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Posts Tagged ‘fey’

This post is all grown up and ready to drink!  Twenty-one posts, nearly every week, (I said nearly damn it!)  I really didn’t think I’d stick with it this long.

 

In honor of the completely arbitrary number of 21, drinking and booze in general, let’s go back to Ireland for another of the many fey creatures running about.  Yes I know, there seems to be no end of the buggers.  I promise you something more exotic next week, but at least for now I’ll stick with the obscure.   Let’s talk clurichauns.

 

Clurichauns look like a lot of the fey, at least a lot of the traditional fey, which is to say small and ugly.  Sure enough, they look like little more than old men, short and potbellied.  They often have long beards or pipes, buckles on their shoes and little fine caps, and they are always, always drunk.  I’ve been told more than once that the name translates out to ‘walking thirst’, but I haven’t ever been able to confirm that.  Essentially, all the bastards do is drink, and drink, and drink.

 

Some folklorists see them as the night form of the leprechaun.  That is to say that by day the hard working leprechauns cobble for elderly shoemakers, but by night they switch forms and personalities completely as they hang up their tools and go on a bender.  And although I can buy that leprechauns can occasionally let their freak flag fly, they are usually depicted as merry drunks. Mostly the clurichauns range on the surly end of the drunkard spectrum.  Think the leprechaun other leprechauns wouldn’t want to share a Guinness with and you’ve come close.  Only don’t tell a clurichaun I made such a comparison, I don’t want him pissed off that I called him a ruddy little shoemaker.

 

Like many of the fey, how a clurichaun treats you largely depends on how you treat it.  Make an honest deal with it, give it a shot from your flask, especially your last, and it will treat you kindly.  Treat it badly, and you might as well join the priesthood for all the fun you are going to have from that point on.  As a supernatural creature with affinity to booze, the clurichaun can do all sorts of nasty tricks.  Teleport all your booze into his stomach, spoil wine, make whiskey sprout the grains it was made from.  What’s worse, though some fey wander and some attach themselves to families, the clurichaun tends to attach himself to a specific place.  Like your wine cellar, or your favorite bar.  They stick around just like that one drunk that the kindly bartender doesn’t have the heart to kick out into the street.  They stick around for as long as they were welcome, and then some.  Or if they are angry until they drive everybody else away.  In the latter case, the fastest I’ve heard them leaving is about fifty years, and they can last longer if they set up their own still.

 

Now, the clurichauns will never pay for their booze exactly, but they can grant wishes to a certain extent.  They seem to know where the leprechauns keep their fairy gold, though that may be because the legends have gotten intermingled.  They can also divine for underground treasures like many other dwarfish creatures.  Of course, just because they can do something, doesn’t mean they will do it.  I have run into a couple of stories of them being bound in iron and forced to deliver on their promises for their freedom, but that seems like an almost guaranteed way to piss one off.  And even if it forgets where you live, can you imagine stumbling around Ireland with a pissed-off, drunken fairy and a few shovels?  You better pack a lunch boyo, cause it’s going to be a long treasure hunt.

 

Wait, I forgot to mention that in proper lush fashion, they never walk when they can hitch a ride.  They usually hitch that ride on a passing dog or sheep.  So make that a pissed-off, drunken, sheep-riding fairy.   Yeah, good luck with that trip.

 

If they decide they like your cellar or home, they will protect you from the same things they cause when pissed off.  No one will steal your wine, and it will never spoil.  Of course they will probably drink more than these services are worth, but since I’ve never found a good way to get rid of the things except run away and leave them to dry up, you might as well put up with them.
Or put iron fillings in their scotch if you are desperate, and a complete gods bedamned heathen.

 

Writing prompts:

 

An evil and cunning beer company trying to trick clurichauns into their rival’s breweries.

 

A clurichaun in a frat house.  I don’t know if this is the best idea ever, or the worst, but I’d love to see it done.

 

The first time a clurichaun is tricked into trying a non-alcoholic beer.

 

 

 

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Okay, so last post I announced my new jewelry store, Dual Seed Studios http://www.etsy.com/shop/DualSeedStudios/about/  and you all should check it out.  I’ll probably have to do a post on just what “Dual Seed” means to me and why I chose it, no it’s not as dirty as you might think.  But this isn’t time for that, this is a time for myth and folklore and things that go bump in the night.  Or things that go bump in the bedroom.  In honor of my own obsessive endeavors, let’s look at two different sources of inspiration.  The muses and the leanan-sidhe.

Muses are so popular that I didn’t want to do a full post just on them, because much of it you might already know.  Nine women, born of Zeus, who represent all the arts and sciences of the ancient world.   Traditionally, they inspire artists and creators within their fields.

… Or do they.  First of all, since I’m focusing on things that people might not have heard about the muses, originally there were only three of them, and they had nothing at all to do with Zeus.  Some said they were born of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth.  Others made them out to be more like water nymphs, born from springs and occasionally man made fountains.  We’ve already talked about nymphs and their semi-divine nature, and the connection between muses and fountains stays in the background long after the three become nine.

