The Spring Hawk

One day while out on a picnic near a magnificent lake, the Queen of the Fae was quarreling with one of her cousins. They argued for many hours over who was the wealthiest of all the Fae. The Queen insisted that it was surely herself, while her cousin insisted that it was a handsome Faerie Prince who lived amongst the mortals. The Queen taunted her Cousin, saying he’s a kept man doing the will of his mortal wife and that the Fae owned nothing, as his wife wore the trews in their relationship.
And this argument went on for some time and in the end it was the magnificent white horses owned by the Prince that were decisive in the measuring of possessions.
The queen could not claim that they belonged to the mortal wife for the Prince had never shown the horses to his spouse for fear of scalding her vision and driving the wits from her waking mind. And thus the cousin left the picnic triumphant as the winner of the argument.
But the queen was a bad loser. She couldn’t let her cousin win and she certainly couldn’t be in held in second place to another. So she sent her messenger to the far reaches of Arcadia with a box of riches to rent the far-famed Brown Stallions of Cunedda “shining-brow” for a year and a day, thus giving her the advantage over the mortal-loving outcast Prince.
The horse’s owner was agreeable with this deal and gave the horses to the Queen of the Fae for the period agreed. But after the deal was struck the messenger and his party got drunk to celebrate their great achievement, and during their stupor they revealed that had they not been allowed to borrow the Stallions they would have taken them by force. Understandably outraged by their insolence the horse’s owner immediately broke the deal.
He threw back the box of riches at the Queen and took his great Stallions back leaving the poor Fae messengers with no mounts and the Queen with no trophy to prove her importance. Outraged and still jealous of the fine Stallions owned by a lesser Fae she decided on war. If she couldn’t get better horses she would have to make do with the Prince’s horses instead.
The queen then traveled to where her warriors and allies were marshalled by the great white hart in the land occupied by the faerie host and told them of their crusade to capture the wondrous horses that rightfully belonged to her.
Scared of what she would do if told the truth; two of the Queen’s Seers each gave a favourable omen to the Queen insisting victory would be hers if she waited for summer to end. But one of the seers could not lie to his Queen as she sat waiting for summer to end, and finally plucked up the courage to tell her the truth of the omens he had interpreted with foreboding dread. He appeared at her side and whispered a warning of impending defeat at the hand of the Great Hawk, a champion of the mortal lands the Queen sought to conquer.
Then the seer told the tale of how the Hawk was born at the very moment spring begun and was blessed with the gift of eternal life. The seer told how even the mighty sea wasn’t powerful enough to kill the great Hawk of the spring and how he had survived drowning in the fiercest of storms. The Queen screamed at the poor seer for suggesting that it was possible for one man (a mortal at that) to be able to stop the might of her whole army. An army that had to be the best army in the world, because it belonged to the most powerful and wealthy Queen in existance. And thus the Queen ignored the warning and laughed at the brave seer, thereafter banishing him from court and soft pleasures.
But just as the prophecy predicted; as the Faerie army moved to engage the soldiers of the mortal land, the great spring Hawk harassed the Fae troops, swooping again and again, and with his mighty bow killing any who strayed from the main force. And for a time even the Queen knew something of despair.
But then even as the losses grew more severe yet, another champion of Albion, who was having a secret affair with The Queen, decided he would meet with the Hawk and try to end the matter for once and for all, to prevent the Hawk from doing any more damage from secret ambush and distant harm. And using the knowledge of his honour gained from comradely service shared in the past, he advised the Queen to offer the Great Hawk a treaty where he would be unable to attack any of the Faery host, but in exchange the Queen’s forces would not further advance, until the Hawk was defeated in a fair challenge of single-handed combat. And as he was bound by custom, the great hawk accepted the challenge.
One by one, day after day, The Hawk defeated each champion that the Queen sent to challenge him, until eventually he had to face the Queen’s lover, his former friend. The Hawk pleaded with his old friend to leave, but was refused, and laughing the Hawk’s opponent pledged his life to the death of the Queen’s enemy. For three whole days they fought and finally on the evening of the third day, the Hawk flew into a heedless killing rage and loosed a fatal arrow from his bow to slay the friend he once had loved.
As his old ally fell the Hawk caught him him and carried the body to the riverbank, lamenting, and overcome by despair, abandoning the fight against the faerie host and the Queen’s avarice. And without the Hawk to harry her forces, the Queen’s army quickly advanced onto the home of the great white stallions and stole them away from the confused and powerless ranks of the mortal battalions standing guard. But the Queen too had wearied of battle, and taking time only to secure these prizes, she turned her host around to return through the mists to Arcadia.
And there, enraged and blaming the Queen for his friend’s death, the Hawk rushed to block the Fae retreat with a unit of Albion’s finest new levied and primed for slaughter. In the battle that followed the Faerie host was routed and the great Hawk faced down the Queen’s command group one man against many, but his rage sustained him, and he killed them all until only the Queen was left standing before his rightous fury. He raised his sword high and cursed her for causing the death of his old friend. But just as he brought the blade down towards the Queen’s head he noticed a tear in her eye and stopped. He called to her to tell him why she cried, and after she had spoken of her own love for the fallen friend, the Hawk was moved and he spared her life with the geas that she was bound to leave the mortal realm and carry her own loss to Arcadia in tear and sorrow. A punishment that she still carries heavily to this day.