Written for the Writer's Cramp prompt, 10/18/19.
| Like Child's Play
She made it almost too easy, the Princess, that is; for everyone knew how she loved to collect dolls of all kinds.
Princess Bethan had begun her collection when she had been just six years of age. She had traveled extensively with her mother and father, the King and Queen. What better gift to give to a young girl than a doll? She had small dolls and tall dolls; ones that looked like babies and others that clearly had reached adulthood.
Perhaps the strangest thing about Bethan is that she did not grow out of her obsession; in fact, if anything it grew stronger than ever once she reached the age of thirteen. Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday she must have collected hundreds.
I knew the perfect gift for her would be a doll; but this one would be something special, for had I not given it its very own personality. The Princess was lonely, like so many others fated with a royal birth; she badly needed a friend and this doll would provide one. She would lend an ear, give words of encouragement. The other dolls might very well be forgotten but this one, although far from being the prettiest, would be taken everywhere that Bethan went.
All I had to do was bide my time.
It was two months later, once the strange relationship had become firmly established that I made the doll begin to whisper. Just hints to begin with; building suspicions about the castle servants in general, her maids in particular.
One night I ordered Esmerelda, for that was what Bethan had called the doll, to steal one of the princess's necklaces. I let the doll pick which, for she would know which was the most precious, the one that would be most sorely missed. I loitered in the shadows by the Princess's chamber, took the necklace that Esmerelda slid under the door, and kept it safe. With it in my possession, my power over the doll, and so over the Princess, could only increase.
The finger of blame was pointed squarely at her personal maid, Mathilda. She proclaimed her innocence, but Bethan would not listen to her words or pay attention to her tears. Esmerelda whispered the accusations and Mathilda got off lightly; she could have faced execution but was banished from the kingdom instead.
There was no need for me to risk entering the palace again. I could sit by the fire and chant out my spells, and Esmerelda would hear and do all the work for me. It's so easy; an insidious lie will take route in the mind of the lonely, when it is uttered by a trusted one's lips.
It was a two-way thing. I was able to see through Esmerelda's eyes, could tell when the princess began to lose trust in her parents. She withdrew more and more to her own room, spending an increasing amount of time listening to the false allegations I made through the mouth of doll.
What could she do? Who could she go to? There was no one in the palace that would listen to her, not above the ruling couple. It was like child's play to escalate the conflict and when 'Esmerelda' brought the knife to Princess Bethan's chamber, the spilling of blood was inevitable.
Through the doll's ears, I could hear Bethan's pleas. "It was her, that doll, she made me do it!"
The guards were sympathetic but firm; the poor girl, no longer a princess was clearly insane. But she was who she was and would not be put in the cells, but kept under lock and key for the rest of her life. Esmerelda was not allowed to accompany her.
Did anyone notice the gleam of triumph that shone from the doll's eyes? Of course not. She was not spared a second glance.
My master will be very pleased, and I know that my reward will be substantial once the crown has been placed upon his head.