Mystic: My husband just had to start playing Final Fantasy IX again. Curse you, dear! It sparked once more my love for Kuja/Hilda, but my previous fics were utter crap. Let's assume I've matured as a writer (ha ha), and re-write Tantric Ways of a Mage. As always, square-enix owns things.

It wasn't often that a lady of status liked to get her hands dirty. Servants performed manual labor and other lesser tasks. The mistress of the house governed her own affairs - or so everybody said. Hilda couldn't quite figure out who 'everybody' was, or why their opinion even mattered. If they happened to use their brains, they'd know to stay far away from her garden.

As a royal garden, it contained a vast variety of color and nutrition. Vegetables, of course, plus an extensive collection of herbs for potent medicinals. Everyday, no matter the weather, Lady Hilda walked among its greenery, harvesting for the colder months and re-planting for the spring season. Most days she walked back into the palace drenched in sweat and covered with dirt. The plants were healthier when grown from her hard work and experienced hands, never from some incompetant man-servant. Well, unless he happened to be a mage, but they normally chose to live outside the kingdom.

Hilda's mother, a woman with a healthy knowledge of the earth, first introduced her to the ways of the field; every morning and evening was a nature walk or woodland hike. Later, Hilda's grandmother continued the lessons. That old crone had connections to the fae folk, and taught her granddaughter how to make teas and tinctures for various ills. As a teenager, Hilda apprenticed under a woodland sprite and consequently spent all of her time in a forest grove. Through their ways, Hilda's abilities as healer and mage prospered to very terrifying heights. It all came to fruition on the eve of her eighteenth birthday; her aging instructor welcomed her into their clan, made her a part of their tribe.

They braided her hair, so jealous of its golden color, then adorned her with leaves collected from the nearby forests.

But then Hilda had to ruin it all by marrying a mere human. Her mother and grandmother refused to even attend the nuptials. They left the woman to carry on the tradition of earth-healing alone. So the Lady of Lindblum taught her daughter. Eiko may not have been Hilda's by birth, but the bond between the two rivaled any other mother and child. Underneath a sunny blue sky, the young girl skipped among the vibrant plants and flowers, while her mother quizzed her on their properties.

"Let's start with something simple," said Hilda. "Every little child knows this one."

Eiko knelt down and fingered the jagged leaves, then smiled at the fluffball on the tall stem. "Dandelion!"

"And it's use?"

"A kidney and liver tonic."

"Well done." Hilda pointed to a white flower with a yellow center. "This one was in a story about a naughty rabbit."

"The one where he snuck inside the man's garden? That's chamomile!"


"It helps your tummy and helps you relax."

Now it was time for something a little more difficult. A handsome plant with purple petals and a cone-shaped top came into view. "Tell me about this one, Eiko."

The girl recognized the flowery top, but the name escaped her. "Um, I think it strengthens your body so you won't get sick as much."

"Yes, it also helps to shorten an illness."

"Um ... purple ..."

Hilda smiled. "Purple coneflower."

"Oh, yeah!"

"Snap off a few of the leaves for me. The regent has been a bit rundown lately." A hot cup of tea with fresh mint and coneflower would help rejuvenate him. He'd looked tired and worn out for the past few days, though his spirits seemed unusually lifted. It gave his wife an uneasy feeling in the pit of her soul, and the fae people never ignored those feelings for long without doing something about it.

They walked around for another several minutes, enjoying the cool weather before the heat of the day started. Lessons continued with lemon balm (good for anxiety and headaches), valerian (helps one sleep), and, Eiko's favourite, catnip. It may make felines hallucinate, but humans valued it for its calming effects on the stomach and ability to reduce fevers. Parents of colicky babies practically built a shrine to the plant.

"Let's head to the kitchen," Hilda said, her wicker basket filled with the morning harvest. "You can get your breakfast and I'll make your father his tea."


That uneasy feeling only grew worse when Lady Hilda noticed two guards outside her husband's bedchambers. Circumstances did not give her a pleasant memory the last time he remained abed so late in the morning. Not without her, anyway.

"Kindly step aside," she said to the men. At their hesitation, she dropped the wicker basket, its contents spilling out on everyone's feet. "I believe I made myself clear."

Hopefully Eiko would remain in the kitchen for quite awhile. No little girl needed to hear the ruckus from inside the doors. "The regent is ... not well," stated the younger of the two guards. His partner quickly nodded.

"Oh? Name his symptoms."


Hilda narrowed her eyes. "Do not make me ask again."

