Caught Between Two Angry Women


Author’s Rather Long Note

This is an interesting piece for a number of reasons. It was the
longest story I had attempted when I wrote it, and I was surprised by
how much more difficult it was for me to write one long story than
several short ones (didn’t bode well for the novel :-). I was also
working under word/content/style constraints for the first time —
specifically, Puritan Magazine, the people who commissioned
this piece wanted it to be under 9000 words (left to itself, I think
it would have ended up closer to 12000), fairly hard-core (a little
harder than I think is really appropriate for the story), and slanted
towards their het audience (understandable, but you’ll notice later on
that there’s a hint of homoeroticism in one passage, and had I had my
way, that would have been much more developed). I’m not complaining,
mind you — they had every right to ask for a story that met their needs,
and I happily wrote it that way — merely noting that left to itself, it
would have been a fairly different story. Of course left to itself, it
may never have been written at all. (side note: The story is a blend
of two old ballads — the tale of Thomas the Rhymer, and the tale of
Tam Lin. Ellen Kushner did a wonderful retelling of the first, entitled
Thomas the Rhymer, and Pamela Dean did an equally wonderful,
if very different, retelling of the second, entitled Tam Lin).

Final note: Puritan also wanted artwork to go with it; I found
Jae Clevella’s work at PhilCon
and talked him into doing a piece for this. Fun, huh?



A lone man ran as though the hounds of hell chased after him. He
ran across the moors of Scotland, the gasping of his breath harsh and
heavy in the night. He ran naked, his long thin legs eating up the miles
at a pace an Olympic runner would envy. The man was not normally so
fast, but over the last seven years he’d learned some small magics. He
could cast a glamour over himself, so that he looked like a rabbit rather
than a man. He could lend speed to his feet, and cast illusions behind
him, creating vast lakes and impassable thorn hedges and towering
forests. He could, if he had the breath for it, even cast spells of
confusion behind him, so that his pursuers forgot what they were doing
and wandered away. He could do all this and yet he was helpless. For
the hounds of hell were not behind him; they stood before him, at the end
of this terrible journey. What was behind him was far worse — an angry
and rejected woman, and a powerful one at that. Thomas McLeod knew
that before the night was out, she and her court would find him, and drag
him up onto their white horses, and she would throw him to the hounds
of hell herself. Once they had him, there was only one way Tom could
possibly survive, and that chance depended on another angry and rejected
woman. Tom groaned, the sound aching through burning lungs and
throat, and ran on.

Chapter 1

“Tommy, you’ve gotten yourself into one fine mess, and I
wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other woman strangled you
tomorrow.” Michael O’Leary tapped his long musician’s fingers on the
rim of his mug in time to the music coming from the fiddlers jamming
across the room. Michael and Tom sat in the warmth of the Ceilidh
House pub in Edinburgh, and the music surrounded them like a lover as
the two friends talked. “This must be the all-time daftest thing you’ve
ever done, and in the lifetime I’ve known you, you’ve done a powerful
lot of daft things. Almost enough to make me take away that Scottish
name of yours and dub you a true Irishman like m’self.”

“You think I don’t know it?” Tom groaned and downed another
half-pint of McEwan’s, pouring the ale down his throat with a fine
disrespect for the venerable brew. His flame-haired friend smiled wryly,
and went up to order another two pints from the pubkeeper. When he
returned, Tom reached for the mug, but Michael held it away from him.
“Oh no. You don’t get this one until you explain to me just how you
managed to get Janet Duncan pregnant when you’re engaged to marry
her cousin Katharine in two months time.”

“Ach, you’re a hard man, Michael O’Leary.”

“Aye, and that’s why the ladies love me. So talk, boyo.”

“Truth to be told, I have no wish to marry either of them! They’re
wonderful women, no doubt of that, but marriage…ugh! Oh, it’s a sorry
mess I’m in, my friend, but to tell the tale, I’ll need something to wet my

“Ah, here.” Michael shoved the pint across the table, and Tom
eagerly gulped a third of it down. A sweet, sad strain of music slipped
across the room, wrapping itself around them. It sang of lovely lassies
and lost love, and Michael’s heart wrenched at the sound of it. Tom
moaned again, and buried his face in his hands. “Och, Michael. I knew I
shouldna have done it, especially not to Janet, of all women. You
remember when you came to visit, and we all used to play together up on
the mountain? You were Arthur, and she was Guinevere, and I was her
dashing lover, Lancelot. She was a pretty witch then and she’s only
become lovelier as time went on. I know I shouldn’t have done it, and
the Lord knows it was stupid of me not to think about protection that
night, but she was just so beautiful…”

“Aren’t they always?” Michael laughed, a little bitterly. He was
accustomed to Tom’s habit of falling in love and lust with every pretty
face. Their fathers had sent them to college together in the States, and
their exotic accents had won them quite a few women. Throw in their
natural charm, and neither one of them had ever lacked for a date on
Saturday night. Michael particularly remembered Chantal, a mahogany-
skinned woman whose talented mouth had enveloped his cock during
many late night study sessions. Chantal had a thing for men with
accents, and Michael had been a little sorry when she’d fallen in love
with a Caribbean exchange student. But Michael’s own heart had been
lost long ago to a wee slip of a Scottish lass, and Tom had never been the
sort to settle down, so they had returned home unencumbered by

Michael had returned to Dublin to put together a small band that
had been surprisingly successful, and Tom had desperately tried to find a
job with his English degree and had little luck at all. Eventually Tom
had given in and joined his father’s business. Michael’s band had come
to Ireland on tour, and Michael had been shocked by the change in his
friend. Tom had taken to wearing business suits and sensible shoes.
Grey had begun to streak his hair, and worry lines were permanently
creased into his brow. Most surprising of all, Tom was engaged! To
Katharine Duncan, daughter of the vice president of the firm, a
handsome enough lass, but with a reputation for being cold and bitchy.
Michael hadn’t been surprised when Tom confessed that his father had
pressured him into the engagement, saying it would be good for business
and good for Tom to settle down. The job had seemed to drain all the
life out of Tom, and Michael actually thought it was good that he had
broken free enough to seduce the lovely and high-spirited Janet Duncan.
But Michael wished Tom had chosen another lass.

