By Emily M. Hanson <email@example.com>
Submitted: August 2002
Summary: Can Princess Lois work with Clark to break Tempus's evil curse? This is an Elseworld fairy-tale story.
Disclaimers: I don't own any recognizable characters from the Lois and Clark TV show. As far as I know, they are owned by DC comics. This was not written for profit. No infringement or plagiarism is intended.
This was inspired by Lois & Clark, the whole Enron/WorldCom thing, and probably a number of fairy tales I read as a child. A very special thanks to Brightfeather for helping me to get past my writer's block in the final scene.
Once upon a time, the beautiful Princess Lois was out for a walk. She often snuck outside for little excursions in the forest. Even though she was in her early 20's, she often felt like a child under the royal guards' strict watch. It felt good to be away from the stifling castle. Suddenly the glint of gold caught her eye. Bending down, Lois saw a ring engraved with the initials "C.K." She looked around in case the ring's owner was nearby.
"Hello," she said. "Is anyone here?"
Then she heard a faint whinny like that from a horse. Princess Lois turned around and saw a flash of white among emerald leaves. If her eyes were not mistaken, she could barely discern an equine shape. C.K. must have lost his or her mount and wouldn't be far behind. The horse took a tentative step forward, and a silver horn was visible now. It was most definitely not a horse.
"A unicorn," Lois breathed in awe. She reached out to touch it and make certain that she wasn't dreaming.
As soon as her hand got close, it turned and bolted, sending a flurry of foliage in her direction.
"Ugh," she said, brushing away the leaves and dirt from her hair.
She couldn't believe that she had seen a unicorn! And a live one! The only unicorns in the kingdom were long-dead. Only brave adventurers and merchants who traveled the long, winding roads between the kingdoms of Metropolis and Gotham had found their bones. Well, she would have to return the ring to its rightful owner. There was no question about that. Lois turned around and headed back to the castle, determined to discover the identity of C.K.
Tempus leaned back and tried his best to appear good- natured as the next peasant in line made his petition to the king. It was something about paving the roads, or at least making it safer. To be honest, he was completely bored and had been for some time. King Sam was intelligent — he'd have gotten rid of the man long ago otherwise, but the king insisted on hearing ideas from the people for at least one hour a week.
These peasants were so shortsighted. All they could think of was the immediate present and how it affected them and not the kingdom's coffers, which Tempus kept an eye on personally. Every once in a while he snuck a few coins out from under the king's nose, but King Sam was too occupied with running the kingdom to notice, which Tempus also made sure of.
His thoughts drifted back to last week, when one peasant had made the suggestion of letting the people know exactly how much money the kingdom had. Why, the nerve! It was all that Tempus could do to restrain himself from advising the king to chop off the young man's head for his insolence. Instead, he'd suggested giving the young man a much milder punishment: a transformation curse, and the king had agreed. Sam responded well to hypnotic suggestions.
Clark nervously stood as his mother straightened his tunic. "You look wonderful, dear."
"I'm proud of you, son," Jonathan added. "Meeting the King, that's not something everyone gets to do."
"Mr. Kent?" The guard opened the door to the throne room. "The King will see you now."
Jonathon and Martha Kent waited as Clark strode confidently into the throne room. There were so many people, and all of them dressed much better than he was, being a peasant. But Clark wasn't nervous. He'd rehearsed his speech several times, and his parents agreed that the idea of distributing some sort of statement to the public about how their taxes were being spent was good. Not everyone would be able to read it, but the statement could be posted in libraries and other public places around the kingdom, where those who could read it might explain it to those who couldn't.
The roads were in disarray, and most of the time the king's soldiers could be seen frequenting taverns. Meanwhile, the king and his advisors, including the wizard Tempus, were getting wealthier while the people were getting quite poor. It was obvious to Clark and his family where the taxes were going, but no one else seemed to notice.
"Your Majesty," Clark began, "on my way here, my parents and I passed a tavern called the Metropolis Inn. We saw several soldiers outside who could barely stand up because they'd had too much ale. Not only that, but you'd be amazed by the number of potholes in the main road. If the kingdom's money is not being spent to improve the roads and having soldiers patrol them so we can be safe, where is it being spent? It is time to let the people of Metropolis know where our taxes are going."
"And how do you propose I do this?" King Sam inquired.
"I propose a statement, perhaps done every few months, that shows what our taxes are being spent on. It could be put up in libraries, churches, and wherever people gather."
"What do you think, Wizard Tempus?"
"It's galactically stupid, your Majesty! What are we supposed to do, teach every peasant how to do accounting? Most of them can barely count to 100. Heck, most of them can't even read."