Also, originally they were sources of inspiration, but they didn’t have specific areas or arts to personify.  They sort of leaked inspiration like a leaky faucet, giving it to whoever they were closest too.  This included lovers of course, but in some darker tales it didn’t necessarily need to be willing lovers.  That’s right, some people took inspiration from muses, along with anything else they wanted, and do we really expect a ditzy hyper-nymph to be able to put up much of a fight?  Maybe the pantheon of muses expanded when more generations of Muses were born, and maybe they started hanging out with Zeus and Apollo and such for a bit of protection.  Not that you could trust those two infamous womanizers around anyone with a bit of curves. Even calling Zeus ‘daddy’ is likely just to turn the nasty horndog on more.

Then, in another part of the world but maybe just as old a concept, there is the leanan sidhe (no, that was not an awkward segue, shut up!)  One of the Irish (sometimes Scottish) fey, she is a beautiful and powerful creature who grants inspiration to her lovers.  Willing lovers only this time, anyone who tried to force himself on a leanan sighe is going to lose more than his balls.

Even when the leanan sighe has a new beau, the artist  in question is doomed to suffer.  The leanan sidhe is absolutely the worst of girlfriends.  She demands all your love and attention even as she insists you work on your art.  And even when you are a dutiful lover, she quite often drives you into complete madness.  The candle that burns brightest slips a bloody cog, to mix a metaphor.  Literally, almost all of the lovers, read victims, of the leanan sidhe live brilliant, and short, lives.  Usually ending with them gibbering in madness, overwhelmed either by faerie glamour or forced inspiration.  Uncontrolled ideas bubbling up through the brain pan can be just as dangerous as supernatural sex, probably more so.

Later mythologies have the leanan sidhe as kind of a vampire who feeds on her lovers’ life forces. She probably gets more of a boost from their love.  She doesn’t need to drain her little pets, but I bet she gets a giggle out of the self destructive path the little mad bastards cut through their lives.  There are always more desperate artists to fill her bed.

Now I talk about the leanan-sidhe as a singular figure, and to be honest the older myths have it as a type of fey, with lots of the ‘barrow lovers’ as the name loosely translates too, running about and causing brilliant but short lives.  More recently, in popular media especially, she is becoming a singular figure, and I’m kind of waiting to see if that happens more and more with the other old fey.  I’m wondering if the human story will condense several old myths together, much like they’ve done with various pantheons, until we have the Redcap, the Dionne Sidhe (singular), instead of a bunch of the buggers running around.

It’s also fascinating the connection between sex, inspiration, and water.   Those three things get combined far more than just these two examples.  The apsara of India are supernatural dancers who seduce and inspire gods and men alike, often causing at least trouble in their marriage beds.  They follow music wherever it is, and are connected with waters and clouds.  Saraswati, godess of knowledge and arts, gets linked to flowing water and pure water sources as well.  Of course the Roman goddesses of fountains are poor knock off copies of the muses (like everything else in Rome), but how many seers, male and female, scry through water for their inspirations throughout history?

On a personal note, though the original three muses were mostly focused on poetry and song, I always liked the idea of nine muses who covered art, history, and science.  There is a huge gap in modern times between art and science that really just doesn’t need to exist.  Both require inspiration, dedication, and a bit of bloody luck.  Why not search for that luck in the form of a beautiful nymph?  Men have found inspiration in far worse things.

Okay, insert obligatory joke of muses being all ‘wet’ here, goodnight folks.

 

Writing Prompts

Two thousand years in the future, what ‘arts and sciences’ exist and what muses have provenance?

Women’s lib, a muse goes into business for herself.  Maybe using an artist as a tool and ghost writer.

Modern psychological drugs versus leanan sidhe madness magic, who wins?  Certainly not the poor bipolar artist stuck in between.

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I almost put these critters off a few weeks, because they are similar in a lot of ways  to the fey.  In fact, some modern traditions lump them together, and I can definitely see why.  Still, there are enough differences and things that you just may not have heard to make them worth a separate post.  Besides, sometimes I have the soul of a very dirty old letch, and so you might just be surprised on my take on the inspiration to letches everywhere, the nymphs.

Nymphs have their origins in Greek myth, then adapted later by the Romans like every other myth the Greeks had.  Yet like many other beasties I talk about you can find similar if not identical ideas all over the world.  And I don’t just mean naked young women who run through the forests, although they certainly are that.  Nymphs really are more than just the outside appearance, though it’s hard to remember that after studying histories written by thousands of years of peeping toms.

First of all, there are more types of nymphs that most people think about.  The basic five categories are celestial, underworld, sea, land, and tree.  That’s right, there were enough nymphs running around that you needed categories for them, and even within those categories there were different subgroups.  Like the branches of tree nymphs (pun intended as always). Dryads were specifically the nymphs of oak trees, and meliae were the nymphs of the ash.  Even then there were different levels of nymph, some who were connected to a single grove, some who were bound to a single tree.  The hamadryad would die if you cut down her specific tree, but some of her sisters would be fine as long as their grove survived.

Nymphs, depending on the variety, age, and individual traits, were somewhere between elementals and genius loci.  They were bound to one place, and connected to it in ways that weren’t exactly clear to humans.  It may simply be a chicken and egg problem, does a nymph reflect her land or the land reflect its nymph? Of course, there were a few free range nymphs, mostly of the celestial and underworld variety, who traveled on the winds or in the retinue of various gods.   Most of the pretty young women in the background of the different depictions and portraits of the gods were nymphs just hanging about. Which type of nymph showed up depended largely on the god involved, and of course any visiting god would draw out any local nymphs.

