“Winter turned to face him. ‘That’s the largest rift I’ve ever seen.’”
“Etienne shook his head. ‘They’ve gotten smaller with the Age of Iron, but there was once a time when Faerie and the Mortal Realm actually overlapped in places. This is nothing, just a rift filling a doorway. The first one I passed through when I was very young filled a valley; I came to the Mortal Realm by accident in my wandering.’ He shrugged. ‘Decided to stay a while.’”
~ Faerie Rising
“Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’”
~ The Eagles “Hotel California”
Once upon a time…
There was once a time when a knight hunting in the forest might catch sight of a pure white stag and give chase, responding to the challenge and call to adventure that, at some point during his wild ride, pulled him far from the mortal lands of his birth and into a realm ruled by magic, wonder, and terror. There he might face dangers untold, his life and freedom hanging in the balance, and while there he might fall in love with a lady of this land and make her his own. Should the knight survive his trials, he may choose to return to his own place with his lady at his side, or stay to live eternally young within the bounds of his new home – but no matter the challenges he faces or the choices he makes, he will be forever changed by his encounter with the Realm of Faerie.
While the fae exist in one form or another cross culturally around the globe, in our series, The Books of Binding, the majority tend to come from the Western European traditions. Within the Faerie Realm there exist uncounted smaller realms, each ruled over by kings or queens who possess enough sheer magical power to forge their realms from the raw gray mist of infinite potential with their force of will alone. Time flows at different rates from realm to realm. Some realms exist in eternal summer. Some in eternal night. Some are covered in lush forests, and some are chains of islands on vast seas. Borders fluctuate, and it is easy to accidentally wander from one realm to another – and then be unable to find the way home.
The realms, and the courts that rule them, are divided into two major factions. The Seelie, the Shining Ones, claim to be the side of the light, while the Unseelie are the Darkling Throng, the courts of nightmares. Some races of fae naturally align to one side or another – the bloodthirsty redcaps and jacks-in-irons swell the armies of the Unseelie, and hardworking brownies find places among the courts of the Seelie. Other races cross the boundary, finding a place as personal inclination guides them. The most notable of these races are the great sidhe, sometimes called the Tuatha de Danann. They rule over all the other races… more or less. The sidhe consider themselves to be superior to all other fae, and in many ways they are. They are mighty warriors and powerful magicians, and the majority of those who have created realms and rule courts are counted among their number. They forge legendary weapons out of sidhe steel, weapons which have armed heroes since time immemorial. The musical skill of their great artists has no equal in any realm. The sidhe are also tall, slender, and very graceful; considered, at least by mortals, to be the most beautiful of all the fae. They have stolen many a mortal heart, and lured thousands away from their hearths and families.
Existing in hundreds of forms across diverse cultures around the world, faeries – or nan a push, or nymphs, or Aziza, or whichever of the many names they are known by – have become as elusive as they are endemic. As the Industrial Revolution (or as the fae call it the Age of Iron) swept the Mortal Realm, bringing with it steel skyscrapers and railroads, the fae withdrew further and further away from mortal contact, further away from the poison of Cold Iron. As time passed the Mortal Realm and Faerie drew further apart until it was no longer possible to accidentally cross from one to the other.
But Gateways still exist, hidden and well-guarded, and rifts still open from time to time…