The Forming of the Band
When the Creator first made the universe, he made two realms: Tir Anam, the Land of Light, and Tir Scáth, the Land of Shadow. He thought this arrangement was the most pleasing, a separate place for each of the great ways of being. And so for a time they existed side by side, but never crossing or touching.
In time, the folk of each realm settled down, ignorant of one another. To occupy themselves, they learned trades and created arts: poetry, song, dance. Deep in Tir Scáth's waters, the mermaid herder Lady Uain stretched the skin of one of her seal herd over a driftwood frame and made the first bodhrán drum. Feeling the rhythm of the waves, she began to beat out a tune, and the hearts of all who heard felt their hearts beat in tune.
The beat was so strong that, far across in the other realm, the wind spirit Anáil felt the mermaid's song in his own heart. Having not heard such a song, he took his own flute and whistled a tune. The mighty wind of Anáil carried the music far beyond, and even in the depths of Tir Scáth. Lady Uath, surprised to hear such a sound, played back.
Soon others heard: Caonach the ghillie dubh played his pipes alongside Lasair the fire-bearer's fiddle; Seoltóir the cattle-driver crafted a bone horn, blowing a tune with the storm spirit Fearthainn's harp. The Anamacha made a bright and merry melody, harmonizing with the Scáthanna's bass and rhythm. But so far were light and shadow from one another, they could hardly hear the other's song. Louder and louder they played, with a burning desire to make music together, until finally their song burst through the barriers of existance. Their united song swelled and formed, until a new reation was made: Saol, the world of the living.
The members of the band entered the new place, where light and dark now met. They composed a new song, and to accompany them they created the Aosáin fae. The faeries formed a chorus and lent their voices to the music, and so the Ceolbhuíon an Cruthú - the Band of Creation - made merry with song and dance.
But soon the Creator looked down, horrified at what he saw. The Light and Shadow were never meant to form, and this new realm was beyond his direct control. He glowered at the band:
"So! You would turn asunder my design to play your merry songs! Then it shall be as you wish: You may spend your days here, but your days shall be numbered."
And the Creator rendered the band mortals, stripping away their powers and their perpetuity. Then, as an added insult, the Creator flung their instruments aside, damaging them to render their music impotent. To the Aosáin he did the same, trapping their voices into a box and flinging it into the sea.
The Ceolbhuíon an Cruthú, now mortal, made this world their home. They spent the rest of their days repairing their instruments as they could. Enough of their old magic remained that the instruments were still potent, if not as powerful as they once were. From the offspring of the band came the beings of the world, and from the first Aosáin the rest of the fae folk. When the members of the band died, their instruments were passed down, and over the many ages they were dispersed, their power remaining and waiting to be played again.
Croí ag Bualadh - The Beating Heart
The Beating Heart is a bodhrán drum made by Uain the mermaid herder. The frame is carved from driftwood, dark and smooth, with gray seal skin stretched taut across it. A large tear is visible in the skin, patched and repaired by thicker than the rest of the drumhead.
If a skilled drummer plays the Beating Heart, the hearts of those who hear it will be stirred. They will fall under the spell of the drummer, and complete any task the she gives. But any affected listeners must continue to hear the drumbeat; the further they get from the sound, the more likely they are to break from the spell. If the drummer loses the beat or is interrupted, the spell will also be broken.
Gaoth Ghleadhrach - The Dancing Wind
This is a simple but elegant flute, broad and sturdy. It is made from a very pale wood, white on first glance but with a subtle pale blue almost swirling beneath. There are no keys, only seven finger-holes, but one is partially blocked by a pebble that seems impossible to dislodge. The head joint ends with a silver cap, swirling knots resembling stylized blowing wind.
Anáil the wind spirit made this flute, and it retains some of his power. When a flautist plays this instrument well, the winds will answer. Play a lively reel, and a friendly gust will blow along, strong enough to move a sail. A dark and powerful dirge can summon a gust that will knock men to their feet. The flute is not all powerful, however, unable to stir high clouds or storms, but perhaps enough to snuff out a decent-sized fire.
