Chapter 1: When The Shadows Have Grown Endless
He had been eager to accept the invitation to dance with his old friend all those years ago. The dance of change and intrigue, his friend had whispered, his voice shrouded in the dust of ages past. The final dance, the stars in his eyes and the shadows he commanded had sung in whispered warning. Whatever the offered stood for, Rudolf had been happy to accept his hand. (Perhaps he had wished for the second; for his cold friend to lead him to peace and silence and a comforting sleep in the cradle of the earth, as he had not known comfort in his life).
So he had taken a hand which felt like ice, and he had followed the music, hearing the song of missed opportunities, and so Rudolf had danced with Death…
But peace had not been granted to him. Now, in clamor and despair, he danced still, with all the other shadows of the sunken world, the harsh melody of limbo seemingly endless around him.
Was it a wonder, then, that he would follow when the traitor came again, his presence enough to silence for a moment the ruckus of hell? Could he be blamed for kissing so hungrily those sweetly lying lips, for rejoicing in the taste of moonless nights and eternal regrets that clung to them?
And Death had frowned at him, and shook his head, and Rudolf thought he knew, for once, what thoughts took form behind that mask-like beauty: how could he, dead and cold and as useless in hell as in life, still kiss with more warmth than was found in Death’s entire being?
The eternal dance was Rudolf’s punishment; the eternal distance was Death’s lot. Against such destinies, their friendship of deadly silence and the memory of comfort became more valuable than even the fires of life.
Chapter 2: The Winged Penis Ficlet
For the Tumblr-prompt: Mercutio, tired of Romeo's lovesick moping, gives him a winged penis badge for good luck. Hijinks ensue?, sent by Carmarthen.
"But what am I supposed to do with a winged… phallus?"
"Put it on, my friend! Feel inspired to let your spirit soar through Verona, as this Roman relic of manhoods long gone has soared through history to land in your hand, to inspire you to new earthly delights and for you to spread the immortal blessings of your winged seed!"
"What he means," Benvolio said and put a hand on Romeo’s shoulder, trying not to giggle at the golden flying prick pinned to his shirt, "my friend - you need to get laid!"
Chapter 3: Faildevils fail at Christmas
Prince Bakszén of Hell and the fairy Dilló discuss Christmas customs, in the canon of Ördögölő Józsiás.
"Bakszén, you’re not supposed to eat the mistletoe!"
"Why not? The fairies eat all other kinds of green shit."
"You can’t swear on Yulenight! Mother Winter might hear you and cancel her gift delivery."
"Oh, don’t listen to them, Bakszén. These insipid little twits — Ahem, I mean, some fairies prefer a modernized, sanitized version of Yule celebrations. I’m not going to be a stickler for tradition, of course — gingerbread tastes very nice — but I always found something compelling in the older ways to celebrate solstice and Yule. More dignified.”
"Oh, put a sock in it, Dilló."
"I said, Miss Dilló, mayyyyybe you shouldn’t be taking such a high and mighty tone when you were just un-banished a month ago?"
"Want me to skin the little bugger for you, Dill-babe?"
"No, thank you Bakszén. But if I could borrow your whip, I shall deal with this insubordination in a jiffy"
"Tsk. No backbone, these fairy chits."
"Uh, present remaining company excluded. Soanyway, Dilló! Tell me about how fairies celebrated solstice back in the days? Down in hell, it was never a big deal. We just roast a few extra souls, although this year Durmi insisted on putting up decorative chains all over our bedroom. Made of entrails and popped corn; something he picked up from the humans, I think. Very weird taste, humans. Corn doesn’t belong in decorations at all. Or else anywhere near me."
"Oh, I have a great idea! Maybe we could celebrate a traditional Yulenight, just the three of us together! It’ll be like a sleepover."
"Ehh, meeh, I dunno… Last time Józsias invited me to a ‘sleepover’, he promised roasting marsh-dwellers, and it turned out he just meant little squishy bits which didn’t even scream when we pierced them. Fraud, I call that."
