Magic is indifferent to consent. One does not, cannot, say no when magic takes over one's life. Just as the Great Wolves and Bears, the Tigers of the Djinn and the Leopards of the African Kings do not ask permission of the grass-eaters they pull down; just as the Sleek Teeth of the Ocean do not ask permission of the fish they devour; just as the long-nosed Walking Mountains or the Sea of galloping Stripes and Spots do not ask permission of the grass they tear and devour, or the trees they strip, so does magic prowl through the blood and bone and skin of humanity. Taking us, giving power to us, just as rape sometimes gives pregnancy.
Our Kingdom, in the Faire Lands, is middling sized and we call it Faire just as one calls an armoured knight ‘Your Grace’ or the ugly old Baba ‘Gracious Lady or Honourable Grandmother’. You daren't be any less than polite. Otherwise they might kill you. Or turn you into a frog, or a beast of burden, or any other thing they desire.
To be honest, this wet, cool land truly is fair, as fair as it is dangerous. Magic is what gives this bright and shining painter’s fantasy land its shadows and depth. It pools under evergreens and gives the edges of mountains their definition and majesty. Silly, credulous children called out for magic in their lives and offered us up to magic's ravishment. One does not refuse a King when he calls you fair.
You see, for every swine-herd who saves and wins a princess’s hand there are a herd of brothers along with the pigs. Or older brothers who must lose to let the youngest, least wanted, win. For every goose-girl who becomes a princess, or a Queen, there are the others. Relegated to ugly sisterhood, or envious friends or servants. It is a wonder indeed that any widow marry for a second time at all, the risk is so high that one will become the wicked stepmother, or the replacement Queen who will one day command her Huntsman to bring home her hart. Yes, you read that correctly. Hart, not heart. It is an easy mistake to make.
The Queen laid her quill down and read over the smooth, creamy page. She wasn’t sure why she was writing this but it felt right and in a world with magic successful sorceresses followed their feelings.
She was beautiful, with skin like smoothest chocolate, eyebrows like slashes of night, black hair in a thousand braids, each tipped with shining gold and blue faience beads, brushing her shoulders, clicking and chiming. The King had seen her, on crusade, tending her geese, and brought her home to be his bride, and mother to his only child, by the Royal Princess who had first laughed in his presence. So, the Swineherd become King, took a goose girl to second wife and only the beautiful child with true royal blood.
The summer breeze was warm, but thick with moisture and she felt as though she were drowning, even as she welcomed the heat that was more like home. Her clothing was cotton and silk, in this land where even in summer it grew cool enough to require furs on some evenings.
On the breeze she could hear the belling of a stag in the forest and smiled. Even when he was given surcease from thinking, from worrying, he retained enough to stay close.
She rose and walked out to the private garden her husband had built for her. It was only partly enclosed, the lower orchard dipping down to the stream where it seemed to become part of the wyldwood that, once well away from the mostly cleared castle hill, flowed green and thick and dark all the way to the mountains.
As she went, she drew the magic around her, so that every jewel she wore, every ring, every band of metal glittered with it, so she shone in the darkness, gold against dark skin, a golden outline of a crowned woman.
The breeze followed the magic that cuddled around her like a house cat, but she didn’t trust it, seized it by the bonds she’d laid on it when she’d first come into her power, made it attend her like chained leopard. Leaves and flower petals danced around her in the darkness, only the sound of their softness brushing against the ground and each other marking where they were.
She stopped at her overlook, a stone bench set in a half-circle, facing out over the view. Her hand reached up to pluck an apple from the tree set in a circle of semi-precious stones, and it seemed to shiver as her fingers caressed the twigs before breaking the stem.
The smell of apple wafted around her hand and wreathed around her face, despite the coiling breeze and she drew it into her lungs with an enormous, slow in-breath. She held the scent in her lungs and remembered the feel of the King’s flesh against hers, his ardor, his humanity. His smile. She smiled, in turn and let the breath of apples, of home and of her, whisper out through barely parted red lips. “Maximillian.”
Like a breath of their shadowed bedroom, overtones of sex and perfume, the scent flowed out of her, over the luscious red apple, fell in a stream down the hill and out into the forest, seeking, luring, beseeching, demanding.
“Maximillian. Come home.”