“Oh ho the Faery’s dead,
“Gone and fled
“For silver it bled
“We are the Wicken Men,
“Oh ho the Faery’s dead,
“Gone’s its dread…”
Above, an owl beheld the scene while drifting in the night sky. It looked down at the forested peninsula that jutted out into the lake. The Wicken sang from behind straw visages of men encircling a pit of emerald flame. It flickered and let out wisps of smoke as the Wicken Men chanted.
“We are the Wicken Men,
“Here our song again.
“Oh Ho the Faery’s dead…”
Unnoticed by the chanting men the owl approached the ritual floating easily on the hot air rising off of the fire. The emerald light churned beneath the ebony owl. The light was blinding, and the owl was here for other reasons than the dying Faery.
The owl tucked its wings and without a sound it descended into the canopy of the trees. Navigating between branches in precision and stealth. The owl landed gently in a rend like hollow in the body on old hemlock.
Inside was a bundle of tightly woven branches. The Owl grabbed it from where it rested and flew out of the tree. The owl displayed its strength as it fought against the weight of the bundle to gain altitude.
“Oh Ho the Faery’s dead.” The owl caught the warm air of the fire and rose above the scene, barring its load with powerful grace.
“Gone’s its dread…”
The Owl flew over the nearby lake till the faint lights of a village came into view. Come morning the Wicken Men would return to the village and those that had not heard the chanting would receive the news. The following night would be a celebration. The Owl flew in an arc around the town till it could approach the chapel from its rear. The Owl folded its wing s and dove through a half opened window. It dropped its bundle of hemlock branches in front of the man that waited inside the candle lit room.
“Oh ho the Faery’s dead, oh mighty Spirit, bless the Wicken men.” The man was young, in his late twenties. He wore the blacks of a Preacher. This church was his.
He spread the branches apart. Inside, rested what looked like a human child, except it had four tiny translucent black dragon fly wings. They were elegantly patterned. The tips of all four displayed an eye like pattern, which moved as if they could see.
He lifted the infant from the branches. It yawned, revealing enlarged incisors. A naked heavy breasted woman lay nearby.
“I’m sorry my love, our child died during birth.” The man brought the tiny thing to the woman’s breasts. “But I found us another.” The man sang softly and the child reached out for them. The child was ravenous and fed while the man continued to sing.
As its belly swelled its wings shrunk- its overly mature teeth retracted, though the woman’s tit had already been worn raw. Fully fed it resembled a normal human infant. A girl with a thick fluff of dark hair.
The Preacher took her away from the woman’s breast and held her closely. He spoke a quick chant then sprinkled ash then water on the girl. She sneezed and her eyes opened. They were a green that burned.
“If you were a boy I’d call you Rylo, but you’re a little girl aren’t you?” The Preacher smiled down at the child that reached up towards him. “Your name will be Rylah, your mother was quite the devil. I can only hope you possess half her hunger.”
The Preacher had made a brief appearance at the Faery’s death celebration. He took part in the rituals as he was needed, but quickly returned to the study in his chapel. He’d lost his wife in childbirth the night before. It was expected for him to find time for his grief. He had a newborn daughter to take care of too now, on top of it all. He’d enlisted the aid Marybella a new mother, whose husband had been killed by the Faery. She was to help him care for Rylah as Marybell was still breast feeding her son.
The ebony owl watched the celebration from the edge of the forest that encircled three sides of the main part of the town. The lake bordered the other. The towns’ people danced and sang, burning effigies of Faeries.
The Wicken Men here were spoiled till they stumbled with drink and bellies bursting with fine food. Their purses were fat and heavy with the gracious coins of the villagers. Their laps warmed by the young women who thought the Wicken Men heroic. They were their saviors. They very well deserved it this night, without them it was likely this town wouldn’t have survived the month.
The owl looked out towards the jut of land where the Faery had burned. Lazura, the Owl remembered her name. The ebony owl had not been upset when the Wicken Men got to her.
“Rylah you’re going to freeze. Matthew, you forgot to give her, her hat.” Rylah turned to have Marybella pull her heavy winter cap over her black locks. Rylah giggled as Marybella kissed her nose. Rylah knew her mother had died giving birth to her, that’s what people told her. But to Rylah, Marybella was her real mother. She’d married Matthew a year after she’d been hired to help care for Rylah. She’d been the only mother Rylah had known.
Marybella stood and kissed her husband. She then stepped back hands resting on her swollen stomach. She was pregnant with her third child with Matthew. Rylah desperately hoped it would be a girl as she had three brothers already.