"Don’t worry, traditional Yule involves the bleeding and consuming of livestock in honor of the eternal elf-lord Freyr. If you want to go truly old-fashioned and traditional, you don't only hang up animals, but also last year’s king from a sturdy oak tree. But of course, we're civilized fairies and quit that practice ages ago."
"You know, Dilló… Durmi IS always nagging me to try this whole cultural exchange shit. Maybe he has a point after all."
Chapter 4: Minds Full of Steel
For Carmarthen's prompt "Puck brings Oberon a Tybalt"
This is probably more of a general Romeo and Juliet/Szentivánéji álom crossover than anything else I'm ever likely to write
“And to what purpose am I supposed to put him?”
“How should I know? You like humans, not me! Your majesty.” Puck bowed, and then glanced at his flunkies for support. Both nodded intensely, until Oberon glared at the one to the right; in sudden confusion he began to shake his head until Puck kicked him on the shin. It was only a slight improvement, for while he stopped, the other began to giggle.
Oberon covered his eyes. Puck’s fairies were the least of his bothers too, considering the angry mortal at his feet, currently trying to chew through his gag. “Why, exactly, did you find it necessary to bring me a mortal man? One who bites, at that.”
“Isn’t he decorative? As humans go.”
“Very decorative,” Puck’s first flunky agreed and the other nodded again.
Oberon never could keep them apart, any more than the starlings they’d been before magic touched them. At least their chatter kept Puck entertained.
“And your greatness’ adder also bites, but your greatness still likes it!” the nodding one said.
“That’s because my adder doesn’t bite me, only moronic fairies who don’t understand the difference between a child of six and a fool of sixteen!”
Entertaining his Puck or not, Oberon still felt an occasional urge to serve roasted starling at his table; from the way the two ducked and hid behind Puck, even the birdbrains could sense that mood.
“Oh, never mind, you dimwits. He is too old to fit with us; there’s a difference in those who have been nursed on the milk of immortals and grow up with a foot in each world, and mortals such as these.”
“Ohhh…. is that why he stinks?” the first flunky whispered to the other. “I thought it was that stingy shirt we took off him!”
Puck knocked their heads together and smiled sheepishly at his king. “Mortals, eh? Six, sixteen, sixty-six… Start out wrinkly, end up wrinkly, they’re so hard to keep track of!”
“Be silent. You, mortal.” Oberon poked the bound man with the tip of his toe, and received a glare in return. At least he showed more spirit than some… “Answer without insult, and you may return home with a boon for your troubles. What guides your heart and where do your dreams?”
“Go to hell!”
Puck jumped the mortal, and his henchmen were only an eyeblink behind, as quick to defend their king as they usually were to mischief. The loyalty soothed Oberon’s ire at the insult and he quieted them and tried again.
“Neither the path to Hell, nor any other mortal roads are open to me, for I am Oberon, king of the fairies. Now, my court has, unwittingly and in ignorance, given offense. I am offering compensation. Will you take it or not?”
“I will take nothing from you, but vengeance, and that I’ll do with my blade and your death!”
“Don’t, Puck. This is what I meant when I named him too old. There are visionaries among the mortals, who keep dreaming until death knocks on their shoulder. But there are also these: minds full of steel, their hearts barred behind iron. Such as he has no dreams left, and knows only the peace of mindless violence…”
Then Oberon smiled, and even Puck drew back from his king at that smile.
“A third time I offer you my apology, which is twice more than you deserve it. You are not of this world, but I wish you to depart it peacefully. Will you now take what I give, without insult?”
“I’ll go nowhere peacefully, and I don’t need any dirty gifts from a madman in a tree. Hang your peace, and you with it!”
“Then that is what you shall have, oh graceless mortal. Nowhere will you go peacefully, and no gifts of kindness shall ever reach you. May you enjoy your steel, for it shall be the last companion you’ll ever know. Puck! Send your lackeys to return this whence it came, and attend me. I wish to hear a story.”
“My lord! Can I offer a tale of starlight and bravery, with love conquering all?”
“Why not. And please, do let such tales guide your future choice of gifts…”
Chapter 5: So that's what they call it these days?
For Carmarthen, my answer to her prompt: "Gardefeu/Bobinet, undercover gay".
