By Daniel Ginn
(An account of the Chrysalis
of Fhengal McGhallain and the Autumn Queen.)
Once upon a time, there were a boy and a girl. They grew up apart from each other, but they met when they grew older. Now there was something very special about these two children. Oh, it didn't come out right away, but the difference in them lurked beneath the surface, waiting to be acknowledged.
The boy caught an inkling of his nature first. He could see through the petty constructs of mortal minds. He knew what was false and what was true. He did not bow to conformity, and he dared to be different because that was the only way he knew how to be. Others of his society often shunned the boy. They did not understand his difference. Some feared and others mocked him; but although it burned on his heart like acid, he endured the pain. He tried not to give back evil for evil, and he valued his integrity above all else. And so he became a young man.
The girl too had some struggles of her own. Her childhood was happy enough, but misfortune befell her as she grew older. In her early adolescence, her body was too fat for her liking and the cruelty of others was unleashed upon her only for her appearance. But the girl began to change. She changed and grew into a young woman of great beauty who became admired by everyone. However, she never grew pompous or proud of herself because she remembered that she had known pain. She knew that all too easily she could become like those that had first caused it for her, and so she did not let her popularity go to her head. She strove continually to best her very best.
The boy, too, admired the girl when he first saw her. He was stricken by love at the first sight of her. He saw her form; this is true, but even more so he saw her heart. He knew that she was both good and true, unlike so many others he'd seen, and he ached to be near her. So much so, in fact, that he ran by her house at every opportunity. He wanted to tell her of his feelings for her, but he respected the relationships she had with her boyfriends.
It was at about this time that the boy underwent a change. One day, a most wonderful and miraculous thing happened. The boy was lying on a hill, soaking up the springtime sun when he heard a voice calling out to him. The boy knew he'd never heard anyone he'd ever known speak in a voice like this, yet all the same the voice was familiar.
The voice called out a name he had never heard anyone say before, and the boy knew that name to be his own. As he claimed this name, the heavens became as night and the stars began to shine in the clearest sky the boy had ever seen. There were the sounds of distant laughter and the music of pipes skirling on the wind. He looked, and he saw a sword. A more magnificent sword he had never seen nor imagined in all his life. It was a great two-handed sword with a long thin blade of gleaming blue steel. The alabaster hilt was worked in gold and silver; and at its end, metal prongs clutched a lustrous red orb in a way that reminded the boy of a dragon's claw. When he squinted, the boy thought that he could make out runes on the flat of the blade, but they faded before he could decipher them.
The sword spoke, but it did not speak. Instead, it showed the boy images in his mind that communicated all the meaning in the world. It showed him that he was a nocker, one of a great race of faerie craftsmen. It showed him glimpses of past lives when the boy had worked magicks great and terrible. It showed him a great leather-bound book with all the secrets and all the lore he had acquired in the past. The boy could dimly remember having written all of this knowledge down; but when he tried to read the mystic glyphs, the meaning of the written word once again failed him.
Finally, the boy saw an image of himself, but what an image! In his mind, he was standing on a high rocky cliff where nothing but the brown dirt scuffed against his boots. He saw himself dressed all in black. An ornate top hat adorned his head while an ankle-length trench coat shrouded his body. His long dark cloak rippled out behind him as the wind battered against his form, but the boy stood firm.
In his left hand, he held a great staff of rowan wood, wrapped in gold, silver, and pearls. The boy could see several metal rings coiling up the upper end of the staff, and many circles of runes were embedded in its surface. The great lustrous orb was now screwed into the end of the staff, as it was meant to be. It glowed with a fierce crimson heat that beat back the living darkness howling to devour his soul and the souls of all his kin and kith.
As the picture faded away, the boy dimly perceived the shadowy forms of three women. They spoke to him as one. "You are called Fhengal McGhallain, the Grey Pilgrim and Guardian of Dán. We are the Norns, and you are bound to us. Do not forget your ancient debt. Fight against all that brings the death of Glamour and the Dreaming. Heal and maintain the Tapestry. Dream great dreams and create great devices. This is what you are meant to do. You must find the other half of your soul and thereby claim your sword. With it, and it alone, will you achieve your purpose. Begin by awakening your True Love. The way will be hard, and you will often despair, but in the end you will triumph."
The middle Norn stepped forth and held something out to the boy. "Take this key. It is the link to your Dán. Keep it with you always and guard it well. Little though it may seem, it is the only one that can open the doors that withhold your destiny from you."
Obediently the boy took the small jeweled key, and the middle woman stepped back. It seemed light and insignificant in comparison to the great sword he had seen, but he hung it around his neck by the three-stranded cord that ran through it.
"A final gift before we leave you," the first Norn said. She came forward and kissed him on the forehead. The soft brush of her lips sang of springtime. Visions of softly blowing breezes and butterflies danced before the boy's eyes. He was alive with the joy of youth.
"I, too, give my kiss," the middle Norn again stepped forward. Her firm, moist lips pressed his head. The boy was aflame with the passion for life. The warmth of a summer sun filled him. He knew he would endure.
The last Norn sighed, but did not move. "I withhold my kiss, but all things come to me in the end. Nevertheless, you have my blessing." Her voice reminded the boy of the rattle of dry leaves lofted on the autumn wind. He shivered despite himself.
"I thank ye for your gifts, but words are small in comparison to deeds. I hope that I may serve you well."
