Spending his days in an ancient keep in the mountains above the Dragon's Den Inn, Cruithne Alexis is a scholar and collector of wisdom who seems to have reached an accord with the dragon who also lives on the mountain. He is a rather cold and driven character who lives mostly alone with his books. He has an extensive library, including such titles as The Chronicles of Denbigh, The Bestiary of Kelidan, and The Boke of Wurms of Alban.
The keep is little more than two towers joined by a wall surrounding a single great hall. Tattered pennons flutter in the breeze. A heavy oak door leads in from the nearest tower into the courtyard. There is nothing to show signs of life, only gray stone that rings out when struck by the foot, making a chilling echo. Two great wooden doors banded in black iron lead into the keep where hundreds of candles flicker on the walls. Rushes cover the floor and there is the smell of wood smoke and dust. A stairway leads up to Cruithne's library, holding thousands of titles. The floor is mostly carpeted and there is a reading desk.
In his keep is a striking portrait of a human woman, not beautiful exactly but obviously noble. Her dark brown hair sits coiled into braids crowning her head. She wears a formfitting scarlet gown decorated at the throat and wrists with exquisite embroidery in gold and green thread; perhaps a late Norman style. She carries a rose in her slender hands and her eyes glare down ini an obvious challenge. He does not share her name but will tell others that she was, and is, a very great lady and that the two of them taught each other chess many years ago.
Marina of Beacon Hills Edit
Cruithne might have continued on alone for centuries if not for a happy chance. The Countess of Beacon Hills, a sidhe lady not given to idle chatter, sent a young satyr musician named Marina to collect a book from him. Sadly, the wilder lost the riddle contest he proposed to gain the book from him. She was terrified her life was forfeit, but instead, sensing her own love of learning, Alexis merely proposed to demand her services from time to time. As a token of her fealty to him, Cruithne gave her access to his immense library and a magical ring that allows her to enter the Dreaming whenever she is in a flower garden (any other powers it may have he keeps to himself).
Julia Spencer-Drake EditIt was Marina who brought the sidhe scholar Julia Spencer-Drake to him. The scholar wanted to write a book of history from the point of view of the commoner kiths in an attempt to avert the tragedies she feared would happen in the wake of the disappearance of High King David. To do this, she hoped to travel among the commoner kith disguised as a commoner herself. Cruithne questioned her about her motives for hiding behind a mask and what good she thought a book written under such clandestine means would provide, fearing it might even hurt the situation. Julia responded well, though, and he agreed to see if he had the magic to aid her in her quest.
Having found the spell he needed, he was willing to help her but wanted something in return. The little faerie, as any true Fiona, at first offered him a night of passion; an offer that he only laughed at. She was pretty but he wasn't interested in sleeping with faeries. Next, and also very Fiona, she offered to undertake battle for him, provided it was not against her own kind. Again, Cruithne had no use for such things.
When the sidhe asked him what he wanted, he revealed he knew she was a scholar and asked why she hadn't offered such skills to him. Her reply was honest. She figured a sage such as he had no need of what she could offer. He informed her there was only one way to become wise. He said he knew she had written a history of her house and that members of other noble houses had done the same. That is what he wanted. Julia was surprised, wondering out loud how a human could possibly understand such things.
Coldly, Cruithne told her to leave that to him and that if she swore an oath to bring him her writing and that of the others, he would perform the ritual. He would give her a year and a day t comply or she would remain a commoner for ever and he would spread her secrets for all to know. Julia agreed and swore as he wished.
He performed the ritual, which involved a chalk circle, Julia peeling a potato, and a jar of something called plebeius cruror. With the command to peel the potato and not to stop until told, letting none of the peelings fall outside of the circle, he worked his magic. The effect of the magic was that Julia was turned truly into a boggan, giving up any sidhe qualities, including her boons and flaws, birthrights and frailty... a true transformation. He then gave her what looked like a silvery sheet of mica the size of a saucer to help her remember everything, and dismissed her, now called Gloria McAlley, and Marina.
