Titania, Queen of Avalon, arose from her deep bath
of dandelion-milk and stepped down into a wide basin of marble. Her
attendants flitted about her in a kaleidoscopic array of wing-colors and twinkling fairy light, these small pixies each bearing an
ewer of clear spring water with which to lave the milk from their lady’s satiny aquamarine skin. She obligingly raised her arms,
turned this way and that, lifted her chin, as they performed these ablutions.
When she was rinsed, Titania held her pose a few moments longer. Now the attendants flew with their wings beating at the
air, moving it in cool currents to dry her.
She moved from the basin to the thickness of rug that made a warm layer over the inherent stony chill of the flagstones,
unpinning her hair as she did so. It fell in a straight drape to the small of her back, sunset and flame. Her image paced her in the
silvery window of her Mirror, which had been brought to her chambers when her lord feared that the roughhousing of the Children
might give it accidental damage.
Oh, yes, the Gathering was well underway. All had been summoned and most responded. Excepting only the Puck, who
remained among the mortals to teach and watch over Titania’s own cherished grandson. The time of Oberon’s court had been
muchly occupied with these matters of planning and accepting homage and re-hearing the proper vows of fealty that each of
Avalon’s Own owed to their sovereign.
Not least among these distractions had been the matters preceding the Gathering itself. The conflict with the refugees …
squatters … immigrants … however they might be called, this displaced-in-time Princess and her adopted clan of gargoyles …
they had with the help of Goliath and his human friend Elisa bested arrogant Oberon and brought him low. And then, when they
could have finished him, they offered mercy as Oberon knelt in humility before his one-time queen and handmaids.
Not only that, but shortly thereafter had this selfsame Goliath, his clan, and more of his human friends defied Oberon’s will and
withheld from him the child Alexander. All in accordance with Titania’s own plan, of course, but these incidents had not been
without their effect on the proud lord of Avalon.
Such it was that he had not, since her agreement to be once more his wife and queen, come to Titania as befits a husband.
Undone by mortals not once but twice, he had perhaps feared that he would be undone in the presence of her bed, and she full
well knew that Oberon would sooner cast himself into the depthless Abyss rather than behold in Titania’s eyes that concerned
sympathy that all males felt masked a mocking, knowing sneer.
But the Gathering had commenced apace, with no more disruptions. The adulation of his followers had restored to Lord
Oberon his sense of himself, his sense of power. He was in all things their master, and it was in the spirit of that esteem he had
earlier that evening turned to Titania as they feasted.
“Make ready for me, wife,” he’d said. “For tonight we visit your couch, and mean to abide there in the sweet bower of your
Much as she disliked being instructed like a concubine, Titania had bowed her head in silent acquiescence, and taken her leave
of the revelry. She would not gainsay him in front of the others, and for all the lack of romantic overture his words had held, she
welcomed the twinge of delicious anticipation.
It had been such a very long time … the passion they’d known in their youth had been that of an all-consuming fire, but when it
dimmed, other blazes rose from its ashes. Temper. Challenge. Jealousies, both his and hers. Though still on occasion they had
burned for each other, it had been Titania to declare an end to it.
For the need of females, in any race, was more complex and diffuse than that in males, and while she took great delight in their
bedsport, she found a nearly-so-strong pleasure in denying him. But while it had been pleasant, it had been so in a strange, bitter,
self-defeatingly venomous way that left her feeling at once triumphant and unfulfilled.
Their needs, they had sought to meet in the arms of others. Oberon with his many mistresses, Titania with her many lovers. But
these affairs were empty and without love, a series of oneupmanships as each of them strove to show the other just how well he or
she was getting by in the wake of their divorcement.
In all that time, in all those years, only twice had Titania’s lovers proved to be something more than a mortal plaything to dandle
in front of Oberon as way of boasting. Only twice.
Titania roused with a mild gasp, realizing that the mirror had drawn her into its enchantment. She stood before it, seeing not the
reflection of her own nude form but a nebulous cloud of her memories, faces of lovers past. She passed a hand before it and the
glass blanked, then faded in to show her image, with that of Moth standing at her elbow.
