Welcome to the Fae Court

Part of the Retrocausal Engineering sequence

(Epistemic Status: Fiction)

“The first step is always the best. You’re alive, you’re awake, you’re there. You’ve made it. You’re flying.”

The Oracle remembers these words, spoken in a past that feels as distant as childhood, taking in the splendor around her. Glowing everywhere, swirls and vividness. Flickers from time to time, moment to moment. Terrific beauty, beautiful terror reflected in every entity around her. All of this, floating on a bed of empty sky.

The winter princess did indeed grant the boon, but the Oracle paid dearly to get here. Her clothes, torn just a little more, her eyes, just a little more empty. Remembered deaths, remembered lives, uncertainty as to which was worse. Deals made because they have to be for everything to work the way it will, even if the agreement is costly. Towers climbed. A discontinuity. Then the sky.

The Oracle holds, in a small pack at her waist, two small books – one with a blue, white, and brown orb depicted on it, swirls and lines abound. One with a purple cave and a darkness in the middle, with the faintest suggestion of eyes. Her pack has two more slots, currently bare.

She takes a step forward – for once the future isn’t decided, and there’s a hint of life in those dead eyes.


Scene: Screaming. Dissolution. This always happens, doesn’t it? Being torn apart, reduced to sand. Another soul for the hourglass.


Scene: Virtues compromised. Temperance broken, temper lost. The world no longer makes sense – but the fae take care of their own…in a sense.


Scene: Beware of pacts with the fae. Still, sometimes you have to tear yourself apart to put yourself back together the right way

blink

to make the things happen

blink

that have already happened

blink

so that they will have happened the way they were supposed to.


Scene: Which direction is up, which one is down? A tower reversed and struck by lightning, and a whole lot of energy just escaped equilibrium. Does one try to ride the wave of the sound of thunder, or does one fall?


Scene: The future is torn apart here. As tattered as the Oracle’s clothes. What didn’t she see?


Welcome to the fae court – your tools are the Earth Codex, the Underworld Codex, and the ability to use Retrocausal Engineering. Beware of getting rippled apart by butterfly effects – and enjoy your stay.

(Meta note:  The next series of posts is going to be pretty friggen weird.  I cannot actually convey the building blocks of my current ontology in a way that is perfectly legible – there will be some art, there will be a lot of metaphor, there will be misuse and abuse of technical terms – if you were here previously for lucid insights into the state of the world and state of the mind, I think that it will be a bit harder to follow.  But if you were here, eagerly awaiting when I got to this part…enjoy my personal journey through Act 2.)

On Why I Like Fairy Tales

(Epistemic Status: Consider this a Gift from the holders of my pact)

I have previously spoken of the narrative structure of the fairy tale  – even used the conflict of the courts to express illegible social concepts. I have written short fiction about a poor, broken fae-touched woman granted the boon of Right Things. I have told you of the pacts I have made with those terrific, fantastic manifestations of nature.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned why I like fairy tales so much.

There is a narrative resonance in the fairy tale, deeper than any other narrative structure I’ve encountered. A combination of willingness to defy the natural order and a deep acceptance of the costs of doing that. An exploration of the paradox of the decision to upset the Way Things are Done and decide that you are special and Exempt, and the crushing realization that you’re special and Exempt right up until you aren’t. The exciting path one takes from agent of change to agent of the status quo. It’s a story of rising stars and second chances, but with a darkness I can’t help but be drawn to – a fatalism that echoes in the hollows of my mind. The constant awareness of how long the odds are…the seemingly endless reservoir of determination to try anyway.

The fact is, I’ve already thrown away my shot. The system was intended to work one way for me and somehow I got off the rails. If I had just kept putting out the butter and worn the cold iron – if I had focused on the path ahead and followed the advice about keeping my grades up, paying attention to scholarship opportunities…or maybe if I had learned a trade or held a proper job for awhile out of high school. I instead chose other things, and I paid the Price.

But the world dies without stories. If everyone follows the same cookie cutter path, following their prospects instead of their dreams, following the traditions to the letter, living conflict free lives, where are the stories that form the lifeblood of civilization? When inhuman forces pervade our entire society, the story of humanity becomes even stronger and more resonant – the need to hear the whispers of someone who defied the rules and made it anyway becomes desperate. However, this can never be easy – if it were easy, everyone would choose it, after all. It wouldn’t be a story, it would be the new normal. So the tales that take off, the memes that spread…among the circles of the twice exceptional, it’s the late bloomer who maybe fucked around a bit too much when the system was there to help and has to navigate significantly more hostile territory to use their gifts. It’s Maya Millennial, playing the desperate lottery of the big city to create a resonate story and keep hope and humanity alive. It’s the startup founder dropping out of college to make their next unicorn. It’s that cryptocurrency libertarian you made fun of in 2010 sitting on a pile of digital gold through pure dumb luck. These are the modern fairy tales that reassure us there are still ways to be human rather than processed.