And the nymphs had some of the similar origins as the gods.  Many sprang straight from Gaea after enough blood from various suitors was spilled on her.  To that matter, some nymphs didn’t stay nymphs.  Charybdis was a nymph of the waters before she was transformed, or chose to transform, into a horrible ship eating whirlpool monster.  Scylla might or might not have had the same bag.  The older the nymph, the more individualaity they seemed to posses.  Starting out childlike and quite frankly a bit dumb, joyful but dumb, and slowly growing in wisdom over their semi-immortal existence.

And on that note, lets talk about sex.  Yay sex!  It’s great isn’t it?   Oh wait, I mean lets talk about the sexual connotations connected to nymph lore.  Everyone knows nymphomania got it’s origins from those sexy, slutty nymphs right?   Well… kinda.  Most nymphs danced and sang and splashed in their waters without a stitch on, and this certainly attracted a great amount of attention.   However, as minor goddesses in their own right, you could run into some major trouble spying on them for too long.  You could be struck blind or mad, fall into a deep obsession, and occasionally just die or get transformed into something icky.   Yes, it’s true that nymphs would sleep around, with gods and each other, man, woman,  and occasionally beasts.  They were nature spirits, unfettered by human morality.  However, they are most often described as beautiful maidens, because though a few slept around, mostly they were content to dance and sing and play.   They weren’t succubi, screwing anything that came there way.  In fact, few if any human men got their attentions, and satyrs, centaurs, faun and the like usually had to run the nymphs down and force the issue.  The nymphs were lovely and easy targets, but not the hypersexual creatures that they are made out to be now.

Oh yeah, and keep in mind the time frame.  Depending on if semi-immortal spirits like nymphs adapt with the times or not, they could still look like beautiful maidens, in the very Greek sense.   Meaning you would be lucky if they look older than thirteen, ten to twelve is probably far more likely.  Spirits do get affected by perceptions, so perhaps they might change to a more modern standard of beauty, but there is a good chance that ‘jailbait’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

It’s interesting how many cultures have a belief of humanoid figures attached to nature.  We call it anthropomorphizing.  Humans tend to define the world in human terms, and see it in human forms.  Yet, it’s surprising how often the idea of the young woman in the trees, or rivers, or air shows up as well.  Nymphs are symbols of creativity and freedom, of innocent abundance.  So little of human nature is that innocent, it seems odd how often those particular sets of symbols still crop up.

Writing prompts.

The nymph Olympics.  Hey the original affair was men only, times change.

Missionaries desperately trying to clothe and educate the nymphs.  Lots of luck folks.

Lots of people have used deformed nymphs to show the affects of pollution.  Lets go the other way.  How does a nymph react to a wind farm?  Or a solar farm?  What are the Hover Dam nymphs like?

