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Maradas, part two

The following are still more of the tales of Maradas Graham.

The Challenge of the Token Stones

By Maradas Graham

 

            In the town of Innismoor, near the back of the town lie several stones in a small collection, each jutting no more than foot or two our of the ground.  While the casual observer gives these stones nothing more than a passing glance, those who know their history know the power contained therein.  While they have been used as sitting stones or the playthings of children for centuries by the mortal inhabitants of that town, they were used by the Fair Folk for centuries before that as the place for duels and contests.

            The field surrounding these stones, back when the Fair Folk came and went from Innismoor as if it were part of their realm, had been cleared and leveled to use as a market and fair grounds.  There were hundreds of merchants from all around the realms, both Fair Folk and mortal, who would come to hawk their wares.  Along with them would come entertainers of all types and measure, from jugglers to magicians to actors.  These fairs would happen once a year, and were a cause for much celebration amongst mortal and faerie alike.  It was one of the few times you would see Seelie knights drinking with redcaps or leprechauns dancing with the common folk.  Boundaries and limits between folk were dropped during these fairs.

            The highest points of these fairs were the jousting contests, held each year by the Seelie King.  All comers were welcome to enter; the prize, a boon from the Seelie King.  Contestants came from the four corners of the world to compete.  Mortal, Seelie and Unseelie competed side by side for the prize.  Eventually the prize became secondary to the victory, as he who won at the festival was all by nobility in the eyes of the people.  Over time these contests began to be used by those wishing to settle disputes, whoever went farther in the competition being the winning party.  This practice grew more wide spread over time, the site eventually becoming a favorite of Fair Folk to carry out duels regardless of the presence of the festival.

            Now you may be wondering, gentle reader, what part the stones I mentioned before played in all these duels.  Over time a duel was created around these stones, but who first practiced the duel none can say.  The Duel of Tokens was first recorded by Lord Wilinghum, Master of Dueling Lore of the Seelie Court, in a duel between Sir Lawrence Cassad of the Seelie Court and Lord Shardin Felarus of the Unseelie Court.  The Duel of Tokens is begun by each participant placing a token of their lady on one of the stones, and it ends when one of the participants has taken the token of his opponents lady.  This duel became the duel of choice amonst many of the noble Seelie and Unseelie as it reeked of honor, romance and chivalry.

            Unfortunately though time would not have it.  Over time the mortal world began to reject the Fair Folk, finding their festivals too loud, too dangerous just annoying.  They found all these duels to be bad influences on the children, or thought they encouraged idleness and would have nothing to do with them.  Over time the people of Innismoor grew to resent these visitations of the Fair Folk and let the field grow over, become uneven and in time even built houses around it.  With each new change the Fair Folk would come less and less, the festival coming once every ten years, and then once a century.  Now it has not been back since my youth.  So too the duelists stopped coming to practice the Duel of the Tokens, chased away by the worries and drudgery of the mundane world.  Now no one fights the Duel of the Tokens, one shred of romance and adventure of the Fair Folk stripped away.

The Lovers Tale

 

 

Once there was a Lord of the Fair Folk famous and honored, known for his chivalry and bravery, fair of face, sharp of wit, powerful and respected.  He would have turned the head of any Lady in the two courts, but he remained alone, for no woman, fey or mortal, ever matched his dreams.

 

Every night the Lord had the same dream: He saw a woman whose face and form shimmered as if reflected in a clear pool in moonlight.  She was clad all in blue, her long hair flowing about her shoulders, her face smooth and fair, her form graceful.  In her eyes he saw a sadness as deep as the ocean, and he longed to speak, to comfort her.  Each night he reached to brush away the single tear that marred her face like a drop of rain, but just as his hand neared her she was gone, her image rippling and vanishing.

 

He vowed that he would love no other, and that he would quest until he found this Lady.  Before the other Fey he made a great oath to quest for her, and departed soon after.  He swore that when he found her he would do anything to ease her sadness, take on any quest to prove his love to her. He traveled the realms of Fey and Mortal alike, but though he searched tirelessly, he saw no sign of her.