Gloria's Return Edit
Less than a year from her departure, Gloria returned to Cruithne's keep, bringing with her what she promised: a book of handmade paper bound in red cloth with silver lace and scented with rosemary, lavender, and lemon thyme; the Annals of House Fiona by Julia Spencer-Drake. Next, a green leather-bound volume with golden clasps, tooled with images of falcons, swords, and ostrich plumes: The Way of House Gwydion. Thirdly, a pile of envelopes full of notes, clippings, and sketches: House Liam has much history but have not created a bounded edition. Fourth, thin sheets of gold pressed into raised patterns of wheels and hammers with black ribbon binding and plain pages within, neatly typed by machine: a genuine copy of A Journeyman's Guide to House Dougal by Baron Weyland which she had even found someone to decipher for her. Fifth, a sheaf of handwritten papers of her own new book of her experiences.
Cruithne impatiently asked her about the fifth house and she pulled out a black plastic diskette. Cruithne was frustrated. "What is this toy?" he asked. She responded that it was what he asked for, or at least what she could get of it: On the Ways of House Eiluned by Dr. Thomas Lagarri. She hadn't been able to break the code but, as he hadn't asked her to bring anything more than the history, she figured she had brought a legitimate copy. He hadn't specified the form of the histories. This stopped Cruithne, but then he laughed. The little faerie had learned some wisdom over the months. He felt sure he would find a way to read it eventually.
Finally he asked her if she was ready to be changed back. No second thoughts? She wasn't ashamed to remain a commoner after so many experiences? Again, the faerie answered well, saying that she intended to continue to do what she had: continue her journeys, salve old wounds, and build bridges among noble and commoner, seelie and unseelie... maybe shake up the Shining Host while she was at it. Cruithne threw a blue bottle at her feet and told her to drink. She did so, and painfully she was changed back into her true form.
Sir Bartholomew Ashley EditAt that point, the door flew open and there stood a sidhe knight wearing an ebony velvet surcoat, beautifully embroidered with silver crescents hung over form-fitted leather armor. His black silky hair fell in thick waves around broad shoulders and he stood taller than Julia. He held a naked sword in his hand.
He cried out, his violet eyes pinning Julia with their stare. He declared himself Sir Bartholomew Ashley and Julia a thief. He had seen her in the form of a boggan when she snuck into his chambers and stole the diskette. He charged her to hand it back or feel the sting of his blade. Julia countered him, accusing him of spying, carrying cold iron in his cloak, and basically Eiluned treachery. Her words were a jibe... cold iron couldn't enter the Dreaming, but his expression fell. She shuddered at that look... one of pain, regret, and fury and the faerie knew she had struck a nerve and, feeling that some other force was guiding her tongue, she pressed on. She accused him again of having cold iron, or having wielded the metal in secret... of having killed others recently, or perhaps one fateful night in the past. She was shocked she would suggest such a thing, but the Dreaming compelled her.
Sir Bartholomew's head snapped up. "Ours were not the only hands bearing iron knives that fine spring day. And we knew aright the Fiona were too cowardly to do what had to be done. Sever the serpent's head before it can strike." His eyes narrowed. "You should not have stolen our book nor read it. Now your life is forfeit, as are those of this mortal and commoner. I did not participate in that dark Beltaine, but neither shall this secret be allowed to leave this room, for the good of all Kithain. You speak of old days, best forgotten. But I can see that you would not keep such things quiet. Kneel and meet your death bravely, and you shall know a swift and merciful end. Cause me to waste my time chasing you around and I will see to it that you suffer greatly."
Julia threw a stool at him as Bartholomew lunged at her.
Suddenly there was a smell of brimstone. The reason the proportions of the hall were so large became clear. It wasn't built for human proportions... more like a gothic cathedral than a defensible castle. Where Cruithne had been now crouched a large, coiled dragon!
