The king and queen of Llira had no children.
Llira was a lovely city, built on a group of tiny islands. Canals ran through it, and its spires seemed to rise from the waves. It was rich from trading, and at peace with its neighbors, except for Arlese.
Arlese was notorious for robbing ships, and their rulers were prone to vicious quarrels among themselves. One such dispute had driven out a young prince, Artan, who fled to the island of Aratis.
When he was there, he met a faerie named Kanmira. She was very beautiful, and they soon fell in love. However, they had only been together a few months when Kanmira’s younger sister, Lemaria, saw them. Lemaria became jealous, and stirred up a lord of Aratis to fight Artan. She pretended to have fallen in love with him, and claimed Artan had insulted her.
Their fight didn’t last long, and when it was over, Artan was dead. Lemaria met Kanmira on the beach. The lord of Aratis had left, and she hadn’t bothered to follow him.
“Why do you weep so for a mortal man, sister?”
“You,” said Kanmira, lifting her eyes from Artan’s face. “Could never understand.”
“Where do you go now?” asked Lemaria. She was as fair as her sister was dark, and a sneer crossed her lovely features.
“I will take Artan home,” answered Kanmira, her voice quiet.
“And after that?” Lemaria frowned. “He would have died sooner or later anyway. I don’t know why you stayed with him. Mortal men are easy to manipulate, they’ll fall in love with you if you so much as smile at them. But I don’t know why you—”
“Enough, sister,” Kanmira picked up Artan’s body and vanished.
Six months later, the king and queen of Llira gazed out to sea.
“You said she often comes here,” said the queen, Magdalena.
“Yes I did,” replied King Heinrich. “But faeries keep their own time.”
They had scarcely finished speaking when Kanmira came towards them, walking along the balcony, a bundle tucked in the crook of her arm.
“Welcome, friend of the city of Llira,” said Heinrich. “What brings you here ?”
“I need you to grant me a very special favor,” answered Kanmira. She sounded weary. “Can we sit down to discuss this?”
They sat on benches in an alcove against the wall, looking out over the darkening sea. Kanmira looked down at the bundle in her arms, smiling. There was a baby, peacefully sleeping.
In a low voice, Kanmira explained about her love for Artan, and his recent death. She handed the baby to Magdalena, who held her to her chest.
“I can’t take care of her,” explained Kanmira sadly. “Faerie places aren’t safe, and her father’s family won’t have her. I have always been a friend of Llira, and I know you wished for a child.”
“What is her name?” asked Magdalena, gently running a finger over the chubby cheek.
“Mara,” replied Kanmira. She gave her daughter one last look, then turned away. “She will know the truth. I will be here often, to see her and protect her from that sister of mine. Do you promise to raise her as your own daughter, as the heiress of Llira?”
“Yes,” answered Heinrich. Magdalena echoed him.
It was two weeks later when the curse fell.