I have an obsession with fairy tales, if you hadn't already guessed. Here's another victim of my subconscious.

Once, in a time not so long ago, in a place not so far away, there was a beautiful kingdom with a wise king. This king was very wise, and very kind, and his people loved him. They were glad to have such a king, and to live in such a peaceful country, and to have such prosperity as came from the peace they enjoyed. And so it was a good country, and all who lived there were happy.

The gods of this world saw what a good ruler this king was, and they were also glad, so they blessed him. Never could anyone harm him, they decreed, if they struck at him with malice in their hearts. The sharpest sword, the mightiest blow, it did not matter—it would be as though it had never fallen, as long as the one who struck held malevolence in their hearts.

But then, one day, darkness crept over the land. The king began to grow dissatisfied with the power he held, and so he raised an army and marched out against his neighbors. The people still loved him, though, and so they followed him into war, justifying his actions to whoever asked. But even they knew that something was wrong, and that such deeds were iniquitous, though they would have never have said so to others. And so they marched with him to conquer other lands, following their king despite the doubts that filled their hearts. The other countries, unprepared for the onslaught, fell before them, swept under the tides of destruction as the army passed over them in wave after blood-hued wave.

Finally, the gods looked down on the realms and beheld the chaos that had overtaken them, and they were angry that the king had thought to shatter the peace they had bestowed upon the land. But they were defeated by their own blessing, and could not kill him. So instead, they cursed him, making all of his people, who doubted him deep in their hearts, turn their backs on him. Then gods imprisoned the king in his castle and hid it behind a strong wall that none could pass beyond, to wait until the king died from age.

But the king was angry at their actions. For many days and nights, he sat on his throne and plotted his revenge, though he no longer had the means to take it. And beyond the strong wall, the people went on with their lives, choosing a new king to rebuild their country. They forgot about the old king, though he did not forget about them.

On the eve of his revenge, the king paced through the castle, seething with anger. He planned to overthrow the gods themselves, in retribution for his fall, and then kill every person who had turned their back on him. So he began to summon a mighty storm, one that would lay low the kingdom and leave no one alive. Yet outside the walls, the people, happy with their new lives and their new king, looked at the storm and felt no fear, having forgotten about the old king and his anger.

But one person had not forgotten. Deep in the heart of the castle, the smallest serving-girl, the only one who had stayed with the old king, heard the storm and knew what it meant. And so she left the kitchen and washed the flour from her hair, braided flowers into her golden tresses, and carefully dressed in her finest clothes. Then, taking the king's supper, as she did every night, she mounted the stairs to the throne room. The king was there, weary from casting, and glad for the food. He bid her enter, then began to eat. She waited patiently as he did, and when he was finished, she came forward to collect the dishes as he sat back on his throne, preparing to rest before he finished the spell.

But the smallest serving girl did not collect the dishes, as she was bid. Instead, she drew from her sleeve a long dagger, and approached the king calmly. And, as he opened his eyes to look at her, the serving girl took the dagger and plunged it into his heart, heedless of the power of the gods' blessing.

The king's eyes went wide, and he arched back in shock, a rattling cry breaking through the bubbling blood that flooded his lungs. And as the crimson liquid began to trickle from the corner of his mouth and flow from the wound like a dam had been broken, he lifted his startled gaze to the smallest serving girl, the only one of all his people who had stood beside him without any doubts in her heart.

"How?" he whispered, as the stream of blood slowed and his eyes darkened with the shadow of death. "Why?

And the serving girl smiled at him through her tears, and pulled his head onto her lap, gently wiping the blood from his face.

"Because I love you," she said.