I wrote a short story to compliment the pictures taken by Marina Bratunova back in May, with Alexis and me 🙂
The Centurion and the Fairy Queen
1 – The Peaceful Centurion
He walked among the ferns and suddenly, he was free. He had never felt that before, in Rome or on the battlefields, as his mind was always obscured by duties and punishments and blood and so called civilisation. But the clouds had just lifted in his head. He had only wanted to get away from the madness for a moment, or at least that’s what he had consciously thought. Now, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to fight anymore. Even though he had always been told that Rome was the epitome of progress, he had never hated the Celts or their legends. He felt more connected to the deer and luscious flowers of this magical forest than to his martial comrades and ceremonies for the Emperor.
He couldn’t remember for how long he had wandered among the ancient trees and vivid blooms, marveling at petals and insects. Something inside him remembered he was a deserter now. He had spent a few nights in the woods already, awakened by birds and sunlight rather than by the chief’s trumpet, surrounded by grass and leaves rather than noisy tents and harsh beddings. And everything felt so different! He was used to the touch of metal and leather, his own skin the only available softness, but in this enchanted forest he would try to catch butterflies and end up stroking a rose or marvelling at the texture of a hydrangea. While red used to mean blood and Mars, here it meant fragrant blossoms and peaceful ladybugs.
Will he try to find his way out? Probably not. He is slowly turning into a forest being. The threatening military outfit is morphing into ivy and soft fabrics, his crown is fit for a Roman emperor but he wouldn’t understand the reference anymore. He feels that he dreamt what happened on the battlefields while he is being progressively integrated into the nature around him. He reveres the animals and doesn’t see them as food anymore, even his gaze becomes softer and now it seems he was born a forest god, guarding the hawthorn and hawks where he used to guard the Roman army tents and trenches. He doesn’t fully realise it yet, but his presence is preventing this magical bit of countryside to be cut and burnt by his previous legion.
2 – The Seelie Queen
Who was she when she first set foot here? It is not as clear as for the centurion, as she had transmuted a longer time ago. Was she too old to be the legendary Queen Boudica, falsely deemed dead? Was she a Celtic woman that just lost her way? It doesn’t really matter anymore. She made a new name and life for herself here, in the great woodlands, and was revered as a druidic goddess.
But who she really was, was the Seelie Queen. A true fairy now, her hair imitated the nearby flowers and she wore shimmering clothes and roses. She lived in a slightly different dimension, where time passed by like waves. It meant that some moments would align with the mortal world and create portals. She remembered feeling slowly integrated into the forest, bit by bit, until she got absorbed in this other universe. She found fairies that were intrigued by her presence here and became one of them, by just believing in them, and believing that boars had souls. The Seelie court was known for being friendlier than the Unseelie court to strangers. The Unseelie fairies were mischievous, not often in a good way, and they liked to consider other beings as toys. That the Seelie court fairies found her first was sheer luck. The previous queen officially adopted her, then abdicated in her favour, as her pupil liked to care for the fairies and the events happening in both worlds around the forest.
Therefore when she learnt about the stranger in the forest, this lost centurion discovering the power of life and love rather than death and war, she wanted to find him first to offer him shelter. Her friends at court – for she wasn’t a dictatorial queen – told her the Unseelie court had sensed him as well, through a ripple in the rivers, or through the happy songs of the animals he petted, and were already trying to find out what they could do with him.
The Seelie Queen glides on the small petal covered lanes, in what is spring in both the mortal world and hers, and finds him walking through ferns.
3 – The Meeting
She hadn’t expected him to be so beautiful, yet he is. She had thought she might not feel any kinship towards him, but she does. He is barely human anymore, yet still very much so. He looks both lost and confident, strong yet childishly in awe of everything around him. A kind gaze, a lean body… She reddens. Will she frighten him? Will he understand her, that speaks in a tongue that resembles tiny laughs, fanning butterfly wings and the wind in the grove? She takes a deep breath and calls him : “Warrior!”
He hears something in a tongue he doesn’t recognise at first, then feels he had always known. He turns back and sees the most intriguing woman he’s ever seen. Does hair really grow this colour in this part of … wherever he is? He realises suddenly it is quite exactly how it should be. So is her outlandish outfit that he’s never seen on anyone before, yet suits her like his new ivy crown suits him. She is a being of flowers and mist and shimmer, and he is not afraid.
As they slowly walk to each other among the ferns and the thorns, they stop caring about the outside world. They lock in an embrace and time, which is already strange in fairyland, becomes even weirder as they fall in love.
The Roman soldiers and the Unseelie fairies searching for the lost Centurion come nearby, but the couple has disappeared in their own dimension and they can’t be seen. Some Roman soldiers will make up for the lost target tonight, in some wild Unseelie festivities.
Now, the Queen and the former Centurion glide through bright flower beds and greenery. They play in the trees and when they’re tired, a majestic oak is the best throne and shed petals are the most luscious of mattresses. They guard this forest together, where the flowers seem to shine slightly brighter and the cedars to grow a bit taller.
Models: Alexis and me @lyraophelia
I am wearing:
A headpiece and necklace from charity shops including RSPCA London
A cape by @darkinloveofficial from @saisaicamden
Dress by Agent Provocateur
#vegan makeup @katvondbeauty
Hair by @pedro_plastic from @miemanihair