Jason Stephenson, Contributor
Each glass pipe possessed a one of a kind being. Some were tall and wide, others narrow and thin, some even cracked or empty. An elderly woman sauntered among the exhibition of unique tubes, carefully eyeing the handsome young man as he wandered around the hut.
"They all posses a unique feature." she said. "What exactly is it you wish for?"
The prince strutted around in his shimmering suit of armour, his sword secured to his waist as he peered into one of the huge life-size tubes.
"I'm not quite sure," he said tapping the glass. The woman inside floated about like a serene spirit coloured in bright magenta. "Are they alive?"
"No," said the old woman. "They are merely puppets bewitched to express the many qualities of a woman."
The man continued to stare at the magenta spirit, she eyed him longingly, beckoning him to come inside.
"Desire," smiled the witch nodding to the spirit. "If you were to choose her, I could brew a spell so powerful that the next woman you meet will desire you more than any other."
The man laughed.
"I am Prince Richard - I slayed the dragon Brezla, I fought the Yondela's Army single-handedly for two whole days, I bathe in riches and women from sunrise to sunset I possess enough desire." he said strolling over to a yellow looking phantom.
"How about some stubbornness?" The spirit rolled her eyes at the prince, turning away from his gaze only to look elsewhere. "Maybe you'd prefer a little chase? I can attract to you a woman so rebellious, so unyielding; you'll feel like a king the minute you win her heart."
Richard pondered for a bit before shaking his head in disapproval.
"Rage perhaps?" she said pulling him over to another tube. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. A warrior such as yourself can appreciate a woman not afraid to fight. If you chose her, you would attract a woman so fearless she could stand by your right hand in the fiercest of battles."
A restless green spirit pounded against the tube screaming all sorts of obscenities to Richard, ready to start a scuffle.
"I don't think so." said Richard moving on to another.
"Humour maybe? They say laughter is the best medicine. How about a woman so amusing you'll never have a dull moment with her".
Richard looked the phantom up and down; she was dark blue, laughing loudly as she held her stomach in stitches.
"No," he said still marching over to another showcase. An orange spirit stared anxiously in Richard's eyes, begging loudly "Love me, love me!" as it clawed the glass tube.
" Desperation." said the witch sadly. "Possibly, you want someone who will worry for you? Someone who will cling to you day and night, bending to your every will?"
Richard shrugged uninterestedly before wandering deeper into the witch's collection.
Happiness, jealously, motherly, free-spirited, deceitful, innocent, intuition, intelligence, emotional - freak. The witch had been rambling for hours, she had almost run through her entire stock. What on earth did this man want? No one ever took this long to make a decision.
The witch was exhausted. She leaned against a pipe holding a pink spirit. It blinked innocently at Richard as it twirled in a circle.
"What's that one?" asked Richard pointing at a tube in the far corner all by itself. Inside was a pale woman. She didn't even have a colour. Her clothes were shredded and her head held down.
"Nothing important dear, it's an old version." said the witch.
Richard had already wandered into the corner circling this curious creature.
The pale woman
"Shy little one isn't she?" he said poking the glass to get her attention.
The woman timidly raised her head and looked at him. Her face was covered in deep cuts and bruises as if she had been beaten senseless over and over again. Richard jumped. She fidgeted, before quickly lowering her head shamefully.
"W-Why does she look like that?" he spat.
"It's nothing, nobody buys that one anymore, but, I do have a lovely case of friendship somewhere around here. Let me just check my... ."
"What is that?!" he demanded.
The witch sighed.
"It's a woman's love," she said. "Nobody's chosen it for years."
" Love?!" said Richard. "But it's so vile looking!"
"Well, she was beautiful once," said the witch looking pitifully at the frail spirit. "But that was a long time ago. She's been through a lot."
"Yes, but what caused her to look like ... ."
The prince's eye suddenly caught a glimpse of shocking bright light from a nearby closest.
"W-What was that? What's in there?"
"Probably my cat, Stinger" she said. "Just pick the Love Spirit and go, what better choice is there, really? Besides it's getting very late."
"That wasn't a cat." said Richard creeping closer to the closest as he pulled out his sword.
The prince quickly yanked the door open and was stunned at what he saw. It was the most dazzling spirit he had seen yet. It was golden with long flowing hair. Prince Richard was immediately captivated by it.
"This one!" he yelled. "I want this one!"
The witch peered at the Love Spirit.
"Sorry dear," she whispered. "I tried to hide her; I really did, maybe next time." The witch trotted over to Richard and the new spirit he discovered. "Beauty," said the witch. "How could I have forgotten?"
The Love Spirit trembled, suppressing the sharp pain she felt as another large gash slashed from nowhere across her cheek. It was pain unlike any other, and just like all the others scars she had got, which somehow refused to ever fully heal, this one was no different.