The holiday so far had been a wondrous adventure through the glory of mid-summer Europe. Taking the weekend trip as a lark, Marie and Todd had rented a small convertible car and were poking along some of the back-roads they had often seen but never before had a chance to visit. There was always something to be busy with, some reason to travel by air or train. Every country looked just like its neighbor from 10,000 meters; even the once-distinct border between East and West was disappearing day by day. Soon all of the “old” country would be gone. If it wasn’t already now.
“Look! There’s a medieval town over that way,” Marie said, pointing out a tiny roadside marker. “Let’s go see it.” She hopped up and down in the seat when Todd downshifted, slowing the car to turn off the highway in the direction of the arrow. He had been through a lot of towns already this weekend; most of them looked medieval to him. The road, if it could be dignified by that term, certainly looked as if it hadn’t been used for a few centuries. Maybe there would be a good antique shop in this one, he thought, off the normal path. Someone could pick up some decent stuff here, sell it for a pretty price back in the city next week.
Narrowing as it approached a battlement, the road became less and less worthy of its name as they neared the tiny hamlet. It gave up entirely then, spilling out into a broad parking area. There were a few other cars already there. Like most ancient towns, the streets in this village were built long before motorized transport and were far too narrow and winding to drive along. Especially here, since most of the area inside the walls was a large hill with houses clinging to the steep slopes. At the very summit was the church, looking a bit run-down. As Marie and Todd walked up to the open gate, evening vespers began ringing down from above.
Their feet crunched on the loose gravel as they crossed the draw-bridge over the moat. Inside the second gate the streets were cobblestoned and the going was a bit easier. Dusk was falling, slowly as it does in summer, and lights began to appear. All were either gas or candles; there didn’t seem to be any electrical power here. Or it least it wasn’t used when tourists were about. Not that there were a lot of them; Marie spotted one family of Japanese heading back to the parking spot. Every now and then the father would stop to take a picture, but it was getting too dark for anything really good.
Up ahead the sounds of boisterous music and broken song filtered out of a tiny pub into the growing dusk. In all the town it seemed to be the only place that was active this evening. Marie dragged Todd onward and they crossed the threshold into another world. Brightly lit compared to outside, the oak bar stretched off along one timbered wall. Tables had been moved aside to clear a space on the wood floor where people were enthusiastically dancing up a storm. Toward the back of the room, edging into shadow, were more tables and booths set into the wall. Each had a single candle adding its warm glow to that of the patrons. Maybe it was for the tours, or some sort of festival, but everyone was in some sort of costume. There were swordsmen in slick leather and polished plate, townspeople in earth-toned muslin, monks with their long dark robes. Serving wenches circulated throughout the tavern, dropped off huge flagons of tawny ale. Coins jingled, glasses clinked, dishes clattered, the musicians played on gamely over it all, trying to be heard.
A bit overawed, the two newcomers edged over to one of the emptier tables. Todd waved to the waitress and she nodded. Soon two not-quite-cold beers arrived. With a few sips of the potent brew, the clamor seemed to fade a bit, replaced by a warm glow inside. Marie started to sing along with one of the tunes she knew, an old drinking song that you kept time to by swinging your glass. Each verse was capped by a gulp. Soon the glass was empty and another magically took its place. Todd started to sing too, but was a bit off key. This prompted a table full of more finely-dressed men (merchants?) to drown him out with their rich harmony. It was all in fun; when the song ended they signaled for a round to be brought to Todd and Marie’s table. The couple of course had to return the generosity, which became a bit of a see-saw of alternating favors. The music played on and the drink flowed. Time became a little abstract. It was marvelous.
Making conversation with the serving wench as their latest round arrived, Marie found out that later that evening there was an enormous formal ball up in the castle at the top of the hill. Most everyone was planning to attend, however there was one catch: No modern dress. Marie looked down at her Levi’s, ‘Heidelberg University’ sweatshirt, and white Reeboks with the realization that they would have to do something, and fast. Prodding Todd into action, she paid their tab (it was surprisingly small) and started off into the town to find suitable attire. They raced through the central square, a bit tipsily, and covered most of the obvious shops. Every one was closed up tight.