“Michael? Are you listening to me?” Tom’s voice had risen in a
petulant whine, and Michael had to fight down the disgust that rose in
his throat when he thought of what had happened to Tommy.

Michael shook himself out of his haze. “I’m sorry, Tommy. You
were saying?”

“I was talking about her breasts. Oh, Janet has beautiful breasts.
Small, but round and firm like an orange, or maybe even a grapefruit.
She likes to have them kneaded, and to have you bite the nipples while
you fuck her. She likes it pretty rough. You wouldn’t think it to look at
her, would you? Such a delicate beauty with her cat-green eyes and her
marigold hair, but she likes it best when you slam her up against a wall
and fuck her till she screams. You wouldn’t think it, would you?”
Tommy’s voice was growing fuzzy with ale and Michael gently pulled
the mug away from him.

“No, you wouldn’t think it, Tommy.”

“And her cunt! Oh, she has a lovely cunt. Warm and welcoming,
just begging for a long thick cock to pound into it, over and over, harder
and harder, until she’s lying there on the floor beneath you, begging you
to fuck her and fuck her and fuck her…”

“I think that’s enough, Tommy.” Michael stood up, suddenly
unable to take any more. Even for friendship’s sake. “Why don’t we go
for a walk? I think you could use some night air.”

Tommy struggled out of the booth, weaving a bit on his feet as he
stood. “A walk. A walk would be nice, Michael. Let’s go up the
mountain? I wish I’d fucked her on the mountain, Michael. Lancelot
and Guinevere at midnight…”

“Sure, Tommy. We’ll go up the mountain. C’mon.” Michael
O’Leary sighed and led his friend out into the night.

Chapter 2

“…and her thighs. Oh, Michael, Janet’s thighs are long and
muscled and lean. She wraps them around your leg, or around your
waist or even locks them around your head so that you cannot breathe,
though why you’d want to with your tongue licking up the sweet nectar
of her and her soft voice begging you for more…”

“Tommy.” Michael almost whispered the name, wishing he’d
taken Tommy home and put him to bed, instead of bringing him up to
the top of King Arthur’s Seat, the top of their mountain. It wasn’t much
of a mountain; more of a small hill. But to three children playing king of
the mountain, it had been impressive enough. Every breath of chill wind
blowing across from the firth at midnight made Michael wish he had
Janet’s arms wrapped around him.

“Wait a second, Michael, I’m not finished. While Janet begs you,
she arches her back, and her red hair is spread out all against the white
sheets, and her hands can’t reach you, so she’s digging her nails into
those sheets, clawing at them, so you just lick faster and faster, and she’s
whimpering and begging and…”

“Tommy…” Michael didn’t think he could stand much more of
this. He’d fallen in love with Janet when she was only sixteen, and then
they’d all gone off to college, and it had been long years. And now when
he finally came to Edinburgh again to see if perhaps she held a soft spot
in her heart for her old playmate, it was only to find that she was
pregnant with Tom’s babe, and Tom engaged to another, and not caring
for either at all.

“…oh, and Michael, when Janet comes, she doesn’t shout. It’s the
most amazing thing, the way that slim body of hers which has been
bucking and twisting like a creature possessed suddenly goes completely
rigid and her voice goes completely silent, like the eye in the center of a

“Tommy!” And just as Michael reached the end of his patience
and was about to turn on Tommy with a sorely-wounded heart and bitter
words, the sound of slow hoofbeats came over the hill. Michael turned,
and what he saw there silenced his speech and struck wonder into his

Beautiful was too pale a word for her.

She shimmered and glowed in the moonlight, in a flowing blue
and silver gown and with her silver hair all braided and bound on her
head. A crown of sapphires and diamond rested there, and a matching
pendant hung at her slim throat. Her eyes were crystal blue, and a man
could drown in the icy endless waters of them. She was neither young
nor old, and she sat upon her white horse while a cold smile sat upon her
ageless face.

Michael felt a vast yearning inside him, to step up to that cold
beauty, and drop hot kisses on that white skin. But he had been raised on
the old stories, as Tom had, and he knew who must be sitting there, and
what she did to mortal men. Michael wrenched his gaze away and
turned to Tommy, only to see his friend standing there with his eyes
fixed on her like a drowning man in sight of land. The tired lines had
melted away from his face, and suddenly the young poet who had once
been Michael’s best friend was back. The glamour had caught hold of
him, and even as Michael turned, Tom was stepping forward, until his
head was at her stirruped knee, and his hand was stretched out to her.

“Lovely lady, can I beg a kiss from you? For truly, now that I
have seen you, my life will not be complete until I taste those sweet
lips.” The words spilled over Tom’s tongue and out into the night,
smooth with sweet ale and the glamour that had caught him.

