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Beauty and the Wraith Prince

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Once upon a time there was young, gangly prince who lived in a grand castle in the snow-laden lands of the north. This prince was very proud of his exceptional intellect, and very arrogant, constantly belittling others with snarky comments concerning their lower intelligence. He would imperiously snap his fingers and make rude comments, seemingly uncaring of the feelings of others. He made one of his many assistants cry by accusing her of trying to murder him by poisoning his food with lemons. All of his minions believed he was a despicable person and tolerated him purely because he was the prince.

Tales of his irascible nature spread, and one stormy night a loud banging at the door woke the prince, who was a very light sleeper. As no one else seemed to be interested in answering the door, and the thumping was giving him a headache, the prince stomped his feet in annoyance and threw the door open.

"What?" he demanded of the shivering old woman.

"I am old and frail, and I seek refuge from this terrible, cold storm."

"What? Here? What do you think this is? A hotel?"

"The people are right," the old woman snarled. "You are a rude and insufferable beast," and with that she turned into a beautiful dark-haired woman, who the Prince recognized as the enchantress, Chaya Sar.

She cast a spell on the Prince and the gangly youth began to transform in a gray-green skinned creature with sharp teeth, taloned fingernails, and long white hair. Shocked by the transformation, he could only howl and hiss as she showed him a snow globe containing a tiny snowflake city with soaring towers, floating on an azure blue sea. She shook it and dozens of beautiful, fragile snowflakes fluttered above the tiny city.

"If no one has declared their true love for you before the last snowflake falls upon the sea, then you will remain in this wraith form for the rest of your life."

She placed the snow globe into his hand before dissolving into tendrils of light that swept up in the stormy night and disappeared.

Still shocked, the Prince stumbled back, closing the door against the elements because he hated snow, and if he had his way then he'd be lounging in a castle someplace much warmer.

"GAH!" he roared when he turned and caught sight of the wraith reflected in the great mirror, almost dropping the snow globe with its tiny city and five swirling snowflakes. His mouth gaped open, slanting sideways in shock when he recognized his own blue eyes peering back.

"HUH!" he uttered, and shrugged his shoulders because he still had his brilliant mind, and maybe he could use his new form to frighten away people so he no longer had his important work interrupted by their inane questions.

So, deciding he couldn't care less, he threw the snow globe over his shoulder and headed back to bed. The snow globe rolled down the long hallways until it fetch up at the feet of the Prince's physician.

"Bloody hell," the physician wailed as he watched his body transform into a set of bagpipes; he scuttled down the hallway using the drone pipes as legs.

The physician, who was also one of the prince's only friends, soon discovered everyone in the castle had been transformed into some object or another: cutlery, plates, star trek mugs, plant pots, even books in some cases. Literally. Several days later he wailed his way over to the library. The Prince grimaced at the noise, rolling his eyes at the interruption because he'd managed to locate a book on Astrophysics and was gleefully crossing through all the incorrect theories and calculations with a big fat red marker, gripped tightly in his hand.

"What now?" he demanded.

"Have ye noticed anything different about your people, Rodney?"

"Apart from all the extra clatter? No, not really."

Carson carefully placed the snow globe on the desk. "Did ye not hear what the enchantress said about the snowflakes?"

"Huh?" Rodney looked at the swirling snowflakes, suddenly intrigued because they should have all settled by now taking into the account the momentum of the water molecules. He picked it up the desk, even more intrigued when the contents didn't change momentum at all despite a vigorous shake.

"If you don't find your true love before the last snowflake settles then you'll look like a wraith forever."

"And the problem with that is....?"

Rodney grimaced as Carson droned and wailed. "The problem is that we've all been transformed too, and I don't want to be a set of bagpipes for the rest of my life, and I think your lieutenant, Ford, has become addicted to nipping off wee parts of his C4 body and causing tiny explosions. It's creating havoc."

"So what do you expect me to do about it?"

"Ye could go find yourself a wee lass."

Rodney grimaced once more, unaware of how it made him look even more ferocious. "I already tried that with Princess Samantha... and Princess Katie, and Princess Allina, and Princess Jennifer, He counted off the names on his taloned fingers.

"Aye," Carson droned, finally understanding the futility of the situation.

And so the days passed in months, and the Prince happily retired to his study and his numerous whiteboards while the rest of the castle's occupants had to learn how to continue on as normal as possible. Of course there were some adjustments to be made. Kavanagh had a habit of knocking over all the rest of the cutlery regularly, and Ford was getting smaller day by day as tiny explosions of C4 rocked the hallways.

