Thursday, July 26, 2012
However, neither witch nor woman nor queen was content to leave it at that. Her kingdom needed an heir.
The witch-queen knew romantic love, or what it was supposed to be. She also knew that she had not felt it. Sex held little interest for her, and though she knew that was what pure and innocent women were supposed to say, she also knew that most women didn't mean it.
But the geas had never mentioned sex, simply love. The witch-queen knew of love. She sent out a new challenge: one of cleverness and charm.
The first test was to find the messenger, the second to politely ask for the password to gain entrance to her kingdom. Since the witch-queen chose the servants she sent, three suitors made it past.
The man from the south was golden as the sun, from his hair to his skin to his tawny eyes, and as outspoken as one would expect. The northeasterner was dark and quiet as the night: deep colors to his skin and hair, deep and quiet thoughts behind his eyes. The northwestern man was starlight itself, true blond hair, eyes silver and skin a few shades away from it.
The sunny one was charming, but cared little for non-social pursuits. The dark man was quiet, but polite, and opened up like a moon flower if one spoke to him without forcing him into small talk. Dear starlight was the only one everyone seemed to get along with happily, for he could sit in perfect silence and read, or he could chatter for hours on end. The witch-queen took to thinking of him as a mirror, reflecting whatever his conversational partner wanted. When she asked him his favorite book, he responded with hers. If the dark man asked the same question, the northwestern man chose a title that made his eastern neighbor smile, and when the sunny one asked, he grinned and said, "Oh, I don't care for reading; I'd much rather spar."
When the sun grew tired of being stuck in one place for so long, the witch-queen gave him passage back to his kingdom. When the night had grown bored of every book in the palace, she let him go as well. "You've won by default, it seems, mirror."
He looked at her, eyebrows drawn up. "No. I would win if you loved me." Mirror spread his hands. "Those were the terms, and I abide by them."
The witch-queen looked at him. "Have you ever loved someone, in the way people expect?"
"I am everything one expects, Your Majesty." But he smiled as if he hid something.
"That sounds tremendously shallow of you."
The man raised his eyebrows, the first surprised gesture he'd made over his entire visit. "I have never felt a particular affection for the flesh," he admitted. The witch-queen thought of other reflective things. The deepest lakes and streams could reflect perfectly, on a still day, but shake them the right way, or look past your reflection, and suddenly you see life and rocks of every color and breed, all the way down...
"But?" she asked.
"I am like you, Your Majesty." That moment, when you've looked past your reflection for so long, and someone swims beneath you. "One does not need to want physical touch to love."
The witch-queen sat, and gestured for her mirror to do the same. "We would need to, if we married," she said simply. "Personal desires aside, I am a queen, and I shall need heirs."
"Does that mean you love me, then? Since bastard heirs are generally frowned upon." He smiled.
"You are as attentive as I am. You know I do."
His smile turned into a grin. "It is traditional to say it, Your Majesty. Like this: I love you. I want to marry you and raise children with you."
The witch-queen smiled back. "I love you, too. I've been envisioning us married in spring, and eventually raising children who learn to walk among wildflowers, and little else makes me so happy as to think of being married to someone clever enough to play the game of courts against me." She raised an eyebrow. "Sufficient?"
"Well, this is never going to be boring," he laughed.
"Oh, I hope not. T'would be dreadful to misjudge you so horribly."