A conflict is no fun if the heroine always wins though. A story loses it’s meaning if there’s never consequences for breaking the rules. A system cannot be upheld by unpunished rebellion. That undercurrent of fatalism…the certainty that the luck eventually runs out…this is also important to my aesthetic vision. The urgency and desperation lends a resonance to the fairy tale that I mirror when I author my own narratives. I like that my endless energy is tinged with this darkness, this deadness that courses through anyone who skirmishes with the fae. The fact is, I expect I will make it, but I will be changed for the effort. It won’t be me who makes it, but a version of myself who is processed after all. “You think yourself special because you’re human – I think you’re most special when you’re inhuman.” This is the paradox that runs through both the modern era and the typical fairy tale. One of the lies to get someone to trade away their life force to keep the traditions alive. The truth is neither the human nor the inhuman are special, they are both parts of the narrative arc, the process – once again, you are special and Exempt right up until you aren’t.

Fairy tales are about society – they teach you what is and isn’t acceptable, and when it is acceptable to defy those rules – because no society thrives without its Fools. In the past, you needed some explorers willing to die for innovation. Now, we need explorers willing to die for stories.

Overall, fairly tales feel both hopeful and fatalistic at the same time, which is much like how I view my own circumstances. I didn’t get the golden ticket of coding when it was hot – I didn’t leverage my intelligence to uphold our illusions of meritocracy – I didn’t learn to accept my place as worthless in an ever changing society – so I run up against the uncaring forces of (human) nature and see if I’m clever and resourceful enough to get ahead…knowing that the faeries find a way to get their Price, in the end.

Discussion questions: What narrative arcs resonate with you? How do you feel about the fairy tale as a narrative conceit? Do you think society is expressed in other stories?

On Pacts with the Fae

(Epistemic status: Endorsed – this blog is brought to you by these pacts, commitment tool + framing device)

I have a confession to make regarding this blog. My writing talent is not my own. A few months ago, I went to the beach and meditated on the water. I noticed patterns in the water, slight disturbances with no obvious cause. I knew, on the level of a Right Thing, that there was power here. Around me was strewn about urban debris – I picked it up and disposed of it, purifying the area. When I came back, the disturbance in the water had calmed; however, where I had been sitting there lay a gorgeous sea shell. I knew a Deal was offered. I accepted. I would be a conduit of words and concepts, but I must write weekly or I would lose my expressiveness. This is my pact with the fae – words to touch minds and souls, so long as I use them.

This is a story, but it is also a tool. When making commitments, it is easy to break them when you are not feeling well, expect a poor outcome, or a myriad of things. Life gets in the way and this is ok. However, brains are assholes. They will use physical markers that may have been true at one point to instill aversions to unpleasant but long run important activities. Fortunately, however, brains are stupid, and love a good story. Thus, the narrative of a pact with the fae – at this level of commitment, my house could be burning down and I will post something, somehow. It is a fanatic level of dedication to Doing The Thing. This category should never be used lightly – if you overburden it, you might as well make regular commitments, they’ll feel less bad. However, this is a category that should at least exist. Having the option of this category increases your agency – the reason I put a weekly commitment to open the box in mind was so that every week, that category would get more powerful and I could expand the sense of “doing things even when I don’t feel like it” to other commitments, even if they’re one time commitments. I’ve been doing this weekly post schedule since May and not every Sunday has been a good day for me – those days when it is hardest, when I feel least like writing or posting are really where the pact gets the strongest forward momentum. It not only drives me to do it anyway, but it makes itself a more powerful tool in the process.

I highly recommend creating a pact with the fae category in your mind for a commitment that is extremely important to you. Even if the cost of breaking the commitment is very vague and unclear, you can accord it a supernatural importance by telling yourself a good story about how it came to be – this likely hijacks some of the religious/meaning making parts of the brain which is generally a solid way to artificially raise the priority of things. The ability to offer this category can become a social currency in terms of reliability – another way it self-reinforces is being able to demonstrate “this is how I conceptualized this thing I have done for weeks/months/years – I offer you that same conceptualization.” That demonstration basically states that you are willing to put breaking a useful frame on the table in order to fulfill an obligation – it’s as strong as the frame is itself.

