Domus Exsulis

Nemus Animae

In which a fortuitous projectile fractures something other than its target

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Nemorosum Somnium, Nemus Animae, Silva Atra, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris. All Rights Reserved.

In Memory of Janet Yanosko Elkins, one of the first and earliest readers of this frenetic, hypertextual web and all souls, friends and loved ones lost along the way, somewhere in the Great Dreaming.

Ackbroll squatted beneath the shadow of a teak tree, watching The Wild Maiden of The Trees as she circled the gradon that dreamt within states. All around them, Nemorosum Somnium moved and rustled. It was a feral force that troubled even the Maiden in all her wildness. It troubled Ackbroll even more so, for he was significantly less untamed. His patron, the antlered one, had warned him of this many moons ago. Now, as the Wild Maiden grew frenetic and urgent, he finally understood. The wind affected even him, the murmuring of the trees bending and shifting his own memories, despite the protection of the antlered one. Ackbroll had been named protector here, even if he could have left, his own sense of responsibility would not let him do so.

The susurration that was the conversation between twigs, the veins of corresponding leaves and the wind created an intricate weave that contained the consciousness of a thousand trees and more. It drowned out the thoughts of humans and animals alike. The susurration had the penunggu in the trees cackling and hooting, half-wild with starvation and a glee born of both deprivation and power. The madness of the forest had kept away the tourists who provided them with fresh blood, and fresher meat, but had given these malicious protectors of the trees something else. A new strength, a new dreaming. This could not bode well, Ackbroll thought. He sucked at his upper lip and made an irritated sound. There was no help for it, he had to act soon. Timing was everything. No time for elaborate plans here. He took his slingshot, and loaded it with a mangosteen fruit. It was firm, but soft. Firm enough to be used as a projectile. Soft enough not to hurt too much if used. He looked up at the elegant teak tree and patted its trunk in a familiar, affectionate gesture.

“This may hurt a little,” he said to both the tree and the forest.

He eyed the gradon, whom he knew to be the queen of dragons, as well as the source of the disturbance within the heart of the forest. He aimed his slingshot. He fired.

Splat!

“OWW!”

It would have been a loud shout of outrage, had it not hit something other than a very diminutive target. Ackbroll dropped his slingshot, squinted and then sighed.

“Broke my wing! My wing! Stupid spear-boy!”

Ackbroll dropped to his knees and peered at the Flitterer.

“Weren’t you banished from Nemus Animae?”

(continue reading…)

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In which Ipede discovers a flaw in his geas

by on Apr.27, 2015, under Mykologosia, Nemus Animae

(c) Nin Harris 2009 —

Ipede Dwinkum looked at his hat. It was a rather battered old thing, but Waterlily had gifted it to him. You do not throw away a faerie gift. You were permitted or sometimes, even encouraged, to forget it, but you do not throw it away. Not that Ipede would, or could. It was one of the things that connected him to her, even if he could never see her or hear her. He could breathe in the scent of her sometimes, know when she was near him by the quality of the air. He knew it the same way he knew when there were pixies around, ruffling his hair, or trying to pinch his bared, dwarven fore-arms. He placed the dark brown hat reverently on his head of tousled ginger and brown, age having softened and darkened its hue, somewhat. Flexing his body, he settled into a relaxed, fighter’s position and tried to push his way into Nemus Animae. This was the same fight he had with the same barriers for more than a decade, mayhap, even a human century. The same force of pressure kept him out. He had never accepted the geas laid upon him by the Faerie Lord, for daring to love, and even more, for trying to wed a member of the fae nobility. He had never accepted the kind of punishment doled upon him for daring to attempt to rise above his station. He lived with it. He lived with being denied the second sight, but he never accepted that it was for an eternity. The good part of the geas was that any form of tactile contact, good or bad, was buffered by it. He could sense, but he could not be directly harmed. In that sense, the Faerie Lord had protected him. In that sense, alone.

Through the birch trees Ipede’s eyes reacquainted itself with a path, lined with flowering shrubs, leading into the heart of the Grove. He knew there were other things to see and experience there; he had been through it more than once. That was how he had met Waterlily, blundering through the forest like the excited mad young wood-dwarf that he was. Mad Ipede, they called him in those days. Mad, even before he had lost his sanity and became the thing the children of the city-state whispered about, as much as they whispered about Jezemiah Irlinus. Mad enough to fall in love with a green faerie lady with star-glistened wings and a glissando on her lips when he made her hum, with a curve to her spine as he made her purr, verdant notes, as lush and as secret as the faerie woods themselves.

