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19 June 2005 @ 06:46 pm
Chapter 1: Prologue  
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Chapter One: Prologue

There was a time, many years ago, when the Fae were not merely creatures from the realm of legend. When they shared the rolling lands of Aremorica with humans, and there was a comfortable, if not entirely amicable, truce between the two.

There was warfare between the three main mortal lands of Aremorica. The Faery king, Morvan, tried to mediate, without success. His son, Gwiomarch, succeed where he had failed, but the peace he brought about was short-lived.

It was an unsteady and war-torn realm that his daughter, Nominoë, inherited, but where her forebears had been peaceful, she was of the mind that peace came not from talking but from the wielding of swords.

She swept down from her castle in the far-west and informed the mortals they would unite or die. They balked at being forced to conciliate by a female. She laughed and said that their fates would be at her hands one way or another; whether they chose life or death meant nothing to her. She was just tired of all the bickering.

Most chose life, which pleased her. She was a woman who preferred silence.

Her daughter was much the same, though Erispoë displayed far more of her grandsire’s pacifist tendencies than her dame. She was ambitious, as peacemaking went, and sought not only to keep her own lands calm and prosperous, but heal the divide between her people and the Fae to the north, across the Channel.

The Cymru. Ah, they were a proud and contentious people, passionate in a way the Aremoricans had never been able to comprehend. It was no wonder, really, that their ancestors had left Cymry and settled in Aremorica, if only to have a few moments’ peace from the battering of emotions, from the fighting and loving and—for the love of Modron—the singing.

A musical people as well as contentious, the Cymru. Their history was recorded not in tomes or scrolls but in songs, songs so old that one could almost hear the words crumbling like ancient parchment. Erispoë travelled to Cymry in her quest to create a bond between the two lands and, upon confrontation with all that passion-- felt her mother’s irritation rise up in her.

Oh, how she longed for some quiet.

But it was not to be, for the only truce the Cymru would agree to was a bond of marriage, and the only candidate they would offer was a handsome young Fae named Drestan. It meant “tumult” and indeed, he whirled through life in a storm of gesture and word and snippets of song, hair and hands flying in every direction at once.

Erispoë spent one hour in his presence and knew they would not suit, for she too was a woman who preferred silence. That mere hour left the room they’d shared in a riot of disorder as Drestan had felt a need to inspect and comment upon nearly every item in it. Not a thing was left untouched by him, and he seemed to have a particular aversion to replacing something just as he’d found it; the chairs were all shifted, the small table moved across the room, and the items on the mantel had all been rearranged.

As for Erispoë, she’d been thoroughly kissed and fondled, then left behind with a flash of a grin as Drestan left to disrupt someone else’s life. She touched her swollen mouth with fingertips that trembled and knew, knew, that they’d end up killing each other in one way or another.

It was to her misfortunate that, along with a preference for quiet, she had a stronger-than-average talent for prescience.

With no other option, Erispoë had wed Drestan, and he set about driving her mad in short order. She discovered that a clash of personality such as they shared could be highly conducive to great attraction, and the first years of their marriage were spent in a haze of equal amounts of sex and arguing.

So distracted were they by their newfound dynamic that Drestan failed to concern himself as he ought toward their security, and Erispoë let languish her previous grasp of international relations. There were a number of Bright Folk, both Aremorican and Cymru, who were greatly displeased that their centuries-long dissent was at a close, for they felt that vengeance had not nearly been adequately wrought, nor that blood had been sufficiently spilled.

And so they plotted. The Cymru plotted for the return of their prince, and the Aremoricans for the liberation of their queen, and as often happens, the plots tangled, became ensnared, and in the end, there were nothing but tears. Erispoë was dead, assassinated by a Cymru, and the Aremoricans arrested and convicted Drestan for his failure to protect her. Of the fate of their newborn child, nothing was known.

The two lands descended into war, fell into it as easily as tumbling into the sea. Many of the Fae died in battle, and the fighting began to spill over from the Faery lands to those of the mortals.

Who were greatly displeased.

In the century since Nominoë had presented the human lords with her ultimatum, changes had swept their ranks. A new faith had come, one which taught the mortals to fear what was strange, and that that which the Bright Folk held dear was anathema, was wrong, was sin.

What had once been a seamless nation frayed, then split completely. Mortals withdrew from whatever relationships of community, of trade, even of family, that they had enjoyed with the Fae, and a rift began that would never again be breached. The Fae withdrew as well; pulled back to their castles and forests, ceased their travel and guarded their borders. They began to refer to the mortals as “mundanes”, and would switch routes to avoid interaction if they met some on the road.

In secret, the mortals began thinking of ways to remove the blight of Faery from their land, even going so far as to espouse the ancient magic they’d given up for the new faith to reach their goal. They knew that, even with superior numbers, the Bright Folk outclassed them with skill, strength, endurance, and experience. In open warfare, there was no question of failure.

But if one were to employ more surreptitious means…

It was slow going, this treachery. In frustration, one bright young cleric suggested they return the Fae back to where they’d come from—for surely, such an unworldly people were not from this plane?

And so it was; long had there been tales of faeries living beneath the ground, and with a bit of researching it was found that they could indeed return them there, albeit with an enormous amount of work and cunning. But with more mortals dying by the day, it was deemed infinitely worthy of such an endeavor.

They found a way, but not the power. One year blurred into two as they sought a source strong enough to allow their meager mortal spirits to undertake such a feat, and another—this time a wizened old woman—suggested that they employ the same power that made the Fae so damned hard to kill in the first place.

“The menhirs?” asked the bright young cleric.

She nodded. “The menhirs.”

Menhirs were stones, tall and carved, placed along the ley lines that channeled energy around the earth. They were as dear to Faery as anything could be, used since time immemorial in ceremonies and commemorations. The Fae were said to be able to converse with the things.

And so these old, old stones, soaked in ritual and blood and history, were pressed into a betrayal, their might used as fuel to lend force to the spell that would rip open the wall between this world and the next and shove through every last one of the Bright Folk.

When the day came, it dawned murky and wet, with the sky weeping down rain as if it knew the fate of its beloved children. The Fae went about their business, though some of its more sensitive numbers were aware of a faint prickling at the outer corners of their minds; a feeling of not fitting quite right in their skins.

Then the pull. Fingers, suddenly nerveless and without strength, could not grasp or hold, and feet lost any traction on ground now slick as the wet stones on the beach. There was no time for panic, no time for breath to become scream, just that inexorable pull

…the space of a heartbeat, of colour leached from the very sky above…

…and they were gone. The earth had lost its magic, and the land felt dimmer, greyer, poorer somehow for its lack.

Everyone felt that lack, though none would own to it. Instead, they spoke of how much better it was now. Soon, there were distractions aplenty, with Crusades to fight and plagues to survive, and the Bright Folk came to be consigned to history, then to legend, then finally to myth.

But that does not mean they did not continue to exist. No, in that other world, that place of their exile, they struggled to comprehend, and fought to survive.

And survive they did.