Once upon a time, there lived a fairy king. He ruled over a vast forest with a gorgeous palace in the center. The walls of the fortress didn't know the adventures of a son. The rooms never heard the joyful songs of a daughter. His bed never knew the warmth of a loving wife. In short, the king was lonely.
The days were long and uneventful, and times the king wondered why he got out of bed at all. Then an idea came to him. He would invite nine mortals to a grand dinner party and choose his family. The lucky winners would get to live forever with him in his palace. Such a plan couldn't possibly fail.
He summoned the Wildhunt to his palace. Their leader Herne entered wearing supple leather and moose skull helm and knelt before the king. "What do you wish of me, your majesty?"
The forest king fluttered his wings with excitement, and his antenna glowed. "I have decided to start a family. I need you to find me three unique boys, three unique girls, and three unique women. All of them must be mortal."
Herne looked up at the king, "Nine is a powerful number and not always a good omen. Are you sure about this, your majesty?"
"The silence of the palace speaks to me louder than words. The emptiness in the halls my only companion. A life lived alone is a life not lived at all," The king Replied
For the next six months, Herne explored the world of man. He searched crowded cities, primitive hamlets, and distant islands for candidates. He returned with the nine mortals as per the king's request.
The palace was abuzz with movement. Servants hung vibrant decorations in the dining hall. The sommelier put out the finest wines, while the chefs prepared delectable food. The forest king selected the perfect musicians. The most renowned tailors made clothes for each guest. It took a full month to prepare for the auspicious occasion.
The night of the dinner party arrived, and the nine mortals were in attendance. They didn't look happy to be at this grand dinner party, and the king felt a little irritation toward the discontent mortals. "They should feel honored to be in my sacred home," He muttered to himself.
He tapped on an amber glass, and the nine mortals turned their attention to the Forest King. "I am King Nimbus Palmray. I am looking to start the perfect family. Three of you nine will live here forever with me, and we shall be perfectly happy." The king said.
The mortals shot worried looks to one another for the king didn't say what would happen to the other six who wouldn't make it. King Nimbus failed to notice and spoke in a clear voice. "My son must be strong of the body to handle animals, tenderhearted to win a fairy wife, and able to dance the change of seasons with me. Each of you will dance for me. All you need do is keep up till the music stops. Those who survive will join me in my sacred halls as my son.
The first dancer was from Ukraine, dressed in a stunning outfit and sash. He moved with the grace of a heron. When the music was going at an impossible pace, his feet caught fire, and the blaze spread to his clothes consuming him in minutes."
"You started dying the moment you were born, and my dinner party seems to have accelerated the process," King Nimbus said.
The second young man was a Hawaiian fire dancer. His physical form was impressive, and his grass skirt fit the forest. His staff was ablaze while he moved. The king was so impressed he let out a happy cry. Unfortunately, it distracted the Hawaiian, who hit himself between the eyes with the staff and fell to the ground lifeless.
The king looked at the last young man and felt a little disgust. Dressed in baggy jeans and a hoodie and simple sneakers was a breakdancer. The music started, and the breakdancer had no trouble keeping up because break dancing relied on whole body. He danced to the song's end.
When the music ended, the king said, "Welcome to my hall, son."
The breakdancer put up his hand and said, "I'm flattered and all, but I just got accepted into Julliard. Its been my dream since I was a kid."
King Nimbus sighed. "If this young man had a chance to achieve new heights, should I stand in the way?" The answer was no. "I release you from my care."
King Nimbus's heart fell to pieces, as he watched the breakdancer leave.
Herne stood beside the king and said, "Perhaps you will have better luck finding a daughter." He said in a gentle tone.
The king composed himself and stood in front of the three young women. "One of you could be my daughter. My daughter has to be beautiful, like the first bloom of spring. Her voice must be able to call the birds to the palace, for they bring news of the forest each morning. The woman who sings the most birds to the palace will be my daughter."
