Fairies and Fairyland
While a vast variety of magical creatures inhabit the continent of Midgaheim, the strangest and most magical of all are the Fair Folk. Fairies are distinct from other arcane creatures for two reasons: first, they are native to a plane of existence that intersects with but is not a part of the mortal plane, and second, they are semi-consciously attuned to the vast reserves of magic that flow through their being. These two traits account for the strange physiological nature of fairies, their plethora of unique powers, and most of all, their utterly daffy outlook on life, all of which make them a far more powerful threat to mankind than most other arcane creatures.
The plane of existence fairies hail from is called Fairyland. Unlike our world, which is primarily made of matter, Fairyland is made of concentrated magic, with all the matter inside it being essentially imported from our world. The exact origin of Fairyland is unknown – some speculate it is where magic itself originate, while others argue it is a result of magic attempting to modify space and time to meet the expectations of mortal imagination, creating woods that stretch on forever, tunnels that are impossibly deep and complex, etc. Fairyland’s composition creates an environment that mutates all life that spends significant time within it, while the inconstant nature of the environment itself pressures said life to take on increasingly bizarre forms. The laws of reality are not the same in Fairyland as they are in the mortal plane. An hour in Fairyland can span fifty years in the mortal plane, or, alternatively, one hundred years can pass in Fairyland within the span of a minute in our world. A castle that was five feet away one minute can be miles away the next, and so on – neither time nor space are a constant, and even fundamental forces of nature like gravity and death are more guidelines than actual rules.
All fairies are capable of shapeshifting in some degree, though some are more versatile than others. Fairies are also eternally youthful, living forever if not killed by unnatural causes. Most can consciously cast spells, though the exact outcome of said spells may not be fully within their control. Thankfully, Fairies have exploitable weaknesses. Being heavily bound to magic as they are, Fairies cannot break their word once given, and must at least follow the letter of their oaths no matter what. Most species of fairies are vulnerable to iron for reasons no one can fully discern. Most importantly of all, though, Fairies cannot retain their powers if they spend too much time out of Fairyland, which can prove fatal depending on how bizarre the anatomy of the fairy in question is.
The Difficult Issue of Fairy Classification
It should be noted that not all fairies identify themselves by that name – indeed, “Fairy” and “The Fair Folk” are only accepted by certain courts and clans of fairies, while others answer to different names. In general, “The Fair Folk” only call themselves such in the regions of Celpict and Francobreton. A more culturally neutral term would be “Nature Spirits,” but since the word “spirit” has occult connotations (which only a few fairies warrant), and since “Fairy” brings up a more accurate connotation, this Bestiary will continue to call them all fairies.
Likewise, the species names given to different species of fairies, while taken from the fair folk themselves, can cause trouble. “Goblin,” for example, is the name of a specific clan/lineage of fairies that originally consisted of the species this bestiary calls goblins. However, there are some fairies that aren’t members of the goblin species that joined the clan called Goblins, and some members of the goblin species who are part of different fairy clans. As a result, there are goblins that wouldn’t identify as Goblins, and likewise Goblins that would not be classified as goblins in this bestiary. This isn’t even going into the labyrinthine hierarchy of Fairy aristocracy, such as the competing Seelie and Unseelie courts and the many different Fairy monarchs.
Fairies in this bestiary aren’t categorized solely on genetic background. Instead, physiology, supernatural powers, and environmental needs are taken into account. While not the cleanest form of classification, it is nonetheless what has proven most useful for people who actually interact with the Fair Folk.
The Boogeymen are fairies that evolved to live in the liminal spaces between Fairyland and the Mortal Plane, and as such play an important role in maintaining the environment. Boogeymen reinforce the connection between Fairyland and the Mortal Plane, as without their stewardship Fairyland would separate entirely and most likely consume itself. Boogeymen can create new entry points to Fairyland in the mortal plane, and also tend to last in the mortal world much longer than other fairies can. Despite the vital role they play, Boogeymen species tend to be viewed as second class citizens in Fairy society, as they are generally believed to be too “earthy” to amount to much. Many boogeymen species names are also considered pejoratives in Fairy culture.
The main varieties of boogeymen include: goblins, hobgoblins, grindylows, boggarts, trolls, bugaboos, bugbears, orcs, and aitvarases.
Humanoid fairies descended from various non-human animals and plants, and mutated to take on humanoid shapes. Humanoid fairies exhibit a high degree of homofalsum, though the exact severity of their condition varies not only by species, but by individual. They make up the vast majority of Fairy society’s middle class, with some rising to the ranks of aristocracy.
High Elves (Human Fairies)
Descended from humans that entered fairyland, High Elves are among the most powerful fairies in terms of sheer magic power as well as social standing. They are also some of the least adept at surviving outside of fairyland, and generally rely on less powerful minions to interact with the human world. Seelie Fairy Courts tend to be run by High Elves.