"Why not? When I was a child, everyone had to go to school."
"Yes, but we abandoned that policy because the peasants need their children to be working on their farms, remember? I think we need to show this peasant the error of his ways," Tempus said. He fingered the magical green stone around his neck that he'd had for years. It had odd effects on different people, but it also gave him the power to control the king's mind…unbeknownst to anyone else. "Perhaps we ought to transform him into something else for a while. Then, when he comes back and apologizes for his impertinence, we'll cancel the spell."
"Sounds like a good idea," King Sam said, though his voice was different somehow.
Clark couldn't put his finger on it, but something was odd about the green amulet Tempus wore and the way the king was acting. This was the first time he'd met the king, but King Sam didn't sound normal. There was also a strange gleam in the wizard's eyes. Nobody else seemed to notice.
Tempus chanted something. Immediately the air around Clark began to shimmer. A few moments later, there stood not a peasant but a unicorn. It reared. Tempus ducked to avoid its hooves and shouted, "Guards!" Then two guards got the unicorn under control and escorted it out of the palace, along with Clark's parents, as Tempus snickered.
Coming out of his daze, King Sam inquired, "What was that?"
"Er…nothing, Your Majesty. Just an impertinent peasant who had nothing better to do than to insult you. Remember?"
King Sam blinked. "Right. He was punished, wasn't he?"
"Of course, Your Majesty. Now, shall we get down to business? What's next on the agenda?"
The king held up his scroll. "A meeting with a group of women who want equal rights to vote…"
"Vote? This is a Monarchy." Tempus laughed. "Cancel that, Your Highness."
"Then we have a peasant who was caught stealing an apple from the marketplace."
"Really? This should be entertaining. Bring him in."
The guards escorted a young scruffy-looking man and forced him to bow before the king.
"What's your name, son?" King Sam asked.
"James Olsen. They call me Jimmy."
"Why'd you do it?" Tempus asked.
"I didn't do anything! I was framed!"
"Riiiight. I'm the Royal Wizard, and I can tell if you're lying, young man."
"But I didn't do it. Honest! I was in the marketplace looking for some potatoes to take home, and suddenly a guard stopped me. He put an apple in my pocket and said that he was really bored and needed something to do, so he arrested me for stealing."
The king turned to Tempus. "Is it possible that he's telling the truth?"
"No way. I advise throwing him in the dungeon, Your Highness." Tempus brushed one of his fingers against the amulet while he pretended to stroke his beard.
"Fine," King Sam said, getting glassy-eyed. "In the dungeon it is."
Jimmy was hauled off as the wizard sneered.
Footsteps approaching brought Tempus out of his reverie. It was Princess Lois, looking more beautiful than ever. But her clothes were slightly rumpled. As she curtsied, Tempus reached down and pulled a leaf out of her hair. "You've been outside against the rules again, I see."
Lois nodded, feeling furious with herself for not checking in the mirror first. Now she was more than likely going to have an extra contingent of guards following her around and breathing down her neck. She envied the peasants' freedom and wished, for not the first time, that she could have an adventure. "I found this. Perhaps you can find out who the owner is for me by casting a spell or something." She handed the ring to him.
"C.K.? That looks intriguing. Unfortunately, I don't have the time."
Disappointed, Lois turned away after taking the ring back from him. She would just have to find out who its owner was the hard way.
Clark and his parents, meanwhile, were doing everything they could to adapt to the strange situation. The curse Tempus had put on him only lasted for a few hours at a time, but it had a habit of happening whenever Clark least wanted it to, like in the forest earlier. He was sure that he had heard the voice of a young woman, and was about to reply, but then he'd changed. Luckily, she hadn't seen him. However, he'd dropped his ring, a gold ring with the initials of C.K. He needed to go back and look for it.
The ring was very special, for it had been given to him by his birth parents to wear when he was old enough. His adoptive parents had taken it to a jeweler and had his initials engraved into it. On his 18th birthday, it had fit perfectly, and he'd worn it ever since. Clark had never met his birth parents. He'd been adopted by the Kents as a baby. While he loved them very much, he wondered sometimes who his real parents were and where they were from.
Meanwhile, Tempus had apparently proceeded to win over the royal court and most of the peasants with his smooth talk. After meeting him, Clark was convinced that the green amulet had something to do with his powers. If only he could get it from Tempus! But with the curse, he had no chance of sneaking into the palace undetected, for he might transform into the unicorn at any time. If he met someone inside the palace who could help him, then he might stand a chance.
