As the witch sought to leave, a brave young pushbrown blocked her way.
"Please, Lady Nimue," she pleaded, "If what you said is true, and you do this to teach our lord humility and kindness, pray consider this. What will happen to our land without her lord? At best, his vassals will do as they will. At worst, they will war with each other, trying to take the throne for themselves. So please, I ask you for a small reprieve. During the day... no, for just the afternoon, let the prince resume his true form, so that he may hold court and rule the kingdom."
The witch regarded the former chambermaid thoughtfully. Then her lips creased in a light smile.
"Very well," she agreed. Nimue gestured, and a wave of power passed over them, and settle into another part of the castle.
"In the western meeting room," she pronounced, "while the sun shines through the main window, the curse shall be eased. Any of you who enter the room during that time will regain your original forms. When you leave, or when the sun has fallen, your new shapes will be restored. And know that if you squander this reprieve, it will break. Use the room for any purpose but proper business, and the enchantment will be gone. And you will have to find another way to govern."
So saying, the enchantress vanished in a flurry of rose petals.
Magic must defeat magic
"Go," the prince growled, "Find me anyone. Any hedge magician, or alchemist, or illusionist. There must be another who can break this curse. Or at least find a way to disguise it."
So it was, after a few months search, that the wise old serving fork found the last true alchemist in the kingdom. And while his power and skill were not great enough to gainsay Nimue, lover and student of Merlin, he was able to brew a potion. It was slow to brew, and painful in effect. But it returned the prince to his rightful form for thirteen hours. But the potion itself was not without cost, if consumed more then once in a fortnight, it would tear the imbiber apart. Still, between the prince and his more trusted servants, they could try to keep the peace. It would have to be enough.
"Good people," the cryer exclaimed, "Hear of our great woe. A powerful and arrogant witch set upon our beloved prince. She made sudden and terrible demands, and when our highness bravely refused her, she cursed not just the prince, but his entire court and castle. That curse has made it nigh impossible for the prince to keep court. So we beg of you, our people. Help to keep the kingdom alive, do your duties, and assist others. And if you hear tell of the witch Nimue, report it to the castle, immediately, that we might find her, and undo her magics."
The outcry was great, the people were united against a common foe. Though there were those who sought to take advantage, they were quickly found by the loyal. Or by the more shrewdly neutral. The crown was fractured, but the kingdom was stronger. After all, everything the bards reported was the truth. From a certain point of view.
Kingdom of Masks
Okay, no story blurb this time. But have the prince announce that none may see him, that he will hold court in an exquisite mask. And that all who come to call must also wear masks. Set the nobles against each other, seeing who can match the prince's elaborate and flawless disguise. Offer loaner visors to those who come to court without a mask.
After all, the prince should not judged by his appearance, nor do he wish to judge others that way.
(thanks to WBT for the addition)