Perhaps she was half-mad too, the beloved Waterlily, she of the pastel skin of milk and smooth mosspond green. Perhaps an eldritch insanity was the heat behind her agate eyes, mad enough to accept his rough-as-bark skin into her silken embrace. And thus, he entered the woods and the liquid pastures of the fae dreams, where all things merge into one thing. And thus, he learned to hunger for magic. The sweet perfume of her skin and the musk of fae revelries led him to his profession as a Perfumer, scavenging for ducts and other unseemly things needed to create unguents of potency. His obsession with magic turned him into a Faerie Alchemist. And more. Perhaps too much more. Perhaps he hungered for more than Waterlily’s embrace the night he decided they should be betrothed.

Ipede pushes against the barrier that obstructs him from Nemus Animae, and finds something that causes him to stop. This attempt to access the woods has become, almost a ritual for him. He never expects to win through. But tonight, something seems to have changed. A brief weakness in the pattern that keeps him out. A slight…oversight perhaps? Ipede sets his hat on the ground, followed by the tweed jacket that the Caretaker gifted him with, last Solstice.

He pushes.
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Wages for a Spy-in-Residence; a tale of three forests

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Camena Draconis, Mykologosia, Nemorosum Somnium, Nemus Animae, Silva Atra, Three Forests

(c) Nin Harris 2008–

Thick, wide basil leaves hid a small, pointed, malicious face. The antennae on her head whirled busily as she listened. The wolf-maiden Tarme, she of the tawny fur and voluptuous torso had strayed into Nemus Animae. For what purpose, oh, for what purpose? The Flitterer knew not, but information was her especial skill. And it promised to be profitable, once more. The Wild Huntsman was still abroad, and he had noticed her acumen, at last! Time there was when she would have been the Huntsman’s quarry. Had he not chased her away from the Titian One’s court? But what’s done is done, what’s in the past should remain solely in the past, whispered a sycophant elf in her ear. Gold for you, the elf said. Safe egress into the great Faerie beyond, freedom from this isle of exiles, wouldn’t that be a relief? The Flitterer’s antennae whirled; she readied herself to do what she did best.

The furry maiden sat upon an up-ended barrel, her fingers tweaking at petals of the torch ginger blooms in a nearby patch. Her eyes gazed this way and that through the dark of the grove. Who was patrolling the borders of the haunted woods if Tarme was here? The Flitterer inched closer, and closer still, hoping to get a better vantage point for the conversation that was about to occur. Poking her head through the unchecked growth of wild lemongrass, the hard blades poking into her sides, she hoped this would provide her with the information she needed to get away from Yrejveree.

WHACK!

She was dead. She had to be. A great whooshing sound and then, darkness.

Dead. Deader than dead.

Some bad thing had captured her. What? Who?

The Flitterer stared up into Heaven.

Fangs met her eyes, glinting.

“Hello,” the wolf-maiden said.

“Hillo,” she wheezed.

“Welcome to Silva Atra,” Tarme said. A look of wicked amusement passed over her feral features.

The Flitterer got to her feet, and tried to discover if anything had been broken. Nary a thing. Nope. She shook her head, and wiggled her ears. She touched the tip of her pointed nose with a finger. Then two fingers. She pulled the messy fringe that fell over her eyes. Scalp worked. She didn’t feel dead. The Flitterer looked around. She was surrounded by ghostly, white-barked trees; dying leaves were a carpet beneath her feet. Wispy fireflies hovered in swarms. And the hairy maiden looked very pleased with herself. Dreadful smirk that. She hated.

“Kidnapper, ye hairy brigand!”

“I would rather consider it a counter-recruitment, my dear. And I really wouldn’t recommend going back to Nemus Animae, even if you are perfectly welcome to leave, right now.”

“Faerie Lord’ll fix ye!”

“Faerie Lord was going to have your bones ground, my dear. He knows you’re a mole for the Huntsman.”

The Flitterer tried to whirl her antennae, but then discovered they would not work. And she was in Silva Atra, the haunted woods. Maybe, even if her limbs seemed working, she was still dead. Dreadful fear, this. She must ask.

“Am I dead?”

“You may well wish you are. But worry not; your antennae will work again, soon. And then you will be quite aware that you are, indeed, alive!”

“Huntsman’ll need me. Huntsman’ll fix ye.”

Tarme laughed, a short, lupine sound.

