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The Queen and the Hunter

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Once upon a time, there was a little town called Beacon Hills. Nothing ever happened there -- well, not exactly nothing. There were werewolves in the forest, and hunters who fought the werewolves, and, of course, there was a fairy court under the hills that gave the town its name.

The queen of the fairy court was very young for a monarch, especially a fairy one. In fact, she was so young that she was still being educated in the mortal world. This was not without its problems, of course. Queen Lydia -- just Lydia to her high school teachers and peers -- had a powerful glamour about her, making her impossible to ignore. At the age of 16, she had already rejected more suitors than some queens entertained in their whole reigns. Not that these boys and girls knew who they were courting. Mortals were so ignorant.

Then, one day, a new family of hunters came to town. Their name was Argent, a father, a mother, and their daughter Allison, who was just Queen Lydia's age. She was also just Queen Lydia's type, with limpid dark eyes and a smile bright enough to scare off a grue, and, being a hunter, immune to glamour.

Queen Lydia found Allison fascinating. She befriended her in mortal fashion, by complimenting her sense of style -- remarkable enough to stand out at court -- and declaring herself Allison's new best friend. It made high school a lot more interesting.

When a pixie landed on Queen Lydia's shoulder one day in English class, no one noticed but the werewolf, and all it took to keep him quiet was a particularly icy glare. It left a message for her, written in beautiful calligraphy on a dry leaf: "The Hunt is tonight."

Queen Lydia did not curse, as to do so would both disrupt the class and give poor credit to her breeding, but she considered it at length. The Hunt! Had she been so distracted with Allison that she had lost track of time? Apparently so. She would have to miss that evening's lacrosse game, then.

Allison was gratifyingly disappointed at the news. "A family thing? That sucks," she said, sympathetically. "I'll miss you!"

"I'll miss you too," said Queen Lydia, and that, at least, was entirely true.

After school, Queen Lydia returned home -- to her real home under the hills, not the house she kept in the mortal world for appearances' sake. There were only a few hours before dark, and she had to prepare. She did not intend to make any kills, although she was more than adequately skilled; for the queen, the Hunt was often more of a royal procession, an opportunity to bestow favors that was more entertaining and less formal than a court session.

The queen did most of her dressing by herself: a chestnut-colored gown with a skirt full enough to permit her to ride astraddle, but short enough not to encumber her movements, and a high, fitted red bodice to make the ride more comfortable; leather boots of elven make, worked with roses to match her crest; and forest-green leggings the elves had copied from a mortal-made pair. She was hardly going to eschew innovations just because mortals made them, after all. She did, however, allow a few pixies to assist her with her hair; they had quite an eye for detail.

The Hunt began well, with fairy nobles of all kinds jostling for positions near Queen Lydia. As usual, she enjoyed the attention with a serene smile on her face, then had her favorite minister arrange the riders as planned. The closest cohort would rotate, giving the selected nobles each a chance to discuss things with the queen.

She examined herself in a mirror and adjusted one of the roses adorning her hair, keeping an ear on the conversations around her in case she was needed. The pixies had fashioned a sort of crown from the flowers and her hair so that she would not need to wear a real crown and risk losing it. This was necessary because, while the riders themselves were invisible to mortals, objects they dropped would cease to be so. Queen Lydia hoped the roses were secure; they were easier to explain than wrought-silver coronets, but still risky.

Everything was going according to plan -- Sir Orfeo wanted the birth of his youngest announced at court, Lady Gladiola had a border dispute that needed settling, Lord Beauxmains couldn't figure out how to work his iPhone -- when all of a sudden, Queen Lydia was distracted by something nearby. Or, rather, someone: she caught a glimpse of Allison, walking through the woods. She twisted to get a better look -- was that a bow and arrows strapped to her back? -- and Lord Beauxmains the fumble-fingered accidentally rode his horse directly into hers.

"Whoa!" cried Queen Lydia, and her horse, not recognizing the contemporary mortal expression of surprise, stopped short, sending Queen Lydia headlong into a pile of dead leaves.

