I know that that’s a question I have asked thousands of times over, the mortality of humans hardly being a topic to gloss over. For many worlds, the answer is that the human partner will continue to grow older and eventually pass away, but as Winnie eludes to in the Night King, things are a little different in the country of Whynne.
I have a large passion for medieval and Victorian stories of the fae. They just so happen to be divided into two camps: the fae’s lover continues to grow old and eventually dies. At the same time, their partner stays young and beautiful, or the lover of the fae does not age so long as they remain in the realm of the fae– and if they were to leave, they find that they have remained the same but the rest of the world has grown around them.
I was a huge fan of the romantic nature of both myths, but I decided to make my own tweaks. Seelie and Unseelie are deal makers by nature, so it seemed very much in character for these creatures to practically make deals with death… which leads us to faerie marks.
Faerie marks are almost scar-like marks that signal the deal between a fae being and a human. It’s a sign that a fae will return for the marked individual; it doesn’t have to be for a bargain or anything– but if it is, there’s an added benefit. Most deals go unmarked, for they are quickly fulfilled, and therefore said benefits never come to light. When a more lengthy bargain is in place, however– To ensure that all deals are fulfilled, a fae ties their lives to another’s with that mark, meaning that for as long as the fae lives, the marked will live as well.
It’s very common for a fae to mark a lover with their family crest and then later make a deal that will further tie the lover to them. So long as the lover remains beside them and their mark is in place, they will naturally live as long as their fae companion. Of course, there are caveats as the partner is still human; a human can’t survive an arrow to the chest or poison, so the fae’s lifespan wouldn’t be able to pull them through that. As well, if a fae were to die early and their human companion had not lived the full length of their human lifespan, they would survive.
If a markee were to have their bond revoked or somehow have all contact cut off from the fae who marked them, then within a year their lifespans would once more become their own. This is actually a huge problem, as many faes are quite fond of messing with humans in such a way and dropping them off at their homes decades later, cutting off all contact, and being sure that the human has nothing left. It used to be considered a sort of prank, but now that there is a new king, they’ve begun to crack down a little on serial offenders.
Marrying a fae?
Fae do not believe in traditional wedding bands or ceremonies. In fact, rings in some fae cultures could be considered to be a trap, as a mere circle on the ground will bind them. Each breed of fae have a way of going about marriage: Selkies exchanging seal skins, Brownies cleaning each other’s homes before commitment, and so on–
But for the upper fae, marriage is a bargain.
The wording is long thought about, many opting not to be bound for eternity. It is a game of back and forth, the vows being sent between households with tweaks and addendums, each partner afraid to be the one to go first and therefore trust the other partner not to reword their vows and then seal the deal with a kiss.
There are even cases of fae tricking another into marriage.
And yet, the fae continue to marry day after day in the country of Whynne. The idea of being bound to one another means something to them, though marriage was not initially a part of the magical culture. I think it’s because so many fae live in solitude, yet continue to reach out to people and other magical creatures. It makes sense to want to belong to something or someone, to know there is someone out there thinking of you. Some fae hardly see their partners, but having their souls tied to another’s in the universe must truly be something for the lonely fae.
It goes without saying that there are many breeds of fae, and therefore many mixes of fae children. We’re going to focus on changelings and Halfies today.
It is considered a luxury for a fae child to be raised by humans. In the time before fae came to be the ruling class, they would often swap out children or drop children upon doorsteps for this very reason. The poor human babies who were taken were simply discarded over given to lesser fae servants to care for.
This is because, for the large part, fae children are demanding and mischievous. Their magic runs rampant and they make bargains left and right. There was also, at one point, a belief amongst some fae women that to suckle their own child meant that said child would take an ounce of their beauty with every drop… truly horrifying for an upper fae woman.
As fae came into nobility, the use of changelings fell out of fashion because they realized that they could simply hire a human woman to take care of their children. Favored humans were those who had birthed a child as close in age to the fae’s as possible so that they would still be able to suckle the babies and have company for growing faerie children. These women, and their children, lived in small rooms with a cot and cradles for the babies. They raised their children alongside each other and, when the human-born child was old enough to work in the house, educated the fae children. The job often went to unmarried women who did not have a partner or family willing to care for them, and were looked down upon for their choice in occupation by much of humanity.
Halfie is a nickname for any breed of mixed elf. The most common amongst these are half-human and Seelie/Unseelie mixes.
Human mixes, for the large part, have the same lifespan as elves, just diminished powers. There are more Seelie/human mixed children than Unseelie for obvious reasons, but these children often face difficulties pulling energy from the earth. They still have the charm and some (though severely lessened) ability to compel others, they just have less capability with magic overall. As a result of their mixed heritage, they can not leave fae marks.
To many mothers, they are considered a curse, for while they are every bit as cute and charming as a fae, they are often frustrated and far more fussy than any other child.
Unseelie/Seelie fae children are often disliked in society. The Unseelie have long been looked upon as a dangerous lot, and Unseelie mixed children are more likely to take after their less than noble parents than others. This leads to traits such as elongated ears, misshapen teeth, and so on– if the Unseelie parentage comes from a less human fae, then they typically tend to inherit those traits. To have one’s parentage speculated to contain Unseelie blood can be social suicide in the upper circles.
They’re not limited in magic, which is considered a bright side, but they still tend to get their powers from the intangible like Unseelie do. Since they resemble the Unseelie so closely, a majority of these children go on to live in Unseelie camps in the woods or in countries that neighbor Whynne, where Unseelie sentiment might be a bit less hostile.
Artwork is by Hans Zatzka.