Originally, however, I wrote much of this stuff for my fellow Seattle Knights and our fans from the early years. Though these days the clients who hire us want more traditional joust shows, which means straight-up, more-or-less historically-based, swordfight-and-joust performances like everyone else does (despite the fact that most people in the audience know and care nothing for history and hands-down prefer fantasy), waaaaay back in the beginning, all our shows were set as fantasies. We had elves and other "Tainted" creatures, Fey, magic, Mystic duels, evil spirits, ancient deities, and always, always, a plot revolving around the peculiar culture and history of Tir na n'Og as we'd re-envisioned it. Audiences ate it up.
It was loads of fun for us as well, of course. Sometimes storylines ran for whole weekends, each act moving the story along toward its inevitable conclusion on the last day (which usually involved Sir Charles, the Dark Moriah, and their allies, having it out in a grand finale). Dameon and I would get e-mails (and sometimes *gasp* real letters) from fans wanting to know more of the story, the parts they missed or didn't understand. We had whole groups of fans who would follow us from show to show just to catch the next "episode", or to share in the exploits of their favorite characters. Some fans came unglued the one or two times we "killed" popular characters (because the actor playing him/her wanted to retire that character and play someone else) and we had to scramble to find a way to placate weeping children or assuage adult feelings of loss and betrayal.
People drew portraits of our characters, dressed in their favorite character's colors, painted their faces or bodies to show alignment with their favorite factions. It's a strange feeling, certainly flattering but also oddly moving, to know that your artistic endeavors have touched someone else to such an extent.
And, of course, we were constantly getting queries from people who wanted to know more about this weird and wonderful world they thought we'd created. Which, in some ways, we had; the Tir na n'Og we played in bore only a passing resemblance to the undying fairyland of Irish mythology.
Anyway, in response to enthusiastic fans as well as to educate my fellow SK so they could play their parts effectively, I wrote dozens of essays about many aspects of life in Tir na n'Og. Some were used in publications such as program books and brochures for certain shows or faires. Others appeared only in the private section of the Seattle Knights website, for our eyes only. As I said earlier, much of it is now in the TRIAD: The Game rulebook.
But I still love some of these pieces, and they're worth re-visiting, if only for my own amusement. So, I will be posting them over the next few months, every couple of weeks or so. Hopefully you'll enjoy them, too.
Tir na n'Og:
In every culture of every land, tales of people who mysteriously vanish — sometimes while in plain sight of their family and friends — abound. Many are the stories of ancient heroes, wanderers, and simple folk who set out upon a journey, or took a strange path out of curiosity, or went up into the mountains, and were never seen or heard from again. Even within the last few centuries, tales of people who simply went for walks and never came home again are remembered. Each time they are repeated, tellers and audience ask one another, "Where did they go?"
The answer: they came to Tir na n'Og.
Tir na n'Og, Isle of Youth in the ancient Gaelic or Celtic tongue, has had many different names in many cultures. Most often known as Faerie, it is the land that was given to Lilith when she and Adam parted ways. Since the time before the Great Flood, it has harbored strange and wondrous creatures, magical and otherwise, and many other beings that could not, or would not, live in a world that humans, in their stupidity, were destroying. Collectively, these other-than-human beings are known as faeries, or the Fey. The most powerful of these were the Children of Gaea, or the Tuatha Dé Danann, as they were known to the Gaels.
The Fey are the children of Lilith, and so are related to humanity, Eve's offspring. The Fey and Humankind went their separate ways, the one following the science of magic, while the other delved into the science of technology. The resulting sibling rivalry was to have far-reaching consequences.
Though for thousands of years the Fey freely crossed the borders between their land and that of Humankind, as time went on and the separation between Human and Fey grew greater, these visits brought about great woe to all concerned more often than not. More and more of the faerie folk retreated into Tir na n'Og, leaving Earth to their human cousins. The borders became more strongly guarded, and finally were closed altogether, leaving only a few gateways where magical passage was still possible. Even these were finally closed in 1492 A.D.
No one of this world who went looking for the way into Tir na n'Og could ever find it. Shielded by powerful spells that are as old as the land itself, the gateways can only be reached by following ley lines, the invisible lines of energy that criss-cross the earth, until they culminate at a nexus, or a place where two or more ley lines connect. Some say ley lines are magnetic in nature, some say magical. Whatever their nature, ley lines can be tapped for their energy by those with magical abilities, and used to open magical Gates at the nexus.
It has often been thought that Tir na n'Og was everywhere, since a person could find themselves within its borders at any time, from any place, without warning, in the days before the Fey closed the Gates. Actually, Tir na n'Og is no longer part of this world at all. There are some places that lie closer to it than others; for instance, in a large section of the Australian outback, where the famous Ayers Rock corresponds to the great Temple of Ohma in the city of Tir. It is no coincidence that both these places are the nexus for major ley lines. The Australian Aborigines know more of the secrets of Tir na n'Og than any other earth culture, but they do not speak of them.
