Luna is standing bride, dressed in silvery spider web and with a crown of frozen moonlight in her hair. The groom holds her hand, dew sparkling in his thistledown hair, but he casts no shadow... Crossover Rowling/Clarke, and those are the owners of the characters.
It was the sound of bells that made Luna look up from her game by the river - she had collected a number of smooth pebbles and was now constructing a small pyramid with them. Bells were not uncommon in Ottery St Catchpole, with the church chiming every full hour, but this was not the heavy bronze of the church. It sounded like bluebells of silver, chiming a shrill song about sunshine and rain. It sounded like the breeze over a summer meadow, or the songs of love butterflies and bumblebees sing to the flowers as they collect nectar. Luna put down her pebbles and curiously looked around. She had never heard bells like that before, and she was curious of what kind of person might chime them.
As she looked up, she realized that she had been out playing for far longer than she had thought. The sun was already setting, and long shadows were cast over the meadow. The western part of the sky was on fire, red and gold and purple, and in the eastern part of the sky could already stars be seen, and the moon smiled friendly at her. Luna smiled back at it. She thought about going back home - she started to feel tired, and she didn't want her parents to have to wait for her - but her attention was drawn to a party down the riverbank, coming closer. It seemed to be a merry assembly of people. She could hear flutes play and voices laugh - as well as the silvery bells that had first caught her attention. Warm lights, as of lanterns, and cold light, as of stars, illuminated the people. Luna sat up in the grass and watched the party. As they came closer she saw the persons more clearly. They were very pretty, she thought, or perhaps even beautiful. The women had long dresses which glittered like the rainbow. The men had coats of elegant fashion in midnight blue or deep sea green. They carried elaborated silver canes or silver sceptres. The women had gold tiaras in their hair. They were laughing and smiling and talking. Curiously enough, Luna thought, she could see no one play the flutes, or the silver bells, or the drums; but she could hear them clearly. Equally curiously, none of the party seemed to have a shadow, despite the sunset making every single strand of grass cast sharp shadows.
Leading the procession walked a slim man with hair like thistledown; white and wild and sparkling. It looked very pretty, Luna thought. He was carrying a silver cane which he was swinging around as a conductor's staff; he was walking now backwards, now forwards, now dancing and jumping. He was the one who talked most, laughed most and smiled most of all the people, and despite of walking in the front of the procession, he was the centrepiece of it. As he reached Luna, he abruptly stopped to stare at her, and the procession stopped too, the people at the end craning their necks to see what was delaying them. Luna nodded politely at the thistledown haired man.
"Good evening," she said. "I hope you have an enjoyable night."
"Why! It's delightful! It's wonderful!" The man cried and threw himself down to the ground, facing Luna. "What a remarkably pretty girl you are. The moonlight looks marvellous in your hair." He tossed his neck, making his white mane shake. "Ah, just like it does in mine. Some specks of dew would perhaps do to emphasize that beauty... there." Suddenly Luna felt something wet in her hair, and she looked down at the strands that was hanging down her shoulder. It was now covered with thousands of small pearls of dew, each and everyone glittering in the moonlight. The other men and women, who were fanning out in a circle around them, complimented approvingly on the effect it did.
"It is rather nice," Luna agreed, and the gentleman beamed. She looked at him curiously.
"I'm Luna," she stated, "Who are you?" Suddenly he sprang to his feet.
"Luna, what a beautiful name. No doubt the moon will be jealous to be surpassed in beauty by its own namesake." He frowned as in sudden worry and glanced up at the celestial body, as did several other members of the party. The moon, however, did nothing unusual and the man gave a short laugh. He offered Luna his hand and she took it, feeling the man dragging her to her feet with surprising strength. He didn't let go of her hand.
"No doubt," he whispered, "you are the daughter of the river, or of the east wind, perhaps, and they have let you out from your chambers only in the faint hours of dusk so that neither sun, nor moon might look to closely at you and feel the urge to steal you away." He took a few dancing steps, twirling Luna with him. She felt rather dizzy.
"I'm the daughter of mum and dad," she explained, then her eyes narrowed. "You still haven't told me who you are, you know." The man let go of her hand and smacked himself lightly in the forehead.
