Jameson huffed on his cheap, mean cigarette. “It was a mystery for a long time, but now it’s pretty much an open secret: the royal family has a genetic predisposition to acute bufomorphic osculitis.”

“Acute…what?” The strong local Cinnibarian liquor was making Cartyr’s ears buzz, but he was still reasonably sure that the last thing Jameson said would have come out as gibberish to the stone-cold sober.

“Did they just throw you into this assignment out of grammar school, or what?” the elder journalist groused. “Acute bufomorphic osculitis is when someone with massive inborn magical potential–specifically, for alteration or mutaremagicae–and can’t control it. Different families have different strains of osculitis, probably dating from whatever forebear had the mutation in the first place.”

Cartyr sipped his local firewater. “That doesn’t explain why the princesses can never marry.”

“It’s sex-linked, so only the ladies can get it. Men are just carriers.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s something in the big book of reporting about getting to the damn point,” Cartyr cried, thrusting his pencil at his blank reporter’s notebook. “You still haven’t told me what buffomoronic occultis is!”

“Guess you never had any Latin in grammar school either.” Jameson ground out his coarse smoke and lit a new one from the ashes. “It means that anyone the Cinnibarian princesses kiss turns into a toad, and that any toad the princesses kiss turns into a man. Or, I suppose, woman.”