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Titania

Never had I dreamed the roots of Faerie could reach so far.

Through the Summerland and down through Gwyfed, I traveled. Below Abred and deeper than Sluil I ventured until I found myself in a place I cannot even begin to name. With dawning shock I slowly realized that the earth on which I now stood had likely never before known mortal footsteps.

Bone weary from exhaustion and fearful of what might find me unprepared if I carried on, I found a hiding place and huddled in for a brief rest.

When she came to me, I thought it but a dream - a woman who, but a moment before, had not been, she loomed over me where I lay rough-sleeping in the moss. Her hair, like a waterfall of pale ash adorned with gilded apple blossoms and rich with pearls, fell to puddle at her feet as she turned her face down at me with the faintest hint of a frown at the corner of soft lips.

The weight of her dissatisfaction struck me like a blow, like a hammer to the gut. I opened my mouth apologize, to beg her forgiveness before I even considered the words.

She raised one delicate hand to silence me as quickly as I began. With a voice like honeyed wine and firm as iron, she demanded, "Why are you here, Mortal?"

Her last word fell with all the weight of a condemnation, as if the mere fact of my mortality instantly rendered any justification I might offer utterly inconsequential. That was when my eyes fell at last upon the delicate, golden filigree of the crown resting atop her head, bejeweled with diamonds to frame a great, glittering topaz set just above her brow.

In that moment, I knew who she was.

In that moment, I knew my only hope was to pledge myself.

Icabod Sterling
As I Walk Faerie by the Moonlight
 

The Faerie Queen

Monarch and mother of all the fae and all the many realms of Faerie which they call their homes, Titania occupies a truly mythical position among her people. While the eldest of her kind know her as mother or grandmother, the generations after quickly fell into treating Titania as a monarch and many of the youngest among the fae see her as a goddess in her own right.

As with all fae, Titania's magic obeys her intent moreso than it follows any academically quantifiable rules. Unlike her decedents, however, Titania is the original font from which all other fae take their power. For this reason her children, the so-called "First Family" of the fae, are indisputably more powerful than her grandchildren, and they more than her great-grandchildren, so on and so forth.

While it is true that Titania appears to have powers and capabilities which rival or, in some cases, even exceed those of many gods, she does not exhibit many of the attributes of deities such as poly-presence and the ability to grant divine spells to her followers. Nevertheless, she is not a figure to be taken lightly. Even without the combined powers of her thousands of children and grandchildren, her will alone is enough to forge entire worlds from the multiverse itself - without even a void for her to work within.  

Birth of a Queen

circa 4,010 BC

Legend has it that Titania was not always the creature of limitless magical power that she is today. None know her original name, but some stories claim she was once a mortal princess, or that her father was a formidable general, or a great hero, but the most historically convincing case can be made that she was the daughter of a bookseller. Regardless of the family that she sprang from, all the stories agree that she was not born on Emeriss but rather to the long-forgotten homeworld of mankind.

She spent formative years among the old world, educated by their advanced technologies and learning from myths and histories now lost to the intervening millennia. When the god Ares destroyed the world of man, she was among the scant handful of survivors whisked away from the ash and carnage of the planet that had been their home and deposited on Emeriss.

Alone and lost in this new world, the young human woman wandered through the unspoiled wilderness for weeks before stumbling upon a crossing of two narrow, dirt roads. Hoping to find civilization, she camped there for the night, determined to follow the one of the roads to its source in the morning.

It was in her sleep that the Crossroads came to her.

They tempted and cajoled her, promising her wildest wishes for a price.

When morning came, the frightened, nameless woman was gone and in her place stood Titania.  

The Firstborn

circa 3,980 BC

Determined to settle her debt to the Crossroads, Titania followed the path just as she had intended, eventually finding her way to a small elven settlement. The people of the village had never even seen a human before, let alone the resplendent creature that glided into their midst. As a display of her beneficence, she waved a hand and brought the fields to fruit, then kissed a stone and tossed it gently into the rows promising that the next crops planted there would be just as bountiful.

The elves mistook her for a goddess and began to worship at her feet, turning away from their chores and duties to heap praises and what few riches they could muster upon her. At the festival they held in her honor, Titania took a consort - a comely, elven man named Avernus. She took Avernus to her bed for a single night, and when he woke again the next morning he found her gone without a trace beyond the boons she had set to his village.

No one can say where Titania disappeared to. Some say she returned to the wilderness, others that she built a home beneath the village hills, and still others believe she began carving the first scraps of Faerie from the walls of reality.

What we do know is that she returned to the Crossroads nine months later with a baby and a name: Mab  

The Princess Consort

circa 3,800 BC

Titania is largely absent from what little survives of the histories surrounding mankind's first few centuries on Emeriss. As humanity settled into its new home and began unraveling the secrets of magic, occasional stories appear of mysteriously prosperous harvests and sage warnings from a mysterious woman with hair like pale ash and a face too beautiful to behold.

Just as tensions between expanding human interests and elven claims to the land began to escalate, a soldier's daughter named Rosalind met a haggard, traveling woman on the road. She offered the stranger a warm meal to fill her belly and a place to rest her head and the two went back to her father's cottage. Only once the food was gone and the bed lain out did the stranger revealed herself in her true nature.

In payment for Rosalind's kindness, Titania offered to prepare her a mug of tea.

