I. The Witch stayed around for a final drink in the tavern. She told a big truth—Magic could transform humans into frogs!—and a bigger lie: a kiss could turn them back. She might have suggested both things had happened. More than once.
And so the townspeople slowly, night by night, trickled to the pond, in search of the frog-snog that leads to possession of half a kingdom (or more) through a Royal marriage. The fact that none came back was taken as proof of the efficacy of this plan; the water was probably just full of aristocrats, and all the lucky townspeople were either journeying towards the fabulous wealth of some other kingdom, which had long been missing its noble heirs; or else enjoying some exquisitely drawn-out honeymoon in assorted exotic locales.
So they crept to the murky water in ever-increasing numbers, now two per night, now three, now a new one pretty much on the hour. It turns out that the less-greedy, seeing everyone else apparently vanish into luxury, became just a wee bit more greedy. And when so many were making the pilgrimage that they began bumping into each other, such that the transformation happened in full view of others, each thought, “Well, there was clearly some inherent wrong in that person, which made things go haywire; it won’t happen to me.”
That did not, in the end, prove to be true.
Ever-more-numerous were the transmogrifications. If anything, people thought that the problem must lie in insufficient eagerness, or a deficiency of faith, and they began, quite literally, leaping into the pond in a frantic surge of osculation. Now it is a kingdom of frogs, all fighting each other constantly for a mouthful of flies.
II. Or perhaps:
What’s more compelling than the thought that some simple act, something momentary and simple, if unexpected, could make you rich, rich, rich?
The thought that there’s an awful, horrible secret somewhere in the mix.
Come on. If all the townspeople knew that the Royal spawn has gone amphibian, surely the Palace knew it, too. Why wouldn’t the rulers send some high-powered cursebreaker, some specialist, some of the sort of extra-special help you can get when you’re loaded with loot and command a reasonably large standing military?
Clearly there was some kind of scandal. Somebody wanted that froglet to stay a froglet. But what could it have been? Was it an improper liaison with an Elf? A murdered political rival? Was it possible that the entire Royal family had always been cursed amphibians, and everything else was just a front?
Sure. In a world of magic, why wouldn’t it be possible? The allegations abounded. Everybody believed; believing the worst is pretty much what humans do. But people were a bit divided in their responses. Some wanted to laugh. Some wanted to weep. And a few wanted to help.
The kindest of the kingdom, the people with the greatest desire to care for others, the ones who most tried to see the good in others, began to make their way to the pond. Soon, as the most compassionate of the kingdom, those who’d most want to assist in breaking an evil enchantment, began to disappear, it was the most self-centered, the least helpful, the, let’s not put too fine a point on it, worst people who remained, well, people.
And those folks had many offspring, each one brought up by those with the least empathy. It was a kingdom of narcissists and sociopaths—and it is your birthright now, Princess.
III. ….but actually:
Actually, the frogs all left the kingdom in haste. They knew something important: No matter what the story is, once they kiss you, you never, ever get the taste of human out of your mouth.
The Dark Lord Jeff Mach is a writer and creator who has long aspired to be the sort of person who neither needs to promote his other work at the bottom of his short stories, nor need speak of himself in the third person. Sadly, in both regards, he has failed.