It is often said we make our own monsters, and Haute is no different. Once, he was human. An ordinary man with ordinary ambitions: live a comfortable life, have a family, provide for that family, enjoy whatever time came left.
But Haute wouldn’t be so fortunate to find love easily. No matter what he tried to show he was worthy husband material, the women just couldn’t see it. Did they not see how grand he could build homes? Did they not see how skilled of a weaver he was? Had their tongues fallen out and they could not taste his excellent cuisine?
Haute was blind to the possibility it was his very nature that dissuaded women from drawing too near. For Haute believed that he deserved a wife, he deserved a pretty little family with dutiful children and an even more beautiful wife. A woman to serve him to the end of his days, a woman to make him feel like a king.
One day, Haute traveled along the roads, journeying to another town to search for better marriage prospects. A young pocket realm sensed the longing for adventure, and Haute got whisked away into the realm-between. On that day, Haute entered the village square, fully in the middle of a revel. It was a confusing cacophony of sounds and smells, people pressing into streets too small, but no one seemed to mind.
At the center of all the celebration was a stage, constructed of rocks and flowers, complete with a flowing curtain of water that parted as mortals and fae creatures danced and performed together.
On that day, Haute saw her, and he knew his search was over forever.
She was gorgeous, out-of-this-world beautiful. The way her hair fell down her shoulders, the way her laughter carried, the way her wings shimmered in the sunlight.
Haute had fallen for Titania.
This was not the first time Titania had had a mortal suitor (see Shakespeare for more details. I’m told she still hasn’t let Oberon live that down). Oh, but it was the first time Haute felt love, true blinding love.
Haute could not know that nearly all mortal men had that reaction upon seeing Titania for the first time. Haute could not know that she placed such a charm on men because she was a fae creature, and the hearts of mortal men amused her.
So for her, it came as no surprise to see Haute approach, humbly take off his cap, and bow before her, proclaiming her beauty. Other men clamored to show their love was deeper and truer, pushing the young Haute out of the crowd and back to the streets. Just to infuriate the other men even more, she floated off the stage, gliding down the parting aisle until she helped Haute to his feet, kissing his cheek.
That single kiss sealed the fate of many.
Haute spent all his time with Titania, every waking moment, and the moments in between. His heart leapt every time she laughed, for no woman had ever laughed at his jokes before. No woman had ever caressed him the way she did. No woman would hold his hand, smiling a beautiful smile the way Titania did to him. She was the ultimate aphrodisiac, and Haute had no intention of stopping.
She would have to charm him to sleep, so great was his determination to spend every second with her. How she laughed, watching over him as he slept, at his stubbornness. He was a funny fellow, and that was all she needed. A funny little fellow. He knew she watched over him, and for Haute, nothing could have been better.
On their walks, if anyone complimented Titania, he would reaffirm his love for her was greater than their empty words. She giggled, ruffling her hands through her hair. (It should be noted that Haute was a short, stout man; Titania towered over him by a good two feet, maybe more. I’ve never met Titania, so I can’t be certain) Haute was so fun, for she could string him up like a set of pearls and he would gladly do so, anything for his Ania (Yes, she even allowed pet names. I’m sure if anyone saw them they’d be disgusted by their overly affectionate conversation).
But time went on, as it so often did, and Haute began to feel his age. He knew his time with his Ania was short, and he couldn’t envision a life without her.
So he tried to tell her, “My love, I cannot bear to live without you.”
She giggled, “You lived without me your whole live until now. You will live once I’m gone.”
“You do not understand, I don’t want to live without you.”
“They all say that.”
“I mean it.”
“They say that too.” Titania giggled again, an idea popping into her head. “Prove to me your love is true, Haute. Bring me a blossom of spring in winter, a snowflake in summer, and the greatest treasure you possess. No cheating and asking anyone for help.” She pressed a finger to his lips, winking as she laughed again. “If you get help, I will know it.”
Well, Haute got right to work. The blossom of spring in winter was simple. He’d just dig up a tulip or some other flower and get it to bloom in the dead of winter. The snowflake in summer would be harder. How would he conjure a snow storm? She had said no cheating, which meant that there was no one among the fae he could ask for help. And no one in the mortal realm would help him. They would call him a fool, send him on his lonely way. Haute would not be made fun of, not when his love was at stake.
And then there was the problem of treasure. Haute had no possessions, nothing but the clothes on his back and a meager hut. That would not do. If he was to be a worthy husband, his wife, his Ania, should have a palace fit for a queen. A home she could stretch out in, not have to fear the cold. Land stretching out as far as the eyes can see. A proper kingdom of their own.
There was one thing Haute had skill in: crafting. It was a simple income, but Haute had a talent for getting wood and stone to bend to his will, to see the lines and fractures that would give birth to something entirely new.
And it was there he got the idea to carve Titania her flower. She deserved a flower that would last, last as long as his love for her would. Out of stone he made the snowflake, one that would not be melted by the heat of the sun. It was only mid-autumn, and Haute still had plenty of time to deliver all three promises by next summer.
