As Dean opened his eyes, and squinted tearily through the pale sunlight, the first sensation he became aware of was soft fingertips stroking his back. The cool touch was gentle and full of care, and for a brief moment, he lost himself under the soothing caress.
It took only a moment for his terrible reality to come flooding back to him, and the full horror of his situation slammed into his traumatised body like a freight train.
He realised he was lying prone on the cot where this whole nightmare had begun, his face was buried into the scabby, stinking hide of that dead animal; it's rank, musty odour assaulted his nostrils and he clumsily shuffled onto his side trying to shift his face away from it.
He was so very dehydrated. His need had gone beyond mere thirst; his whole body cried out for water. He ached and cramped everywhere it was possible to ache and cramp. Opening his parchment-dry mouth, he tried to speak to the owner of the fingers that ghosted across his torn back, but no sound came out. He could manage nothing more than a hoarse croak.
His throbbing head spun queasily and his limbs felt leaden; he guessed he must look like crap. Rubbing his forehead, he swallowed painfully, but his mouth tasted of ash.
He could increasingly feel the sting of the wound down his back, and finally his fogged mind made the connection, and realised what those gentle fingers were doing.
He tried to prop himself up on his elbows, but a cool hand clasped his shoulder and gently, but firmly pushed him back down onto his belly.
"Be still my pet."
Something sticky and wet was being smeared over his lacerated back.
"This will close your wound," a female voice stated quietly.
His mind floated as a pall of foreboding descended over him, settling like a block of ice in his gut, but his senses were too blunted by his weakness to be able to process his thoughts.
He tried to look up again, and this time he saw her.
The same long mane of ivory hair tumbling over two short antlers, the same sharply arched cheekbones and the same cold eyes glimmering emerald in the hazy sunlight.
It was her.
A crashing wave of panic swept over him, and in spite of his frailty, he tried to scramble off the cot and get as far away as he could from the sadistic bitch, but his heavy, unco-ordinated limbs made his movements desperately sluggish. He felt her icy grip on his arm, pulling him back down onto the cot.
He tried to struggle, but his failing body surrendered.
"Getoff me," he panted furiously, squirming ineffectively beneath her hand.
Barely inconvenienced by his frantic protestations she continued to spread the cool salve across his back.
He managed to work an arm free, and swatted her hand away. "Don' freakin' touch me, bitch;" a hint of panic began to creep into his strained voice.
The princess released her grip on his arm and stood, turning to wipe her hands. She walked slowly around to the other side of the bed.
With callous disregard for her captive's outrage, she slipped her hands underneath his arms and hoisted him into a sitting position, pulling him back so that he was leaned back against her own body with one long slender arm wrapped across his chest, holding him firm.
His wounded back chafed against the brocade of her gown as he bucked and fought feebly in his unco-ordinated attempts to escape from her.
He felt her grip tighten.
"get away from me," he spat through clenched teeth.
"My pet, you are a fiesty one," a cold, but appreciative smile spread across her full lips, "so weak, and yet so spirited."
He slumped against her, utterly spent and panting miserably against an increasing nausea as the searing throb in his head increased, the last vestiges of strength in his failing body slipping away from him.
Closing his eyes, his swimming, unfocussed vision intensified the miserable nausea that was rising in the pit of his stomach, and he took a deep shuddering breath as he fought back threatening tears.
His heart sank when he realised he had become too dehydrated to produce any.
As he opened his eyes again, a pearlescent goblet appeared before his face.
"You will drink; I will have you strong."
Dean stared at the goblet and the clear, sparkling water that it contained. His parched body was crying out for the cool, lifegiving liquid, but his only lucid thought was a vague memory that if he drank from that cup he would be lost to his world and to Sammy forever.
He turned his head away from the goblet, clamping his sore, dry lips tightly closed as she pressed it to them.
Silently shaking his head, he felt droplets of the sweet water trickle down his chin.
Shivering miserably, he bit down on his lip so hard he drew blood; his hands curled into tight fists as he fought his body's natural self-preservation instincts, even the smell of the cool, sparkling water was nectar to his dehydrated body. He could have taken the goblet and drunk it dry ten times over, he could have bathed in the beautiful water, swum and dived into it's depths, but he couldn't.
If the whole scenario wasn't so horrific, it would have been comical; here was dying of thirst and the water in front of his face was undrinkable.
His head turned away as she tried to pry his lips open with the edge of the goblet.