"You will," the three women faded slowly away. "You will. Come to us, bye and bye."
Only the sword remained before the boy now. It made known to him that when he had great need, he could return to this spot. It would reach out from beyond the Dreaming to help him. However, he must find the sword in person in order to have full access to its powers. "Find me soon, Soul-brother," its mind-speech pleaded. "Find me soon."
The boy returned fully to himself. He was a nocker. He had Glamour. As he moved out of the glowing circle of chimerical runes now inscribed on the ground, he forgot most of what he had seen. But he clutched the key at his chest and remembered his True Name and the sword's promise.
The new nocker returned home. He was met with great rejoicing from the members of his household, for they like him were also fae. Long had they waited for his Chrysalis, and now he was fully one of them.
The boy returned to his old life, but with a new outlook. He learned of the fae, of their ways, and of their lore. As he dutifully went about his studies, he remembered the quest to awaken his True Love.
At the school that they both attended, the boy and the girl had many encounters with each other. In fact, they seemed most fated. He would enter a class, and low and behold, his love would be there, seated close to him. True, the seating charts were often arranged by last name, and they both had near names. However, how was it that they shared so many classes? Perhaps his prayers had been answered. Perhaps these were opportunities that he could use to awaken her.
But no, it was not meant to be. However much he tried to engage her in conversation, she seemed to have little or no knowledge of the fae. However much Glamour he threw at her, nothing within her seemed to respond. He told her of his hopes and dreams, of his fears and sorrows. All was to no avail. Although she could relate to his hardships, nothing of the fae seemed to stir within her.
The boy and girl passed through high school and went their separate way to college. They sorrowed at their parting but managed to maintain good correspondence. They were near in each other's hearts, but distant in the flesh. Though their relationship had not blossomed into romance, it was a strong friendship, which is the next best thing.
So, the boy bided his time. He had quests of his own, new friends to meet, and devices to build. Many other concerns occupied his time, but he never forgot his responsibility to his True Love.
Finally, four years of college had ended for both of them. The girl, now a young woman, was visiting her childhood home in autumn. The boy, now a young man, knew she was in town. He had chosen to go on a quest into the Dreaming to retrieve some valuable items for his crafting. The young man wanted to see his friend once more as he felt he might never see her again.
He and his motley drove to the young woman's old home. The young man got out of the car and walked to the front door to ring the bell.
She was most surprised to see him. Even more surprising was the fact that he hardly seemed to have aged at all. As they walked down the sidewalk (most annoyed by the pooka tooting the car horn who was hoping to see physical results of an intimate passion that did not exist), they chatted of the olden days and of the present. Many were the fond memories they shared of each other and of their time apart.
As the young man looked at the woman, he saw how she had become even lovelier than he had previously remembered. Something deep within him stirred at the sight of her beautiful hair which was the same color as the golden red autumn leaves wafted along by the wind.
He reached into his coat and pulled out a parting gift for her. It was a stained-glass image of a butterfly, which he had been saving for this very moment. He told her how he was worried that he might never see her again. The young man looked away, trying to think of a good way to present his feelings to her. He had always loved her, but how to say it?
As the words were about to leave his mouth, a sudden torrent of Glamour wrenched him to his knees. He looked up in awe and wonder as his love spun around, the wind whipping her hair and a fierce blinding light shining forth from her being. His gift of love had sparked her Chrysalis.
In the whirlwind, he saw that she was his True Love of many lifetimes. Her dress shimmered like golden sunlight filtering through foliated trees. Of autumn leaves, spider's web, and fine silk her dress was. Through many lifetimes she had fought against and redeemed the Dauntain. She was the Autumn Queen.
Blasted with Glamour, the stained-glass butterfly became a treasure through which the new sidhe could easily scry her True Love, wherever he was. Inexperienced in such things, she was ignorant of this boon until a later time.
As the Dream Dance began to subside, the nocker thought quickly. He could not take time out from his quest to teach her the ways of the fae, much though he would have liked to do so. Such a great lady required better teachers than himself. It would be better for other nobles to give her tutelage in the ways of the Great Game, much though he despised it.
Obtaining permission from her parents, he dialed the number of one of the local sidhe whom he trusted somewhat and asked him to retrieve and take care of this new fledge. As the noble, within minutes, pulled up in his car, the nocker pulled his True Love close and whispered in her ear. "Don't be afraid to go with this man. He will take you to others of your own nature who will help you to become established within your own society. Be polite to them, but do not be intimidated. I'm sorry to leave you like this. I'll come back as soon as I can."
The noble magicked the new lady's parents, and she told them that she would be going out for a while and not to worry if she didn't come home that night. Under the influence of the cantrip, her parents reluctantly agreed but told her to be careful and to call them every now and then so that they would know that she was all right.
The nocker told his lady of the Oath of True Hearts, and she thought it sounded like a good idea, so they hurriedly swore it. The nocker's motley bid the lady farewell and told her not to get her nose too high in the air or her posterior too uncomfortably tight (much to the visiting noble's disdain). She thanked them, choosing to ignore their stranger remarks, and got in the car.
As the two sidhe drove off, the motley returned to their vehicle. The nocker wondered if he had done the right thing and prayed protection over his True Love. Then with a sigh, he got into his car and drove off to meet his Dán.
(Here ends the account of the Chrysalis
of Fhengal McGhallain and the Autumn Queen.)