I am on a roll tonight. Just a little one shot that wouldn't let me sleep.
Once Upon a Dream
The castle loomed ahead of me, walls covered in thorns. Thunder crackled and boomed from the storm clouds that huddled ominously above.
Not a fortuitous day for a curse-breaking.
Still, the oracle in Shady Hollow swore today was the day.
This castle had been at the focal point of the forest for nigh a century, and today the mystery would be unraveled. I burned with excitement.
Somewhere in that castle lay a princess, fast asleep due to a finger-prick. A woman with such a delicate constitution would surely hold a soul truly worthy of consumption. I could almost taste it.
This woman had been a subject of discussion for as long as I could remember. Indeed, she had been cursed shortly before I arrived in the forest. The sprites and spirits and faeries spoke pityingly of her – locked up and asleep for time out of mind, her whole world changed when she finally awoke. The hobgoblins and trolls and fellow Gatherers who answered to me spoke with a lascivious hunger and lust for her body or soul.
But she would be mine.
Already I could see the latest challenger – the predicted winner – riding cautiously towards the thorns. All I had to do was follow him through the thorns and then find her first. When he finally found his true love, she would be dead.
I used the cloud-cast shadows to my advantage and flitted out from under the trees, across the field until I came to the wall of thorns. The huge spikes protruded from vines as thick as my wrist. I caressed one lovingly. They reminded me of my court deep in the forest, protected by its own barrier of thorns.
The knight slowly approached the castle. His horse was nervous: this much was obvious. I crept closer along the shadows to get a glimpse of the man who was my key to the castle.
I hissed in displeasure. Him? That vapid, weak princeling was to lead me into the castle? I, Lord of the Shadows and ruler of the dark things, was to helped along by Sir Newton?
It could not be. Once I had seen him hunt in my forest. He was scared of his own shadow, let alone the ones I conjured, and couldn't catch a hare if his hounds laid it on his lap.
I would not let this happen. He would not enable me to do anything. There was nothing he could accomplish I could not. I was faster than any falcon, stronger than any bear, and more stealthy than any of my creatures of the night.
Sir Newton was now right in front of me, examining the thorns. My cloak of spider-silk hid me from his sight until I stepped out of the shadows.
"What? Who are you?" Newton drew his sword and thrust it at me.
"I go by many names. You may call me Lord."
"Are, are you the gatekeeper?" His voice cracked as he stared straight into my pitch black eyes.
I let a smile slowly cross my face, the one designed to send chills down my victims spines and quell the protests of my subjects. "You could say that."
He straightened as best he could. "Then stand aside. I have business here with Princess Isabella."
I was sick of this banter. I crouched down with my hands on my knees before letting go a stream of air into his face.
Shimmering black powder covered him and then sunk into his skin. He fell off his horse, unconscious. He would not wake for several hours.
I considered drinking his soul, but the very idea was repugnant. I would waste away to nothing before I would put my mouth anywhere near him.
There was now the problem of the thorns. They were thick and plentiful and larger than any natural growing thorns could ever dream of getting.
Again I caressed the vines, wondering if a cutting of them would survive to grow by my court, or if magic was required. Horticulture was not my strong suit.
As I slid my hands along the vines and thorns, they parted, giving way to a path to the castle gate.
I whispered my thanks and slid along the path. As soon as I entered the castle walls, the path closed up behind me, leaving no room for any other to pass.
Inside the castle walls, people lay sprawled everywhere. Ah yes, that was part of the story too. All the castle's inhabitants had been put to sleep as well, only to awake when the Princess awoke.
I wandered the castle, searching for the princess. While there were many beautiful girls with very nice auras, I could tell they were not the one for whom I search.
I wracked my brain. Where would they keep a sleeping princess?
Childhood stories flooded my brain. Where were princesses always kept? Of course. At the very top of the highest tower. Anything else would be too easy.
I flew up the stairs two at a time, racing along until at last I came a solid door. The pull was irresistible. I had to have her, possess her, claim her, drain of every last bit of her soul. I could almost feel her presence behind the door, it was so strong.