Todd was all for giving up and going back to the tavern, but Marie already had made her decision to go to the ball, come hell or high water. She had even suggested, hopefully in jest, of ‘borrowing’ someone’s clothes off a line somewhere while they hung drying. Fortunately, that idea of hers never went any farther. Up the street an old woman came limping. She was dressed in rags and they did not appear to be a costume. Slowly the crone approached; the two were unsure whether to flee or stand their ground. Indecision won out.
“Good Evening,” Todd managed in his best local dialect. “We’re...”
“... not from around here,” the woman finished. “You best be getting along, now. It is quite late. Go back to your auto, to your city; leave us!” She was not angry or upset, but she seemed determined.
Marie took up the challenge of the silence, “There’s a big costume dance tonight, up on the hill, they told us about it, but we can’t get in because of our clothes, they have to be ancient, and...” She caught her breath, “I want to go there, really I do! Can you help us?” Marie pleaded with her eyes.
“Costume?” The old one seemed to be unfamiliar with the word.
“You know; a fancy dress. Like a long-ago princess might have worn. Something with satin, and lace. But we could go as peasants too, or clowns, or...” Marie did not say ‘beggars like you’ though she was thinking of it.
“A princess? From long ago,” The old woman echoed, trying to clear the cobwebs from her memory. She had already forgotten her earlier words of warning. Out of the depths, a name surfaced. “Adrienne, she was once a princess, many years past. For her wedding she was given a gown so pure that many said it was enchanted – a gift from the gods, or a sorcerer. On the day of her marriage vows, the very hour of the ceremony, princess Adrienne disappeared from the castle and was never discovered again. It was a most unpleasant day.” The old woman recited this as if from experience. “Then Ulrich, the King she was to have wed, embarked upon a quest to find her, his beloved. Years passed, he grew old and lame, but he never did rejoin princess Adrienne.” The old woman grimaced, a cross between a smile and a twinge of pain, and concluded. “The throne was lost to barbarians... Ah, yes; I can remember it all clearly now.”
Marie listened to the rambling story without really hearing any of it, except the part about the gown. That was clear in her mind. “What happened to the wedding dress? Did it disappear too?” A kingdom had been lost and all she remembered was the princess’ dress!
“No, my dear, it exists even today.” She looked up the street. “Over time, Adrienne’s gown has passed down from generation to generation of clothiers; sort of a talisman of a lasting achievement. Today it belongs to me; soon my daughter will become its guardian.”
Todd was getting a little impatient with the long speeches. He wanted to get to the dance or go home, but not stand here and listen to an old biddy prattle on. Besides, he was feeling a bit of internal discomfort from the beer and needed to find a place to pee. Marie, on the other hand, was closing in.
“That’s incredible! Do you think you could loan it to me, just for tonight? We’ll never find anyone else at this hour.” The old seamstress was shaking her head ‘no’, but Marie pressed on. “Look, if I wore it to the ball, wouldn’t everyone here know it was Adrienne’s Gown? How it has stayed beautiful all these years? Wouldn’t it be great for your business; for your daughter’s future business?”
The old one had stopped shaking her head and now looked at Marie with a curious intensity. “You know nothing of our village; our traditions, our legends. Yet you ask to don the princess’ bridal gown?”
“It would only be for tonight, and not all night either. I promise to keep it safe, keep it exactly just as it is now. Can’t you imagine how grand it would look, how perfect I would look in it? For a night, I could be the princess again!” Marie finished up with a bright smile that was slowly winning the old woman over. Todd was just returning from around a dark corner and had missed the last part of the conversation. Marie told him about her offer.
The woman never said ‘yes’ precisely, but beckoned them along as she started up the steep cobblestone path. They wound among the randomly placed houses, avoiding various obstructions in the way. Off in the middle distance the elegant lilt of a waltz carried across the night; the ball had begun. At length, they came upon a shop like many others. But this one held a stunning difference: Adrienne’s wedding gown.