“My queen wishes a robe?” offered the fairy-woman, holding up a garment of linen so sheer it might have been woven from the
faint scudding clouds that most preceded a rainstorm.
“My thanks, gracious Moth,” murmured Titania, slipping her arms into the sleeves and belting it with a cord of spidersilk around
the narrow span of her waist. “And see to my hair.”
She sat at her dressing table as Moth went to retrieve her grooming-case. Pretty Moth, her skin soft with grey-brown fuzz, her
hair a darker and longer brush of the same. She wore naught save a fine-made girdle of goldchain and gems, which encircled a waist
nearly as thin as Titania’s own. The ends of the chain dangled to Moth’s knees and chimed against each other as she moved.
Moth returned with a brush and began stroking it through Titania’s tresses. “Lord Oberon attends my lady this night?” she asked.
In the mirror – this one of no special quality, but within it, the other Mirror glimmered like a mirage – Titania saw the sly glint in
Moth’s eyes. Not many would have been able to read that look, given that her eyes were the color of plums and as faceted as a
jewel, but long and long had Titania known this faithful servant, and well also did she know the gossip that had circulated since the
“Lord Oberon does,” Titania said. “At last we have the leisure.”
“I shall most gladly help my lady make ready for him,” said Moth, and traced her hand along the supple curve of Titania’s spine.
Through the nearly not-there fabric, she felt the velvety texture of dear Moth’s fingers, and recalled with fondness how it was to
have that touch against all of her body. There had been little time for such dalliances, but now …
“Yes, that would be well,” Titania said, rising. She towered over the diminutive Moth, only the lightly-furred antennae sprouting
from Moth’s brow reaching as high as Titania’s head.
With a gesture, she dismissed the remaining attendants, and crossed to the expanse of billowy white that was her bed. She
removed her robe and reclined into the pillows that smelled of sunshine and fresh breezes, and lay still to accept Moth’s caress.
It would pass the time as she awaited her lord husband, she thought, and perhaps take her mind from those memories of lovers
But the Mirror would not have it so. The Mirror would remind her, and as it obeyed the dictates of her conscious mind only when
she was focused upon it, the glass began to mist and swirl as Moth’s gentle ministrations distracted Titania’s concentration.
With light touches and kisses as fluttering as the wingbrushes of her namesake creatures, Moth brought her devoted attention to
Titania’s body, never presuming to expect reciprocation from her queen. Titania sighed as the tension seeped from her limbs, relaxing
in increments. Soon Moth knelt in the V of Titania’s legs, her patterned brown-and-grey wings fanning against the queen’s lean thighs.
Moth’s lips and tongue began teasing a response from the tender folds.
Over Moth’s bent and diligent head, through the slow fan of her wings, Titania could see the Mirror, flickering with scenes from
her memory as these current sensations recalled previous ones. And brought her, once more, to the two mortal lovers whose lives
had most marked her own.
They could not have been more different, those two. Separated in time by centuries, unlike in all other ways excepting only their
race and gender … and yet both of them held a spot of shining reminiscence in Titania’s mind.
The first had been Bottom. Although she knew her desire for him had been born of a trickster-spell, although she knew the purpose
had been to humble and heap humiliations upon haughty Titania, the better to soothe her spiteful lord’s wounded temper, it had
ultimately failed. For with Bottom had Titania found a different and refreshingly new sport.
Oh, lusty he had been! Untutored, yes, and rough … but even that had had its own brutish charm. The way his coarse and clumsy
hands had pawed at her breasts … the hot and demanding plunge of his tongue into her mouth … the grunting greedy thrust of him …
these things had been unlike any touch Titania had ever known, and even as it appalled her, it filled her with a lewd thrill.
She had not made love with Bottom. She had not had bedsport with him – there had been no bed, for one, just a series of knolls
and hillocks and glades, where they fell in urgent need whenever the mood struck them. No, she had rutted with Bottom, rutted
long and loud and sweatily, and reveled in the baseborn animalistic crudity of it.
Animalistic … and how, indeed! She laughed now as she saw in the Mirror and remembered her astonishment when he had
shoved down his homespun, patched, tattered breeches and shown that he had the aspect of a donkey in more than just his visage!
