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On Being Kithain

A Guide of Diverse Observations, Facts,
and Recollections of the Hows, Whys, Wherefores, and
Whats of Kithain, vulgarly known as Fae, Existence

Including also some facts of Kithain Physiology, Metaphysics, Magic and Culture, as well as some mentions of vital moments in recent Kithain History.

Compiled for the express reading pleasure and edification of David Ardry, in the hopes that the enclosed writings will be of use in his coming trials.

By way of introduction to this work, allow me to say that it is a guide to the world of the Kithain. It does not include the answers to any and all questions that might trouble you in the decades ahead. Instead, think of it as a primer, a child's guide. That is what you are, after all: a child in the ways of the Kithain.

Still, this book is, I feel, a useful text. Properly used and diligently studied, it will answer those questions you did not know you needed to ask.

Enough: to work. Read on, read carefully, and read well. I make no claim for your success if you do, but I can prophesy your fall with assurance if you do not.

Know, first and foremost, that you are fae, a member of the ancient race which has beguiled mankind for ages of mind. Though you may believe yourself to have been born, this time, to a human mother and father, it is your Kithain soul that inhabited your human flesh. You are a changeling, masking your your ancient self in the guise of young humanity for the sake of protection.

Yes, even one such as you requires shelter from something. No, it is not dragons or demons that you should dread, though such creatures exist and deserve both respect and fear. You must take refuge, instead, from the crushing weight of Banality. There are five billion human souls on this world, and almost all of them refuse to believe that a creature such as you could possibly exist. They disbelieve, David, and that disbelief is a wild hungry thing. The Endless Night, they used to call it, but by any name it is still the disbelief that kills.

So, Kithain who would be king, are you confident enough in your power to stand against the wills of the five billion? Do not think to answer "Yes." Neither you nor any other of your kind has ever had that kind of strength. Listen, and hear what Banality has done. Read on, and see what it still can do.

Banality is what drove the fae from the lands of man centuries ago on a terrible day called the Shattering. It was if the land had acquired teeth that day -- teeth and the will of a predator. Many of your people were caught unawares, stripped of their Glamour and left to die. Most fled back to the realm untained by Banality, golden Arcadia. There they hid for centuries behind gates of silver and horn. Disbelief has power, my dear reader. It had the power then to drive your kind from this world. It has the power now to do the same.

You see, Banality still lives in the minds of many, many mortals -- far more than believe, alas. Even worse, there are those whose Banality is infectious, a plague of the soul. The Autumn People, we call them. They destroy your folk through their stubborn refusal to dream, or to let those around them dream either. You know their kind well. They are the explainers, the rationalists, the psychiatrists and the engineers, the second-grade teachers and the parents with a "logical explanation" for everything. Magics pale before the strength of their ignorance. There is no room in their world for something so tame as the Monster Under the Bed. How do you think they feel about you?

The worst, of course, are those Kithain who have gone over to the foe. These are called Dauntain, and their power has been turned to the service of all that is Banal. Convinced of their own impossibility, they do their best to drag the magic and glory of Dreaming existence into the mire of the "real world." Petty, self-blinded little fools, they feel that if the mystery has been stripped from their lives, they must strip it from everyone else's. Envy, spite, and fear move them, but they are no less dangerous for that. Some go so far as to hunt the Kithain.

Fear them all, David. Your enemies among the Kithain can only kill you. The Autumn People will convince you that you never have been, and you will kiss their cold hands and thank them for it.

They are called the Autumn People for a reason, of course. Many among the Kithain see them as the harbingers of the Long Winter, the last squeaking turn of the wheel of the seasons. Soon, it is prophesied, Banality will scrub the last vestiges of the Dreaming from Earth and there will be no substance for those who feed on fancy and imagination. No Kithain will find a hospitable home on Earth then, and the Gates of Arcadia will be shut once and for all. As for mortals such as your humble author, sustained beyond their century by the power of fae Glamour, the results will be...predictable. Armageddon born of apathy is upon us, the doomsayers claim, and the picture they paint with Tarot and tea leaves is not a pretty one.

