A jolt shot through Janna's spine as the carriage hit another rut. She shot an irritated glance at her escort. You'd think that with all of Prince Thorne's riches, he could afford to keep the roads in better condition.
Baron Hughes merely stroked his mustache and looked out the carriage window into the night. The Prince is a recluse, he said distractedly. He likes to be certain that he only receives visitors who truly have the desire to see him.
Do you think many will show for tonight's festivities?
The Prince's parties are always well attended. He's quite popular among the kingdom's notable figures, he said, leering at Janna's legs. Her stockings had been made from enchanted silk. They shimmered in the moonlight that filled the cart. The entertainment is always quite a spectacle. The Prince is known throughout many lands for his taste for the exotic.
Among other things. Janna slapped the Baron's wandering hand. I'm quite aware that I'm irresistible, my good Baron, but my thighs were not included in our bargain.
The portly noble smiled graciously. Please forgive my transgression, Milady. But I would have you know that had I seen you as you appear now, I would have taken a far different tack in our negotiations.
Janna couldn't suppress a smile. The Baron, despite being an unapologetic scoundrel, was quite charming. Of course she knew that meant he couldn't be trusted. She was indeed beautiful that night, more so than she'd even been in her life. Her gown was woven from sparkling silver threads and adorned with thousands of tiny jewels. The neckline plunged provocatively towards her navel, with much of her alabaster skin exposed through the lacing that held the front of the gown together. For this evening she'd pinned up her long, lustrous black hair, with a few well placed curls cascading behind her ears and down the back of her neck.
You've been paid, and handsomely so, Janna replied. Entrance to the Prince's parties was notoriously difficult to secure. Janna had provided the Baron with several rare crystals and a large sum of gold in exchange for the privilege of accompanying him, along with the promise of more if her plan were successful. She'd told him that she intended to seduce the Prince with her charms.
It was a lie. Everything she'd told the Baron about herself was a lie. Her name wasn't really Janna. Her real name hadn't been uttered in so many years that it no longer mattered. Among the authorities of nine nations she was known as Shannah Darkmoon, one of the most notorious thieves of the realms. Her career had provided her with much wealth; she wasn't after the Prince's money. Prince Thorne was a collector of various treasures rare and enchanted. He had spirit orbs, unicorn blood, homonculus teeth, gryphon claws, dragon's heart. There were even rumors that the Prince had in his possession one of the legendary philosopher's stones. These were things that money couldn't buy, not even hers.
Janna had learned that the bartering market for such items was a good market to be in. After successfully relieving a number of wealthy merchants of their most prized treasures, she hatched a plan to raid Prince Thorne's stash. This was no easy task. The Prince kept his most precious possessions in a vault in his personal chambers. The only people who ever saw the inside of that sanctum were the Prince and those select few who on occasion shared his intimate company. She knew that if she could get into the Prince's bed, she could rob him blind and be gone before he stirred from sleep.
We're nearing the castle, darling. If you're going to dress up for Prince Thorne, you'd best get to it.
Thank you, Baron. She grasped the silver heart-shaped pendant hanging around her neck. With a quick flick of her finger she opened it, revealing a coarse white powder inside. Janna licked a finger and carefully dipped it into the powder. Voluptaas sand was extremely potent, so she needed only a few grains. She daintily licked her finger again as she closed the pendant. The magic would take effect shortly.
In the land far to the west there was an isolated village that had come to be known as Voluptaas, named after the magical sands of an isolated beach there. Nobody knew exactly what produced them. All that was known was that a few grains of sand out of many millions were enchanted. When such a grain came into contact with a woman's skin for an extended time it would be absorbed and cause her to swell with gas in such a way that made her more appealing to many men. The effect when ingested was even more dramatic; a woman who consumed the sand would inflate quickly and spectacularly. Only a few people knew the secret to harvesting the sand, and even for them the process was extremely difficult and laborious. But Janna had had the good fortune to rob a man who had managed to acquire a significant quantity. Now the sand was hers, and she would use it acquire even greater treasures.
