1. She was, of course, said to be the most beautiful queen ever known, but that description was applied to many queens over the years and may not have had any basis in reality. The insult about her eyes, which compared them to unpleasant, nauseating stars, is, however, well attested.

2. The Court of the Ruby Mists protested, then and later, that the tales of how they had seated and then unseated no less than four Roman emperors were no more than malicious allegations and that their reputation for being quick to battle and war was undeserved. The Court of the Captured Swans made no such claims.

3. The gem in question was lost about five hundred years later, so nothing about it can be known for certain. It was perhaps a natural blue diamond and, given mortal technology at the time, probably cut by non-mortal hands. The enchantments placed on it are also a matter of supposition, but certainly the obsession over it indicates that the jewel has some ability to affect emotions, perhaps caused by some unnatural alteration to it.

4. The elaborate, rigid Court system of later centuries was only just becoming rigidified at this time, which left members free to travel from one Court to another more freely than in later years. While for the most part innocuous or even beneficial, the tensions created by some of these contacts helped shape the later rules binding the Courts.

5. Most unfortunately, the Court of the Ruby Mists hid their library behind crystalized waterfalls for safekeeping; the bindings of ossified moonlight eventually cracked from the humidity, destroying many of the Court’s records.

6. The origins of this tradition are lost to antiquity, but the rule appears to predate the Courts and was by all accounts adhered to here.

7. During this period, some Courts used Latin as a lingua franca. Others preferred to master the various local vernaculars, and others banned the use of all mortal languages within their court. Any assumption that the listener would understand and speak Latin, and not be offended by its use, could be quite dangerous.

8. Most accounts agree that the Queen of the Ruby Mists took many lovers over the years. One account, however, insists that the Queen loved only one person, a member of another Court whom the account does not identify, and remained faithful to this person for her entire reign and even her life. Raidne Seiren considers this account fanciful; Tyronoe Ablach, in an otherwise exhaustive account, does not even mention it. Adele Lanyon Dormir, however, has argued that this passion may be the only explanation for the Queen’s actions before and during the battle.

9. Not all members of the Courts shared an aversion to cold iron; it was thought to be an unfortunate result of a former spell, itself possibly intended as a weapon in battle. Nonetheless, enough did that taking even a small fragment of cold iron into a Court was considered justification for battle.

10. This claim of imprisoned changelings has been disputed by the Court of the Captured Swans and does not appear in any of their official or unofficial histories.

11. Exactly what constituted a battle, of course, was another question. Some Courts claimed that the merest touch of weapons—which, in their view, could include anything from recognized instruments of death, such as swords and wands formed of willow wrapped in spider-silk, to a single note played on a harp—counted as a battle, while others preferred to restrict the term to meetings between multiple people, typically warriors, on a battleground, followed by an unwilling exchange of lands or goods from one Court to another. It is unclear if the third or fourth battles listed by the Queen of the Ruby Mists counted as battles under either of these definitions. Certainly the sixth, however, which had resulted in the loss of the gem, did.

12. The practice of determining battlegrounds by drawing lots had been largely abandoned after an unfortunate casting of lots had placed one battle directly on top of an unstable cliff, a second in a cursed lake, and a third in a mortal feasting hall. It is not clear why the Court of the Captured Swans insisted on returning to the practice in this case.

13. Inviting a friendly or rival Court to observe a battle was customary, though not required. A few strategists even suggested inviting three such Courts, to ensure neutrality and safety. Seven was considered excessive but was presumably justified in this case because this was the seventh battle.

14. Beyond the officially invited observers, two bards from the Court of the Twilight Herons, one ambassador from the Court of Jasper Midnight, and at least two scholars from the great libraries of Avalon were said to be in attendance. Although not all left full records of the event, their observations provide intriguing contrasts to the official accounts in the archives of the Courts of the Captured Swans and Ruby Mists.

15. The ability to grant mortal kingdoms at will was greatly prized, as a measure for controlling mortal populations, as a way to prevent kidnapped mortal aristocrats and peasants from taking revenge, and as entertainment. It is not surprising, therefore, that battles over mortal lands were not considered trivial, though they were generally seen as less important than battles over honor, love, and—as in this case—prized jewels.

16. The surviving eyewitness accounts were not written down for at least two hundred years after the battle. Fortunately, other sources of information exist: one or two enchanted paintings; oral accounts passed down through different Courts; and the seven ballads written by the seven witnessing Courts, still occasionally performed at the Court of the Five Silver Moons. These accounts largely agree in broad details and in listing the sequence of events but diverge greatly when discussing motivations.

