Disclaimer: I don't own Brothers Grimm or any of the characters from the previously mentioned film. All I've got is an over-active imagination.


Prologue

Shattered Glass and Cursed Music

The light of the crescent moon illuminated the stone wreckage, barely reaching through the foreboding mass of trees surrounding the remains. Hundreds of ravens shifted in the trees, grouped together and waiting: their tasks had been fulfilled and now shuffled in anticipation, preparing for what only Fate could provide. The hours dragged on into the night and the indistinct moon continued its journey across the sky.

A twig snapped at the edge of the clearing and in a great wave every bird took to the sky, eclipsing the moon with their wings. Startled by the sudden exodus, a young traveller cried out in fear and reflexively drew a wicked dagger from his belt. The man was tall and thin, garbed in a faded vest speckled with colourful patches over the top of his tunic and breeches. As one hand held the dagger up, the other clutched at a leather pouch on his belt protectively.

"Hello?" he called out tentatively, his vibrant green eyes scanning the area suspiciously. His voice, although trembling, was clear and lilting, betraying an obvious musical talent.

The air in the clearing was still humming with the same strange energy that had attracted the birds, but instead of alluring, the young man found it disturbing. He began to inch carefully around the edge of the grove, hoping to be away from the place and on his way. His heartbeat accelerated the closer he got to the heart of the clearing and he couldn't help but wonder what had caused the enormous ruins, and what a building was doing in the centre of the woods in the first place.

When he had gotten halfway around, a new sound caught his ears and made him stop short. It wasn't the sort of sound that he would have expected to hear in the forest; it was the soft murmur of a woman's voice. The young man listened to the delicate but indiscernible words, entranced by the mere sound. Her voice was sweet and accented, but her words seemed to be filled with a great sorrow and her speech occasionally broke with remorseful sobs.

"Hello?" the young man called out again when he'd regained his mind. He wanted nothing more than to find the woman who belonged to the beautiful voice. The murmuring paused and an uneasy silence filled the air again. "I mean you no harm," he said reassuringly.

"Who are you?" the woman asked. He looked in the direction of the voice but still could see no one.

"My name is Friedrich of Hamelin," the young man responded, still scanning the rubble for any sign of movement. "Who are you? Where are you hiding?"

"I am a broken woman, once powerful and now shattered. I hide in the shelter of my cursed prison, where I've dwelt for five long years in wait of a saviour." The woman sighed heavily and a small sob entered her voice again. "Are you my saviour, Friedrich?"

"I am no saviour," Friedrich said quickly, sliding his dagger back into its sheath. "I am only a humble rat catcher and musician."

"Music is what I need to be set free," the woman said, her voice brimming with eager hope. "Please, Friedrich, do not leave me alone in this horrible place." Her sobs redoubled and Friedrich felt his heart break for the woman.

"I will help you, fräulein, if you tell me how," he said solemnly, grasping the pouch at his belt all the more tightly.

"First you must come to me and make me whole," the woman demanded gently. "Follow my voice and you shall find me."

"I am coming," Friedrich answered, moving through the ruins toward the captivating voice. He stepped forward over a fallen column and gasped in horror. There was a small area cleared in the centre of the wreckage that was littered with shards of glass, and each piece showed a different part of a human's body. Friedrich noted pieces of a beautiful gown of deep scarlet and gold, delicate skin as pale as snow, and a charming face. The eyes were absorbing and he instantly fell in love with the exquisite woman.

"Locate my frame," she said, the image of her ruby lips flickering across scattered pieces of glass. Friedrich, speaking with rapture, simply nodded and scrambled away over the crumbling ruins. It didn't take him very long to locate an aesthetic golden frame with a blank, wooden back. Excited, the young man brought it back to where the glass lay and she smiled. "Yes, that is it. Now lay it down and make me whole, young prince."

Friedrich's body trembled with delight. She had called him her prince! She must feel some of the same attraction that he felt for her. Eagerly, he began to gather up the fragments of glass and fitting them into the frame to recreate the form of a woman. He worked feverishly , not caring that the shards tore at his palms and crimson blood dripped from his fingertips. It took more than an hour for him to organise all of the pieces and when he had finished he stepped back to admire his work.

The glass turned out to be that of a mirror, and now that it was together he could see his own reflection standing beside that of the woman. His straw-blonde hair was sticking out from beneath the rim of his woollen cap, and compared to her he was exceedingly dull and unattractive.

"You have done brilliantly," the woman complimented, raising her hand to brush the cheek of his reflection. Friedrich felt the velveteen touch but when he glanced over his shoulder there was nothing but shadow behind him. "No, our work is not yet through. There is more that must be done before I will be free."

"What must I do, milady?" Friedrich asked instantly and, without any conscious thought about it, sank to one knee with his head bent in respect.

"Find my golden stake," the woman answered. "It is very powerful and its magic is required to set me free. You must find it."

"Of course," Friedrich agreed and rushed off in search of the item. The moon had travelled much farther in its journey before the young musician's cry of triumph split the silence. He hurried back to the mirror with all the eagerness of a pet expecting a reward from its master.

