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Destiny is not cruel. On this she prides herself; life is cruel, fate is cruel, but destiny is not. She does what she can for those whom she must gather, and in their last moments, as she comes to them, she presses her lips to the brows of the dying, ghost-light, and offers them peace before they die.

Across the years, she reaches. She has promises to keep.

When the empire of Greece is at its height, a young woman is killed by her jealous half-god husband. Destiny breathes gently in her ear, and Megara rises again, offered a second chance by Hades himself only to find a man who would give up the stars themselves for her.

Whilst the Celts smith iron and raise roundhouses in a land that will one day be called Cymru, a young girl falls prey to the diseases that cannot be cured in such a land. In her last feverish moments, Eilonwy sees herself fiery and strong, holding her own against a darkness that threatens her land, her own fears personified.

A princess of an Arabian city-state under the rule of the Persian Empire is married off against her will; her slender frame cannot bear childbirth, and she is lost. In her last dream, Destiny lets Jasmine escape this gold-cage destiny, allows her to fall in love and with the help of this lover overthrow the man who would have owned her, to rise in her own right.

The Tang Dynasty of China is broad and beautiful and wealthy, but that does not mean that all of its people live long. A lone daughter of a family that was once renowned works hard through her young life, and when the Huns sweep through her town like fire is slain with the others. As the fire consumes her, she sees herself a soldier, redeeming her father's name, honoured by the Emperor and by the men who have looked over her all of her life, turning back the Huns who have cut her down.

In 1194, mere months before King Richard returns to the England that he has been missing from for so long, the lady of the court Maid Marian sickens and passes. Destiny kisses her gently upon the brow, and in a glimmer Marian is saved by the famed outlaw Robin Hood, whom the King will go on to pardon on both their accounts.

The years roll on, and in a small Kingdom on the northen edges of the Alps, a young girl dies before she can reach womanhood, an accident with a needle poisoning her blood and turning her body against her. As Briar Rose fades and withers, Destiny caresses her, gives her a Prince and parents who are King and Queen and reclaim her as their own, and a story which casts down a foul sorceress who would have killed her.

At the stake, a woman burns in 1492 as the people of Paris look on. From amidst the choking smoke, Destiny promises to answer the gypsy's prayer: as the fire steals her away, in her heart she is rescued, and the man who would have killed her for denying him is cast into his own hell. She is freed -- so are her people, so is Paris. Esmeralda's dreams burn brighter than the fire which claims her.

Snow White dies, cold and alone, on the stone floors of the castle where she has worked all of her short life in one of the states that has appeared after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. Destiny gives her one last dream: she is rescued, cradled, and the woman who cares not for her servants has her vanity turned against her.

Before smallpox can claim her within her first days on England's shores, Matoaka dreams of a world where she was not bound by war and claimed by an Englishman who tore her from her people, gave her some new name, and carried her across the sea to a world that called her a princess when she did not call herself such. She dreams of a world where she is named Pocahontas, and only thus, and where the white men may have come with dreams of greed but leave with respect and peace, and though she has given up her heart to one she has done so willingly, and remains with her people to lead them.

In Portugal, a young woman who has no say in her life dies just days after her sixteenth birthday. With whispered promises, Destiny weaves her into a creature of the sea who makes a deal with darkness to fight her way onto land and claim the man that she loves. In her dreams, she is a princess twice over.

As France broils closer and closer to a dangerous revolution, a young woman of the provinces is forced against her will to be wed, and is bred with children until her body collapses from weakness. Her last dream lets Belle become one of her stories, unwind the enchantment from a man and find a prince beneath a beast, a prince who treats her well and cares for her, and even punishes the man who would make her into another nameless, story-less set of bones to be buried.

In the northern edges of Italy, as the end of the Renaissance draws near, the only daughter of an unloving mother is killed in a fall from an abandoned tower. Destiny takes in Rapunzel's last breath, and gives back a story of kidnap and imprisonment, where her mother becomes a fake caregiver and a villain, and where she is eventually reclaimed by devoted parents and melts the heart of a man who had originally not cared. The sun shines and the world shows love for her, and as the blackness cocoons her she is finally wrapped in happiness.