"A rapid heartbeat, madam."

"Anything else I should know?"

This time the older of the two responded. "He's just extremely worn out."

"Step. Aside."

They obeyed, but that only made the giggles and high-pitched shrieks even more easier to detect. Hilda's hand paused at the door handle, then lifted away. She stood straight and proud, her face numb. "Let no one pass through these doors," she ordered. "It seems I forgave too easily."

The soldiers watched their superior walk down the hallway; she hadn't bothered to collect the flowers and leaves strewn across the floor. Cid's healing tea would be forever delayed, it seemed. Inside the bedchamber, illicit activity continued. Despite the power Cid rightfully held, his men feared the lady more than any of the ancient eidolons. Her powers had increased significantly since her return a few years prior. Most kidnap victims required psychological assistance after recovery; Hilda willfully recalled her time spent with the wizard who hijacked her airship.

Most of it was about his lush garden, though he never did tell her how he kept everything alive in the middle of a scorched desert. She finally assumed that his magic was more powerful than her own (and rightfully so) and thanked him for allowing her outside her room at all.


Hilda returned exactly twenty minutes later, two goblets not so innocently resting in her hands. Both of the guards lost all color in their faces. "The right one goes to the regent. Give the left one to his whore."

"Is that your right and left or ours, madam?" queried the younger man. His companion sighed and dropped his head in his palm.

"The one with the dragon," she raised her right hand, "give to Cid. And do not mess it up. This time the people must be made aware of their esteemed regent."

Before the lady could walk away and wash her hands of the situation, the older guard made one final inquiry. "Madam, what did you put in these?"

"That's not any of your concern. Be grateful that I do not put something in your morning coffee because you co-operated with his actions."

Both gave a firm salute. "Yes, ma'am!"


It is a proven fact that men temporarily lose some brain function after a round of drinks and subsequent time with a woman. Regent Cid did not give a passing thought when his bodyguards handed him and his mistress two goblets of wine. Nor did their ruler question the whereabouts of his wife. He simply wiped away the sweat from his brow and heartily drank his fill. Two meetings filled his schedule today, plus an address to the citizens regarding the new health program. Maybe he could convince Hilda to speak to the fae folk and introduce their ways to the kingdom. Give the little woman something to do.

What Cid could not explain was why his mirror image laughed at him. He glanced again at the glass pane across from his bed, and indeed, his reflection pointed at his lap and chortled hard. He looked away, toward his brunette mistress, and wondered how her soft locks could suddenly sprout fangs and scales.

"Your majesty," she whispered, collapsed on the floor. "I don't feel -" Then she lurched into a dry heave.

Did a snake just exit her mouth? It left an itchy, burning sensation on the crown jewels.


Sleep was what he needed. A quick little nap.


Minister Artania would have loved an explanation as to why his regent lay ill in bed with something horrific, all while Lady Hilda hustled her way through the hallways and ordered for her airship to be packed. The dragon goblets on the chamber floor, along with a naked woman, was not the particular answer he wanted to see.

Or smell for that matter. Vomit covered both the carpeting and the bare flesh.

He cornered the two guardsmen. "What in Odin's name happened?!" More hesitation. "Answer me!"

"Lady Hilda," they responded.

Now it made sense. All the pieces came together like a puzzle built by Hades himself. "Hmph, at least he's not an oglop."

"She gave us direct orders, sir."

"She threatened us."

Minister Artania waved his hand to silence them. He placed a handkerchief over his nose and mouth as he scanned the room once more. Cid lay on the large bed, eyes closed tight, and breath dangerously shallow. A physician examined him, but offered no explanation other than the obvious one. "Poison," he shrugged.

"Is there an antidote?"

"If this was done by the lady Hilda, then no. I have no training in wizardry." The physician stood, placing his equipment back in his bag, and moved to cover up the girl. Every so often the whore convulsed into spasms.

"Will he live?"

Another shrug. "Maybe."

The minister decided to move the council's proposed health care budget to the number one spot on their list of important discussions. Taxes can wait. He again addressed the soldiers. "Did Lady Hilda give you any other instructions?"

The younger one answered, "Tell everyone."

"She wants this made public?" As if the day couldn't get any better. Mayhap Shiva could come down, give him a massage, then laugh about it with Ifrit afterwards.

"Well, just the regent's actions."

Naturally. "Best do as she requests. 'Lest we find ourselves in the same predicament."


"So, uh, who are you going to speak to first?"

"My mother-in-law. Once she hears about this, the rest of Lindblum will know in about an hour."