I threw open the doors.
There she was. She was perfect. Luscious curls of mahogany hair was arranged perfectly around the most exquisite face known to man, spirit, or beast. Deep blue silk wrapped her perfect curves and accented the pallor of her skin and the faint blush to her cheeks.
All around her was a pulsing white glow. Her soul was so pure she fairly lit the room all by herself.
I needed it.
In an instant I was at the bed, bending over to run my hands and lips across her soft face. Her blood pulsed beneath her skin and her soul was almost pushing its way into my body, forcing me to drink.
I slowly pulled my lips down to hers, drawing out what was sure to be the best feeding of my long, long life.
As soon as my lips touched hers, I was undone. Nothing could have prepared me for the sweetness or softness that awaited me there. I quickly withdrew, my head spinning. My lips burned to be pressed against hers once again, but not to draw out her life-force.
I clutched at my chest, gasping. What had come over me?
Slowly, the angel below me opened her eyes. Pools of deepest brown captured me, and I was lost. I could see deeper into her soul than just the outward aura. It was the most beautiful soul I had ever seen.
And yet, I couldn't bring myself to drink from her. I didn't wait to drain her, I wanted merely to kiss her again.
I stumbled back from the bed. Kiss her? What was I thinking? How I could I feel this why? How was I even feeling? My head reeled.
She got out of her bed, eyes trained on me. I stood still, paralyzed by shock. Her hand reached out to caress my face and I closed my eyes in sheer bliss.
"I know you."
"I know you," I whispered. And I did. Somewhere I had seen him before. Somehow I knew this man, this god now standing paralyzed beneath my fingertips.
Suddenly, he jerked away from me, but stumbled on the edge of his night-black cloak. Down he went, only to turn it into a backwards roll on the floor until he was suddenly on his feet again. He dashed to the window, only to stop when it was half open.
I couldn't move as he slowly turned back to face me. My heart beat wildly as his perfect face was revealed. His black eyes bored into mine as he slipped off the bed lightly and glided across the floor to me. It seemed to go in slow motion, until suddenly he grabbed me by the waist and jerked me against him.
I could feel every inch of his black-clad self as one of his arms snaked around me. I rested my hands on his chest as his other hand reached up to tilt my face to his.
My hands clenched in the soft material of his shirt as he fused his lips to mine. My mind reeled. I needed him.
As abruptly as he had grabbed me, he let me go. I slid to the floor with weak knees as he fled to the window and jumped.
I gasped in horror. Somehow I found the strength to run to the window. Down below I could see him jumping from tower roof to tower roof. I collapsed back to the bed with relief. He was safe.
He. Whoever he was. How he had gotten in my room or survived the fall out of it I had no idea. I was grateful it happened though. A perfect eighteenth birthday present, if I do say so myself.
I stretched out on the bed, my heart aching. I had a strong feeling I was completely ruined for any other man. I wanted him.
Still, if fate were kind I would see him again. I got out of bed and for the first time realized I was still in the dress I had worn last night.
Lord. Last night seemed so long ago. I hadn't felt this well rested in ages. The last thing I remembered was excusing myself from the ball to have some alone time in the tallest tower. I must have fallen asleep.
My doors burst open and King Charlie and Queen Renee burst in.
I couldn't help but think of them in formal terms. It had only been two years ago I found out I was their daughter. I grew up with faeries until I was sixteen, the day I was supposed to fall under a curse or some such nonsense. When my birthday passed with no curse, I brought back joyfully to the castle to claim my birthright.
"Oh Bella, we are so sorry darling?" Renee was crying. "We had no idea!"
"What?" Had they found out about my surprise visitor?
"The curse," my father replied. "Merryweather just explained it to me. It came two years late, though she doesn't know why. We've been asleep for almost ninety years now."
I sat down on the floor with a thud. "What?"
"At your ball, you wandered away. We couldn't find you, and then suddenly we woke up, ninety years later. Merryweather put the whole castle to sleep so we wouldn't notice the time passing."
Out in the hall came a keening wail.
"What is that?" My brain felt numb. No wonder I was so rested.