(My reaction was 'best prompt EVER!')
Métella’s grandfather has asked them for help. Going undercover, all very hush-hush and exciting.
(Gardefeu glared. “Grandfather?”
“Not my current grandfather, darling. But he was very nice when he was… grandfathering me. Besides, it is about finding foreign substances in champagne.”
“Sacrilege!” Bobinet gasped.
“What substances?” asked Gardefeu.
“Well… There’s a reason they need whoever goes undercover to be convincing.”)
It wasn’t as if they didn’t spend a lot of time in night clubs, casinos of questionable legality and bars where you might find dodgy champagne anyway, so keeping an eye out? Why not.
(“There’s a reward,” Métella pointed out. “A sizeable one.”
“Bah, trifles and pennies,” was Gardefeu’s judgement.
“He also said he’d wipe your records – I didn’t know you had been arrested twice, Bob. What was that second time about?”
“I have no idea and if anyone claims that I impersonated a professor of medicine, they are entirely mistaken.”
“Right,” Gardefeu agreed. “He was obviously an army surgeon, I don’t understand how you could mix it up.”)
And if the particular set of bars which seemed to be at the center of it all were the sort where a cancan dancer was more likely to be a gent of the frivolous persuasion than someone of Métella’s stature? They were both men of the world.
As Gardefeu had reminded Métella before they set out, he had in fact been an actor for a short time. That is, he had been on the stage for three consecutive evenings. Well, technically beneath the stage. With the chorus girls (in order of appearance, not at once.) (They wouldn’t have fit) but still. Acting, Gardefeu had always felt, was in his blood.
(“No,” said Métella, “that’s champagne, wine and absinthe.”
“Don’t forget the brandy!” Bobinet added.)
Gardefeu was definitely acting very convincingly right now, Bobinet thought dizzily, as he swallowed back another moan. They’d begun with dancing and conversing, not much different from any afternoon. Then, as the number of pleasantly smiling gentlemen who wanted to fill Bobinet’s dance card began to grow, and he received several offers of drinks (forced to decline the ones with champagne in; the knowledge that the police had found fingers in two bottles was more than his constitution could handle) Gardefeu became quite physical with him. The friendly pats on the back turned into a friendly arm around his waist. The hand on his knee crept scandalously higher. And, despite neither of them being too drunk to stand yet, Gardefeu had insisted Bobinet rest against his shoulder whenever they took a break in dancing.
It must have worked, because suddenly they were invited to a more intimate venue. This bar contained dozens of the suspect bottles of champagne, and the smoke hung heavy in the room while suspicious sounds rose from the dark nooks and crannies.
It was one such corner, the one with the best view of the back exit, that they had recently occupied themselves. It was against that wall that Gardefeu had pressed him, and applied some very convincing kissing – Bobinet almost began to believe his line about educating the chorus girls in advanced techniques – before he sank to his knees to perfect their performance.
“Oh God,” Bobinet moaned when Gardefeu did that thing with his tongue. He’d always hoped it wasn’t just a drunken dream, but there had never been a fitting moment to ask for a repeat performance.
“Shh,” Gardefeu reminded him, stopping to look up. “Quiet, and keep your eyes open for if anyone goes out there.”
“Yes, god, yes,” Bobinet promised; there were very few things he wouldn’t have promised just then. “But you should, you – that thing you said, do it again…”
“Add verisimilitude? My pleasure, Bob.”
Then he applied his mouth again, with great enthusiasm. Bobinet whined in pleasure, his head falling back against the wall. He’d open his eyes and keep an eye out, any second now. He just had to get used to the hot suction first, and learn to ignore the sloppy noises of enthusiasm from Gardefeu – and that tongue of his, heaven’s above, it couldn’t be legal.
(Later, Bobinet told Métella: “I think I may also have gotten some acting in my blood.”
“So that’s what they call it these days?”
“I’m always ready to polish my performances!” Gardefeu offered.)
