The Fae slept beneath the hill in the Winter. Not any one particular hill, and if a shepherd managed to catch a sprite busily spinning coats of ice around a hoary oak, and upon the spring nest of the absent nightingale, that sprite would have been most perplexed at the question. Then the sprite would have given a sharp edged grin made of tiny daggers of ice and led the Shepherd a merry chase before resuming her duties.
By the Winter Solstice, King Oberon's horns of autumn was long gone, and in their place he wore a circlet of silver ice edged in black that branched much as his stag's horns had done. Queen Titania's dress of flowers had since been replaced with a gown of sparkling snow and around her head, her crown gleamed with clear blue ice gems. As slender shards, that seemed to cut as they moved, they walked upon the snow arm in arm, yet leaving no footsteps. They slept beneath the hill, but they walked upon it. The longer that they walked, their court arrayed behind them, the more the snow would sparkle.
Now, one day a ship was cast ashore near where the King and Queen were promenading. They curiously watched as a young lady stepped from her ship dressed as a young gentleman and with the name Cesario and took up service with a local Duke Orsino.
That young lady, Viola, as Cesario, was sent to woo a Countess Olivia on her master's behalf, who in turn fell in love with the supposed gentleman. As Viola enjoyed a man's form far more than a woman's, she rejected Olivia entirely.
Orsino attempting to find some time with Olivia, proposed a hunting party into the woods, though hunting was out of season. The Duke Orsino looked at the Countess Olivia. The Countess Olivia looked at the man she loved. The man she loved was not a man, and moreover not interested in women.
Oberon kissed Titania's cheek as they watched Countess Olivia, dressed in black and dark as winter, give wintery smiles to Viola in her men's garb. Oberon smiled blue lipped in his pale winter's face. "Viola has a brother, as alike to her as she to him." He trailed fingers through Titania's silver hair causing a gentle chiming. "I chanced to see him plucked from the waves when we stood upon the promontory to watch the sea." His smile was cruel as it was kind. "It's in my mind to play a game."
Titania was in a winter's mood and agreed to some amusements.
So, it was that a gale whipped up and the Duke and his party were forced to take refuge in a mean cave, which was shelter enough. They did not mean to fall asleep. In fact it was the furthest thing from their minds as they sat by their fires.
Whether or not they slept was not a choice left up to them.
When they woke, it was to find themselves changed. Countess Olivia woke up Count Oliver, to her surprise. While Viola became Cesario in truth. The Duke remained a Duke and not a Duchess because Titania did not want him for her gender.
While far across the forest, Sebastian upon the pirate ship woke up to find himself missing certain parts and gaining certain others, and now must call himself Sabrina. As he had in that moment been vigorously thanking Antonio, the pirate captain, who'd plucked him from the waves, who in that moment had reason to change her name to Antonia. Sabrina groaned at the loss of what filled her. Although, Antonia declared it mattered not to her, and there many women pirates. Sabrina had good reason to thank her new ability at pleasure. For as Titania whispered in Sabrina's ear, "By the time a man may be pleased again of a night, a woman has been pleased many times."
Meanwhile, across the forest, Count Oliver felt nothing but dismay. Certainly, the Duke was greatly dismayed, and indicated that perhaps they should forget his suit. Count Oliver seeing an opportunity asked the Duke for Cesario, as Count Oliver had no gentlemen of his own. To Cesario's dismay, he was handed over and quite quickly abandoned. Count Oliver smiled pleasantly and said, "Shall we head home? I find myself in need of a bath."
Now as it happened that as a woman, Viola had found herself drawn to manly form, and as it turned out that now he was Cesario this had not changed.
So that bath went slightly differently than any she'd given when Viola entered into the service of Duke Orsino. Count Oliver made sure of it. Later, they turned out Count Oliver's drunken uncle and his hangers on and that estate became far more pleasant after.
As to Sabrina, she became a pirate.
In the Spring, the Fae lived in the flowers and put on tender clothes of petals.