The curious young Alice of England dies also from a fall, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Queen Victoria and far, far away from Rapunzel. A stumble over a rabbit hole breaks her leg, and once infection sets in there is no saving her. In her fever her mind is already wandering, and it takes the barest of touches from Destiny to let her dream herself a world of delight and beauty that, nonetheless, gives her back whole at its end.

By the 1880s, Jane Porter is constricted by society as much as the corsets and bustles she is supposed to wear, her mind as tied up as her body. To travel with her father promises escape; when a storm throws her from the ship, and the water swallows her up, her escape shifts in its form. A kiss of Destiny promises, though, that her escape would be final: that she finds Africa, meets the strangest of men, the ape-man Tarzan, and that they meet between his wildness and her civilisation in a humanity that is boundless, and beautiful, and free.

In 1887, Olivia Flaversham loses her father to one of the diseases that is endemic to Victorian London. Cold and alone, she does not live herself much further into the winter; Destiny weeps over her small body in the snow, and transforms her last dream into one of truly amazing levels. She takes away the burdens of humanity, weaves hero and villain together in a great battle in which Olivia becomes vital, and reunites her with her father. Alas, thinks Destiny, alas that only the reunion is true.

A handful of years later, on the cusp of France and Germany, a young girl named Ella, but oft called Cinderella, finally succumbs to exhaustion and abuse. Destiny weaves herself into a Fairy Godmother to grant Cinderella the chance to grow up and to shine, and even to find herself love. Cinderella does not want to punish those that wronged her, however, and for that her dream is unspoilt with cruelty. It is sadly that Destiny must also come to guide away another girl from the same house, Anastasia, just years later; for Anastasia she weaves a longer dream, a struggle and redemption, and promises her a modest and pretty future with love, and peace, and gentleness.

The twentieth century dawns, and as King Edward VII takes to the throne of England, Wendy Darling is like a second mother to her brothers. When they die beneath the bombs that will fall across Britain just a few years later, Destiny steals back a few years, to a more innocent time, and then steals them away into the stars, where they might think of living forever, but then choose not to, and grow up all the same.

In the years of Prohibition, America does not offer the same freedoms to all, and in New Orleans Tiana slaves away, still slaves, dawn till dusk till dawn again to try and do twice as well what other people do, to be respected half as much. With her father dead and her mother made prematurely old, she is all that she has, independant and fiery and full of dreams that her world tries to stifle. She tries to work through the influenza that infects her -- not that which ravaged the world some eight years earlier, of course not, but still fierce and brutal -- but cannot, and from one sleep she does not awaken. Mourning that still the young might die after so many years, Destiny grants her a kiss, and from a fairytale made harsh enough for such a strong young woman to believe in, Tiana becomes a princess, claims herself a Prince, and finds herself hope and home alike.

Onwards continue the years, and as people die older, with more chances to live, Destiny does not so often have to breathe a dreamed life into the final moments of a young girl. When she does, it is with great regret; such it is at almost the turn of the millenium, when she strokes the blood-marked hair of Nani Pelekai amidst the debris of the car crash, and whispers that she is sorry in words that only the girl can hear. With a kiss she grants her life: she cannot change everything, not now, but gives her back life to care for her younger sister, to find her own way to adulthood and her own romance, and for incredible vivacity grants her the tangles with alien creatures that will mark her world. After all, if one must dream, let the dream be extraordinary.

In those final, those extraordinary dreams, Destiny grants the closest thing to a second chance that life will ever offer the young girls to whom she comes. She kisses their fevered brows, and smoothes away the wounds that fell them with her fingertips, and then by the hand she will lead them into the light that is beyond death.

For each one has a story that their soul should tell, and if the world will not allow it, then Destiny herself must provide. And on their stories she thrives, and in them she lives, and may pass for content.

For Fate is cruel, and Time is harsh, but Destiny gives hope beyond them both, and to her bosom she gathers those whom the others have frowned upon.