Once upon a time, there was a sword. And it's hilt was black as sin, and its blade was red as blood. It sat within a sheath, which was white as snow. One day, a young prince was lost in the forest, and the sheath was tangled in amongst the vines around an old oak tree. All along the snow were pools of blood, but he stepped around them, absent mindedly, as he made his way to the sword. When he finally stood at the oak tree, he realised there were not vines, but arms, wrapping it tightly against the bark. The sheath was nearly hidden - it was being pulled closer and before his eyes, the vine-like arms began constricting and tightening further, with a writhing sound.
The prince did not fear the vines, though perhaps he'd have been wise to do so. And when he reached up and amongst the long, spindly arms, one caught his hand, and pulled him up instantly to join the sword.
He didn't scream or thrash, he simply pulled on the hilt of the blade, the motion of freeing the sword from the sheath also cut through many of the arms - and there was a terrible screech across the blood-snow fields. Black birds took wing, rabbits froze in terror with eyes blind in fear, the prince found freedom. The vines had fallen and blood coursed from them freely as they lay limp.
Victorious, he picked the fallen sheath from the ground and went to wipe the blood from the sword's blade, but the crimson metal had absorbed it. And the sheath was pure white, no trace of filth or blood.
Only his hands were red, and this blood would not be cleansed so easily.
Inspecting the tree he saw nothing out of the ordinary, apart from the bleeding vines. But when he looked more closely at the tree itself, he realised there was a figure buried within the bark.
A girl, grown into the tree - or from it? He could not tell. But she was part bark, her skin green and brown and pale blotchy tones. Deathly, and almost fishlike dead eyes opened and took him in. He realised he must look quite a sight, and he hid the sword behind his back in case it had been hers.
"I am traveling through this forest, and I wish you no ill will. I had been trapped by arms clinging to this tree, and I had to free myself. I hope this did not hurt you", said the prince. He did not wish for her to know who he was, in case he had to repay her for savaging the arms.
The girl only blinked, but then opened her mouth slowly, with great difficulty, and a large, furry brown moth crept out slowly and then took flight, fluttering around him before disappearing into the forest. She exhaled, and the smell of fungus and clay soil filled the air, making the prince take a cautionary step back. What was this creature, he wondered. The dead eyes rolled back and a trembling shook the tree, and the prince fell backwards into a pool of blood in the snow. The sword sank first, and then he followed. It was not more than a foot deep, but he panicked as he'd avoided them so thoroughly before. There was no telling what lurked within the cold congealing pools.
As he scrambled back onto the snow, the tree arched and cracked - it swayed and snapped. The sound of wood screaming as it was torn apart by the movement was nearly deafening, and finally the large oak was downed. The tree was a husk, a dead shell where it had been strong and full of life only moments before. Only the girl now stood. Eyes as black as sin, lips as red as blood. Skin and hair as pale as snow. She stood naked before him as he gathered his wits and took in her alien beauty as a streak of fear shivered through him.