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All right lads and lassies, hold onto your hats, your knickers, and your first born because this is going to be a doozy.  Ready for it?  I’m going to try and tackle the fey, head on and without a helmet.
Oh boy oh boy.   The fey, the fairies, good folk, fair ones, wee folk, the gentry, whatever you want to call them including ‘oi, put down that sheep!’.  You thought my post on dragons had a lot of ground to cover?  If ever there was a rambling, brambling group, it was the fey.
Why?  Because the fey aren’t a type of creature, not a species.  It’s easier to think of the fey as their own class taxonomically speaking.   Maybe their own phylum, but I’ll stick with class for now.   The fey are a loosely connected bunch of creatures, most of them vaguely humanoid or humanish in appearance, that covers everything from pixies to bridge trolls.  Many of them are shapeshifters, and even the once that don’t have powerful illusions called glamour that are absolutely real to all your senses.The problem is, no one is quite sure what the connection between the many types of fey is, other than they are considered fey.  They have fey glamour and tap fey magic, so they are fey. Circular logic is nothing when thinking of the fey, mobius logic is a distinct possibility.
But lack of logic has never stopped me before, so let’s try it like this.  First and the most obvious thing about the fey, they were born of Earth, in fact they are often a lot more earthy than most humans.   Many fey have associations with nature and natural functions, some tie their various courts and organizations in with the seasons.  Even the ones that live in human homes and cities tend to be a bit… rustic.   Angels come form heaven, vampires are infected or cursed, the Egyptian gods are probably aliens form another dimension, but the fey are 100% earth born stock.
Next fact, the fey mostly don’t live here anymore.
Yep, I’m just going right to that.  Sad to say that most people who see fairy lights or belive in a fairy under every rosebush are probably about five-hundred years too late.  Oh, the fey are said to visit, usually slipping over during twilight or dusk, but they don’t stay long.  They pop up in groves of ash, oak, and thorn, or slip through a mirror, or hop through a ring of mushrooms. They visit some old haunts and cause some mischief and are gone again.  Some cultures still believe in household fey, fey that are used to humans and make themselves useful, and these varieties seem to stick around to modern day.  Hell, Icelandic elves are still living inside boulders and rescuing politicians from car accidents.  (True story.)   Mostly though, the fey are off in Faerie, a realm they evacuated too sometime in the last 1500 years or so.
See, the humans more or less kicked their asses when it comes to who owns this planet.  Cold iron drives away fey and fey influences, and many of the places that early man held holy were special to the fey as well. Those same places that various incarnations of the Christian church have done their level best to destroy.
And yes, Iron has much to answer for, but Monotheism has more.  Many of the older fey were respected bordering on worshiped by the tribes of men they encountered.  Early pagans didn’t see them as gods most of the time, but they sure were invited to all the best rituals and parties.  Which meant that the Church hated them along with anything remotely pagan, at least anything they couldn’t steal for thier own.Anything worshiped but not God was instantly of the devil, and the Church has tried to connect the fey and demons for centuries, despite the two having very different origins.  In some accounts fey were angels who wouldn’t fight on either side during the war between Lucifer and God, but damn does that story get applied to a lot of random critters that the Church wants to try to cram into their mythology.  Holy water and crosses don’t really seem to bother anything but the weakest fey, not unless those crosses are made of iron.
Which, ahem, doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any dealings between the fey and demon-kind.  Fey were earthly remember, true children of the elements.  Finding and/or crafting a whole plane of existence to slip away to, what we now refer to as Faerie, isn’t exactly an earthly talent.  But it is something that might be attributed to ex-angels.   There are a few legends of Faerie owing tithe to Hell, payment for help rendered in escaping man and iron.   Basically, the fey chose the wrong bloody sub-contractors when building their new home, and have been over the barrel for it ever since.
Here is where I pause and try to show another perspective.  Modern historians attribute many of the fey myths to the Picts.   Not that the Picts started the stories, but that the Picts, or maybe the tribes before them, were the fey.  That as the Romans swarmed over the land, the Picts retreated to the hills and became ‘hidden folk.’   Odd and rustic figures that were only seen in fleeting glances, keeping odd customs and revels that weren’t well understood.
Is there some validity to this perspective?  Absolutely.  A lot of our fairy myth comes from Ireland, and from oral traditions that we have absolutely no way of dating.  We don’t know if fey stories were told of the Picts or by the Picts.  We certainly know that Roman steel was the bane to Pictish bronze.   Some of the old Irish myths, like the Daione Sidhe, the tall elegant fairies that heavily influenced Shakespeare and Tolkien alike, definitely have some older roots.  The people of the Hill could refer to the burial mounds of the picts as much as to the mythical creatures that are said to live beneath the mounds.
Still, the myths are more widespread than the picts were.  In fact, many cultures have ‘fey-like’ figures in their folklore.  From the small people with wings kind, to the more esoteric and wide spread.  I prefer to think of the fey as a race older than humanity, that existed for a time along side, till they saw where their futures were headed and decided to bug out.  This is not at all as an odd concept as it sounds, and can be found in cultures from the Philippines to the Southwest United States.
Another thing that has largely changed over time, the original fey were seen as very clannish, tribal, or outright independant. (Yes, like the early picts and other pagans, I said there was validity in the perspective.) Put three humans together to talk, and you’ll get four different opinions.  Put three fey together, and you’d get eighteen.   It was only in Medieval Europe, after the fey were off in their own realm, that they seemed to adopt a feudal system with courts and courtiers.  Maybe this was the humans putting their own politics on their folklore.  Maybe once they were in a new land, the fey found that Faerie needed a King, because the King is the land and all that.  Maybe a war with Hell forced the tribes to unite, in a way the Picts never managed, and once united the old ways faded away for fairy kind just like it does with mortal folk.
Considering that most fey seem to have the memories of goldfish, and the record keeping capacity of deranged third graders, I doubt even they would know the answers to those questions.   Chances are, it’s a combination of all of the above.
How you deal with a fey largely depends on if you are in their world, or if they are in yours.  If you are in Faerie proper, chances are you are in big trouble.  In fact, you’re already screwed.  Yes, you.  Take my knowledge without so much as a gift in return?  Oh boy how you’d owe me if I played by the rules.   Faerie is broken, time and space are mashed together with illusion and intent.  It’s not as malleable as the dream realms and not as vindictive as Hell, but if you break the rules you could find yourself stuck serving some fey lord for seven by seven years.   Seven years, that stretch like seven hundred in the mortal realm.   Never take a gift in Faerie, not so much as directions without a clear waiver of debt.  Don’t eat the food, don’t drink the wine.  Dance at your own peril.  If you are on a path, walk it, don’t deviate and don’t go running off into the woods.  Never thank a fairy, thanking implies debt.   Never rob from one
Unless you think you are clever or mad enough to break the rules, in which case more power to you.  Good luck. At very least you’ll provide a source of laughter.
If the fey is in your territory, you’ve got about as much power as they do in the reverse situation.  Anything from an iron nail to a four leaf clover can ward them off, red thread can burn them, and if you think you are under glamour, the fairy version of illusion and enchantment, you can try turning your coat inside out to confuse their spells. Some fey seem unable to tell a straight lie, and almost all are bound by their word spoken three times. Fey stick to their rules, if you know the type of fey you can figure out what rules to adhere too, but those are pretty good guidelines.  You’ll also tend to have better luck with a bowl of whiskey than a bowl of cream, those Irish roots are strong.
Just remember, fey are not human.  They don’t think like humans.  They don’t even think like humans think they think.  They can be callous or kind, cold or hot, merry and mad.  Few of them have much respect for humans.  You live too short to have any real perspective or merit.Many of them carry a great deal of jealousy and disdain.  You inherited their home, through your ancestors being bigger bastards in the evolutionary game.  If you are lucky, you might be a source of fascination.  If you are unlucky, you might just be a toy, and a very breakable one at that.