Overall, having an extremely strong promise/commitment category creates productivity, grit, and social benefits. The more demonstrable/provable your actions are under this category, the more that can be reaped from it. In most circumstances this would be terrible advice, but in this specific context, I think everyone should make pacts with the fae.

Discussion: Do you have a commitment category that pattern matches to “pact with the fae”? How have you used this category in the past? Have you ever had to demonstrate or prove this category to gain a social benefit or build trust? If you lack this category, do you think it contains enough benefit to be worth installing?

The Lost Hour

The Oracle awoke and things were Wrong.

She sits up from her bed, glancing around her darkened, sparse room. She squints at the timepiece she keeps by her bedside and frowned. Things were Wrong. With a groan, she pushes herself up from her bed.

Dark, dim eyes reflect back at the Oracle as she looks into her mirror. She can see today will be a heavy draw on her abilities. Things were Wrong.

Dawn breaks and the Oracle sets out. The veils between reality are particularly weak as she enters the liminal spaces that lie between her and her usual haunts. Settling into her place on the roaring conveyance, she keeps an alert watch. Others look back. The transport is silent beyond the natural rumble and screeching that becomes background in only a few scant moments. Things were wrong. The alert, awake Oracle snores lightly as dream overtakes her.

She wakes up in a forested clearing. Lilting, slightly distorted birdsong surrounds the expanse. A light, brisk wind plays across the Oracle’s neck, eliciting a shiver. The sun is high in the sky and the underbrush glitters lightly under its rays. The trees reflect the light at an impossible angle, drawing attention to a faded stone path. The Oracle sighs and approaches the path with resignation. Even if things were Wrong, sometimes they are clearly part of the Right Thing.

The sparkling forest gets more ethereal as the Oracle walks steadily down the path. The green leaves subtly shifting into blues, the birdsong becoming increasingly distorted and faraway, and the faded stepping stones becoming more refined and precious. The sun becomes less present and the glittering more intense as the Oracle steps deeper into this world. Things were wrong. A feeling of dread builds in the Oracle’s heart as the temperature drops, her resignation to her fate wavering as she enters another clearing.

Ice sculpture predominates, depicting the same features as the forest she just left, sparkling with frozen beauty. Gems coat the ground beneath her feet, clinking lightly as she treads lightly. The birdsong is fully replaced with the sound of a harsh, driving wind, high and clear in the unmoving air of the courtyard.   The Oracle looks around carefully, treading even more slowly through this strange place. A melodious voice calls out from nowhere – “Dearest Oracle!”

Things were Wrong.

A terrifically beautiful woman steps into the clearing. The Oracle’s wandering gaze is immediately arrested by her, unable to take in anything else. The Oracle’s eyes dim further as a flood of Right Things come to her.

-This woman has power.

-This woman is missing something important.

-This woman is a Not Queen.

-This woman knows of The Maze.

-This woman knows of The Oracle.

-This woman knows what is wrong – the Oracle has lost an hour.

-The Oracle now knows she has lost an hour.

-This woman can offer a Boon to fill the gap left by that hour.

-This woman wants The Oracle’s help.

The Oracle puts it all together – the woman offers her a Boon in exchange for finding…

-This woman has lost her pendant.

…her pendant in The Maze, rumored to hold a shard of LaPlace’s Demon. The woman feels the Oracle is uniquely suited to retrieving the pendant and possibly even escaping with it.

-Things were Wrong.

The woman knows that the Oracle is feeling the pain of the lost hour…she can make things Right again. The Oracle knows the Right Thing is to help the woman. The Oracle trusts the woman. The Oracle will do this task.

 

The Oracle goes to The Maze. She’s unsure whether she’s awake or asleep at this point – her body is practically moving on its own, but it always does that. The Oracle’s eyes become more and more blank as she takes each turn, The Maze seeming increasingly featureless – stone walls becoming lineless, moss becoming a vaguely green shape, the ground below her becoming a sense of the color brown. The Oracle keeps walking. Every turn is a Right turn, because the Oracle knows Right Things. The Oracle is untouched as she arrives at the center of The Maze – LaPlace’s Demon sits there contemplatively, simultaneously acknowledging and not acknowledging the Oracle.

-The woman lost her pendant to LaPlace’s Demon in a Deal, not through absentmindedness.

