Monsters aren't real. Life is full of enough horrors that Princess Reihlu doesn't need to imagine snarling beasts in the dark. But when she stumbles into the woods and meets something she can't explain, suddenly, the monsters in the night become all too real.
The charcoal dust skittered across the paper and dusted itself across the princess’s fingers as she smeared a shadow, spread a feather, and added detail to the bright eyes of the bird taking wing on her parchment. The woman’s tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth, her thoughts focused solely on giving the bird that spark of life created from just the right amount of white added to the black eyes. Lines created wrinkles in grasping claws, little feet raking at the flat air as papery wings took flight from the confines of the paper.
The illusion of fluttering wings escaped through the open window as soon as her name was uttered. The princess closed her eyes, charcoal blackened fingers pressed to the paper as she took in the smell of the old wooden desk and morning glories outside her window to ground herself.
Leaving fingerprints on both paper and desk she pushed herself away from the drawing and stood, brushing her hands on her skirt and wincing as she left black smudges on the white lace.
Her wince was mirrored on the face of the lady in waiting who was holding a matching pair of lace gloves.
“It's alright,” the princess said, forcing a smile that didn't reach beyond her lips. “It comes off easily enough.”
In short order, the princess had cleaned her hands in an ornate wash basin, her skin smelling or honey and orange blossoms. She allowed the servant to slip the gloves on her hands, although she was capable of dressing herself. On some level it helped steady the older woman’s nerves more than Reihlu’s. The princess saw the woman's wrinkled hands shaking and clasped them between her lace wrapped fingers, this time giving the woman a genuine smile.
“Tabitha.” The older woman started and brought her bright blue eyes up to meet the princess’s burnt honey gaze. “It's all right,” repeated the princess. “We're going to be alright.”
Tabitha’s lower lip quivered before she pursed her lips and straightened. “Yes princess.”
Princess Reihlu released the maid’s hands and avoided looking in the mirror. She had no desire to see the figure draped in elegant lace and silk. The extravagant wedding gown felt like a funeral shroud, the weight of the material dragging her down to a place she might never crawl out from again.
Taking a deep breath, the princess opened the door and stepped out of her chambers.