I promised you my own version of what would probably have happened to Gunther had Valois not entered his life. I’ve really enjoyed reading your opinions (and some of them would definitely have influenced my writing, had I been working on that story instead of the one I am writing) but here’s what I would have had happen:
Gunther would, before too long, have begun an office affair with Natalie. That much is a given, since he’s admitted as much to her in the story. The situation at home would have deteriorated to the point where Gunther spent most of his time sleeping in his suite at the office.
Cornelia would have sent Mort to prep school, but Gunther would have fetched him right home again, knowing his son would be dreadfully unhappy there. From this point, regrettably, Mort would have been stuck in the middle of a rapidly-unravelling home life, with Cornelia repeatedly using him as a pawn to get at Gunther.
Everything would have culminated in a huge argument, after Cornelia found out about Gunther’s affair with Natalie. Gunther would move out of the manor, buying a modest home for himself and Natalie (who would, by then, be in the middle of divorcing her husband).
Cornelia would file for divorce, and sue Gunther for an eye-watering amount of alimony, plus custody of Mort. Sadly, I think she would win this one, and Gunther would have limited access to his son.
Mort could go one of two ways, and here I’m not so sure which would happen. He would either go completely off the rails, rebelling against his mother and possibly running away from home as soon as he was of legal age to live alone, or Cornelia would manage to poison his mind against Gunther. Given her magical power, I suspect it would be the latter, so Gunther would probably lose contact with Mort.
Meanwhile, the press would have a field day with the whole scandal. Gunther’s reputation in town would plummet, because nobody would know the reason why he began the affair with Natalie. He wouldn’t lose his job, but he would lose a lot of his hard-earned respect within the community.
Ysabell wouldn’t exist, because Cornelia only decided a new baby would be the solution to keeping Gunther in her grip after Valois had come along and Cornelia suspected Gunther was having an affair with someone. (Although, hindsight tells me this could equally have happened if she suspected Gunther was having an affair with Natalie. However, the specifics of the night when Ysabell was conceived followed on from the gossip column of Gunther leaving the ‘motel’ that he was supposed to be at all night when he was with Valois. Since this was one of Valois’s illusions—which Natalie wouldn’t be capable of—that night probably wouldn’t have happened.)
I think that, fairly soon after they move in together, Natalie would fall pregnant, mainly thanks to all the stress they’re under (she might forget her pill or something; purely an accident). The eventual baby* would be the only good bit of news they’ve had in months. Even then, Natalie’s not the “mumsy type”, as she’s already said, and she’d struggle a bit, but with Gunther’s love and help they would end up as a solid and loving little family.
After that… who knows?
So, in short: Valois coming along might have twisted Gunther’s life around and turned it upside down (and, of course, will cause him a lot of future pain) but he did save Gunther a lot of present-day pain.
(*And yes, you know I’m going to see what that baby looks like in-game!)