Tag Archives: Bard Queen

Champion of the Faireland: Bisclavret, the Animal Spirit

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Bisclavret, the Animal Spirit
Bisclavret, the Animal Spirit

Bisclavret, the Animal Spirit

Bisclavret was found in the forests, a child of some twelve years. No-one knew who his parents were and it was believed, from his wild appearance, that he was one of those rare children raised by wolves.

Yet there was always a strangeness about him. Such children rarely master the power of speech, nor stand on two legs. But Bisclavret stood and walked like a human boy when he was found, and as they journeyed to bring this strange creature to their lord’s palace, the foresters who had found him noted that he was listening to their words carefully, as though drinking them in. When they reached the palace, he bowed with them before the King, a little awkwardly, and then answered all questions in fair speech.

Not that he was able to tell them much. It was as though he remembered nothing till he was found.

He was given a place at court–a humble place in the palace kennels. It quickly became seen that the dogs not only loved him, but that they seemed to take him as their pack leader. It was something that Bisclavret would not discuss.

But once a month, when the moon was full, he would slip away from the palace. Three or perhaps four days later he would return and take up his duties in the kennels, quiet and calm.

But there was something in his eyes that forbade men to challenge him, and it was said that if angered he could be ferocious and even cruel.

So he lived in the Palace until one day the summons came from the Bard Queen for Bisclavret to serve as one of the Champions of the Princess. The Lord, who had fathered several hopeful (and not unpromising) sons, was dismayed, but Bisclavret simply smiled, took a small bag over his shoulder and set off with his wooden stave and his wolf’s head charm around his neck.

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.

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The Book of the Champions – and stories behind the Hunt

The Book of the Champions
The Book of the Champions

Over the days of the Faire, we have been featuring extracts from the Book of the Champions on the blog, featuring a Champion each day. You can read the complete book on the website; you can also read it as an online magazine.

Now it also available as an inworld book. The cover and page design is by Alia Baroue and it makes a gorgeous souvenir of the Faire.

You can collect copies at the points on each region where you can pick up the Hunt HUD – the main landing points for each region.

The Book of the Champions by the Hunt HUD kiosks in Spires of Andolys
The Book of the Champions by the Hunt HUD kiosks in Spires of Andolys

The book tells the origins of each of the Champions as they feature in the Hunt, and an Afterword explains the myths, legends, poems and anime that inspired them.

In addition, on Sunday, 3rd May, from  8am – 9am at the Literary Festival in Sylvan of Spells, Saffia Widdershins will be giving a talk called Stories within Stories – the narrative of the Hunt. She will be talking about the narratives and characters she drew on to write the Hunt – from sources including classical mythology, folk ballads, legends from around the world, modern fantasy classics, Breton lays and Japanese anime – and combined them with the legends that have grown up around the Faire.

For example, in the second part of the Hunt, Flora asks the hunters to gather wool from sheep to make the shirt which she hopes can be used to save the Winter King from the wiles of the Unweaver. But that task of gathering wool owes its origins to the story of Cupid and Psyche. One of the impossible tasks that cruel Venus sets Pysche when she is searching for her love Cupid is to cross a river and fetch golden wool from violent sheep who graze on the other side. Our sheep are not violent, fortunately, but it’s still not easy to gather their fleece either as you have to unlock the gate first!

Fantasy Faire Literary Festival in Sylvan of Spells
Fantasy Faire Literary Festival in Sylvan of Spells

But these tasks also have a deeper meaning. “I drew on legends,” says Saffia, “and almost everywhere you look there are references to different stories and legends. But there’s a deeper level of meaning too.  You’re not asked to undertake a brave battle to save the Winter King. What you do as you help Flora are essentially mundane tasks, and the idea behind that is that this is the role of the carer: the heroism is not in the larger, bolder deeds but in the simple tasks undertaken daily. And that is is the final message of the Bard Queen. It’s been really exciting to me when people say that they found the final part moving or inspirational. That was the intention.”

Saffia will be talking about this more, and answering your questions, at 8am in Sylvan of Spells.

Champion of the Faireland: Razia, the Artist Archer

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Razia, the Artist Archer
Razia, the Artist Archer

Razia, the Artist Archer

Razia was the daughter of a great Moghul sultan and his favourite wife, who was not only a woman of great beauty but also, secretly, a deva, one of the race of benevolent supernatural beings who are constantly at war with their power-hungry rivals, the asuras. His wife concealed this from the sultan, whose faith was different from hers, but when she discovered that she was with child, she prayed to her gods that the child she bore might be a warrior, an archer as famed as Arjuna. At the same time, her husband prayed that the child would possess all the gifts of the arts so beloved by the Moghuls in their beautiful palaces and gardens. In their different ways, both parents dreamed of producing a great ruler for the land.

