Words about worlds

Uncanny glade

by | Dec 3, 2022 | Cypher, Games | 0 comments

A wide, level path stretches along the middle of a wood. A well-built stone fence stretches straight along the right-hand side, starting and stopping in the middle of the woods. Trees have grown up beside the stone fence and pressed it askew, but the top is still flat enough to walk on comfortably. Thick moss covers the trail side of most of the stones.

There I was, working on the Nth draft of Seoithín Seó, an adventure which is built around a group of Fair Folk who are traditionally associated with winter. Yes, I was writing about Unseelie.

It was a sunny, chilly weekend afternoon. Stiff and stale, I needed a break from my four walls. I harnessed up our always active dog and headed for the car. I drove to a nature reserve I haven’t been to in a few months. The trail starts in a stand of tall white pine. The scent of dried pine needles filled the air, the dog romped, the wind brisked around us. I started to relax. As I settled in to the rhythm of the walk, I began to think about the adventure. I didn’t want Players to equate “Unseelie” with “evil” but I didn’t want Players making the mistake of thinking at Unseelie were associated with sweetness and light either…in short, there I was, in November, in the woods, thinking loudly about an Unseelie court.

By this point, we had been walking for about half an hour. I had been making choices at trail intersections more or less on whim. All the trails interconnected eventually, as I knew. We were walking on a very narrow path along the side of a small hill, surrounded by maple and birch trees. Another stand of tall white pines waved their fragrant needles off to our right. I found myself thinking, “Now, here I am, walking along, alone except for my faithful canine companion. If this were a story, and I were in the story telling myself a story about Unseelie, then this is the exact moment that the wind would die down.”

The wind died down.

I was there. I watched it happen.

I was compelled to keep thinking. “And if I were in that same story, the last bird would stop singing.”

The last bird stopped singing. The only sound left was the sound of our footsteps.

I tried to stop thinking. I truly did. However, I am absolutely no good at ignoring a narrative. “And if I were in that same story, I would go along for another few minutes, only to find myself in an unfamiliar part of these woods.”

Then I quickly thought about seven other things including Douglas Adams and Last Chance to See. Then I started counting types of cookies. I had gotten as far as ciambelline al vino (discovered them during the pandemic, yum) when I realized that I was in an unfamiliar part of the wood.

I don’t know how often you’ve been dropped in the middle of a narrative trope in real life. It is disconcerting every time. I looked at my dog. His tail was up, he was trotting along quietly. He was close to me, which showed that he was a bit more uncertain about his path, but he wasn’t unhappy. So, I took a breath and kept going. “If this were a story,” I thought to myself, “then it would be more of a warning sort of moment, so the sky might get a bit darker, and possibly the wind might pick up a bit, but it’s just a warning to be respectful, so it would stop once it was sure I wouldn’t forget.”

It had been clouding over since we started the walk. The sky did grow darker. The wind did pick up. A few minutes later, we came to a turning I recognized. Ten minutes later, we reached the spot on this trail where the airplane goes over, no matter when you walk it, as long as you walk it alone. The plane went over on cue. A moment later, a woodpecker began to drum and we came to the wide needle-covered path that led us back to the car.

So if you notice, in Seoithín Seó, that we work rather hard to explain our ideas of this particular Unseelie Court, well, you might decide that’s because we think it is important to emphasize that a cultural trend does not reflect the identify of every member of a culture, and you would be right.

But if you thought, in the back of your mind, that it might be the result of a rather uncanny walk that the author took in the forest, one late afternoon just after the Winter Court came to power again…well, that’s all right, too.


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