Oberon put on a coat of grass and Titanic a dress of bluebell. They lost their winter sharpness and took on a fine sheen of slight curves that were only apparent in contrast to their former edges. As it happened, they were idling awhile exploring that new sheen when they chanced to see a man running through the woods pursued by a bear.
In the opposite direction came a young matron named Hero walking through the woods. Now her history was written large in the hollows under her eyes.
She'd been accused of infidelity twice before her wedding by her husband to be. In one case, both violently and with great cruelty. But because she'd loved him and thought him reformed, she'd decided to marry him anyway when he saw the error of his ways.
The difficulty was he'd only learned error for the past. The future was another country. If she smiled to a visiting gentleman, then she must be in love with him and unfaithful. So, jealous was Hero's Claudio of her love, that he'd moved them to a remote estate in the country, ostensibly for her health. In truth, it was to keep a better eye upon her.
However, if he was jealous in the city, Claudio was even more so in the country. Quite out of her wits for how to convince him of her love and fearing for her life, Hero escaped her own home in the dead of night set upon the idea of walking to see her cousin, Beatrice, and requesting her assistance.
By the full moon, she saw this bear pursue the man, and shouted, "Hey!" Hoping to startle it to leave him alone. It did stop its pursuit and instead turned its attentions to Hero, who knowing there was no way she could run, held up her arms and continued shouting. As it happened, Titantia and Oberon had been trysting among the flowers and heard the commotion. They looked upon the brave girl and they looked upon the bear. With a snap of her fingers, Titania exchange the appearance of the two, much to their bewilderment.
Then with a sigh, Titania resumed what she'd been doing.
The bear in Hero's shape wandered back to Hero's home, where Claudio jealously ranted at her. The bear was inclined to have none of that and swiped at his neck with her claws, which since they were fingers did not do much damage.
The greater damage was just then Beatrice and her husband, Benedict, arrived having ridden all through the night on some premonition of danger. Seeing her cousin driven as it seemed mad on account of Claudio's behavior, Beatrice looked to Benedict and said, "If I were a man, I'd defend my cousin's honor."
Benedict said, "As I am a man, I will stand up for my cousin," and challenging Claudio to a duel, quickly made the bear in Hero's shape a sort of widow. They took her back with them to their home, and treated the bear in Hero's shape quite gently. Given a steady diet of berries, the bear became quite domesticated.
Now, as to Hero, she wandered far into the woods, much bewildered by what had happened. She came to a grove sacred to the Oracle of Delphi. In the middle of the grove was a statue of a beautiful woman. In the hands of this woman, sang a nightingale upon the joys of love that did not constrain.
This statue was actually Queen Hermione, who had been cast out by her king for supposed infidelity. She had been transformed into a statue by the gods to save her life. While the nightingale was actually a woman named Desdemona, who had half strangled by her husband for jealousy before a passing angel took pity on her and gave her the shape of a nightingale.
Hero the Bear settled beneath the statue with a heavy sigh. There she decided to remain. She gazed upon the face of the weeping woman. She felt her heart fill with a sort of sorrowful love. Hearing the nightingale's song, she felt love as well.
She prayed there nightly to what she took to be the goddess of that place, though it was only Queen Hermione.
Oberon and Titania with their court decided to hold a revel in the glen of the Oracle, and found that their reveling spot was occupied by three women quite transformed.
Titantia narrowed her eyes and said, "For only one of these will I claim responsibility." She snapped her finger and transformed the bear into a nightingale
Oberon said, "The song is sweet, but in the winter, they'll be quite cold."
Titania said, "As the bear's fur was soft, so in the winter they'll sleep with us beneath the hill as soft bears and in the spring sing their wakened joys." The court set to their revels with sweet music.
All the night the court of the fairies danced and sang beneath trees decked with flowers. In the hazy dawn, Titania said, "It seems pity to leave one a statue."