“Come on Rylah, let’s keep going.” Rylah’s father scoped her up and deposited her on his shoulders. Rylah twisted at the waist so she could wave back to Marybella whose blonde hair was suddenly tossed about in the wind.
They walked for some time before her father spoke. By then they were on the farm road heading east, they would often visit the orchards close to town. “Can I trust you with something?”
“Can I tell Brandon?” She entrusted everything in her step brother.
“Brandon found out on his own, though I caught him. And I made him make the same promise I’m asking you to make.”
Rylah was aware of how smart Brandon was. She also knew how clumsy and not stealthy he was. He was a few months older than Rylah but had grown rather fast suddenly. Rylah giggled.
“What’s so funny up there?” Matthew asked.
“Nothing, I promise you father. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Alright, first I’d like you to meet Hospin. I believe he’s wanted to meet you for some time.” A great black owl appeared from the trees and landed on the Preachers out stretched wrist.
Rylah screeched with joy. “You have a pet owl!”
The Preacher laughed. “Not quite an owl, he’s a familiar. He came to me from the Fae.”
Rylah knew about the Fae, it was the world that was touched by Hell. It’s were Faeries lived. The Fae blurred with the mortal realm so closely you could walk from one to another and never notice. She also knew what having a familiar meant.
“I told you Rylah, you can’t tell anyone, not even Marybella.”
“I won’t,” Rylah swore.
“Mr. Atwood! Mr. Atwood!” Rylah and Brandon bounced as they echoed each other in front of Atwood’s Market.
“Don’t you children take at least one day off a week to sleep in?” The old man said as he flipped through his keys, stepping past Rylah and Brandon.
Keeping with sixthday tradition Rylah and Brandon found their spots at the table behind the counter and Mr. Atwood found them muffins. “Mr. Atwood, can you tell us more about your trips to the Fae? Please?” Brandon asked after swallowing a mouth full his pumpkin muffin.
Rylah was enjoying the warm blueberry aroma coming off hers, having not bitten in yet. “Please?” she added to Brandon’s request.
Mr. Atwood smiled satisfied with his audience’s eagerness. “I’ll tell you about my two encounters with a Saetyr den.”
“Saetyrs? What about Faeries?” Rylah asked.
“I’ve told you two enough about Faeries. Saetyrs are something worth knowing a thing or two about. I’ll tell you.
“Now first off the dangerous thing about Saetyrs is that they wander and den up in packs. And their dens are really easy to fall into. Well I fell into my first Saetyr den when I tripped and took a tumble off Whembly’s ridge. Dropped right into the Fae I did.”
“You fell into the Fae?” Brandon asked.
“You usually enter in a state of momentum. Usually off balance and without control. That’s why you remember to watch where you’re walking. Never know when you’re going to trip and fall into a Saetyr den.”
“So what happened when you fell in?” Rylah asked.
“Well first off I was a little confused. I was unharmed but in a bizarre place. I could hear water running but I couldn’t really see much of anything. So I followed the water noise, my vision adjusted. I could make out that I was in a moist natural cave of sorts.”
“Well it kept getting brighter so I kept moving forward until I entered a great expansive chamber were it looked like a hundred underground streams came together to pool in the caves basin. The water there glowed with the moonlight that came through several crags in the caves ceiling. But the room also had a heavy smell of musk. I looked around and saw that easily fifty Saetyr slept around me. They were imposing creatures built like a lanky seven foot man covered in forest tone fur, they have hooved feet and heads like a wolves with horns. Their hands have claws three inches long on each finger. They’d tear meat from your bones easier than my carving knife.” Mr. Atwood brandished said knife wildly.
“How did you escape?”
“Well, I did the only smart thing and turned immediately around and started praying to the Spirit.”
“Do I look like I’ve been torn apart by Saetyr?” Mr Atwood’s point was made. “The Fea tends to work like that. If you ever find yourself in a place that don’t quite feel right, turn around and pray like a pious grandmother on Seventhday.”
“Did that work for you the second time you ended up in a Saetyr den?” Rylah asked.
“Oh no, if I’d only been so lucky. The last time I tumbled into a Saetyr den was about fifteen years back or so. This time my wife shoved me down a hill?”
“Why would Mrs. Atwood shove you down a hill?” Brandon asked.
“Well because I probably deserved it. But never mind that. I’m in a Saetyr den. This time the humidity inside is un-bearable. The stench of them was like spoiled eggs and cloves of garlic that were left in the sun all day.
“This time I had no easy exits. And the only light was coming from the far side of the cave. So with few options I attempted to make my way through the sleeping mass of Saetyrs.”