Janna closed her eyes as she felt herself begin to swell. Her firm bosom filled with enchanted gas, forcing her breasts outwards. In a few moments, they were the size of large melons, her gown stretching to accommodate them. The pendant sat nestled in her impressive cleavage. She smiled at her newly pronounced figure. These should get the Prince's attention, don't you think?
They certainly have mine, the Baron breathed in admiration.
The Prince's estate was a breathtaking sight even when there wasn't an event going on. The glistening spires of the castle reached skyward, and the surrounding walls enclosed expansive gardens. Guests of rank from miles around milled about in the open spaces. Hughes led her into the festival hall to meet Prince Thorne.
Your Highness, he said, bowing reverently as he reached the Prince.
Baron Hughes! the Prince beamed, Welcome to my home. And who might your lovely companion be? he asked, letting his lustful gaze linger on her.
This is Janna, my lord.
Janna extended her hand as she bowed, offering a clear view of her endowments. It is the highest of honors to meet you, Prince Thorne. Noting the Prince's rapt attention, she indulged in a moment of proud satisfaction. This could turn out to be easier than she'd thought. But her optimism faded as she rose and saw a woman approach.
My Prince, I didn't realize you'd be accompanied this evening, Hughes said, clearly taken off guard.
Ah yes, allow me to introduce you to a young lady whose acquaintance I've only recently made myself. This is Lady Belinda.
A tall woman with sparkling green eyes and flowing red hair greeted them. She wore a gown of deep purple velvet that clung to her extraordinarily generous curves. Janna had thought her bust would the most impressive present this evening, but Lady Belinda's scooped neckline revealed bulging flesh that surpassed her at least by half. It was obvious why the Prince had taken to her so quickly.
Lady Belinda, this is Baron Hughes and his companion, Janna.
Lovely to meet you both, she purred. I've heard many great things about you, Baron.
Surely the Prince is too kind, he replied.
Please excuse us, the Prince said, I must make the rounds, royal duties and all. We shall discuss our business later, Baron. With a farewell nod, he departed to greet some of the other guests, Lady Belinda on his arm.
Hughes led Janna out to the gardens. Many of the Prince's marvels were on display. Several mermaids frolicked in the pool while guests were entertained by the renowned Pegasus Guard performing aerobatics overhead.
You didn't tell me about her! Janna hissed as soon as they were out of earshot.
I didn't know, Hughes protested. I don't know where she came from. Surely he would have mentioned a woman of her magnitude before.
No matter, she snapped as she opened her pendant. She quickly placed several grains of the sand on her tongue.
Are you sure that's wise?
Look around, there's magic all about. Besides, he'll be too enamored by my figure to contemplate how I acquired it.
Hughes quickly positioned himself to shield Janna from view, his portly physique serving quite well for the task. After some time, Janna began to balloon in front of him. He heard a soft hissing as her breasts grew fuller and rounder, doubling and redoubling in size. As her expansion trailed off, he noticed an increased plumpness in her hips as well. Milady, I don't mean to be impertinent, but your--
Yes, my backside is a bit bigger as well. The Voluptaas sand is potent, and the effects spread as the dosage increases. Hopefully the Prince doesn't have a filly with even greater endowments in his stable, or my plans for the evening might be in peril. She grinned as she smoothed her gown over her newly enhanced body. Now let's see if I can lure the Prince away from Lady Belinda. You may get your final payment yet. Let's give the Prince some time to attend to his 'royal duties,' then we'll see how Belinda fares when confronted with my full glory.
After waiting for a while, Hughes sought out the Prince with the impressively busty Janna in tow. He had just finished chatting with Lord Raphael when they approached him and his consort. Greetings, my Prince. I trust business is going well? Baron Hughes said, bowing.
Your Highness, Janna chimed in, performing a deep curtsy to ensure Prince Thorne got a good look at her new figure.
Janna made quite an impression. My goodness, Hughes, Prince Thorne said, it appears you have a bit more company now than when you first arrived.
Indeed, Lady Belinda sneered coldly as she looked Janna over with a withering stare. Please excuse me, Prince Thorne, I think I need to touch up a bit. Perhaps the Baron's tavern wench can fetch me fresh drink while I'm away. She shot a smirk in Janna's direction as she departed.