Enormous, it had been … so that even when stiff it could not jut erectly like most men but was pulled down by its own blood-
engorged weight. There had been none of the niceties such as Moth was performing upon her now. No, not with Bottom. His
idea of foreplay had been to maul at her breasts even as he fell upon her and drove that great pulsing lance within her … but so
aroused had she been by this dirty, bestial creature that she met him already more moist and prepared than ever she’d been before.
And what Bottom lacked in skill, he more than made up for in other ways. Perhaps it was the silken, fae beauty of her … perhaps
it was long-pent-up denials … whatever the reason, he was insatiable and inflamed, ready for her again within scant moments of
having spent himself deep within her. He would have gone at her again and again, until a mortal woman would have begged for
surcease or been wracked with pain, until his own laboring heart burst, had she not at last made him to stop in utterly sated exhaustion.
Ah, yes, poor dear Bottom. Despite all else, despite the shame that had come with waking from her dazzled lovesight to understand
clearly just with what she had been romping so ribaldly, she still held a fondness for him. Simple, uncomplicated Bottom. His needs
and wants to readily apparent. No trickery, no hidden meanings. He wanted solely the fucking, in all its cheerful vulgarity. As often
and vigorously as had been humanly possible, the act itself being the totality.
So absolutely unlike her other lover of note … who had been in so many ways even more than a lover … with whom, as it
happened, such thoughts hadn’t been Titania’s first intention.
In the Mirror now she saw him, as he’d been on that very day that fate had brought their lives together. A few centuries removed,
and in a far different setting than where she’d enjoyed her tryst with Bottom … no leafy forest midsummer, this! No, not that cold
and grey winter’s day in Boston … not that cavernous room lit by faintly buzzing fluorescents.
She remembered her first sight of him. Having dropped her pen, she’d bent to retrieve it, and straightened up just as he approached
the podium on the pie-wedge dais at the bottom of the auditorium. The muted babble that had been the low conversations of six
hundred people – most of them men, and many of them giving the few women sidelong scowls of disapproval for the temerity of their
presences here – hushed in expectation.
And given that most of the men around her were of a similar sort, being older and peevish and grey-haired and unhandsome in
both face and manner, Titania would never have suspected the man before her to be anything but cut from the same cloth.
Yet, striding to the podium unconcerned by having so many people watching him, Halcyon Renard was tall and straight, his dark
hair swept back, his bearing one of confidence and his features not rugged but finely drawn. His eyes flashed with a clear intelligence
as he, without benefit of notecards or papers, greeted and began to address the scientific conference.
Within scant moments of his beginning to speak, Titania was enrapt. His every word woke excitement in her soul. She had been
curious and intrigued by topics of science since the Renaissance, and watched in amazement as the intervening centuries had shown
such great and exponential leaps in invention.
Here she sat, washed in electric light, while cars and buses droned by beyond the gated grounds of the university and planes
crossed oceans, here she sat in a world that had split the atom and sent crafts into orbit … when a mere hundred years before,
trains and telegraphs had been the height of technology … and the pace of these developments were only increasing for all that
the geniuses of the day had already predicted that everything that could be patented already had been invented.
This man, this Halcyon Renard, begged to differ. No, he did not beg. He stated differently, with all assurance, that the world was
going to change even more rapidly in decades to come. He spoke of such advances in fields of robotics, computers, physics, and
chemistry until he had made even the most open-minded of the assembled professors and scientists roll their eyes and scoff that he
had gone too far, that perhaps he would be better suited taking up a career in writing fanciful stories for the pulp magazines.
Not so Titania. A feeling of vast dawning wonder had fallen over her as she sat entranced in that chamber, bringing gooseflesh to
her arms and making it hard for her to remember to breathe. For this was the future! This was how humans would get by in the modern
age. They had no magic but needed none, for by the power of their own intellects, they would achieve things that no sorcerer had even
She had resolved then and there to do all that she could to be near Renard, to watch him and learn from him and see to it that he did
not let himself be dissuaded from his chosen course. Not that she needed have worried on that last point; from within seconds of their
introduction, she knew that no force on Avalon or Earth could change his mind once he was set to it.
