Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom…

~oOo~

The room was shadowed. The windows were dark, the golden glow of sunlight choked away by the creeping vines, their poisoned thorns defending the hall from intrusion. There were cobwebs draped over the furnishings like shrouds where the little spiders had been at work. The candles stood, silent sentinels without purpose, unlit.

In the center of the room sat a bed. The sheets were scarcely disturbed by the motionless form that slept on them. It seemed less a bed than a bier. Cobwebs covered the figure on the bed as well as the furniture- spiders being no respecter of such paltry differences. They dulled the glittering silver of her dress, and stole the healthy glow from her flesh.

"Ah," the Unseelie Fairy murmured. "How sweet you look, young one, so deep in slumber." A thin, pasty hand idly brushed a lock of golden hair from out of the sleeping figure's eyes. "And how vulnerable. A simple slip of a knife-" and there was one on her belt, forged of dark volcanic glass-"and your life would be as dust on the wind."

The hand drifted to the hilt of the dagger, caressing the ancient leather (best not to wonder from what beast- or person- it had come) wrappings. "What to do, what to do," the dark figure murmured.

And what a choice it was. Those damned Seelie fools had ruined her fitting vengeance with their "Not death, but sleep," so it would seem well enough that she slit the little chits throat here and now, and take her severed head to adorn a pike in her lawn, deep in the Forbidden Mountains. And such a pretty thing it would make, even after the flesh had rotted off. Such a fair face must conceal an equally fair skull beneath the frivolous veil of flesh.

On the other hand, a virgin (assuming those fool Godmothers had properly cared for their ward) sacrifice would be quite useful. There were many spirits and demons who could only be placated by such a sacrifice, and virginity in a girl of child-bearing age was vanishingly rare.

Far rarer in males, but less prized, for whatever reason.

On yet another hand (should one have more than two), mage-blooded humans of any gender were even rarer, and the royal line of Florin had been founded by Bleys himself some four hundred years ago. The child might be only mortal, and corrupted by the naïve stupidity of those fool Godmothers, but such blood should hardly go to waste feeding the blasphemous appetites of demons, regardless of how exalted they might be. And it would be rather pleasant to have someone about the castle besides those bumbling, blithering morons she was in the habit of employing.

She nodded firmly to herself.

The Unseelie descended like a bat, her hands firmly grasping the Princess's hair. Her thin lips caressed those of the sleeping girl, brief, but deeply.

The girls screams of terror and loathing echoed throughout the shadowed castle.

Outside, a raven cawed triumphantly to the setting sun.