No, that's quite alright, Janna interjected into the Baron's stammering. I shall go fetch some champagne for the Lady. She had not accomplished all she had without learning to spot a threat when it presented itself. Lady Belinda's attitude was more than condescending; it was distressing. Janna excused herself and went to find one of the servers. She returned with a glass for herself, and one for Lady Belinda.
Please forgive Lady Belinda, Prince Thorne said to Janna. She comes from a prestigious line of nobles, and can sometimes be a bit coarse with-- he paused, searching his thoughts for a polite way of acknowledging Janna's lack of title. But at no moment did he pull his eyes from Janna's cleavage.
My Prince, I am humbled, Janna replied, feigning awe. Your are the ruler of this land, and I am your loyal subject. You need never apologize to the likes of me.
His eyes finally met hers and drank in her fawning gaze. I rule this land at the pleasure of my father, and he has taught me all I know of the ways of governance. A noble is nothing without his subjects, and the ruler who forgets that does so at his own peril. It is my pleasure to share your company.
Please let me assure you that the pleasure is all mine. Janna deployed her most devastating smile as her eyes remained locked with the Prince's. I've got him now, she thought as she let their shared moment linger.
Lady Belinda retreated to a secluded corner of the castle, trying to hide her panic. What were the chances that someone else had access to that much Voluptaas sand? She took several deep breaths to calm herself. For years she had dreamed of winning the Prince's heart. When one of her father's serfs had discovered the abandoned cache of a long deceased sage on their land, she was convinced it was a message from the heavens; she was destined to be with the Prince. Calm yourself, Belinda, this isn't a catastrophe, she said softly to herself, trying to gather her nerves. She reached for the tiny vial tucked into one of the folds of her gown. The heavens had given her the means to become Prince Thorne's dream woman, but in order to do so she had to muster the courage herself.
Quickly, before her fear had time to sink in and paralyze her, Belinda poured some of the sand into her hand and licked it from her palm. She knew it was rash and imprudent to take that much. The sand was normally found only a few grains at a time, and she wasn't certain what such a large amount would do. She instantly had a flash of regret. What have I done? she whispered to herself as she waited for the magic to take effect. Much to her surprise, her fear quickly faded. The very decisiveness of her action had emboldened her and cemented her resolve. Her confidence swelled along with her body as the sand imposed its will upon her.
One of those glasses is for me, I presume, Lady Belinda quipped as she returned.
Janna grudgingly looked away from the Prince. Why yes, Milady, it's-- she nearly dropped the glass that she'd extended towards Lady Belinda.
She was huge. Janna surmised that Lady Belinda's gown must have been woven from heavily enchanted threads for it to have survived being stretched around her enormous curves. Janna had suspected that the Lady's body had been the gift of the same magic that had provided her own, but she wasn't prepared for how far she was willing to go to impress the Prince. Her breasts were simply enormous, jutting out before her like two fleshy pumpkins. Her bust was half again as wide as her shoulders, quaking with each step she took. And she had to walk slowly. She'd taken so much of the Voluptaas sand that her whole body was swollen. Her hips were nearly as wide as her bust, and her full, firm posterior formed a shelf behind her.
Janna had studied the Voluptaas sand extensively before setting off on her mission. There was very little recorded on the effects of large doses, simply because large doses were so rare; the sand was normally found only a few grains at a time. But there were a few scarce writings on the dangers of an overdose, and the symptoms thereof. Lady Belinda's belly had swollen to the size that one would typically see on a woman in the latter stages of pregnancy. Although her bosom and her haunches were far too large by comparison for anyone else to notice, Janna took note. Lady Belinda had consumed a dangerous amount of the sand, and it showed.
Both Baron Hughes and Prince Thorne openly gawked at Lady Belinda's comically curvaceous body. Um, I, um, Milady, you've...you've certainly touched up quite a bit, was all Prince Thorne could manage to say. Janna recognized the fire of unbridled lust smoldering behind his eyes.
Why, yes, I have, Lady Belinda tittered, coyly bringing her delicate hand to her mouth. It seems there are a number of fantastic spectacles on display tonight, and I think I'd feel out of place if I didn't try to keep up. A satisfied smile stayed fixed to her face as she stared directly at Janna. It was all Janna could do to keep from visibly fuming.
