Her name was Alphabella, and she came from the Far Kingdom of Amania. She had been recommended by one of the stable boys, who claimed she had cured him of warts that the royal Mistress of Health had been powerless to remove. She worked as a milkmaid, doing magic on the side to supplement her income. Hartwell found her in her hovel on the outskirts of town.
“Prince Hartwell” she said, as he walked through the door. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
The inside of her dwelling was as luxurious as its outside was drab: soft carpets covered the floors, damask cushions were provided for guests to sit comfortably, and pretty oil lamps hung from the ceiling. It also looked much bigger than he would have guessed at first glance.
“I need you to help me. I think my wife is cursed.”
“Oh, do you now.” Alphabella poured him a cup of a hot, sweet beverage that smelled of spices and flowers. Hartwell picked up the cup, but did not bring it to his lips.