While the vast majority of fairies resemble humans in some respect, a notable minority retain utterly animalistic forms instead. Despite their shape, these bestial fairies are just as cunning as their humanoid counterparts, and many are incredibly formidable predators or tricksters in their own fashion. Most bestial fairies can shapeshift into at least one mundane animal, and often employ these forms to deceive their victims.
Believed to be the oldest residents of Fairyland, the “Monstrous Fairies” are so thoroughly mutated by Fairyland’s overflowing magic that one can no longer tell what their mortal ancestors were. Almost impossible to place in the standard taxonomy, these anomalous mutants are among some of the strongest creatures in Fairyland, and tend to rule the Unseelie Fairy Courts.
The final variety of fairies combine magic with another source of supernatural power, the Occult. While some seem fairly similar to standard undead creatures, most Occult fairies are still capable of reproduction – one could describe them as hybrids of ghosts and living beings. Their occult powers tend to ground them a bit more than other fairies, as part of them is intrinsically tied to one of the strongest forces in the mortal world.
While fairies are as culturally diverse as any other sapient species, the vast majority of fairy societies are part of a complicated aristocratic hierarchy. Forming a sort of distorted mirror to the feudal system that dominates Midgaheim’s human societies, these Fairy Courts can almost be seen as a sort of parody or caricature of human social classes. Many areas will be filled with multiple competing courts, all with their own monarchs and castles, and all eager to usurp the other and be usurped in turn. Mortals who visit fairyland often get the impression that fairies treat their court system as a sort of mockery, since none of them, monarch included, stick to their assigned roles with any consistency. A fairy rulers acts more like a child playing king than an actual monarch.
There are two main kinds of fairy courts, which Celpictish fairies label Seelie and Unseelie. Seelie courts have a reputation among humans for being the “good” courts, while Unseelie are likewise stereotyped as “evil.” This oversimplifies both courts, however. Seelie courts are associated with light, day, and the bright seasons, Spring and Summer, while Unseelie courts are associated with dark, night, and the seasons of Fall and Winter. Unseelies are more likely to act aggressively with mortals, and their relation to the harsher seasons means they often spread unsavory things like famine and disease. Despite this, they aren’t necessarily evil or cruel, and may bestow gifts upon mortals they like. Likewise, while Seelie fairies often seem kind and welcoming, they can be borderline obsessive with mortals they are fond of, and are more likely to try and expand the domain of fairyland into the mortal world. Both courts can be reasoned with and follow the fairy code of sticking to one’s oaths.
Fairies tend to obsess over mortals, as they find the mortal world just as strange and fascinating as Fairyland is to mortal viewers. It is not uncommon for the Fair Folk to try and court human beings, regardless of what species the fairy in question is. Unfortunately, such marriages often fail, as all but the strangest of mortals will fail to adapt to the chaotic nature of fairyland, and often end up stumbling into a premature death. Those that survive will eventually become fairies themselves. Similarly, it’s a common practice for fairies to steal mortal children, though they will always leave a fairy child in the mortal’s place to fit some twisted concept of fair play. The mortal child will either grow into a fairy itself, or annoy its kidnappers so much that they simply decide to eat it instead. Meanwhile, the fairy child left in the mortal realm will slowly lose its magical attunement, though its outlook on life will always remain odd by mortal standards. These changeling children live long and strange lives, and many become accomplished conjurers or sorcerers when they grow up.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Midgaheim’s fairy’s go, but we had to start somewhere. The definition of fairy here addresses an archetype of certain magical creatures found in all European mythologies – i.e. the creature from the Other World, a world that connects to ours yet doesn’t quite follow the same rules. The Other World is really the key factor here, as it’s the reason for all the bizarre similarities between the many different mythological creatures I’m calling “fairies.”
The in-universe problems with finding a good name for fairies are a slight fictionalization of the real world problems of categorizing these strange mythic figures. Many creatures that fit the definition of fairies – i.e. strange creatures with strange powers that live in environments that aren’t part of our mortal plane but are somehow connected to it – belong to cultures that wouldn’t use the word fairy. Likewise, the names of specific fairies, like “pixies” and “goblins,” are applied to so many different monsters to the point where they could all practically be considered synonyms. In short, all of these names are applied somewhat arbitrarily – yet, at the same time, they have connotations that fit the way I’ve applied them. It’s a tricky thing, fitting mythology into taxonomy.
The idea that Boogeymen can create portals to Fairyland in the mortal world plays on the idea of monsters under the bed/in the closet, which manifest out of nowhere to terrify children. Given that many of the species I’ve labeled boogeymen are often portrayed as the foot soldiers who travel to and from fairyland in myth – generally to steal children – it feels like a good fit.
The other fairy groups are pretty self-explanatory, and were a result of me sifting through a lot of fairy folklore and noticing some common trends. Lots of fairies fall into each of these categories, and as you will see, there’s a lot of variety to be had among them.