The murder of Queen Mabh

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Sorry this is late. It’s another long one, and it’s not even finished. I’ll add the rest after a few more different scenes. Stranger and Aleth are becoming more important than I originally meant them to be.

Oonagh and Tamlin were wed with all the pomp and celebration that could be expected of a royal marriage. The wedding party lasted a year and a day in the Glimmerlands, and a hundred years in Cat’s Court; it even crossed the border into the forests there, from whence many humans were drawn. Several of your legends concerning us date from this time.

Too soon, though, the celebrations were over. As younger brother, Tamlin’s role was that of the the Crown Prince’s representative in matters that Oberon could not – or would not – deal with. Some say Oberon had grown jealous of Tamlin’s carefree nature during the celebrations; others remind that this was a restless time, celebration or no – the dragons had been pushing at the border to their lands, and Tamlin was most often sent at the head of the army to negociate with them and protect the border’s population. Oonagh, whose duty as prince’s bride was the serve the Queen Mabh, remained at home. The two missed each other greatly, but it served them: Tamlin grew popular among the people, and Oonagh rose to prominence in court.

Nobody quite knows who started it, but rumours grew that Tamlin had acquired – intentionally or not, according to who was telling it – a group of followers who wanted to see him and Oonagh on the throne, and would petition the Queen to make Tamlin Crown Prince. Now every rumour has some truth in it, but there are those who tell that the followers in question were simple stragglers trailing after the army, and that Titania, with whom Oonagh entertained a friendly rivalry, told Oberon in such a way that he thought they were the army itself. Either way, Oberon began to mistrust his own troops, and in order to protect himself, he raised privileges for the forest guards.

This made the army angry, because they were the ones protecting the realm from dragons, so they began to plot in earnest against Oberon… or they tried to.

When Tamlin himself heard of all this, he called his army to him and said “I am forever loyal to my brother, Oberon. Those who oppose him, oppose me.”

The army grumbled some, and asked their leader to intervene with Mabh on their behalf, that they should gain compensation for their work. Tamlin promised he would do so upon their return.

Oonagh, meanwhile, wasn’t quite as loyal to Titania as Tamlin was to Oberon. She was ambitious, and she used her wiles to gain favour with Mabh. Now, Mabh had no king at that time, only a harem of lovers and a tribe of bastard children. Mabh was fascinated with how Tamlin’s body had mixed fairy and god’s blood, and she took on a pureblood lover of each fairy race except her own, to see how the blood would mix in their offspring. Thus her children had all sorts of shapes and sizes and powers unheard of.

Oonagh liked to play with them, telling them stories from what we now know to have been her past lives. The children loved her, and she loved them. Her favourite was a half-satyr called Scape, one of the smallest and least powerful. She asked Mabh if she could keep him to play with, and Mabh agreed, saying that she didn’t want such a small, useless thing anyway.

Scape adored Oonagh. Some say Oonagh chose a satyr to keep her company while her husband was away, and others claim that though he offered himself to her several times, she always refused, for Oonagh had once been human and had kept that odd notion of fidelity you humans have. For sure, Oonagh was a curiosity, and Titania grew jealous of her popularity, nor did she much like Tamlin. To spite her, she want wont to send Scape on errands around the kingdom, collecting the herbs she used for potions and filtres. Some were very rare plants that grew in high cliffs or dark caves, but he was so small, sure-footed and good at hiding that he always got back safe with them, where another fairy would have given up or died. So Titania began to use him in earnest, and although Oonagh disliked her creature to be away from her, she could not deprive the elder princess of his services.

Titania studied and experimented, and one day managed to create a very special poison. The day Tamlin and his army returned victorious from the dragon border war, she slipped the poison into the evening’s summer wine. Everyone drank some, including Titania herself, but only Tamlin was affected by it, as he was the only one with god’s blood in his veins.

Indeed, that evening Tamlin felt ill for the first time in his life, and came down with a fever. Oonagh was suspicious, but there was nothing Tamlin had eaten or drank that she hadn’t had herself, and the general consensus was that it must be exhaustion from the war. Still, three days and nights Tamlin lay abed, and his reputation diminished during that time. His followers began to say that he might not be half a god after all, since illness was unknown to gods. Oonagh tried to defend him in court, but Titania made mock of her, and she stormed off.

Oberon, surprisingly, defended his brother. “In your defense, he has fought dragons and won,” said he to the court at large, “and now you mock him?” And the court was silenced, but their doubts remained.

