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21 June 2005 @ 10:54 pm
Chapter Two  
Better read Chapter One first if you haven't already. Remember to check the Glossary for words you're having trouble with.

Chapter Two

The place where the Fae were sent was not far removed from where they had been, all told. The similarities were many, the differences few. The sky had a touch more purple in it than blue, and the water was just that much greener. But the lands were rich, and it would be no true hardship to make it their home.

Some, the wisest of them, had maintained the presence of mind to watch as they had been pulled in to wherever they were. They spoke of a great gap in the earth at the base of a mountain, the ground turned into a wide maw that swallowed them whole, and the tale was borne out by the fact that, though the sky was vast, there was a hardness to it that spoke of it having an upper limit.

Edern of Aremorica took his hawk-form and Branwen the Cymry that of a white raven, and they soared heavenward. Ascending, the sky seemed to thicken, and their wings grew heavier until they felt as if they were flying into a stiff wind. When they could go no further, when their wings beat furiously merely to stay aloft, Branwen reached out with her beak and touched it to the barrier before them.

Sizzling, and a croak of pain burst from her throat at the surge that scorched her. Falling back, the weight that had held her wings released and she tumbled swiftly toward the sea below. Edern called upon every reserve of speed within him, though Branwen was Cymry and an enemy, and caught her before she could crash into the merciless waves.

On the ground once more, Branwen resumed her natural form and her people spirited her away to heal and comfort. As they carried her off, she called back to Edern, “My thanks, Aremorican. Know there is no feud between us.”

Their discovery was not a welcome one. “The sky is endless no more,” some lamented, despairing. “There is neither sun nor moon. We have lost everything.”

It was Arianrhod, silver and sage, who saw that to put a name to a thing was to tame it, and it was she who first called this strange place Annwn(1) . Many, being of a practical bent, embraced both the name and the place, and set forth to make a claim somewhere in it. But others would not be soothed, and though this place might be Annwn, they declared, still the other would ever remain Adlam(2).

Their cries faded with the passing of days and were silenced, soon enough, as the need for provisions and shelter grew pressing. It was then that the Bright Folk, always more in tune with the inherent power of the earth, made a discovery of grave and wondrous importance.

‘Bewitchment’ some called it; others, ‘the black arts’, and still more, ‘magic’. Whatever the name, the result was the same: this new world of theirs was even more rife with the ability to weave spells and affect reality than their former home. 

But even with this magic, opening a door to Adlam could not be done. They tried, they strove, but without their books and instruments the Fae were sorely tried to remedy their imprisonment, and they fell back, discouraged.

The mere fact of their plight had not healed the rift between the peoples of Cymru and Aremorica, and even swordless, without provisions, the war raged on. Only when each side had lost too many to carry on did they cry truce and limp away.

It came to pass within the first century after their exile that the Cymru were situated in the mountains, craggy and steep, that fell from cliffs to the crashing sea below while the Aremoricans claimed the rolling pasture-land further inland. Trade between the two was forbidden, but that had never stopped crafty merchants eager to make a coin even when they had been in Adlam; nor would it obstruct them here.

After a second century, both realms were well-established, and few of the Fae still pined for Adlam. But a curious thing came to their notice, once there were no other pressing demands on their attention. It was long past the time when those lost in the wars should have returned to them, their souls housed in the flesh of newborn infants. Some had returned to them, but many more had not.

Curiosity evolved to concern, which grew to a point where the lords of each realm met to discuss the matter. Accomplishing this détente was no mean feat, and the most each would agree to was the span of a single meal. Gwyn ap Nudd, ruler of the Aremoricans, was uneasy to break bread with Arawn of the Cymry, but break it he did, in the interest of solving this mystery.

They agreed that now, having had decades upon decades to learn the ways of Annwn, they were better equipped to search for a way back to Adlam, and came away from their assemblage having vowed to look into it to the fullest of their abilities.