"drink my pet …"
"No." he forced out the grunted word through clenched teeth.
"DRINK" a note of petulant anger crept into her voice.
He shook his head in silent fury.
The hand coiled round his chest moved up to grip his jaw, and icy fingers pulled his lips apart, thrusting the cup between them allowing some of the cold water to trickle between his clenched teeth.
He thrashed his head violently from side to side, fighting to spit the water out as he tried to dislodge her tortuously hard grip. Every scrap of willpower left in his fading body was thrown into trying not to swallow the beautiful, invigorating liquid.
In desperation, he threw his head back smashing the back of his skull into the princess' face.
Releasing his jaw, her hands flew to her shattered face, dropping the cup as she screamed through a torrent of foaming green blood in injured rage.
Tumbling off the cot, he rolled over onto the ground, his stomach lurching at the change in position. Drained by the burst of activity, the pain in his head constricted like a vice, forcing a dizziness over him as once again the nausea rose and he retched miserably into the clover.
Through his choking heaves, he could hear her furious shrieks. His legs weakly scrambled beneath him as he tried to crawl away, but within moments, she was looming over him.
Her blood-soaked hand reached down and curled round his neck.
Throwing him onto his back, she dropped to her knees, straddling him once again, and viciously raked her nails down his heaving chest.
"I will not be cheated," she hissed through the bloody spume, leaning in and clamping her own bleeding lips over his in an aggressive, loveless kiss.
Her sinuous tongue violated his mouth, the coppery tartness of her blood choking him as she as she gripped his neck with brutal force.
She pulled back out of the kiss and leaning down, traced her tongue along the line of the scratch she had carved into his chest, smiling dispassionately as he let out a hoarse cry at the burn of her bloody saliva.
"You are my prize," she snarled, slashing another line of fire down his chest; "when you have partaken of my hospitality, you will enjoy my attention every day. And I shall enjoy yours."
She reached over to where a silver pitcher full of water stood beside the cot, and lifted it, tipping it towards Dean's face. weakly shaking his head from side to side, he let out a gasping sob; he knew the battle was lost.
She suddenly jerked violently, arching backwards and letting out a choking scream. Dropping the pitcher, her scream tailed off into a hoarse, rattling wail.
Jolted back into some degree of awareness, Dean gaped as he squinted blearily, trying to formulate the blurred image that he thought he could see.
He blinked when he saw the tip of a bloodstained blade protruding through the front of her bodice.
Her convulsing body began to glow, green flames pouring from her eyes; brighter and brighter she burned, hotter and hotter until Dean was forced to shield his eyes. He squirmed weakly, recoiling from the force of the heat which was threatening to engulf him, then with a blazing white light, her body dispersed into a mist of glowing green sparks. A breathless screech echoed through the wisps of smoke which drifted across Dean's line of vision.
She was gone.
Still sprawled across the ground, shocked into silence and shaking violently, Dean's trembling fingers picked up the blade which was lying on the ground next to him. On closer inspection his fading vision could make out it wasn't a blade; it was a long shard of mirror glass stained with the princess' leaf-green blood, but which also bore traces of a thicker, darker stain.
It was then he looked up, noticing, for the first time the strange creature that stooped over him.
It stood at a level that might have reached Dean's chest; with a silky skin, black as obsidian, and long ivory-white hair that hung limply behind it's narrow ears; it managed to look both stocky and delicate at the same time. What captured Dean's attention most were soulful round eyes of the palest lavender which stared at him from beneath long white lashes.
The creature gave a heavy groan and stumbled toward Dean, and he realised that whatever it was, it was mortally wounded. A thick stain of black blood spread across the front of the loose, and strangely familiar grey T shirt it wore hanging down to just above it's knees.
Dean took in a long shuddering breath; "what the hell?"
The being's sharp features softened, and it reached out a bloodsoaked hand; long, sinuous fingers, black as the night.
"Wha-what happened?" Dean felt himself shuffling backwards, cringing at the dying creature's spidery touch. The movement brought back the unwelcome waves of nausea, and Dean rolled onto his side with a groan.
"She is dead," the creature's reedy, breathless voice confirmed, "there is only one thing pure and powerful enough to kill the Tua'tha ..."
Dean stared, beyond comprehension.
"... the blood of a willing sacrifice."
It was then Dean realised, the wound in the creature's chest had been self-inflicted by the shard of mirror glass.
"I am Lloth; I am here to send you back to your kinsmen."