"Ah, what a blunder, what an impolite manner. However can I ever redeem myself? Here," he added eagerly, as if struck by sudden inspiration. "Allow me to offer you a gift, as a mean of repaying my unspeakable acts of rudeness!"
Before Luna had a chance to answer, he had fastened a necklace around her neck and taken a step backwards to admire its effect on her. She looked down and saw herself wearing emeralds, diamonds and even more curious gems, glowing from within with a colour Luna did not know the name of, even is she suspected it to be something close to azure. She opened her mouth to say something, but she was interrupted by the gentleman's followers, each and everyone praising the necklace and Luna's own beauty. The gentleman bowed to Luna and took her hand again.
"Now, my dear, pretty Luna, please give me the great honour of introducing myself." He bowed again. "I'm the lord of the river and of all the trees in the forest. I'm the traveller of waves and weaver of winds. I have built eight large mansions with bones of fallen enemies, and I have talked to the king of Haldragur mountain as an equal. I dance in dusk, and sometimes in dawn. I'm beautiful, and I'm rightly respected in all the three kingdoms. Oh, and these are my followers," he added uninterestedly and waved vaguely at the rest of the party. They bowed deeply to the ground.
Luna beamed at them, nodding to them all in turn, feeling as a princess as she did so. If she had started to feel tired before, that was a long time ago... actually, she couldn't remember exactly how long time ago, but she dismissed the thought. The gentleman before her was so funny, and so handsome. She enjoyed hearing his voice, and she enjoyed listening to his tale, and she absolutely loved the way the moonshine sparkled in his hair, just as it did in her. She smiled at him. "What's your name," she asked, and he bowed a third time.
"Just call me your husband, Luna my love," he whispered, and she nodded.
"My husband..." she repeated. "Is it fun being a lord?" He smiled at her then.
"It is wonderfully fun," he breathed. "Now tell me, Luna of the moon, how do you like being a lady?"
"Ah! It's highly enjoyable," she giggled and waved with her hand as she imagined real queens to do. All the men and women bowed and curtsied to her.
"And what is it you enjoy most with it?" The gentleman asked with smooth voice.
"I enjoy to sit at a throne and tell people what to do, and to wear nice dresses, and never having to do chores," she promptly answered. "I also enjoy going on adventure, visiting dragons and locating Bumblinger nests, such as queens do. And once," she invented wildly, enjoying her own story as it unwounded, "there was a prince from a neighbouring castle that got lost in the woods, and I had to find him, and while I was there it was this old tree that..."
"You really are a highly talented queen," the gentleman interrupted her, and the starlight twinkled in his eyes. Luna nodded and smiled.
"Thank you. You're very beautiful, you know."
"Yes, I am," he agreed, "and that is why I need an equally beautiful wife, to sit by my side and impress my underlings with her stunning beauty. We will have a throne made of the gold collected from the tears of angels, forged together by the smiths that are chained up inside the mountain. The cushions will be made from delight carefully harvested from the dreams of maidens at their wedding night. The floor beneath the throne will..."
"But we are not really married, are we?" Luna interrupted, suddenly unsure of herself. She was quite confident that she was not really a queen, and even if she was, that she had not seen her husband before, but just as she thought that, she started to doubt it. Maybe she had known him for hundreds and thousands of years, only it had slipped her mind just now. He smiled at her, filling the whole world with his smile for a moment. The he laughed again.
"Of course not, how very perceptive of you, my clever Luna. In order to be properly married, we need a wedding!"
At this statement, the other people, who had been standing around, watching them, started to clap their hands and cry that it was a marvellous idea. This night was surly made for a wedding, they said, so it would be a great shame not to have one. Luna couldn't but agree. It was a very fine night indeed for a wedding. She curtsied at her husband.
"Then let us get married," she said.
"Wonderful!" he cried, delighted. "Clear us a suitable area, set up a table and make us a wedding feast, more splendid than everyone has ever seen!" And just as he had said that, a table stood on the meadow, covered by the most delightful dishes imaginable. There were roasted larks, honey covered bumblebees, sugar coated fairy flowers and even - if Luna wasn't mistaken - some Crumple-Horned Snorkack steak. She stared with wide eyes at the table, and her husband laughed at her astonishment. He took a small, sparkling crystal cherry from the table and offered it to her.