Further, as he knew what it was to be considered peculiar by others in the field, he had sympathy for his fellow unusuals. Such as
Titania, or Anastasia as she was by then known, it having amused her to take a name that was almost a clue to her true identity. In
those days, women were still expected to be homemakers and mothers, although in the wake of World War II that pattern had begun
to change. More and more were entering the workforce. While that was coming to be expected, the hallowed halls of academia,
particularly among the sciences, remained largely a boy’s club, and Titania was not alone in finding herself overlooked, condescended
to, and otherwise ill-treated.
Not so from Halcyon Renard. So intent was he on his work, and on making sure he had the best assistants and partners to achieve
his goals, he barely noticed such trifling things as their race, gender, religion. He became infamous for it, and so while Titania found that
she was treated as much an equal as any other member of the team, it was odd to be in the company of a man who barely seemed
aware that she was a woman.
That in itself may have been what made her begin to look at him with speculation, and wonder if he made time for himself at all or if
the entirety of his life was consumed by his work.
Until that one night in the lab … they had been working late, just the two of them, trying to calibrate the settings on a new sort of
microscope. It had been such a long day that Halcyon had removed his lab coat, rolled up his sleeves, and even unbuttoned his collar
and tugged his tie askew. Titania herself, having long since slipped out of the horrible painful shoes that seemed to be society’s dictate
for adult women – she sometimes envied the teenage girls in their flat, comfortable saddle-shoes or penny loafers – sat back from her
work with a sigh and freed her hair from its tortoiseshell clip.
Shaking the mahogany mane loose and craning her neck, she was suddenly aware of being watched, and glanced over to see
Halcyon staring at her with something akin to shock. As if it had just, and for the first time in their months of working together, occurred
to him that she was female. And attractive.
Perched there on her high stool with her nyloned ankles crossed and her feet hooked over one of the bars, Titania had returned his
gaze evenly, neither of them speaking.
She saw something in his eyes that told her he was about to silently castigate himself and get his mind back on his project. And, at
once fiercely unwilling to let that happen, Titania stood and moved toward him.
Now, the intensity of that memory almost as strong as the feeling itself had been, Titania shuddered. Moth, mistaking this as a reaction
to what she was doing, slowed her efforts in the way she knew her queen liked, wanting to prolong the gradual build of sensation and
delay the final ecstasy so as to savor every moment of it.
In the Mirror, Titania could see Halcyon captured in every detail, the light shining gold on his dark hair, the mildest scruff of beard-
shadow on his chin, uncertain for once in his life as she approached.
But Halcyon had been no opportunistic peasant like Bottom had been. That night had ended in one stormy kiss, from which he
broke with a mix of reluctance and relief, only to ask her if she would go to dinner with him.
Such had begun their courtship, and never in her long life had Titania experienced anything quite the same. She had known ‘gentlemen’
of the Elizabethan and Victorian courts, she had known knights and lords and poets and playwrights and clergymen as lovers. Even
those who most professed to standards of chivalry and honor had rarely delayed any appreciable length of time in trying to seduce her.
This man … with this man, she saw at once that if initiative was to be taken, it must in all things be taken by her. She would later learn
that part of his hesitation was so typical of Halcyon Renard – about that which he did not fully know and have researched and tested
down to the decimal point, he tended to make few judgements and take few actions. Should the topic of conversation be one with
which he was not well-informed, he would keep his silence and look wise.
Ah, but he had been a good student, once she had finally breached that distance and reserve! Fittingly, their first fully intimate
encounter had taken place in the lab, on a plaid and ugly threadbare sofa in the lounge, which Titania ever after regarded with no small
She closed her eyes to the Mirror, trusting now to the memories in her own head. His expression as she had knelt astride his knees
as he sat on that sofa, his wondering awestruck expression as she shed her blouse and the formidable brassiere common to the era. How
his initial tentative touch had turned to an appreciative, inexpert caress, and how he had allowed himself to be led. To be shown. Yes, to
be shown just how she most liked to have thumbs rolled gently around the rising taut peaks of her nipples, how she liked to have them
licked, how she liked to cradle his head between her breasts and feel the warmth of his breath as she rubbed her cheek along his hair.