Adharc Scáileach - The Shadow Horn
This double-hornpipe consists of two sounding bells and wind caps made from horn, joined by double carved bone chanters. A crack in the bone runs across the chanters, connecting two holes on either pipe. The horn bells are black near the jagged open end near the horn, fading quickly to white where the meet the bone white chanters; the wind caps at the rear fade in the same fashion. The two chanters are joined with brass wire. It is larger than one would expect, clearly coming from a large animal and player.
Seoltóir, the Fomoir driver of Tir Scáth's cave-dwelling aurochs herds, slaughtered his finest bull to craft this pybgorn from the beast's horns and leg bones. In the hands of a skilled player, the Adharc can change the moods of herd animals. A gentle lullaby could calm a herd of oxen, but a powerful blast might drive them to stampede. Any herding animal is affected by it, but carnivores and hunting packs are not.
Dóiteánaí - Fire-raiser
This elaborate fiddle has a fine wood grain, but is a bright brassy color and inlaid with gold filigree. The tuning pegs bear ruby cabochons, and the scroll has been carved into a dragon's head. The strings seem to blow with a strange yellow light, but one has broken and no repair seems able to mend it. Given its metallic appearance, the instrument is surprisingly light, but also very warm to the touch.
Fire-raiser draws on the power of its creator, Lasair the flame-bearer. The fiddle can ignire or extinguish flames at the will of the fiddler. The ease and rage of this power depends on the skill of the player and the material being lit. Wicks and tinder go up much easier than a building, and a fireplace is extinguished quicker than a fireball or burning forest.
Sreanga an Stoirmeacha - The Storm Strings
Sreanga an Stoirmeacha is a clàrsach-style harp, tall and curved. It seems to be made not of wood, but some dark gray, almost marbled material with the density and hardness of oak or maple. A single but distinct crack runs across the broad side. Its strings are a bright metal the color of lightning. The clàrsach feels cool and wet, and plucking its strings produces a fine mist.
Fearthainn the storm spirit crafted this harp from one of her own rain clouds, and its strings call to its sisters. A harpist can summon clouds with a song, and a skilled one can make them drizzle, pour, or even flash lightning. Just as well can clouds be dispersed with a farewell song. The harp plays just as well wet or dry.
Píoba Geala - The Bright Pipes
The Bright Pipes are a set of uilleann pipes or elbow bagpipes. The chanter is of beech wood; a thin layer of bark still covers every surface as though it were grown rather than carved. Three similarly crafted wooden drone pipes are attached to a wooden regulator, but these seem to be scorched, their ends brittle and cracked. Thin green vines connect them together and to the buckskin bag, tiny leaves and flowers growing and wilting at regular intervals. The bellows is also made from buckskin and features the image of a knotwork tree in the center.
Caonach was a ghillie dubh, a solitary dark-haired sprite of the forest, and his pipes celebrate the glens and wildwood. Playing the pipes can affect plant growth within its sound range. A reel can bring flowers into blossom and cover bare trees in leaves, while a slow air cause leaves to change color and fall from trees. A skilled piper could cause rapid and aggressive growth, making vines overtake a being or making a tree growth to dislodge a boulder.
Faíthe Síogaithe - The Fairy Voices
This is an elaborate cold iron chest, no bigger than a breadbox, decorated with elaborate knotwork and triskelions; the decorations make no particular picture, and seem to shift subtly, writhing about the surface of the chest. The chest is shut with a golden latch with no obvious lock, but the lid does not move for any amount of force.
When the Creator stole the voices of the Aosáin, they were placed into this chest, and thus the Aosáin are the only fae that have no songs. The cold iron means no fairy folk can open the box, but it is not hopeless. The voices can be coaxed from the box with a secret song known only in the memory of the Aosáin. If a skilled singer could somehow learn the song from the voiceless fairies, she could sing the song that opens the chest and frees the voices. Obviously this is no small task - the fae are hard to parley with as it is, let alone to learn from them in a way they cannot easily convey - but the reward would be great. One opening the box will be greeted with a chorus of fairy voices. The Aosáin replace or harmonize with any musical component of a spell, greatly increasing its effectiveness. This is true for both magical songs of the Gléasanna an Cruthú and any other musical spells like bardic songs. Unfortunately for the Aosáin, the magic of the chest can only be relaxed, not broken; after an hour, the voices return to be locked in the box for at least a full day.