“For someone who fancied herself a future position as intelligence officer in the Titian One’s court, you’re not awfully bright, my dear. Huntsman’s done for.”

“Done for?”

“Gone. Kicked out of the isle!”

“No more Wild Hunt?”

“None.”

Oh dear, oh dear. Exciting happenings. She was not privy! Worst than being dead!

“Who kicked the Huntsman out and why?”

“They tried to take over Nemorosum Somnium. The forest spat them back out. And the dragons were waiting. Gone!”

Tarme grinned at the little faerie.

“And now, I have a job for you, my nosy little thing.”

“Job?”

Tarme nodded. The Flitterer’s expression grew cunning.

“Wages?”

“Information on exactly how the Huntsman was vanquished.”

The Flitterer’s eyes gleamed. But no, not to be cheated out of wages! Information was nice, but not enough. Wages must be had. Sweet things too!

“Not enough!”

“Bearing my protection so the irate members of the Faerie Court will not abuse you?”

The Flitterer considered this, but was yet unwilling to concede.

“And there is a nice little house for you of course. Prettily decorated to suit your faerie needs. And a title. How would you like to be Silva Atra’s Spy-in-Residence?”

Well now, this sounded nice. Very, very nice indeed. A house! She had to sleep on branches in the Faerie Lord’s bower, out of everyone’s way so she would not be kicked or cuffed. But still, “Not enough!”

Tarme sighed in exasperation and tossed her something. She caught it.

“Have a honeycake then, you greedy little thing!”

The Flitterer mumbled and munched. Honey was good wages. Sweet honey from bees fed on clover. She licked her lips. Very good wages indeed.

“I accept your offer,” the Flitterer said with all the dignity she could muster.

“Good. You may start right away. Here, wear this.”

Tarme placed a small, elegant amulet hanging from a thin necklace of moleskin leather over the faerie’s neck.

“This bears my mark of protection. You will not be harmed. I require you to enter Nemorosum Somnium to discover something for me.”

“The dreaming forest? One that chased out the Huntsman? One that has gone angry and mad? One that has leafy group-mind?”

“That one. I need for you to find me someone. A dragon. A very important dragon.”

The Flitterer’s antennae came back to life at this very moment, but it made no difference. She slumped. Her iridescent wings drooped.

“Stop dawdling!”

Tarme’s voice was a lupine whip that set her spine ramrod stiff.

“Can I see my house first?”

The Flitterer’s voice lifted hopefully.

“No.”

“More honeycakes, maybe oolong tea too?”

“You have had enough wages, you greedy thing. Get to work, now!”

The Flitterer raised her wings half-heartedly and pushed herself into the sluggish air of Silva Atra. Happened it was a mystery the hairy maiden wanted her to solve. Almost good enough to be killed for. But dreaming forest, please, should not kill her. The Flitterer increased the speed of her wings. She whizzed in between the trees that bordered both forests.

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Nemus Animae: The Faerie Tribes

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Nemus Animae

(c) Nin Harris 2003 —

There are many tribes here, and not all of them particularly friendly. I’d steer clear of the Wild Hunt led by the Horned One, for instance. Some have mistaken that one for Cernunnos, and for something much darker, by others. He is neither. He is forged of a wild, crazy magic, wilder and crazier than most of the magic of this realm, and certainly darker. If you brave the Haunted Groves you will probably run into the Wild Hunt. If you loiter there at dusk or at certain times of the year, then your life may definitely be in jeopardy.

No, I’d not be taking you to meet those wilder, darker fae, but I will be leading you into safer, but no less wild habitations within the green groves. You’ll meet the leader of the comparatively temperate faeries here, the Faerie Lord- but don’t be expecting a saint, or to be very safe here. I’m sure you’re wondering about the origins of these faerie tribes, so you could pin them down to the folklores of either Europe or Asia. I’m afraid that if that is your aim, you’d be disappointed. In truth, Faeries do not confirm to any one folklore even though they have appeared in different guises in different climates and timezones. They have ever been thus, and on this Faerie Isle, you are liable to meet them in many different shapes or sizes. A lot of them are exiles from the more traditional Faerie Courts and Kingdoms on earth. They are not of the popular known courts of Titania and Oberon, nor will you find any subjects of Queen Mab here. They are capricious, and dangerous, all the more because they are outcasts.

