Once upon a time there was a King who lived deep in the middle of the woods
He had no wife, but wished with all his heart for a child.
He would talk to the stars and the sky and ask them to send him a child of his own.
And they listened, but no wish is granted without sacrifice. So one day a great Phoenix descended in flame to his Castle, carrying a child in a sheet, unharmed against all odds.
But his Castle and all his material wealth burnt down around him and the child.
He escaped with the babe in arms, but was left alone in the woods, surrounded by empty forest and with nothing to his name.
When then, a woman slithered out of the woods. She was plain but had some air of madness or danger about her, for when she smiled she looked like a wolf who'd taught itself to smile. Her gaze was cold.
She said she could restore the King's home, but only if he would marry her.
What choice did he have? He took her offer. And then, a great Castle grew out of the ground, twisting out of the roots, gnarled and old as if it had always been there.
The child was named Phoenix, after the fowl that had delivered her. She had arrived with nout but a sheet and a stone of honey coloured, fiery opal around her neck. She grew to be quiet and beautiful, and had an affinity for the birds and they flocked to her and entertained her at her whim.
The woman who had saved them all was a witch, and slowly corrupted the king until he no longer had his own mind and bowed to her every will.
Phoenix grew up lonely and comforted only by her feathered friends and exploring the depths of her strange home.
There was nothing but them, after all.
The one thing the Queen wished for was a heir of her own. But no matter how she tried, or the spells she cast, or the curses and sacrifices she made to the dark, it was to no avail.
She loathed Phoenix and her existence, and when she saw her she demeaned and hurt her.
So Phoenix decided she would escape. But alas, the Castle was surrounded by thickets of thorns.
She worked slowly, tearing a patch down. Day by day, she made progress, and the birds hid her work from the Queen.
The day came where she was almost through, and the birds kept watch, as always. But suddenly, the witch-Queen was there, a shard of quartz in hand and murder in her eyes.
As she lunged to slit phoenix's throat, the birds lunged at her, surrounding her and raking her with their talons. They took out one of her eyes and she screamed in fury, and in the commotion Phoenix escaped and ran into the woods.
The Queen could not follow, not yet. So she cast down the birds she could catch with her magic, and stripped them of feathers and wore them in a collar around her neck to advertise the massacre.
In time, she would replace the lost eye with a cursed black eye to always watch for Phoenix.
And the tale of what happened to Phoenix next, is another story.