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The Undead Prince

"You did what?"

Lily looked dolefully up at her father through her gossamer-like pale blue eyelashes with all the innocence she could muster.

"It wasn't my fault. My wand went screwy."

That wasn't a complete lie. Her wand had gone the way of the bad fairies, but it hadn't been helped by the fact that she'd slammed it against a tree in anger because the spell hadn't worked in the first place.

"You," boomed her father, "are the one with the magic. The wand is simply a conduit. This is entirely your fault. And anyway, what were you doing casting a spell on a Prince? Really Lily, one day you'll destroy the world if you're not careful."

Never had a truer word been spoken.

"Show me," her father shouted as he shot out the door, his ruby red cloak trailing out behind him.

The Prince lumbered around the glade as Lily and her father looked on. He clearly had no sense of where he was or what he was doing and he looked rather the worse for wear. There were rips in his skin that hung like torn fabric across his distorted limbs and a faraway look in his blood-shot eyes.

"What is he?" said Lily, peeking out from behind her father's shoulder, "I was sort of going for a frog."

"Something of far more evil intent than a frog, I fear," said her father, waving his wand to no effect, "and far too powerful for my magic to reverse. All we can do is hope that a princess dares to kiss him." He waved his wand once more and a flutter of fairy dust reached the Prince's shredded lips at which point the Prince began to smack them together at irregular intervals as he stumbled on in his darkness. "Perfect. Now, Lily, you just make sure everything turns out happily ever after my girl or your mother will have something to say to you."

Lily nodded and flew up into the trees as her father returned home, tutting to himself as he went. She hadn't a clue how she was going to sort this one out.

***

Princess Astrid awoke early. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched day and seeing as she could largely spend her days doing whatever her heart desired, she decided to go for a leisurely walk in the forest. She was in a joyous mood and sang gaily beneath the leaf-dappled sun, flipping a golden ball she had been given for her birthday high up into the air and flicking out her copious skirts with every jaunty step. Everything was well until she came upon a clearing in the forest and, for just a second, the sun dazzled her eyes as she was about to catch the golden ball. It dropped to the ground and rolled across the forest floor, coming to rest in a putrid, muddy puddle.

"Yuck!" she cried out as she bent over the puddle. She could see the faint outline of where the ball lay, but she really didn't fancy dirtying her baby soft hands to retrieve it. However, to tell her friend that she had lost it would have been unbearable.

Princess Astrid sat down as elegantly as she was able on an old tree stump to lament her situation and in her sorrowful state she cried out to anyone who could hear.

"Please, help me retrieve my ball and I will give you anything you desire."

***

In the dark shadow of the tree canopy, Lily perched on a branch above the monster she had played a part in creating, trying to think of a name for it. She wasn't impressed – it seemed to have no redeeming features at all. Even its attempts at kissing were like an incredibly sinister fish pursing its lips as it gulped at the water. And as for trying to get it to understand what she wanted it to do, that was a completely lost cause.

That is, until the Princess appeared in the clearing. Then the creature raised its eyes from the ground and took notice. Anyone would think she had the word Princess written across her forehead, although the tiara and the perfectly coiffed curls might have been a clue.

"Go on, then...thing" said Lily, "Go and woo the woman of your dreams. I'm sure she'll welcome you with open arms."

***

The Princess was so engrossed in her upset that she didn't immediately see the figure emerge from the trees. The first she knew that it was there was when it uttered a low guttural moan which obliterated the sound of the birdsong.

"Stop there! I command you," said Princess Astrid jumping up, her face betraying the horror she felt inside. She had never witnessed such an abomination as the figure which stood before her; there were no words to describe how vile it was.

The creature didn't stop. It limped its way forward until it reached the puddle, then, it leant down and stretched its discordant fingers into the slimy mess and plucked out the mud-soaked ball. Lurching forward, it offered its quarry to the Princess and smacked its lips together.

The Princess desperately wanted the ball back but every muscle in her body was rigid with fear and she couldn't bring herself to walk towards the creature.

"Put it down and I will collect it," she cried.

The creature stopped and tilted its head to the side.

"Put it on the ground. Now."

The hand holding the ball flipped over and the ball thudded down in a patch of grass. The creature smacked its lips together yet again, but didn't move.

"Get back!"

Princess Astrid picked up a rock and threw it at the creature, and then another. The creature tottered on its feet and put its arms up to shield its face. She took her chance and dashed forward, grabbing the ball. Then, she turned on her heels and didn't look back until she reached the safety of the palace.

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