“Once, back when the courts were united under the One Queen Maebh, she had a son, who was named Oberon. He was to be the Crown Prince, and the future Queen’s consort when the time would come for Maebh to retire the throne. All went well since Oberon fell in love with fair Titania, and Maebh approved, and promised that when the time came she would cede the crown to her.
“One day, however, an old god wandered in from Cat’s Court. He had goats’ feet and horns, and green skin that glowed in the twilight, and his voice was as deep as the forest, but he had been gravely injured by the very humans that had created him, and was dying. Maebh took pity on him and kept him in the forest that so reminded him of his home, and fed him the best cakes and sweets from her own royal kitchens, and Cat’s Court goods too, and she used magical herbs from all the worlds, and gathered healers from every corner of the Glimmerlands, but he did not get better. One day she went to see him, and the god said “Dear Queen, I am dying.”
The Queen wept and wept, and begged him not to leave her. He said, “I used to crave the day I would return to the peace of my earthly womb, but the pain of leaving you is greater than peace. I would do anything to remain by your side forever, but even I have not such power.”
The Queen Maebh then said, “At least give me something to remember you by!” And so the god made love to her, and gave her a child, and then he died.
The child was named Tamlin, and he grew quickly in his mother’s womb, and even quicker out of it. It became evident that the boy was very special indeed; he didn’t seem to be an elf, like his mother, but neither was he a god. Somehow his body had combined the two species, and so we had a prince that was half-god and half-elf.
Maebh doted on the child, and taught him everything she knew and more, and the court found him delightful. He had the best teachers from all over the Glimmerlands, even places outside of our court, and so he grew strong in all the arts.
Only Oberon was jealous of his younger brother, afraid that he would take his place as Crown Prince. Several times he attempted to kill the boy, but each time young Tamlin turned the trick on his older brother, and for him it was so easy that never did he suspect that Oberon wanted him dead. He grew to admire his older brother, and little by little Oberon’s tricks became tests, as he saw how useful it might be to have such a strong and clever servant. Maebh was relieved with her sons’ reconciliation.
All was going well until Tamlin met Oona. He had grown into a tall and handsome prince, and she was a lady of the court. Tamlin began to court Oona, and according to tradition, Oona set him three tasks in order to win her affection. All the court ladies longed for Tamlin’s affection, so they expected the tasks to be easy, but not so proud Oona. The first task she set him was this: “Bring me something that is both present and absent, but not a gift.”
The court wondered at the difficulty of this task; however Tamlin, being the son of a god with incredibly powers, found it easy. He waved a hand in front of her and created a window into Cat’s Court.
“There,” said he, “is what is going on at present in another world that is absent from ours.” And he waved his hand again, and the vision was gone.
Impressed, Oona took a moon to think up the next quest, during which time Tamlin continued to court her. The court was intrigued, because all evidence suggested that they were courting in the way of humans, in an intimate dance without touching one another, the aim of which was to find out which would give in first to the other.
Finally she presented him with his second task: “Bring me something that is both old and new, but not made with hands or magic.”
Tamlin seemed a little troubled over this one, but after three days he brought her a vineplant cutting, and said “This is new, from and very old plant, and it created itself.”
“Ah,” said Oona cunningly, “but the new plant has been cut from the old, and is no longer old.”
Tamlin then went to the oldest member of the court, a hag who didn’t even bother to glamour her wrinkles any more, and asked her for a drop of her blood. The lady cackled and fed the plant from her hand, and then Tamlin brought it back to Oona, and she approved.
“When will you give me the next task?” he asked, already eager.
“Right now,” she said. “But you have as long as you need to accomplish it.” And this was the final quest: “You must find me, and bring me to me.”
The court wondered at the impossibility of this test. She had not said “shadow” or “reflection”, but “me”, which meant that there had to be more than one of her for the task to be accomplished. Everyone then thought that Oona had decided to reject Tamlin, and he went away sadly.
A moon later, he burst into court where she was talking with the other ladies, holding an iron knife, and confronted her with it.
“The only way I can find you is if I lose you,” he said. The rest of the court gasped, someone called the guards, but their magic was no match for his, and they couldn’t get to him. Oberon was arriving, when Oona held up a hand.
“You are right,” she said, “I see you have found the solution to this task. Please see it through. I am counting on you.” And she smiled at him, and he smiled at her, but it was the saddest smile you’ve ever seen, and then he killed her.
Oona’s family wailed in despair and bewilderment, and Oberon chased Tamlin out into the woods surrounding the castle, then lost him. Tamlin was ever good at hiding, and after a while they gave up the search. The entire court was disgusted with him. Only his mother, Queen Maebh, insisted that they trust him, since Oona had let him kill her, and she prevented everyone from chasing him into the woods where he was. As the child of a noble family, Oona’s body was kept in an enchanted glass coffin to keep it from disintegrating, so that her family might visit it until they could let her go.
After that, however, three young girls went missing. The first two were court ladies, and a search was mounted, which eventually found them dead, with swollen bellies. Someone had taken them and put children in them, and then they had died. Some speculated that Tamlin, or even the ghost of his father, was in the forest, kidnapping the girls and raping them until they died.
The third woman, however, was of little consequence. A simple pixie girl, a servant, and only her family worried when she went missing. However, several moons later, she returned in tears. She told them that she had met a horned god in the forest and fallen in love with him, and lived with him until she had a child. But on the third moon after the child’s birth, she had woken up to find her lover and her child gone, and no amount of searching could recover them.
Another search party was mounted, for this story was of some consequence, but neither god nor child could be found. The girl despaired, and eventually died in her misery.
A year and a day later, a man in rags entered the court. His face was covered, but he was tall enough to be at least an elf, and would have attracted the guards had he not been carrying on his shoulders a pixie-child the likes of whom you’d never seen. Despite her young age, her glamour was such that she only had to smile at you and your heart melted like butter in the sun. He carried her very carefully, and requested that she be allowed to see the princess in the coffin. Of course, nobody called Oona that, since she had never become princess, but the child’s smile was such that nobody minded much, and her family let them in.
Then the man put the child down on the floor, and lifted the lid off the coffin in spite of the enchantment keeping it in place, and he put the child’s hand in Oona’s hand, and then the child fell and died instantly, and Oona – who had been killed by iron – rose from the coffin.
The whole family gathered, and when Oona got up and pulled the rags off the man’s head to kiss him, revealing him to be Tamlin, the whole court gathered too. And the hue and cry went up that they should be married, and so they were.”
“And they lived happily ever after?” Stranger said.
“Dear gods, no,” the elf laughed. “But if you will sleep with me tonight and protect me from harm, then I will do the same for you, and tell you the rest tomorrow.”