In the time of the sun-kissed innocence and deeds of glorious valor known as the Mythic Age, mighty one known as the Tuatha de Danaan ruled the land. The Isle of Hibernia was a fair place; full of life and song and beauty. How then could the youngest daughter born to the Tuatha be otherwise? Leanhaun, they named her, "Lark's song," for her voice was pure and clear, her hair like silvered sunlight, and her face as fair as the dawn itself. The very air around her took on the scent of the soft, white roses she wore tucked into her hair. Free-spirited as any wild thing, Leanhaun raced the deer in the forests and rode her faerie steed pell-mell along the clifftops overlooking the mighty sea. And yet, she also loved to sit quietly in the great hall playing easeful tunes upon her harp, each note filling the air with joyous sound. It was said she could mend troubled hearts with her voice alone or bring healing to the wounded through potent songs plucked from the strings of her harp.
All who knew her loved her and Leanhaun returned their love with deep affection, but not with either heart's devotion or love's fiery passion. This troubled many among the sidhe. They asked themselves if their fair, white rose was merely innocent in the ways of love or if she lacked some essential passion. How could they awaken her sensuality without destroying her purity?
The Contest Edit
No house now admits to remembering this part of the mythic dream, and yet it happened. Sidhe from all the green fields of Hibernia and even the Isle of the Mighty came together to contest for the right to be the one chosen to guide Leanhaun in the ways of love and passion. The lady herself was asked to travel far in search of a potent herb needed by the healers of her household. She easily consented and was not at home when her suitors met to decide her mate. For three days, they fought and told stories, created poems and presented their best arguments why they should be chosen as Leanhaun's lover. It is said that the Giant's Dance came about when they left the playing pieces where they fell after one such contest. Though the Fiona argued mightily that one of their house should be Leanhaun's instructor in love, in the end, that honor went to Finellia of the household of King Liam.
Lady Finellia Edit
Sky-blue eyes shining with triumph, her long auburn hair plaited back in a warrior's knot, and clothed in her finest jewels and gown, Finellia greeted Leanhaun at the door upon her return. Leanhaun was surprised, a little dismayed that so many had taken such pains to provide a teacher for her, and not a little curious to discover the new knowledge Finellia imparted to her. For her part, Finellia's instruction, while tender and loving, was thorough in all particulars and left Leanhaun shaking with a passion she had never known before. In that moment, as Leanhaun lay in her arm, Finellia fell madly in love with her charge. Leanhaun thought she felt the same, mistaking new-found pleasure for the deeper feelings of love. The two became inseparable.
Those who saw them together remarked upon the change in Leanhaun. She retained her sweetness and loveliness, yet now they were like outer garments covering a fiery passion within. She still loved the whirl and excitement of court and attended as often as possible, basking in the compliments heaped upon her, and the congratulations accorded Finellia for her excellent instruction of the sidhe's white rose.
Finellia fell more and more under a spell of jealousy, though, as she sought to keep Leanhaun away from any others who might claim her attention. Finally, she could not stand to come to court at all and lured Leanhaun to undertake another pursuit with promises of wonders to be seen elsewhere. Finellia took her to a human enclave and bade Leanhaun look upon their craftsmen at their work. Secretly, hiding her presence from their sight, Finellia had come many times to the human village. She basked in their creativity, watching them as they crafted intricate jewelry or wove bright fabrics. Though their work was not so fine as that of the fair folk, it held a vibrancy born of their shorter lifespans, and Finellia loved them for it. Now she sought to share her delight with Leanhaun.
Leanhaun & Edann Edit
As her final offering for the day, Finellia tool Leanhaun to a snug cottage near the edge of the village. From within came the sound of a harp. "This one I love best of all," Finellia whispered to her companion, "Edann is the king's bard, but he often comes back to the village of his birth to play for his aging mother."
Leanhaun looked upon Ednn and listened to the song he plucked from the small harp he held as he sat near his mother's bed. The woman lay pale and trembling: an ancient hag held to life by the merest thread. Edann himself was not a young man. His hair and beard were streaked with silver, yet his hands upon the harp were strong and browned by the sun and his eyes were kind. He whispered soothing words in time to his playing and Leanhaun recognized that he was trying to ease his mother's passage from the world. In that instant, as her whole spirit cried out for his pain, Leanhaun truly fell in love.
Slipping from the shadows beside Finellia, she entered the house and moved gracefully to the bard's side. "No! Leanhaun, it is forbidden for you to interfere in human death!" Finellia cried, but too late. Leanhaun touched Edann's shoulder, then sank to the floor beside him.
"Play!" she commanded, ensorcelling him with her beauty and longing. Almost forgetting his dying mother, inspired by the touch of faerie Glamour upon his very soul, the bard began a new tune. As if torn from the depths of his heart, it spoke of youth and passion, love and loss, the dread starvation of Winter and the bright renewal of Spring. In it was the cry of the newborn babe, the laughter of children, the weeping of young widows, and the sighing rattle of aged breath, all spoken in the pure voice of the harp. Never had such a song been heard among humankind. The whole village gathered around the house of the bard's mother to witness his farewell to her.
Finellia looked upon Edann's face and saw that he was lost in love with Leanhaun; she looked at Leanhaun and saw that love returned tenfold to the mortal she had touched. Then the old woman cried out a final time and lay still. The song stopped. The bard's hands fell from the harp strings and came to rest by his side. Chest heaving, eyes staring at nothing, he sat on the stool, open-mouthed and drooling. His eyes were utterly empty. As the song ceased, Leanhaun looked up. She saw he new love's face and great fear ran through her. She shook him and the harp slid from his lap and clanged upon the floor, the strings ringing with discord.
