A girl stood at the half-ruined walls of the castle, which were all but consumed by a mat of vicious thorns. Here and there, a single red rose bloomed, the color and delicacy out of place among the drab vines and crumbling stone. The girl looked at the identical rose she carried; surely, this was the place.
She had worn her finest gown for the occasion, and now it swirled around her in wind that whistled through the forest. The girl shivered, wrapped her arms around herself against the chill. The wind carried her scent deep into the woods.
"Is there anyone here? My father - he took a rose from the garden..."
She was a rare beauty, the jewel of her village, thoughtful and kind. The boys of the village begged her not to go. "Mlle LeFauve, don't! The prince is a tyrant - a monster. You cannot think to reason with him." But Mademoiselle just smiled at them, sadly and fetchingly, and walked into the forest.
She had no intention of reasoning with the prince, not since she had found her father's mangled corpse, the red rose tucked in his lapel.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the sleek shape gliding through the bracken. She pretended not to have seen, and turned her head away slightly, to let the eau de parfum she'd dabbed on her neck waft towards him. A strange and somewhat gruesome concotion, perhaps, but young ladies rubbed themselves with lavender and jasmine to ensnare their prey all the time. It just so happened that her particular prince had less delicate tastes.
"I'm cold," she said, adding a measured quaver to her voice. She thrust her hands into her sleeves, as if to keep them warm, and closed her fingers around the hilt of the Florentine dagger.
Only the faintest rustle indicated that the beast had pounced. Mlle. LeFauve whirled around, and in one smooth motion, fell to one knee and plunged the dagger into the joint of beast's oustretched foreleg. The beast roared in pain and stumbled over its ruined limb, its forequarters pitching to the ground in a mockery of a court bow. Mlle. LeFauve laughed merrily, and swept up her skirts in a formal curtsey.
The creature heaved itself onto three feet, snarling.
"Very well, Votre Altesse," said Mademoiselle LeFauve, as she drew a wicked-looking saber from a slit in her skirt. "Now that we've been introduced - would you care to dance?"