With the men incapacitated, Janna took control of the situation. Prince, Baron, I'm so sorry. We ladies have been distracting you all evening. Didn't you say you had some business to discuss?
I'm sure it can wait, Prince Thorne muttered, unable to take his eyes off Belinda's overflowing neckline.
Your Highness, Baron Hughes said, tugging at the Prince's elbow, there is a matter of some importance I need to discuss with you.
Excellent! Janna chirped. You gentlemen can take care of more weighty matters while Belinda and I enjoy each other's company and a tour of the castle grounds. Before anyone could protest, she took Belinda by the arm and led her out towards the garden. In her terribly turgid state, Lady Belinda had to walk slowly; Janna felt like she was guiding a pack mule. Although Belinda had swollen up to a size that most men would consider freakish, the Prince's tastes favored such excesses. She was probably convinced that she'd won.
Janna and Belinda strolled through the Prince's garden with Belinda looking smug and Janna looking worried. Janna fretfully clasped the champagne in front of her, while Belinda brandished hers like a scepter. Janna realized her plan was in danger. Perhaps she could win this duel of distension with Belinda, but even if she did her victory would be as hollow as the Lady's inflated bosom. Belinda was already huge, and if Janna chose to surpass her she'd be in no condition to loot the Prince's hoard. After a long, awkward silence, Janna spoke. Lady Belinda, it appears we're both vying for the Prince's attention.
Yes, she replied, and by the looks of things, I'm winning. Her full lips curled into a grin.
Janna placed a hand on Belinda's shoulder. The Voluptaas sand is very powerful, and quite dangerous in large doses. I fear that if this oneupmanship continues, then one or both of us will wind up in a very precarious situation. Really, just look at you! I can tell by the swell of your belly that you're already pushing the safe limits of the sand's magic.
Yes, and I'm quite willing to push those limits. I intend to win Prince Thorne's heart by whatever means necessary. We both know what he looks for in a woman. I'm happy to take whatever risks are required to ensure that I'm the one he chooses. If you're not, then you'd best step aside while your dignity is still intact.
Janna had to summon every last bit of her will to suppress her rage. How dare she? She'd bloated herself up like some rutting bullfrog, and then had the gall to speak of dignity? She took a deep breath to gather herself, ignoring the groans of protest from her lacings. She chose her words carefully. Milady, I'm quite aware of the Prince's proclivities. Nonetheless, I believe this contest will not be won or lost based on bosoms alone. The Prince is a sophisticated man, and I'm sure he can be swayed by a sufficiently charming companion. And, unlike you, I have charms that weren't harvested on the shores of Voluptaas and crammed into a poorly fitted evening gown.
Belinda suddenly stopped walking and spun to face Janna, who had to take a hasty step backwards to avoid squeezing their immense busts together. Are you quite certain of that? she snapped. You seemed eager enough to pump yourself up when you thought you could take the advantage from me.
I'm quite certain. Janna smirked, confident now that Belinda would take the bait.
Well then, would you be willing to offer your word of honor in a truce?
I'll not back down, Milady.
You won't have to. But if you're so very confident that you can snatch up the Prince's heart with your silver tongue and inferior décolletage, then you won't be averse to ending this little escalation of ours. What I propose is this: Since, as you've already pointed out, continuing to ingest the Voluptaas sand beyond what we've already consumed will result in us playing a very dangerous game, we should both agree that neither of us will partake of any more of such magick for the remainder of our time with the Prince.
Janna sneered. That's quite big of you, considering your endowments are currently far larger than mine.
Belinda shrugged, sending a tremor through her curvaceous, tightly bound body. You claimed your charm is sufficient to carry the day. Or was that just a bunch of hot air?
Janna set her mouth in firm determination. Fine then. I accept your offer of truce. We shall both eschew the use of the sand in pursuit of the Prince from here forward.
Excellent! She raised her glass. Shall we drink to it?
Well, I suppose we must seal our agreement.
How shall we toast our peacemaking?
Janna pursed her lips thoughtfully, then raised her own glass. Here's to you being the bigger woman, and to the power of feminine guile.
