Blood and smoke. How he relished the smell of it. And the sounds that pierced the winter night air... Ah. His black soul believed heaven couldn't have had lovelier music. He heard the screams of terror, the crackling and roaring of the fire, the sound of metal spears against flesh, the music of another fallen kingdom. He had the great satisfaction of knowing that, once again, his beloved sister, his precious Ravenna, had married and destroyed another king; had crushed him with the power of her dark beauty and had sent his kingdom spiraling into a new lifestyle of slavery and fear. Everything was perfect, almost. Except for one minor flaw that was about to be settled, the capture and destruction of Owensfeld had been beautiful. If only there hadn't been that one mistake.

Finn sneered down at the bundle in his arms as his stallion wove through the Dark Woods that stretched for countless thousands of miles, cutting every kingdom off from the other so that no country was ever able to help another in times of need such as this. The wicked queen's brother should have paid more heed to his stallion, perhaps, as the ground was icy and dangerous, but he knew that if any harm should come to him, his sister had enough dark magic to mend him back together. She had ordered him out on this glorious night with a peculiar request, one that he had never been asked to do before and would never be asked to do again, for in this last conquest, Ravenna had made one mistake, something that was foreign to her way of living. In this last conquest, she had let the king live long enough for the accident, for the glitch, to occur. She had never explained it to Finn, why she let the king live for so long, but her brother believed he knew the reason, for the former King of Owensfeld had been blessed with his own beauty, and Ravenna had never before stumbled onto a king of such handsomeness and charm. It had weakened her resolves, had broken down her barriers long enough for the impossible to occur.

A small cry, like the meow of a kitten, brought Finn out of his thoughts, and he glanced at the bundle again to see a tiny face peering out, sparkling dark eyes shining up at him with curiosity and a confounded innocence. The daughter would grow up to look like the father, no doubt, and Ravenna wanted no reminders of the recently deceased king, nor did she want any contestants for her kingdoms and her beauty. The child would simply have to die she had told her brother as she had placed the bundle in his arms, having stepped over the dead king to hold the infant out to her wicked sidekick.

Finn had been bound and determined to kill the child, but one look into her pure face had stayed his hand, and so he found himself now letting his horse gallop wildly through the trees, looking for the perfect spot to abandon the child. Ah. There ahead was a clearing, a small center of pure white snow in the midst of gnarly branches and thorned bushes. Reins were jerked back and the magnificent stallion slid to a stop, eyes white with worry and ears flickering back and forth at the shadows and imagined terrors of the woods. Finn didn't give the creature much time to fret, for he swung off the animal's back immediately, dropped the bundle in no gentle fashion into the center of the bushes, and then swung back up into the saddle, jerked the horse's head to the side, and kicked the creature hard in the ribs, urging him back to the scene of battle and death, back to where the evil commander loved most to be.

The baby, now alone in the cold and dark of the woods with tiny snowflakes brushing against her soft pink cheeks, did not make a sound, but stared in wonder at the particles of white that floated down into the silence of the woods. There was no fear for her, just the wide-eyed awe of a sweet baby. Dark thoughts never passed through her mind, not for even a floating second, and so she could not understand how sheer providence sent her a rescuer, or even that she had need of being rescued. No horror troubled her little mind as a cloaked figure gathered her up into its arms and carried her away into the woods...