On the morning of the fourth day, Tamlin woke feeling somewhat better, and presented himself to the court. Nobody dared make mock of him to his face, of course, but he knew his reputation was weakened, for – being half-god – he felt it. When Oberon offered to take him hunting, Tamlin saw a chance to prove himself worthy of respect once more.

So Oberon and Tamlin set off into the forest, followed by their wives and half the court. Oberon challenged Tamlin to a race on their steeds, and soon they lost the others. Tamlin raced ahead, and soon realised he could no longer see nor hear Oberon. He called and searched for him, but Oberon was nowhere to be seen. In truth, the poison that had been eating at Tamlin for three days and nights had left him vulnerable, and Oberon was hiding, his bow drawn with an arrow of the golden bough, waiting, waiting, until Tamlin dismounted to peer into the undergrowth…

He shot! There was a cry of pain and anguish, a cry that was not human or faerie, nor even the cry of a god: for the arrow had found its mark not in Tamlin’s heart, but in the heart of a white deer that had jumped in front of him at that moment. But Tamlin’s cry rose too, for he recognised the white deer, and sure enough the deer soon disappeared, to be replaced with the broken body of Queen Mabh.

Oberon broke out of the bushes, distraught, and joined Tamlin at their mother’s side.

“I’m sorry!” He cried, “Mother, what have I done? What have you done?”

“I have saved my kingdom from you, Oberon,” said the dying Queen. “I did not want to believe it, but the people tell it truly: such evil lives in you both that Titania is not fit to be Queen, and you are not fit to be King. You will relinquish your title to Tamlin.”

Oberon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Tamlin, however, finally understood. Holding his mother in his arms, he promised he and Oonagh would rule fairly after her, and hearing that, she died.

When Tamlin’s hands were empty, the last of Mabh’s body dispersed to the winds, he looked up with murder in his eyes only to find that Oberon was nowhere to be seen. When he arrived back at the palace, the Guards surrounded him and tried to take him prisoner as a traitor to the throne, but he overpowered them easily and marched into court. The nobles would not look at him, but Oonagh came running when she saw him, and stood by his side.

“How sweet is the love ‘twixt a witch who kills children and a monster who kills his own mother,” Titania jeered.

“Oberon killed Mabh,” said Tamlin. “Not me.”

The court gasped at the plainness of his words.

“Who knows how a half-god may lie?” said Oberon. “Indeed, who knows how all halflings may trick us? We ought to banish them!”

“From the kingdom Mabh left me?” More gasps and whispers. “I challenge you, brother, to tell everyone here that she did not order you to give the throne to Oonagh and me!”

“How dare you violate my mother’s memory after killing her!” Oberon thundered. “Seize him!”

From behind the doors, dozens more Guards poured. Tamlin fought as panic sent the other nobles running, but there were too many to beat them all. Just as they thought they might get him, though, Oonagh spoke a Name and they vanished.

Oberon’s Guards searched the kingdom for them, but they were nowhere to be found. The army refused to search, and even attempted to storm the palace, but without their leader they were dispersed, and Oberon and his Guards deterred them easily. They were settling in for a seige when Scape, Oonagh’s faithful servant, returned from a mission for Titania. He was caught by the Guard and brought before Oberon before he could understand what was happening. Oberon ordered him interrogated, but luckily Oonagh had planted one of her protegees from Mabh’s tribe in the dungeons. She was a half-boggart, and she escaped with Scape, but not before he suffered terribly at the hands of Oberon’s interrogators.

The boggart took the form of a wolf and sniffed out the banished princess. They were hiding in the woods under a Name that made them indetectable to magic, glamour or hunting techniques, but not to a wolf’s sense of smell. When she saw Scape in such a state, Oonagh dropped all disguise and rushed to him. He told her of the army’s seige and then died in her arms.

Oonagh and Tamlin seethed with rage.

“We ought to go back and head the army,” Tamlin declared.

“No, my love,” said Oonagh. “We cannot win simply by leading the army. Even if we did, there would still be dissidents and those who would not believe in us. ‘Tis not your brother, but the entire corrupt Seelie nation we must take on. For that, let us make a nation of our own, where power, not birthright, should determine who rules. We will take in every halfling and outcast we come across and instead of shunning them, put their valuable powers to use. We shall be called the Unseelie. And we will eradicate the Seelie evil.”

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