Are they right? Who knows? Some Kithain agree, some do not, and there are even those who see a sort of wondrous Spring after the Long Winter's end. My sympathies are with those who see Spring, but my fears ride with the ones who cannot see past Winter.

Prophecy and prediction are all well and good, but there is much concerning the present that you do not know. Leave the future to itself for a moment. Turn instead to the here and now, or at least to the somewhere and now.

As you might have guessed, the Kithain are hardly a homogeneous race. On Earth, at least, there are but five noble houses (Arcadia, the true home of the fae, houses another eight, but they matter not here.). Feudal and arrogant, noble and glorious -- the houses are all of these things and more. From their blood spring the mightiest, the most potent, the truest of the Kith -- or so they would have you believe. Their claims, like all else in the Dreaming, tend to be somewhat untrustworthy. There is but one soul in all the fae lands, from Arcadia to Earth's Dreaming, who can be relied on for the utter truth. As for his opinion of the matter -- well, you hold it in your hands.

Of course, one cannot have nobles without commoners, and this realm which you stand to claim holds to this rule. Commoners the Dreaming has, of many sorts and shapes. Commoners it has, I might add, who grow mightily tired of the nobles' yoke. Particularly irksome were those nobles who, just returning from Arcadia after the ancient paths reopened, sought to reimpose the rules and roles of a half-milennium ago. When the swords and torches were raised, though, the common folk seemed not to care much whom they hewed.

You know of what I speak. You came into your power in the midst of the most terrible war the Kithain have seen. For the past nine years, until the peace that you helped bring, kith warred upon kith. Not the old conflict between the Seelie and unseelie Courts -- all chivalry, pageantry and show -- but a war of classes, such as humans might have. Watching it, I could hear the Paris mob once again as the called for Mme. Guillotine.

The Accordance War, they call it now, as they seek to find a glorious name for a vile, dirty conflict. Nobles seeking to make the sands climb back up the hourglass; commoners looking to smash what they had spent centuries paying for. It was not a conflict of the old against the new, my reader. Never let them fool you into thinking that. It was the archaic against the anarchic, and I am not wrong when I say that none save you could have wrought compromise between the two.

Some good did come of the matter, it must be noted. Nobles no longer were free to treat their commoners as beasts, and the voice of the people could begin to be heard, albeit dimly. The commoners gained new respect for the strength required to hold the reins of power. Finally, the Kithain have won the undying love of the ravens and vultures of this world. Why should they not love you? You fed them so very well for nine years.

Now follows a list of the kith, the races of the Kithain. These are the greater kith; there are an infinite number of lesser kith, but time does not permit me to delve into the specifics of every last tribe of koblynau, brag, fenoderee, and each usige.

There are the boggans, the simple crafters of household lore. Treated well, they are the firm, stable foundation of many a Kithain kingdom. Treated ill, they are capable of anger as relentless and devastating as a building's collapse.

There are the eshu, wild spirits full of joy and trickery. They are story-tellers and gamblers. Pay heed to the truths they hide in their jokes and songs. They are not fools, even if they seem to play the part on occasion.

There are the nockers who tinker endlessly. They are smiths and inventors, miners and spinners of metal webs. Treat them with respect or ill luck will follow.

There are the pooka, gleeful liars and tricksters, but good at heart. Mostly. There is nothing to gain by angering them, and much to lose. The truth is sometimes a burden for them, but a gleeful liar is infinitely preferable to a dull one.

There are the redcaps, the devourers. Of old they dyed their hats in the blood of their victims, and time has not mellowed them to any noticeable extent. Cultivate them if you would rather have warriors as allies than as foes.

There are the satyrs. In them the spirit of Pan lives on. They are the wildness that can ennoble or destroy. Their nature is dual, and they cannot be relied upon to be anything other than what they are.

