Once Upon a Time there was a beautiful princess who slept a long and deep sleep, surrounded by riches and objets d'art and all manner of finery. In her sleep, she drifted farther and farther from her home, and as the centuries passed, all her finery crumbled around her; but she did not care or even know, because she slept the long sleep, and that was the way of it.
In time the beautiful princess was awakened to find herself within a strange castle of curious design, but she had never known fear, nor expected she should need to; and so she arrayed herself in a fine new body and her favorite ring of power, and went to seek her fortune in this new place. And while she discovered that it was indeed a very fine castle, she was ultimately saddened to find that it was very far from home.
Her new world was not without amenities, however; she was delighted to discover that she had been supplied (as all beautiful princesses ought) with a Knight, a Minstrel, and a Fool. The Knight was young, strong, and virtuous, if a bit tedious; the Minstrel was conversant not only with the requisite songs, but with all the rages and sulks that the finest minstrels are prone to; and perhaps best of all, the nimble-minded Fool was a near plague of antic buffoonery, full of tricks and stories, and eager to please.
And so she was quite satisfied with the castle and its retainers, but homesick for the land in which she had first begun to dream. Even in her exile, however, the princess was not without resources; she knew a spell of travelling, and she resolved to return to her homeland, taking the castle and retainers with her.
As she stood in the Great Hall preparing to cast the spell, a silence fell over the room and a finger of ice caressed her heart. Turning to follow the fearful gazes of the retainers, she became aware for the first time of a darkly handsome prince, with eyes of endless void and teeth like polished marble headstones. "I am Death," he said, in a voice like the opening of a lover's burial casket, "and this is my castle."
"You lie," she said, "for I know you. You are Avon, and my love," for he had filled her dreams during the long sleep.
"You know nothing," he said hollowly.
She stretched her arms out to him. "Kiss me, then, and see."
So he took her in his arms, and the taste of his lips was the sweetest of poisons, and their effect was as the waters of Lethe, and she forgot herself. And he plucked the ring of power from her finger, and held it up before her eyes, and said with infinite sadness, "Let that be a lesson to you. Never fall in love with Death."
And the princess looked once more into the void of his eyes, and fell asleep again, this time forever.
"Fool," said Death, "why is it that they never learn, these princesses? Why do they think that love will protect them from my fatal grip?"
"Because they are more fool than I," answered the Fool, "and if ever I trust you, why then, you may take me to the highest tower and throw me out the window."
"I shall remember that," said Death.