The walls of Merry's bedroom have vanished, or perhaps moved outward, for though the Wild Hunt is vast, all of us fit within the confines of the room without crowding. The ceiling is a roiling mass of pearl and gold, irridescent limbs twisting around one another until only someone who looked very, very closely would be able to tell if there was one creature on the ceiling, or dozens. The answer - that it is both - is somewhat too complex for anyone not Sluagh to truly understand.
Once, the presence of the Hunt would have plunged the room into darkness, but now everything glows with a bright, golden light. Merry's magic has remade us, turned what was once dark and horrible to behold into something beautiful and terrible as the dawn, a bright, shining horror to replace a dark one.
Or perhaps it was as much my magic as Merry's. I have only to look at my own body to see the great white and gold tentacles of the Hunt echoed on a smaller scale. The rest of the Sluagh have but to do the same, of course, and the whispers that my time in Merry's bed makes me ever more Seelie are impossible to quell. The crown of the Goddess's herbs and flowers that manifests in my hair when the two of us work magic together does not help matters.
Thyme and lemonbalm are small, fragile things compared to the Lake of Bones and the spear of bone, compared to the power to call forth the Wild Hunt and ride at its head. Small, things, but small things have power.
The Sluagh are the only court in fairy where you can be voted king or queen. They are also the only court in fairy where a ruler can be deposed by a vote, and since the traditional first act of any ruler who has been elected in order to depose their predecessor is to call down the Wild Hunt on him or her, former monarchs of the Sluagh have a very short life expectancy.
This night I lead the Wild Hunt, but I have run before it as prey once before, and no doubt one day I shall do so again, but the Lake of Bones, the gardens that bloom in the Sluagh's sithen, our ancient weapons and symbols of kingship returned to us - these things are worth the possibility of one day being the Hunt's prey.
The Sluagh, along with the goblins, are the only two courts of fairy to whom the God and Goddess's favor has returned. With Merry gone from their sithens once more, the Seelie and Unseelie courts' magic has ceased to return, while we who were once the lesser courts of the Fey grow stronger. For that, many sacrifices would be justified.
For Merry, many sacrifices are justified.
The Darkness comes to stand next to me, his form flowing from sidhe to great, black hound as he approaches. His horn called the Hunt here, the two of us melding our magic together without Merry's aid for once. Now, he throws back his head and howls, and the baying of countless hounds echoes him. Not everything that is part of the Wild Hunt has tentacles.
The Killing Frost and the Darkness are the ones Merry loves. The rest of us - myself, Rhys, Galen, Mistral - the rest of us are 'extras.' And while people may tolerate extra pieces, even appreciate them, they are in the end only accepted because they accompany something else.
The older of Merry's twins, the girl, has the Darkness's black eyes, and Rhy's white hair, but her voice, when she laughs or cries, sounds like the singing of birds. A nightflyer's voice. She will be queen of the Sluagh one day, if her great uncles have not taken the throne for their own by then.
One of the tentacles from the ceiling reaches down to caress the edge of the cradle. The boy, Merry's son, starts to cry. My daughter laughs her musical, nightflyer laugh.
The Hunt is riding tonight, riding for Taranis the Thunderer, King of Light and Illusion, oathbreaker and attempted kinslayer, who sent his magic through the mirror in Merry's bedroom to try and kill the twins in their cradle. And when we catch him, the Darkness and I are going to kill him as slowly as we know how. We are not as kind as Merry is.
I may have flowers in my hair, and the Hunt I lead may be a thing of unearthly beauty, but I have a spear made of fey bones in my hand, and the prey I - we - pursue is going to die in a shower of blood. Because no matter how pretty we look, we are still the monsters under the bed, the thing on the doorstep, the dark host of faerie.
I am the Lord of that Which Passes Between, King of the Sluagh, Leader of the Wild Hunt, and tonight, we ride.