Sitting mostly on his lap as she was, it was easy for Titania to gauge his mounting excitement. She made him gasp by settling lower,
pressing against the bulge contained within his trousers. Her skirt and slip had rucked up to her hips, and his hands whispered over the
nylon of her pantyhose.
He caught himself once and seemed about to say something along the lines of, “My God, Anastasia, what are we doing?” But before
he could, Titania had gripped a hard ridge of flesh through layers of cloth and rendered him speechless. After that, he evidenced no
further second thoughts, helping eagerly to divest her of the array of constricting undergarments.
Their clothes left a jumble on the floor, Titania and Halcyon somehow returned to the couch, bodies and lips locked together. She
guided his hand low, his fingers parting the lush dark hair and slipping into the damp satiny vale. His probing exploration brought her to
the brink of orgasm, but wanting to feel him inside her at the moment that the spasms raced and thundered through her, Titania squirmed
to pull him atop her.
So involved was Halcyon in kissing her that he initially did not seem to realize what she was doing. When her legs moved apart and
his rolled easily between them, bringing their needful parts into contact, he pushed forward and down almost more by instinct than
design. Titania rocked her hips up at the same instant, and took him fully.
At that, at the shock of such engulfing, intimate contact, Halcyon Renard’s eyes flew wide open with awareness. “Anastasia, we
can’t!” he said in a panic, and made to withdraw.
She held him fast, ankles crossed at the base of his spine. “We are, Halcyon, we already are!” To emphasize, she worked her hips
and contracted her innermost muscles, that there be no doubt in his mind exactly what was happening.
No man, mortal or of Avalon, could withstand such an argument as that, and he was no exception. He groaned in pleasure and
acceptance, and began moving in rhythm with her. Neither of them could last long at that point, not in this first intense coupling. They
strained against each other, seeking and seeking, and finally finding the sweeping shiver of release that left them both breathless.
Moth, who knew her mistress’ moods well, held off no longer but coaxed Titania at last to a tremulous, quavering fulfillment. She
laid her soft-fuzzed head against Titania’s thigh, waiting for the strokings of hair and whispered words of gratitude. These things, Titania
did perform, her limbs a-tingle from the skillful tongue of her favored servant, but her mind remained years in the past, with her beloved
That had been the beginning. Afterwards, amid his stammered and awkward attempts at apology, Titania had merely shook her
head, smiled, and shown him yet more things that could bring them both to a happy, mutual joy. They had been discreet, her reputation
a foremost concern in his mind even if it wasn’t in hers, and eventually she had grown to love him as well as admire his brilliance.
Determined that her life and his would be forever intertwined, she had readily agreed when he had proposed, and wanting to see
his bloodline carried on with the added strength of her own, she had allowed herself to become pregnant.
And even when, as had to happen, they grew along different paths until finally deciding to part, she loved him still. He had touched
her life and heart in a way that no other had ever been able to do, and for that reason among others, she had arranged it so that her
daughter and grandson would remain in Halcyon’s world. For the betterment of it, for so she knew to be true.
“Begun without me, have you, my queen?” inquired Oberon’s voice.
Languidly, Titania opened her eyes. She willed the Mirror into darkness even as she looked to her twice-wed husband, where he
stood in the door of her chamber.
Oberon, in a black silk robe trimmed with imperial red, stepped all the way within and closed the door behind him. He was as ever,
a being that imparted thoughts of winter– frost-white hair, ice-blue skin, eyes like still ponds frozen over beneath a December sky. But
there was a smoldering fire there beneath that ice, as he looked hungrily upon Titania as she lay supine and tempting amid the tangled
billows of white.
Moth, head held low in deference, backed away from the bed and made to scuttle from the room. Oberon stopped her with a gesture.
“You have so well readied my queen,” he said, “that I shall permit you to do the same for me.”
So saying, he let the robe fall from his shoulders and stood there in all of his unclad majesty. His form might have been sculpted by a
god-gifted artist from the pale sapphire heart of a glacier, exquisitely defined and proportioned.
Anticipation and the sight that had greeted him had already brought Oberon to a state of partial readiness, and as Moth obediently
knelt and took hold of him with her downy-furred palms, that part of him twitched and swelled in her grasp.
“My lord needs but little encouragement,” purred Titania, stroking her own breasts as she watched.
