This is the story of young Andrew McLain, of oaths taken at twilight, faery dating, sacrifice, and the healing power of love.
Andrew loved Jenny with all of his heart, and most of his lower regions.
Jenny liked Andrew, but had been known to be fond of Kurt, and his lower regions as well.
On this fine Mayday, Andrew had called upon Jenny with a diamond ring,
only to discover Jenny taking Kurt for a vigorous canter across the sofa.
“Damn all women anyway,” he snarled as he stumbled out into the twilight of the first of May.
He stopped at the forest edge and howled out his youthful pain to the listening woods:
“Screw women, screw springtime, and SCREW LOVE!”
He staggered into the woods, not heeding where he went. Opening the bottle of Champagne he´d brought along and still had in his hand, he poured the foaming liquid into a ring of mushrooms at the base of an old oak muttering,
“This was supposed to toast our love, but now there’s not a woman born I’d share it with!”
Then, with a cry he hurled the diamond ring into the woodland stream, screaming:
“Take that love, and screw you too! I say, screw every inhuman one of you!”.
Dangerous words already on a Mayday evening, made worse by how he ended it……
“Gods, I’d rather die than love again. Let love just take the heart she ruined anyway!”
There are strange things that lurk in the forest deeps.
There are things that walk the borders between the night and day, things ancient and inhuman; just listening and ever so hungry.
There are two powers that even gods must bow to: Love and fate.
This is a story of both.
Andrew stomped his way further into the campus forest, kicking mushrooms and ferns as he passed. Little noting the sun dipping below the horizon, he stalked into the Mayday night, into the dark primeval forest, and another age. On certain days, when the world hangs between dark and night, between the seen and unseen, the hills open, and the paths to Alfheim open again. In the dark of Yule, the knights of the Wild Hunt ride behind the coursing wolves of the Allfather, but in the wild night of Mayday, on Walpurgsnight, it is Freya who leads the ladies of the elven court in a wild hunt of passion, the stuff of dream and nightmare.
Andrew stopped and turned, aware at last that something was amiss. He heard a sound like sirens in the near distance. Not quite sirens, not like trumpets, more like the conch shells he had heard in Hawaii. The sound came again, this time with the baying of hounds and the faint strains of laughter.
It sounded like the fox hunts you saw in some old movies, but what would something like that be doing in the University forest? With a start, Andrew saw a dozen slim silver steeds with belled and richly tooled harnesses sweep into the clearing.
Gowned ladies of eerie beauty and cold perfection sat easily in split skirts in high saddles with lances sheathed by the right knee. Inhumanly cold beauty stared at him from all sides, cold white faces and bloodless lips in a smile that could teach a cat cruelty, and eyes that burned with smoldering passion. “Look,” rang a voice like a silver bell,“The night’s stag!”
While slim white hounds circled him, Andrew protested he was no stag but a man. Each denial made the perfect inhuman beauties smile wider. Finally, surrounded by hounds and mounted ladies with drawn lances,
a final figure rode astride the neck of a golden boar the size of a rhino. More beautiful than the pale elfin beauties, this woman burned like fire in the night. Shining white skin, with a golden necklace burning bright in the hollow of her half-bared breasts, her laughter rang like birdsong at dawn, and her smile brought a stammering blush to Andrew’s angry features.
“Now then, young man,” purred the golden woman with a sensuous smile,
“You poured out an offering at the Faery ring, and threw a golden offering in my sacred waters, and made strong oaths before us.
You summoned my ladies on my holy night, and you promised to ‘screw my women, to screw the springtime, and to screw love’.”
Laughter rang from the inhuman beauties around him, and set the hounds to snarling again.
“My women ride, the spring is newborn and hungry this evening, and I am love.If you would play stag in these woods, little man, you will need more than rage. You will need Hoof and Horn!”
Her voice echoed strangely and the women began circling and chanting, “Hoof and Horn, hunt till the morn!”
Over and over they chanted and circled until Andrew fell down, confused and burning. His hands and feet merged into stags split hooves, and proud antlers sprung from his brow.
With a shout Andrew sprang from the circle and burst down the trail, desperately fleeing the spears of the women, and fangs of the hounds. On through the forest Andrew bounded, his muscles bunching and stretching with effortless power.
All the rage of frustrated love burned within him, and he fed on the thunder of his blood, growing in power and rage with every bound. Soon his pride and power could not abide the chasing hounds, and he spun at bay. Flicking his antlers left and right, he smashed two hounds against the looming trees, and spun with his hoof to catch the hamstringing third. He charged among the hounds with the fury of his frustrationand humiliation, reclaiming his manhood in fury and blood. At last he stood at bay in the clearing, the living hounds slinking behind their mistresses.
“The stag is come!” shouted the golden goddess on her gleaming boar.
“Come to me!” she called, throwing off her cloak and shining in naked glory before him.
Maddened with rage and lust, Andrew lunged. In a cat-like move, the boar danced aside, and Andrew’s proud antlers
became stuck in the tree, with his legs raised in the air in his aborted lunge at the naked rider.
One by one the circling ladies cut at him shallowly with their lances as they passed. Roaring his rage, Andrew wept,
once again tricked and humiliated by women, he waited for the final thrust that would end his pain.
One by one the maidens slipped from their gowns and from their horses. Trailing fingers in the wounds they dealt him, they stroked his strong thighs and heaving chest. With burning kisses and lightning touches they transformed and enflamed him until he stood, a naked man, blooded but unwounded, crowned with a proud stag’s crown.
Down they pulled him to the earth, and the golden goddess brought him low with a single kiss. She whispered to his fevered ears in tones of honeyed fire,
“Love is death and rebirth, love is pain and healing, love is forgetting and forgiving, love is my gift and my worship both.”
With a cry she mounted him, with a cry he answered. With laughing maidens kissing and caressing, he did as stag’s duty, and knew a man’s healing. As the night ended, and twilight again lit the trees, Andrew cried at last, and let go his rage. He whispered her name softly, and she smiled.
Freya stood with her elfin maids, and looked down at her lover, her prey, and smiled.
“You will know a long hunt, my stag, before you find your mate.
Run you as hard for her as you ran from me, and you may yet find her.
Fight half as hard to get her as to flee me, and you may win her. Love her just as fierce as me, and you will please her.”
Dawn found Andrew standing by the Faery ring. He looked down on the Champagne bottle he had thrown to the ground; thoughtfully he picked it up. Dropping to his knees, he also retrieved the cork and wire from the green ground, and other bits of garbage. Finally standing up and stepping away, he made one last heartfelt, if clumsy, bow to the now unseen powers he had known.
With a smile he turned and walked into the dawn and his future, whistling a love song.