Posed behind the leaded glass display windows, a figure stood modeling a satin dress that seemed crafted from spun moonbeams. Virginally white, even in the warm candlelight, it fairly glistened with brilliant points of light from thousands of rhinestones (or were they real diamonds?) embroidered into the fabric. The torso was cut dangerously tight at the bodice, revealing a surprising amount of cleavage behind a sheer veil, then bloomed out into a full-length skirt and train that flowed like driven snow. The shoulders had been built up, merging into a sort of cowl behind the neck and head. A large, coruscating tiara was nestled in the model’s coiffure and in her white-gloved hands she held a single red rose.
While Marie was goggling at the opulent elegance of the bridal dress and imagining how it would be to wear it, Todd was devoting an equal amount of attention to the statuesque figure that presently modeled it. Tall and fine-boned, she was clearly unique – no run-of-the-mill mannequin could fill out that skin-tight creation in such impeccable fashion. Crafted with blonde hair and creamy-pale skin, she looked every bit the part of a princess. Even her expression, her calm gaze out past the store window, seemed somehow regal. The clear blue eyes held a touch of sadness, the full red lips appeared to pout a bit. There was a great amount of subtle detail in her face, throat, and hands. Whoever had made this particular mannequin so distinctive had been a master.
“You like Adrienne, do you?” The old woman’s rasp made Todd jump a bit. She angled her head over toward the figure in the window. “Sculpted from life, she was, elsewise we could never get the bridal gown to fit just proper. The princess was a stickler for her appearances, she was, right up to the day that she vanished.” The old woman had opened the door and the musty smell of old linen filled the damp night air. A tiny bell tinkled, the wooden steps creaked noticeably as they walked into the centuries-old apparel shop.
As soon as the door was closed, Marie found a privacy screen and started to undress. The old woman cautiously removed the display figure from the window and shuffled her into a workroom. From the amount of grunting and puffing, the mannequin must have been unusually heavy. Probably one of the old style made out of plaster. Closing the door behind her, the old woman busied herself for several minutes before emerging with the dress heaped over her shoulders to keep it out of the dust. Marie, meanwhile, had finished undressing and was fixing her hair up in front of a standing full-length mirror. Somehow she always managed to look good even with little paraphernalia.
The old seamstress began helping her put the gown on. Even on Marie’s somewhat trimmer figure the effect was just as striking. Between the original owner’s unusual height for that century and Marie’s petite form the fit of the elaborate garment was amazingly close. Without knowing better, Todd would have sworn the dress was custom-made just for her.
The fabric across the derriere was a trifle loose, so the seamstress made quick alterations with some impromptu tucks and a few well-placed pins. At the same time, she seemed trying to talk Marie out of borrowing the dress even though it was already fitted to her voluptuous form like a second skin. It was tight enough to keep her from breathing too deeply.
“Are you really sure, my dear, that you want to appear at this particular ball in this gown? Folks around here might mistake you for the princess...”
“Let them. I’ve always pretended to myself that I was a princess; this will probably be the closest I can get. Ow!” The old woman had accidentally pricked Marie on her hand with one of the pins; it bled slightly. The old woman fussed around with a tissue, seemingly more concerned for the snowy fabric than for the girl’s injury. She continued her invocation as Marie labored to get her feet into the princess’s tiny high-heeled shoes, thinking it was a blessing she would only have to wear them for one night.
“You will treat this gown and its trappings as if they were your very own, and not allow them to come to any loss or harm? The consequences could be somewhat severe. Can I have your vow on this?”
“Well, of course I’ll give you my word. Nothing will happen; and of course I can repay you. I promise to, even if it takes a while. I just can’t believe you finally agreed to let me wear this to the ball – it’s a dream come true.”
The old woman was oddly somber, “It is you who have agreed. May the gods shine good fortune unto you this evening. Do you know what event this celebration commemorates?” Without waiting for an answer, she concluded, “The wedding of Adrienne; four hundred eighty years ago.”