17. This description is largely taken from Tyronoe Ablach’s exhaustive reconstruction of events, which focuses on the written account of Mazoe Glas-Foraoise.

18. The rules of warfare were first established approximately seven thousand years before the start of the Common Era, but even by this later date they were so fluid that they could hardly be considered rules. The later claims of both Courts that they did follow every law with precision must be given some merit.

19. So-called “fairy steel,” an enchanted alloy of tin and aluminum, had the advantage of being non-toxic to most members of the Courts but the decided disadvantage of being easy to penetrate and dent. A few courts forged fairy steel with copper, which did lend strength to the alloy, but made the resulting item more vulnerable to the electric charges created by many enchantments. Very few considered copper fairy steel safe to wear to a fairy battle, though that did not prevent the more reckless types from doing so.

20. The blacksmith in question may have been inspired by the mortal armor in use at the time, which perhaps explains its failure to protect the Queen’s heart.

21. “A sound loud enough to deafen seven kingdoms” is perhaps an exaggeration, but several people at the spot reported having difficulty hearing for several centuries afterwards.

22. A group of scholars from Avalon later determined that at least 92% of the Courts as then constituted recorded at least some effects from the detonation. Although a direct link has not been proven, the impact was probably felt by mortals as well, making them more susceptible to the Black Death, which ended their lands mere weeks later.

23. Swiftly removing the bodies of fallen leaders from battlefields was both a tradition and a safety measure, to ensure that the remains would not be stolen and potentially converted into poisons or used in enchantments. Presumably, no one saw the removal due to the ongoing chaos.

24. His grief, reportedly echoed by the cries of the surrounding captured swans, was taken by many to be excessive and by others inappropriate, given that his desire for the jewel—and three mortal kingdoms—had been at least one cause of the battle in the first place.

25. The conflicting claims perhaps explain why few believed their words.

26. This third mourner was never identified, though a few later claimed to have seen her—or him—carrying a large blue jewel.

27. Then, as now, the Courts moved slowly. It should not, therefore, particularly surprising that they needed one hundred years to agree on a location for a meeting for the negotiations. The surprise is that they needed only seven years to reach and sign an agreement.

28. Seven was not merely a magical number, nor the number of years spent in Council hammering out the details of the Agreement, but also, nearly all agreed, quite enough times to fight just one other entity.

29. Indeed, even before the ink—custom-made of starlight, despair, acorns, silver, and salt—had dried, at least one Court was already rejecting its intended spirit by dissolving itself and then reforming almost immediately under a new name. The new, reformed Court of the Risen Ashes, its Chancellor claimed, was a different entity than the former Court of the Rising Ashes and was thus free to engage in what would be its first battle, not its eighth, with the Court of the Indigo Sun. This sophist claim was naturally rejected by most scholars but too late to save the Court of Indigo Sun from a fierce attack by ash-covered bats.

30. After creating the ink, the Chancellor later enjoyed a distinguished career at the Court of the Twelve Emerald Songs, overseeing a flowering of songs and literature and devising a lengthy set of guidelines for changelings, which continued to be consulted for centuries.

31. Despite their peaceful intent, these contests of poetry and song could often be—and were—as deadly if not deadlier than most of the physical battles which had preceded them. Thus, several combatants chose to hold these contests in the vicinity of vacant tombs, as a savings of both cost and time.

32. The tomb was last approached by a mixed group of scholars from multiple Courts, the great libraries of the Twilight Clouds, and Avalon itself. They observed a dark object just behind the still-intact jeweled waterfall, as well as scattered soft green lights, a possible indication of a shattered spell. While considering their next options, all felt a powerful compulsion to leave immediately, soon followed by a shaking of the earth below. After a hasty discussion, they left, leaving the exact contents of the tomb still unknown.

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Other stories by Mari Ness appear on Tor.com and in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Apex, Baffling, Fireside, Nature Futures, Reckoning, Translunar Travelers Lounge, Diabolical Plots, and multiple anthologies. A tiny collection of tiny fairy tales, Dancing in Silver Lands, is available from Neon Hemlock, as well as an essay collection, Resistance and Transformation: On Fairy Tales, from Aqueduct Press--just part of a rumored obsession with fairy tales. For more, visit marikness.wordpress.com.

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