The dominant tribe here is that of the Faerie Lord, whose rules are followed by most of the Faerie tribes of this isle, except for the Wild Hunt and the inhabitants of the Haunted Grove. He was raised in a human home for many years as a changeling before he returned to Faerie. It has been whispered that his time among mortals has changed him, but that fact remains a rumour and I shan’t give it more credence than it is worth. The members of his court include Jarhane and Jehane the twins, Lillias, the White Fae, the shy flitterers and fanged fearies, Waterlily the Beloved, Damar the Listener and Aven the Huntress.

Other tribes include the elves of the Mishgalaveri Mountains, the wild packs of Nemorosum Somnium, and the mercantile faeries of Mykologosia. If you stray into any of the different parts of this island, you’ll probably bump into a faerie tribe. If you do so, it would be wise to remember that the Faerie Lord’s tribe can be your best friend…or enemy. They call the shots here, but lately, lately there have been whispers of an influx of faerie hoardes from beyond Alta Exsilii. It started with the Wild Hunt which has grown in number. But now, unspoken, and hidden, there are more here. Much more. You can feel these invisible presences cramming the air when you breathe in.

Can’t you feel it? Breathe, listen. They are here.

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Nemus Animae: Entering the Woods of the Soul

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Nemus Animae

(c) Nin Harris 1997-

Figures flit from shadow to shadow as you brush aside the leafy tendrils that drop from overhanging branches to brush your cheeks. The air here is sweet and rich. It also seems to pulsate with inner life. Musk, incense and night-flowering herbs tease your nostrils as you step cautiously in between the embracing trees. Above you the branches weave an arch, creating a sylvan corridor of green as well as a light golden glow that suffuses everything. Your heart seems lodged in your throat. Something tells you you are being followed. This unseen stalker is a presence so immediate it causes the hair on the back of your neck to rise. You shiver as the air, like many roving hands casts goosebumps on exposed skin. The grass rustles as you step on it, while the wind seems to whisper its secrets.

Somewhere beyond the edge of consciousness you fancy you hear voices speaking in different tongues. Some are high and lilting while others guttural and harsh. And then the music begins. It is elusive and insiduous, like the trill of a bashful celesta. The soft murmur of woodwinds is interspersed with the plaintive melody of a Stradivari violin. The concerto seeps through your flesh and takes root deep within your bones. Perhaps a frisson of fear and unbearable sadness will seep through your skin now, as you listen. Perhaps you will be aroused by memories or evocative images. Perhaps you will even cry. You sway from side to side and find yourself taking off your shoes.

Almost shy, you tentatively step through the trees. You step into a clearing lit by the golden glow of an overripe moon. Nasturtium, frangipani, hibiscuses, white orchids run rampant here. There are also hydrangeas, rugosa roses, foxgloves, ivy and flowering herbs that seem to have been scavenged from different continents and different climates. You gape for a while and then you will see them. Some are dressed in red and green and gold. Some are in virginal white while others prance about in black slashed with deep violet. Some drip with sparklies and gold, while others have flowers and ivy woven into their hair. There are lovely maidens dressed in a motley assortment of patch-worked rags and crones garbed in diaphanous veils. As you watch, a misshapen face jumps out at you and leers at you. You shriek and step away from the goblin, just before he makes away with your purse.

A neighing sound heralds the approach of a quartet of kelpies. They step out of the river, magnificent black stallions with fiery eyes. As you watch unbelievingly, a livid orange glow envelopes them. As the glow slowly disappears, three tall, muscular men donning velvet suits join the circle of dance. An unusual pageant slowly unfolds in front of you. Both the lovely and the grotesque dance with animal grace round and round the circle, as the light of an eerie moon shines down on the tableau. They seem to be having too much fun, you think, as a cluster of nymphs fall down in a tangle of exposed limbs, shrieks and inebriated giggles. The music pulses through your brain and enters your bloodstream. You step closer, filled with an unbearable longing to join the fun. Just as you step forward something (or someone) maliciously trips you. You land on your face.

You have no idea how long it has been since you lost consciousness, but it is darker now, and the dancing pageantry has disappeared. In front of you sits a gnome with kind eyes and a rather battered red cap. He offers to lead you out of the Grove before you get into deeper trouble. He lectures you on the temptations of faerie excess. You stare at him. He shrugs, and ambles off, warning you to stay away from faerie fruits and the Faerie Lord’s Bower. A buzz of sound and a faint shimmer takes you by surprise as a lovely, seemingly shy and slightly out of breath faerie jumps out of thin air to land in front of you. Now here is a faerie who looks more like what you have always imagined. But then a glint of mischief enters its eyes as it curtsies with exaggerated courtesy. A grin betrays needle sharp teeth as it fishes a scroll out of the air and begins to read it with importance. It appears that the Faerie Lord has noted your presence and is summoning you to his Bower. Curious and fearful, you follow the creature who weaves almost drunkenly in the air before you, her diaphanous wings fluttering in an erratic fashion.

