I see her on rainy days at dawn as I wake from the edge of sleep. Hair the color of fresh-turned soil, eyes green like those of the prince of cats. I could go one about her skin, voice, lips, and body, but why should I? Imagine a woman born in dreams of love and you can picture Lady Fiona. I remember something of the days before the Shattering, but after that time, I have only vague dreams and feelings. This story is from the lips of Fiona herself, if you believe Queen Glynis of Three Hills in Scotland. Doubt the word of an Eiluned noble? One whom the bards call the Queen of Tentpegs? Yes, I know there are dozens of tales of my lady Fiona floating around. I know, too, that this one contradicts much of the canon lore of House Fiona. And yes, everyone of our house learns from the first hour of fosterage that the devious Eiluned love their plots. But we sometimes forget that the sorcerers understand life's passion, too.
The story says I was Fiona's herald. Her confidant. Her friend. Never her lover. I feel an unexplained loss within and I believe the tale.
History EditOnce upon a time, when the world was new, two mortal lovers lay naked in a bower, speaking of their souls. The girl had just tasted the loss of innocence, the bitter and the sweet. The boy rested from both lovemaking and the excesses of his first hunt as an adult; fresh venison still hung in a nearby tree. As the lovers whispered with the pure ideals of the young, they spun a tale of grace and ardor. And in Arcadia, so near when the world was new, the most beautiful creature imaginable sprang forth; where she walked, flowers bloomed, trees bent their limbs to flutter leaves on her chestnut tresses, animals stood fearless on the trails of the land to watch her pass, and even the High Lords and Ladies of Arcadia looked on her with wonder. Many fell in love with Lady Fiona, and though she was loving to all, she never shared her heart in full. The sages say she embodied passion from both young lovers; invincible battlelust from the boy's victory and an alluring sadness from the girl's broken maidenhead. These attributes became the hallmark of her own people; a house also thriving on lust, willfulness, and delight. But whatever the case, Fiona rose to be a mighty noble among the Kithain, as is related in the tale of the Fachan. Even the most terrible redcap smiled when Fiona looked kindly upon his grotesque form.
Now, just because no one had stolen her heart did not mean Lady Fiona lacked paramours. Indeed, nobles and commoners alike graced her bed; some other sidhe clucked and sighed at the thought of coupling with satyrs, pooka, and eshu, but not Fiona! Nor did any bear a grudge against her, for she was a magnificent and tender lover until she decided the time was ripe to move on. She left behind fond memories and hopes for the future, but always mendable broken hearts. Fiona also built friendships with the walking dead, spoke with restless spirits, and danced around the pagan wizard's solstice fires. Especially beloved by her were the Prodigals called Garou and of all these, dearest to her heart were the Fianna; their inner fires and love of oaths and songs easily matched her own. More than a little of her passions mixed with those Fianna and even with others calling themselves Gaia's Children. Alas, in sowing her blood, she, too, planted the seeds of her fall.
Love's Oath Lost: Fiona's Tale Edit
The Beloved Edit
One day in an ancient summer, Fiona rode her horse across the world walls to the green hills of Hibernia in hopes of finding song and romance. She passed many comely farmers in the fields but for some reason spurred on her mount. So it was she came upon a lame horse, saddled but riderless, wandering in a rocky copse of trees. Fiona gently grasped the horse's reins and salved its sore leg. Then she heard moans coming from behind the rocks. She went to look and there lay a mortal, afflicted sorely from his fall. Fiona felt her heart burst asunder at his black curls and ruby lips. She knelt and kissed quickly his bruises and cuts, and they vanished at her touch. Fiona's Arts healed the man right then, yet when the mortal opened his eyes, she saw bright sea-green shadows that threatened to devour her. Lady Fiona was lost as his hands unlaced her bodice, touched her skin, and pulled her into his grasp. His name I can never remember, nor is it ever mentioned in the tale, but Fiona took the human man for her own that day. Marriage as we know it today did not exist in those primeval times, but they were troth-plighted in oaths beyond any mortal or fae laws. They were never far apart from that time onward for many happy years. Fiona had not the intricate spells of the Eiluned, but she had skill enough certainly to enchant a beloved mortal and grant him long life. He found welcome in her earthly holdings as well as her crimson palace in Arcadia. As Queen Glynis reminded me and as I can sometimes recollect, I served as a friend to both, for even the most attached lovers quarrel from time to time. But this I do recall with perfect clarity: they were content.
