1. Where Has All the Magic Gone?

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"'Happily Ever After' is a lie, but one we want to believe. Because if we don't, if there's no hope for the fairy-tale princess, then what hope is there for the rest of us?"—Unknown

Something evil lurked in the fairy-tale kingdom of Ever After, a mid-size principality located in an isolated mountain range beyond The Rainbow and bordering Atlantis. No one knew who was responsible for said lurking, but every so often, a ragged child from the village at the foot of the mountain would disappear.

Because this was a juicy and mysterious tragedy, people loved to speculate on the cause. Each morning as the townsfolk fetched their water from the well in the center of town, a torrent of gossip, and fear spread from one mouth to the next. Some blamed an evil witch. Others insisted it was dragons, sunspots, fairies, gods, trolls, or that time Ivar, the town fool, opened an umbrella indoors. The list goes on and on.

Like all kingdoms, someone had to be in charge of stuff and live in the castle, and be the profile engraved upon the local currency. In Ever After, that guy was a prince named Charming.

Because he was so handsome, the currency of Ever After became as sought after as his large, well-manicured hand in marriage. To say Charming was handsome was an understatement, like "the sun is warmish" "or blue whales are largish."

How handsome was he, you ask?

His eyes were so blue; you could drown in them. His jaw so sharp, it could cleave your heart in two. His golden-brown hair was so lustrous; it shone like a beacon, even in the dark. His man parts, which were fairly visible in the tight jodhpurs* (fashionable at the time), caused both men and women to faint. There was a lot of grumbling in the Royal Mounted Paramedic Guild because of all the drowning and slicing and fainting, although a few of its members appreciated the overtime.

It was as if the heavens contrived to make the ideal man. His only imperfection was the jagged scar of a bite mark on his left hand. Charming never discussed the origin of the injury, which was odd. Most men of the time loved to brag about their battles. They'd compare scars, one-upping each other with tales of the gruesomeness, prowess, and pain involved in earning them. But Charming kept his hidden inside gloves or pockets.

Like any single, nearly perfect prince of the age, it was high time he married. But how to find the one?

You probably know the next part of the story, but for those who grew up on Jupiter or were raised by Siberian wolves, allow me to refresh your memory:


The Story of Ashley (aka Cinderella)

Once upon a time, there was an orphan girl, Ashley, who worked as a servant to her abominable Stepmonster and her two abysmal daughters. Although Ashley was shrilly and consistently ridiculed for being covered in ash from the kitchen fire, she never complained. Her only friends were the bluebirds, mice, and other forest creatures who regularly came to her attic room for cheese and occasional dressmaking.

The first time she asked for anything came when Prince Charming announced a ball and invited all the maidens of the land. Ashley's Stepmonster said no way. Sooty servants could not attend. It would mortify her to sully the family name!

With this pronouncement, Ashley shuffled to the furthest edge of the garden, so as not to disturb anyone with her tears, and sat on a decaying log, trying to ignore the sharp splinters embedding themselves in her derriere. But someone heard the quiet sobs—her fairy godmother.

A fairy godmother sounds like something all of us would like to attain. But doing so is difficult. As a matter of fact, there is a checklist for earning a fairy godmother. Potential fairy goddaughters must fulfill at least 7 of the following:

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