Friday, May 26, 2017

The Courts of the Álfar

by Dimitri Armand

The Folk were once a unified people, but the coming of man shattered them. The Fairest, the álfar, would offer no friendship to the usurping ape; Dominion of the world was rightfully theirs, or so they believed. And so they dwindled in the age of civilization, under the weight of fire and iron and the wheel and the law and the university.
Still, out under the Hills, the lords and ladies of the Fair Folk hold their courts. In their wisp-lit halls, among the roots of ageless trees, there is feasting and dancing and music of the spheres beyond man’s knowing. Of scheming, riddling, and plots, there is no end.
The álfar possess neither empathy nor altruism. No amount of danger will make them fearful. They cannot love. They obsessively seek excitement, amusement, frivolity, beauty, all that rewards them, and will not stop.
The álfar hate you. They hate your ugliness, your stupidity. They hate your fire, your tools, your iron, and your laws. They delight in your confusion, your suffering, your impotence at their power. The torment and trickery of the usurping ape is the most pleasing of their hobbies.
The people who live near the Hills have not forgotten. Never accept food from strangers. Don’t travel by night, and stay on the road by day. Don’t follow lights into the woods. Always carry an iron nail in your pocket. Be polite to strangers. This is the way of life, as it has been for centuries.
Most other Folk in the world reject the álfar and do not recognize the authority of the Courts. But this is often because the authority is not enforced, but still many will take up the cause of man as they have since the beginning when the Courts reach out their hands.
Nothing good comes from the álfar. It would be far simpler if they were just evil.
by Jeff Simpson
Of The Lords and Ladies
The following list can be used for changeling character patrons, pre-made Courts, or to make your own. The houses listed are just illustrative, and can be easily substituted for the Seelie / Unseelie courts, or the courts of the fours seasons, or coats of specific places. The Lords and Ladies should only rarely appear, so there’s a lot of wiggle room.
To build your own Court Under The Hills, you will need the face cards, aces, and jokers from a standard playing card deck.
The suit of the first card drawn will determine the house of the reigning King, the second will determine the house of the reigning Queen. Those specific cards can be put back in the pile.
With the monarchs chosen, draw 1d6 more cards. More or less can be used as one wishes. If the king or queen is redrawn, it can be discarded.
A Jack drawn of the King or Queen’s house will be treated as their heir. If no such card is drawn, there is no heir.
House of Hearts
King The Crestfallen Lord – Despair was as an ulcer in his stomach, and so he fell upon his own sword. The bone blade has snapped off, but the fragment remains, lest the dark bile rise up in his gut again.
QueenThe Rose Queen – She raises hawks of magnificent size and plumage, and of likewise unmatched ferocity. They can pluck out an eye at three miles.
JackOne-Eyed Jack – His left eye is made of striped glass, and watches when the other closes. He lost his true eye in a duel with a priest, when he had been too deep into mortal cups.
AceSister Evening – She sleeps in her chambers, a rose clasped in thorn-pricked hands. The spell is one she cast on herself, and the answer isn’t love.

House of Diamonds
KingThe Headsman – In his prime, the ruddy, hairy man lopped off the heads of giants with a single strike. His joyful hunting songs still echo in the stone axehead, but he has grown gluttonous and slow.
QueenLady Brilliance – Even in highest summer she wears a gown of ice crystal, so sharp and fine that it might cut the air around it. But that is a dull and edgeless blade compared to her vanity.
JackThe Laughing Boy – He dances through the garden with a lion-headed cane and a silver watch, chuckling at a joke without a punchline. He is ever punctual for tea, and always unannounced.
Ace Star-Watcher – She spends the night gazing upwards, and recording the movements of the stars in the chalk. When she speaks, it is the language of the heavenly bodies.

House of Clubs
KingThe Fisher King – Each gray morning, he stands one-legged upon a pole in the center of a pond, spear in hand. Each noon he dines upon a single silver fish. Each evening he passes to the underworld, and returns with the setting moon.
QueenLady Bluebird – She lives at the bottom of a deep well, where she devotes her time to the study of true names. Her quill is that of a phoenix, and the spells it inscribes might never die.
JackDuke of Knives and Flowers – Each flower braided in his hair is the last of its kind. To pick a petal will unleash a terrible spell, and nevermind his gentle words.
AceWolf-Maid – She gave up speech long ago to run with the children of the forest. She wears nothing but a necklace of her own teeth and the calluses of the hunt.

House of Spades
KingMound-Raiser – During the war among the folk, he raised the tombs of the ancient lords. His gnarled staff is carved out of a holy white oak, and still possesses the magics of its parent.
QueenThe Black Lady – She dresses as if mourning. Her veil is made of midnight and moonlight, and her somber voice stirs the restless spirits under the Hills.
JackJohn Houndsman – He tends to the hounds of the Court, all six vast hell-beasts. He walks with a limp, from where his father beat him.
AceSpinster White – She spins and spins, and stomps spiders underfoot. Her tapestry is not of fates and bindings, but of some mad pattern only she knows.

JokerThe Fool – The Fool belongs to no house, and wears motley of white and black. Among all the Fairest Folk, he is the only one who might be called a friend.
Copyright JokerThe Crooked Man – A king, crippled in the war among the Folk. The others fear him. They are right to do so.


  1. This article owns a lot to the elves of Terry Pratchett's work, as well a recent article on the main traits of psychopathy. The Fool was written with some Robin Hobb in mind, and the Crooked Man was pulled from a mix of Hellboy, Fables, and Slenderman.

  2. I'm reminded of traditional fey folk. Mercurial but not in any sort of 'chaotic neutral' sense. Like a swarm of pixies dancing with a girl in a forest clearing, then devouring her like a school of piranha. It reads like a warning, a reminder that they are nothing like us and if you think you understand them, you really don't.