22 - Queen of Air and Darkness

A young human woman, kidnapped as an infant and raised by fairies, maneuvers in the fairy courts in a bid to take the throne of a fairy queen.

Bridget, the human daughter of the fairy Queen of Air and Darkness, is dressed by a dozen handmaidens in a beautiful and intricate gown, in preparation for her meeting with Hob, Prince of the Forest, and heir to the throne over the Seelie fairies to the north.

She’s nervous about the meeting, but her handmaidens all coo and fawn over her, telling her how wonderful she is. It’s clear they make her a little uncomfortable, but they rally her spirits as well.

When the trumpets signal Hob’s arrival, she’s led out to meet him. He’s resplendent, tall, and handsome. He’s a little… surprised by her, or something about her, but he hides it well, and greets her warmly.

They’re both led to a massive feast in their honor. The feast is loud and long and joyous, and the pair of them are given plenty of time to get to know each other. Hob confesses that he was surprised to see she was human. She assures him that, though she is human, as a native of the fairy courts, she is just as immortal as he is. He’s relieved to hear it, but again, he hides it well.

Halfway through the feast, the Queen herself makes an appearance. She makes an impression on everyone there. She’s terrifyingly beautiful, not unlike a thunderstorm. Everyone bows, and most everyone shakes a little. The only person not even a little uncomfortable is Bridget.

Hob in particular is visibly unnerved by the Queen’s presence. Still, she greets him warmly enough, makes certain he’s pleased with the feast and with his accommodations. She talks about the trust she’s putting in him by giving him her daughter, and not-so-subtly warns that her safety will soon be his responsibility. He assures her that her trust is well-placed, but he’s spooked. She leaves the feast, and things return to their jovial peak.

After the feast, it’s clear Bridget and Hob are each okay with the other, and maybe even a little fond of each other.

Bridget goes to see her mother some days later. She asks her why Hob didn’t know she was human, and if her humanity matters at all. The Queen ensures her that it’s utterly unimportant, which is why Hob didn’t know; it was never worth mentioning. She assures Bridget that she’s her daughter as much as if she came from her womb.

Bridget and Hob continue to spend time together as the entire court prepares for their wedding. Hob remains curious about Bridget’s humanity. She tells him she was taken as an infant, and remembers nothing of the human world. He’s surprised at this; she’s never even visited?

After she tells him no, he takes her on a visit to the human world. They go through the forest to visit a small human castle, and the farms that surround it. Bridget marvels at the massive walls, and the huge tracts of crops.

When they return to the Unseelie courts, the Queen summons Bridget. She’s furious, and demands to know exactly what transpired during their visit to the mortal world. After Bridget relays everything that happened, she calms down.

The Queen reveals that if Bridget ever eats any food from the mortal world, she’ll sacrifice her immortality. She also warns her that, if Hob brought her there without telling her that, it’s very possible he has some sort of ulterior agenda. She tells Bridget that if the marriage goes through and then Bridget dies, Hob would inherit her place in the Unseelie succession, which would put him in a very powerful position indeed, as the heir to both the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

She doesn’t forbid Bridget from visiting the human world or anything, but she does warn her to be very, very careful.

Bridget is cautious at first in her time with Hob, but as they both fall in love with each other, she increasingly doubts that he has any sort of agenda.

The wedding is the event of the millenium. The entire fairy world is in attendance.

The reception is massive and chaotic and wonderful. Sometime during the chaos, though, someone gives Bridget some berries from the human world. She eats them, and like a thunderclap, she’s all at once mortal.

The Queen’s wrath is instant and terrifying. Everyone flees lest they be destroyed. Hob tries to run, but the Queen is entirely focused on him. He tries to warn her that attacking him could lead to war with the Seelie court, but she tells him that killing her daughter is what will have led them to war.

Bridget throws herself in front of Hob. She swears to the Queen that she’s positive Hob wouldn’t have done anything like this. The Queen counters that as his bride, she’s his responsibility, meaning even if it isn't his fault, it's his fault. Bridget counters that, as they were in the Queen's court, you could argue that they’re both under her responsibility. Instead of trying to figure out who should’ve been protecting her, though, they should try to find who actually did it.

The Queen calms down - a little bit. Enough to stop attacking Hob, at least. She summons her hounds; the hounds sniff the berries that were given to Bridget, and then search the castle looking for their source. Hob looks uncomfortable, which the Queen takes as an indication of his guilt. She takes Bridget aside, and tells her that she has a unique capacity now. As a mortal, she’s capable of wielding a cold iron blade - and thus capable of slaying a fairy noble. The Queen has a servant bring just such a weapon to Bridget. She tells Bridget that the very second Hob is found to be guilty, he’ll strike; she mustn’t hesitate to kill him.

The next twenty or so minutes are very uncomfortable. Hob and Bridget share a tender moment alone, where he mourns the future death of his bride. She tries to comfort him, reminding him that they have decades together, but it’s no good; what is a decade when you were a child before civilization had set foot on their island?

He fears a framing by the Queen. He tells Bridget that, should he die, his throne will pass to her. And then, when her inevitable end comes, it will pass to the Queen. As ruler of the Unseelie courts, and heir to the Seelie courts, she’ll have an unprecedented amount of power. He tells her that the Queen is likely already preparing the weapon that will slay him; they need to turn it on her before she gets the opportunity to use it.

Bridget asks what will happen in that event. Won’t she ascend to the throne, and then won’t Hob himself inherit that from her? Giving him the unprecedented amount of power? Hob points out that, while the Queen would use her position to oppress, he would use the power to unite. Bridget isn’t convinced, and he can tell.

The houndmaster returns, and whispers in the Queen’s ear. She calls Bridget over to her, but before Bridget can reach her, Hob attacks her, shouting his innocence - and thus proving his guilt. Bridget draws her dagger and kills him, then breaks down.

Time passes.

A Seelie envoy arrives, summoning Bridget; now that she is the princess of the Seelie courts, they want her with them, where they can protect her. As they see it, they have reason to protect her, and the Queen has reason to want her dead. Bridget refuses to leave with them; it was not her mother who doomed her to death, after all. The envoy leaves, but warns the Queen that if any harm should befall Bridget, there will likely be war. There may be war anyway when she reaches the extent of her natural lifespan.

The Queen comforts Bridget as best she can, and tells her that if she ever decides she wants to leave, she has her blessing. Something about what she says sits uneasily with Bridget, though, and she sneaks into the Queen’s private room. In the room, she finds a bush full of the same berries that were fed to her.

She goes on the warpath, and attacks the Queen. The Queen fights back viciously, but all of her magic is powerless against the cold iron dagger that she gave to Bridget.

As Bridget holds to blade against the Queen’s neck, the Queen pleads for her life. She tells Bridget that she knows of a way to restore her immortality, but she’s the only one who can do it. If Bridget kills her now, though, she will most assuredly die.

Bridget agrees with her. She will die. But not for some time yet. The Queen herself, though? She’ll die today.

She kills the Queen, takes on her mantle, and ascends to the throne of the Unseelie court.