Indeed. Belinda touched her glass to Janna's with a delicate clink, and they both drank.
Janna heaved a sigh of relief. I am truly happy we were able to work this out, Lady Belinda.
Belinda chuckled. I'm surprised you agreed to the truce, since I clearly have the upper hand here.
I feel I must confess, Milady. The truce is actually of little consequence to me, since I doubt I have enough of the sand to keep up with you.
Oh really? Only had a small supply of it then?
Janna cast her gaze down. No, no, I had quite a bit of it. Enough to keep an army of peasant girls looking fertile. But while you were away 'touching up', I dumped most of it into your champagne.
Belinda's rosy cheeks immediately paled. No, she gasped.
Yes. I didn't want to make peace with you, I just wanted to get you outside. Janna grinned. If you hadn't been raised as a sheltered, pampered noble, then perhaps you'd know better than to be rude to someone who's going to be alone with your drink.
But, but dear gods, no! Belinda squeaked in terror. I'm already far too swollen! Please, tell me you're merely jesting! Surely I'll burst!
Janna took the Lady's glass and looked it over, mildly annoyed. Oh, you may very well burst, but it's hardly certain. You didn't finish your champagne.
Belinda's hands flew to her stomach as she felt the pressure building. What have you done, you crazy wench? I'm going to be enormous! Stop this at once! Her already overfilled bosom was rapidly rising towards her chin.
Well there's nothing I can do now, she chirped. I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
Nooooo-- Belinda wailed as her body filled with gas. First her already overflowing bosom surged forward, growing rounder and tighter as it stretched out her gown. But her belly soon followed suit, gaining rapidly in girth as the sand's influence filled out her hips and plumped her thighs. But we had an agreement!
Yes, and that agreement was that neither of us would partake of the sand. If anything, you're the one who's broken our truce. It's only fitting that you pay the price.
Belinda's belly grew larger and larger, forcing her to widen her already precarious stance. She pressed her hands down on her expanding bulges, desperately trying to contain them. It was no use. The gas continued to flow, forcing her arms and legs to swell. Unngh! she grunted as she fell forward. She would have fallen to her knees, had they touched the ground before her stomach.
My, you're coming along nicely, Janna said. I think I'll go enjoy the show from the balcony.
Please, don't leave me like this! Belinda pleaded. So strong was the magic of the sand, her limbs had begun to swell and the only motion she could muster was an awkward wobbling.
Oh don't worry, you won't be like this very long. Quite soon you'll be much larger. Although it pained her to waste so much of the sand, it had served its purpose. Janna dumped the remainder of Belinda's champagne into a nearby bush and walked away. As she entered the festival hall, she set Belinda's glass on the tray of a passing servant. I think the champagne's a little off, she grinned. It appears to have upset Lady Belinda's stomach.
Janna entered the banquet hall, scanning the guests for the Prince. He'd not yet returned. Sighing, she made her way up the grand spiral staircase to the balcony. She had an excellent view of the castle grounds, and briefly observed the guests milling about the pool. The merfolk were splashing about acrobatically, much to the delight of onlookers. She turned her attention to the garden, and quickly caught sight of Lady Belinda.
She'd blown up into a huge sphere, the purple velvet of her gown stretched tightly about the massive curves of her swollen body. Several guests had noticed her predicament and had gathered around her, but they gave her plenty of room as though they feared she might explode. The sand continued to inflate her; she remained covered by her gown above and her overstretched stockings below. When she had blown up to the point where her body towered over twice the height of the nearest guest and only her delicately groomed hands, feet, and head protruded from her taut body, she began to rise ever so slowly from the grounds. As Janna bemusedly watched the Lady drift up into the night sky, she noticed a panicked Baron Hughes fretting among the crowd that had gathered around Lady Belinda.
Madame Janna? came the voice from behind her. Janna turned to see the Prince approaching her.
Yes, Your Highness?
I'm quite chagrined to admit that I appear to have lost track of my companion. Have you seen Lady Belinda? I checked the garden, and there was no sign of her.
Oh her? She's departed for the evening. I think the champagne disagreed with her. She mentioned something about feeling rather bloated, then she just up and left. She seemed rather distressed at the time.