Writing prompts
Obvious one, the bronze age humans have to split earth instead of the fey.
The fey aren’t picts, they are Neanderthal, and they want their planet back.
Fairy glamour is tapped for better virtual reality.  The virtual world wide web runs off fairy blood.

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Passing of Bronze

Cleaning up the writing files and desktop tonight.  Found this short story I did some time ago that I never found a home for.  On a whim I thought I might post it here.   What kind of fairy tales do actual fairies tell their kids at night?

The Passing of Bronze

There are few things that can ruin a peaceful night quite as well as a room full of fairies.

The air was filled with popping, coruscating glows that hurt the eyes to look at to closely.  Human shaped in form, with dragonfly wings and wild hair, the smallest of them could have easily ridden a frog, if she didn’t get eaten up in the process.  The largest was proudly over a foot, and was pretending not to enjoy the awe and jealousy he inspired in the wee ones.  The noise they raised could drive the sanest man mad; with chattering laughter, buzzing wings, and voices so high pitched they could give bats a headache.

Their father was not amused.

“All right, settle down, it’s time for bed you unruly skitter bugs,” he said as he limped into the center of the room.

At just over two feet, he towered over his offspring.  Old scars may have crippled his wing and left his left leg gimpy, but his children still hushed.  Even the oldest, who would be ready to go start a family of his own soon enough, showed proper respect and helped lead his youngest siblings to their beds.

The father couldn’t have felt prouder of his little monsters.

“Tell us a story?” came the predictable request.

“Hmm… I don’t know,” the father hedged, as he always did.

It never paid to give in too easily.  Besides, it always softened his heart to see the mock sad faces and shining puppy dog eyes as his children pleaded for an evening tale.  He looked around at faces peering out at him from a mishmash of scavenged beds.  The triplets in their spice rack bunk bed, his favorite daughter in her velvet lined jewelry box, his oldest, so big now his feet dangled out of the old picnic basket.  He knew that nothing in this world or any other could make him disappoint his brood.

“Pleeeaaase,” came the ritual response.

“Hmm…wellll, I suppose.”

Cheers went up, only to be quickly silenced by their fathers half joking glare.  Two children darted from their beds to drag up a low stool.  He ruffled their hair as he sat, trying not to sigh with relief as he got his weight off his leg.  Then he lightly swatted their behinds to send them careening like sputtering roman candles back into their beds.

“Well, what type of story shall it be tonight?” the father asked.

“Something funny!”

“Romantic!”

“Sumthin wit kittens!”

Several voices booed down that idea and the little one who uttered it disappeared under his blankets for protection.  While the father shushed the naysayers, three boys took advantage of the distraction to put in their bid as one.

“Something gruesome!” they shouted together.

“Yah! Goosum!” peeped the same child who had been asking for kittens a moment ago.  He had yet to emerge from the blankets.

That seemed to be a popular idea with the majority, though the father was trying to dispel the few tales of gruesome kittens that popped into his mind.  As he was thinking of an alternative, his oldest son decided this might be an opportunity to hear a topic that was rarely discussed.

“Maybe one of your own war stories father?”

The father almost managed to keep his son from seeing the involuntary wince that crossed his face, and both felt conflicting emotions.  Unfortunately, the younger ones caught up the idea at once.  Some yelled for war stories, some for daddy stories, but all yelled loudly and with much enthusiasm.

“Hmm… no not tonight, no war stories,” the father said, dodging the deeper issue.  He looked around at disappointed faces and smiled.  “Don’t you sprats know by now there are more powerful conflicts than war?  Take it from an old soldier.  A thousand men can die on a battlefield and not have as profound an effect on Fate’s tapestry as a hundred words exchanged at the right time by the right people with the right kind of power.”

There were murmurs among the children.  They tried their best to stay still in their beds, but their wings betrayed them, buzzing with excitement.  Some of the youngest, sharing an old steamer trunk as a mutual bed, muttered quietly together.  They were trying to figure out some of daddy’s bigger words, but no fey kid would dare interrupt a story out of ignorance.  Nor would a fey dad stop to explain, or dumb down the tale.  He was confident in his kids.  They would figure things out on their own.

“Do you think there would have been war between the angels if their lord and rebel hadn’t exchanged the wrong words first?  Do you think the trees would have stopped talking to humanity if Oak, Ash, and Thorn hadn’t discussed it amongst themselves?  What words do you think were exchanged before our people, the fey, left our planet of birth behind to form a new home of our own here in Faerie?”

He paused, for effect and to watch which faces showed comprehension and which were enthralled but confused.  He noted the latter.  They hadn’t been paying attention in their history lessons.  It was a dad’s job to be devious.

“Let me tell you a tale of such a talk,” he said.  “Let me tell you about the Council of Metal.”

This was long before Faerie, long before the fey were organized under a King.  In fact, this isn’t one of our stories at all, but the events I shall describe affected each and every one of us.  In ways you are yet too young to fully understand.

