Once upon a time there was a king and queen who desperately wanted a child. After years of fertility spells by fairies and genetic testing by warlocks, the couple were finally approached by a rat, claiming to be a magical witch, who gave the queen a bubbly drink in exchange for a promise that if the baby was a girl the queen must surrender her child to the rat, but if it was a boy the queen could keep it. The queen was desperate, so she did as the rat said. Nine months later the queen had a baby boy, and the rat was never seen in that land again.
Their named their son Quinn, and planned to invite the 12 good fairies in the land to celebrate. At the last minute the king and queen decided they’d better invite Agatha, the evil 13th fairy as well, lest she be offended and put a curse on them. “If we make sure she has the best of everything at the celebration, and treat her with every kindness we can, she will have no need to become offended,” said the gracious and naïve queen.
When the fairies arrived they all ate off silver plates, except for Agatha who was given a gold one. The fairies drank from glass goblets, but Agatha’s was crystal. For every course, Agatha was served first, and for dessert she was given the largest piece of cake; the one with the most frosting and the sugar rosebud.
The other fairies pronounced wonderful gifts on the baby boy like bravery and charm, honesty and an extensive vocabulary. But when Agatha’s turn came, she gazed at the child with a frown and, waving her wand, proclaimed, “I bless you with a wheat allergy. If you ever eat anything made with wheat you will die.”
“How could you?!” cried the king and queen. “We treated you better than any of our other guests!”
The fairy lifted her nose and sniffed. “The cake was too dry.”
Which just proves that no matter how well you treat someone, some people will always find some way to be offended.
The king and queen despaired. How could they keep their son from eating wheat? The staple crop of their kingdom?
But there was still one fairy left. “I cannot change Agatha’s curse,” she said earnestly, “but I can add a loophole.”
She waved her wand and stated that instead of dying, the boy would only get a very bad stomachache if he ate wheat. “However,” she added, “if he eats cake the consequences will be more serious. He will not die, but he will fall into a coma for 100 years and will only awake with love’s first kiss.”
This was not comforting to the king and queen, especially since the queen was very fond of cake, dry, moist, or otherwise. But they had no choice. The king sent out a decree, banishing all wheat from the land and making all the farmers sign a pledge to only grow corn, oats, and barely. Consequently, everyone in the kingdom became a lot healthier and had fewer digestive problems as they grew accustomed to their new gluten-free lifestyle.
Quinn grew up to be everything that the fairies had promised; brave, charming, verbose, etc., but he was never told about the evil fairy’s curse.
That is why, on his 16th birthday, his curiosity was piqued when an intriguing aroma drifted through the castle corridors. He followed the smell until he at last arrived at the very tippy-top castle turret. When he opened the door, he found an old woman removing something from an oven.
“Salutations, old woman,” said Quinn. “I followed an exquisite aroma circulating through the castle and have arrived at this vacant, isolated tower. Pray, tell me what are you concocting in yonder oven?”
The old woman turned and smiled sweetly. “Why young prince, have you not ever seen cupcakes before?”
“Cup-cakes?” Quinn mentally added the new word to his vocabulary.
“Yes, my son. And they taste even better than they smell.”
“For what purpose did you make them?”
“For your birthday, of course. That is what cake is for, Your Highness. It is an ancient custom.”
“Your graciousness is unexpected but very welcome. May I partake of one?”
“Certainly. But first we must add the icing and the sprinkles. Would you like to help?”
“I can’t imagine a more pleasurable pastime.” The prince helped the old woman decorate the cupcakes with blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles.
“May I eat one now?” he asked when they finished.
The old woman smiled sweetly. “Almost. There’s one more thing we must do.”
She took out a candle—
“How delightful! What a diminutive candle!” exclaimed Quinn.
—and placed it in the cupcake. Then she struck a match and lit the candle.
Quinn looked uncertain. “Am I to eat it while it is ablaze?”
“First you make a wish, dear, and you blow out the candle. Then you eat it.”
Quinn brightened. “A wish? Is this another ancient birthday custom? How you astonish me with your delightful revelations!”