"I have found it, milady," Friedrich reported joyfully, displaying the large stake of gold clasped in his palm. The top was decorated with a strange symbol: a pointed crown encircling a heart, clasped in the hands of a lion whose mouth was opened in a roar. The stake's colour was tarnished, no longer the pure gold it had been in the past but a rusty blend of scarlet and flaxen.

"Wonderful," the queen said, for he was certain now that she was a queen. Resting atop her head was a beautiful golden crown and her chocolate brown ringlets were wrapped up inside of it. "Now lastly you must play a tune for me. Do you have an instrument?"

"Indeed," the young man responded and from the pouch on his belt he drew a beautifully carved flute. Its long, mahogany body was decorated with pictures of animals and children dancing together, and it was Friedrich's most treasured possession. "What should I play?"

"A tune of my own make," the mirror woman replied. "If I hum the chords, can you play them?" Friedrich nodded and the queen cleared her throat. She began humming softly and the musician felt himself lost in the bitter-sweet beauty of her voice, sighing with contentment as her enchanting music filled him with energy like the breath of life. When she stopped, Friedrich opened his eyes and watched her sadly, regretting that the music had ended.

"Can you play that?" the queen asked curiously, twisting a loose curl around a finger.

"Anything for you, my queen," Friedrich returned. He inhaled and lifted the flute to his lips. From his instrument sprouted a flawless rendition of the woman's chords and she clapped her milky hands in pleasure.

"That was perfect," the mirror woman said. "Now you must play that while I sing. You will have to repeat it several times, but if done correctly I will soon be free of this prison and you shall receive my thanks, handsome prince."

Friedrich bowed his head, mind whirring at the thought of receiving a gift from the heavenly queen. Then he placed the flute to his lips again, closed his eyes in concentration, and played the music. Almost immediately the queen joined in, her saccharine voice blending perfectly with his notes. The words she spoke were foreign and rough but even Friedrich could feel the magic beneath them and he sensed the air around him vibrating with power.

The cracks in the glass melted together, turning the mirror into a seamless pane of glass. Soon the surface began to ripple softly, like water when blown upon. Gracefully, the magic words still blossoming from her lips, the queen stepped forward and her slippered foot passed through the glass and brushed onto the leaf-strewn ground. The rest of her body was soon to follow until the mirror queen stood outside her frame, admiring herself as she stopped singing.

Friedrich continued playing, afraid to stop should he ruin his queen's chance of freedom. When she stopped singing he only played better, fearing that something had gone awry. The queen smiled slightly at his spellbound devotion and moved towards him. Like a butterfly, her hand settled on his shoulder and she whispered, "You may stop now, my prince."

Slowly the young man lowered his pipe, eyes still shut tight, afraid that he was hallucinating. Finally he turned to face her and let his eyes slide open.

There she stood before him, infinitely more radiant than he had first believed her. Everything about her resonated power and beauty, and Friedrich felt his breath sucked out of his chest. She graced him with a gentle smile and he fell to his knee, eager to pay homage to such a wonderful being.

"Rise, dearest," the queen said tenderly, offering one of her hands to him. The piper rose to his feet and lightly touched his lips to her knuckles. When he again stood in front of her, she brushed the side of his face compassionately and let her fingers rest along his jawbone. "Do you wish to stay with me eternally, to be my prince?"

"I would give up my life to serve you, my queen," Friedrich answered. The queen smiled; it was precisely what she wanted to hear.

"This is great news, for I would be sad to see you leave me now," the queen simpered. While she slid the hand on his face down onto his neck her other hand moved forward and drew the dagger sheathed at his waist. She plunged the blade into his stomach three times in quick succession. The piper gasped in horror and collapsed to the ground where he looked up at her with hurt eyes as the blood stained his tunic and the ground beneath him.

"I am sorry, my prince," the queen said, kneeling beside him. "I did not wish to harm you but you must be faced with death before I can save you." Friedrich trembled with spasms and he choked, blood speckling his lips, as his fingers slid over the deep holes in his torso.

"Look into my eyes, Friedrich," the queen commanded gently. The dying man looked up into her eyes, although his sight was beginning to fog. In those eyes he found a sanctuary and felt himself drawn towards her. She had not meant him injury, it had been necessary. "Do you still wish to serve me?"

"Yes, my queen," Friedrich answered. Struggling against his rebelling body, the piper rose into a kneeling position before the queen and inclined his head once again. The queen reached behind her and her fingers found the golden stake. She hefted it and placed a comforting hand on Friedrich's chest. The hand with the stake lunged forward and forced the stained gold into his heart. The piper stiffened and then relaxed as he felt his body's pain melt away. He slid a hand over his stomach and found the holes shrinking beneath his fingertips until they closed entirely.

The queen cleared her throat almost inaudibly and Friedrich raised his eyes to gaze into hers again. "My prince," she said, touching his cheek again. "Who is the fairest of them all?"

"You are, my queen," the piper answered. The queen leaned forward and when her lips met Friedrich's the spell became complete. He was utterly under her control now, and she was alive again.

"Now you must help me once more," the queen said at the conclusion of their kiss. "We must seek out and destroy those who hurt and imprisoned me." The pied piper of Hamelin nodded eagerly, waiting for further instruction. "We must finish the spells they ruined and then we must seek out and kill the Brothers Grimm."