"A small taste of the feast, my queen?" he asked. Luna could smell the cherry, its sweet and spicy flagrance, and it felt like she had never in her life experienced such a wonderful smell. She wanted to sit down in the grass with the cherry, and just smell it and look at it and do nothing more in her entire life. Without remembering actually taking it, she held the cherry in her hand. It seemed like next to its sparkling there was no other colour worth any notion in the entire world; well except for in her husband, of course.
"Aren't you going to eat it," he asked, and she hesitated. It seemed wrong to destroy such a beauty by devouring it, but if its taste was anything like its appearance...
"Once we marry, you will eat a feast just like this, no, ten times as splendid, every day, my queen," the man said, and Luna marvelled. She opened her mouth to eat the cherry, but suddenly she came to think of something.
"Where will we live, my husband?" she asked. He laughed merrily.
"In my castle, of course, in the great and splendid halls of Lost Hope. There we will dance and laugh and live, my queen." And suddenly her heart was filled by longing for that place, the most magnificent of all castles. Without thinking of it, she lifted the cherry to her mouth and ate it. The taste was something different than everything she had ever enjoyed. For a fleeing moment it tasted like something everyday and ordinary, like dirt or like dust; but the sensation immediately gave way to something much stronger. It tasted like summer rain and winter storm, like northern light on a frozen sky and a roaring ocean. She laughed out loud and knew that it was the taste of Lost Hope she enjoyed. She wished she had lived there all her life, instead of wasting her life living with... a new thought struck her.
"Can my mum and dad come and visit? Only, I would be quite lonely without them, and they would miss me a great deal." The gentleman suddenly looked very surprised, as did his followers.
"You mum and dad, my queen? Why on earth would you have a mum and dad? How very unnecessary and unaesthetical. You are thinking of things that don't exist again, my silly little love." All the men and women laughed merrily, as at a joke, and Luna suddenly felt a bit stupid. She knew she had been acting childish, making up things. She knew she should know better, at her age. Besides, she had a wedding to attend to.
"Who'll wed us together," she quickly asked to make up for her silliness. Her husband smiled approvingly at her.
"I will do it myself, of course. Who else could ever be trusted with a task like that?" Luna nodded. That was fitting. She took a step forward, towards the waiting arms of her husband, but suddenly she interrupted herself.
"My husband," Luna said. "What shall I wear, I can't marry in my ordinary clothes, can I?" she looked down at her robe, a tattered and worn thing she had for playing in. The gentleman smacked his forehead again.
"Indeed not! What would the wind and the moon say if my wife wedded in a rag like that. Remove it!" Immediately, slender hands seized Luna's robe, and she felt it being pulled off. She stood naked in the moonlight, and there was something with being naked among people that she had heard a long time ago, but she couldn't exactly put her finger on for the moment. It was probably nothing important. Besides, no one in the party seemed to think it strange in any way. The gentleman was already directing two of his followers, who sat by a loom that suddenly had appeared by the riverside.
"...weave the fabric of moonlight and silver. Make it soft as the steps of a cat and the kiss of a fairy. Cut the fabric with scissors made of gold from a lost wedding ring, and sew the dress with a thread spun from the last sigh of babies who have died in their mother's womb. Let everyone see that my wife wears the most marvellous dress ever made in any of the three kingdoms.
And before Luna knew it, she was dressed in white and silver. The dress was fitting her perfectly, making her feel like a flower. The fabric was thin as butterfly wings, but yet she did not feel afraid of ripping it. She laughed with pure joy of how beautiful it was, and her husband laughed with her.
"My husband," she said again. "What wedding ring shall I wear on my finger?" And again, her husband jumped up and down with pure joy for her inspiration.
"You shall wear a ring forged of laughter and joy, of deep thoughts and true love. Bring forth an anvil made of the faith of wives of dead seafarers, bring forth a hammer made of the light from the three smallest stars of the winter sky. Make my wife a ring!"
And the men and women rushed to work, crafting a ring such as Luna had never seen its like before. It shone like the sun, and when the gentleman elegantly put it on her finger, Luna could hear the song of fairies in her ears. He moved to the centre of the ring the men and women had formed and motioned to her to come closer. As she did, however, she felt yet another thing missing.