Chapter 6: Oberon/Puck, switching the power around
For kira-k, who wanted Oberon/Puck with a power reversal
Oberon/Puck, switching the power around
The things that give a fairy power are three: The night, dark and starlit, when shadows dance and all manner of sprites come alive. The full moon, ever-changing yet eternally itself. And the turning of the seasons, especially the solstices, when summer or winter rule most abundantly, and both night and day are at its height (for fairies know no borders, and the spirits can roam from pole to pole in less time than it takes man to dream the journey).
Such is their power: Changing, waning, waxing with the tides of the world. It makes sense, then, that there are times when even the strongest fairy is a little lessened. When the seasons are in balance – fairies, after all, are more creatures of chaos than balance – and the moon stands half-full in the sky, on certain bright days that return , one would have to search hard to find them. The Queen Titania withdraws with her most trusted dancers, hiding in the caverns of the deep Earth or the rumbling volcanic mountains where no man dares to go.
Where Oberon goes, none knows, for though he is beloved by his servants, they are a wilder bunch and he is of a suspicious mind.
He may have reason for that suspicion: If Puck was bothered to count that high, he’d be able to tell he’d spent almost two hundred years searching for Oberon, and he found him only on the tail-end of the last year. But Puck does not count, and has only come to watch his Master for reasons he cannot quite explain.
He is bathing in the cold waters of the far north, because wily Oberon hides where few will search for him – in the land of the midnight sun, where the points of the season are powerful indeed. There is ice rimming the lake where he washes himself, though it does not bother him, and seven songbirds keep respectful guard of his cape.
Puck had only planned to watch, maybe ensure his Master is safe, maybe tease him another day if he saw something funny… but now he draws closer, until seven little beaks cry out in alarm, and his Master turns. The marks of magic have almost wholly faded from his face, though his hair is still full of starlight, and the ageless power of the king shines from within his eyes – perhaps a little dimmed today, but never gone.
“Puck,” he greets, guardedly. “What brings you here? Against my strictest orders.”
“A fancy,” Puck lies, and walks out on the cold water. It lies mirror-blank beneath the soles of his feet, until Oberon pushes a wave towards him, spattering him with water.
“You should not have come.”
He should never have been sent away; but Puck did not come to argue. He wasn’t certain why he came, before, but now he is beginning to sense it.
Oberon’s hair is long and heavy in his hand when he winds the strands around his fingers. He does not feel the chill, as a mortal would, but nor can he step up onto the surface until Puck gives him a hand. (It has it’s upsides, being a sprite of mischief, and one of them is that not even the rules of fairies can wholly bind you.)
He accepts it as his due, and steps unto the surface of the water, looking down at his servant. “Have you come to challenge me?” Oberon asks, idly, as were he not speaking of regicide and betrayal.
“No. Never, never I…” Puck trails off, hand moving of its own volition to Oberon’s pale skin. He is beautiful, always, but now he can almost see… it is not flesh, that fairies have, although human eyes are always deceived. It is rare, though, that Oberon’s power is so dimmed, that Puck can see the not-blood flow through his vein, and know him as more than a gathering of starlight and will and magic.
It makes him curious, and it makes him hunger, and what Puck wants – he has pressed a kiss to the place where he can hear a heartbeat before he has thought the idea to the end. But Oberon does not protest, not even when he winds the hair tighter around his hand and pulls his face down, to taste those lips, almost humanly fragile and ever so sweet.
“Maybe,” Puck says between kisses, “maybe a little challenge, then. Just for a tumble.” Because Oberon is so soft beneath his hands, and his kisses are more hesitant than they’ve been for an age or two, since the world was young and even fairies unused to kissing.
“It would be a change, my Puck,” Oberon allows, and follows his lead to their heather bed. “But tell none, or you will face the consequences later.”
“Tell?” Puck shakes his head, disturbed into his core. “Tell – of this?” Of Oberon the proud, who lets himself be pushed onto the green, who is slowly coming apart beneath Puck’s hands, who is today for these short hours (and any other equinox when he can find him, oh, they’ll play this game again) not the master but rather, a fragile precious thing who Puck might even hurt if he used his full power. “Never. Mine.”
Then Oberon closes his eyes, the dark lashes soft as down against Puck’s lips, and welcomes his mastery for one day.