By Greg Stafford and Doyle Tavener
The land is marked with hundreds of ancient sites, many of which contain ancient magic. These places are called Faerie Places because Faerie beings, powers, or Pagan magic rituals are found at many of them. Not at most, but at many nonetheless.
Faerie palaces and encampments are not always recognizable as being of supernatural origin. As explained in Pendragon, most knights will not recognize when magic is used. A lofty castle in the middle of the barren moors is not incongruous to an enchanted knight.
Near a faerie enclave a character's senses are muddled. It is often hard to discern distant details, or remember faces and conversation afterwards. When doomed Sir Balin, Knight of the Two Swords, entered into the joyous castle with unhappy customs, he certainly entered an elfin place, but did not recognize it. Signs and prophecies did not turn him away from entering. He heard a distant hunter's horn and recognized that it sounded for him, but he went on. He welcomed the greeting given him by the horde of beautiful women and courtiers who took away his shield and replaced it with one his brother would not recognize, and Balin did not complain. And from that fair castle he went to fight his brother to death. Though they were bosom kin neither recognized the other until both lay dying. (Malory II, 17). Such is the false clarity of Faerie.
This muddling of senses can be treated as a -5, -10 or -15 to all Recognize and Perception checks, based on the type of place and Gamemaster need. The GM might also ask for checks for simple things, like recognizing friends, that do not normally require checks.
Local people generally know the name of the most interesting, important, or obvious Faerie Places in their area, and can also tell what is going on, has gone on, or might still be going on there. Some places in Britain, listed in Pendragon, have obtained widespread fame.
Faerie Places are of several types, all generally recognized as being dug, erected, or discovered in ancient heathen days, even before Brutus came to the land. They can be categorized in types.
Forests such as Sauvage, Arroy and Perilous are obviously closer to Faerie than the surrounding landscape, for forests have always been the symbol, like the oceans, for the untamed wilderness of the soul. Most of the Forests mentioned in the gazetteer of Britain have some sort of Faerie feature, like an enchanted fountain or a mysterious inhabitant. Many contain Hidden Kingdoms within their bounds.
Encounters within Faerie Forests can vary quite a bit, but include:
* A mysterious fountain that demonstrates some sort of power or virtue.
* A long lost Kingdom, sometimes with the Fae as inhabitants, sometimes humans.
* Swarms of Diminutive Faeries, that mercilessly tease armored knights.
* Gaggles of Goblins that maraud unsuspecting travelers, often leading them to whomever holds sway in the forest.
* Solitary Enchanters studying dark mysteries and carrying on foul experiments in lonely towers.
* Great solitary monsters, that haunt the woods for prey.
* The solitary delights of greenery and vast forests, with towering trees.
Hill forts are created by enclosing the top of a hill with an earthwork bank and a ditch. Many hill forts are less than 3 acres, while some are larger, and a few (Borough Hill) are gigantic.
Some hill forts are still occupied, or have recently been reoccupied. Those that are possess wooden buildings and a timber palisade. Most, however, are long abandoned, with all us old timbers rotted, and banks over¬grown with grass, weeds, and brush. Huge openings, the long-gone entrance, gape. The huge earthwork rings, however, are usually still visible beneath the wild overgrowth.
An enchanted hill fort would ap¬pear to be in use again, with the timber palisades and buildings erect. Wooden gate works defend the gates, where guards peer from rooms. People go about their business, animals are driven whither, and guards walk the walls. Perhaps the inhabitants are people from ancient history. They might be elves at a gathering of the Seelie court. They might be the silent dead, a city of skeletons. Glamour is probably used to create a scene of delightful wonder.
Promontory Forts are a special kind of hill fort which is set on a spit of land, often a peninsula. Earthworks and a ditch separate it from the main¬land.
Encounters in Hill Forts might include:
* An elf city or court, fully manifest only in full moonlight. It fades and grows in substantiality as the moon’s phase changes.
* The re-enactment of an ancient battle; perhaps the Romans against the early Celtic natives.
