Thursday, February 20, 2014

True Love

There's a land where true love is very important, because curses happen. Among anyone considered replaceable, this isn't as big a deal--it's good for your servants to have true love, but not necessary.

Quite a few servants disagree on this point. They tend to not mention this aloud.

True love is undeniably important for anyone of sufficient power. Modern-day, this expresses itself in democracies just as well as everywhere else--"Where will my opponent be if cursed? He doesn't have a true love to save him." It puts some closeted queer candidates in a double-bind: should they be The Candidate Without A True Love, or The Gay Candidate? And, of course, there's been a recent increase in it being necessary that the person you're married to be your true love, even though marriage has never been necessary for breaking any curse.

But this story is from a different time, and a different place, neither of which necessarily ever existed. The bones have happened more times than one would bother to count. The specifics hardly matter.

Fairy tale logic; play along.

There was once a beautiful kingdom, and it was prosperous, so all the surrounding kingdoms and dukedoms and other countries sent their children to meet the princess, hoping to be her true love. One of them was, and there was some scurrying behind doors to make sure this was diplomatically viable, and then they were married the very next day.

They lived together in great happiness for many years. One day a wicked fairy came and cursed the queen (no longer a princess), but the king had been carrying his mirror, his comb, and his brush, and had thus found his way to a spirit who knew where the queen was. One kiss from him, and she awoke.

But another fairy, who was very much in the business of seeing that stories went as they were supposed to, noticed something when the king went out to save the queen. The fairy did not like it, and put the king under a curse. This curse was an odd curse to put on a person who had a true love--it sent him to sleep in his own chambers, not to awake until woken by his true love's kiss. But the queen shared chambers with him, and in a land such as this, it was hardly odd to wake one's partner with a kiss.

The queen followed tradition. It was true, this was a rarer tradition, but it was tradition none the less. She called to all the members of the castle for one who would come with her to ride out and find what was needed to save the king from this dreadful curse. Most of the hall was silent, and a handful hesitated; only one stepped forward. That one left with the queen, as it always was. No others stepped forward, and so the two rode forth from the castle, with provisions fit for weeks of journey and tools for hunting should they need to be gone longer. It was rarely necessary, but whenever one made a reasonable guess, the guess was always a day short of necessity.

The queen turned to the servant, stopping their journey. "I know why you came with me."

The servant sat up straighter on their horse. "I came at your majesty's request."

"Many could have come at my request. You came because you love him."

The servant was quiet a moment. Then they said, "Yes."

She nodded. "The same as me."

The servant nodded quickly. "And you can hardly blame me, when I know you know how easy he is to love, and may well have fallen in love with him for the same reasons that--"

"Of course I cannot blame you," said the queen. "I knew when I married him that I was not his true love."

The servant went still and silent, not even breathing.

"He is my true love, and I do not regret that--I doubt I could. But you are his. And, I believe, he is yours." The queen did not look away from the servant, and the servant could not look away from the queen. "True love need not be requited to work. I am proof of that, though I believe he does love me in another way. Yours is requited, which is very lucky. Had you not loved him in return, I would have had to come up with a much more obscure tradition."

"He--he loves me?" they exhaled.

The queen's practicality softened. "Yes," she said, "very much. And if I had ever been able to convince him you loved him, I believe you would have known this long before." The queen reached up above her head and took a branch with holly and moss on it. "Here. I know these species; I can describe it specifically enough to pretend that we might have spent days searching." She turned back around and set her horse into a trot.

"W--wait," they said trotting behind, "What?"

The queen turned, not slowing. "If the other lands know I am not his true love, it will hurt trade, and make us look easy to attack. This cannot be public. But you are his true love, and you love him. It would be dreadfully hypocritical of me not to allow it, given how he and I came together."

The branch was laid; the announcements made; the servant kissed him; the fairy enjoyed the story as it was. And, in one way or another, they all lived peacefully and prosperously ever after.

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