The Prince furrowed his brow. Hmm, I wonder what could have bothered her so much that she would have left without bidding me farewell.
Janna smirked. If I had to guess, I'd say buoyancy. But if your Highness is feeling abandoned, I'm certain we could find for you passable, if slightly less pneumatic, companionship.
Prince Thorne walked up to her and placed an arm around her waist. My dear Janna, you're almost as cryptic as you are intriguing, and even more cryptic than you are voluptuous. He waved his hand, and a servant appeared. Would you like a drink? But perhaps we should avoid the champagne.
I'd love one!
He took two glasses from the servant and presented one to Janna. A delicate white wine, bottled on the hills of my goodness, there appears to be a large orb floating over my walnut grove!
Janna looked out and saw Lady Belinda hovering in the distance. Oh no, why hasn't she popped yet? My dear Prince, she purred, I'm sure your staff can attend to anything that needs attending to. Besides, what's more interesting? Some random orb in the sky, she inhaled deeply, straining the laces on the front of her gown and puffing up her bosom, or the orbs right here within your reach?
Thorne briefly contemplated the floating ball far off in the sky and quickly decided. Well, if Lady Belinda doesn't deem me worthy of her company, I shall have to find someone more amenable. Have you anyone in mind?
I think I do, she murmured.
Prince Thorne smiled. Shall we go find her then? He quickly drained his glass as he offered his arm to Janna.
Let's. Janna did likewise. A servant appeared instantly to retrieve their empty glasses. The Prince has had quite a bit of wine tonight, she thought. Excellent. Feeling suddenly bold, rather than taking his arm, she spun him towards her and pulled him into a deep kiss. He held her tightly, pressing against her as he ran his hands along her body.
We should retreat to my chambers, he whispered into her ear.
But what of your guests, my Prince? She didn't want to seem too eager.
Baron Hughes is an old childhood friend of mine; I can trust him to take care of things in my absence.
But what will they think?
My darling Janna, one of the privileges of being Prince is not having to concern oneself with such trivialities.
Well then, my Prince, let us go-- let us Oh, my! Janna was overcome by a tingling sensation that covered her entire body. She knew the feeling, she'd felt it before but never this strongly. But how? I feel strange, she gasped. The tingling intensified, and Janna began to inflate.
Are you alright? the Prince asked, perplexed. But it soon became clear to him that she was not. Janna's swollen bosom rapidly swelled to an even greater size. Her hips and thighs quickly followed suit, stretching the shimmering cloth of her gown. In mere moments she had reached the size Belinda had been when last the Prince saw her, but Janna's growth didn't even give her the briefest of respite before she soon surpassed that and pushed her to greater magnitudes.
Something is wrong! Janna cried out, panicked. Her belly was filling, surging forth and lifting her bosom. Please, Your Highness, help me!
With all due respect, my dear, it appears you have more than enough help already.
Janna's breath came in rapid, terrified gasps as her entire body ballooned. Her limbs quickly became useless as she inflated into a giant sparkling ball. And she showed no signs of stopping. If anything, her expansion was accelerating. Her clothes pulled ever tighter against her increasing girth, the tension forcing her swollen flesh to bulge out of every available opening. She knew exactly what was happening as she'd seen Belinda experience the same fate. Somehow she'd absorbed a large amount of the Voluptaas sand. She looked down at her locket checking if it had somehow leaked, but it remained intact as it rested upon her rising chest. How did this happen? she thought in a frenzy.
Prince Thorne stepped back as the pale sphere which Janna had become grew ever larger, towering above him. She was so huge that by now several guests in the garden below had noticed the growing presence on the balcony. What in heaven's name is happening to you, Janna? the Prince asked, with only a hint of concern in his voice. Janna wasn't certain whether his nonchalance was due to his experience with magical oddities or simple princely decorum.
I don't know, Your Highness! Please, send for help, I'm blowing up and I don't know how much more I can take! At that, the Prince took another timid step backwards, an Janna began to slowly rise from the balcony. Oh no!
Please stay calm, Janna. I've the Pegasus Guard on hand, I shall send them to fetch you! He watched as she drifted up into the darkness of the night sky, growing rapidly larger and blocking out the light from the moon.