There are the trolls, who guard and watch and stand. They are faithful, true, and strong. Value their friendship, and build upon it as if it were stone. Their strength can make a kingdom, or break a king.

There are the sluagh, the skulkers in the dark. They know much that a king should know, and are free with their knowledge only ro those whom they consider friends. Friends of the sluagh are few and far between, to no one's great surprise.

There are the sidhe, your kind. They are the beautiful and shapely ones. Learn their games of power, for they hold the reins of Righ in their slender, delicate hands.

The kith are the shapes the Kithain wear. No two look alike -- for even something so basic as faerie guise is affected by the tides of human imagination that ebb and flow across the Dreaming -- but certain characteristics tend to be universal throughout a kith. Redcaps all have teeth like a winter wind, for example, and pooka display misshapen feet or glowing animal eyes. You will recognize the signs soon enough.

But there is more to a Kithain than her form. Her age and experience mark her and mold her as much as her kith does. Seven ages has man, according to my friend the Bard, to only three for the Kithain. Still, those three are quite enough. Should the Kithain be split along seven lines of age, the Dreaming itself could not stand the confusion and your humble chronicler would go quietly mad.

The youngest of the Kithain are called childlings. They are children, innocent and yet fey. They are sometimes accused of having "old eyes," but their spirits have the fragile beauty of true youth. Banality touches them the least, for they do not know what "should" and "ought to" be, yet.

Next come the wilders, rebellious adolescents. They move in packs, secretly seeing themselves as wolflike and predatory. They deserve gentle treatment, as much for the fragility of their existence as for their legendary touchiness and resistance to any authority save that imposed by their own strength. They are still innocent, even as the affect world-weariness and ennui, and all too often their poses become too real. Banality claims many of the wilders, and desperation haunts their eyes.

Finally, there are the grumps. A foolish name, perhaps, for the eldest and wisest of changeling society, yet one that speaks truly of their natures. Their souls are old and have been both hardened and curdled by exposure to an unwelcoming world. It is they who keep the kingdoms of the Dreaming functioning, for they are the seneschals and reeves, the movers, shakers and doers. Their respect is hard won but never lost thereafter.

But a changeling's age is the age of the soul, not the flesh. Any with a Kithain spirit can hear the Dreaming's call from crib to coffin and every moment in between. There is no deadline, no line drawn in the sands of time beyond which a soul can no longer realize that it is truly something other than human. Not more, mind you; simply other. A moment's touch of Glamour, a second's exposure to the Dreaming, and a Kithain soul which had been hibernating in a mortal shell can awaken to its true potential.

I have been privileged to watch this moment of self-realization in others many times over the years. The Saining, they call it. The name is kin to "sainly," meaning "blessed" in certain tongues no longer spoken, and it truly is a blessed instant. You know what wonders and terrors your own Saining held for you. I would recommend against attempting to compare your experience with that of another. It is considered a supremely private moment, and even kings and poets may not pry into the Saining of another. Simply cling to the clean joy of that first moment when you knew your soul for what it truly was.

This is the basic What of your existence, though not the How or the Why. Whats are simple; Whys are harder. Often they can only be found in wishes or dreams.

Alas for wishes, but in this case, the information you require does dwell in dreams. I have already told you that Banality is but a collective refusal to dream. Therefore, does it not make sense to you that it was the absence of dreams that drove the Kithain back to Arcadia or into mortal seemings all those centuries ago? Has no one told you why the moon-trods reopened on a certain day in July 1969? One small step for man, one giant wave of Dreaming for mankind, and all of it focused on that magical, wondrous orb. The moon-trods drank the dreams in, greedily, and flared into life. The power flowed from Arcadia again, the houses returned from Arcadia, and many, many Kithain found themselves at long last. All from dreams of the moon....

