She smoothed her gown, the green silk one with the red brocade that she thought still flattered her, despite the extra weight. Only when she felt every crease had been brushed away did she examine herself in the mirror. Not willing, nor happily, but out of long habit.

“Mirror. . .” she began, and paused. An old face stared back at her.

She made a conscious decision not to count the new wrinkles, roads on her face that led to a destination far too close now. No, she definitely would not count them this time.

There were sixty-two.

Damn it.

Her knees already ached. She needed to get this over with. One deep breath. Now ready. “Mirror, mirror. . .”

The itch on her elbow caught her attention, and she strained to keep herself from scratching. Bad enough to have to rise twice a night to use the chamber pot. She refused to succumb to the indignity of the rash that covered her arms and legs. Merely poison ivy. Nothing more. Everything else worked fine, except for the parts that had stopped working.

Once more, from the top. “Mirror, mirror, on the . . . oh, who the hell am I kidding, of course I’m not. Come on out, Reggie, there’s no need for the theatrics. Come on, don’t keep me waiting, you know how my knees get.”

Reggie’s face appeared in the mirror. Young, his skin taut and unblemished, eyes of the deepest emerald she’d ever seen, ravishing black curls casting shadows on his forehead just so. “Well that’s a shame. I do so love the swirling cloud of smoke effect thing. Took me ages to figure it out.”

“Yes, yes, it’s nice enough,” she said, “but after a few decades it gets. . .” No, she would not say that. “It gets tiresome.”

“You meant old.”

She grimaced and waved away the comment. “Never mind. Can you still do that thing you do?”

“The once a day wish? Most certainly! What shall it be? A day of eternal youth and beauty as before? Or perhaps something more exotic? A few slave boys to fan you with palm fronds? Yes?”

“I wish for a chair.”


“A chair. Four legs, a tall back, nicely padded. Right here where my ass is about to fall.”

“A. . . chair.”

“Yes. Is that too much for you?”

Reggie sniffed. “No, no, of course not. It’s simply a little. . . well. . . pedestrian, don’t you think? Vast, cosmic powers, and all you use them for is a chair? Your court carpenters can almost as quickly make you one—”


“—if you but so ordered—”


“—them to undertake the endeavor, and out of any materials—”


“Fine, your grace. One cushioned chair, as you wish.”

The air rustled around her legs. The chair was there, as desired, although the fabric was perhaps a bit dull colored for her taste. Nonetheless, she sank gratefully into it, sighing with relief. “Oh, that’s much better. Thank you dear.”

She tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair. No, not quite right. Something was still missing. “Reggie?”

The bowl of warm water appeared at her feet, the scent of Epsom salt filling the air. She eased her toes into it and sighed again. “Thank you dear.”

“My pleasure, your grace,” Reggie said. “Shall we continue?”

“Do, yes.”

“Let’s see. Chapter sixty two of The Passion of Snow White and the Seven Nights of Knights. If I remember right, Snow White had just slept with Sir William and Sir Henry and the three were still abed. Page four hundred and twenty three. When Snow White opened her eyes, she found the two knights were already awake. The mattress shook as they rocked against each other in a passionate embrace, their lips meeting in a warm kiss as they stroked each others turgid swords.”

The queen smiled and closed her eyes as she listened. “Slowly, Reggie. Read slowly.”

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