The beast yawned. "Children's night is over. You, knight of House Eiluned, is the memory of your kind so fleeting that you have forgotten me, half-elf? Let me remind you, shall I? I am Cruithne Alexis, las of the line of Vermithrax, Scourge of Denbigh, Riddlemaker, Gamemaster, Scarab Foe! And I am your bane, foolish trove-thief!" At a wave of his talons the great doors crashed shut. "Before the fall of Cordoba, before the rise of Alexandria, before the first scroll was scribed in Carthage, Secret-Stealer, your house and mine were at war."
Julia tried to protect and comfort the quaking Marina, though she herself held no fear. Behind her in the hall, Sir Bartholomew's laugh held no fear.
"And tonight, the war is won, for I hold a sword to douse any drake's breath. Behold Wurmreaver, whose blade drank deep of the blood of Silverwrath and all her clan!"
Cruithne paused a moment, lowered his head, and peered at the weapon. If a dragon could grin, he did so. "I know that blade well. It's true enough that it struck down all of the blood of Silverwrath, for that was what is was forged to do. And need I remind you, little changeling, that I am Cruithne of the line of Vermithrax?"
In the pause that followed, Julia glanced at the knight who stood with doubt and fear in his eyes. Then resolve hardened his features. He raised the blade and charged the dragon, a brilliant fiery nimbus surrounding his body and a war cry on his lips. Then the world was flame, and the sidhe shielded her satyr friend as heat scorched her bare skin and the inferno drowned out all other sound.
And then Cruithne was the old sage again, standing over a blackened, twisted wreck of a knight at his feet. In the corpse's hand, Wurmreaver gleamed, unmarred by the flame which had fused and warped the knight's armor.
"I also knew it was not by Sir Bartholomew's tender hand that Silverwrath's line met its end." He pointed to the sword. "Marina, please take the sword to the third vault. I cannot touch it myself."
Julia stared, then laughed. "You lied to him! You said it couldn't harm you. I thought dragons couldn't lie outright."
Cruithne looked at her with wry amusement. "Yes. I've heard that bit of lore as well. But in this case, little faerie, I did not lie. The sword killed a noble line of dragons. And obviously, I am not of that line."
Julia laughed harder. "But you implied that it cold only slay the others, not you! And he believed it!"
Cruithne smiled. "If not believed, at least doubted. For the sword to triumph, it requires a steadfast heart and unshakeable faith. For that moment, he lacked both. As he failed the sword, so the blade failed him. Let that be a lesson to you, youngling: cross wits with a dragon at your own peril." He turned cold again. "Now, it is best that you leave, and do not come again. Our bargain is at an end, and as a general rule, I dislike noble faeries. You've been palatable enough, I suppose. Perhaps in another century or so, I might be be willing to see you again, but for now, I'll settle for dealing with the satyr." He turned his back on them and slowly climbed the stairs, effectively dismissing the two changelings.
As Julia and Marina left, Julia talked eagerly about what it would mean for the commoners to know about House Eiluned and its part in the Beltaine Massacre. As she ran, the mica disk slipped from her pouch. Marina saw it and recognized it as a dragon scale and what Cruithne had given Julia to protect her from the Mists. She left it lying where she saw it. The Firchlis passed them both almost unnoticed. Before Julia stepped through back out of the Dreaming, Marina tried to get her to stay with her as she had said once she got her own shape back. Julia took her hand. "I'll come back, but right now I have to get the word to others." She stepped through the morning glory gate of the botanical garden and missed the look of eternal regret on Marina's face.
In his human form, Cruithne always seems to be appraising one as a cat looks at a meal. Something about his eyes are hypnotic; green with gold flecks and large, dark pupils. His head is nearly bald and what hair he has is wispy and grey. He wears no beard. His robes are rather plain, hanging to the floor, dyed nut-brown.
In dragon form, Cruithne's hide is a mix of black and ochre red, and his terrible eyes, not green flecked with gold, but a mass of swirling, hypnotic colors. His wings have an impressive span that can reach the walls of his keep.