The first young woman presented a freestyle rap complete with swearwords. King nimbus enjoyed the hard beat and moved his head in rhythm to her words. The birds didn't appreciate the string of obscenities. Mother birds covered their chicks young ears, and the father birds grabbed a bar of enchanted soap. The father birds pinned the gangster rapper down, washed out her mouth, and sent her back to the human world, with clean words.
The second young woman was an opera diva with a voice powerful enough to light the fires of passion. Emotional enough to bring tears to the eyes, and brought hope into the darkest of places. The birds drew near to her only to be rendered deaf by the sound. The king couldn't get his news with deaf birds. A magpie flew into her mouth and silenced her for good.
The third young woman had a guitar slung across her back. She wore cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat. She sang songs about life on the farm, the joy of family, and the wonders of love and heartbreak. Her voice called the birds, and they sang with her. The melodies varied and surprised the king. "She is perfect," King Nimbus exclaimed. "Welcome to my family, daughter."
The country singer put up her hand and said, "I appreciate the offer, your majesty, but a major record label wants me to sing for the masses back home. It is my childhood dream come true."
King Nimbus stared at the young woman. Who was he to deny this young woman her greatest dream? "To share the contents of your heart in a song is a gift to all around you. I release you from my care."
By this time, King nimbus was losing faith in his plan, "I should've stayed in bed today," He said in a mournful tone.
Herne put his hand on the king's shoulder. "You can still choose a wife. Not only will cure your loneliness, but you'll have a chance to have children as well."
The king smiled and found hope in the hunter's words. He stood in front of the remaining three women and said. "My wife must be the light in my life. Wise enough to help me rule with a fair hand, and silver tongue to soothe my rivals." He paused to make sure the women were paying attention to his words.
A servant came out with three cups on a tray, "Find the cup that isn't poisoned and drink. The survivor gets the honor of being my wife and bearing my children."
The first woman was a nebbish looking, librarian. She was timid, and her hand shook with violence as she picked up each goblet and smelled it. Ten minutes passed before she chose the middle goblet. She drained the cup. Five minutes later, her eyes rolled back as she succumbed to the poison.
A woman dressed in military garb went next. She chose the goblet on the far right without hesitation. She cleaned her gun while she waited. She was more machine than woman, the king observed. Just as she reassembled the firearm, the poison stopped her heart, and the military woman fell out of her chair.
The third woman carried a briefcase, wore a power suit, and heels. An air of confidence followed her to the tray. She looked at all three cups, looked up at the king, and said, "Is an unpoisoned cup guaranteed among the three?"
King Nimbus shrugged, "I can't be sure. The servants do all the poisoning around her."
"So, you can't prove one cup is unpoisoned?" She asked.
"That is correct," The king replied.
"Then I refuse to drink on the grounds this contest is unfair." The woman in the power suit said. "You cannot provide a guarantee at least one of these cups is unpoisoned."
King Nimbus clapped his hands and stood up, "You have earned the right to be my queen. Join me at the altar, and..."
The woman in the power suit shook her head. "Listen, I kicked and clawed my way through law school. I did scut work as an intern for slobs like you. Now I have a law firm of my own, and its doing well. Its all I dreamed about as a child."
How could the king deny people good legal representation? She was a lioness of the courtroom and could do a lot of good. "I release you from my care."
The king fell into a deep depression after the dinner party. Herne remained by his side through the whole ordeal. "Was my plan flawed, Herne?"
"I am afraid it was, your majesty. Family is more than just a group living under one roof. They fight and argue, only to make up later, and are far from perfect. They stand by each other through the tough times and cherish the good times while they last," Herne said.
The king pondered the huntsman's words. Then a bright smile crept over his face. "Herne, you have stuck by me through this ordeal. Would you like to be my brother?"
"It would be my honor, your majesty," Herne said.
Herne had quite a large family of his own. His children filled the castle with their laughter, and they danced the change of seasons. His daughter brought the birds with her songs, and his wife helped managed the daily affairs of the forest. The king was never lonely again.