The Impergium Edit
None of us saw the blade that was to fall, yet it hung above our necks for a long duration. Word had come to us that mortals were spreading over the Earth like mist after a spring shower. We thought little of this as humans were no real threat to us; indeed, their crafts and songs gave us shape and form. But the Prodigal werewolves did not see the mortals in this light at all. Rather, the howling ones shrieked in fury at the mortals crawling over the land, stripping the world of its natural beauty and wealth. The Garou struck out in fear and anger, and scores of mortals died from their rage. In our strongholds, we worried at first, but as is the wont of the fae, we soon forgot about the bloody was happening outside our keeps. Humans, for all their dreams, also spread Banality. A few less could hardly matter. But the mortals could not ignore the slaughter of their children and families at the hands of the werewolves. Fiona felt sorrow for the pain of the Garou and the plight of the humans, but so enamored was she of her lover that she gave the matter limited thought. Until, that is, the day he aw one village of his kin and name burned to the ground. He found Fiona and told her of the madness that had come upon the werewolves, and of the killing of babes, the razing of countless human settlements. He begged for her aid. Fiona fell silent for a long while, then finally spoke.
"This killing rage will pass, beloved. Even now I have heard those among Gaia's Children beg for peace. The Prodigals are frightened and they often destroy in fear. I know there has been suffering and grief aplenty, but I also know it will not last. Only stay with me, do not worry, and you will be safe."
Her beloved shook his head and tried another tact, so desperate was he for relief for his fellow mortals. "Lady, do you not see? If this rain of death and fury continues, one day their bloody claws will likely strike me, too! I am not fae, but human. Would you have me perish at the hands of a beast? For the sake of the love we share, you must give my kin your aid. Else, I shall die also from the strokes of the werewolves, for I will not leave my relations, no matter how distant, to suffer alone."
Bold Fiona had never tasted fear, but now it struck her a hundred-fold. This became a curse on us ever after, for we will always succor our paramours, even at great risk or chance of dishonor. She then made a solemn oath to give aid to her lover and his kin, even though it meant betraying the Garou whom she admired so greatly. What aid she could give, even she knew not. Nor did she realize that as the oath was given, she herself was being betrayed. Genevieve, a young girl who served as Fiona's handmaiden, perched outside the door and listened to every passionate syllable of that terrible oath. boredom filled the girl, and as we of House Fiona are wont to do, she decided to sample the delectations of the Unseelie path. On some days, this lascivious creature had been the lover of Lord Robiard of House Eiluned, who was one of Fiona's castoffs. Of course, my Lady Fiona had let him go easily and he pretended to feel only a mild sorrow, but truth to tell, Robiard burned in bitter hatred at Fiona's ejection. He, unlike any of her former lovers, wanted revenge. When Genevieve blurted out gleefully to him of Fiona's oath, he began plotting.
Fiona's Quest Edit
Fiona began her quest to find aid for the humans with House Liam, speaking with a sage of that ilk named Sir Athanar.
"Ask me no questions," she warned, "but tell me true. Would you give help to humans in peril, even if it meant harm coming to certain distant cousins of the fae? And what relief could I possibly bring to the mortals?"
Athanar saw much but asked no questions. "Lady, you knew half my answer ere you came. We alone among the fae recognize the value of the dreamers and defend them against the anger of our own kind. Give them your aid, but remember they are mortal and need not magics, but tools."
Fiona grasped his meaning immediately and set out for the forges of Dougal, the greatest craftsman of the sidhe. Therein, even the nockers stopped their tinkering to watch as she passed into the halls of stone to speak with Lord Dougal. One grizzled old nocker forged a delicate golden rose on his anvil for her, and to my memory, it was the only perfect creation of that kith. Fiona kissed his brow and carried the rose on her bosom thereafter. Lord Dougal likewise received her with grace and dignity. He listened to her request for aid, pondered for a moment, then tossed her a rock. Threads of dull-grey ore wound around the plain brown stone.
"That is silver," he said in answer to her puzzled glance. "Give it to the humans. They know something of crafting metals. Any weapon bound with this ore will burn the howling ones." Fiona nodded in understanding.
"And your price, master craftsman?" she asked, fully expecting to divest her garments on the spot.
Dougal shook his head as Fiona's hand strayed to her bodice. "Nay, Lady Fiona, even you who are love's perfection could not tempt me from my craft. But for three drops of your crimson blood, I will call our bargain even." He told her nothing of how he planned to use the precious fluid, but caught the drops in a jeweled flask as Fiona sliced he finger deep to the bone. She thanked Dougal and departed to her holdings in Hibernia, where her mortal lover awaited.
