Throughout Atheus, the tales of the Fae are common. Be the storyteller human or elf or dwarf or goblin or orc, the Fae are often an element in the tale. What they are is very similar: in their true form (for these beings can change their shape), they are small humanoids with wings, roughly a foot in height, and usually females. Each of the five races have representatives amongst the Fae, with tiny flying orcs being just as prevalent as tiny flying humans.
They have a great deal of names beyond the Fae; these include the Peaceful People, the Seelies, the Wee Ones, the Dancers, and more, getting more and more varied the further and further you drift from the city. Their true names, the one that everyone knows but never says, is the fairies. Its bad luck, after all, to say their true name without a great deal of iron around.
Most leading men of the day don't believe that there actually is such thing as the Fae, or Faeland, and say that the whole thing is but bedtime stories, to teach your children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. However, they base their beliefs more on the more recently developed tales, for humans generally don't like to think too hard. Those scholars that do believe that the fae actually exist point to the older stories, those found engraved in stone from older, Pre-Exile times.
The Tale of the Miserly Merchant
There once was a merchant who loved gold over all other things. This merchant was driving his wagon full of food to sell into a town one day, and passed a Fae Circle. One of the Fae noticed his passing, and decided to have a spot of fun.
The Fae made herself invisible, and flew on over to the merchant's wagon, and looked at all the goods before her eyes. She smiled a great big smile, a smile hinting at all the mischievousness lurking within, and set to work.
The next day, the merchant set up his wagon and his stall in the town square, and laid out his goods to sell. He began to hawk his wares, and sure enough, people approached to buy. They handed their gold to him, and he slipped it away into his purse, and handed over the requested food.
That night, as he was wont to, he sat around his fire and poured out his purse on the ground, so he could count the coins. But naught but the few coppers and coins he had before rolled out! Someone had taken his money! Now, he stormed off back into town to the constabulary, and informed them of the tragedy that had befallen him. The constable there spread the word through town of the thief, so that they might catch him.
The next day, the merchant once again set up his stall so that he might make some money on this trip. As he hawked his wares, customers from the previous day came up to them, and returned his gold, claiming that it had been the money they had used to buy the food in the first place with, and that they had found it in the food they had bought itself!
The Fae then made herself visible, shrieking with laughter and mirth, and between fits of giggles told of her latest exploits, before flying off into the distance. The merchant thus thought better of his miserly ways, and everyone was happy ever after. The end.
The human tales of the fairies reflect the human psyche. Their stories and legends all reflect the various names of the Fae quite well, and their peacefulness and their niceness is quite evident to the listener. Oh, they do play pranks on an unwary human, but they would never visit harm on a person. They are a very nice people, a very Peaceful People.
A common theme throughout the tales is the teaching of a lesson and correcting of a character flaw. The Fae usually play a great part in that through the application of their pranks.
The existence of changelings has always been one of puzzlement to people thinking about these stories. In essence, the changelings are Fae that replace some newly-born child. This is far and wide the most evil of things that the Fae are said to be capable of, and scholars wonder how it came to be a part of the Fae's mythos.
The birth of the Fae is also something that occasionally appears in tales. The Fae will usually requisition human midwives to oversee the birth. The Fae will typically mask the whole affair in magic so the midwife knows not what happens, but usually curiosity will lame her still.
Among all the races of Atheus is the land of the Fae. Faeland. Each race tells a very similar tale of it, with very little change. It is of course a place of wonder and joy, where the only emotion possible is happiness. Humans that arrive (typically those taken to be replaced by the changelings) are caught up in this fealing, and never wish to leave, their minds blown by the pure wonder of the place. Typically, they walk around in a daze, eyes wide with each new amazing sight to behold.
But what exactly is Faeland? Some scholars claim that, if it were actually true (most leading men of the day don't believe that there actually is such thing as the Fae, or Faeland, and say that the whole thing is but bedtime stories, to teach your children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. However, they base their beliefs more on the more recently developed tales, for humans generally don't like to think too hard. Those scholars that do believe that the fae actually exist point
The fae themselves flit around the place on their wings, doing as they please. They were born in the place, after all. They are used to its ways, and so can have purpose and reason as they seek out fun in that land, and occasionally deign to play with human. In those circumstances, a great deal of fun is to be had by both parties.
Throughout Faeland are portals to Atheus as well, for the Fae to enter and appear in our own. The entry points in Atheus have, according to legend, all been shut by time and age, and thus blocked, which keeps the Fae from using them and meeting with humans, which is why the Fae would only meet with people in the past. Such a tragedy it was that humanity lost the benefit of the Fae.
The Barbarian Tales
Humanity paints a prettier picture of the Fae than the various barbarian races do. After all, as a collective species, it has a very, very short memory. Who the Fae truly are are but distance fantasies, and it has all but forgotten the old traditions of the horseshoes on the door and a bowl of milk on the doorstep.