There or some species that view metal as one of the basic elements of the cosmos, and it does seem that metal is everywhere and in everything.  There is metal in you little ones, in your blood and in your flesh.  There is more metal in me, shrapnel from the wars still buried in this old leg of mine.

The Lords and Ladies of Metal are like the Lords of the Trees, each one both represents, and is represented by, one metal of importance to the world.  Just as the Grim Reaper is death, and Oak is both the trees and the source of knowledge they represent, the Lord Gold is gold, bold and brilliant and shining.  Though he is not very practical and has a tendency to throw his weight around.   While the Lady Silver is gleaming and mysterious, sought after and secretive, full of magic that she uses most rarely.

Do you understand my little ones?   Good.

Now imagine every metal that could possibly matter and give it a human shape, a representative and yes a guardian.  Imagine hard, serviceable Brass, his gleam subdued next to Gold even though his strength can get far much more done in practical hands.  How about Mercury?  Quick, slippery, untrustworthy.  A small man with gleaming eyes and liquid tongue, whose words have made even strong men go truly mad.  Old Tin, cheap and worn looking even in his youth, but generous to a fault, and always wanting to feel useful.

That is the Council of Metals, a gathering of all the Lords and Ladies of the clink.  They wear skin like you and I, and their eyes can be more varied and more powerful than even the strongest of the fey.  They meet only rarely, in a cave of soft stone where none of them have prominence of power.  By its very nature metal does not change easily, and the Council only needs meet when the balance of power shifts throughout the world.  When a new alloy takes prominence or an old metal runs out.  They meet in all the worlds, though no one knows if it is the same Council, or if each world has its own.

On the occasion I have in mind, most of the council had already gathered.  The twelve most prominent sat in a circle of thrones, each one carved out of a solid piece of their metal.  Gold’s thrown was the largest, for gold’s allure and power in the world has been devastating and immortal.  The smallest of the current twelve was held by Copper.  Despite his longevity, no one quite knew what to make of copper.  He spoke not at all and changed his appearance often as the world found new uses for him.  It is said these days he has hair like a nest of wires that seem to spark with static.

Yet Bronze, the only alloy to gain a position among the twelve thrones owed his seat to the support of Copper and Old Tin.  Brass hoped to gain a seat likewise, but his parent Zinc refused to risk his seat to support his bid.  For now Brass was forced to stand in the shadows with the other less important metals and rarer alloys.

One seat was standing empty.  It was the dark grey throne of Iron.  Odd, because on this day Iron’s fate was to be discussed, and yet he had not arrived yet.  Being fashionably late was far more Silver’s style.

Everyone had been gathered for some time, the eleven prominent Metals sitting in silence on their thrones.  Many of the lesser members of the Council milled around the circle, talking amongst themselves.  They eagerly discussed what was to come, each one sure of their theories, and certain that by being right, they would one day gain some measure of power for themselves.  You will find such self important talk in any gathering of politicians my children, which is why I chose the life of an honest soldier.  Always remember, those that talk the loudest, usually know the least.

Iron arrived suddenly, appearing in the middle of the circle with a crash like thunder.  He was a short man, but his shoulders were nearly as broad as he was tall.  Stocky, sturdy, and humorless.  Yet he smiled today.  A cruel, cold style that made many of the Council nervous.

He was not alone.

Two stood with him.  At his left stood a dwarf of a figure that could barely be called a man.  Pig Iron was a lackey, contaminated and weak, with small horns like an imp’s.  He had no place in the Council proper, and for Iron to bring his servant to such a gathering was an insult.

At Iron’s right stood a tall, gleaming figure.  He was the only one who seemed sculpted of metal itself.  His body was that of a working mans, or perhaps the ideal of a working man.  His bare chest was muscled, his arms thick, and his jaw chiseled.  A statue of bright grey strength who looked over the room with haughty confidence that bordered on arrogance.  He was Iron’s child, Steel.

Gold spoke first, officiating the meeting.  His voice drew the ear like his coin tended to draw the eye.

“We are gathered today to discuss Iron’s ward,” he said, his voice strong and alluring even though his tone was bored.

“Do the voices!” one of the children dared interrupt their father.

A few shouted agreement, but most of the others glared at their sibling.  This was not daddy’s usual tale.  So far no trolls had been squashed or princesses put in peril.  This was even stranger than the one he had told of the chicken with two heads who claimed to have laid the first egg.  They were enthralled, and he was pleased.  This evening his children would learn.  They would think.

“This time I can’t do the voices little one,” he said gently.  “I could not do them justice.  I might insult them.  You wouldn’t want Gold’s brash temper to find me on a sunbeam would you?  Or for Mercury’s ire to slip into my dreams?”

The child shook his head, eyes wide.  The others exchanged sidelong glances, implications settling into their young minds.

“Iron won’t come to get us, will he daddy?” one of them asked.

Their father considered the question for a moment before answering.

“Faerie protects us against iron, bars it from our realm.  There is no iron at all in its crust, only a rare piece here or there that some powerful stranger brings in.  So no, Iron can not come and get you.  Not here safe at home, but always beware the metal children.  It looks simple and dull, but burns with hate, and is no friend of the fey.”