*

At first it is as though you have been plunged into darkness, a thick, living, breathing darkness of inky blue. Then your eyes begin to adjust to a gloom lit by eldritch lights. Your cheeks begin to tingle as though millions of light feathers are being trailed along their expanse.You gasp in mingled irritation and fear. Slowly, as your sight improves, you realize that you are surrounded by clusters of curious pixies with their gleaming wings a-flutter.They move back as you turn around in wonder to observe your surroundings. You have landed at the center of a tangle of pathways of thick,wide interwoven branches. It is dark and cool here, for the light of the moon cannot penetrate the inky foliage of the Trees of Midnight.

 

Circe Offering the Cup Up to Ulysses by John William Waterhouse

 

The air here is sweet, even sweeter than that of the rest of the Grove, but here it is also filled with an air of foreboding. The pixie lanterns hanging from the trees and the minuscule glowing forms of the resident are the sole illumination for this bower-constructed on a platform of interlocked trees. Wild white orchids loop and weave with silver and violet night-blooms, ivy and ferns to create a living dome moulded by faery magic and supported by the branches and trunks of four oak trees. Peering into the darkness, you spot a female form leaning languidly against the trunk of one of the trees, her form draped in a gauzy luminescent fabric of the indistinguishable colours of twilight. It is Circe, and she gives you a challenging stare as one of her alabaster hands rest on the shoulder of one of her many goblin attendants. You take a step back. For all her loveliness, Circe seems to make the faeries you have just met harmless in comparison to her feral elegance.

*

 

You wonder at what manner of creature owns this eerie yet lovely home.A chorus of giggles cause you to look upward at the pixie-lantern draped branches.They are crowded with all manner of winged creatures, dark and fair, who peer back at you with inquisitive and mirth-filled eyes. You quickly avert your gaze and await the Faerie Lord’s presence in cold sweat.

A breath of warm air alerts you to his presence. He is standing close, very close. You step back and whirl around…and gasp as you behold a tall and well built form with huge, brown eagle wings. He wears a circlet of interwoven grass and ivy around his dusky brow and the scent of musk, grass and fragrant woodsmoke seems to wrap around, and menace you with the threat of~too much beauty? His eyes are regal yet wild, wild and eerie as they bore into you like twin daggers of dark crystal. You return the gaze with the breathless, trapped look of a deer within pouncing range of a huge cat. You are utterly captivated as his thin lips part in a dangerous smile. His teeth are ever so slightly pointed and the light in his eyes is unholy. You are in the presence of wildness, yet are bowed down with awe and reverence even as you wonder if he is going to rip out your jugular.

Then, quick as the beat of firefly wings, the mood shifts. The light in his eyes becomes almost civilized, and the laughter that escapes his lips are of genuine mirth. You relax and begin to forget the cruel, wild creature you thought you saw. You begin to smile ingratiatingly as you realize you are within the presence of faerie royalty and wonder awkwardly if you ought to bow or curtsy, if you are even remotely presentable, and wildly rack your brains for something respectful and witty to say. Suddenly you are filled with the overwhelming desire to please and impress this beautiful, regal and wonderful being.

He nods towards the silky divans and cushions which are scattered on the mossy floor of the bower

 

Sit

 

His voice sounds within your head.You nod dumbly and stumble in your haste to comply. No matter how strong minded a mortal may be, the faerie lord never fails to have that effect on them.

“Who are you and what do you hope to find within my Grove?”, he asks, his voice mildly curious.

You grope within the recesses of your soul for an adequate response.

The Faerie Lord grins, but there is not much humor in the expression which is closer to a grimace than a smile.

“Dumbstruck are you? Humans normally are.”

He stares into the distance and you sense that his attention is very far away from you at the moment. Nothing in the mortal world can hold his attention for long. He is that which remains remote even as he is eternally intrigued by those of flesh and blood. Energy incarnate or a spirit from the past you wonder, even as you lean closer, and yet closer to your possible doom. He will look back at you and smile, even as he slowly fades back into the shadows, even as the rest of his mocking court hurries away, leaving you alone, bereft, and hungry for more than just a glimpse.

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