"My husband," she softly said. "What crown shall I wear for the wedding?" And suddenly the world was quiet. The men and women watched the gentleman intently, and even the breeze seemed to hold its breath. The gentleman himself stood as stunned for just a moment, then he smiled, wider then ever.
"Your crown, my dear, has been passed from head to head over five thousand years. It has been worn by the most powerful and beautiful princesses in all the three kingdoms. It is wrought from the final chords of the song that forged the world, and it has names in two hundred languages, all forgotten. This is my wedding gift for you, my love."
And on her head he placed a silver crown, seemingly forged from frozen moonlight. Its beauty was such that all else, even the incredible treasures Luna had already been given, turned to mere trinkets in its presence. The men and women gasped and marvelled, and Luna beamed at her husband.
"Let us get married, my husband," she said and took his hand.
"Then let us swear our marriage oath!" the gentleman exclaimed, and he kneeled down by Luna's side, looking her in her eyes. "I swear by the sun and the moon to show you sights beyond your wildest imagination. I swear to take you to my home at Lost Hope, where we shall dance for ever and ever. I give you the three wedding gift of Sight such as nothing will be hidden from you, Strength, such as nothing will break you. Last I give you Faith, such as nothing shall ever be impossible for you, my love. Now, swear your oaths, and let us go to our home."
Luna knelt down herself, feeling it to be a proper thing to do. She looked her husband in his eyes and thought of a proper promise.
"I promise to..." she begun, but there was something that distracted her, making it hard to think. She shook her head and tried again.
"I promise, you my husband, to always... say was someone shouting?"
"Oh no," the thistledown haired man quickly said. "It was just the wind in the trees. Go on if you please."
"All right. I swear by the sun and the moon to... But I heard it quite clearly. It is someone shouting my name." For a moment the man looked at a loss, but then he started to smile with his whole face.
"Of course someone is. All the nightly insects and earthworms and foxes are celebrating our wedding tonight, and cry out your name in praise. Now quickly say your marriage oath, or you will make them disappointed."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to disappoint earthworms. I promise you, my husband, by the sun and the moon, all the stars and the four winds, to always love..."
"LUNA!!!" her father cried, as he plunged into the circle of light. Luna looked up, confused. The man clearly was her daddy. She knew him very well. He wore his evening clothes and his writing sweater (he even had his favourite steel tipped writing quill in his hand), but he had no shoes, and he looked worried for some reason. Yet, another part of her said that the man before her was no one she knew, it was not a man at all. It was an animal, a monster, a filthy and unclean thing that would better be destroyed before it could spread its ugliness. Her husband and all his pretty followers were snarling insults and threats, and some of them had produced long silver daggers and was moving towards the man.
"Daddy?" she said in confusion, and then he threw his quill over her head. The quill with its tip of cold, hard iron. It landed between herself and her husband, and the world shook. It felt like she had been spinning very, very fast and was dizzy, only it was not she who felt that way, but the entire world. She looked at her husband, who was staring at her with rage in his eyes.
"Luna!" her dad cried and scoped her up. To her surprise, she felt his warm hands directly against her skin, as if the wonderful dress she wore had melted away into nothingness. She looked down and saw that it was indeed the case. The beautiful necklace of gems she had been given was now a dirty piece of string with ordinary rocks tied to it. The ring around her finger was just two dandelion stalks put together. She looked around and realized that the wonderful wedding feast she had tasted had been replaced by cakes of mud, by dishes of frogs and slimy slugs. She let her gaze wander over all the pretty wedding guests, and now she saw that they were not at all as pretty as she had thought, and actually looked quite nasty. She looked at the thistledown haired man, who met her gaze with a sneer.
"The crown!" he urgently hissed. "Give me the crown!"
Luna felt on her head, and realized that the magnificent silver crown she had received hadn't changed, that it still was a crown seemingly crafted from frozen moonlight. She held it in her hand and regarded it. She felt her fathers warm arms wrapped around her, and she was glad for it. Suddenly she was cross. Who did the man think he was, coming here and fooling perfectly honest girls with false necklaces and dresses, tricking them into eating disgusting food? She looked up at him in defiance.