She smiled down at him, and her teeth flashed bright and pointed
in the moonlight. “You woo a girl with sweet words, Tom McLeod, but
will you stay at her side through long days and nights? There’s a price
for kisses, you know…”

Michael knew then what he had only suspected before. This was
one of the Faerie, the Sidhe, the Kindly Ones. A title given in bitter
irony, for the folk of the isles knew that the sidhe had no kindness in
them at all, and a mortal man spoke with them at his peril. By the crown
on her head, this lady was Queen of them all; a cruel and lovely Queen of
a cruel and lovely race. The old rules were clear — `do not eat their food;
do not drink their drink; make no bargains with them, for they will break
your heart and body, with a cold smile on their faces.’ Now was the
moment when Michael could have spoken, could have grabbed Tom and
dragged him down the mountain and away from his doom. But a girl
called Janet was in his heart, and Michael was still and quiet.

Tom grinned up at her, charm and delight shining through his
drunken face. “Oh, gladly will I pay it, lady. What more could a man
ask than to be at your side, night and day?”

“True enough,” the Queen smiled, “so kiss me, Tom, and the
bargain is sealed.”

And Tom McLeod reached up to the lady on the white horse, and
she leaned down to meet him. And they kissed a long deep kiss, before
he pulled her down to stand in the grass. And she murmured a word and
their clothing was gone, and they were naked and glorious in the
moonlight. And as Tom lifted her slender body and impaled her on his
raging cock, they faded away, and were gone. The white horse galloped
away into the night. Michael O’Leary sighed once, in bitterness and
regret and shame, and then turned to find his way down the dark

Chapter 3

Tom woke in a twilight glade, with his head on a soft white breast
and his right hand buried between a woman’s thighs. Without thinking,
he turned to do what he did best, taking a pink nipple between his lips
and running his thumb across a tender clit. A moment later, he slipped
to the ground with an embarrassing thump, and the Lady beside him sat
up, laughing.

“You certainly have a large appetite, Tom. Are you not tired?”

“Sweet lady, how could I grow tired with the thought of you to
inspire me?” Tom reached up, lazily, to draw her back down again, but
the lady only shook her head impatiently. She picked up her crown from
the grass beside her, and set it on her head. Suddenly she was dressed
once more in blue, and standing above his naked body. She tried to
frown, but the smile quirking the corners of her mouth said that she was
not quite as angry as she might like to seem.

“Oh, Tom. You are an eager lover, but I fear you have much to
learn before you can keep the Queen of Faerie occupied. I have work to
do, I am afraid. You, my dear, have lessons.”

Tom struggled to his feet, wishing he had clothes to cover his
nakedness. “Lessons, my Queen?”

“Aye, Tom.” With that, she whispered a word, and Tom closed

his eyes against an overpowering dizziness. When he opened them she
was gone, and he stood in the center of a ring of lovely nude women, all
with grass green skin and flowing hair. The Queen’s voice echoed in the
clearing for a moment longer, “Find me after your lesson — if you can.”
Then all trace of her was gone, and Tom was left alone to face the

Tom turned his charming smile on the women as he quickly
counted them, guessing that here were his new teachers. Seven women
advanced on him, whispering to each other in a language he did not
know. They seemed pleased enough, though, and as they reached him,
they stretched out hands to caress his body, and dropped kisses on his
skin. They caressed each other as well, kissing necks and breasts and
hands, and Tom felt a brief moment of relief that he was not expected to
please all of them at once. They lay down in a tangle of limbs, and Tom
gave thanks that he had such good fortune. Then he pulled the smallest
of the women to him, and began a slow exploration of her cool green
skin. Another lay behind him, rubbing her breasts against his back and a
third began to lick and nibble his legs, starting at the toes and working
her way up. All of them silent, except for their low musical murmuring.
Tom McLeod decided this was as close to heaven as he was likely to get,
and devoted himself to his lessons.

Chapter 4

Tom McLeod was growing desperate. He did not know how long
it had been, for in Faerie it is always an eternal twilight, with no friendly
sun to help mark the fleeing hours. His stomach said that much time had
passed, but Tom could not have sworn as to whether it had been hours or
days or weeks. Tom knew that time was strange in the lands of Faerie,
and that he could not eat their food while he was here, or he would be
doomed to remain forever. He was very hungry. He had tried to ask the
green-skinned beauties for food, but they had only laughed and offered
their dripping cunts, framed in silken hair of white or gold or chestnut.
Tom had eagerly eaten of that sweetness, but it could not satisfy him
forever, and when he had tried to rise and look for the Queen, they had
only laughed and pinned him down, ravaging his body with kisses all the
while. He had abandoned himself to sex once again. But even the
strongest man must rest after a time, and refresh himself with food and
drink, and it had been a long, weary time since Tom had had either.

His mind was growing dizzy, a confusion of green fingers and
arms and breasts and thighs and calves, of wide green smiles and sharp
white pointed teeth, teeth that nibbled and lips that sucked. His body
was crisscrossed with the marks of their lovemaking, with long lines
where white nails had scraped against the skin, with tiny bites along the
line of neck and chest and stomach. A white-haired one had wrapped her
lips around his cock, and her arms around his thighs, pinning his legs to
the ground. Two golden-haired ones massaged his feet, and two
chestnut-haired ones did the same with his hands and arms. A redhead
knelt above him, her cunt pressed against his unwilling mouth, and Tom
could almost imagine that it was sucking at him, squeezing and pressing
and making it very hard to breathe. And the final woman, with night-
black hair, sat to the side, as she had all the while, and played with
herself and watched.