“Yes, dear. A birthday wish. Birthday wishes are magical, and they always come true.” The old woman didn’t actually believe that birthday wishes come true, as she considered it pretend magic, imagined up by simpletons and peasants, but she said it anyway to keep the prince engaged.
“Hmm . . . Then I must be very thoughtful about my wishful intentions.”
“Especially as the desires of my heart are infinite.”
“Of course, ah, but you must think quickly before the candle goes out.”
The prince began pacing. “But choosing only one wish is a task of titanic proportions, as it must be absolutely infallible of unexpected repercussions. After all, I am a prince, and a prince must not wish for something that in the end might be his undoing.”
“You are correct, but in this case sooner is better than later.”
“A wish! Egads, woman! An opportunity like this may only occur once in 100 years!”
“Truer than you know,” grumbled the woman, “but if you could hurry, I would appreciate it, as I am a busy fairy and I haven’t got all day.”
“Did you say fairy?”
“Did I? I meant old hag.”
“Quite true . . . but remember, old hag, many a foul decision was made in haste. Perhaps I should make a list of possible wishes in order to determine the most superior, and which is most likely to provide the brightest possible future. Might you possess a parchment and a quill?”
“Perhaps I should have given you the gift of decisiveness instead of a curse,” the woman muttered.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing dear, MAKE YOUR WISH!”
“Very well. I’ve made it,” his said, his face aglow. “I am satisfied that it will provide the most positive outcome for my eternal happiness. Would you like to know what I wished for?”
“No, I don’t. Now blow out the candle.”
Quinn blew out the candle and felt quite satisfied.
“Well done. Now you may try the cake.”
“At this very instant? May I take a moment to savor its appearance? It is such a glorious and delicate confection, and once it is consumed it will be but a memory.”
“Look, child, I have eleven more—just EAT THE BLOOMING CAKE!”
Quinn, taken aback by the woman’s sudden impatience, did not wish to offend. He raised the cupcake to his lips and sunk his teeth into the perfectly moist cake.
The woman watched him closely as he chewed and swallowed. “. . . And?” she asked. “What do you think?”
The prince’s face was rapturous. For the first time in his life he struggled to find the precise words to describe his delight. “It is—it is—”
And then he collapsed.
The old woman cackled and changed herself into her true fairy form. “So much for you, silly, stupid prince!” and she flew out the window, without bothering to check Quinn’s pulse.
When the prince was found, comatose, with a half-eaten cupcake in his hand, it was clear to everyone what had transpired. His body was brought down to the courtyard where he was placed on a platform in a beautiful silken bed, littered with rose petals. He looked so lovely, with his face so relaxed and tragically handsome, that his parents planned to have him on display for the next 100 years as a warning to anyone who was tempted to invite undesirable guests to family celebrations.
All day people from around the kingdom filed past the bed to gaze on the unfortunate prince and weep. As the sun began to sink behind the castle towers, a young woman named Penelope came to see the sleeping prince. The rose colored glow of the setting sun lit his sleeping face so divinely, and his full, youthful lips looked so pitiful and tempting, that she could not control herself and she felt pulled by a magical force up, past the guards and to the bed of the prince where she leaned over and gently kissed him.
“Mmmm . . . frosting!” she said, and she kissed him again.
Quinn’s eyes fluttered open. “Exquisite!”
“Why, thank you,” said the girl.
“I was actually describing the delicious morsel of cupcake I experienced before my world turned to blackness, but after some reflection I must admit that your kisses were far superior.”
The maiden blushed.
“Please tell me, is it still my birthday?”
“Why, yes,” said Penelope.
Quinn sat up and took her hand. “Then my wish came true!”
“And what did you wish for, dear prince?”
“I wished to have my first kiss before the sun set on my 16th birthday. And you made my wish a reality!”
“And released you from the curse!” she added.
“What curse?” asked the prince.
The king and queen were so happy and relieved that their son didn’t have to sleep for 100 years. So much so, they decided to have a splendid birthday party that very night . . . complete with a very large and delicious cake.