“Part your legs for me, Titania, that I might see your every secret curve.”
Knowing what he wanted, she shifted and spread her thighs, raising her knees and bracing her feet upon the bed. With slow circular
motions, Titania slid her fingers and palm, pleasuring herself as he looked on. Oberon did not so much as glance at Moth as the fairy-
woman put the same mouth that had but so recently been servicing Titania to work on Avalon’s lord.
As delightful as the touch of another might be, as skilled as her best lovers might have been, no one knew her body’s ways better
than Titania herself, and with the flush of her recent joy still aglow upon her skin, she soon brought herself close to another surrender.
“Enough,” Oberon said, pushing Moth away still without a glance. “Leave us.”
“It has been a long time, my lord,” murmured Titania.
“Because you denied us,” he said regally. “But no more, my queen. No more games. You are mine again, sworn to me, and I will
“I do not deny you now, husband. Am I not ready?”
“Your body, you do offer up unto your rightful lord, this I see.” He strode to the side of the bed, which was of such a height as to
position him conveniently, and clasped her calves one in each hand, hefting them so that her ankles rested on her shoulders. “And this
offering, I do not refuse.”
“Yes, husband,” Titania said huskily.
Shifting his grip to her hips, Oberon lifted them just enough to present her waiting opening to the tip of his eager shaft. He rubbed along
her folds, not penetrating, his cold eyes pinning hers.
“But it is not merely your body I want, wife. You owe me something more.”
“My lord already has my sworn oath and loyalty.” After all these centuries, after the better part of a millennium, oh, he still knew how
to torment her! As sated as she already was, or should have been, of a sudden nothing would do but to have him plunge to the very gates
of her womb, else she should go mad from the wanting of it.
“Swear me your love!” Oberon commanded, prodding teasingly just enough to penetrate half an inch. “Swear me your love, proud
Titania, and all that I have shall be yours.”
“My lord knows how I care for him,” she said through gritted teeth. “Why must this game be played, when that which we’ve both
desired is so near at hand?”
He pulled back enough to slip free, and resumed that persuasive rubbing. “Your body is mine, your oath is mine, your loyalty is mine …
what of your heart? Is that mine as well, or was it given whole to another?”
Her eyes flashed. “Even now my lord is jealous?”
“Yes,” snarled Oberon. “You are mine, oh queen, as was destined and as shall be. I do not care to compete for your affections with
a mere human.”
“Renard is no threat to you, husband. He is an old man, and near to death.”
“Yet in your memory, he lives forever, and has your love. I cannot bear that, Titania! I will have all of you, as is my due. Give it me.”
“My love must be earned, husband … it cannot be given.” She looked up at him, still poised and wild for him to complete the act, but
overcoming her passion to speak coolly. “If my lord cannot have all of me, perhaps he shall have to manage with none of me?”
“So you do deny me! Still and always the defiant one! Yet I know you, Titania. I know how you wish for me to join fully with you,
and bring you the delights that you know only I can provide. For all of your mortal lovers, and all of your attendants, I know you have
not forgotten that.”
“Never have I forgotten. Nor have you. But I cannot promise that which is not mine to give.”
His lip curled, and his eyes were twin icicles piercing her with their coldness, but at the same moment he drove strongly forward,
piercing her elsewhere with that which was not cold at all.
“I will make you love me,” he said, commencing a hard and purposeful thrusting that sent wave after wave of sheer rapture rushing
She did not know if he had intended to hold her tauntingly at the edge, until she was willing to swear anything to him, and she was not
to find out. Because he, too, was caught up in this long-delayed consummation of their renewed vows, and soon nothing short of the end
of all creation could have torn them apart.
When it was over, and they lay side by side entangled in the cloudlike bedclothes, Titania’s head resting on her husband’s chest and
his arm snug around her waist, and probably all of Avalon having unwillingly listened to their hours of tempestuous activity, a final drawn-
out sigh escaped her.
“My queen is content?” he asked.
“Mmm,” she agreed. “And my lord does know … he is ever first in my regard, and no one, not mortal man nor other immortal, could
ever hope to compare.”
“For now,” said Oberon, “I suppose that shall have to do.”