Tom struggled, trying to get up from under the seven women, but
together they were too strong for him. They only laughed and pressed
harder. Lips bent to suck at his skin, and teeth bit into him. Love bites,
perhaps, but they hurt, and Tom increased his struggles, to no avail. The
white-haired one crawled up his body to kiss him, with a mouth that
tasted strongly of salt. Tom suddenly realized that the creatures were
actually sucking his blood, and he had already grown much too weak to
break free. Tom began to lose consciousness, his world dissolving into a
haze of green skin and red blood. Suddenly, the crack of a whip echoed
through the clearing, and a tall elven man was among them, pulling the
women off Tom, whipping them away when they attempted to stay.
Within moments, the creatures had fled, all but the black-haired one.
She bowed mockingly to the elven man, whispered, “by the Queen’s
command,” and then slipped away into the woods as well. He knelt by
Tom’s side, his ageless face marked with lines of concern. Tom could
hold on no longer, and slipped entirely into darkness.

Chapter 5

Tom McLeod awoke to lamplight. He lay naked in a silken bed,
and felt surprisingly healthy, well fed and well rested. Tom sat up and
discovered that clothing lay at the foot of the bed — tight green pants and
a flowing white shirt, no underwear. After his experience with the wild
women, Tom had no wish to ever see green again, but better dressed than
not, so he pulled on the clothes and laced his feet into the black leather
boots by the side of the bed. Moments after he finished dressing, a
knock came on the door of the chamber. Tom could not help but wonder
if he had been watched the whole time; a shiver ran down his back.
Then he shrugged, realizing he could do nothing about it if it were so.
“Come in!” he called, and the door swung open.

A slender elven man stepped through, in garb almost identical to
Tom’s own, save that the flowing shirt was black instead of white and
embroidered with strange silver designs. His silver hair, the same color
as the Queen’s, was pulled back with a dark green ribbon which matched
the tight pants outlining smoothly-muscled thighs, and a single emerald
hung at his throat. His face was molded in solemn lines, as if he never
smiled. He spoke, in a voice clear and low, like midnight, “Good day,
young human. How do you feel?” He came further into the room and
stood stiffly by the bed. “You have slept long and long, but I have fed
you human food, and you are now healed of all your body’s hurts. It was
careless of you to dally with the maenads, the wild women of the woods.
They are overfond of men, and would soon have been your death.”

Tom did not know who this strange elf was, but he knew enough
to be polite. The richly dressed man was obviously a lord of Faerie, and
the childhood tales that warned of the danger of the fickle elven lords
were surfacing in Tom’s memory. “I thank you for my rescue, sir. I did
not go to them of my own free will, though to be honest, I was enjoying
myself immensely until the end.”

The lord’s mouth twisted wryly, almost in a smile. “Aye, that is
their way. A pleasant death, if death is your desire. But if you did not
come there on your own, how did you find the maenads?”

Tom hesitated a long moment, but finally admitted, “The Queen
gave me to them. For lessons, she said.” He blushed, the quick color
spreading over his young face.

“The Queen’s lessons are the deadly sort, I am afraid. You are
well rid of her and her lessons.” The lord spoke bitterly, with the air of
one who knew too well the subject of which he spoke.

Tom bristled at the implied slur to the Queen, who had captured
both his head and heart. “I’m sorry, sir, but I cannot believe she meant
me harm. She told me to seek her out when I could. I must go to her,”
he said defiantly.

“And you are besotted with her cold beauty, and will not rest until
you find her? Do not answer — I can see it is true by your face. Young
human, you are a fool, though not the first to fall beneath the spell of the
Queen. And I am a fool as well if I let you go to her…” Tom took a step
back, and glanced at the open window. The lord laughed, but as with his
smile, there was no joy in it. “…do not fear, I will not hold you. One
fool respects another, and you must learn your own lessons. She was
right in that, at least.”

Tom started slowly towards the door, speaking as he went, “Thank
you, sir. For the healing. I must have slept a long night in your bed to
feel so rested. If Tom McLeod can ever do anything for you…”

The lord raised a hand, and Tom was frozen where he stood,
unable to move a muscle. “Ah, twice and thrice a fool. A long night?
Human, you have slept days and days, recovering from the months and
months of elven time you spent among the maenads. Did you forget that
time runs strangely in Faerie? Do not fret overmuch, though — no one
ages in Faerie and you will be young and handsome forever. Or until the
Queen tires of you at least. You gave away your true name to her as
well? A dangerous thing, and a dangerous gift to give. Names have
power, and if you doubt it, notice that she did not tell you hers. You may
call me Wanderer, and if you should tire of the Queen’s company, you
may always call on me. Say my name thrice, and I will meet you.”

The lord bowed mockingly to Tom, and before Tom could say
another word, the world began to spin around him. Tom closed his eyes,
and when he opened them again he was alone, standing before the gates
to a castle garden, with a silver rose in his hands and the sound of the
Queen’s voice singing softly from within. Before he took a breath, the
silver rose in his hands crumbled to dust and blew away on the scented
wind. Tom shook his head, unnerved by the strange encounter with the
lord who called himself Wanderer, and then pushed open the gate and
stepped inside.

Chapter 6

Tom spent months and years in the company of the Queen, though
they flashed by so quickly that he hardly marked the days. When he
asked the Queen, “How long have I been here?” she would sigh and ask,
“Are you grown tired of me already?” He would protest immediately,
and do his best to stop her mouth with kisses, until she laughed and
spoke of something else. Tom talked for hours and days in the spreading
garden or in her tower rooms of the castle, telling the Queen of his
mortal life. She liked best the tales of America, this strange new land
where few of her Faerie folk had ventured. America had its own strange
folk, and the Queen was on good terms with them, but had never visited
foreign shores.

When she tired of his words, they would fall to love. Tom had
learned much in his months with the maenads, and had grown skilled in
the art of pleasing a woman. The Queen was still a challenge to him, for
through the centuries she had seen and known all there was to know of
sex, and it took his most creative efforts to interest her for long. She had
developed strange tastes and appetites, some of which set Tom’s heart
racing, and others which twisted his stomach. She was a woman of
many moods; at times sweet and helpless, at times proud and
commanding. Top and bottom, inside and out, soft and hard and slow
and fast, they explored them all together. Tom’s truest happiness was
when he won a sigh of ecstasy from her, and a whispered word of thanks.