To that end, Gwyn assigned the greatest and most powerful of his mages, Math, to investigate the matter. Math in turn enlisted the help of his nephew, the alchemist Gwyddion. Between the two of them, they manipulated air and earth, water and flame. A year and a day, they laboured, and finally the gentian-coloured sky split; just for a moment, but it was enough.

Arawn, for his part, had drawn to his side wise and irascible old Cerridwen, the witch. Where Math and Gwyddion broached their mutual plight with science, her way was intuitive, was instinctual, was ephemeral. She settled comfortably into her guise of a sow, for it was easier to be entranced while in animal’s form, and reached out tendrils of power and perception. Such was her strength that she could sense the life-force of every last one of the Fae in Annwn, could know their position as clearly as if they were marked on a map.

For a year and a day she kept this guise, searching the ethers, and discovered many things. While the world of Adlam had been endless, she learned that Annwn most definitely had boundaries to it both tangible and intangible. Her mind flew up, up, until it encountered the far edge of the sky and could go no further. She focused on feeling the souls of those who had passed but were not present, and waited.

And then she perceived it, the rip in the sky, and her mind dove through. There, on the far side—it was they, the ones she sought! Elation and triumph filled her until she realized that, though their souls were intact, the bodies they wore held the taint of death.

Shocked, Cerridwen forgot herself, lost her control, and was cast out of the trance and back to Faery form when the sky slammed back together with a terrific crash. Her son, Afagddu, helped her to stand, concern creasing his homely face.

“What have you learned, Mother?” he asked gravely, as was his way. “Were you successful?”

“I was,” she replied, limbs still trembling and unsteady, and gathered her calm around her like a cloak.

To Arawn she went. His holdings were marked with the lavish prosperity he enjoyed as a result of a cauldron in his possession. Enchanted and powerful, it rendered healthy and lush the lands around it for a score of leagues. In the courtyard of his home stood the cauldron itself, and carefully she circled it, for the touch of flesh against its cold bronze would break the sorcery giving the cauldron its power.

“Come,” called Arawn, surrounded by his red-eared dogs, and came forth with his hand out to her. “Share your news with me.”

“The barrier between the worlds is so complete, so thorough, that nothing may pass through it,” Cerridwen told him, and accepted the seat he offered, “not even the spirits of the dead. With no other houses for their souls, our departed have been reborn to mortal flesh.”

Arawn’s face was still, betraying no emotion, but when he spoke, his voice shook. “Then the dead are truly lost to us? Forever?”

Cerridwen’s mind, never still, darted toward a sliver of hope like a minnow, quicksilver. “There might be a way,” she began. “If the mages of Gwyn were able to rend the sky for just a moment, perhaps they could, in time, open it for longer.”

“Then we must learn what they did to make it so, and entreat them to do it again. I will not leave our kin to the tender mercies of those… wolves.” He stood, resolve plain in the tension of his limbs. “No, we must breach the boundary and bring back our own.”

1. Annwn (ah-NOON) has two meanings, both apt. ‘An’ means both “very” and “not”; ‘nwn’ means both “deep” and “world”. So Annwn means both “the very deep place” and “the not-world”.
2. Adlam = home, base to which one returns, as in a homing pigeon.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Cat Power - Werewolf
dragonfly_dance on June 23rd, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC)

Wow...just, wow.

*is speechless*

You have any idea how long I've been waiting for someone to write a story like this? There are so many fairy tales out there, but they're all written from the perspective of the humans who encounter them. Fascinating to read one from the perspective of the fae themselves.

I'm really loving this.
Piffle, yes, but superior piffle.hardlyfatal on June 25th, 2005 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Spectacularly Adequate Empressempressvesica on June 29th, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC)
Wow. And did I mention - Wow.

I am so in love with this world.
Piffle, yes, but superior piffle.hardlyfatal on June 29th, 2005 03:49 pm (UTC)
[does a jig]

Yay! I'm so glad! I can't wait to see what you end up writing about :)