“Did you get through?” They both asked.
“Of course not, I made it fifteen feet before I kicked one. Thing stood up and looked me straight through, its eyes sucked the very light out of the place.”
“What happened?” Rylah asked, her muffin forgotten for the moment.
“I heard a screech and if you’d believe it Faeries came a screaming into the caves. A great deal of carnage ensued and I ran like I right should of. Praying to the Spirit the damned whole time – till I tripped and found myself laying on my back at the bottom of the hill my wife had sent me tumbling down earlier.”
“Really?” Brandon asked.
“Of course, that’s generally how the Fae works.”
“Ry, is that done yet? I’m going to need it in a moment,” Brandon asked his step sister as he finished the chalk diagrams on the large piece of slate that encompassed much of the root seller’s floor.
Matthew watched his nine year old daughter work strawberry pulp and field mouse blood into a lump of tar. Her black hair was tied back so not to blur her vision. Her face was the image of focus. Finishing she passed the bowl with its contents to her brother who placed it inside the small circle at the center of the patterns.
Rylah lit a match and delicately tossed it into the bowl. The tar lit and the two chanted in the Fae tongue. They were opening a small rift to the Fae, hoping a creature might stumble through.
Smoke from the fumes made a crimson teardrop pattern before it dissipated through the floor boards. Hospin, Matthew noticed was paying close attention through their connection. The owl was outside but he could use Matthew’s senses as Matthew used his. He could feel the owl’s curiosity. Hospin had stumbled into the mortal world quite on accident and had found Matthew. This was something he hadn’t experienced before.
A black blur shot from the crimson smoke and disappeared behind a desk. Rylah was quick to react but Brandon was closer and underneath the desk first. He yelped in pain but emerged holding a black and white splotched cat. They regarded each other for a moment and the connection was made. There is no ritual for receiving a familiar. Witches and Warlocks have a connection to the Fae and the creatures from their reflexively latch on to them. They need to or they won’t survive in the mortal world.
Brandon had been trying this ritual for weeks failing each time. But, he had finally asked Rylah for help and it worked without a flaw. She was luckier it seemed to most around her. This power had manifested its self in more ways than in witchcraft. Through his familiar the Priest had seen her Faery heart burning. He did not understand her power yet, but he believed he was onto a means of channeling it.
“Cyrah,” Brandon spoke naming his familiar. The cat purred at Brandon’s touched but backed away from Rylah as she tried to pet her. Brandon regarded his step sister oddly.
“I still win, I got twelve points. You only have ten.” Rylah went ahead and moved her shrew skull another square forward.
“You’re on a bone-square! You have to draw a skull card,” Brandon said. Making sure his sister didn’t sneak through any obstacles.
Rylah reluctantly reached for the pile of torn parchment with hand sketched skulls on them. On the other side Brandon’s clear hand writing gave instructions to the reader. “Draw three cards from your deck. If you drew three 1’s move forward two squares. If you drew two 1’s move forward one square. If you draw one, stay where you are. If you don’t draw any go back twelve squares!”
Brandon laughed, seeing an opportunity to get back into the game. Rylah drew three cards. Her face sunk. Brandon was almost jumping out of his stool.
“I’m so sorry Brandon.” Rylah revealed a blue 1, a green 1, and a black 1.
“Fae fire consume…!” Brandon kicked at the small wooden table they played their game on, causing the pieces to scatter. “You are cheating, somehow, you little… child of Faery spawn.”
“Brandon! I was going to win that game.” Rylah yelled at her step brother.
Brandon smirked with the insolence of a ten year old who hates to lose. “It’s my game, it’s my rules. Game over.”
“That isn’t a rule!” Rylah protested. “You can’t just make a rule like that!”
“Too bad,” Brandon said. “You were cheating.”
Rylah threw her hands up irritated frustration. “How?”
“Luck! Luck! Luck! You’re damned and cursed luck! Your spirit damned luck!”
“You hate losing!”
“Whenever I’m winning at anything you change the rules!”
“You do! You hate losing!”
“I hate you! You always win!” Brandon finally silenced his sister. “At everything…” He was nearly crying. He left the root cellar giving the game he’d painstakingly created a solid stomp.
“Hospin and Rylah are almost here,” The Priest said to a thirteen year old Brandon. He was near as tall as Matthew was if weighing half as much. His heavy winter clothing hung awkwardly from his narrow shoulders.
“I’ll start then.” Brandon took off his left glove and pricked one of his fingers with a knife and began painting runs on four bird skulls; a mallard, a hawks, an owls, and a goose. As his step son worked Matthew opened a small bird cage and retrieved a morning dove.