Clark finished up his chores and went into the house, where his mother was cooking. The wonderful smells of beef, barley, carrots, and potatoes wafted through the air. "Hi, Mom," he said. "That smells good."
"Thank you, Dear."
"Except I can't stay for dinner."
"I need to go back and look for my ring. I dropped it in the forest earlier when I changed into the unicorn."
"Be careful," Martha said.
"I'm always careful, Mom. See you later."
Princess Lois had asked all of the servants and guards she could find, and none of them knew anyone with the initials C.K. She was about to give up when she nearly ran into her father in one of the corridors, who was walking as if he were in some sort of daze.
"Dad? Are you okay?"
"Yes, Dear. I'm fine."
Peering into his glassy eyes, she said, "You don't look all right. What's the last thing you remember?"
"Tempus…I remember Tempus's voice. Why?"
"That's it?" Lois was beginning to worry. What did the Royal Wizard have to do with her father's strange condition? "What did he say?"
King Sam closed his eyes. "I don't remember, but I recall hearing his voice."
"All right, Dad." She escorted him into one of the many empty bedrooms reserved for guests. "Lie down. I'll find a physician."
"Tempus will know what to do."
"No," she replied. "Not him. Promise me you won't speak to him until we find out what's wrong with you, Daddy. Please?"
"Okay," he answered. His eyelids soon became too heavy to keep open and he fell asleep.
Lois turned around. The nearest physician was in one of the villages, which meant going through the forest. After changing clothes into riding breeches and a tunic, she set out for the stables. She wasn't going to walk all that way.
Clark had been searching for his ring for hours, but with no luck. Speckles of red light could be seen between dark green leaves as the sun slowly set. He knew that he should head for home before it got too dark. Many creatures were said to lurk in the forest at night, like evil spirits and mischievous gnomes. Wild animals such as wolves also roamed at night, and they were more likely to be dangerous…perhaps not as dangerous to a human, but if Clark inadvertently turned into the unicorn, they would surely prey on him.
Meanwhile, Princess Lois was in the forest. She rode a chestnut mare which she had named Lucy, for no apparent reason other than it had seemed appropriate. Determined to find a physician for her father, Lois set out on the path that led to the village. However, she chanced to see a young man on the same path, looking as though he'd lost something or someone dear to him. Ordinarily, it would have been beneath a princess such as herself to speak to a peasant, but something stirred Lois's heart.
"Excuse me, Sir. Are you all right?" she heard herself ask.
Clark looked up. He recognized the princess, of course. It was just that he couldn't believe she was talking to him. "Yes, your Highness. Thanks for asking. I lost something very precious, that's all. I thought I might have found it here, but I've looked everywhere."
Lois's eyes widened. "It wasn't a ring, was it?"
"Yes! It's gold and has the letters C.K. on it."
Lois climbed off the horse and showed him the ring she'd found. "Is this it?"
"Yes. Thank you, your Highness."
"I found it earlier today."
Clark accepted the ring back and put it on his finger. "Forgive me if I seem rude, but what are you doing in the forest alone? It is a dangerous place, your Highness."
"I was on my way to the village to find a physician for my father. He is acting very strangely."
Thinking of his encounter with Tempus, Clark asked, "What do you mean?"
"He doesn't remember anything that happened today. The last thing he remembers is hearing the Royal Wizard's voice. Please don't tell anyone. If word should get out that the king is ill…"
"I won't," he promised. "But you must hear my story, as strange as it will sound."
"All right. I'm listening."
He told her all about his meeting with the king, including the part about Tempus putting a curse on him. He finished, "It has something to do with that green amulet the wizard wears. I'm sure of it!"
"We have to get it away from him somehow," she agreed. "But how?"
"Let's find the physician first," he said.
Suddenly an amazing thing happened. As the last rays of the sun vanished, the air around Clark shimmered and rippled. When the air returned to normal, there stood not a peasant but a unicorn. Lois gasped.
The unicorn whinnied in response.
"Great. Now what?"
In reply, the unicorn turned toward the direction of the village.
Lois sighed. "All right. You lead the way."
Physician Herb Wells was writing his latest medical reference guide when he heard a knock on his door. "Come in," he said.
"Dr. Wells, I presume?" Lois asked, stepping over the threshold.
He gasped. "Princess Lois? I trust that everything is all right, your Highness."
"Actually, it isn't. But you must promise to keep this a secret."
"My father has taken ill, and I think the Royal Wizard Tempus has something to do with it."
As she spoke, the unicorn poked his head through the doorway.
"Good heavens," Herb exclaimed. "A unicorn must have followed you, my dear."
"He was cursed by Tempus," she replied. "He's not a unicorn, but a peasant named Clark."