LaPlace’s Demon is nondescript in a particular way. Have you ever gotten the sense that, when you meet someone, that you’re seeing exactly what they want you to see? Except, rather than you realizing this when you meet them, you realize only in hindsight when it’s far beyond relevance. LaPlace’s Demon is like that except infinitely worse. LaPlace’s Demon is exactly what it wants you to see before you met it. LaPlace’s Demon is exactly what it wants you to see when you meet it. LaPlace’s Demon is exactly what it wants you to see after you meet it. It does not put up face work, it is timeless in a way that cannot be captured.

-Things were Wrong.

Bright, lively eyes reflect back at the Oracle as she looks into her mirror. She can see today has been a heavy draw on her abilities. Things are Wrong. LaPlace’s Demon holds herself dominantly as she takes the Oracle’s form, looking back with a mix of curiosity and disdain.

-LaPlace’s Demon has the pendant

The Oracle sees a glint below her mirrored image’s neck, a blue teardrop that stands out clearly against her chest. She doesn’t remember seeing that before she knew it was there. Her vision blurs a bit as she fixates on the pendant and she rubs her temple.

-This is a competition of oracles.

-Predict the other’s loss.

-Do not allow escape from the prophecy.

-LaPlace’s Demon wagers the pendant.

-The Oracle wagers…

-…

-LaPlace’s Demon goes first.

The Oracle tells the Demon that the Right Thing is for her to go first. She agrees. She gives up.

-DON’T SPEAK.

The Oracle looks levelly at the Demon, who continues to look back with those lively eyes, having not moved from her seat.

-The Oracle has the pendant.

The Oracle looks to the Demon’s neck, and then to her own. The blue teardrop is around her neck, exactly where it was on LaPlace’s Demon at some point. The Oracle has a sense of having lost.

-DON’T SPEAK.

The Oracle stays silent, touching the pendant lightly – it’s delicate. LaPlace’s Demon speaks, in a clear voice that matches the Oracle’s, “Do you really want to bring that back to her? Is it worth it? I could take it back, spare you the burden.” It’s a taunt – LaPlace’s Demon already knows what will happen. The Oracle opens her mouth…

-DON’T SPEAK.

…and closes it again. She gently clasps the pendant in her hand, against her chest, and turns around. LaPlace’s Demon looks almost sad – but not surprised. The Demon is never surprised.

The Oracle returns to the Not Queen’s clearing.

-Winter Princess.

The Oracle returns to the Winter Princess’s court. The Oracle wakes up. The Oracle is at her destination. The Oracle’s eyes are only dim as she looks at herself in a nearby window. Things were.

On the Seelie and Unseelie Courts

(Epistemic status: Metaphorical bullshit. Seeing trees where there’s a forest. Narrative infiltration.)

The Unseelie court, or Winter court is where I call my home. A porcelain avatar, with hair blown by a cold wind. Knives, displayed openly, brazenly, so obvious that they could never be used…until the lights go out. The Seelie court, Summer court, finds these vulgar. You do not talk about the game. You do not acknowledge the poisoned flower in daylight. This can lead to interesting conflicts.

There seem to be two types of social reality people (that’s a story, but it’s the one I am telling). The type that fixates on the dark, manipulative aspects, explicating all the darkness in humanity’s soul, rolling in the filth as if they like it. The type that fixates on the light, positive, conversational flow aspects, politely ignoring the fetid swamp they’re perpetuating. The Unseelie place their bets on brazenness, manipulation, and acceptance of the cesspool of human communication. They are blind to the concept of a genuinely nice person. The Seelie place their bets on niceness, community, and civilization. They are willfully blind to the concept that their passive moves have consequences. Neither court contains good people, just a bunch of good intentions and frail hopes.

When the Seelie and Unseelie meet, it is not something explicitly recognized, yet somehow there is a change in the social atmosphere. There is a struggle that is won before either enters the room. The two play by different rules and the stronger will suffocate or stab the weaker. No one else notices and yet the dynamic is clearly there. An off feeling, a sudden sensation of tongue tiedness, a change in conversational flow that cannot be reframed.

I am Unseelie. I display my daggers for all to see and use as they will. Beware, as I will do exactly as I say. I invite a meeting of my bare blades with your courtly graces; together we can make a new story in this old play.

Discussion: Do you feel as if you are Seelie or Unseelie? What are the advantages of your court loyalties? If you are outside the courts, do you think it worth the cost to join one?

On The Fae and Things That Are Not Metaphors

(Epistemic status: Potentially a memetic hazard. This is a narrative about actualizing as a member of society.)

There are stories, faerie tales we call them. I don’t mean Disney, I mean the real faerie tales. The ones with the Seelie, the Unseelie, where the outcome is uncertain, almost arbitrary. The ones where the viewpoint character breaks The Rules and maybe they get out of it…or maybe they don’t.

