Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away, there was a princess who could turn people into birds.

The citizens of Guneer warned the King and Queen to banish the little princess from the kingdom, for they feared that when she ruled she would become a tyrant. But the King and Queen loved the princess very much, and they refused.

The princess was never told of her gift as a way of compromising with the people of Guneer, but when she turned five she did something truly terrifying, and the citizens rose up again.

The princess's French tutor was not a terrible woman. She was tall and very strict, and whenever the little girl forgot a word or messed up a conjunction, her French tutor would smack her hand with a ruler. The princess grew to hate this so much that, even though she was indeed a girl of pure heart, she soon found her French tutor replaced with a peacock.

Again the citizens of Guneer warned the King and Queen to banish the princess from the kingdom, and again they refused. That was when the people decided to take matters into their own hands.

They sent a lumberjack out to find someone who could help them, who was big and strong and known to be reliable. This lumberjack had a son named Felt, who was around the girl's age and had no mother that he knew of. The lumberjack had to work from before daybreak to late hours in the night, and Felt was often seen hanging around bars.

The lumberjack was forced to take his son with him on his travels since a bar was not really a legal guardian, and together they traveled across the kingdom searching for someone who could help them get rid of the princess.

They consulted every witch and every hag, every elf and every gnome, every ogre and every bee, but none knew how to make the five-year-old disappear. Finally, the lumberjack and his son heard news from a local hag that the king's brother practiced magic, and maybe he could help.

The king's brother was named Duke, and he lived in a big black castle just outside the borders of Guneer near the Black Forest. Duke was a thin man, with a fair-haired beard and a bald spot on his head (although he always wore a hat to disguise it) and he placed his castle on a mountain covered with spiders.

The lumberjack and Felt climbed to the top of the mansion where Duke was stirring a pot filled with something pink.

The lumberjack told Duke of his situation, who stroked his long beard thoughtfully with one hand as he stirred the pink stuff with the other. "I can rid you of the princess," said Duke.

"There are guards in front of her door each night," said the lumberjack.

"It is no matter," said Duke.

"She is never alone during the day," added the lumberjack.

"I shall still succeed in stealing her," said Duke.

"Are you sure?" asked the lumberjack.

"Yes I'm sure!" snapped Duke. "But I shall need a payment."

"I shall go back into town and gather as much silver and gold as you require," said the lumberjack. "I am not alone in this matter and I am sure my neighbors will help."

"It is not money I desire, for I have plenty," said Duke. He stroked his beard thoughtfully, until his eyes lay upon the boy Felt, who was trembling as a spider crawled up his pants leg. "I need an apprentice," said he, "for I shall not live forever. I want the boy."

"You want Felt?" the lumberjack blinked in amazement. Felt, of course, was far too frozen in fear to listen to the older men's conversation as a bigger and much hairier spider settled on top of his head.

"Yes," said Duke, who grinned maliciously.

The lumberjack looked at Felt, then Duke, then back at Felt, then at Duke again. "Alright," he said with a shrug and headed for the door.

"If the princess has not been reported missing by tomorrow, you may come back and reclaim your son," said Duke.

"Okay," said the lumberjack. And then he was gone.

The princess was indeed reported missing the next morning. No one knew how it was done, for the windows of her room had not been opened and the guards had not heard so much as a peep all night. And yet she was gone, and only the lumberjack, Duke, and Felt knew where she had been taken.

Now, Duke had not realized when he had requested the boy that he had absolutely no place to put him. All his rooms were libraries with the shelves filled in every one, and every other room was used to house his precious spiders. And, Duke soon found, Felt was much too young and much too clumsy to be of any use as an apprentice. It would not be for many, many years that he could be taught Duke's advanced trade.

Since Duke had no room for one child, he also had no room for the princess. He could have killed her, he knew, and that was what the lumberjack had had in mind, but instead he decided to keep her hidden, safe, until she was old enough to be used against the King and Queen to Duke's best advantage.

And so he selected his ten top, most important head spiders and placed the two children with them. "Keep them safe," he ordered. "They die, and you'll do worse than that."

With that optimistic line in the spiders' minds, the ten spiders carried the sleeping children out of the mansion and into the Black Forest and the unknown.