"This stone contains veins of silver," Fiona told her lover, "and I suspect more is nearby. Have your crafters forge weapons of this metal, and the werewolves will feel the sting of your anger. No longer can the Garou slaughter you quite so easily." Tears streaked down her face as she handed him the stone, visualizing the death that would follow among the Fianna she cherished. And then, he took her hands in his own.
"Thank you, most beautiful and wonderful of ladies. Now, I must tell you the truth... all of it. You did not find me by happenstance that day long ago. I was chosen by the humans to appeal to the faerie-kind for aid against the werewolves. I knew of an ancient legend that no highborn fae could leave a mortal in distress on Midsummer's Eve, the day I leapt from my horse in that grove of trees. But I knew not that I would find you, nor that I would truly love you with all my heart. I had a duty to perform, and I did my duty, even though I put it aside many years while I enjoyed your company for its own sake. I had no knowledge of the true destiny upon me, or that I would have Lady Fiona as my own and that I would hurt so horribly from causing her to weep. But that is the truth of it. Take it as proof of my love that I now tell you all."
Fiona drew her sword to slay him with an anguished cry on her lips, aching with the betrayal of her love. But the oath's coils tightened about her, and she could not harm him until he had delivered the silver to the humans. Love wounded her then; it stung her to the core of her being. The tears she sobbed throughout his confession stopped cold. Many days passed before Fiona ever cried again.
"Go then, yet return to me when you finish your task," Fiona said flatly, and he departed the stronghold, returning after showing other mortals the silver. He knew he would die at Fiona's hand, but nonetheless he returned to her, like a moth to the scorching flame. Fiona waited, as he expected. Naught but the sorrow remained on her face.
"I still love you, despite what you have done," she said.
"An I love you. Believe me when I say that duty aside, our bond was that of legends. Can you not forgive me and allow us to go on as before?" he pleaded.
Fiona shook her head. "There is nothing more sacred to me than oaths, and you have broken the one you made to me when we plighted our love. I cannot kill you. I cannot remain with you. I am lost without you. So until I can forgive you, we shall remain together yet apart." With that, she kissed him one last time, and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. Fiona built him a magnificent couch with her own hands, covered with a mantle displaying her house's device. She then secreted him in a tomb beneath her Hibernia freehold. This done, Fiona went to find one among the Prodigal Garou who would hear her tale.
Fiona's Penitence Edit
Strangely, no Fianna wandered near her trods that night. But after many days of searching, she met with one of Gaia's Children, fortune and fate making him a cousin of that tribe's most famous peacemaker, Lore-Speaker Gron. The Garou listened patiently and with great sadness at Fiona's tale.
"Would that you had waited just one more turn of Luna's face!" he cried in anguish. "For even now, we have earned the ear of the other tribes to guarantee peace. The path to ending this Impergium will be difficult, but Gaia demands our success. And now you have given the humans a weapon against us all."
"So you shall tell them all what I have done?" asked Fiona. She cared not if these Prodigals slew her, but she couldn't bear the thought that all fae should suffer because of her folly.
The werewolf shook his head. "No, for even though you what you did changes the balance, your reasons were pure. Moreover, we have no desire to see anyone else die in this conflict. I shall tell my cousin, the Lore-Speaker, but your secret will be safe." He departed then on the paths of the moon, leaving Fiona to walk slowly back on her own trod to Arcadia.
Fiona's Trial Edit
No sooner had her feet touched that land than the knights of the High King took her prisoner. Lord Robiard's revenge was complete, for Fiona was not the only one who treasured the Garou. Many others among House Gwydion and House Leanhuan cried out for justice when House Eiluned made the truth known. The High King appointed Lord Gwydion to hear the case and mete out sentence, and all deemed it a wise and fair decision. Lord Gwydion questioned not only Fiona, but countless others; noble and commoner, Seelie and Unseelie, who vouched for her goodwill and character. Touching were the tales of the redcaps, nockers, and boggans, from whom her kindness now returned full force. Ever after we of House Fiona have remembered the grace of their words that made our ties with the commoners stronger than those of any other house. At last, Fiona heard the confession of her maid Genevieve, and Lord Gwydion assented to the truth of it.