When they tired of love, the Queen would find other amusements
for them. Many strange and fantastical creatures were subject to the
Queen, and she called forth dryads to dance for them, fauns to pipe,
hobgoblins to tumbles and witches to cast spells. The witches taught
him small magics, and the Queen taught him others, and when he tired of
his lessons they would go down to the sea where the naiads swam, and
listen to their sad music of a world that never was. And when the sorrow
grew too great, the Queen would call a dance, in the castle ballroom or
across the wild fields, and Tom and she would go whirling through the
figures, dancing on air as often as earth.

At times, she would leave the dancing with an elven lord. At first,
on these occasions Tom sulked in the garden, refusing the human food
and drink that her servants brought to him. His sulks achieved nothing,
for the Queen returned when she would, caring nothing for the bitter
ache in his heart. He would begin angry, but she would quickly calm
him with kisses and they would be lost in the dream of love again.
Eventually, he stopped despairing and only waited for her. She always
returned, and he was, for the moment, content.

Chapter 7

“I’ll marry no man to assuage his guilt! The babe and I will
manage just fine without you, Michael O’Leary, or your feckless friend!
So you can shove that marriage proposal up where it’ll do you some
good, and take yourself out of my house!” Janet Duncan, even at five
months pregnant, was a fine figure of a woman, standing there with her
hands on her hips and her red hair a fiery cloud behind her. Michael
took a deep breath, his heart pounding with love and worry, as he started
all over again.

“Janet, it’s not for guilt that I’m proposing to you. Tom’s
responsible for his own problems — even when he neglects his
responsibility, I’m not the man to take them over for him.”

“Oh, so it’s a problem I am now, is it? A shameful mess I’m in
and you’re a white knight come to rescue me? Well, I can take care of
myself, and I don’t want your pity, Mr. O’Leary!”

Michael groaned in frustration and stepped forward in the small
room, taking her slim shoulders firmly in his long hands. He resisted the
urge to shake her until she was silent, and settled for leaning down to
kiss her surprised lips. Janet resisted for a moment, then relaxed in to
the kiss, her wide mouth opening to his. Michael pulled her closer,
deepening the kiss, crushing her lips beneath his own. He wished that he
need not stop, that he could just continue kissing her until the end of
time. He’d been wanting to kiss Janet Duncan for at least a decade, and
now that he’d finally gotten up the nerve, it was very difficult to stop.
Every kiss must come to an end, though when he finally released her
they were both short of breath.

“Did that feel like a pity kiss, Miss Duncan? For if it did, then I
might as well just give up and go home to Dublin, for you’ll never be
satisfied with me.”

Janet’s eyes were puzzled, and one hand was raised to her bruised
lips. When she finally spoke, her voice was quite a bit softer, and the
shrill note to it had disappeared. “And what was that about?”

“It was because I love you, you silly fool. I’ve loved you since the
day I met you up on that idiotic hill you insisted on calling a mountain,
the day I had to watch you leave me for Tom McLeod’s Lancelot. I saw
the look in your eyes; I never thought I’d have a chance with you, but
with a baby on the way, and Tom gone…”

Janet’s eyes flashed, and her voice climbed again. “You daft git!
If you’d said something before, maybe I’d never have slept with that
idiot Tom.”

“You don’t love him?”

“Love Tom McLeod? When hell freezes over!” Her voice
dripped scorn.

“But I thought…” Michael stuttered to a halt, bewildered.

“Oh, I admit to lusting after him a bit. He was a bonny lad, but
he’s also a selfish brat, and I’ve known that for years. Clumsy in bed
too, as it turns out. A woman would have to be three times a fool to fall
in love with him, and I’m not quite that bad. If you had told me you
loved me…”

“I’m telling you now, and hoping you could learn to love me. Am
I too late? Will you marry me, Janet Duncan, and let me love you the
way you should be loved?”

Janet’s green eyes softened, and she stepped into his arms, turning
her face up to meet him. “Ach, and how could I turn down a man who
kissed like that? If you could just be reminding me of it again? Before I

Michael grinned a blinding grin, as he took her face between his
long hands. “I’ll be reminding you of it from now till the day I die.”
And he kissed her again, until they were both dizzy and in need of a bed.

Chapter 8

Tom lay naked on the Queen’s bed, facing an open window. A
tiny green bird perched on a fruit tree outside, singing a sad and doleful
song. Tom considered summoning a servant to shoo the bird away — and
then reconsidered. Its sadness matched his own. It had been long and
long since the Queen last smiled at him. As always when he thought of
the Queen’s cool beauty, his cock grew hard and heavy. Tom played
with it idly, his fingers (grown smooth and soft in the gentle climate of
Faerie) running up and down the shaft in familiar motion. He
remembered the weight of her silver hair against his chest, and the raking
of long nails on his back. Her small mouth had somehow engulfed his
cock, which grew to prodigious size under her skilled caresses. At times,
she would kneel before him, and Tom gloried in having the Queen of all
Faerie bent in seeming submission. He had held her head tightly, and
thrust and thrust until he exploded within her sweet mouth. And she had
licked away the last few drops, and smiled up at him; a cat’s smile, with
traces of cream. Even the memory was potent enough so that it was not
long before he exploded again under the furious pumping of his own
hand, and the world dissolved into a brief, blind silence.

