It is late at night when at last I am summoned before the king. “Your majesty.” I sweep into a bow. “This time, I am certain that I’ve managed to capture…er, conjure up a pleasant voice for her highness, the Princess Lalia.”
King Frederick gives me a steely-eyed stare. “Are you certain that this voice is better than the last few?”
“Uh…yes.” The truth is, I have no idea if this voice will be pleasant, or if it will make her croak like a frog, or chirp like a parakeet, or bellow like a foghorn. All I can do is hope.
“If you fail this time,” says the king. “I will have no choice but to execute you.”
I gulp. Is he serious? “I won’t fail, your majesty.” I bow again, then scurry away in search of Princess Lalia.
I find her in her bedchambers, fast asleep. For a moment, I consider camping out on the floor until she awakens, but I dismiss the idea. Her chamber floor is cold and hard. Not to mention that her room is creepy, drenched in garish yellow. Did I ever mention how disturbing the color yellow is?
I flourish my wand and mutter a charm that wakes her from her sleep. For a moment, she sits up in bed, rubbing her eyes. Then she notices my shadowy figure across the room and lets out a gasp.
“Do not be frightened,” I tell her. “Your father the king has sent me to give you a voice.” She folds her arms and looks at me, eyebrows furrowed in doubt. “It’s fine. I think I got it right this time,” I say.
Shoulders sagging, she gives a slow nod and climbs out of bed to dress. Then she holds up a finger indicating that I should wait a moment, opens a large wooden chest, and rifles through it. She produces an ancient-looking lamp of tarnished metal. It looks awfully familiar.
“Wait – don’t!” I cry as the princess begins to polish the metal with her fingers. I’ve just remembered where I had seen that lamp before. Too late. A wisp of purplish smoke begins to pour from the lamp’s opening. Startled, the princess runs toward the stairs, still clutching the lamp, perhaps looking for someplace to throw it. I hurry after her, then duck behind the staircase just in the nick of time. My worst enemy has emerged from the opening of the lamp.
Even though I am fully aware that I am Al Becerra, and not the actual Shadowhood, I feel a shudder that vibrates to my bones. Genies despise wizards. If he senses my presence, he will kill me, and my own powers will not be strong enough to stop him. If he senses that the princess has been influenced by one of my spells, he may try to kill her, too.
The Genie is speaking, his voice echoing through the stairwell like thunder. “WHAT IS YOUR WISH?”
The princess is trembling and pale, but to her credit, she does not faint. She doesn’t try to speak either, instead moving her lips without uttering a sound. I guess the Genie speaks mute, though, because he gives a sharp nod. “YOUR WISH IS GRANTED!” He brings his hands together in a clap that rattles the stone walls, then erupts with bright flashing lights, like a battery-operated children’s toy. Princess Lalia floats up in the air, then her body spasms and clenches forward.
I must stop this, I think, afraid that whatever the Genie is doing is killing the princess. But then, it is over. The princess is leaning against the wall, breathing hard, her skin white and clammy. The Genie has disappeared, and so has the magic lamp. Too bad. I was halfway tempted to risk sudden death by asking him to send me back home. Along with Melissa, of course. Richard would be optional.
The princess clears her throat. Then, in a clear, sweet voice that is neither too loud nor too soft, she says, “Wizard, please take me to see my parents.”
And so, I do.