Cyrah trailed Matthew, his eyes only for the small bird. There was no sound, but a sensation told the Priest that Hospin was close and Rylah should be here soon.
“Father,” She said breathing heavy. “I’m sorry…”
Matthew smiled and ruffled his daughter’s thick dark hair. “You’re forgiven; Marybella would have flayed your rear had you disappeared before the silverware was polished.”
Rylah smiled. “Are we doing another Calling?” They’d been weakening the barrier between Mortal in the Fae over the last year or so. Callings opened small portals that aloud for communication between Mortal and Fae. Rylah enjoyed conversing with minor Sprites as they enjoyed conversing with her. Her tamed Faery aura gave them pleasure. “No we are doing a summoning.” The Preacher lied.
“We’re bringing a Faery here?” Rylah asked.
“No just a Wisp, inevitably a few Sprites will wander in as well, but nothing to do about that but hope they don’t attract the Wicken Men. Rylah take the dove.” The Priest passed her the bird and then passed her a knife. “Brandon and I will handle the ritual. To start, slit your palm then slit the bird’s throat and let it bleed out with your blood over the skulls.”
Rylah wasn’t new to this type of work. Matthew knew that she didn’t want to kill the little bird, but she would do what she what she had to. She made her way to the skulls. Brandon had finished inscribing them with his blood. He smiled at his step sister and she smiled back with new confidence.
The knife was sharp. She barely felt the edge as she cut her palm. The dove’s neck parted like warm butter. Their blood mingled, gathered, and began to drip on to the skulls. Matthew’s and Brandon’s voices chanted in a low hum.
The Preacher watched a slight shiver rise through Rylah’s feet, her legs, her spine, her neck. Her head shot back so that her eyes were looking into the winter sky. It was snowing ever so slightly. She dropped the bird and it bounced off the skulls, and then caught fire, burning, emerald, and hot. The bird was ash before it could fall the rest of the way to the ground. Then the skulls began to burn with Emerald fire. And Rylah seemed to be released for a moment. She stumbled backwards and fell. The smoke of the fire began to take on a semblance to a young girl, naked with dragon fly wings which fluttered, barely visible in the smoky visage.
It drifted down from the fire towards Rylah. The Fae visage reached out for her. It was almost touching her. A sharp pain silenced Matthew’s chanting. Hospin screamed. The owl dove from his watch post and clawed the eyes out of a Wicken Man’s face. Matthew stumbled forward. There was a pop made by gunpowder, and Matthew felt a silver slug shot from a Wicken Man’s pistol tear into the back of his chest.
The Preacher watched Brandon running for his sister’s motionless body. Rylah’s smoke reflection was gone. Is that light, Rylah burning?
Hospin watched a Wicken Man put a crossbow bolt through Brandon’s skull. Brandon collapsed into the emerald fire that was enveloping Rylah’s motionless body. The fire spread across him as well.
With fighting futile Hospin found a perch and watched. The Wicken Men stepped from their cover into the clearing where Rylah lay burning. Her clothing had burned away. Her naked body, though consumed by fire, was unharmed.
“That’s a Fae fire,” The Wicken Man who’d slayed Brandon said braving getting close to Rylah.
“Was she a sacrifice?” Two more Wicken Men entered the clearing. The one who spoke was helping out the Wicken Man who Hospin had blinded.
“If she was, they did a poor job with the sacrificing part, she’s still alive. Look, her chest is moving. She’s still breathing.” Brandon’s killer responded.
The Wicken man helping his blinded comrade set the man onto the ground and knelt next to were Rylah’s dark hair was splayed out around her face. “She’s kind of a bit queer looking.”
“She looks alright to me. Come on – help me drive away these flames.”
“I mean, look at her fingers, there a little too long, same with her toes, and her… May the Holy Father watch over me, Adrian look at her teeth! Her eyes opened and she beheld the two Wicken Men. She saw the remnants of her brother’s burnt body. Saw the Preacher laying face first in a puddle of blood.
Wreathed in Fae power she screamed. The flames transformed into a pulsating emerald aura, faint black dragon fly wings fluttered along her naked back. Their eye patterns darted around changing focus. The Wicken Men clawed at their bleeding ears. Rylah didn’t waste any time. She thrust elongated fingertips with menacingly sharp claws into the chest of one, then she lunged at and bit out the throat of the other. The blinded Wicken Man’s whimpering got her attention. She went to move towards him but stumbled some. Her aura was shrinking slowly. When she got to him she lazily sunk her claws deep into the man’s chest. She collapsed.
