Time of Fables- the world of The Woods

Nobody knows how or why the Myeri first came onto dry land from the sea. Maybe they fled from the Nuckalevee which stalks the depths looking for its prey, maybe they were driven out by the Merrows, maybe they came from another world entirely and entered this one through a watery gateway. Whatever the cause, the Myeri were the first to come upon the land of the humans. The humans themselves, living among arable plains and freshwater springs in the heart of the land, rarely came into contact with the Myeri who preferred to cling to the seashore, some fashioning boats and most living off fishing rather than farming or gathering.

The Myeri built a great castle on the cliffs overlooking the sea at Chulaine where they first came to land. This was their capital and court and clans came to Chulaine to resolve differences and settle disputes. Chulaine was also the seat of their magic which was drawn from a great piece of coral at its heart. This coral they had brought with them from their watery realm and it was sacred to the Myeri as the source of their power. Yet it was also a beacon to others from beyond that world, and so it came to the attention of the Fae. Called the ‘World Dancers’ by those who know them, the Fae had learnt to use the natural portals in trees and rock to cross between worlds, gathering wealth and followers from all realms. The Fae were tall, beautiful to look upon and delicate in their manners yet they were cruel and vain and proud and consumed all they found. The things they judged fair and attractive they nurtured for their own delight. That which offended their sensibilities were cast out, exiled to the desolate corners of the worlds they conquered. The coral’s power called across the divides to the Fae and so they came.

Whilst the Myeri were yet unaware of the Fae, the World Dancers encircled the castle with an enchantment of sleep. Entering the castle unopposed they made their way to the coral, yearning for its power foremost in their minds. Once at the chamber they discovered a wonder beyond anything they had imagined. Vain desire gripped them and they fought each other for possession of the artefact. As they grabbed at the vibrant purple tendrils bits of the coral began to crack off in their hands. Soon it had been reduced to fragments, scattered among the Fae who later had their artisans fashion them into jewellery and intricate carvings. The castle they cast into the sea, sheering it from the rock on which it stood. The Fae then set turned their gaze inland and saw the lush, fertile fields and forests around them. They set about claiming the land as their own. Gates to other worlds they opened in the woods and hills, beings from other realms they brought in to work the rich seams of gold and silver they discovered in the mountains and the remaining Myeri they drove into the swamps and fens along with all other sentient beings, or almost all. In one species did they recognise the seeds of their own race, for humanity, despite its primitive nature, displayed the same qualities as themselves; arrogance, covetousness, selfishness and the creativity to manipulate others and their environment to achieve their own ends. These characteristics the Fae nurtured, adopting the humans as children. Together they built great cities, towering palaces and lived a life of luxury, whilst on the borders of their realm the lands fell, abandoned, into ruin and the creatures brought by the Fae from other worlds were left to scratch a living as best they could, or else undertake harsh toil for the benefit of their self-indulgent masters and their human pets.

The discovery deep in their hearts of an affection for beings besides themselves caught the Fae unawares and so they were trapped and their doom sealed, for the humans exceeded even the expectations of the Fae in their creative cruelty and began to aspire to supremacy. Fearing that the humans had learnt too much, the Fae withdrew from the centre of the civilisation they had created. Some departed the world entirely, others took up residence in remote parts of the woods and hills, guarding the gates to other realms lest the humans should discover them and learn how to walk to other places and expand their empire beyond the confines of one world. Overnight the Fae vanished entirely from human sight, and within generations they were just a memory, then a myth, almost forgotten.  Still the Fae watched, waiting for the human race to settle back into primitivism, and without their mentors the human settlements fell into ruin. Surely the humans would have perished if not for the other beings, “Faeries” as the humans called them; confusing them with their former masters in ignorance and forgetfulness. These beings were more simple, humble and kind than those that had brought them there. They taught the humans how to respect the nature of their world and work with it rather than exploit it for their sustenance. But the ‘Faeries’ knew why the Fae had picked humanity as their pet project, they knew the spark of pride and desire which sat at the heart of the human spirit and so they stayed apart from the humans for the most part.

Human society settled largely into small rural communities. Children worked the land with their parents and learned the family trades. As they to grew to adulthood their parents would tell them the stories of the Faerie Folk who lived the other side of the fields, in the woods and beyond them where the mountains and hills stretched for miles or the wetlands ran down to the shimmering sea. When the time came for them to leave the home and start their own lives they would be given enough supplies in dried food for a year’s travel and sent out into the world to seek their fortune. Upon returning with the marks of adulthood upon them; courage, luck, wisdom, love, freedom, loyalty and family, they would be welcomed back into the community as fully fledged members and given their own lands to farm and livestock to tend. Only when they were able to recount tales of their adventures which proved to the village elders they had achieved these qualities were they accepted as responsible adults and given permission to marry and raise children. Thus the grains of cruelty and malice were slowly eradicated from the human race.

Of course, not all the creatures the questing youths would encounter on their travels were kind to them. Many had suffered greatly at the hands of the humans and the Fae and their lives and memories are longer than those of mortal folk. Yet these dangers proved just as valuable in learning the traits of maturity as the more benign encounters.  The Fae had a name for those who would not follow them, they called them ‘Unseelie’ and banished them to walk in darkness and on the margins of Fae society. They became nocturnal by habit. Those Fae which remained to watch the humans generally acted amiably when met by human folk, desiring to keep their trust, afraid of the capacity they had seen in the mortals or touched by a compassionate affection for humanity they themselves would never affirm. Some of the young mortals who ventured from home into the dark unknown of the woods never returned. Of these, many perished, especially those who have ventured out too early, unprepared or during the wrong season, victims of violence, mishap or the enchantments woven by the Faeries to keep their settlements secret. Several, though, found their home in the ways of the Faerie Folk and became adopted into the lives of the otherworldly creatures they met, preferring to remain rather than to return home to more mundane lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment