Deep in the forest, far away from the artificial clearings cut by humans, spring began. The people of the Wilds had chosen their Spring Queen, and to the music of flutes and lyres the first tentative steps fell to dance the seedlings from the ground. A dryad took a faun by her hands and twirled her around, drawing the first laughter, bringing more life into the crowd
It all fell quiet, feet, hooves and wings stilling as a the racket of a human crossing the woods approached them.
The Spring Queen, still on her throne, raised her head and heard one of the guests challenging the intruder, their voice deep and gruff.
The human voice by contrast was quiet and halting. "I… I have a wish. I want to make a deal.
“Let her come to me,” the queen said, her voice sure and carrying far. Some of the guests looked doubtful, but they all stepped aside to let the human through.
The intruder was a girl or young woman, travel-worn. She kept her eyes lowered most of the time, only shooting quicks looks to the sides - or ahead - her hands holding on to each other for comfort.
The queen asked, “So what is your story?”
“I was…hurt. By men.”
Since the girl did not seem to be willing or able to go on, the queen asked, "And now, what do you want from me?
If you serve me in my realm, I can protect you."
She shook her head.
“I could make you fleet-footed and shadow-like, like the hunters of our kind, so you can evade any danger.”
“No. I want to be able to fight back.” Finally she squared her shoulders and looked the Queen straight in the eyes. “I want to be able to kill anyone who wants to hurt me.”
“Ah.” The queen smiled. “Let me think.” After a moment, she waved the human to approach her, and let an illusion of a foxglove plant appear between her hands. “I can give you the power of poison. If you touch anyone’s skin with your hands, and they will die.”
The girl looked up from the entrancing image. “What do you want in return?”
Not entirely stupid. Delightful. “ I will be able to watch you, or watch the world through your eyes, whenever I wish.”
The human’s eyes narrowed, brows drawing down as she searched the queen’s face. “That is all?”
“It is not little.”
She thought briefly, biting her lip, and nodded. “We have a deal.”
The Queen let the image of the blooms grow, and the spotted petals wrap themselves around the human’s hands. Deep purple spots with white halos appeared on the light brown skin.
“It is done.” The Queen smiled. “Do you wish to stay and dance with us for the rest of the night?”
“No. I will bother you no further.” The girl gave a clumsy bow before running off to wherever she had come from.
The music started afresh. The dance was what they had come for, and would certainly not be forgotten for such a little by-play.
An old faun of her acquaintance leaned close to the queen. “Was that not a bad deal? It does seem little to me, what you received.”
The queen gave him a sharp look, although she kept smiling. Some others, she would have punished for questioning her, but he had earned her trust.
“I know humans. She will regret her choice. She will kill someone accidentally. Maybe a stranger, maybe someone she loves. And when she returns to rescind our deal… that’s when she will pay.”
He bowed, murmuring an apology.
The queen pretended he had asked her to dance, and led him out to the floor.
Playing with humans was all well and good, but she had duties to attend to, after all.