Oberon kissed the flowers at her brow and quite transformed Queen Hermione into a Queen of oaks, while Hero and Desdemona formed a sort of nesting pair and found much joy in singing in her branches.
In the height of Summer, tempers flared between the rulers of the Fae. Oberon's horns grew into a mighty rack upon his head and his flesh fuller with each passing day. Titania also grew round and heavy with the heat of the blooming world and turning flowers into rich fruit.
So they argued time to time and no more need be said upon the matter.
In the Autumn of the year, the Fae were at their greatest revels. They let rich golden light fall soft on all the land, and fruit grown gently in the soft rain, came to bounteous harvest.
As to Oberon, his mighty crown of horns scratched the sky on the night of a hunter's moon and the light turned his skin to gold and his bulk blocked out the moon. Titania was golden skinned also, if of a richer hue, and her crown of richly woven grain sounded like the sea when the wind blew, and she seemed as sturdy as a mountain.
Into this time of rejoicing riches, shivering Rosalind wearing men's clothes and her hungry cousin Cecilia came into the woods.
Oberon, his booming voice the sound of distant thunder, said, "Shall we transform Rosalind to a man's form and reward Cecilia for her faithful love with a child of her love?"
Titania, her voice as rich as all the wine drunk at harvest, said, "I'd as soon make them birds to so repeat myself, though I love serenades."
"But Cecilia loves her cousin truly." Oberon nudged his Queen, "And autumn is a time for love."
"Or rut," agreed Titania to her King.
They glanced at each other, and Oberon sent Puck to collect a certain flower that he knew. "It is a place where Pan saw a votress of fair Diane and set to stroking himself. A flower grew of his passion spent on the earth. The pollen of this flower my Puck, you must bring directly to me, and not pause in between."
As Puck left, Titania said, "He'll pause."
"True, but as long as there is pollen left does it matter?" asked Oberon pressing his hands to Titania's fecund golden sides.
"In no particular, "agreed Titania, and set to Autumn revels.
Puck did pause. He paused a great deal for his own amusement.
Puck sprinkled pollen on the eyes of Romeo, and so it was he coupled in the orchard with his friend Mercutio, self styled Prince of cats, as if they were cats in heat with much yowling. Mercutio actually was a prince of cats and set to making Romeo his princess. In the alleyways they ran. As to Juliet, her eyes were dusted too and also that of a Cupid. She had a vision of a Seraph's spear piercing her heart sweetly, and of his loins piercing even more sweetly in a way she never wanted stopped. So it was when the vision ended that she became a nun, and eventually the head of her order. She wrote a great deal about her visions of the Seraph's visits and the holy pleasure she had of them. If the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues did not end by the hand of Romeo and Juliet, at least they were both quite old and well satisfied when they died.
Puck sprinkled pollen on the eyes of Caliban upon his island, who gazing on the sea fell to vigorous coupling with it. In that the sea did not mind, and took his seed to the depths to become strange pearls. Those pearls then bobbed to the surface and grew into a race of Calibans, who peopled the island with a race of watery folk much suited to living on an island.
Puck sprinkled pollen on the eyes of Troilus and Cressida and all the other Greek and Trojan warriors besides. That the Trojan War was not recorded as ended in a Bacchanalian revel, has nothing to do with truth or beauty, but the sometimes awkward moments of the morning after. The Greeks did send a gift of a horse's statue to the Trojans. But that had more to do with honoring certain portions of their anatomy.
Puck did eventually make it back to Oberon, who treated Rosalind and Celia's eyes well with the pollen. What they got up to within their cottage was theirs and theirs alone to know. But certainly, there were fingers used in certain ways and tongues that were plied most cleverly. Certainly, they emerged the next day rosy cheeked, and quite ignored any suitors that came by to disturb them.
As the first snows of the year fell, Titania took Oberon's crown from his head. He in turn removed her withered petals.
They went down into the earth under the hill to sleep awhile until they were ready to emerge new clothed in snow and begin it all again.