Although the human-inhabited part of Tir na n'Og has a radius of approximately 100 leagues, or around 300 miles, the Mists are always shifting, which continuously changes the face of any map one would care to use.
Originally, as human tales warn, humans who found their way to Tir na n'Og were unlikely to find their way out again. Faerie was not a good place for the children of men, for the Fey never forgot that they had been driven from the earth by mankind. The legend of the Wild Hunt, where the Greater Fey ride out, laughing, to hunt down their hapless human prey, is still a dark and terrible story told throughout the world. For thousands of years, the refuge of the Fey was a place of death for mankind. Ohma, a half-Human, half-Fey woman, changed all that, by creating a chivalric code of behavior that re-shaped Human and Fey destiny.
As more and more humans found their way to the land, Ohma, with the support and guidance of the Powers (the three greatest of the Greater Fey; some say the three first-born of all the Fey), directed them to areas where they could settle. Villages, towns, and later cities, sprang up, each with its own predominate culture. Each of these city-states is ruled by a special trio of human regents called a Triumphant (a Triad that has achieved Ironlord status). The Triumphants, appointed by the Fey, administer the laws of the Fey and enforce the Code of Ohma in their jurisdiction to the best of their ability.
While most of the Human cultures transplanted to Tir na n'Og clung to what traditions they could, societies as a whole underwent drastic, necessary changes. Perhaps the largest change was the elimination of Human aristocracy. Kings, Queens, and hereditary ruling classes exist only in Fey society.
While the Fey, by and large, do not interfere directly with human affairs and may allow individual battles, skirmishes, feuds, and raids to go on unchecked, the horrors of warfare such as those that have so often torn the Outside world to bloody tatters have been circumvented. The Fey, aware that war has an unfortunate tendency to cause humans to become more inventive in their methods of destroying one another, did not wish that terrible cleverness to take root in their land. Without kings, it was reasoned, there would be none of the overweening pride that drove tribe against tribe, neighbor against neighbor. Humans would have to earn the respect of their fellows by their own efforts, and not by any privilege of birth. Only their rightful overlords, the Fey, were entitled to that.
It is not known whether the Fey have ever seen the irony in this.
There are Lords and Ladies among Humankind, to be sure, but these are made, not born. They may be merchants who create their wealth through successful commerce and go on to manage vast estates not unlike small kingdoms, or former adventurers who discovered great wealth and survived to retire with it. The most honored of the Human nobility, however, are those special individuals who are members of, or have served in, Triads, and so have earned the privileges they enjoy.
Humans being what they are, attempts to establish Human dynasties have been made time and again. They always fail, for the laws governing the city-states — notably the one stating that all but the eldest child of each house must make a pilgrimage to the Temple of Ohma in Tir upon reaching their 16th birthday — make it difficult for even the most ambitious of families to plan such a future. The dangers of travel and the vagaries of time within this strange and mystical land do the rest.
Tir na n'Og now has a Human population of approximately 300,000, scattered throughout 13 city-states and Tir itself. There are 13 major ethnic groups, as well as the various tribal groups, including the Koshka (an unfortunate human who has been altered by magic to resemble a lion-or-cat-like humanoid), Sobaka (an unfortunate human who has been altered by magic to resemble a wolf-or-dog-like humanoid), and the Elves (singular: Elf; an unfortunate human who has been altered by magic into a small, slender, pointed-eared humanoid with some magical abilities. Most elves do not consider themselves unfortunate).
Although there are common trade languages (English and Latin), most of the city-states' populations are made up of at least 70% of one ethnic group or their descendants. Over time, the cultural influence of the Fey has modified many of these societies into something the original settlers would not recognize. Most city-states now hold stronger allegiances to the ideals of the 7 major Fey Factions, represented by 7 different colors, than to the traditions of their ancestors.
The central city-state of Tir, which occupies a huge island in the center of the Inland Sea, is a mixture of all cultures and peoples, and is therefore not considered one of the 13 city-states. Also, Nilka and Magdan, while separate cultures, actually occupy much of the same physical territory.
The Fey's efforts to modify Human society have been successful, due almost entirely to a Fey Princess known to humans as Ohma, and the Code she composed in an attempt to allow Human and Fey to share Tir na n'Og in peace.
Well, that's it for this month. Should I publish the essay on Ohma and her Code next? Or the one on what Triads are and their importance within the culture of Tir na n'Og? Or…well, tune in next month. Feel free to write me and let me know which you'd like to see.