 

After many years, he recieved a message from home.  The Fair Folk were under attack by a terrible enemy.  Some ancient quarrel had been reopened and the very Realms of the Fair Folk were at risk.  The news filled him with sadness, but honor demanded that he return to defend his people.  He decided to set aside his personal quest until his duty was done.

 

With a heavy heart he entered the battlefield, to take up the fight. His presence filled his comarades with joy, for they were sure that his sword would turn the tide in their favor, and a mighty cheer went up through all the ranks of the Fair Folk gathered there.

 

As he drew his sword to lead the charge, he looked across the field to the enemy lines, and what he saw there stopped his breath.  It was she, the Lady from his dreams.  No mere damsel awaiting him to woo her, but a great and powerful Lady, leading as a general, a part of the enemy army cheering her on as his men cheered him.  He stood on the battlefield, stunned and amazed, not knowing what to do next.

 

But the rest for is another story...

The Glass Rose

Vol. 1

By Maradas Graham

 

          I will begin this story in a fashion that is familiar to you, my faithful reader, because this is a tale that your humble author would wish you to commit to memory.  The old ways are, most often, the best ways or at least as far as story-telling is concerned.

 

          Once upon a time, in the town of Innesmoor, which is a town well known to many of my loyal readers, there lived a young woman by the name of Jennifer.  She wasnt the prettiest girl in Innesmoor, nor was she the wittiest, nor the best dancer, nor the most gifted in voice.  Her only talents, to be honest, were a frighteningly sharp mind, and the ability to tell as story like she was born for that purpose alone.  Jenny, as she was known, had the misfortune, or so some would call it, to be born to a very poor family, though her familys poverty had never bothered her very much.  Her family was rich in love, and that was what was most important.

          Jennys skill at storytelling had never been paralleled, a fact that she was mildly prideful about, and it assumed by the people at Innesmoor that they had been blessed with the best teller of tales in the whole of Arinth.  For nearly twenty years, up until Jennys twenty-fifth birthday, this belief lay untested.  Then, one day, a stranger came to the village.

          He was a handsome rake of a man, who flirted madly with the girls, and spent money at cards in a way that would make one think that coins grew up from the ground like cabbages.  Jenny, who was already being viewed as the village spinster, seemed to be the only woman excluded from this brash fellows attentions.  Mother and grandmother alike were granted gifts and flattery, but he never spoke a word to Jenny.  This not only infuriated Jenny, who felt this ill-tempered lout had some nerve to treat her in such a manner, but in confused the other citizens of Innesmoor terribly.  Jenny was an old maid, but was not ugly or foul, and was in fact more pleasant to behold than some of the women he lavished with praise.  Still, this puzzling behavior continued for some time.

 

          The final straw (which apparently broke the back of some mythical beast called a Camel) came when the man announced that he, too, was a teller of tales.  The peculiar actions of this stranger began to reveal themselves, then, as he informed some of the townswomen in mock confidence that he had heard Innesmoor had some two-bit story teller that they liked to call the best.  He claimed to have traveled all the way to Innesmoor just to show her up.  The battle began.  First the stranger would tell his story, then Jenny would jump in with gusto, only to have him cut her off with yet another yarn, perhaps with the miraculous feats of somebody-or-other Forrest or Forst or some such nonsense like that.  The dueling stories went back and forth for days, until finally even the Innesmoor people began to lose interest, but still the two fought.  Long into the night, and early in the morning, and during a late lunch, their voices rang out through the streets.  The townsfolk began to wonder if this madness would ever cease.