She recovered quickly, leaping to her feet, but not quickly enough to avoid making a sound. Allison, trained from birth as a hunter, whirled around to face the source of the noise. Her eyes fell upon the leaves, and she looked perplexed.

"Is that a rose?" she asked herself aloud, and began to walk towards it.

Queen Lydia held her breath. The rest of the Hunt was still invisible, inaudible, and impalpable, held by their collective magic, but Queen Lydia herself was just invisible -- and covered in leaves, which would become visible if they fell from her dress. If Allison touched her -- well, it didn't bear thinking about.

Allison plucked the rose from the leaves and smiled. "I wonder where this came from," she murmured. She started to walk back to where she had been when Queen Lydia spotted her; relieved, Queen Lydia exhaled.

Allison spun around again, bow in hand, arrow notched. "Who's there?" she demanded. "I will shoot you!"

Queen Lydia dropped her invisibility with a snap of her fingers. "It's just me."

"Lydia? What are you wearing?" Allison asked, just as Lord Stormedge called, "Your maesty! The Hunt must continue if we are to finish before dawn!"

Thinking very quickly, Queen Lydia came to a conclusion. "Come with me," she said, taking Allison by the hand. "Can you ride?"

"Ride what? -- Oh my god," said Allison, as Queen Lydia keyed her into the spells of the Hunt. "Is this for real?"

"As real as I am," said Queen Lydia. With a flick of her fingers, Allison was instantly astride Queen Lydia's horse, as well as more suitably garbed, in breeches, tunic, and vest that matched Queen Lydia's own clothing.

"Oh my god," said Allison again, smoothing her hands over her new clothing and ensuring that her bow and arrows remained in place. "Lydia, what is this?"

"The Hunt," said Queen Lydia. She mounted her horse in front of Allison and cracked her whip in the air, digging in her heels. The Hunt went on, with Allison's arms wrapped around Queen Lydia's waist.

As they rode, Queen Lydia exercised her royal privilege to cut short the informal audiences and speak with her guest instead. "I'm the queen of the fairies," called Queen Lydia, hoping that Allison could hear her over the noise of the wind and the zephyrs dancing in it.

Allison tucked her chin over Queen Lydia's shoulder. "Repeat that?" she requested, her mouth very near Queen Lydia's ear.

"I'm the queen of the fairies," she repeated, in a more decorous tone of voice. "I run the court under the hills, and this is my annual Hunt, when I ride with my subjects."

"Like a fairy tale," Allison said.

"Not like a fairy tale," Queen Lydia corrected her. "It is a fairy tale."

"Can I see your court?"

"Of course. I'll bring you back with me when the Hunt ends." It wouldn't be long now; the sky was beginning to fade from black to darkest gray already.

"Cool." Queen Lydia did not need to turn her head to know that Allison was smiling.

They rode on in comfortable quiet for a while, until Allison said, "I like your hair like this."

"Thank you," said Queen Lydia. "I could have the pixies do yours, too, if you wanted."

"That might be nice," said Allison, but there was the hint of a laugh in her voice, as if Queen Lydia were missing a joke.

She put the thought aside. They were nearly back at the entrance under the hills, and it would take some concentration to navigate it with a mortal in tow, or so Queen Lydia told herself.

Stone parted like water, and Queen Lydia's company poured back under the hills, into the cavernous entry hall, where the horsegirls could lead their mounts back to the stables. Queen Lydia dismounted, then offered a hand to Allison.

Allison took it and jumped down. "Thank you," she said.

Queen Lydia blushed. "You're welcome. Will you accompany me to the feast?"

Allison beamed. "I'd love to," she said.

Later, if pressed to describe any of the food served at the feast, Queen Lydia would have been at a loss. She ate heartily, but was aware only of Allison's presence beside her, how well the fairy clothing became her, the friendly interest she showed in everyone she met, her smile.

"This is amazing," said Allison, resting one hand on Queen Lydia's sleeve as the dishes cleared themselves. "Thank you so much for bringing me."

"I couldn't resist," said Queen Lydia. "Would you like the grand tour?"

"I would, but --" Allison cut herself off with a yawn. "-- maybe a nap first? We mortals need our beauty sleep, you know."