Stunned and frightened, Rosalind nevertheless accepted and the two spent the night conversing until the human woman's fears had washed away. Then, as the sun peeked over the horizon, her guest was gone leaving behind only a half-empty mug of tea.

The next night, Titania returned to Rosalind in secret. And again the night after that. And the night after that. And so on until Rosalind was as comfortable in the presence of the First Faerie as she was any mortal. Soon, friendship grew into a dalliance, and that dalliance blossomed into love as the pair waited for Rosalind's father to return from war.

Then, at long last, word arrived that he never would.

Desperate to console her grieving lover, Titania offered to brew Rosalind one last mug of tea. Taking a flower from her hair, she placed it into the pot, promising Rosalind a family that would never die. Next, she added the whisker of a cat, promising freedom. Lastly, Titania pricked her own finger and let a single drop of ruby-red blood fall into the cup and promised her heart.

All Rosalind needed do was drink from that cup and she could have a place inside of forever.

The tea was cold long before she chose to accept.  

The Birth of a People

circa 3,500 - 3,000 BC

Over the intervening centuries, history begins to show the first sightings of true faeries, born of the union between Rosalind and Titania. These powerful creatures began interceding in mortal affairs more regularly than either of their mothers had and carving out the first faerie beinns - homes and halls that exist outside of either Faerie or Emeriss but connect the two.

As the war between men and elves grew darker, many of these first children - such as Oberon, the second born - withdrew to the Summerland which Titania had made for them, swearing off mortal influences as they began to raise children of their own. Others, like Anvariel, began to punish mortals for their avarice and pride or blessing those whose selfless generosity abounded. But, by the time the elves had been pushed back to their final stronghold in the Leawood most of the nascent fae had locked themselves away in their hollow hills and sealed the entrances with riddles and wild magics.

It is beginning with the second generation of faeries that we begin to see both a more practical approach to interacting with mortals, and the birth of the many varied races of the fae that we recognize today - the Aos Sidhe, descended from Anvariel, the Daoine Sidhe, of Oberon's line, and the Cait Sidhe, born of Rosalind's flesh rather than Titania's, to name only the most common.

Unfortunately, it is also around this time that we first begin to find writings of darker faeries.  

The Unseelie Court and the First Inquisition

circa 3,000-1,000 BC

Born of a manipulative tryst and abandoned to the Crossroads, Mab was raised in darkness, deceit, and power. The Crossroads imbued the Firstborn of Titania with magics strong enough to rival even those of the mother who had spurned her. They whispered the innermost secrets of Titania's Faerie to the child as she slept and instructed her in the creation of her own, dark mirror realm - Anynn (pronounced Ah-noon).

Beautiful and terrible, when Mab first stepped out of the shadows she did so at the head of a Wild Hunt, riding through mortal settlements with an army of her monstrous children at her back and naught but ash and decay in her wake. Whole cities were consumed beneath a tide of gibbering trolls and shrieking harpies, great ogres and phantom riders.

Time and again, the children of Titania met Mab's offspring on the field of battle as monsters besieged their beinns and many of the first children on both sides were lost. So consumed was Titania by this terrible, seemingly endless war that she failed to consider the suffering of the mortals caught in the middle.

Tormented by cruel gorgons and ignored by capricious sidhe, a few mortal heroes inevitably took up arms to defend their people.

With weapons of iron and magical fire these heroes banded together as an Inquisition and took the fight to the fae for the first time. Arrogant and preoccupied neither court was prepared to defend against this fledgling order as it invaded beinns, slaughtering anyone they found inside regardless of fealty and collapsing hollow hills raised by Titania's own hand.  

The Fae Collapse

circa 1,000 BC - 25 AD

Desperate to save her people, Titania ordered the Seelie Fae out of the mortal world and into the Summerland. Once the migration had finished, she slammed shut the gates to the beinns and set out for Anynn, alone. None can say for certain what happened there, but when the dust settled Mab sat shackled to her frozen throne with great chains of iron and Titania had vanished into the mists.

Without their queens to spur them on, the fae of both courts retreated to their respective realms to lick their wounds and regrow their families.

For a millennium, the only fae to set foot in the mortal world were those had been trapped there when the beinns were sealed, dogged by Inquisitors and hiding among the mortals as best they could.  

Thinning Blood and Opening Gates

25 AD

As the generations of fae living among mortals grew more and more distant from Titania and Mab it came to pass that they could no longer guarantee the union between themselves and mortals would yield an immortal child. Instead, they began birthing children with but a tiny fraction the power of their full-blooded parent and all the mortality of the other. The modern gorgons and harpies, glaistigs and centaurs who can sometimes be found at the edges of civilization are but a pale reflection of their legendary ancestors - but with a lack of fae power also comes a lack of fae weakness.

It was a Durasian sorceress named Saoirse who finally managed to levy her father's daoine sidhe blood and her mother's hand with iron to do the unthinkable.

She broke into the beinn of Oakshade in the year 25 AD.

Over the intervening centuries, nearly a quarter of the beinns sealed off by Titania before her disappearance have been reopened and, while most of the fae remain in the Summerland, Anynn, and other, deeper realms of Faerie, a few have retaken their ancestral homes. The courts of these beinns are still only a shadow of their former glory but within a few more centuries we may well find ourselves in a second age of the Fae.

What Titania may make of her family's ingenuity, if and when she returns, is anyone's guess.


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