Now Custardicus the Uncanny was simply the worst Magician in the world. Not the Worst with a capital wubbleyou, he didn’t dress in black with an iron faceless helm and a staff of Smiting The Godly, and have hordes of insect-goat hybrids poised to dominate The Lands Of All Humans, as so many Worse Magicians do, he was a Good Magician, he just wasn’t any good at being a Good Magician.
He could, on a good day, with lots of flourishes, if you waited long enough, turn an egg into an omelette – provided you happened to look away during all the business with the stove and the frying pan, and provided you weren’t too fussed about it being a nice omelette.
In twelve years of professional sorcery, he’d cast either three spells successfully, in the sense that something magic had happened, or none, in the sense that what had happened had been what was wanted. (You will recall that one of these straightened Princess Wobblylock’s hair, I will tell you what the others where another time.)
Still, he was prepared to give it a go.
He tapped Scarylock’s left knee (green and warty) with a little hammer (yellow and rubber). He got her to say ‘aaaaaah’, and said ‘Aaaaarhhhh!’ himself at the sight of her many sharp teeth. And then he suggested giving woman in the Kingdom a free jewel encrusted veil, and charged the King five pieces of gold.
(Now I think, and you may well agree that this was too good an idea for Custardicus to have had alone, and I think that one of Scarylock's medusa hair snakes whispered it to him, because even though she was only a baby her hair was half-immortal on its great great etc etc great-aunts side, and that has to count for something.}
However, if there was one thing Custardicus did understand it was flannel (and brocade, but that's another story)
‘You see,' he continued - pushing the whispering snake-hair back out of sight -
'ugliness is in the eye of the beholder, Sire. Provided no one can see that Scarylocks is ugly, then she isn’t, and provided non-one can see that she isn’t the only person who can’t be seen, then no one is singled out as having been ugly.’
‘Hmm’, said the King, who felt that was a slightly less magical solution that he’d hoped for for five gold pieces. The Queen who was thinking long term about arranged marriages, also had some doubts but she was pinning her hopes on Scarylocks being a late developer, and at least this would buy them some thinking space in which Wilhemina wasn’t being mooted abroad as the Princess Most Likely To Shatter Glass.
‘Additionally,’ Custardicus said, thinking, as he so often had to, on his feet in case he had to start running with them, ‘if you let it be known that the water from the springs of your city, has such a beautifying effect on those that drink it, that your womenfolk have to wear protective veils to avoid dazzling visitors, I think you’ll find that the additional income in visitors to your spas, and the export of Doctor Custardicus’ Patent Beautifying Mud (with only a tiny percentage to myself for the name) more than repays the expense in fabric.’
And this is why for many years, the veil was the headgear of choice in Locksrovia-Upon-Spa. But you know the oddest thing happened, call it the power of auto-suggestion, call it the effect of true love, call it the onset of puberty, call it the narrative drive to a happy ending implicit in a traditional fairy tale structure, but when Scarylocks eventually fell in love with a visiting Prince, and he removed her diamond strewn veil at the high altar, he vowed that he had never seen anyone so beautiful and they lived happily ever after. Of course he was the Graf Sebastien Wolfstein Von Varthog and notoriously short sighted, and thought her snaky hair was the latest thing in retropunk chic, but Scarylocks liked him so that was all right.