On the anniversary of that stormy night the Prince noticed one of the snowflakes stop swirling round and round and slowly drift to the bottom. When it touched the sea it dissolve instantly, gone forever.

"Huh!" The Prince stated and fetched another book off the shelf.

By the time the fourth snowflake had dissolved into the blue sea, Carson and the others were becoming desperate. The Prince had not changed in his attitude at all, happily eating by draining the life force out of whatever creature was put before him so no one dared call, and he refused to leave the castle. They hadn't seen a single human being in years, let alone someone who might fall in love with the wraith Prince and save them all. Then one day there was another bad storm and Carson was first to hear the banging at the door. When he opened it he found a dark-haired man with elfin ears and hazel-green eyes peering down at him in confusion.

"Cool!"

Carson was tempted to send the man away for his own safety but he recalled what had happened when the Prince did that one stormy night and feared being transformed into something worse - if that was at all possible. Plus it was a cold and stormy night and the snow storm would only get worse over the next few hours, and Carson was a compassionate man - set of bagpipes. If he sent the man away he'd most surely die.

"You can come in but you must be quiet and not venture out of your room until I fetch you tomorrow," Carson droned.

The man followed almost reluctantly and he was fed and given a warm place to sleep. The next morning when Carson went to fetch him the room was empty. Just then Carson heard a roar of anger followed by a heated exchange. He raced as fast as he could on his drone pipe legs to the library where the Wraith Prince was looming dangerously over the wild-haired, beautiful man, who stood his ground and gave the Prince a smug smile.

"Why, you little..." the Prince seethed, grinding his sharp teeth together, he raised his feeding hand, ready to slam it into the man's chest and at least have a savory snack, but stopped at the last moment when he realized the man had been right where he'd corrected Rodney's math. "Huh!" he stated, and began scribbling.

"Who are you?"

"John Sheppard," he replied with a lazy grin.

And so this went on, with the Prince and the beautiful man arguing, cajoling and teasing each other until Carson realized in a flash that perhaps all of the Prince's failings in love before were because he had chosen the wrong gender. When the Prince was rude and obnoxious, John gave back as good as he got, or rebuked the Prince. They played with tiny chariots, racing them through the empty hallways of the castle. John insisted on them going out into the castle grounds, surprised when the Prince proved to be very agile on ice skates.

"I was born in the north. Of course I can skate and ski," the Prince exclaimed.

It was when Carson found John casually braiding the Prince's long white hair that he knew they were a match made in heaven. All Carson had to do now was hope John would fall in love with the Prince and say those three magic words before the last snowflake dissolved into the sea. However, disaster struck and John insisted that he had to leave, promising to return swiftly, and all hope seemed lost as the last few days counted down towards the fifth anniversary of the curse. Worse, it seemed the villagers had finally decided they'd had enough of the Wraith Prince's shadow overhanging their lives, especially as Rodney needed a human life force to feed from occasionally. Heavily armed they attacked the castle. One group almost succeeded in breaking through the thick doors using a battering ram but Ford heroically stuck a detonator into what remained of his C4 body and threw himself at it, exploding it into thousands of splinters.

However, his noble sacrifice did not deter them for long as the sheer force of numbers overcame the castle defenses. The mightiest of the village warriors raced through the castle with a crossbow, and the Prince ran into the most secure room in fear for his life. As he ran he was struck with an arrow in his feeding hand so he could no longer sustain his life. As the warrior went to finish him off, John arrived and use some incredibly skillful hand-to-hand combat moves to force the warrior from the library and seal the door.

Seeing all the black ichor that was the Prince's blood, John dropped to his knees and cradled Rodney's head on his lap. Carson watched, looking across as the snow globe as the last snowflake stopped swirling and began to drift towards the ocean.

"Don't die on me, Rodney. You're my best friend and... and I love you."

A tip of the snowflake had touched the sea but suddenly a light filled the room, encasing Rodney. His body transformed back into human form though he was no longer a gangly youth. His white hair receded, and so did his real hair; his teeth lost their razor edge and his hands became normal. John leaned over and kissed him deeply, as all of the enchanted castle occupants regained their human form too, startling the villagers who fled in fear.

"I have a confession," John stated. "I didn't chance upon your door by luck. I am Prince John of Atlantis, and the enchantress Chaya Sar cursed my city. The only means to break the curse was to find my true love."

"I love you," Rodney blurted out, and the snow globe cracked. Light swirled around them, radiating throughout the castle, so brilliant they had to close their eyes. When they opened them the air was warm with the scent of the ocean in the slight breeze and Rodney was still in his beloved's arms lying on one of the piers of the snowflake city with its soaring towers.

And they lived happily ever in the snowflake city of Atlantis.

END