Meanwhile, Todd was rummaging around looking for a suitable costume for himself. There was only going to be one ‘princess’ at this dance, he could see, as Marie touched up her makeup before putting on the white silk gloves. Opening the door to the workroom, he searched for something suitably noble. There was none; but enough odds and ends of various clothes were left around for him to dress as a simple peasant. All he was lacking was a hat. Over in one corner the mannequin from the window was propped against the wall, now covered with a bolt of cloth. Curiosity got the better of him as he succumbed to the desire to see the figure up close. He edged nonchalantly towards her, lifted the sheet, and stood speechless for several moments. A rustling noise alerted him, and he put back the shroud before he was discovered there. He thought ‘Wait ‘till Marie hears about this!’
Todd came back into the front room just as the old woman approached. Marie had finished her preparations and now was preening in front of the mirror. She even had placed the tiara into her own hairdo. Turning towards him, she really did look like a princess. For a night. Todd kept his wallet in the costume, but Marie had barely enough room to breathe, let alone carry anything. As they were going out the door the old woman handed her the red rose to accent the dress. They waved as they made their way down the cobblestone street to the castle and the ceremonial ball.
The old woman turned back toward the shop and said to herself, “Finally, princess, the cycle is almost complete.”
On the way to the dance, Todd and Marie could not believe peoples’ reaction to their costumes. Or, more properly, to Marie’s. Most simply stopped and stared; others hurried away quickly. No one stopped to chat. Upon reaching the hall, the ticket-taker at the entrance stepped aside and let Marie through unhindered. Todd slipped in also, but missed the start of the fanfare. The music had halted and the lights in the vast hall were dimmed. A brilliant limelight shone on Marie, picking out even more dazzling sparks from the gems in the gown and tiara. Everyone else in the vast hall was hushed. When she reached the middle of the room, a voice boomed out: “The Princess Adrienne.” Another spotlight picked out a man in medieval dress uniform as he started to walk towards her. The voice spoke again: “Ulrich the First, ruler of the western realm, keeper of the sacred trust, provider to the unfaithful, redeemer for...” this went on for numerous other titles, enough so ‘Ulrich’ had to slow his step so he would reach Marie just as the litany ended. He took Marie’s hand and kissed it. She went along, but was getting very confused by all the pomp and ceremony. The music resumed and he swept her into a waltz, which fortunately others joined in on. When the spotlights on them faded, he whispered a question in her ear.
“What in the Devil’s name are you doing here?!” Marie looked up at him, uncertain, but still dancing gamely. “There isn’t supposed to be a Princess Adrienne at the wedding ball; that’s the whole point! I was treading on a weak branch just now. Who are you?”
“Marie is my name, but for tonight I’m your Adrienne.” As they danced she told him about their good fortune of meeting the ancient seamstress and the loan of the gown. She tried to leave out Todd’s name as much as she could and found it wasn’t too difficult. ‘Ulrich’, whose real name was Hans, was an excellent dancer and soon she got into dancing the intricate steps in flowing unison.
Todd stayed on the sidelines, sipping a bit too much punch and getting a bit drunk in the process. He managed one dance with Marie, while the 'commissar' was taking a break, but his girlfriend seemed really distant to him. He gravitated back towards some of the other ‘peasant’ women and danced with them most of the rest of the night.
Sitting at the table with Hans, Marie was having the time of her life. If it were possible to fall in love so deeply, so quickly, she had. From the lights in his eyes she cold tell he felt the same way. Their first kiss was shy, halting; but it grew rapidly more certain in its passion with the promise of a great deal more to follow. The ball dragged on, they danced repeatedly, both hurrying the time when it would be over and they could be alone together. After what seemed an eternity, another announcement brought all of the guests out onto the terrace where they could see many colorful fireworks embellish the moonlit sky and bring the annual celebration to a close.
Walking back to the dressmaker’s shop hand-in-hand with ‘Ulrich’, Marie looked around for Todd, but he was nowhere to be seen. The dress had to be returned, so they had agreed to both meet there. Marie felt now it would be their last meeting. Hans was by now a little unsteady also, and he insisted on calling her ‘Adrienne’ even thought the pageant was over.