But the winter passed, and Haute still had no treasure to give her. He gave her the wooden rose, her favorite flower, and she hung it in the town square, painting it with magic. But Haute felt her smile hid a secret, that she knew his love wasn’t enough.
Spring came, and Haute began journeying abroad to find the treasure. There was no such luck; and he returned midsummer to offer his snowflake to her.
Time pressed on. While Titania hadn’t given him a deadline to complete his task, Haute feared that a year would be too long, and she’d leave him for another man. No, he had to prove to her that he loved her best. That he was the best match for her. That he was more worthy than anyone else to wed the Queen of Fairies.
And that doubt and fear grew a darkness no one could see. It gnawed at Haute, pushing him to be more unkind. He refused to serve someone unless he got something in return. He wouldn’t give favors unless he arranged the terms. Most attributed this change as stress from Titania’s demands. But none saw that his heart changed.
At length, fall arrived, a cooler breeze here, a lighter leaf there. For Haute, it meant he ran out of time. He left the hidden realm, returning to his own to buy drink with what little coin he had. He had lost Titania’s love, he knew it. He had failed. As the sun sank and the moonless night approached, a chance encounter would change the world forever.
A rich man, once a baker’s son, now a lord, approached the tavern bar, telling tales of conquest and riches. Haute hung on every word. Like Haute, he’d been a poor man, living on nothing but the scraps of society. But he’d stumbled on a secret place, one filled with jewels and treasures. After a while, most of the other patrons stopped believing his tales, but Haute knew better. The man had found a secret in the hidden realm, one only he knew about.
Haute sidled up next to him, smiling a wicked smile. “I know what you speak his true,” he said in a low voice. “But I need to see it for myself. Humor me, and show me where your riches come from.”
And the young lord did. Into the woodland realm they traveled, torchlight and starlight guiding the way. They came to a cave, hidden away in a more rocky part, blending into the mountains. Inside, the gold and jewels shimmered with their own light.
This treasure certainly would fit the request Titania had given to him. But he didn’t own it. Perhaps he could convince the lord to give him a part of the treasure—
He won’t give you anything. He was poor like you. You don’t give away what you’ve worked so hard to get.
Certainly, but maybe there was something of great value that he would be willing to part—
He will give you nothing, Haute. If the roles were reversed, you wouldn’t be giving away your gold. He’d steal your Ania!
But I need the treasure! It’s not mine to take.
It would be…if he was dead.
The thought chilled him. Still, he asked, “Who else knows of this cave?”
The young lord laughed. “None, but the two of us. You’re the only one who’s believed me, the only one who’s come to see the truth.”
And the truth is, once he’s dead, it will be yours. He shared the secret with you. You have as much a share in that treasure as he does. Take it or you’ll never have Titania’s love.
It was too easy, too quick. Haute stabbed the man, tossing his body down the rocks and mountain, and in the darkness…it was a simple accident. He’d lost his footing and slipped down the hill. Haute couldn’t go after him, not without risking his own life. A cold chill swept through the woodland realm. It was murder, and its stain could not be undone.
The cave began to change, unknown to Haute. The cave reflected the heart of the one who found it, and it widened, deepened into a cavern with no end, for nothing could fill it. That is what it became, but the treasure dimmed, losing its luster.
Haute brought Titania to the cave that morning. She giggled, saying that the greatest treasure was his heart, as she kissed him. Oh, she would regret that kiss. She would regret everything she ever did with him. But, as he’d fulfilled his end of the bargain, Titania granted immortality to Haute.
Mortals who obtain immortality are rare. Generally, the gift is given to the elderly, one who is so beloved that their death would dim the world a little. Occasionally, a young person can get the gift, provided they show maturity and wisdom beyond their years. The reason it is not given is because immortal appetites do not fit within a mortal body. Immortal appetites are hard to control, even for the most experienced immortal.
Haute’s personal vices doubled, grew stronger. But Titania had left, so Haute was left alone to wait for her, wait in the cave where the treasures kept disappearing, not that he noticed. He watched for her return…but he couldn’t wait anymore. He needed a pretty girl, he needed one or he would die.
So, newfound immortality in hand, Haute left to go stalk the world for a pretty face, one he would keep forever. One who would satisfy the lust raging inside him.
It was the beginning of Haute’s reign of terror.
Rumors crept up of a demon stalking after young girls, following them home, preventing them from running away. Whispers of a smile in the dark, a promise of power, only to have your soul stolen, or even worse. Haute’s crimes grew in number, and so did his dark power. By the time Titania returned to the cave, Haute had hundreds of people enslaved, and more that he’d killed. Haute had several dens where he kept his prisoners, all scattered within and without the Woodland Realm.
Titania saw the state of the cave and the harsh truth chilled her: It was dark, emanating with greed, lust, hatred, and murder. Murder had first morphed it, and the other dark things had grown from there. And it had all been for her, for her love.
For her love that was a lie.
By then, it was too late to undo what had been done. There was only the war to stop Haute and seal him away.
But that’s a tale for another night.