The humans, unlike us other races, have even forgotten the purpose of these things- why, they even say that the milk is for beggars and the horseshoe for decoration! Such fools, those humans.
They will be the first to die.
The Play of the Fae
The Fae lack hearts. But this is but the tip of the iceberg, and is more an effect than the cause. The Fae lack souls, and thus lack such things as an afterlife- for there is no soul to go on to the next place. With this lack of a soul, two things occur. First and formost is that the Fae lack a natural source of magic, which sharply contradicts all of the tales of any of the races, which sees the Fae casting spells and changing forms and a variety of magic dependent things. The Fae's source of magic shall come latter; for now we shall discuss the second causation.
With no soul, there is no afterlife. And with no afterlife, there is no possible place for judgement. The only restrictions to how much fun a Fae can have is how much fun a Fae can fit into her day. Of course, if the Fae were anything like any of the five races, this would not be a problem. They would simply play games all day and hold contests and have fairs and all of that, but they are not humans. No, they are Fae. Which means, of course, that there shall be pain.
What but the sight of a human on his back, screaming for pain and for mercy, could bring joy to a Fae?
What but torture and rape and pain, oh so much pain, could bring happiness to a Fae?
What but granting the human's pleadings and killing him could bring a smile to a Fae's face?
The Magic of the Fae
Lacking souls, the Fae cannot do as any other being can do. They cannot generate magic on their own. Beings with souls- as in, any living organism, receives a bountiful supply of magic, pure magic, welling up within their souls. Wizards are those few, rare beings that can harness that magic, and put it to use, but this is a tale for another time.
The Fae do not have that source of magic. They are not given magic. Thus, they must take it.
If one were to look at their killing and torturing people from a purely rational and logical standpoint, it would make a certain kind of sense. As sick and twisted as it may be, the act of such brutal murder provides the Fae with the soul of the being they kill. It seems that, lacking a soul of their own, they have a metaphysical hole of sorts within themselves, which the newly dead soul is attracted to, as water flows down a slope into a pit. The Fae then can, almost vampirically, take the magic from the soul and send it on to the Afterlife.
The more brutal the death, the more magic the Fae gets. The higher the quality of the life form, the more magic the Fae gets. The Fae, however, cannot perpetually keep this magic. It has a basic "Use it, or lose it" principle to it. As time goes on, the magic trickles out of the Fae naturally. Of course, this is slow, much slower than it is for normal organisms, because of the simple rules of diffusion. Which makes disturbing a Fae directly after its kill a very dangerous proposition.
The more pain the victim suffers, the more filling and exquisite and delicious the magic gained after is. Just ask any Fae- of course, do this while running as fast as you can away from it- about how tasty the dead person is if the Fae simply killed him, versus torturing and raping him. This brings us to the other point, that of rape. It adds a special psychological trauma to the whole experience that a Fae simply finds so... savory. As such, if a Fae catches someone alone, with no other Fae around, then feel sorry for that victim. Also happy, as they'll be dead soon. Well, not soon. Perhaps eventually would be the better word.
Different organism offer differing amounts of magic for the Fae. Sentient organism offer the most, with animals being second, and followed by plants and fungi, and with bacteria being last, and offering miniscule amounts. Part of this is do the fact that only animals can run in terror, and can do something out of fear to escape the Fae. It simply adds to the fun. This is why that if a Fae manages to invade Atheus- a tragic event that has occured multiple times in history- it is usually marked by animals and plants dying first, to provide the Fae with enough magic to be a serious threat to humanity.
The Society of the Fae
The Fae, however they may seem, are not barbarians. They have a king and queen. Because of the sheer numbers of females to males, the queens are the ones that make the decisions and rules, while the king supports her decisions.
Of course, when most of the Queen's decisions lead directly to a pain and death amongst the mere mortal Atheians, what's not to support?
Each royalty has its own guard. The Queen has its Snowladies, and the King has its Huntsmen. We shall address each in turn, as these are the nobles of the Fae. Note that there are always twelve of each type, with the King or Queen making them thirteen.
The Snowladies play a crucial role in the preservation of prey. The Fae like winter. The sting of the ice-cold wind, the hopelessness of the blizzard, it is simply music to their ears. As such, the Snowladies. They bear icicles as weapons, and use them as spears. One stab, and the prey is slowed, with freezing cold delaying their movement. A second stab, and ice begins to coat the prey- though they can still break through the ice and crack it to run, it does slow done the victim. The third stab causes hypothermia and, eventually, death. This three-poke system allows the Snowladies to play with their prey. They also bear amulets that allow the cryogenic freezing of victims so that their Queen can have some fun with them without them being able to flee.