"Oh, of course!" Queen Lydia motioned over a hovering pixie. "Would you be so kind as to make up a bed for my companion?"

The pixie nodded vigorously, scattering sparkles, and flew off. Allison watched it go. "I guess making beds is more exciting when you're a foot tall," she said thoughtfully.

"It seems to be," agreed Queen Lydia.

She had time to introduce Allison to Lord Beauxmains and his wife, whose name was only pronounceable underwater, before the pixie returned.

"It's been a pleasure meeting you," said Allison, as Queen Lydia took her by the elbow to follow the pixie. The path it led them on -- white marble bespelled to avoid slipping, lit by sconces shaped like roses -- was the same Queen Lydia would take to reach her own chambers, she noted.

This, it turned out, was for a reason. The pixie showed them into Queen Lydia's chambers, where the bed had doubled in size and had two sets of nightclothes laid out upon it.

"I --" Queen Lydia began to say, just as Allison said, "It's fine."

"Are you sure?" asked Queen Lydia.

Allison smiled. "This bed is huge," she pointed out. "It'll be like a sleepover!"

"Just like a sleepover," echoed Queen Lydia, a bit crestfallen. She turned her back as the pixie left, beginning to unlace the bodice of her gown. She could hear the sounds of Allison undressing as well; it took all of her considerable willpower not to turn and catch a glimpse as she put on her shift.

Then she felt a light touch on her neck, and jumped. Behind her was Allison, holding the rose she had found in the leaves. "I'm not sleepy yet," said Allison."

"No?" Queen Lydia began to smile. "Me neither." She reached for Allison, cupping her face in one hand, and kissed her. Allison melted into the kiss and pulled Queen Lydia closer to her, down to the bed.

They took their time making love, what with Allison's training to be detail-oriented and Queen Lydia's natural desire for excellence in all things, drawing pleasure from one another for what felt like hours. When they finally fell asleep, they did so wrapped in each other's arms, wrung out and happy.


Morning broke, but neither Queen Lydia nor Allison was awake to greet it. It was, in fact, past noon before Queen Lydia awoke to the sound of her own stomach rumbling. She disentangled her limbs from Allison's, straightened her shift, and crept off to the kitchens.

Perched on a stool, eating a slice of hot bread with butter and honey, Queen Lydia was thoroughly unprepared for what came next.

"It was lovely to meet your consort last night," said the cook, pouring Queen Lydia a mug of coffee. "Will she be moving her things in soon?"

Queen Lydia sipped her coffee and counted to five, then asked calmly, "What?"

"Your consort," the cook repeated. "And speaking of Lady Allison, what does she like for breakfast?"

"Consort," Queen Lydia said softly, lessons of protocol and implications flooding back into her head. Whether or not she had said it aloud, that was exactly how she had treated Allison -- even before she took her to bed. "She likes coffee, and pancakes. If you make up a tray, I could bring it back to her."

"Just make sure you put it out of the way when you're done," said the cook, winking broadly.

Queen Lydia laughed. "Of course." Consort. Somehow, she would have to explaint o Allison -- and find some land to deed to her. She could hardly have a landless princess-consort; it simply wasn't done.

When she returned to her -- their? -- chambers, whispering thanks to the pixie who helped her with the door, Allison was sitting up in the big bed, checking her phone. "Ooh, breakfast!" she said, dropping the phone next to her. "Thanks!"

"You're welcome," said Queen Lydia. She considered a number of possible ways to broach the subject, rejected them all, and said, "The whole kingdom has decided you're my consort."

Allison paused, swallowed, and said, "Are you in trouble?"

"What? No," said Queen Lydia. "Everyone loves you; you're wonderful. They're delighted."

"Then what's the problem?"

Queen Lydia blinked. "You don't mind?"

"What's there to mind? I was going to make you date me anyway, after last night." Allison grinned. "And now I get you, and I get to be, what, a princess of Fairyland?"

"Something like that," Queen Lydia said.

"I'm in," said Allison. She reached out for Queen Lydia's hand; Queen Lydia took it.

"Good," she said, and they lived happily ever after.