* A manifestation of the Other Side, but only within the bounds of the ramparts.
Faerie mounds come in many sizes and shapes. Some are long, round, or kite-shaped. Some are small, barely big enough to bury a pot of charred human bones. Others are immense, like Silbury Hill, or Marlborough Hill, with enough room inside them to hold an earl’s court and feast.
Different mounds had different uses in their pagan pasts. Some were grave mounds, erected over a dead king or hero. Some were chambered mortuaries, with rooms full of the corpses of revered ancestors. Some were raised to cover elfin palaces, while others were mere accidents of a giant dropping dirt.
Digging into Faerie Mounds can have many different results.
* You find a buried chamber with an ancient skeleton or two, and vast treasure.
* A faerie appears and warns you to stay away. If ignored or insulted, he becomes angry, turns into some monster, and tries to drive the intruder away.
* A door is found, and opens to allow entry to the faerie court.
* Inside the mound is a chamber, and its far door opens into one of the realms of the Other Side.
* The dead person’s spirit takes the form of some faerie monster. It might be a huge dog, a bull, or a troll.
* Many faerie warriors appear from the far side of the mound and attack the diggers to drive them away.
* A faerie appears, and invites everyone to come inside and join the celebration.
* A faerie appears and begs the diggers to stop, offering something of value if they will go away.
* A faerie appears, and makes dire threats of what will happen if they continue. It is usually a true prediction. It may be about the monster guardian or about a flood which will be released.
* A faerie woman appears, and agrees to flurry the digger if he will stop, and defend the mound for seven years.
* Inside is The Adventure of the Sleeping Heroes.
* Nothing. There is just dirt and rock.
Hundreds of stone rings liner the is¬lands of Britain. They vary tremendously in their area and radius, in the size of stone used, the number of uprights, and also in comparative state of decay. Different rings were erected for different reasons: some as places to celebrate, others as astronomical calculators, some as healing sites, and some as gateways to the Other Side.
Most likely, a stone ring will be found to be used in its ancient function. Here are some ways that a Stone Ring might be used:
* Elves have convened court there, and many creatures are slipping in and out between the worlds.
* A murderous heathen sacrifice is going on, led by a wicked raven witch, and attended by snarling Picts and Pechs.
* A pleasant pagan drama is going to be performed, with a light-hearted, lustful fertility rite performed afterwards.
* A magical healing assembly has convened to invoke the power of the stone circle.
* The area within the stone circle co¬exists in two worlds. Enter the circle from the east, and you can exit to the Other Side in the west.
Standing stones are not always in a circle. They might be in a disorganized cluster, or set up to be a neat trilithon, or set up side by side to mark a long pathway. Sometimes they seem to be a crude building, which are actually ancient burial mounds with the dirt eroded away.
Faerie Standing stones may have a magi¬cal use. Some have specific medicinal purposes, often obtained by passing the person or the body part through a hole in the rock. At other times dew from the rock is healing, or water taken from depressions found or made in the rock. More sinisterly, a block might be a sacrificial alter block. It might be holding down a trapped demon. It might be one of many which mark a road across the countryside. Occasionally stones are carved with features of the gods. Sometimes a stone will ‘wake up’ and turn into a giant or other monster.
Wells, which spring from deep inside the earth carrying pure and clear water, are often sacred. Some wells are medicinal, with water to heal specific woes. Wells which are different from the other springs in the area are known to be magical. Glastonbury/Avalon has one of these. Some wells never run dry, even if the rest of the land is plagued by drought, as at Stevington. Some healing springs, such as Lydney and Aqua Sulis, have been turned into temples to healing gods.
Some waters are known to be in¬habited by mermaids or monsters. Sometimes these dark spirits can be appeased by sacrifice. At other times they must take only their drowned victim.
Meeting a woman washing clothes at a ford is a particularly dangerous, or possibly fortuitous, meeting with faerie. Sometimes the woman is washing out bloody clothes and weeping, in which case it means a death in the family of whoever saw her. At other times it may be the spirit of the land waiting to meet a hero, to whom she will give a near-impossible task. If he succeeds, she will give him a great gift. Often it is a faerie horse, and other times he can have her as wife for seven years.
