With a quick shove, Prince Hadrian landed on the road in crumpled heap, still woozy from a long night of drinking and debauchery. His companions threw a fearful glance at the nearby cottage and rode away quickly, leaving him alone in the dust to nurse an aching head. A quick glance told him he had not been taken back to the palace by soldiers as he’d first thought. Instead, he found himself outside a simple peasant cottage at the edge of an oozy pond.
Hadrian stood on shaky legs just as the door opened, revealing a dark-haired woman he did not know but looked familiar. Simply dressed and unremarkable, she approached him slowly muttering under her breath. Though his brain warned him to move away, he found he could not. With a gasp, he looked down to find his feet and lower legs encased in swirling tendrils of yellow-green fog, holding him fast.
The woman came closer, circled once, and stopped to face him. Her black eyes were hard as flint: challenging, angry, determined. Normally confident and brash, Hadrian heard the unfamiliar temerity in his own shaky voice.
“Who are you? Why have I been brought here?”
The woman’s glassy orbs widened; a small triumphant smile gracing her ruby lips.
“Your indiscretions have become well-known, O Prince, and while your father looks the other way, I will not. How many maidens have been soiled in your bed? Who will love them now? The girl you ravaged last night was my only daughter. What you have taken can never be replaced, and now you must pay!”
Hadrian almost laughed. Yet another peasant family looking for a bit of gold to keep them quiet. This was easily fixed.
“Release me, woman, and name your price.”
She responded instead with unintelligible whispers, long fingers gesturing strangely in the air. The serpentine fog at his feet began to wind its way higher, powerful tendrils stealing his breath and replacing it with fear. Now encircled completely, the terrified prince could barely see through the greenish haze. Finally, she spoke and sealed his fate.
“A loathsome creature you shall be. A kiss of love shall set you free.”
She watched with satisfaction as his body shrank, changed color, and lost all semblance of humanity. The arrogant prince was scooped up and taken to the slimy pond behind her cottage. There she released him to preside over a watery kingdom, and there he remained – ever watchful, waiting for just one kiss.