The knight braved many tests and hardships to claim his prize. He vanquished the many-headed giant lizard of Hothe, played dice with Death and won, and escaped the siren singers of Warne. Every night he opened the locket he wore close to his heart and sighed again at the portrait of a raven-haired beauty with lips of pink like the dawn sky.
One last climb, and he stood at last at the top of the highest tower in all the nine kingdoms. He knocked on the balcony window.
“Arla, light of my life, loveliest of all, I have proved myself worthy,” he declared. “Let me in, I beg you.”
She opened the window. “Yes, you are indeed worthy. But soon you will be begging me to let you go.”
The knight jumped inside and shook his head. “Never, for I have travelled far to…”
He trailed off, watching Arla’s smile stretch until it split her face, revealing curved yellow fangs stained with red. Smoke curled from her nostrils and she laughed, her voice turned deep and wrong.
“They all do.”
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