But what both parents neglected to pray for was a son.

And so Razia was born, with all the grace and beauty of her mother, and the artistic soul that her father desired. But as she grew, it became clear that she was as skilled with a bow as she was with a brush. Perhaps in skill she never surpassed the legendary Arjuna, but certainly she was as famous as he in the kingdom for it was rare to see a woman who could use the bow not only in feats of skill but also from the back of a horse and from a war chariot. Gifted by her supernatural mother, her talents clearly outweighed that of her half-brothers. She proved a skilled and brave opponent in battle, and more than once led the charge and put to flight the enemies of the land.

As a result, much to the alarm of the court (but to the delight of the common people, who greatly loved their unusual princess), her father named her his heir.

But he was prudent and aware that no untried girl would be accepted by his ministers and the powerful lords of his court. So he sent her to the court of the Bard Queen to further her training, in the knowledge that such training would, when the time for her to reign came, prove invaluable.

The Bard Queen, swiftly recognising the qualities of Razia, not only welcomed her to her Court, but also appointed her one of the Champions of the Princess Flora.

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.

Champion of the Faireland: Perkūnas, the Poet of Strength

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Perkūnas, the Poet of Strength
Perkūnas, the Poet of Strength

Perkūnas, the Poet of Strength

Perkūnas, so the legends said, had a divided soul. His mother came from a village that took great pride in the fighting skills of their women–they had once defeated an army of knights at the battle of Varend. His father had the blood of giants, it was said, and was reckoned the greatest fighter in the Land. It was believed that when they met there would be a battle that would be talked about for generations. Instead, they looked at each other and fell deeply and helpless in love. So the ballad singers sighed a little, sharpened their quills and wrote quite different songs instead.

Perkūnas was their oldest son and he was born with a strength, so the midwives said, beyond that of any mortal child. Yet with his strength there came a gentleness and kindness that made the other children in his village not fear him, but love him deeply. And he was their Champion, long before he became a chosen Champion of the Bard Queen.

Tales are told of how he shifted a great wagon, loaded with heavy logs, so that the hapless driver could be pulled from where he had fallen underneath. Another time, he broke the back of a man who had taken child slaves and used them cruelly. He carried no weapon beyond a simple staff, crowned with the head of a snarling bear, but that he rarely needed to use.

He had great physical strength, greater than either of his parents. But he also had their romantic souls and, as he grew to manhood, he became as famous for his poetry as for his great strength.

When the Bard Queen summoned him to tutor the Princess Flora, it was to teach her the power and beauty of words as well as to help her grow strong and brave.

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.

Champion of the Faireland: Gassire, the Musician

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Gassire, the Musician
Gassire, the Musician

Gassire, the Musician

Gassire was a warrior King, a brave and noble leader of his people, child of another such warrior and a fierce desert djinn. He had fought a long and bitter war against an ancient enemy of his people. After many years of conflict, they faced one final battle that would decide everything.

As Gassire lay sleeping in his tent the night before the battle, he was awoken by the sound of music. It was not the reed pipes and drums that were usual in his land, but a strange music, resonant and powerful. The tune was one he had never heard before and yet the sound of it moved him nearly to tears. He rose and wrapped a silken robe around his body before stepping out into the desert to hear the music more clearly and discover the player.

But there was no sign of the musician and, indeed, the music was fainter. Puzzled, he returned to his tent, and heard the mysterious music clearly once more. There was no sign of a musician, but all at once, Gassire was convinced that he would be victorious the following day. And as soon as he felt this conviction, the music faded away and he was left with the faint sounds of the sleeping army around him, and the night wind of the desert.

The hope he had been given proved true; the following day he won a crushing victory, which defeated his greatest enemy. Gassire returned with his army to his capital in triumph.

But he did not forget the music. From that day forward, he encouraged foreign musicians to come to his court with their native instruments and play for him. And always he searched for that strange sound he had heard in the battle tent.

At last, after many years, a talented musician came to play for the King, bringing what appeared to be a strange instrument–a lute. As soon as he heard the first notes, Gassire knew that his search for the instrument was over.

But the musician had never heard the strange music that Gassire described, that had played so mysteriously the night before the battle. Gassire decided that he would renounce his throne and devote his life to music… and discover once again that mysterious song of hope.

