Beyond The Veil
“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.”
— Terry Pratchett (Lords and Ladies)
The Sidhe are split into two “Courts” – the Seelie and Unseelie. The Seelie Court is, at least reputedly, the “nice” one being home to those Sidhe who are most often blonde and sun-kissed. The Unseelie Court is, according to legend, the home of the darker Sidhe – those who are more inclined towards chaos and evil. In actuality, the truth is somewhat different.
The Seelie Court is ruled by Dagda, the King of Light and Illusion. His Court prefers style over substance. The seeming is of beauty and light and the underlying narrative is that if something looks good then it must be good. That is, of course, not always the case but even so Seelie Court Sidhe are the most insufferably superior of all their kin. They look down upon all other creatures, even their Unseelie cousins, as being lesser creatures, never willingly admitting to having had “relations” with them and looking down on those who have mixed blood. They hold themselves apart from the rest of the world on their island of Innishee.
The Unseelie Court, by contrast, has a tradition of accepting any Fey with the power to live and thrive there, full Sidhe or not. It is ruled by NicNevin, Queen of Air and Darkness and has a more direct attitude – you look as you do, it is your actions that determine your nature. It is home to the misshapen Slaugh Sidhe, who in appearance are creatures from nightmare, simply because the Unseelie offered them sanctuary when their own Sithen was destroyed by humans – and the Slaugh are now one of Andais’ most formidable threats. The other is her entourage of Noble guards, whom she forces to take a vow of celibacy. The Unseelie are more likely to have dealings with mortals, but even so tend to have a superiority complex where all other creatures are concerned, Fey or not.
Many Nobles were once Gods in truth and gave up their deity during the making of The Nameless. They don’t like to talk about what they have lost – it is practically a taboo among them – and some who lost most power have even changed their names, forbidding the use of their old one unless they regain the power that once was theirs. They worship only the Lord and Lady and make no images of either, preferring symbols such as a great tree, the earth, the sun and so forth. Some are still worshipped as Gods by small sects of mortals and these gain additional power from that worship as well as traveling into the mortal lands to appear for their worshippers from time to time. There is, it is generally understood, a level at which all Sidhe gain power from mortal belief in their magnificence and might – but again, they don’t like to talk about this. It conflicts with their superiority complex. What they will happily talk about is their own Fay nature – Faerie is a high mana zone and creatures from Faerie have a natural affinity for magic and power.
The Sidhe Code (minus 15 points)
All Sidhe live under a strict code of honor which it is taboo to break. Being discovered breaking some of its strictures is grounds for exile from Faerie – an event which could cause some Sidhe to fade in power and even die. Others are punished by death, eternal torture or even being forced to live as a powerless mortal.
Never Lie. This is the greatest precept of Sidhe honor. A Sidhe will never lie but may well tell the truth in such a way as that it might as well be a lie. Known oath breakers are summarily expelled from Faerie.
Never pry. A Sidhe will never ask another about their motives and emotions – at least directly. Instead, they will attempt to reveal another’s intentions and feelings by a roundabout route or wait to be told. Directness about such things is considered intentionally rude and even insulting among the Sidhe. Because all Sidhe are naturally curious, this and the taboo against lying means that normal Sidhe interactions involve elaborate head-games.
Never Use Glamour On Another Sidhe. Using that innate magical ability which can make a Sidhe seem more attractive and charismatic on another Sidhe is taken as a direct provocation – it says you have only contempt for the other’s power. It could well end in a duel.
Duels. Any Sidhe has the right, if they feel insulted or provoked, to answer that insult by a demand for a duel. The duel is by single combat to either first blood, submission/unconsciousness or to death. Combat is by weapon, magic or both. The right to decide the parameters of the duel lies with the one challenged to the duel. Thus, it is a common tactic to insult or provoke an enemy into challenging you, then choosing rules for the duel that favor yourself rather than your enemy. The ritual before a duel involves both duelists drinking from a cup of wine into which has been mixed three drops of blood from each. Since drinking mortal blood will make a Sidhe mortal (dies in truth at usual -HP levels) for a short time (3d minutes), this has been used on rare occasions by a mortal to their advantage. Cheating in a duel is grounds for expulsion from faerie or perhaps even execution, as it is a grievous form of oath breaking.
The Great Oaths. Unseelie Sidhe will, if pushed, consider the following formulaic oath utterly binding: “ I swear on my honor, and by the darkness that eats all things, that…” followed by the meat of the oath. Seelie Sidhe substitute in “and by the light that gives all things life”. This is their most solemn oath and the Sidhe who breaks it may well find himself cursed to lose all his Faerie magical advantages and be banished from Faerie into the life of a mortal.
No Body Taboos
The Sidhe have no sexual or body taboos. It makes no difference to them whether they are clothed or unclothed or what sexual activities are engaged in – even before an audience – and considered rude to take notice unless notice is invited. However, it is considered rude to not notice another Sidhe who is making an obvious attempt to dress impressively or to be particularly noteworthy. Despite their seeming promiscuity, forcing yourself sexually on another is a massive taboo. Sex, or even sexual touching, without consent is grounds for expulsion from faerie.
The Hands Of Power
The only requirement for entry into the nobility is possession of one or even two Hands of Power, unique magical advantages. At that point, the Sidhe gains the title of Lord/Lady of (Hand of Power) or, if of the royal house, Prince or Princess or even Queen of (Hand of Power) For instance, Meredith nicEssus is Princess of Flesh and Blood.
Other Noble Sidhe Powers
The powers of the Noble Sidhe are as varied as they are awesome. Many have been Gods in truth and are still worshipped as demigods by mortals. This, along with their natural affinity for magic and the raw power of Faerieland, can give them incredibly powerful additional advantages or disadvantages.
There are many different ways of insulting a member of the Fey:
• One of the greatest laws of the fey involves swearing oaths. If a fey gives their word or swears an oath, then they cannot break it and are bound by it. To break their word (to be foresworn) means that they will be out-cast. Even the rulers of each Court must obide by their oaths.
• It is impolite to try and read someone’s magic on a first introduction. It means that you do not believe they have the power to shield him/herself from even your casual/weakest magic.
• It is an insult to ask for modesty in a non-sexual situation. To send someone away implied lack of trust or dislike, and only when their behaviour is inappropriate can they be asked to leave.
• If another fey does not use your title after you have used theirs it is an insult. Likewise it is an insult to insist that a ruler of another court uses your title. Using someones title and then dropping it during a conversation is being deliberately rude.
• Fey do not ask personal questions unless they are invited to do so. Then they make ask whatever they wish. It is considered impolite to do otherwise.
• Using magic to persuade a Sidhe noble is an insult. To do so implies that you considered the other noble to be a lesser fey.
• A monarch cannot order another monarch to do anything, it is one of the laws of the Fey.
• To display anger in front of another fey implies that they are not important enough for you to hide your anger from them. It means that you consider the other person to be lesser than you and/or a lesser fey.
• Sidhe call the smaller fey, especially demi-fey, the ‘wee ones’. Lesser fey call the Sidhe the ‘large ones’. Neither names are particularly polite.
• The Fay are very private, and anyone who shares their most intimate secrets with the humans will be exiled or executed, depending on the court.
• The elder fey do not thank each other, it is considered an insult. Only fey under 200 years old would thank someone.