“Do you know your legend, Adrienne? That sounds silly; I mean have you heard about the first Adrienne and her wedding back in the middle ages?” Marie shook her head no, but she was smiling.
“The story goes that Adrienne was betrothed to Ulrich; they were both very much in love. On their wedding day, after elaborate preparations had been made, she vanished from the castle and was never seen again. Of course, the king was extremely distraught. He could not bring himself to take another queen. Some time later he embarked on a futile quest to find his one true love, the departed Adrienne. Soon his throne was conquered. Poor Ulrich died in a far-off land while searching for her.”
Marie looked at him quizzically. Most of these old medieval fairy tales didn’t really make sense. It was sad, though.
“That’s the main part of it. But there’s more. The folklore has it that Adrienne had run afoul of another woman, a sorceress, who also coveted king Ulrich. On the wedding day, just after Adrienne had assumed her bridal raiment – the same gown you have on now – the magician worked a insidious spell on the princess and turned her into a statue. Silly. is it not? Minus her gown, she was then concealed in the castle gardens and is still there today, somewhere. Now the really spooky part is about that wedding dress; it had become ‘cursed’ and would visit the same implausible fate upon anyone who might chance to covet it. Meaning you, my liebling...”
“So, let me get this straight; I’m going to magically turn into stone and become some sort of pigeon-perch? When, pray tell? I feel rather lively right now, my king.” She rubbed her hip brazenly against his. “Do curses wear out, I wonder. Is there a statute, no make that a statue, of limitations on these sort of things? Well, I’m waiting...”
He shrugged. They had reached the dressmaker’s shop. There was a curtain drawn across the display window. “Legends are sort of, er, legendary. Nobody’s certain of what actually happened back then or if anything ever happened. That’s what makes them so intriguing today.”
She turned around to face him and put both arms around his neck, drawing him closer for a kiss. A lingering kiss. A very lingering kiss. Slowly they pulled apart and she moved towards the door. “I have to go in now and change. I’ll be done in a few minutes. Be ready for a different person, not some fairy-tale princess.” She handed him the red rose, “Keep this for me as a token of my love.”
She passed through the door and it clicked shut behind her. The old woman was waiting, patiently. “Did you enjoy yourself, my dear? Have the time of your life?”
“Oh, Yes!” Marie did a little pirouette in front of the mirror “And I met a prince, who played a king, who’s really a carpenter. It was wonderful!”
“But now one has a price to pay. You gave your word.” The old woman, Marie noticed, was wearing a shawl with some sort of odd writing on it. Her voice was cold, hard. A new odd smell filled the shop; incense? Brimstone?
“What do you mean? Nothing’s happened to the dress, I was very careful, see, not even a tiny stain.” She turned in front of the mirror again, this time searching. She was certain the gown still looked perfect.
The old woman tsk’ed, shaking her head ‘no’ slowly. “Where is your rose? The Princess Adrienne is never without her rose...”
Marie went wide-eyed as she realized that part of her costume was missing. One of the ‘trappings’ had trapped her.
“I gave it to Ulrich; um, I mean Hans. I’ll just go get it!” She ran to the door, but it did not budge and seemed a lot more solid than it had before. It was not going to open for her. She turned back to the old woman with anger and just a bit of fear in her voice.
“Look, it’s simply a rose – I’ll replace it for you! The dress is fine; let me go, now! This isn’t funny any longer...”
“Your choice was never intended to be ‘funny’,
Adrienne, but you wanted to dress up and play princess. I warned
you, more than once, but you were so certain that you even gave me your
word.” The old sorceress waved one hand and Marie’s own voice, slightly
ghostly, spoke back to her from thin air:
’...of course I can repay you. I promise to, even if it takes a while...’
The last word hung in the still air like a judgement.
“Th-then the curse; it’s true?” Strangely the earlier fear was almost gone, replaced with a sense of astonishment at the devious myth and the part she was about to play in it. Regretting her earlier flippancy, she wondered what it might be like to actually become a statue. Marie had no idea, but guessed that she was going to find out for herself very soon.