When he could see again, all seemed as before at first. But then
he realized that it was quieter — the bird had stopped its song. As Tom
swung his feet to the ground, the green creature hopped off its twig and
onto the window sill and in a shimmering moment into the lord he had
met so long ago — the Wanderer. Clad once more in black and emerald,
the elven lord looked amused at Tom’s nakedness. Tom grabbed up a
robe from a side table and held it in front of him, as he jumped to his

“M-my lord!”


“It has been a long time since we last met, my lord Wanderer.”

“Do you know how long, Tom?”

Tom was silent. In truth, he had paid little attention to passing
time — what use would it have been, with the flow of time so different
between Faerie and the human world? He had been lost in a dream of
faerie love, and only lately had he begun to wonder if there were any
substance to the dream. With the Queen’s long absence, the mists that
had clouded his mind had begun to drift away, and a tiny part of Tom,
deep inside, was frightened. The elf lord waited in silence for Tom’s
answer, and then spoke, disgust dripping from his sharp voice.

“Almost seven years, Tom. Seven years!”

“Impossible…” Tom did not want to believe it. It seemed he had
only had a few days of pleasure with the Queen, and a few weeks of
loneliness following.

“Oh, no. Very possible. It has only been seven months in your
own world, of course. But seven years in Faerie, and the banshees have
been howling lately. It’s almost time for the Hunt to ride, and for the
Payment, Tom.”


“The Queen hasn’t seen fit to mention it to you? Unsurprising, I
suppose, since you are this year’s price.”

“What are you talking about? If this is more of your slander
against the Queen…” Tom began bravely, still sure of his love for his ice

“Be quiet!” Before Tom could blink the lord had pushed him
back onto the velvet bed, and leaned above him, inches away. The
Wanderer’s face was dark and furious, and a bitter edge clung to his
words. “Three times a fool I called you before — have you learned no
wisdom since then? Have you heard nothing of the tithe to Hell, of the
payment the Faerie must make every seventh year? Of the ancient
bargain that chains us to giving away our sweetest young elf to the Lord
of the Pit, unless we find a human fool enough to sign away his life? It
is the Queen’s young lover at risk this year, and she has been most
desperate in her search for a human. You gave her everything when she
took you, Tom, and now she is tired of you, and in a little time we will
ride in the Great Hunt, chasing you across the moors and to the very
gates of Hell. And if you do not find an escape, you will then be tossed
into the Pit, and agony shall ride with you for all eternity.”

Tom was silent, and his face was beaded with sweat. He loved the
Queen with all his heart — but it was true that she had been increasingly
cold to him of late. There had been more and more silences surrounding
him in the Great Hall, and he had caught a look of pity on the face of
some of the older folk of the court. Tom had thought they merely pitied
his separation from the Queen…but if the Wanderer’s words were

“She loves me…” he protested feebly.

“She loves no one.” The words were spit into his face, and then
the lord straightened and turned away.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Why? Because I am a fool as well, young human, or had you
forgotten? And perhaps I too once loved the Queen’s cold beauty, and I
do not like to see yet another fall victim. You seem less bedazzled now
that when I met you so many years past. Listen then, for this is your only
hope. On midwinter’s night, we will Hunt you across the Scottish
moors, until we come to the standing stones by the goblin caves. You
must run as hard as you can, for if we catch you before then, then you are
surely lost.”

Tom’s gut clenched in fear, and his fingers were numb and cold.

“If you reach the stones unmolested, there will be a brief moment
while we dismount, before the Gates begin to open. If, in that moment, a
woman bearing your babe will clasp her arms around you and hold you
tight until the Gates are fully open, then you will be free. The Queen
will cast great enchantments upon you, and you will transform into all
manner of strange creature, and you will cause the woman great pain.
She will take no lasting hurt from it, but she will have to endure such
pain as few humans have before, or will again. An impossible thing to
ask, but it is your only hope.”

“Not entirely impossible…” A small warm hope grew in Tom, and
a soft voice in his heart whispered a human name…’Janet’…

“Can you truly tell me that there is a woman in the human world
who not only bears your babe, but who loves you enough to suffer for
you? You are a beautiful boy, Tom McLeod, but you ask a heavy gift.”

Tom hesitated a long moment before answering. “It has been only
seven months in our world? Then aye, there might be, though she is
probably very angry with me right now — and rightfully so. Still…she
cared for me once…”

The lord’s mouth twisted in what might have been a smile. “Well,
you are a lucky human after all, Tom. And perchance luck is enough to
guard a fool. But there is little time left — go to her, if you can. Tell her
what she must do, and see if she still loves you enough to help you. I
have given you all the help I may, and must go. I can feel the Queen
returning, and while she cannot truly harm me, she could make my next
seven years rather uncomfortable. If you are wise, you will slip away
while you can, for soon she will call you and bind you to her, and then
you will be trapped until it is time for the Hunt.” He shimmered again,
and the tiny green bird fluttered out the window and was gone before
Tom could voice a protest.

“Tom?” Her voice echoed down the long hallway which led from
the sitting room to her bedroom, and in it was such a promise that Tom
hesitated almost too long. The glamour slipped around him, calling him
to her side. But the chill words of the Wanderer had lodged in his heart,
and as he heard her footsteps coming towards him, he shook off the
glamour. Tom wove one of the small magics he had learned, and was
gone himself, to the edge of Faerie, and in a single shimmered step, to
the human world.

Chapter 9

“It will be a bonny babe, my darling.” Michael’s fingers rested on
Janet’s swelling belly, and her head rested on his shoulder.

“Bonny and wise. With handsome Tom for a father and you and I
to raise it, it will be a child to marvel at. But mind you don’t turn its
head with flattery before it’s even born!”