And his quest continued, even after the Bard Queen summoned Gassire to teach her daughter, the Princess Flora, the ways of music.

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.

Champion of the Faireland: Arduinna, the Ranger

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Arduinna, the Ranger
Arduinna, the Ranger

Arduinna, the Ranger

Arduinna was the child of a woodland ranger and a wood nymph. Her mother sank into the Deep Green when she was a child, and so she was reared by her father, who carried her on his shoulders through the woods until she was tall enough to toddle by his side.

As they walked the woods together, he taught all she came to know. The ways of the woods, the names of every plant and flower, the songs of the birds and the friendship of the creatures who live beneath the leaves–the small shy mice, the wise owl, the busy moles, the learned badgers and the mischievous, bustling hedgehogs.

Long years and hard winters took their toll, and Arduinna’s father retired to a cottage on the forest edge. Arduinna took his place, and her knowledge of all things in her woods was so great that people came from far and wide to consult her about issues ranging from which wood made the best bows and the straightest arrows, to which bark should be boiled and used in a potion to soothe a weary heart.

They came to her cottage with some trepidation, for Arduinna kept bees and, although it was said that the honey from her hives was the finest in all the Fairelands, there was still the fact that her clearing on summer days hung heavy with the drone of many, many bees.

Arduinna was generous with the honey, which, it was said had medicinal properties. Many a child, coughing in the long, dark night, could be soothed to sleep with a spoonful of Arduinna’s honey. And many a home glowed with the pure, clear light of the beeswax candles that she made.

When the Bard Queen asked Arduinna to teach her young daughter, the Princess Flora, the ways of the woods, she knew that it would be hard to persuade Arduinna to leave her land, for Arduinna sometimes said that her feet were as rooted as deep in the soil of her beloved forest as were her mother’s, the wood nymph.

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.

Champion of the Faireland: Sun Wukong, the Rogue

This year’s Fairelands Hunt – the Lost Land – sends you on a search for the Ten Champions chosen by the Bard Queen to mentor, protect and instruct her daughter, the Princess Flora. Each day the Faire is running, we will be introducing you to a different Champion. They all have stories to tell … and some of these may give you clues to help you find them!

Sun Wukong, the Rogue
Sun Wukong, the Rogue

Sun Wukong, the Rogue

Sun Wukong was a powerful and proud Prince, the son of a great Queen and her demon lover. As a young man he was seen as an idle wastrel; he loved to drink and gamble with his friends–and there were many tales of beautiful women, too.

One night as he sat at dice in a tavern with his chosen associates, a mysterious stranger entered. He chose to drink alone and quietly, but the haughty Prince disliked to see anyone failing to acknowledge his presence and his importance. He therefore sent one of his companions to issue a challenge to the stranger to play dice with the Prince.

The stranger looked long and hard at the prince, and then nodded. He took his place opposite the Prince, and the game commenced.

Very soon, Sun Wukong realised that he faced the most skilful dice player he had ever met. Where skill was needed, his opponent possessed it in ample measure, and the luck of the game seemed always on his side, too. The Prince lost, and lost heavily, and although mere financial transactions troubled him not at all, a far more important commodity to the spoiled Prince–his pride–was hurt.

But as he played, he saw a way in which he could win–a cunning cheat through a spell taught him by his father, cast upon the dice. No-one, he thought, would realise what he had done and even at this stage, he would win the game. He stretched out his hand…

…and the stranger caught that hand and Sun Wukong’s hand opened… the spell lay like purple smoke in his hand, then gently drifted up and dissipated. But not before it had been seen by everyone in the tavern.

Then the opponent rose to his feet, and everyone recognised him as one of the gods of the land. He pronounced a curse on Sun Wukong. Until he had recovered Seven Sutras (sacred books) from a land far, far in the West, he would be forced to remain in the form of a monkey. If, said the god, he lived a virtuous life, then in times of peril he would be able to transform into other forms–but he would never lose the monkey’s tail.

Many are the stories told of Sun Wukong’s journeys in quest of the Seven Sutras. Did he live a virtuous life on his journeys? Well, it seems that he was not able to transform himself as often as he might wish, so judge for yourselves! And the tales are full of daring tricks and deceptions practiced, and very narrow escapes. But eventually he returned to his homeland with the Sutras and once again took up his role as a Prince, in human form.

So he was when the Bard Queen summoned him to become a Champion for the Princess Flora. It was declared this was for his peerless skills as a traveller. Some thought that the Bard Queen also believed that a little touch of the rogue remained, and was not averse to her daughter learning such skills too!

You can also read this page as part of an online book here.