Finellia rushed in and grasped her arm, swinging Leanhaun to her feet. "We must go!" she cried. "You have betrayed us all!" With that, she pulled Leanhaun after her even as the village folks began to gather stones and weapons, whispering of dread faerie magics and the stealing of souls. The two sidhe ran until the were far from the village.
The Curse Edit
Finellia finally stopped and turned to face Leanhaun, who still wept for the loss of Edann.
"I thought you merely innocent, Leanhaun, but you are reckless and heedless of all save your own desires. It is true I bear part of the blame for this for bringing you to see the humans and for that I will never forgive myself. My jealousy brought us to this. But you have done that which is beyond forgiveness. You destroyed one of these whose dreams give us shape and sustenance and for that, I curse you.
"I curse you with the decay of all you hold most dear. I strike from you your youth and beauty, your innocence and joy. May you become like the ancient crone who lay before you in the cottage! May you be cursed with eternal hunger for that which you most need, and may the consuming of it bring you no lasting fulfillment. May you always long for beauty, yet blight it by your touch, and may your love be as bitter poison to anyone given its taste. I curse thee, Leanhaun, and all thy lineage until the stars weep blood and the very earth grows cold beneath your feet. This I bind to you with the power of the Dreaming and my own death. Let it be so!"
And with those words, Finellia drew forth her dagger and sliced it across her own throat. She fell, bleeding, as Leanhaun sank to the ground under the onslaught of the curse laid upon her by a princess of the House of Liam. The white rose she wore in her hair turned deepest black.
After a time, a weeping Leanhaun took word back that Finellia had slain herself. The others, knowing of Finellia's jealousy and possessiveness, believed she killed herself for love of Leanhaun. The tragic tale soon found its way to most sidhe halls, though Leanhaun herself never again spoke of it. Feeling that it might cheer her sadness, the other great houses granted to Leanhaun the right to call her household noble and take their place among the others. As the House Leanhaun device she chose a green field for her homeland of Hibernia, a golden harp for Edann, and the shameful reminder of the black rose that grew among the strings of the harp and cut them with the thorns of love.
But the Dreaming internets blessings and curses in its own way. Finellia's jealousy tainted her righteous anger over the mortal's Ravagement, twisting the meaning of her curse. Rather than merely inflicting torment on Leanhaun, it made it imperative for her to feed off of human creativity if she wished to retain her youth and life, and all her house became subject to the same malediction. Rather than protecting humans, Finellia's curse made it far more likely that the House of Leanhaun would prey upon them; and in exactly the same manner as Leanhaun had done.
While the glories and beauties of the Long Days lasted, the house forgot the other portion of the curse, for it seemed unlikely that the conditions under which they might be freed of it would ever come to pass. Finellia's fears did not materialize then; there were no humans who rose against the fae. Yet deep within their hearts, fear of fae power took root, nourished by an empty-eyed bard who wasted away within days of being touched with faerie Glamour.
Leanhaun's Death Edit
Leanhaun became ever more withdrawn during the long ages as the Sundering unwound, twisting its slow, inexorable way toward the Shattering. Others whispered that she grieved still for Finellia. Her own household knew that she found it ever harder to take the bright promise of a mortal, stoke it to fever pitch for one perfect work, then engorge herself on the Glamour thus released while the mortal fell hollow-eyed and dying at her feet.
She aged horribly as she sought some way to wean herself from her overpowering need. Her bright hair became brittle and lifeless, ripping from her scalp in tangled clots. Her eyes clouded with cataracts and dripped rheumy fluids onto there withered cheeks. Her skin dried like parchment, folding into wattles of flesh pocked with livid bruises and spidery winging as her very blood dried up within her. Her frame bent and twisted, turning her into a hunched creature unrecognizable as anything but a hag. As her bones collapsed upon themselves and her organs shut down their function, she suffered unbelievable agony. A dead woman who still walked was she; a corpse whose immortality denied her the ease of death. All because she could no longer stand to harm those whose dreams shaped her.
In the end, her house granted her mercy. They gathered around her and bid her farewell. They did not blame her for her actions so long past, for they knew she had only the best intentions. They saved their hatred for the self-righteous hag of House Liam who brought death to the deathless with her jealousy and anger. (The house has never condemned Liam as the other houses did because of some momentary stupidity concerning mortals. They know the true depth of oathbreaking from Finellia's broken vows to protect and tutor Leanhaun. Leanhaun only did what her caring heart bid her do; her punishment, and the house's, far outweighed any crime she may have committed.)
They brought her to the very gate into the Dreaming, fearing to take her ravaged body any further, lest they corrupt the Dreaming itself. There, they lay her down upon a patch of the green earth she had treasured. Their bards took up the song of sadness upon their harps and pipes and their youngest maidens arrayed her as best they could, twinning white roses into her brittle hair. As one, their warriors drew their swords and struck so that none afterward could say that he or she had been the death of Leanhaun.
And as she died, the roses blackened, all except one pure, white bud that lay upon her breast. They hoped her spirit crossed into the Dreaming where it found peace and ease at last. In pledge of that hope, the house still keeps the rose, as pure and snowy as the day it was first plucked, as one of their greatest treasures.
And they learned one more thing from her sacrifice: never, never to regret.