The oak stairs creaked as Halla stepped carefully down, trying to avoid tripping over her dress, with only the faint glowing of the chandelier to guide her through the dark. She could not fall with the wine colored carpet being so thick. Halla was nervous; what if she was recognized? No, no one can with the mask on.

The midsummer festival was special. A faerie queen and a faerie king were picked for each the four elements. Maypoles would be done, a delicious feast held; entertainment of all kind. All this in one night and day.

The queens and kings were picked in a special way; the names of all the females at the age of twenty-one were put once in each of the four bowls, earth, air, fire, and water. These bowls were put inside a triangle of the trees oak, ash, and thorn that had grown naturally. The bowls were left out over night, and always, only one name remained in each bowl. These were the four queens. If the queens did not want to choose a king, the king(s) was picked in the same way the following night.

Halla been nervous, her parents excited. They had been preparing since mid- winter when the family was told. Her parents had hired the best tailors and jewelers to make the perfect costume.

Halla's hair was made up in braids, handled decoratively with crystal blue and white flowers woven in to create a crown. Diamonds and lapis-lazuli created a light rain on Halla's light blonde hair. Crystal blue and white silk ribbons were woven in to make tiny streams. The jewelry was silver leaves and silver flowers with sapphire centers. Her dress was made up of matching silk tissue. White silk gauze and thin silver ropes with tiny silver bells hung all around like mist with fairy bells and fairy vines. Tiny diamonds flecked the dress like dew in the early morning. The harlequin mask had white feathers and rose petals, with strings of tear- drop lapis-lazuli. However, the most magnificent part of Halla's out-fit was the pair of wings. The wings were gossamer blues, every sort of blue you could think of. They had intricate, silver swirls, with moonstones placed every few inches. Silver bells tinkled and white ribbons flowed. Tonight, Halla would play the Faerie Water Queene.

For this day and night, she would be as important as a queen would. Of course I'm nervous, who wouldn't? Halla slowly walked down the stairs, afraid that she would tear the thin dress. The door opened what seemed like magically as she reached the bottom. Almost no one was in the gigantic hall, except for the servants preparing the tables. Halla breathed in the scents of the kitchen. Maybe this isn't going to be so bad.Yeah! I'm picked out of the entire country, and all the other women my age will never get this same chance!

Halla looked sadly at her King, Learoth. He would never even know it she who was his queen. Learoth would never know that it was she who picked him, and not faes. Halla was forbidden to speak of it, same as her parents. Learoth might think it was his love, Anola, who had picked him. She had daydreamed he would guess it was she, and release his own love for her. Halla knew that every smile he flashed was for her, and every time he laughed it was because of her, but she couldn't say she loved him back.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Halla sat in her place of honor at the very highest of tables. All of the tables were equal, except for the temporary royal one. They were set up like a pitchfork, with the regular tables stemming out from the royal. First come, first serve was basis for who got the lower tables, but royal line was guarantied a place since the invitations were only given out at the palace.

Summer yellows, greens, and blues decorated the hall in every way. Summer flowers and boughs of elder rimmed the tables. Delicious smells of fresh fruit, flower puddings, and roasting nuts wafted from the kitchen.

Halla smiled, knowing that she could tell Learoth that she loved him, knowing that he would be too drunk to recognize her voice, and even if he did, Learoth would never remember anything that happened before he woke up with a hangover.

The merrymaking continued into the night, everyone getting drunk on fruit- honey wine, and thoroughly lowering the stock of the stock of summer fruits and such. Halla, not liking such noise that one had to yell to be barely heard by the one next to you for too long, went outside for fresh air. She walked on the gravel path that ran between the wondrous flowers and bushes, breathing in the fresh air and out her all her worries and stress. She knew that they were just pushed to the back of her mind though.

There was a rustling in the bushes, a fast movement, and a knife was suddenly at her throat and a rough hand over her mouth. "Now don't struggle or you will die."

A female voice, slightly roughened by what seemed like drinking boiling water. She was probably a hired kidnapper. By the way Halla had not seen her until the last moment, probably a very good one. Oh, no, I knew that this happiness would not last! I should have refused to play the part!

"Now move," said the voice, and Halla's kidnapper pushed her into the forest, in the direction that she heard stampings of two impatient horses and a constant stream of hushed curses.