“Of course it is true. What good is a curse that does not work! Princess Adrienne has waited steadfastly all these years for someone to claim her wedding gown; you have at last fulfilled the prophecy. I must admit you model it impeccably. Fate has been kind to us all.
“What happened to Adrienne? Where is she?”
The old woman chuckled, but it ended in a dry cough. “My dear, princess Adrienne has been hiding in plain sight for five centuries. She did not run away, she was not kidnapped, nor secluded in the king’s marble garden. She has been here all the time, in my window, for everyone to see.”
“The mannequin!” Marie shrieked the last word, turned and ran into the workroom. It took but a second to pull the shroud from the naked figure of the genuine Adrienne, exposing a secret that had been concealed for centuries. Even pale and stiffly posed, she remained a handsome woman. A shapely physique; full breasts with rosy nipples. A delicately narrowed waist, slightly wide hips framing a pubic triangle that matched her blonde tresses and was as golden as a summer sunset. Previously hidden by the full dress were Adrienne’s long, shapely legs. The intricate coiffure had been slightly disturbed from the removal of the tiara but she held her noble bearing and the haunted, faraway look in her eyes. Todd had seen her before, and knew the truth, but was unable to tell Marie in time.
“Yes, dear Adrienne has been patient. As you must be, in turn. It is time. Best to be still, now.” She started to hum, then segued into a chant in a singsong language. The words seemed familiar but were unrecognizable.
“No, wait, w...” Marie made one last try, but it was too late. The next word caught in her throat and she found she could no longer speak out or move. It dawned on Marie that the spell was beginning to take effect. She stood rooted in place like some sort of life-sized puppet, unable to initiate the slightest movement on her own. In her mind, she strained against the sudden paralysis, but it held her steadfastly to the spot. She could not so much as lift a finger or blink an eye.
The old sorceress glanced at the unmoving girl and twirled a finger in the air, by way of a command. Slowly Marie’s body shifted, though she herself did not will it to, adopting a graceful model’s stance with head held high and arms positioned at her sides. It was a variation of a display pose she had seen many times before – in her favorite department store window! Her features composed themselves into a likeness of the expression the princess had exhibited for so long; calm, a bit sad, and thoroughly regal. Trying to look around she found that her eyes, too, were locked into place; gazing at the stiffly mannequinized figure of Adrienne. Forever.
The old woman came up close to Marie and examined her imperial stance and countenance intently. Everything seemed suitable, the gown would continue to be displayed properly. From her altar she brought over a single fresh red rose, which she carefully placed in Marie’s posed right hand. It fell out once and she had to make sure the gloved fingers gripped down more tightly. The model was ready; it was time to close the circle.
Turning toward a book, the sorceress began reading a lengthy passage. Unable to budge from her ultimate pose, Marie could still see a part of the old woman’s shawl out of the corner of one eye. It seemed to be glowing. A flash of purple light startled her, but she was unable to react to it and continued to remain completely immobile. The air became charged with energy, creating a sharp scent of ozone. Suddenly dust and tiny sparkles of light mingled in a circular nimbus that swirled up, reaching from the floor to above her head. A similar glowing whirlwind enveloped the figure of Adrienne. Then the two pillars of light merged and became one.
Marie could feel the ultimate transformation commence. Starting at the tips of the fingers and toes her entire body began to petrify in place, tingling slightly as it magically hardened. A sense of tranquil detachment embraced her as she quickly lost all feeling in her arms and legs. Marie knew that shortly she would be immortalized in a truly arcane manner: Standing in a display window for easily the rest of eternity was definitely not something she had ever imagined could happen. The tingling spread upward through her torso. Around her the whirlwind appeared to spin faster and ever faster; the blur hiding the sorceress while the sound of her chants became oddly birdlike, then inaudible. Time itself, for Marie, was grinding to a standstill.