Fiona's eyes squinted, and in that moment she knew a fury so great that the entire hall went ice-cold from her words. "So be it, Lady of White Flowers, that all who bear your name in any tongue shall suffer in love, no matter how they are born, noble or commoner, human or immortal, Prodigal or Gallain. Ever more shall your lust be insatiable, your thirst unsealing, until you have lost all and are alone and forlorn as the last breath ebbs from your body." Genevieve shrieked as the curse struck her. One of the knights had tried to stifle Fiona's words, but he was too late. Above the glamour, Lord Gwydion stood tall, those making order return to the panicking court.
"Was House Liam behind this?" Lord Gwydion asked so softly that he caused the other sidhe in the room to tremble. Fiona met his gaze and did not move.
"No, my lord," she said in her sweet voice. "Myself, I bear the blame. Do what you must to me, but no others." Lord Dougal, full of quiet despair, held back a reply, as did Sir Athanar of House Liam. Lord Gwydion nodded and pronounced his sentence: the gates to Arcadia were closed to Fiona until the High Lords and Ladies deemed her welcome once more. Moreover, none of her noble host could join her earthly exile. The lords and ladies of House Fiona cried in outrage, but Lord Gwydion would not budge. A wonderful thing happened then: a cadre of commoners of many kith gathered around Fiona, and as she strode from the hall to depart to Earth, they walked with her to be her companions in exile. When I think on this, I feel my stomach turn and in my hands, I seem to feel the oaken staff bearing her banner tremble. It could be my imagination, but in my heart I believe otherwise.
Fiona's Exile & Beyond Edit
Fiona then began a quiet life on Earth. The slaughter of the humans ended, but thereafter her heart broke whenever she heard the mournful songs of the Garou. As the Sundering continued, followed by the Shattering. The High Lords and Ladies finally relented and welcomed Fiona back to the safety of Arcadia before the last trods closed. She would have nothing of them. Protected by her commoner court, she hid herself away from the agonies of Banality in a waking dream until the sidhe walked the lands during the Resurgence. Fiona came forth only then, in a land still known as Hibernia; a much sadder place than she recalled. Fiona had forgiven during her long exile the lover who betrayed her. More than Arcadia's fields she wanted her paramour's touch one again. Heeding the warnings of the commoners who still loved her, she enshrouded herself in Glamour against the horrors of Banality, and Fiona ventured forth to find him. Where his tomb had ben now rested a prison called "the Maze," where many had died and where many lived who had killed. Every trace of the tomb was gone, spoiled, and destroyed. Fiona became an old woman that day and though they searched valiantly for her, the loyal commoners never saw her again. some believe she found her way to Arcadia, while others think she perished from the overwhelming waves of Banality that she could not face. Queen Glynis tells a different story.
Queen Glynis' Story & Today Edit
One dark night in the first days of the Resurgence, when the War of Ivy still held Britain in its grip, the queen welcomed an elderly sidhe lady to her abode. This woman embodied terrible sadness and ancient beauty, as well as a whisper of madness. She claimed to be Lady Fiona and in her bosom she carried a perfectly crafted gold rose. Queen Glynis made her feel welcome and heard the sorrowful feature pour out the tale I have just told. Then the queen watched helplessly as the old woman let a torrent of tears pent-up for near an eternity spill forth. Like water over stone, they washed the ancient sidhe away to nothingness. Only the rose lay on the soggy ground. Soon afterward, word came to me of the old woman's wish that I hear and tell her tale. Needless to say, I didn't trust the queen one whit.
I am not wont to speak much of my own life, and if what the lady said is true, you have every cause to hate my house," Queen Glynis said uneasily. "But I ask you to believe me when I say I do understand her sorrow." I stared closely and saw that she spoke from her heart; I'm no stuffy scion of House Gwydion, but even I can hear stark truth. I believe Queen Glynis' tale... hence the story you now read.
As I understand things from those with better memories than I, the High Lords pronounced word of Fiona's death and granted permission for all of her kin there to emerge and attend the wake for my lady in Scotland. All those who knew they were of House Fiona gathered there along the Borders for the lament. Of course, commoners were as welcome as any. Lord Rathesmere became High Lord of the House that night and has ruled ever since.
Really, I can offer no proof of any of this. But the gold rose lays on my mantle and on occasion, I catch a glimpse in its reflection of a beautiful sidhe and a mortal man. If fate has any mercy, she will one day let me know the truth of it, I pray, once more in the green fields of Arcadia.