This is a catastrophe, Janna thought to herself as the ground fell away from her feet. Earlier in the evening she was worried about whether she'd be able to get the Prince's loot. Now her main concern was simply getting out of this predicament in one piece. But that seemed less likely with each passing moment. She was expanding at an astounding rate, stretching farther, larger, faster than she ever thought possible.
How big am I? Her body had started a slow, lazy turn in the sky. Though her own turgid form filled most of her field of view, Janna found herself alternately looking at the moon above and the castle below. She could see the shadow she cast on the ground, and it covered much of the Prince's residence. By the stars, I'm huge!
The sound was quiet at first, but the soft groan of her overtaxed skin steadily grew louder in her ears. Janna felt her cheeks fill with gas as her burgeoning flesh threatened to overwhelm her face. Her skin began to glow as the immense power of the magic inflating her fought with her drum-tight skin's attempt to return to its normal shape. No, she whimpered as the groan became a roar, this can't be happening! But the sand was relentless, and the groan grew louder as Janna grew ever larger and ever brighter.
Shannah Darkmoon, greatest thief the realms had ever known, was now a huge, helpless, shining globe floating away into the endless darkness of the night sky.
Prince Thorne smiled up at expanding orb above. So that was the great Shannah Darkmoon, Yosef? When there were others around they were careful to use their titles to maintain royal decorum, but when they were alone the old friends were far more familiar.
Baron Hughes had joined the Prince on the balcony. Indeed it was, Peter. Or rather it is. For now, at least. She's rather tenacious. I hope she lasts long enough to drift out of earshot before she blows.
Prince Thorne raised an eyebrow. Did you really put that much into her wine?
Hughes held up the vial that had fallen from Lady Belinda's gown as she'd inflated. Even after he'd spiked Janna's drink with enough of the powder to render her helpless, it was still nearly full. Hughes shrugged. Only time will tell. If we do find evidence of her destruction, then I fully intend to collect that bounty from you.
Fair enough, my friend, Thorne chuckled. I suppose I should reassure the masses. Prince Thorne stepped to the edge of the balcony where he could be seen and applauded the show. The assembled onlookers, understandably concerned at watching not just one but two of the Prince's guests blow up and drift away, were calmed. They joined Prince Thorne in applauding the display. As far as they knew, it was just another one of the Prince's spectacles.
Another fine party, Your Highness!
Thank you Baron Dexter, it was a pleasure to have your company. Prince Thorne was bidding farewell as the last of his guests departed. Baron Hughes stayed behind. Their duties allowed the two men little time together, so he would be a guest of the Prince for several days.
I have a surprise for you, Peter, he said after all of the guest had departed and the servants had set about cleaning up.
In the inner courtyard.
They walked through the castle into the private inner garden, and the Prince saw what Hughes had in store. He came upon a massive purple balloon secured beneath a canopy fashioned from thick ropes which had been staked into the ground. The Prince was confused until he saw a slender hand protruding from its side.
Lady Belinda? the Prince queried as he walked around the huge sphere to see her face. Her bright red hair was disheveled, and by the look on her face she'd had quite a strenuous evening, but it was indeed the Lady.
After Miss Darkmoon departed, I sent the Pegasus Guard out to retrieve her, Baron Hughes said. I shall leave you alone for a spell. With a bow, he left the courtyard.
Please forgive my current state, Your Highness, the Lady said, attempting to nod at the Prince as he approached, and only barely succeeding.
Please, Milady, let me apologize for you having such a harrowing experience here. He was still looking her over. Her gown had been stretched to a thin film over her body, her head and hands ludicrously tiny on her enormously inflated form.
I fear I may be stuck like this forever, she said, tears forming in her eyes.
Fear not, Milady, the Prince said as he ran a hand over the firm, full curve of her body. Thanks to you, my sages now have a large enough sample of the sand that I'm certain they can formulate an antidote. I shall send word to your father that you are safe and under my care. Please enjoy my hospitality until we can find a way to return you to normal. Lady Belinda's face lit up with hope as the Prince stroked her cheek. Well, perhaps not entirely back to normal.