The Songs of Creation
Legends say that after the Creator made them mortal, the Ceolbhuíon an Cruthú settled in Saol, the world of the living, and led mortal lives. They joined and separated, and from them sprang the races of the world. And until they died mortal deaths, they continued to make music together, both as a unified band and in smaller pairs and groups.
Although the Ceolbhuíon never wrote down their music, the instruments remember the songs. If skilled players happen upon the right melodies and rhythms, they can awaken the great songs of creation that imbue their own magics.
Tríd an Taobhdhoras
This song requires all the instruments, including the Fairy Voices. When played as the Band first did, this song can break the players through to other realms and form a portal to the beyond. Every realm has a slightly different song - a higher octave, a lower key, etc. - and there may be the need for experimentation to find the song for the right realm.
A reel played with Fire-raiser and the Dancing Wind, "Tine Guairneáil" creates a flaming cyclone. The fiddle controls the heat, the flute for the cyclone.
A lively air with the Bright Pipes accompanying the Storm Strings, "Sheanathar Eidhneán" summons strangling vines from even but small amounts of earth, able to tangle a foe's feet.
A deep and powerful jig played on the Beating Heart and the Shadow Horn, this song gives the players much greater control over a herd of animals than either instrument alone. The song can make a herd of cattle move in intricate circles or shapes, in any speed or formation. This could be useful in creating a wall of animals, or driving off groups with the controlled beasts.
This is but a small sampling, and there are many other songs besides. Some are known to the ancient folk of the world, and others may await discovery.
Finding the Instruments
The original instruments were passed on by the Ceolbhuíon an Cruthú to their descendants, but that was eons ago and they have since been scattered throughout the earth. The best chance to track them down is to find the descendant races of the members and see if their legends and histories have some insight.
Lady Uath, the mermaid who created the Croí ag Bualadh, became mother of the sea peoples: mermfolk, sirens, selkies, and the like. It is said she passed the drum on to her children, who still beat it deep below the waves. But once in a generation, a selkie drummer brings it to the surface on a moonless night and plays to the stars, hoping for a reply from one of the sister instruments.
Anáil the wind spirit became father of the birds and all manner of winged creatures, as well as the djinni and air elementals. These folk being tricksters, Gaoth Ghleadhrach is still sometimes used to summon great gusts of wind to blow sailors off course. Legends say it is hidden in a castle in the clouds - if such things can be believed.
Seoltóir is father of dwarves, Formori, and other beings of the deep. A great dwarven king once locked the Adharc Scáileach away in his treasury to be used only in times of great need. But the dwarves are a secretive people, and their histories are hidden; even finding the deep kingdoms can prove treacherous, let alone convincing the deep folk to share what they know.
Lasair, who gave the world fire, is mother of the Lampades, dragons, efreets, and other fire creatures. The fire nymphs long ago hid away the fiddle Dóiteánaí, playing it in their rituals. It is said they can be seen during volcanic eruptions, which could give an opportunity to speak with one. Good luck getting them to part with their fiddle, though.
Fearthainn is mother of storms; they say each rain cloud is one of her children. A cult of sorcerers worship her as a god, and they are responsible for great storms and typhoons, summoning them from their temple hidden on a rocky isle. They use the harp Sreanga an Stoirmeacha, though many others vie for its possession.
Caonach was the first ghillie dubh, and out of lonesomeness he created all the other beings of the forest: elves, satyrs, dryads, and the rest. His sibling ghillies keep and use the Píoba Geala, slowly summoning the spread of forests throughout the world. They are a secretive and shy people, protected by the forest.
And as for the Faíthe Síogaithe: the box containing the fairy voices has not been seen since the Creator cast it into the sea. Even Lady Uath's children cannot find it.
These are all, of course, stories - old legends whose truths depend on time and the teller. Perhaps they are true, or they are mere starting points. The Gléasanna may even be right under our noses.