaken—or straying from the bosom of his family.
“Your Papa,” Geneva told Susannah
and Calypso, “tells a lot of fine tales.” Including the one about how he would
love his wife, and only his wife, forever.
After Binny rang for the maids, the
healers and everyone else she could think of, the Queen allowed the nurse to
help her out of her clothing. The princesses clung to her, getting in the way
yet welcome just the same. They would be separated from her for most of the
birthing process, and she wanted to assure them everything would be all right.
“Are you excited to meet the baby?”
she asked as they hovered. “I know I am. What color hair do you think she’ll
Calypso’s hair was as red as her
grandfather’s had been. She sniffled and threw herself at her mother. Binny
caught her before she could latch onto the Queen’s wet, dirty skirts.
“Mama, Mama! Will you die when the
baby comes out?” she wailed.