It is the wild dreaming of mortal minds that truly feeds your folk. It is the absence of those dreams that cripples them or worse. Give the mortals inspiration and they will provide soul-sustenance for your folk the likes of which you've never dreamed. Give them a goal about which to dream, and they can clear the detritus of decades away. Allow them to lapse into apathy and the Long Winter will be clawing at your windows in minutes.

Like all resources, Glamour can be gathered in a number of ways. It can be cultivated and harvested gently. This is called Reverie. This is the most common method to gain Glamour and is an honorable, respectful harvest. Here is the nobility inherent in patronage: the granting of inspiration and the just reward therefore earned.

It can be generated through one's own acts, inspiring through example. This is called Rapture, and is far rarer. At its purest, Rapture is a joining of art and artist, an ecstasy of expression. Even among the Kithain, few have the combination of talent and empathy required for such an experience. Envy those who do.

Or Glamour can be ripped screaming from minds and places, a strip-mining of the soul's secret domains. This is called Ravaging, and it feeds Banality like nothing else can. It is a rape of creativity, a seduction of promise, and the cynicism and hate it engenders gorges Banality as much as it does the Ravager.

If you doubt my word, scan the airwaves for old, tired muscians who once had fire and magic in their words. Visit places of natural beauty, now hamstrung by gift shoppes and carefully marked trails, souvenir mugs and signs to alert you to "scenic views." Watch the slow selling of counterculture's soul and try not to cry as the icons of individuality shill for sneakers or Fords on your television screen. That is Ravaging in all its glory. Look on its works, ye mighty, and despair.

Bear in mind, though, that there is a reason Glamour is so fiercely sought after. It has many uses and vast powers, and it grants much to those who wield it. If it does nothing else, Glamour is what brings your kind into the Dreaming, allowing you to step out of your mortal shells. It allows you to see beyond the Banal world, to glimpse the chimerical creations of the Dreaming. It can be gently gifted back to mortals to inspire them. Finally, it is also the raw stuff of cantrips, the spells and dreams the Kithain weave. Three parts has each cantrip, but all three fall to naught if there is not Glamour in the weaving.

Mind you, Glamour is not always tame. It can take shape from your wishes and dreams, even as you pull it from ours. Chimera, such manifestations are called, and they are only real to those who give themselves over to Glamour. Your sword, I hear, is of this sort, culled from your memories of a thousand sources. So, too, was the beast that ravaged Lias Dhomniall in Ontario. Chimera can be nightmares as well as dreams. They are a mixed blessing, though no Kithain regrets their existence. For no matter how fierce a beast your sleeping mind spawns, no matter how loathesome a monster your nightmare creates, it is still a reminder that there is magic beyond the boundaries of vision.

There is still so much to tell, but I have run short of space, time, and will to continue. Others can tell you more of the things which I but hint at here. What to tell, what to tell....

You should know of oaths, bindings of power and wills within words. Do not take oaths lightly, for there is a power to them. You should know of the Shadow Court, a most curious mix of tradition and sedition. Once, at Samhaine, the Right was handed over to the dark ones of the Unseelie Court; now the ritual is supposedly nothing more than festival, or so they say. Pay careful heed to the songs they sing at Shadow Court when their tongues are loosened by Glamour and wine. Those songs will tell you the true temper of the Kithain.

It is too much to tell, I see now. I have given you what I can. All the rest is commentary; go and learn it. See the Kingdom of Concordia for yourself. Hold her treasures, speak to her subjects. Only by being and doing will you accomplish true learning. A glorious, terrible, maginificent world now opens before you. I wish you a surfeit of its pleasures, a minimum of its pains, and all of the luck that a teacher can wish a pupil.

Godspeed, David Ardry.


Maintainer's note: This letter first appeared in Changeling: The Dreaming First Edition, on pp. 6-32. It was later transcribed and posted on the World Wide Web by an individual unknown to me; the website where I originally found it a number of years ago apparently no longer exists. If anyone knows who originally posted this document to the WWW, please e-mail me and I'll be happy to give credit where it is due.
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