Hospin watched her aura fade. And she once more resembled a human girl. The Preachers spell was strong but incomplete. Hospin felt a tug on his being as he once again became a familiar. He descended from the tree and nuzzled Rylah’s face with his beak. Cyrah emerged from her hiding and curled up alongside Rylah’s pale skin as she breathed slowly, the warmth of her familiars kept her alive.
Chapter 1: The Hollowing
“We talk of the Arae and how they threw back Hells legions and created the Divide. But that’s not all of it. It’s not the Truth about the Fae,” One of two older men spoke.
“They also caused the Rift between Heaven and the Mortal, leaving us alone with the Fae.” The young man who trailed them said. “Alone to hold off the Fae’s corruption.”
“That is mostly true.” The lead Monk searched his robe for his amulet of the Trinity. It was a triangle formed by three touching gold rings: The Father, the Mother, and the Spirit.
“Sain?” The other Monk asked.
Sain pushed the door open and continued speaking. “You are Wicken now. Malick Amora, You should know the truth about the Fae. Not children’s stories and Myths.”
Malick recognized the décor of the Monastery library even in the dark. He’d just never been to this part of it before. “What truth about the Fae?” He asked.
“Talin?” Sain addressed the other Monk.
Talin had been scanning the lone book shelf in this obscure room. He found what he was looking for and pulled the tome out. He opened the tome and began flipping through its pages. He spoke, “The Fae was created in the ending days of the Hollowing.”
“But the Fae is the Mortals other half they were created together.” Malick said.
“Upon creation, the Spirit created a home on the Mortal plane for his Arae,” Talin explained. “This realm allowed for mortal and divine to interact. That place went by a different name then but it was during the Hollowing that it became the twisted corrupted Fae.”
Talin found the page he was looking for and took a seat at the heavy wooden table at the room’s center. “Belghra happened.” Malick’s pulse quickened. He recognized that name. Belghra was the Fallen’s spawn, and general to Hell’s legions. “For thousands of years she was unable to create a breach into the mortal Realm. But through the realm the Arae had created she was able to make a hole. She came through with the shadow beasts known as Shades and even worse the Draegons: born and wrought in the molten core of Hell, even the Arae fell before them.”
Malick noticed Talin start to read from the book: “The Hollowing tore heaven and Hell away from the Mortal and the Fae. Arae as well as Shades and Draegons were left in the now Fae: a once pure world now forever corrupted by Hell’s presence.
“By the end of the Hollowing the Arae had forgotten the name of their former home. The corruption had spread beyond the trees, the grass, and the flowers. It was spreading into its inhabitants. Those Arae who were not fighting on the front lines of hell were able to return to Heaven with the end of the Hollowing. Those that remained now resembled twisted versions of their former selves. Their fingers are too long, their teeth too sharp. Their corrupted wings resemble those of an insect instead of that of great birds. They now possess an animal’s hunger – their Arae self-sustenance gone. Their minds, though touched by the Fae’s taint, still remain wickedly keen.
“I’ve talked to these creatures. Some still remember what they once were. Others have just fuzzy recollections. They call their corrupted home the Fae, and themselves Faeries.
“There is a wild power to these creatures as well as their realm. A magic I can even see seeping into our own world. Our connection the Fae is more intimate than it ever was to the realm of the Arae. I can literally walk from one to the other if I know what to look for. And I’m far from the only one to learn of this. For now, the Faeries seem content to wander their realm. I fear what further interaction between us may bring.” Talin paused for a moment before he read the last bit. “Monk Joanas Mason: Observations from the Years Following the Hollowing.”
Malick took this all in while remaining silent. “The Faeries didn’t remain content in the Fae then?”
“Or man provoked them,” Sain spoke.
“Witchcraft?” Malick asked.
“Men and Woman who could not let the Fae realm simply be,” Sain said.
“We are giving you the real history because a Wicken Man needs to know who his true enemy is,” Talin said. “Monk Joanas proves that Faeries once peacefully existed; content in their Fae hunting the remnants from Hell. Something provoked them.”
“They probably ran out of Draegons to kill,” Malick said.
“They ran out of Draegons to hunt a long time before they started leaving the Fae. They were called here,” Talin explained.
“So the real enemies are the Witches and Warlocks then?” Malick asked. “Are you telling me to be merciful to Faeries?”
“Sympathy maybe, but not mercy; A Faery existing in this realm must be vanquished.” Sain said.
“Do you tell every new Wicken Man this?” Malick asked.
“Mostly,” Talin answer. “This is a complement; it means we think you’re not stupid.”