"You gave this crown to me, so I'll keep it," she said. "I'll also keep the promises you gave me, so you'll not be able to give them to other little girls. But I'll not marry you, because you're stupid and tried to trick me. So there!" The man spat and snarled in rage, but he seemed to have no influence over her now. Luna stuck out her tongue at him.
"Then I want something in return," he screamed. "I want a finger from your hand, or a day of your life, or the light of your eyes. Surely that is cheep for the treasures I have given you freely tonight?" Luna opened her mouth to answer, to say that she didn't wanted to part with any of those things right now, but her father talked first, sternly and commandingly.
"Cold steel, Vittra, will be your gift; take it or make your departure swift."
The gentleman raged and screamed, but he was powerless in face of the cold iron, and so he was forced to leave. With one last look at Luna, shaking his head sadly, he walked towards to river, and before he had walked very many steps, he was gone, and all his followers were gone too.
Luna shivered in the cold.
Luna's daddy cried and hugged her a lot, taking care to examine her hands and feet to make sure no finger or toes were missing. She assured him that she was all right and that she hadn't had time to promise the strange man anything, and after a little while he had calmed down enough to believe her. He carried her all the way back to the house. Luna looked over his shoulder as he did, but the moonlit riverbanks were empty.
At home they promptly put Luna in a warm bath, and her parents fussed quite a bit with her that night, making sure that she was not hungry or frozen, or scared or, most importantly, not alone. Luna felt a bit strange; both sleepy and exhilarated at the same time, and she could still hear the music of the fairies in her ears. Her mother would do a curious thing. She would look at her daughter with a thoughtful expression and start to say something, many times, but she would always interrupt herself and shook her head before she came very far. She didn't seem worried or scared, like her dad. She rather looked annoyed. There were angry lines in her face, but somehow Luna suspected that they were not directed against her. "How dare he..." she started, and Luna was curious to what she was about to be told, but in the end her mother just put her to bed and said that they would talk more about it tomorrow.
The next day Luna and her parents sat down in the sunlit garden, eating scones and drinking tea and talking a lot of the man Luna had met the day before, and the danger she had been in. They told her stories about little girls, just like herself, who had been stolen away and not returned until hundred years later, or not at all; they told her of little girls who had been locked up at ghastly places and forced to dance night after night until their feet were all worn away, but still they had to dance; they told her about the strange ways of the Fair People, and how to protect oneself. After they had finished their scones, and after Luna had promised about four times to be very careful in the future and not talk to strangers she didn't know, they put forth string, scissors and the bag of old butterbeer caps - which they saved because her dad said that you never knew when they might be useful. Then they made Luna a necklace of the caps to make sure that she would always have iron close to her. They all took care to sort out only the nicest caps and put them together so they matched. Luna was quite proud of her necklace, and her parents agreed it was pretty.
They say that those who are touched by the fairies are never quite the same again, and perhaps they are right. It happened a few times after this incident, both when she was still a little girl, and later when she was not so little any more, that Luna sneaked down to the riverbank at moonlight, half hoping and half fearing to see the thistledown haired gentleman again, he who had almost been her husband. But she never saw him, even if she took to habit to sing the strange songs she had heard that night as she sat and watched the moon and the dark water. There were times when she almost thought she saw him in the corner of her eyes, or when the wind in the meadows sounded almost like the fairy songs, or when the silver of the moon seemed to cover the world in a blanket of eerie light. At those occasions, Luna was dearly tempted to remove her butterbeer cap necklace, to take off her clothes and dress yet again in her wedding dress of moonlight and enter the world of Fairy, so much richer and vast than the world of humans. But she had promised her mother not to seek out the gentleman, so she didn't.
The wonderful silver crown was put in a closet, and Luna was told not to touch it or to think of it, but of course she did, and many strange adventures did it cause her.
Authors note: This Lunaish childhood adventure is based on a folktale, about Vittrorna, a fair people who live in the forests and mountains of northern Sweden, and who sometimes take human girls as wives. As this story is set in England, however, I couldn't resist the temptation of using the wonderfully stylish and sinister thistledown haired Sídhe described by Susanna Clarke in the highly enjoyable narrative "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell", as Luna's suitor.