“I promise, my sweet.” Michael’s voice was soft and loving, as he
drank in the sight of his Janet, his promised wife, warm in his arms in
their new home.

“What a charming scene! How lovely that my friends have found
each other!” Tom’s words cut through Michael like a knife. He looked
up, to find Tom leaning against the bedpost, dressed in Faerie green and
grinning. A seething mix of emotions churned in Michael’s stomach —
joy to see his friend whom he had thought lost, anger at what Tom had
done to Janet, fear of what his sweetheart might still feel for the
handsome rogue. Before he could say a word, her fingers came curling
around his, and her voice was ringing through the bedroom.

“And what do you think you’re doing here, grinning like a daft
idiot, and without a word of apology?” She sat straight up in bed, her
crimson hair only partially hiding her lush breasts, with fury written
clearly across her sharp face. “And what makes you think you can call
us friends? Is it friendly — what you did to me? Is it friendly to love me
and leave me for the Faerie Queen? Oh, Michael told me all about it,
and glad I was too, that I wouldn’t be bothered with your too-pretty face
again! Why have you come crawling back to us? Did your fancy Lady
leave you?”

The smile disappeared from Tom’s face, and Michael was
shocked at the terror that slipped across it, before Tom pasted the smile
back on. “Oh, Jennie. I would have told you all about it, but you don’t
seem quite in the mood to listen, and I doubt Michael is either. So I’ll be
going now, and I wish you both all happiness together.” Tom started to
shimmer away, and before Michael could think he called out, “Wait!”
The shimmer disappeared, and Tom stood there, silent.

“Wait.” Michael forced the words out, past the thickening of his
throat. Part of him wanted to let Tommy go, but that wasn’t how you
treated a friend in trouble. “Tell us about it. Something’s wrong, isn’t it,

“Ah, Michael.” The smile flashed across Tom’s face, bright and
blinding as it used to be. “I knew I could count on you. But I have
treated you both badly, and I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted me gone.
Is Janet willing to have me stay a bit?” He held himself very still,
waiting for her answer.

Janet sighed. “Aye, of course I am, you idiot. Which is why you
just pulled that little stunt, and well you know it, too. Michael has too
soft a heart…which is why I’m marrying him come August.” The last she
said defiantly, but with an odd quiver in her voice, almost as if she
expected Tom to challenge her on it.

“Married, is it? I’m truly happy for you both, and it’s clear you’ve
gotten the best of the bargain, Michael. I only wish my own story were
as happy.”

Michael laughed shortly, unable to resist Tommy’s charm, as
always. Tom looked young and handsome, and it almost seemed as if
the old days were back, when they got themselves into terrible scrapes
and climbed out again together. “Tell us, already.”

“All right, and so I will. But you won’t be laughing at the end of
it, boyo.”

So Janet slipped even closer to Michael, pulling the blankets up
around them both, and Tom perched on the empty space at the edge of
the bed, and told them the whole sorry tale. And when he was finished,
Michael was angry once more, and Janet was silent.

“You ask too much! You just want to hurt her again!” Michael
shouted it, unaware that his own fingers were digging into Janet’s soft

“Oh, Michael. I wouldn’t hurt Janet for the world. When have
you ever known me to willingly, knowingly hurt a woman? Every time I
have, it’s only been through thoughtlessness. I’ve thought long and hard
about this as I searched for you both, and I wouldn’t ask it of you if there
were any other way.” Tom’s voice was shaking, and his hands curved in
supplication. “You’re a good Protestant boy like myself — would you
condemn me to Hell without even asking the lady?”

Michael was silent a long moment, battling down his fear. “It’s
her decision,” Michael finally admitted. “But I think she’s done enough
and more for you, Tom McLeod, even if you never did mean to hurt her.”

“It’s all right, Michael.” Janet’s voice was soft, but firm, and her
warm hands wrapped around Michael’s cold ones. “He can ask. I won’t
promise anything yet, Tom, but I’ll think about it. And you promise me
there’s no risk to the baby…”

“No risk to the baby or to you — though it will hurt terribly for a
while, sweeting.”

“…well. Then I’ll think about it. You go back to your lady, now,
before she calls you hard and finds you here. Go back to your lady and
run your race, and maybe I’ll be waiting at the crossroads for you…”

“Thank you, Jennie. `Tis more than fair of you.” Tom bent to
drop a kiss on her forehead, and started to disappear again. “Blessings
on you both and on the babe, whatever happens.” In a moment, he was

“…and maybe I won’t,” Janet finished softly.

Chapter 10

A lone man ran across the moors of Scotland as though the hounds
of hell chased after him. He had worked many magics to help him this
far, and yet he was helpless. For the hounds of hell were not behind him;
they stood before him, at the end of this terrible journey. What was
behind him was far worse — an angry and rejected woman, and a
powerful one at that. Thomas McLeod knew that before the night was
out, she and her court would find him, and then there would only be one
chance that he could possibly survive, a chance which depended on
another angry and rejected woman. Tom groaned, the sound aching
through burning lungs and throat, and ran on.

He was almost to the standing stones, and behind him the sound of
hoofbeats grew louder and louder in the night, thundering behind him as
if they were about to run him down. The stones glowed softly, an oasis
of cool blue light, and as the Queen’s laughter shivered through the
night, Tom flung himself towards the space between two stones. He fell
to the soft heather, and the hoofbeats fell to silence. The heavy musk of
horses was thick in the air, and a fiery glow began to light the center of
the circle. Tom staggered to his feet, despairing, but determined to face
his fate with dignity. It was then that he felt strong, slim arms flung
around him, and a bulging belly pressed against his back.