"Surely not Clark Kent?"
The unicorn whinnied in response.
"When he was only six, young Clark broke his arm while climbing a tree to rescue a cat. His parents entrusted me with his care. He was a brave lad. Tempus I know all too well. He was once a student of mine. I finally had to let him go because he refused to follow the physician's ways. He cared more about gaining knowledge and power than about helping others. I suppose he has finally found the position which he sought for so long. Who knows what other trouble he's caused?"
"Yes. I need you to come and look at my father," Princess Lois said. "I don't know exactly what Tempus has done to him."
"What are his symptoms?"
"He doesn't remember very much. He barely recognized me this afternoon."
"Ah, amnesia. He needs time to recover. There's not much I can do, I'm afraid," he said.
"But there's more," she replied. "All he can remember is Tempus's voice, and his eyes look very strange." Then Princess Lois related Clark's tale.
Herb grew pale. "Oh, dear." Quickly, he began to gather supplies. "Time is of the essence if we are to break Tempus's spells. Please go into my bedroom and get my bag."
Lois resented being told what to do like a common servant, but it was necessary to help her father, so she did it. As she was in the physician's bedroom, Clark changed back into his normal self, which didn't phase Herb.
"Clark, I need a book that's on the top shelf of my bookcase. It's bound with purple leather. You can't miss it."
He grabbed a chair and perused the books on the shelf. They had titles like Ancient Herbal Remedies, Twenty-One Different Uses For Hemlock, Herbal Gardening, and How to Break Evil Curses. The final book was the one Clark needed. As he stepped down, Princess Lois returned with a bag.
"Thank you," the physician said, and put everything he needed into the bag. Then he reached for a walking staff. Lois couldn't help but notice that it appeared unusually sturdy and had some sort of red crystal embedded near the top, which reminded her a bit of the amulet Tempus wore. "Let's go."
"Wait," Lois said.
"My dear, we have no time to waste."
"Why is there a red crystal in your staff? Is it magical?"
"I don't believe so. I've certainly never seen it do anything, and I've had it since I was a young man. My teacher gave it to me as a gift after I left the university of Metropolis, which sadly no longer remains in use, thanks to Tempus's meddling with your father. We really should be going."
They left the village. By this time it was night. Stars were sprinkled across the sky like crumbs on a dark tablecloth. The full moon shone overhead. As they walked down the path leading into the dark forest, Clark's ring glinted as a moonbeam touched it. The light happened to reflect and hit the physician's staff. Its crystal glowed.
"Look," Princess Lois exclaimed. "Your staff must be magical."
Herb glanced at it. "I've never seen it do that before. Perhaps you're right. My instructor, Catherine Grant, said that it might prove useful in times of need, but I really thought she meant for more practical uses. I've been using it as a walking staff for years."
"Maybe it'll come in handy when we deal with Tempus," Clark said. "Let's keep going."
They continued down the dark, winding path until they reached the castle. King Sam was asleep now. He lay nearly comatose on the bed.
"Watch the door to make sure no one interrupts us," Herb said. "I need total concentration."
"Of course," Clark answered.
As the physician took the purple leather-bound book and herbal potions from his bag, Princess Lois watched the corridor. She couldn't help but notice how well-defined Clark's muscles were. Of course, he'd probably gotten them from working in the field every day since he'd been a boy. She also could not ignore the effect his slightly wavy black hair and his twinkling brown eyes had on her. Then she gave herself a mental kick in the head. What was she thinking? He was a peasant and she was a princess. It was her duty to marry someone royal — most likely the king of Gotham, Bruce Wayne, or his son, Prince Richard.
"Are you all right, your Highness?" Clark asked.
"Yes," she snapped.
"Sorry if I sounded rude, but your father's illness and the news about the Royal Wizard's treachery must be an awful lot to take in one day."
"We are fine. Do not presume to know how we feel, farm boy." She replied, deliberately using the royal 'we' to distance herself. She had never cared much for it before, but apparently it did have its uses.
"Please keep it down, you two," Herb whispered.
Clark sighed and continued his vigilant watch. But it was definitely hard to ignore the beautiful Princess Lois, whose passionate anger only enhanced her beauty. Her luxurious brown hair cascaded in waves down her shoulders, the curves of which…quickly, he put a stop to that thought. What chance did he have of any sort of relationship with Princess Lois? He was just a peasant, for crying out loud. Better not to think about that sort of thing and to concentrate on the problem at hand, which was how to defeat Tempus. Since the green stone was the source of his power, they needed to figure out how to get it away from him.
