Torvallis!'s Inventive 'Folklore': The continuing story of Bottom the Faun

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Torvallis!'s Inventive 'Folklore': The continuing story of Bottom the Faun

Post by Torvallis! on Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:12 pm

Continuing from the last story, wherein Bottom disguised himself as a fairy king and pranked a mortal to drink a magic potion and fall asleep for a few decades, Raisa, his sister, was very mad at him.

He had promised her not to hunt in her forests, and when he had lured the mortal into his prank, he had done so with hunting in the forest and a celebration with the elves. So Titania, who doesn’t like Bottom, bargained with Raisa, and the upshot of the exchange was that Raisa left happy and Bottom owed Titania again.

Now, for once, Titania had something serious that needed attending to, and decided not to send Bottom on some meaningless quest to punish him for her amusement. Gak the seer had seen a terrible vision of the future, and Oberon’s court all agreed that something needed to be done. They didn’t expect Bottom to succeed against the prophecy, (since prophecies seem to have a way of always coming true), but an attempt should be made.

The prophecy was simply that a child of a particular faun would disobey the edict of Oberon’s court, and visit the Land Beyond as a living being.

Bottom took the very direct route. He went to the faun in question, and told him what would happen. Prophecies have a way of turning your cleverness into stupidity, so Bottom dared not be clever.

So the faun travelled away from his home in the forest, into a human city, (fauns are very social, they can’t be away from people, especially other fauns, so he could not become a hermit). After the faun died, and left no heirs, Bottom cautiously consulted Gak. And a good thing he hadn’t, and wasn’t arrogant, for the prophecy had not been allayed.

And so Bottom’s clever uncleverness had already turned against him, for now he had no way of knowing who the faun’s child was. He knew it should be a young half-faun/half-human, rare though the success of that union be, but with an entire city to search, (and maybe more), it wasn’t feasible.

So Bottom took a more intensive route. He decided to find every conceivable way a living mortal could travel to the Land Beyond, and control or monitor it. So he sealed spells, and silenced psychic masters, and destroyed the last of a rare species of plant needed for rituals, gathered old and ancient manas that had acquired unusual properties, destroyed artifacts, and put up detour signs on magical & hidden paths.

One such artifact that he destroyed was a skull of a long-dead fairy lord. Who had, in the early days of the world, served as a magical, mystical, fairy ferry between this world and the next, before the connection was fully complete. And so he & and his home, which was now his tomb, had existed in both worlds at once. And his skull still allowed passage between the realms.

But in destroying the fairy skull, Bottom made a mistake. The power of the skull was tied to the entire world, and the entire next world, and did not reside in the skull so much as anchor there. When the skull was destroyed, the power anchored to another object.

Bottom did not discover this for years, but when he did, he hired researchers to find it with him: a mage, his wife, an alchemist, their assistants, and their child. Finding artifacts that had time to develop stories over thousands of years of strange happenings nearby a haunted grove is one thing, but haunted groves need at least 100 years to grow, and this artifact had only been lost for a decade or so.

Meanwhile, the staff of a court wizard of a now long-forgotten empire had become the anchor. And the wizard sensed this, and he was not an ethical man. He used to power, and travelled often to the land of the dead, (the land between here and The Land Beyond), and unlike the dead, his memory did not vanish in the trip between the worlds because it was not his soul that went, but his entire self. So from the dead, whom he cajoled, and conversed with, and threatened and … re … murdered … kind of, he learned spells that had been sealed from living memory. About hidden secrets from the dead who had brought said secrets to their graves. About knowledge that had been forbidden by the gods or whatever higher powers there may be. About rituals that had been forgotten to the living. And he used it for war.

He took over the king’s mind, and the empire went to war. He would kill entire rooms of his own people, torture them in the afterlife, extract their knowledge, and thus find spies. With the knowledge from the spies, he would kill betrayers, and know which kingdoms were scouting him. With that, he would go to meet their armies, allow a slaughter to commence, and when he had no men left, he would raise all the dead on the field and force them to obey him. And with their own dead armies attacking them, the surrounding countries collapsed and surrendered to his cruel rule.

And that made it very easy for Bottom and the researchers to find the fairy skull’s power. So they concocted an elaborate plan. The alchemist wife became a maid in the castle, the mage approached the wizard as an apprentice, and Bottom was to sneak into the castle.

But come the day when the opportunity arose, and the maids were cleaning the other tower, and the wizard & mage were in the field, Bottom was gone on a quick quest for Titania. So the child went instead, and sneaked into the Wizards room, and searched for the staff.

And he searched, and he searched. It was a messy room, the maids never allowed in, and the wizard himself a very messy man. But, he finally found a panel in the fireplace, and a secret room, and the staff.

And then the wizard came back.

Panicking, the child invoked the staff. For the wizard to come in and find the fireplace open and the staff gone, it was no mystery what had happened and he used the magics he had learned to travel to the Land of the Dead himself. And he saw the child nearby, and the child saw him and ran, and the wizard gave chase.

And they passed over and by many landscapes that you might think only exist in nightmares. Bridges made of bones linked with cartilage, making sickening sounds as they bend beneath your feet, the gaps in the bone revealing the viscous river of blood beneath, pouring and coagulating and gurgling as it sickeningly congeals into black lakes of rotting blood. They passed over wastelands where the land was covered with thick purple sludge and the trees that grew were sickly and wrong, and the few leaves they had looking just too green, and the thin branches swaying in winds that weren’t there, and the trunks undulating. They passed over hills that seemed to be made of shards of dark and broken glass, their footsteps marked in their flowing blood, and if they dared look down, through the glass, they might just see deep red eyes through the occlusion, staring back at them in enormity as though from an incomprehensible distance, making them wish they hadn’t looked down.

And so the child and the wizard passed through a powerful veil of magic, and passed into the Land Beyond.

The child, as you have doubtlessly realized, was from an unfaithful night between the alchemist’s wife and the long-dead faun. The faun who even then was said to be a shade in the Land Beyond, sadly and in horror watching his child run towards him, unknowing.

The Land Beyond is not for living mortals. It may be beautiful, or horrible, or any number of things to the truly dead, we do not know. Souls may linger in the land of the dead, they may come back from a long absence to life, but no one returns from the Land Beyond. It is not a place for the living to ever see, and for two living souls to enter it should welcome unknown catastrophe indeed.

In the chaos of the power that exists there, the wizard became what can only be described as an evil entity of death. He exists to this day, manipulating people to die, to kill themselves, to murder, and for their souls to come to his lair in the Land Beyond well before their time. Where he feasts on what should have been.

The faun-child was special. He was human. But he was also a joyful faun. And he lost both parts of him. The powers that twisted him robbed him of his joy, and robbed him of his humanity, and all that he could see, or think about, or perceive, was all the sorrow and regret of the souls who had ever entered the Land Beyond. Some had lived good lives and took no regrets with them, but some carried great burdens with them. And he was forced to take those burdens from them. And with every soul the wizard took, these sorrows and pains multiplied with all the sorrows and pains that could have been.

So the faun-child stands, on the border between the Land Beyond and the Land of the Dead. And he stares, with black, blank soulless eyes, still living, but not alive. Just barely visible as a foreboding shadow through the fog & veil that separates the lands, his presence serving as a warning to people who would enter before their time.

Of course, this meant that Bottom failed to disrupt the prophecy, and as punishment, Titania sent him on some meaningless quest to punish him for her amusement, but that’s a tale for another time!


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