The Huntsmen are the King's guard, but they actually act more like his followers, his buddies, his pals. When the Queen sounds the invasion horn and the Fae go charging into Atheus to have some fun, the King and the Huntsmen mount their horses and have some fun of their own. As the only males that play a major role in a Fae invasion, what they can do- or should I say make?- is all the more powerful. On general, they chase down people with their bows, riding supernaturally fast with their horses through the forest, and play with them, drawing out the chase. Of they encounter a woman, of course, play stops. Well, on a manner of speaking. If they encounter a woman, the king will rape her, and if they encounter a second woman, he'll choose one of his huntsmen to rape her, and so on and so forth till each Fae has had a turn. The result of these Fae-Atheian offsprings are the Changelings.
The Changelings are a mercurial lot. They tend to take a shorter time to term than a regular human baby, so most mothers don't suspect the Fae as the father, and instead their husbands. Once born, and indeed, for their entire childhood, they look and act like normal humans do, and none would suspect one of these to have a trace of Fae blood of their own. Upon reaching puberty, however, they begin to change. The ancestral need for pain and death starts to express itself, and the Changeling will begin murdering people. Its human side will start making it desire sex, and its Fae side will allow it to get that sex by any means necessary, so in general, it will rape anything before it kills it, no matter what gender the victim is. With half a soul, it has a supply of magic of its own, and killing things adds to that supply, so it is in general a very powerful magic wielder with both Fae and Atheian magics. Eventually, it will get the urge to return home after its violent rampages, and get a knowledge of where the nearest portal to do so is.
The War of the Fae
In recent times, the portals to Faeland are all closed, as written before. But they weren't simply shut by time, with rain eroding away the surfaces and storms toppling stones. No, the closing of the portals was a massive endeavor by all the races in an ancient, ancient time.
Eventually, the Atheians as a whole got tired of the Fae treating them like dirt. The actual events have been lost to time, but what is clear is that there was a war, between Atheian and Fae, and the Atheians won. A great deal of blood was shed for each portal that they fought to, which were then closed by use of great magic used to enchant a circle of stones, like those of Stonehenge, using each of the three sources of magic available to them: wizard's magic, goblin's magic, and warrior's magic. Together, they wove and made a lock that has remained to this day.
Of course, there was a side effect to this. Faeland is another plane, and is a more parasitic one. It wanders the multiverse for planes to kill in part through the intentions of the Fae Queen. By locking the portals to Atheus, the ancient magic users bound the two planes together, so that Faeland could not leave to terrorize another world. And though then the only thing holding the worlds together are the portals and gates and the lock itself, time has further bonded the two worlds in other ways.
Though this does not have much of an effect on the day-to-day life of Atheians, and Atheus itself was not effected, it does make it more and more easier for the Fae to break free. All that requires another invasion as in the olden days is but one portal to open. A domino effect would then occur, making each successive opening more and more easy.
But the Fae themselves cannot open a portal. They need Atheians to do that. And an Atheian can do that all too easily. Using the true name of the fae- fairy- weakens that lock, as well as singing and dancing too near the portal. The Fae love singing and dancing. They can't resist stopping to watch someone sing or dance. Of course, when you stop, well, let me put it this way: don't stop.
The Killing of the Fae
The Fae invading Atheus does not leave one without hope. They may be immortal, with neither age nor disease able to kill them, but weapons can still end them. They can die all the normal ways: decapitation, bleeding to death, etc., except for one notable difference: they don't have a heart, so stabbing them their won't kill them.
They do, however, have other weaknesses. Somehow, iron, pure iron, is painful to them, which is where the tradition of putting the horseshoe, the iron horseshoe, on the door stemmed from. Of course, the more diluted the iron is, the less painful it is. Therefore, blood, with its trace amounts of iron, does not hurt them. Steel, theoretically, should be painful to them, as there is barely any carbon alloyed in, but somehow only stings them. However, other alloys are as painful as they should be, with steel being the exception rather than the rule.
However, the finding of a pure-iron sword does not mean that killing a Fae is going to be easy. On the contrary. Their ability to fly and their small size gives them high mobility, letting them very easily dodge your strikes. Their magic is different then that of Atheus, giving them the further edge. And the fact that you just introduced iron to this fight is ruining the fun- this Fae is very frustrated and angry and wants to kill you very, very much.
Protection for the poor comes from two previously mentioned practices: the hanging of the horseshoe on the door, which as described above is painful to the Fae, and the bowl of milk on the doorstep. This offers, in essence, the Fae a choice between the carrot or the stick; either face the pain of iron, or receive the sacrifice of milk. In general, households that do this will be spared the Fae's seeking of fun, as the Fae like the taste of milk, and prefer that they recieve it every night. Of course, problems arise for the Atheians when their cows or their supply of milk runs out...