Monday, 11 July 2016

[ the land not quite beyond our shores - part 2 ]

Good stories tell you where the characters came from, who their family is, what they do, and what their wider world is like. They fill in the gaps of why characters do what they do, who they love and swear allegiance to, and where their loyalties in life lie.

At least all my favourite tales do. I'd like to tell you a little of the backstory of the fae and their clans, their leaders and their courts. There are so many wonderful elements, that I'll start from the top and work my way down. From the rulers to the ruled, and those who pledge themselves to each court, to those who were born what they are and their legacy flowed into the human world.

Sometimes the stories are linear, sometimes they branch out into other lives and other realms. Some of them even disappear, never to return.

And some stories, the really special, incredible ones, come back to make us dream again in the modern world...


The workings of Faery are a wondrous and mysterious thing, and many of them have evolved since moving into the human world. Some more so than others, but all have a deep connection to each other, an unbreakable bond that has remained throughout the centuries.

The High Court of Faery is the most powerful and remarkable of them all, though not much is known of its exact origin or denizens. Being the first of the courts, the High Court retains much of its original power and continues to shroud itself in magic so old that even time is said to lie down for it.

Here, it is thought that the fates of all Fae are woven into different destinies, with many paths springing from these threads. The High Court is considered to be the home of the Norns, or weavers of fate, women-like beings who know all, see all and understand all.

It is unclear today if the High Court has a supreme ruler, but it is believed that the incarnation of the Goddess resides there occasionally, watching her children from this pocket of extreme magical concentration, and dipping her hand into their lives when she chooses.

Long ago, people conceived that all the Courts came from this one, all the peoples of Faery once were one court together. There is no one clear story of how the separation came about or why, but the strength of belief in the High Court remains, and stories of astral visits to the Court for revelations or spirit journeys still abound.

The rulers and peoples of all the other lands show respect for this place, though perhaps in a more detached way in these modern times. With no evidence that it does not exist, the Fae believe that it does. Unlike humans, this is enough, and strength of faith among the Fae is a mighty force.

The most well-known and prolific of the Courts then are the Seelie and Unseelie. Polar opposites, but two sides of the same coin, these courts encompass smaller courts as well as beings who pledge allegiance by birth or design.

Thought to be all sweetness and light, the Seelie Court are said to be the most helpful to humans. The original ''fair ones'', the Seelie were ruled by a Queen and King, of names I'm sure you've heard before; Titania and Oberon.

The faery queen and king had 5 children, a daughter of which was said to be the heir to the throne. Not much is known of Aoine, except that in a great battle she lost her left eye. In Seelie society, this disfigurement would make her somewhat of an outcast, marring her cold beauty. But that she is royalty, no one dare mention it. Her prowess as a warrior is considerable, but her looks and her station are what matters in the Seelie Court.

The Seelie come across as wondrous beings of light and sunshine, playful and compassionate, with many gifts to share. In many circumstances this may be true, but care must be taken with all Court Fae; they are all ruthless in their own way. The Seelie are much more manipulative and political about it. They will offer you the whole world while stabbing you deeply in the back. 

To be fair however, Seelie faeries mainly look to do good deeds in the world. As the higher rulers of Spring and Summer, they are in their element when it comes to beauty, art, music, popular culture and anything involving large groups of people celebrating. 

Today, no one can be certain who rules the Seelie. It is believed that Aoine has taken the mantle of Queen from her mother, but under what circumstances cannot be said. Nor has there ever been mention of a current King.

In the modern world, these fae conduct themselves much like they would at Home; taking jobs relevant to their station if they are lucky, they conduct business and make deals carefully, crafting a web about themselves that feeds the loom of their lives. 

Seelie faeries are known to be polite, politically savvy and generally peace-loving. But remember, the fae are not human - if something does not bend to their design, they will inflict their will upon it until it does. 

On the opposite side of the same coin is the Unseelie Court. These fae are thought to be all the unnatural that the shining ones would not accept, but this is incorrect. 