He looked over his children, till he was certain that each would have proper respect should they ever come across someone wielding the wicked metal.  His eyes locked on his oldest son’s, and they shared a private moment.  Only his eldest knew that it had been a blow with an iron bar that had taken his wing.

“Now, where was I?”

“A throne stands empty,” Gold continued.  “Iron, it is your right to yield your throne to your offspring.  Do you choose to do so?”

Many of the eleven sitting shared Gold’s bored expression. This was important enough to draw the Council together, but it was still routine.  Steel was superior to Iron in every way, and technology would soon be evolved enough for steel to be produced in quantity.  It was natural succession of a hereditary line.

They were shocked by Iron’s reply.

“No, I do not.”

There were loud mutters in the peons around the thrones.  Silenced when Mercury turned from his seat and hissed with anger.  A couple of lesser members fell to their knees as the sound slipped and slid into their skulls.  He turned satisfied and regarded Steel, liquid shifting gaze locking on one hard as stone.  There was something about Steel’s gleam that Mercury knew not to trust.

“Do you challenge your father little large one?”  Mercury asked.  “Will you rest his seat through combat?  We would understand if you did not feel ready.”

“No,” Steel said in a voice oddly without inflection.  “I challenge Bronze.”

There was only silence now.  The move was an audacious one, a shock and surprise not one of the lesser metals had voiced in their predictions.

An old woman sitting on a white throne turned her gaze to young Steel.  Her skin was white and flaky, her eyes covered in cataracts.  Sodium was in some ways the weakest metal, but essential to all things.  She remembered when there had only been four thrones at the council.

“That is not our way,” she said, “parent to child.”

“You are not natural,” Gold said to Steel, his arrogance far stronger than this newcomer’s.  “You should not be allowed at all.”

“You set the way Gold,” Iron said.  “You liked Bronze’s shine, and supported and funded his rise in prominence in the Council and in the world.  You let Tin and Copper risk their chairs and let an alloy challenge for a throne of his own.  I was against it.  Now I will use your precedent for my ends.”

Silver, her voice like a bell and her tongue as sharp as a daggers spoke up.

“Tin and Copper do not often act in accord, and Bronze proved to have a personality and voice of his own.  You bring a puppet, a slave so that you can have two votes in any issue.”

“You are wrong,” Steel said.  “I will not vote with him, he will vote with me.”

“Oh?” Silver asked.  “You seem so sure for one so young.  What would you do with two votes in the Council.”

“I shall remake the world.  I will make it strong, unbreakable.  I will be the building block of cities that reach the sky, paths that span the Earth.  I will make this a world of Metal.”

Stunned silence filled the room again.  Other’s had spoken like that.   Many wanted power, respect.  Personal desires tainted any group that decided the Fate of a world, and only a few senior members thought the Council’s purpose was to promote balance.  Here was a bold new child, potentially a beacon of what metal could be.  The Council looked at Steel with new eyes, regarding this meeting now not as a challenge of Iron’s, but perhaps the ascension of a new champion.

One spoke up from the shadows, someone no one had noticed till now, a stranger to the Council.

“This is a mistake.”

His voice was strangely captivating, and seemed to hold a rippling mix of emotions.  Humor, anger, disdain, and his own strength and confidence at very least equal to that of Steel’s.  To be honest my children, he sounded like a bit of a snob, sneering at the Council even though he had no throne of his own.

“Who are you?” Silver all but purred, something in his voice had captivated her at once.

“A visitor from far away, with my own connections to metal.  I heard you all were meeting, and thought I’d come see a bit of a show.”

“So you have no voice here,” Gold said.  “No power.”

“Only that of my own body,” the stranger agreed happily.

“And no name,” said Iron.  He was unhappy with this interruption.  His plans had been going so well.

“You can call me sir,” said the stranger.  “If the rest of you need a name, you can call me Damascus.”

There was a ripple among the crowd, and I’ll tell you why my children.  Damascus is a special type of steel.  Some say it is the best, others claim it is the oldest.  It is made by folding steel of different types together again and again, hammering different parts into one whole.  It makes the finest swords, strong and sharp, and also the prettiest.  For treated right, the steel would show patterns that rippled like a river, and glinted like the humor in the stranger’s eyes.

“Then if that is the name you claim, you owe your fealty to me,” Steel said, “and father Iron.”

“Son, I don’t owe you anything but a smack on the head.  I said I wasn’t from around here, and I don’t give a piss what you all decide happens to this rock of a planet.  I owe fealty to no one.”

“Yet you seek to advise us?” Gold demanded, nose in the air and anger rising high.

“Sure, only an idiot ignores the advice of someone who truly neutral, with no stake in events.  You aren’t an idiot are you Gold?’

There were a few titters in the crowd as Gold was neatly boxed in, almost any reply making him seem an idiot indeed.   Bronze finally got over his shock at being challenged to speak up.

“Why is it a mistake?” he asked, trying not to sound as hopeful at the sudden chance of salvation as he felt.

The stranger smiled.

“Cause a metal world is a boring world, and you all will loose out if that world comes from Steel.  Steel can only beget steely children.  Gold, you’re attraction is your shine, and Steel has enough of that to suit himself.  You will loose your worth, become little more than a symbol and then not even that.  Silver, what use does practical Steel have for mystery and magic?  You will loose your enchantment, and become merely the source of trinkets.  Even you Natrium, pardon I mean Sodium, could be at risk.  The true products of steel need not even salt.”

