"Say goodnight to your sister Master Michael and Master John," instructed the nursery-maid.

"Goodnight, Gwendolyn," they chanted obediently. She leaned over and planted a kiss on Michael's forehead and patted the foot of Johns' bed, "Goodnight boys," she replied before returning to her room down the hall.

The servant bid her goodnight too, bobbing a curtsey as she left. The young girl sighed, grateful of the privacy of her room and proceeded to undress behind a muslin screen, pulling on a silk nightdress in place of her numerous petticoats and suffocating corset. She sat down at her dressing table and began pulling out the pins that kept her hair coiled up in a bun on top of her head. She returned them to the small silver casket on the table and dragged an ivory-backed comb through her chestnut brown tresses, humming softly to herself.

The sounds of her parents' laughter floated up to her from below before being drowned out by the sound of the clatter of hooves on the cobbled pavement. The sound of her parents escaping responsibility as they so often did, leaving the chore of bringing up three children to the hired help- as was expected of them. She never minded and never had. One had to keep up with the times after all.

She stared at her reflection in the glass. She had always been the pride of the parents, the apple of her father's eye. With her dark hair, her unusually almond shaped eyes and full red lips, Gwendolyn Darling often dubbed The Black Beauty. She was an adolescent quickly nearing the epoch of womanhood. A process which only seemed to enhance her beauty further. Add to that her singing voice, the gentle way in which she carried herself and her musical prowess and she could pick any man she wanted. Naturally, her father was waiting for the richest man in the city, old enough to be her father, to ask for her hand in marriage. She didn't particularly care; he was probably too old to be liberal with the belt by now anyway.

If there were ever a word designed to described Gwendolyn, or Lynn, as she personally preferred, it would be content. It summed up her whole state of existence. There was rarely anything she yearned for and if there was it was soon acquired either by way of lavish parents or eager suitors.

She had been taught, at the tender age of eight, that a proper young lady never let her emotions show. She was instructed to keep a calm and collected disposition at all times. She was never to speak unless spoken to, and it was considered most ladylike if you feigned ignorance in company, as most gentlemen preferred it when they believed they were of a higher level of intelligence than the woman they were entertaining. Gwendolyn was a fast learner.

Lynn completed her hundred strokes and stood up to extinguish the lamps in her room. She climbed into her deep feather mattress, pulled her downy soft comforter up to her chin and blew out her bedside candle, plunging the room into darkness and shadow.


Lynn shivered and pulled her blanket more securely around her. Her teeth chattered. She rubbed her eyes and blinked several times trying to grow accustomed to the dark. She climbed out of bed, wrapping her nightgown around her and moved to shut the window. She pulled the drapes aside letting in a flood of moonlight. Something whispered behind her. She turned around but saw nothing. She took a cautious step forwards and screamed.

"Now, now sweetheart, I'll have none of that," said a mocking voice in her ear while a gloved hand clamped down on her mouth cutting her blood-curdling screams short. Before she knew what was going her hands had been bound and her mouth gagged by a strip of tattered, foul tasting cloth.

She was sat down in the middle of her room and trembled with fear. Her eyes alighted on several short men, easily visible in the moonlight, dressed in black though they were. The one who'd spoken, their leader she presumed, signaled something to them and they silently began to rifle through her drawers and cupboards depositing any object into a pile where she sat. Lynn watched the band of thieves with anxious eyes, following their soundless yet swift movements throughout the room. They were a blur of activity. The speed with which they conducted their operation made it clear that they were no strangers to the thieving business. She realized that while the smaller thieves flitted many a time from a drawer or chest to the center of the room, adding to the growing pile, their leader was nowhere to be seen.

Lynn had anticipated the arrival of this day. She would be kidnapped and her captors would demand an obscene amount of money in return for her safe return. Her daydreams would usually end with her Prince Charming being so relieved at her safety that he would finally come out of hiding and ask her to marry him. They would not harm her she reasoned, for what use was a dead hostage after all? Having reached this conclusion, Lynn waited patiently, her fear slightly abated.

Suddenly, every one of the thieves froze. They stood still for a fraction of a second as though listening to some silent instruction before darting out of the room at lightning speed. She sat alone in the dark room, the moon hidden by the clouds. With the darkness came an unaccountable fear fro the other occupants of the house. Her parents were staying at a friend's estate out of town. Her brothers would probably not be found for there was no treasure to be found in a children's nursery. Besides, her two brothers put together would probably not fetch half as much ransom as she alone. She closed her eyes and prayed, the sound of her frenzied heartbeat hammering in her ears.

Not two minutes had passed when she heard the creak of the loose floorboard in front of the nursery door. Perhaps they had just come to check if there were any valuables; they would not harm the children, surely. She clenched her teeth, trying to swallow the bubbling panic that was bubbling trying to overwhelm her. The nursery was too far for her to ear what was going on. She shook from the force of her anxiety. Her bedroom door swung open and her heart lunged down into her stomach. Tears trickled down her cheeks and the sleepy, frightened figures of her two younger brothers were marched into the room, bound and gagged as she was.

The thieves pushed the boys, hardly taller than they were, into the centre of the room towards her. The five captors encircled hem, the leader at their head. He spread his hands and a dark mist descended, making their forms blurred and pressing down heavily on her consciousness. She resisted as fiercely as she could but the desire to slumber was too great and she was soon engulfed by the darkness.


A/N: What do you think? R&R pls :)