Finally, lakes are the home of faerie women. The best-known is the enchanted home of Vivianne, where Lancelot and his cousins are raised. The lake appears is real, except to whoever is enchanted to be allowed to enter. Her palace is luxurious, with many beautiful youths who are servants. Amazingly, her lake can be moved, or else may be concurrently in more than one place at a time.
Some parts of the earth have been made sacred by visits from the gods. These places can still be brought to life. However, it requires the right people doing the right thing at the right time. These secrets have often been lost, and many figures are being covered by weeds which hide the forgotten magic. Those which are still known are sacred to the following deities:
Cerne Abbas Giant: Bran the Blessed, Lord of the Underworld. This figure was called Hercules by the Romans.
Wandlebury Giant (near Cambridge): Gogmagog, King of the Giants before Brutus came.
Warwick Red Horse: Gwynn ap Nudd, the Wild Hunter.
Westbury White Horse: Epona or Rhiannon, the horse goddess.
Wilmington Long Man: Beli, the Lord of the Upperworld.
Uffington White Horse: Epona or Rhiannon, the horse goddess.
Gogmagog and Corinius (at Hoe, Plymouth): The Divine Twins, Beli and Bran, or perhaps just who it says it is (reference from Matthews, London, 96).
These are lands that seem difficult to reach, usually for reason of a forest, mountain range or other physical feature. But in reality, they have partially withdrawn into Faerie, becoming more spiritual and less physical. This usually manifests as a material boundary of some sort, whether a Faerie Forest, inaccessible mountain pass, etc.
Such kingdoms come to pass in a variety of ways. Some are the result of an ancient curse, while other are the results of the consequences of terrible oaths being sworn. Still others are conscious manipulations of magicians for their own occult ends. Whatever the source, such Kingdoms share a couple of characteristics in common.
* There is usually a Taboo that, if broken, will result in either the destruction of the land or an end to its inaccessibility (sometimes the inhabitants will see this as the same thing).
* The land is protected by magical guardians, sometimes monsters, sometime a forest where it is impossible to navigate, or hedgerows that would kill any who tried to hack through them.
* The inhabitants are other happy with their circumstance, or they feel like captives, made to work in a strange land.
Scenarios concerning Hidden Kingdoms revolve around three basic activities.
* Discovering or entering Hidden Kingdoms.
* Escaping from them.
* Undoing the magic behind them, either inadvertently or deliberately.
A Faerie Realm is land that exists on no map, and perhaps never did. These may have once been like Hidden Kingdoms, but they have long since faded into Faerie, and are accessible to the magically powerful or the very unlucky. Some are certainly Lands of the Dead that have become more material, and so have lost some of their deadly nature.
Adventures in these realms depend on the individual land. Arcadia is a land of romance and inspiration, and activities center on those pursuits. Elfland is the abode of the High King of the Elves, etc.
These lands are stuck in an odd state, where the inhabitants mirror those of the mundane world. The mechanism used is not a perfect lens, for the Mirror Kingdom will often be a distorted version, different in many elements from the land in the mundane world. The Kingdom of Galvoie seems to be a sort of mirror kingdom.
These are the various paradises and hells of the different faiths. Usually, only the dead will travel there, and perhaps only enchanted knights can go there and return alive. Such lands include Heaven, Hell, Hades, Annwyn, Hy Breasil and Hades.
If the Gamemaster wishes, it may be possible for player knights to journey to one of these places and return successfully. Such an adventure would be a true epic, a saga to be sung for all time. But we do not recommend using any of these lands more than once during an entire campaign. Otherwise, they lose any significance they should properly have, and become just another Faerie Kingdom. Indeed, a GM may deem it inappropriate in her campaign for player knights to go to these places at all.
Arthur journeyed to Annwyn, a Celtic Land of the Dead, with a hundred and fifty elite warriors. Only seven returned.