The figure of Adrienne seemed to be changing as well. Marie believed for a moment she saw the princess blink, but then the unrelenting wave of hardness reached her mind. All thoughts crystallized instantly into a timeless limbo, capturing the last moment of indecision. She would never know for sure. The transference spell had been concluded.
The old woman watched, drained by the effort, as the whirlwind of light subsided, revealing in full the utterly motionless figure of Marie. Her trim body had stiffened precisely into place and had turned stone cold and quite rigid. The hardened flesh was pale and slightly lustrous. Exactly like the princess in the legend, she was now an enchanted statue.
On the other side of the room, Adrienne slowly awakened from her long silence. Blinking as if it were a new experience to her, she drew her first breath in centuries. As she took her first wobbly steps it came to her that she was naked, and a bit chilly. Snatching a towel from the shelf, she covered herself as best she could.
“By the gods...” she whispered.
In her best old dialect, the sorceress addressed the princess, “Welcome back, Adrienne, you are free at last.” The young girl glanced at the old woman, then stared. A name escaped from her lips in a voice dry with dust.
The old woman nodded. “Yes, my daughter, it is I. The ages have not been so kind to me as they were for you...”
“What happened to me? Where am I? Is there time to begin the wedding ceremony?” She looked rapidly around, seeing for the first time the fixed, mannequin-like figure of Marie, “...and why is my bridal gown over there on that commoner? I distinctly remember putting it on only a few minutes ago.”
“Look well at her, my child, for up until this moment you haver been held suspended, inert, just as she is now.” Adrienne moved up to the static girl, traced one finger along her smooth stiff cheek, then shivered involuntarily. It had felt like carved wood. The mannequin that had been Marie stared vacantly into space.
The old woman continued. “It was a spell of hardness cast upon your person by Rosalinda, one of your ladies in waiting. She had decided not to wait any longer and wanted king Ulrich to herself. You were in her way; she used a magic scroll when you were busy dressing. Once you were ensorcelled into immobility, she was able to hide your body deep in the catacombs and spin some story about your disappearance. My hope never died; I found you there at last and have kept your figure safe while I learned the skills it would require to bring you back to life. Many years have passed. First I had to master my own longevity. Your awakening was timely; it is now almost the end of mine.”
“Where is Ulrich.” It was not really a question.
“Dust. It has been a very long time, my dear. A very long time. Everyone you knew before, save myself, has been gone half a millennium. The world has changed, in new and demonic ways. You will have to learn as if you were a child again.”
Long minutes passed while Adrienne let the vastness of reality sink in. Some of her old confidence and regal bearing returned. In the meantime, Norma was finishing the preparation of Marie for her new role as a display figure. Using the girl’s own makeup kit, she applied additional eye shadow and blusher to give the frozen face a bit more color. Smoothing the few hairs the magical wind had raised, she replaced the diamond tiara in her hair. Then with the aid of her daughter, she hefted the solidified figure into the display window. It was time for the unveiling.
Outside, Hans had grown a bit impatient. It looked like his new girlfriend had decided to ditch him. Then he heard the faint screech of curtains and cast his eyes at the figure of Adrienne in the window, the same mannequin that had always – NO! The dress was the same, but the figure wearing it had changed; it was now her. The lady Marie, the one he had loved! She had wanted so much to be a princess; now she would portray one, forever.
A legend had repeated itself; the durable curse freed once again, on her unsuspecting being. Memories of their brief time together overwhelmed him He noticed with tear-filled eyes the red rose she rigidly held. Drawing his own matching rose up to his lips, he blew a kiss towards her, knowing in his heart that she was now far away. The legend didn’t say how long ‘Adrienne’ would persist as a statue; simply until another naive young lady should desire the wondrous bridal gown that was once again displayed so exquisitely. The first cycle of the spell had taken five centuries; it seemed to him that there was no point in waiting around for the next one. His beloved Marie was absolutely unreachable in this life, though only a thin pane of glass separated them.
Hans solemnly trudged away, a modern-day Ulrich, brokenhearted exactly as the original had been. A thought suddenly occurred to him that a bit of travel might take his mind off her. The next morning he left the small village and has never returned.