The Unseelie were once thought to be the army, the hard warriors of the Fae. Their unrivalled power and talent on the battlefield made them unbeatable, and for a long time, it is believed that was all they were. 

Again here, a grain of truth mixed with a lot of mystery. The Unseelie are a Court in their own right, and always have been. They fought the battles that no one else was willing to, and this has given them a reputation as mercenaries and death-dealers. 

Supreme ruler of the Unseelie is Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, wielder of Night. Her titles have been woven into many stories of dark queens, but none match her best on their own. She rules the Unseelie alone, and has for many thousands of centuries. With only one son, believed to be the first Winter Knight, the power behind the Unseelie Court remains unbreakable. 

With such a fierce character, it is obvious to see why such fae are thought to be mischievous, cheeky and even nasty towards humans. The Unseelie however, have a good relationship with humanity in general, if a more blunt one than the Seelie. 

Their idea of a deal is straight-forward, black and white, with the sharp edge of a blade at the end of any problems. Do not mistake this for unsophisticated though. Unseelie may use brutal tactics, but they are tactics all the same. When you are dealing with these Fae, you may get stabbed, but you will see the blade coming. In some lights, this makes the Unseelie a very fair crowd to have dealings with. 

 Not surprisingly, Unseelie are in their element in during the darker hours. They enjoy combat training, raw, natural environments, and action. In their quieter moments, hot drinks, jobs that require physical labour, and animals delight them. 

The Seelie and Unseelie have overlapping qualities and interests. As they came from the same place, this is not so extraordinary, but the subtle differences are what make them worlds apart as opposed to their obvious, face-value ones. 

This is where the Seasonal Courts show their overarching sovereign true. Much like a modern government, each Season rules like a state would, and the Seelie and Unseelie like their country. Except, of course, much more literally and with a great deal more power shared around. 

The Spring Garden and the Summer Court fall under the Seelie. The most prolific of the fae, the Spring reside in a realm of constant gentle breezes, blooming flowers and blue skies. Their nature is easy, light and cheerful. Stories of helpful and caring faeries come most likely from interaction with a Spring Fae. They are constantly busy seeding crops and plans alike, moving briskly and with purpose through life. 

Separate but connected to their nobles, Spring fae have little use for disingenuousness as they have no real time for it. Much like worker bees, Spring Fae feed the greater mass with their deeds and lives, filtering energy throughout their people. 

The Summer Court has a little more sophistication to it; a centre for trade and commerce, these fae are more business-minded than their Spring cousins, but just as good-natured. They tend towards hard work with an inventive flair, and though their play is not as frivolous, they certainly party harder than most. 

Summer faeries are strong and vivid, passionate and hearty. If you feel a little like you are missing long, hot days filled with laughter and games, seek out these fiery beings and you won't be disappointed.

Following the warmer seasons are the equally intriguing but more mysterious Autumn Castle and Winter Crags, ruled by the Unseelie Court. 

The Autumn Castle is, in fact, a real castle. Colossal in proportion, it is difficult to tell where the Castle ends and the surrounding lands begin. Ruled by the inimitable Ivy of the Green, this is court of quiet reserve, deep strength, and immense power, much like Ivy herself. 

 Lady Ivy is said to be the daughter of Nathaniel, leader of the Queen Mab's army, The Coming Dark - but more on them later. 

Ivy herself is a slight creature, slim with wiry strength and skin like very milky coffee. Her hair is the burnt orange of Autumn leaves and her eyes are green as forest ponds. She is gloriously beautiful but notoriously elusive and spends much of her time in the depths of the Castle doing no one knows what. 

Rumour has it that her sister - the Jack - lives in the human world, and that one day she will seek her out to fulfil an old quest from their childhood. But these are very old stories indeed, and have yet to bear fruit. 

The Autumn inhabitants live lives of quiet stability, watching the ever-changing worlds with a steady eye. These fae are known to be reserved and down to earth, but with a hearty passionate side that comes only with familiarity. They play the long game and they play to win; work and spend time with these faeries if you wish for long term goals or plans to prosper.

