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Acquisition

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Nearby, in stately Trowbridge, King Caladan did live with his lovely daughter, Einlea. The princess was the apple of the old man's eye and the crown jewel of his small kingdom. He looked upon her with the blind pride of a doting father, and she, for her part, did naught but bask and flourish in his bounty.

Trowbridge was quiet now, the chief sounds being the clatter of cart wheels and the cries of street vendors, but it was not always so. Three years earlier there had been trouble with Carthan to the west. It was not much, a border dispute, but the king persuaded a wizard named Loziard to come to Trowbridge in his employ, to aid him in the contest. Loziard was unknown by all in Trowbridge and kept to himself within the palace, coming and going as he pleased. When Trowbridge prevailed, with almost no loss of life, there was joyous celebration for days and weeks thereafter. Time passed, yet Loziard remained. The King, not wanting to seem ungrateful, said nothing, but became increasingly discomforted with the wizard's presence and wished for his departure.

On Einlea's twentieth birthday, King Caladan called for a celebration and holiday through all his land. Unknown to his subjects, he intended to proclaim his retirement and the transference of his crown to his beautiful daughter. Out of politeness, and nothing more, he invited the wizard Loziard to aid him in devising a proper speech.

Loziard was furious. He paced his chamber, his black brows knitted with intensity that would have soured any cow's milk. "Why," he cried aloud, "am I treated so unjustly by the old buffoon? Were it not for my skills, the border contest, mayhaps even the kingdom itself, might have been lost. I deserve more. I deserve the crown. To give it to that primping simpering daughter of his, who thinks naught of more than her own whim, is a slap more stinging than that of gauntlet. I will have justice. I will demonstrate, amply, for all to see, wherein lies true power."

Thereupon, Loziard made his preparations.

Princess Einlea's birthday came on a summer morning. Everyone within the city, and from the farms without, gathered to the palace for the festival. Banners waved from every rooftop. Fiddlers fiddled and dancers danced. Bakers baked wonderful sweets for the occasion. It was a day long to be remembered.

At noon, precisely, King Caladan and Princess Einlea emerged onto the main balcony to the cheers of the kingdom. "Good citizens of Trowbridge," called the King, "We are but a tiny kingdom, but we prosper, do we not?"

Loud hails (mostly) erupted from the crowd below. Encouraged, Caladan continued, "But now I am an old man. The day has arrived when younger blood can better attend to the needs and events of the kingdom. My subjects ... My loyal subjects and friends ... It is with honour ...and pride ...and the greatest of expectations ...that I transfer my kingdom and my crown to my loving daughter. To one and all, I give you" (a long pause here) "Einlea."

As cheers filled the air, Caladan made a grand, sweeping gesture with his arm, intending to make the presentation as spectacular as the pride that filled him. His robe went "swoooosh" and his hand pointed to ... nobody. What was this? Where had she gone? Where Einlea had been, moments earlier, there now was naught but vacant air.

"Er ...Einlea ...?" he called, uncertainly. But there was no response. Silence fell over park and courtyard. People glanced at each other nervously.

Old Loziard clapped his hands in glee. He danced. He hugged himself with uncontained laughter. "How wonderful ..." he cried. "What a breathtakingly stunning and talented a wizard I am.." For what he had done, of course, was to rid himself of Einlea for once and for all. With one stroke, crafty and evil, he had removed the vain creature from the palace. Nought else remained between him and that which he desired.

Now, magic is a tricky thing. Like all forces in the world, it must be kept in balance. As surely as day balances night and summer balances winter, so too must positive magic balance negative. For every hurtful or destructive spell, there must be an act of equal goodness or charity lest trouble overflow into the world. For every black wizard, there must be a white. For every spell of combat destruction, there must be healing. Know ye this ...if all who practice magic cast naught but healing or protective spells, dark, horrible forces would build up until chaos and ruin would burst forth and rain our doom down upon us. Thus may spells of healing be broken by harm, and the worst of spells be broken by charity.

Knowing this, Loziard planned well his act of vengeance. To permanently rid himself of Einlea (short of killing her outright) he must devise a spell so cunning that no act of kindness would ever break it. He was pulling lice out of his long beard, late one evening, when he burst into laughter. He would make her into something ...disgusting.

"I will make her into a frog." he laughed, then frowned. No ... that had been done. People might expect it and go around, like mindless idiots, seeking frogs, hoping to earn a kings ransom.

And then, a brilliant plan occurred to him.

"I will make her into a bug, an insect, a WORM ..." He almost choked on his wine. "Oh. How perfect.. I will make her into something so truly loathsome that she will spend the rest of her little bug life in terror of being squashed by the first person who sees her." He squealed and his rings jangled and his fat jiggled and he snorted wine out his nose in laughter. "Oh, how absolutely delicious ..."

And that's exactly what he did. While King Caladan and his subjects scratched their heads in puzzlement, nobody saw a small fat white tree grub plop to the cobblestones beneath the main balcony and immediately curl up, glistening and quivering.

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