"We need to get Tempus's green amulet," Lois mused out loud.
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing, your Highness. We need a plan."
"I'm the Princess. I make the plans."
"Okay," he replied. "What's the plan?"
She was about to answer when her father unexpectedly sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Lois?" King Sam muttered.
Quickly she rushed to his side. "Father, you're awake!"
"Yes, I am…and alert too, thanks to the physician you've brought. Oh, I had no idea what Tempus was doing to me. He must be stopped! That amulet he wears has to be the source of his power. I'll order the guards to detain him."
"That won't work. It's too obvious. He'll trick them the same way he tricked you. We need a plan."
Suddenly, they heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Clark looked out into the hallway. "It's Tempus!"
"Fools," the Royal Wizard's voice rang out, echoing through the corridor. "Do you really think you can stop me?"
"Yes," Clark answered. "We can and we will!"
"That's right," Princess Lois added.
Herb took his staff. "Stand back," he said, stepping out of the room.
"Tempus, your acts of treason have not gone unnoticed," the king shouted. "You are no longer the Royal Wizard."
"Imbeciles! You cannot hope to match my power."
"No, but we can beat it," the physician responded.
As he tilted the staff, soft yellow light from one of the candles lighting the hallway struck it. The beam hit the staff's red crystal and activated its power, which created a cone of ruby-colored light that swept through the hallway. Tempus grasped the green amulet, countering the magical energy with an emerald-hued beam of his own. Herb concentrated with all his mental strength to fight it, but Tempus's evil was too much for him.
"No," Clark exclaimed and grabbed the staff when Herb collapsed. Princess Lois caught him.
"For the sake of the kingdom, do not let Tempus win," the physician whispered as unconsciousness barked like the King's hunting dogs at his heels.
"We won't fail you," Lois whispered.
For what seemed like an eternity, the duelists faced each other in the palace corridor. Beads of sweat poured down Clark's forehead as he concentrated. They were at an impasse. It was going to take a lot to beat Tempus. He thought of all the good things in his life: his adoptive parents, his biological parents who surely cared about him somewhere. Then he thought about Princess Lois. What would happen to her if he lost? He couldn't bear to imagine the horrors that the former Royal Wizard might inflict upon the kingdom.
The red cone of light from the staff grew noticeably brighter. Clark had to shield his eyes and hold it up with one hand. Even as hopeless as it seemed, there was still a chance that he and Princess Lois might be able to be together — but not if Tempus won. He couldn't lose that chance.
Suddenly his magical ray grew blindingly bright. The sound of Tempus's amulet shattering was the sweetest thing Clark had ever heard (next to Princess Lois's voice, of course). It was followed by an inhuman cry of anguish. He opened his eyes and saw his opponent writhing on the floor, no longer recognizable as anything human.
Herb sat up and rubbed his head. "What happened?"
"You're all right," Lois exclaimed.
"Yes, my dear. Except for a slight headache, that is. But I'll live."
"Thank goodness," King Sam announced. "The Kingdom is saved!"
"Clark," Lois said, "are you all right?"
"Yeah," he replied, feeling like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "I think the curse is broken."
He glanced at the misshapen creature that had once been the Royal Wizard. "What do we do with him?"
"Throw him in the dungeon for now," the King replied. "I'll think of something else later."
Clark looked into Princess Lois's eyes. "Are you all right?" he asked in a husky tone.
"Yes," she replied. Then she added, "I'm sorry."
"Being rude to you earlier."
"You're a princess. You have every right to be rude."
Lois shook her head. "No, I don't." She leaned over and kissed him. "Thank you for saving the kingdom."
He blushed. "I couldn't have done it without you."
Herb cleared his throat, and the two of them looked sheepish. "That can wait. He can't."
"Right." Princess Lois raised her voice. "Guards!"
Two disheveled-looking guards wandered around the corner. "Your Highness?"
"Lock him up."
"Right," said the second, and belched. "Excuse me, your Highness."
"When you're done, take a shower and change your clothes. There are going to be a few changes around here."
"Yes, your Highness." The guards hauled the creature that had been Tempus off to the dungeons.
Eventually, Lois and Clark got married, after it was discovered that a little-known law allowed peasants to marry royalty as long as they were knighted. King Sam immediately made Clark a knight and the ceremony was carried out henceforth. Jimmy, who they later rescued from the dungeons, proved to be useful as a royal spy. The creature formerly known as Tempus was cast out and exiled to the Great Caverns, which lay many leagues beyond the Dark Forest. Martha and Jonathan were content to remain on their farm, but often visited Clark and Princess Lois in the palace. And they lived happily ever after.