Finally, the wild and unforgiving Winter Crags are home to the most mysterious of our faerie brethren. As the name suggests, this Courts' home is situated high in mountains, surrounded by mist and ice, a truly dire expedition to attempt if you wish to seek these folks out. 

Ruthless and harsh, the Winter Court is the cold right hand of the Unseelie Queen herself. It is said that her son, the first Winter Knight, was born there and though it is forbidden to speak of, the presumption is that this is where his father came from. 

Winter Fae should be approached with caution and only in extreme. Their frigidity is known to make even the most confident of nobles crack under pressure, and they are unyielding beyond human comprehension. 

Do not mistake this for unemotional or unsympathetic however. The polar opposite but still kin of their Spring cousins, Winters feel things most intensely. These are warriors of the highest order, some of whom are the members of the Queens' Guard. They will fight to death for a cause true to their hearts, their sisters' and brothers', and most importantly,  their sovereigns'. 


As mentioned, a few of the key figures throughout Faerie overlap, mixing with the lesser Courts', but owing their ultimate allegiance to their supreme ruler.

Of the notable figures and groups, we have the armies of each Court and their champion, and it is important to understand how each of these entities work in modern times.

The Seelie corps are called the The Light Brigade and the Unseelie, The Coming Dark. Each collective are a truly terrifying thing on their own, and heavens help us all should they ever find reason to work together. That being said, these days they spend much of their time in minor skirmishes with each other, rumoured purely to keep the blood fresh as no greater game has presented itself.  

A Summer and Winter Knight lead these armies, respectively. They embody all the best features and skills of their realms and are generally related directly to the throne. Each is chosen by a right of magic when the predecessor passes, and no one knows how or when this may happen. 

The current Summer Knight is a cousin by blood to the Seelie throne and has been so for as long as memory serves. He lives and fights within Faery itself, and is said to have never left, and people say he has absolutely no desire to do so. With no interesting upheavals presenting themselves, he will continue in place for the foreseeable future.

Winter is more complicated. As discussed, Mab only had one son, and he disappeared many, many years ago. Some thought he had died, but without a body or idea of what had taken place, this seemed unlikely. 

Claimed to be in a magical sleep, the essence of the Winter Knight was said to have carried over to the human realm in search of a host to bring him back to life. Souls are a curious thing to the fae, and being incarnated or having the essence of a being manifest is not so strange. 

With that in mind, it is said that The Winter Knight manifested in recent times in a human male but didn't take. Like most things, without acceptance the essence faded and moved on. It is believed that it continues to search to this day in order to restore the true and rightful Knight to himself. 

Currently leading The Coming Dark then is Nathaniel, a noble of high birth and reputed to be an occasional lover to the Queen. Strong and forthright, Nathaniel has garnered respect among his legion and continues to this day. There is no mention of how things will change should, or perhaps when, The Winter Knight returns, but what is interesting to note is how far Nathaniel's blood runs presently.

Ivy of the Green, as mentioned, is said to be his pureblood daughter, and rules the Autumn Castle. His other daughter, whose name is unclear, was chosen in a obscure magical rite as The Jack to the Unseelie Court. 

The Jack, without being too blunt, is exactly what it sounds like; a jack-of-all-trades, a handyperson, a troubleshooter. But being faerie, this means much more than a 'fixer'. Here, it also means assassin. 

But this Jack is a half-breed, a mixed blood of fae and human, whom would never have been accepted at Court on her own. But that she is Nathaniel's daughter, there would have been outrage. Curious then that she is accepted, no? Nothing is ever straightforward in Faery. 

Here, it is time to mention again how tricksy and political faeries are. A long game is being performed by many players here, and a wise one would do well to keep their eye on all the players. You can never be sure who might do what, where, or to whom. 

What do faeries dream of then? What wishes, hopes and dreams do they aspire to in a world that is not their world? Do they all wish to leave Faery, a home that is not quite as home used to be? Or do they wish to return from the human world, a place they never considered welcoming, but has opened their eyes to the future? 

Another story for another time from the land not quite beyond our shores...


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