“You talk to much,” Steel said, voice betraying not even irritation.

“Words are useful bright boy, something else I wouldn’t expect simple Steel to understand.”

“You can not stop me,” Steel said flatly.

“Nope, not my place too, at least, not in this role at this time.  Still, I can give the clunk heads my advice, and hope that they vote down your little challenge.  That’s the next step, a vote right?  After all, the challenge itself is almost moot.  Bronze can not stand up to you in combat.”

“Thanks,” Bronze said, hopes failing.

“But the stranger is right,” Silver said, “we must vote.”

And they did, and only four people headed the stranger’s warning.  Gold could not believe he would ever loose his value.  Silver was insulted by the idea that she was the source of trinkets.  Bronze, Copper, Zinc, and Tin voted against the challenge.

Bronze stepped down from the throne, not even bothering to meet Steel in combat or other challenge.  He knew he was outmatched.  The throne turned bright gray almost at once, and Steel took his new seat.

You see how simple it was my children?  There was no fight, no war.  Either would have been pointless.  The matter was decided by words.

It would take some time for the affects to ripple through the world.  Yet with two votes on the council, the age of Bronze would soon be over.  Iron would take precedence, with Steel after that.  As Iron spread, we left that world.  The fey retreated from an enemy we had no resistance to, wielded in the hands of humans who knew nothing of Councils or Power.  They already had Steel minds and Iron hearts, long before this meeting was held.

Of course, words do sometimes lead to blood.

“Well, I’m gone,” Damascus said, never losing his humor even though no one had listened.  He truly did not seem to care about the Fate of Earth.  “Silver, look me up sometime, we’ll do drinks.  As for the rest of ya, it’s up to you.  If Steel isn’t everything you imagine, you all will have to come up with a new alloy that has what he lacks.  Other than that, I might swing back in when you guys vote on the place of Uranium in this world.  See you in a few millennia.”

And he stepped into the shadows and was gone.

Silver watched him fade out with her head cocked like an owl regarding a rustle in the bushes.  Though I doubt if she knew if that rustle was a tasty mouse, or a dangerous wolf.  She spoke up to the council.

“I think that concludes our business today.  There are other, smaller matters.  But they can wait for our next gathering.”

Without waiting for accord she stood, vacating her throne.  She started to leave the cave and conversations started up again, as those present discussed today’s odd events.  None were watching when she drew a dagger of pure silver.  None turned till Pig Iron fell to the floor, his throat cut.  None had time to stop her from slipping her bloodied dagger between Iron’s ribs.

“I can’t kill you,” she purred into his ear, “the next Lord of Iron might be even more obnoxious.  Yet from this day forward, your enemies are my friends.  Silver will always have sway.”

She left the dagger in him, and daintily walked out of the cave.  Leaving him slumped in his throne and bleeding over its dark surface.  That day, the fey gained silver as a friend, and she share’s her boon with us still.

The father stood and stretched.  Many of the youngest were well asleep, lulled by their father’s voice.  They may not have understood all of the story or even most, but they liked the parts they did understand.  When dealing with so many children, one had to weave complexly.

“Are they real papa,” his favorite daughter asked.  “The Lords and Ladies of Metal, the stranger who called himself Damascus?’

“Yes daughter… I have it on very good authority.”

“Then what he said is possible?” his eldest son asked, seeming lost in thought.

“What’s that?” the father responded, not sure what his son meant.

“What Damascus said, about an alloy stronger than Steel that might undo his affects on the world?”

“I don’t know son, do you think you could find metal mixes more powerful than the family of Iron?”

“I think I might like to try…  Would that be all right father?  Would you be upset if I became a smith, not a soldier?”

The father could practically feel his leg throb in response, muscle aching around ancient pieces of shrapnel.  Yet his heart ached more.  He nodded softly.

“That would be fine son.  But you’d need to metallurgy as well.  I will inquire about apprenticeships with the gnomes and alchemists if you like.  We can talk about it in the morning.”

“All right poppa,” his son murmured as he lay down.

The old soldier tucked his drifting children in one by one, thoughts heavy.  Their own glow and a few willow-wisps filled the room with gentle, soothing light.  He glanced at the shadows on the wall, and saw old stories and memories in their shifting depths.

Once the children were asleep, he felt like he deserved a reward.  He picked up his favorite pipe and bag of tobacco, heading out the front door for a bit of a smoke.  The evening was gentle and the wind warm, and his head was filled with strange thoughts.

He nearly tripped over the small package on his doorway.

He bent, unwrapping the bundle carefully.  Inside was a scaled down anvil and hammer, just the right size for a foot tall fairy child.

He looked up to see a figure leaning against an ash tree several feet away.

“Been a long time.  Good story?” the old soldier and father asked.

The figure nodded.

“They do get rewarded,” Damascus said, and then just like in the tale he vanished into the shadows.

“Trouble maker,” the father chuckled, and sat down next to the anvil.  He lit his pipe and smoked in peace, trying to decide how he was going to explain to the brood how only one of them had gotten a present.

He wondered what type of bedtime story the little terrors would ask for tomorrow night.

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