“You’re a fool, Tom, and I don’t love you anymore. But
friendship outlasts even foolishness,” Janet whispered softly, and then a
high shriek of rage split the air and the Queen was off her horse, and
facing them.

“Pregnant, is she? And with your child? When I find the traitor
who told you of this, I will tear him into tiny pieces and throw him to the
wolves!” The Queen was almost hissing in her anger, and her fingers
were curved into wicked claws. A slim elven youth stood beside her,
banked terror in his silver eyes.

“No fear of that, milady.” The Wanderer stepped up, eyes
laughing. “You cannot touch me, as well you know, and if the humans
hold fast a little longer, it will be your paramour beside you who
becomes a feast for beasts. Tom, I wish you and the lovely lady all luck.
I only wish I could help you more.”

“Perhaps I cannot touch you, Wanderer, but I can certainly touch
him!” The Queen gestured, and Tom felt a screaming agony lance
through him, as his body began to pull and twist. Within seconds, he
was Tom no longer, but a giant green serpent, that wrapped Janet in its
coils, and buried its fangs in her neck. She did not scream, the brave
lassie, but reached out with strong hands and clasped the snake beneath
its head and squeezed hard herself, until it was impossible to tell who
was choking whom faster. The Queen hissed in disgust and gestured
again, and Tom was suddenly a lion, raking great gashes down Janet’s
back with sharp claws. She screamed then, but held fast to its mane
while the bright blood flowed freely, so much that it seemed she must
surely die. Somewhere inside the lion a sliver of Tom wept for the pain
he was causing her, until the Queen gestured one last time, and Tom
went up into a blaze of fire. The lion was gone and a pillar of flame
surrounded Janet, its red fire matching the burning of the gate which now
stood wide open, with slobbering demons licking at its fringes. Janet’s
skin burned and crackled, and her lovely hair was all gone. She could
not even scream, for the fire had eaten away her throat at the first breath,
but still Janet held on as best she could, skeletal fingers reaching out to
grasp the flame. One, two, three long minutes she held, and then the
gates were flung wide open, and a long black tongue came snaking out of
the Hell gate, wrapping itself around the elven youth. With a lost wail
and anguished reaching towards the Queen he was gone, and the fire
disappeared, and Tom and Janet collapsed, unhurt, onto the heather.

“So.” The Queen burned with a cold fire, and Tom realized that
he had never seen her look quite so beautiful. “You are free, Tom
McLeod, you and this female. Go! But remember — in seven years the
tithe comes due again, and you cannot know how long that will be in
mortal years. So go back to your dingy little world, and be very careful
what you say and what promises you make. For I will be watching, and
if I ever have the chance, I’ll throw all three of you into the Pit myself!”
With a swift motion she mounted, and was gone, the Court thundering
behind her into the night.


The Wanderer leaned against a standing stone, laughing. “Oh,
well done, lovely humans! Fair lady, you have enough courage for a
battalion of warriors! Are you well? Can you find your way home? I
can see you home, if you need it.”

“We will manage well enough, milord.” Janet answered. “I think
it best not to accept any more favors from the Faerie.”

The Wanderer laughed out loud. “Wise as well as brave and
beautiful. She is a treasure, Tom.”

Michael stepped out of the shadow of a stone then, and wrapped
his arms around Janet. “Aye, that she is. And if she ever tries anything
like this again…”

“Hush, love.” Janet buried her face in his shoulder.

“Ah, so she isn’t for you, Tom. Well, I am not much surprised.
You’re not worthy of her, Tom McLeod.”

“I’m beginning to realize that.” Tom smiled ruefully at his
friends. “I doubt I’m worthy of either of them.”

“About time you realized it, too,” Michael said, mock fiercely. “If
she had been hurt…”

“Ah, if she’d been hurt I would have ripped out my heart my own
self, Michael. Have no fear.”

“Well, and since she’s not…I’m glad, Tommy. I wouldn’t have
wanted to see those beasts taking you. I watched it all.” Michael smiled,
extending a hand to Tom. Tom took it and clasped it tight. “Your time
with the Faerie has changed you — or perhaps it was the fear of death that
did it. You’re more the man you were years ago, and it’s glad I am to
still have you for a friend. You’ll be best man at our wedding, I hope.
But what then, Tommy?”

“Aye, what then?” Janet turned her face from Michael’s shoulder
to peer at Tommy. “What does the human world hold for one who’s
tasted Faerie?”

The Wanderer looked at Tom as well, and all three waited for his

“Well.” Tom answered slowly. “I’ll be at the wedding of course,
and thank you. After that…to be honst, I’m minded to go back.”

“Are you daft?!” Michael shouted. “Put yourself in her power

“Now calm down, young human,” the Wanderer cautioned. “It’s
not such a bad idea. She will be watching him in any case, and she has
no hold over him now. If he walks Faerie discreetly, and has a guide to
teach him…”

“No obligation?” Janet challenged.

The Wanderer grinned. “No obligation, fair beauty. Though he
would be wise to come and seek your counsel at times as well.”

“And so any friend should,” she said. Janet looked consideringly
at Tommy, marking the changes in him, and the brightness of his eyes.
“Perhaps it would be for the best after all.” Michael helped her to her
feet then, and they stood facing the elven lord.

The Wanderer smiled at the young lovers. “Let me send you
home — again, no obligation. If you have need of me, Tom knows how
to find me. One last word of advice, though…”

“Yes?” Michael asked.

“The son you are about to have — do not name him Thomas. It
has long been an ill-fated name.”

Janet smiled, as the world began to dissolve around the three of
them, and the outlines of their home to fade in. She whispered the last
words, knowing he would hear her, “I had already decided on Patrick.”

The End