The moon was bright and clear, the air dark and chill. Everything had at least two adjectives, if not more, and that usually meant the night would be a portentous one. The princess waited by the pond, observing the mirror-smooth water and the night sky reflected therein, as though en entire world lay just beneath the surface, waiting for her to step in and fall to the stars.
When she released the breath she'd been holding, waiting for something to happen, it was in a white cloud that glowed in the moonlight. Someone had once mentioned that the clouds of warm breath from living creatures gave them away on a night like this. Hunters looked for the breath of their prey, and used it to find them even on the darkest nights, as long as it was cold enough. Of course, no one would have said such a thing to her. She was, after all, a princess. Princesses didn't hunt.
But that didn't stop her from imagining. The thrill of the chase, the tension of the long wait, the racing heart of the hunter as he drew his bow, muscles quivering with exertion, trying to be as silent as possible. The wide eyes of their quarry, the pricked ears, the sudden bound-
The vision faded, and she was left alone in a cold garden as her feet, in entirely unsuitable satin slippers, slowly grew numb in the cold grass. Her shoulders sagged, and she looked down at the water again, bitter disappointment heavy in her mind. With the full moon and the clear night, she had hoped... but what was there to really hope for? Fairy godmothers were all but extinct, and unicorns were more than just extinct, relegated to the realm of legend and myth.
The princess sighed, pulled off the delicate crown of silver filigree, and tossed it into the pond, furious with herself for harboring the hope she knew would never properly bloom into satisfaction or mature to accomplishment. She had one chance at adventure, and that was if her father demanded her suitor perform a proper rescue. Then she would need to be kidnapped by an ogre or a giant, or if she was lucky, one of the few remaining dragons. That seemed less than likely, though, considering her father's attitudes toward the "old ways." Some traditions were worth preserving, but it seemed to her that the only traditions her father was interested in were the boring ones, about treaties and alliance marriages and whatnot.
The ripples from her crown were only just beginning to still when something came up out of the moon-silvered water. At first, the princess thought that she was dreaming. A wisp might make her see things that weren't real, but she rubbed her eyes and pinched her arm, and when she looked again it was still there. Or rather, she was still there. She was looking at herself, now standing on the surface of the water, which was again as flat as the mirrored surface of her own silver vanity.
"Who are you?" the princess asked, her skin prickling all over with the presence of magic. At least, that's what she thought it was. It felt like it did when the court magician conjured fire or showed them images in the scrying glass. This was magic, which a proper lady had no business learning about.
Rather than answer, her double walked toward her, her stride slow and leisurely. It was almost a sort of strut, which the princess wasn't at all sure she appreciated. That sort of movement made it look like she was intending something impure on the nearest man of virtue. Which, of course, she never would. She might long for that handsome young guard with the blond mustache to kiss her, but she wouldn't ever say so. It was improper.
Then the creature, whatever it was, reached out to her with one hand, reaching for one of the princess' hands. She was so startled that she didn't resist or even try to back away. And so she was completely unprepared when her double took hold of her wrist and yanked her forward, sending her face-first into the water with a malicious smile.