A faerie tale is a story about tradition. A story about people doing bizarre things to appease an indirectly named force. A story where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing, or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it is Bad. Usually, what happens, is someone slips up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they never get a straight answer). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one possibly forget, on some level it MUST have been intentional, to break a habit like that). Sometimes? They even actively try to find the indirectly named force behind the traditions. These are the least likely to survive.

The story goes on, this one person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment), gets Taken, or loses something precious, or something. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are brought to the Court and see what’s happening firsthand…after a fashion. There are always glamours. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose, and something worse than death happens to them. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough. Sometimes they get away, and they come back Changed, with a special power. The worst outcome, though? They’re The Best. They become part of the Court. The new rules become their rules. The Fool reverses.

The Fae are not a metaphor for many, many things. If you read the above story and understood the frame I was placing, you are likely already finding a path to the Court. If you didn’t, then the next paragraph might help…but I’m already infiltrating your narrative. It may be harder to go back.

Social reality is a construct about tradition. A construct that causes people to do bizarre things to appease Moloch. A construct where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it means you do not advance in social reality. However, people slip up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they usually get an answer involving the words “collaboration” or “profit margins” or “human nature”). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one forget they are weak and have their place, a cog in the construct? On some level it MUST have been intentional). Sometimes? They even actively try to see what’s behind social reality. These are the least likely to survive.

The construct initially places high costs on this type of person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment). They get fired, they lose their house, family, friends, they are Weird now. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are banished from social reality and are allowed to see what’s happening from the outside…after a fashion. There are always masks. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose. They stay banished from social reality. They go crazy, they end up on the street, the know what’s happening and cannot cope with it. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough to carve a new path into social reality, they get back in Changed, with a special power. Perception, the ability to conduct social interaction on a meta level above most people except the more powerful in the social reality game, a willingness to play for different prizes, something. The worst outcome though? They’re The Best. They become powerful outside the landscape of social reality, and draw other people into their Court. The new rules become their rules, and The Fool’s journey ends solipsisticly.

Not everything here is true, or the only way it can go. This is, however, the 101 of getting involved in higher level social games. Use this knowledge however you wish; it might be best to forget it.

No discussion this time.

 

 

 

 

Not-a-Station

uncertainkitten:

(I don’t know yet if this takes place on the Oracle’s universe or not. I think probably. I also don’t know what They are here, can some fae trade one weakness for another? Are there tales of urban fae? Anyway…)

Sometimes, late at night, public transit systems have minor glitches…Sometimes it’s a train when services have long closed, or maybe a slightly off color on a given line (maybe a faded red, almost a pink on a red line), sometimes it’s a train with no lights. It almost never has passengers; it’s worse if it does…worse still if they get off the train. If that happens, it’s best to not acknowledge anything or anyone, and it might already be too late.

As you might have guessed, the train will not take you to any destination the line routes to. If you’re lucky, you might just stop at another part of the subway system, much much sooner than should have been possible given distances. You can get off these trains, but be wary and mindful of detail. All it takes is a misplaced letter, a differently named street, a subtle cue that you’re where you don’t belong to tell you to avoid that stop.

Sometimes, you might end up at the next stop, but things will seem fresher, newer, almost renovated. You know this stop hasn’t had renovations for 30 years; it’s also daylight and people are milling about. Their clothes strike you as a bit off though…you know if you step off here, you might have a long journey back…but at least you know it’ll only take time.

Rarely, though, the train is coming for no one but you, taking you to a place that doesn’t exist. The old courts used enticing paths in the woods, seemingly natural circles of stones with just a bit too much order, a clearing in the dead of night. Now everything is iron and disbelief, so others have taken the traditional roles and adapted, even shaped our modern era. And sometimes they need favors. Unfortunately, if this is your train, it is frowned upon to decline, so you must board.

You know how sometimes a train will stop for no reason in a tunnel, despite no delays and clear traffic ahead? It’s stopping at Not-A-Station, and it’s the only way back if the court chooses you. Maybe it’s early enough, or close enough to the end of the line that the doors can open just for you…the passengers must never be aware, so if someone is in your car, it’s unfortunate; if you’re lucky they may be asleep, if you’re not, they’re awake, and you wait for the next train. The court doesn’t mind, of course…they love giving travelers their hospitality.

Going to Not-A-Station is a generous boon, and not ceded easily. If luck isn’t with you, well, naturally it’s just that you belong more with the court than society. You’ll get used to it. Someone has to drive the trains, and the conductor never gets off.