"King Edward I and his wife Queen Elizabeth. Their son was supposed to arrive the next day. By now he is surely dead," my mother explained.
"How did you wake up?" My father suddenly asked.
"Well, you know how the curse went," I muttered, "True love's kiss did it."
"Then where is this true love?" My mother demanded.
"He left." I waved my hand vaguely. No wonder I felt I knew him. He was my true love, my soulmate.
I sort of heard my mother's cries of disgust, but let them go. My mind was adrift. All I could think of were the few moments I had had with the man I belonged with.
I floated through the day in a daze. Messengers were sent out to the regency to let them know we were now awake, Merryweather and the other faeries who raised me caught my parents up on the events of the past century and the knights went about polishing their armor.
"Bella," Merryweather waved her hand in front of my face. "Bella, dear. You have to tell me about him. If you tell me about him I can go find him."
My head snapped up and suddenly I was focused. "What?"
"Description, deary, I need a description."
That I could do. "Tall, pale skin, black eyes, bronze hair, perfect, beautiful, dress in black pants, and black shirt and a long black hooded cloak."
She beamed. "Perfect. I know exactly who that is."
I was on my feet now, tugging at her hands impatiently. "You do? You do? Who is he?"
A frown crossed her face. "Well, he mostly goes by Lord now, but long, long ago his name was Edward."
Edward. I drifted off again. I had a name to the face.
It was sometime later when I was called to the throne room. My parents were seated on the dais and I was told to take a seat as well. King Edward I and Queen Elizabeth were also present.
The doors to the throne room were flung open and Merryweather flew in, pushing a black cloaked figure in front of her. She pushed him onto his knees in front of us and then drew back his hood.
It was Edward. Only he had been blindfolded, gagged, and bound at his wrists.
I leapt to my feet. "What have you done to him?"
Merryweather ignored me. "He didn't want to come. He has changed greatly over the years, though I have great hopes the change can be reversed. Here is the man who woke your daughter." She removed the blindfold.
Queen Elizabeth jumped to her feet. "My son! Edward my son!"
"Stay back," Merryweather warned, "He is very dangerous. Victoria, the witch who cursed Bella captured him the night of the ball. That was why the curse was delayed, she wanted to wait until she had Bella's true love under wraps before she put Bella to sleep. She turned Edward into a Soul Gatherer, a being who feeds off the souls of humans. Unfortunately, she misjudged the power of her own plan. The transformation made Edward rather ambitious, and he killed his creator to take his place as Lord of the Shadows."
Edward and I locked eyes. His black eyes softened as he gazed at me. I wandered off the dais in a dream, heading towards his kneeling figure. He raised his head to keep his eyes locked with mine.
I could vaguely hear my parents protest.
She was coming to me. She, Bella, brightest of angels, knew my darkness and came to me anyway, with wonder in her eyes.
She knelt in front of my and threw her arms about me. "I told you I knew you."
I pulled at my bonds. I had to hold her. I had to feel her close to me.
I heard a ripping sound. Bella had torn away my bonds and my gag. I pulled her against me and whispered in her ear, "I'm glad." I pressed my lips against hers savagely. She was mine.
I could register shouts in the background and was reluctantly pulled away. She was limp in my arms. I pulled us to our feet and looked over her shoulder at the two people who called themselves my parents.
My Bella stepped away and let them greet me. I pretended to remember them.
All the while I could feel the presence of Bella. Right there. So close. Not nearly close enough.
Thankfully, the faerie who had dragged me here - I would have to thank her later – ushered everyone out of the room.
Bella and I lunged for each other. I held her close and just stared in her eyes, fascinated that I could feel something other than hunger for a human. In fact, I felt no hunger at all. No desire to feed off her soul. I felt whole with her there, no longer trying to fill a void deep inside.
"I love you," I whispered, "Ever since I first laid eyes on you. Your soul was so pure and innocent I could not help but love you."
She shoved me roughly against a wall. "I'm not that innocent," she muttered before sealing her lips against my own.
What a fortuitous day for a curse-breaking.