          At daybreak of the fourth day of this battle the miracle happened.  In the midst of one of Jennys tales, told in a hoarse and diminishing voice, the stranger suddenly turned and walked away.  Though several people attempted to question his sudden leave from the contest, he waved them aside, quite intent on a purpose.  Jenny could only stand there, stunned, not knowing whether she had won or lost.  For hours she stood in the street, her mouth open in stunned silence, but there was no sign of the stranger.  When the sun began to set, a shadow fell across Jennys vision.  From behind her came a hand, and then an entire arm.  In the hand was the most perfect red rose that Jenny had ever beheld.  The hand belonged to none other than our mysterious stranger!  It seemed, my dearest reader, that Jenny had indeed won the contest, with an added bonus.  Her wonderful stories, coupled with her stubborn refusal to back down from confrontation, had won the strangers heartfelt admiration as well (and, some would wager, his heart as well).

          Jenny, of course, was stunned beyond all belief.  She accepted the gift of the rose, and made her way slowly to her own cottage, shaking her head in confusion.  She crawled into bed, and promptly went to sleep.  She slept for almost two whole days.  When she awoke, the stranger was waiting for her outside.  Reluctantly she spoke, only to find that she didnt mind him all that much.  The two fell into conversation, and became fast friends.  Though they obviously cared for each other, they never appeared to move beyond friendship.  Still, it was good to see Jenny happy, so the villagers never concerned themselves with matchmaking.

          Jenny and the stranger began to write stories together, wonderful stories that could stir the blood or warm the heart, and sometimes bring a tear to your eye.  They began to grow older together, though age never dulled their wits.  Then, one day, they simply disappeared altogether.  No one knew where they had gone, though there is a tale that is still told about the most likely guess.  Perhaps other, strangely pointed ears heard their stories, and other eyes beheld their friendship.  Perhaps strange noses sniffed at the dead, dry rose that Jenny still kept by her bedside, and felt pity that her youth had faded like the rose.  It might even have been the Fair folk, some say, that whisked the two away in the night with no trace, and that they still reside in the lands of the King, smiling at each other in the sunshine, and still writing, or course still writing, those wonderful stories that would one day become legend among the island people, and would even be view by those from a far, far distant land.  And could it be, that after all these years, Jenny and her dearest friend are still alive and well, and scribing those tales as swiftly as ever?  No one but Jenny or the stranger could tell you.

          Your humble author has a guess, though just a guess.  When concerned friends searched Jennys house for some sign that would explain her disappearance, they found a strange sight.  There on Jennys bedside table lay a perfect rose, fashioned out of glass.  A rose that would never fade which may tell you something about what happened to Jenny and her mysterious friend.

The Unseelie Court

 

By Maradas Graham

 

Dancing on the edge of the blade

The Court of the Queen in the faerie glade

Before the stars begin to fade

The dance will begin in the faerie glade

 

In a hollow thats deep in the haunted wood

Where the cold folk do what the cold folk should

And the red caps dye their caps in blood

And laugh at the troubles they plan for the good

 

There stands a throne of shimmerless gray

That has neer been touched by the light of day

And in it reposes in quiet array

The Queen with the look thats as cold as the clay

 

Her dress is of shadow and spider silk rare

A circlet of silver is set in her hair

And a face that is more calculating than fair

Her breath makes no steam in the chill winter air

 

The Queen raises up her lily-white hand

A gesture somehow both indifferent and grand

And signals the hour to her grim, motley band

Who strike up the dance in the glen where they stand

 

Tromping and stomping in that sultry hour

A sight which would make the Kings children all cower

The ash from the bonfire falls down in a shower

And rests on bare tree limbs and dead petaled flowers

 

The Queen simply watches the hours unfold

The air all around seems to shiver with cold

When suddenly daylight soon to be told

By the crack in the sky that is pale pink and gold

 

The dancers all weary but wicked with fun

Bow to the Queen and retire to a one

As off to their shadow-filled shelters they run

To rest from their revelry and scorn the sun

 

But the dance will begin when again comes the shade

Stretching across the faerie glade

For before the stars begin to fade

The dance will begin in the faerie glade

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