Exalted for Dummies – The Fair FolkNovember 5, 2010
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these posts, so I figured it would be a good time to get back into the original purpose of this website: informing and educating my reader base about various aspects of Exalted. Today, I’m going to break down the Fair Folk for you, dear reader, because, while their mechanics are a little awkward, the concept of the Fair Folk is one of the neatest things in Exalted. They manage to draw from a variety of intriguing mythologies while at the same time making the Fae their own, unique creatures.
I’ve already talked about the Wyld, the literal Chaos from whence all things originally sprung (probably). It rings Creation, and continues to generate all manner of oddities, some of which spill into Creation proper. Most of those are behemoths and mutants, things easily dealt with by the Lunars who live at Creation’s fringes, but deeper into the Wyld, one can find proper Fair Folk. These are beings made not merely by the Wyld, but of it, creatures of pure chaos and potential. Because of their very nature, any sweeping generalizations about them are impossible to make accurately, but I will do what I can to narrow down that field.
All Fair Folk are, at the heart of themselves, nothing more than feeding maws, opened around what they call Graces. These Graces (corresponding loosely to the four Virtues and Willpower) are the core of a Fair Folk’s being, the source of their power. The Graces measure and limit the Fair Folk’s power and powers, but within those limitations (and especially within the Wyld), they have a great deal of flexibility. Perhaps in some future installment I will go into some depth regarding the Graces, but for now, simply remember that they are the measure of a Fair Folk’s ability as well as personality and role, insofar as those things are stable.
Generally speaking, Fair Folk can be broken down into two categories: Shaped and Unshaped. The Shaped Fair Folk are what most people mean when they refer to Fair Folk: Chaos that has, as their name suggests, taken a form, whether it be transitory or even potentially permanent. They have shaped Wyldstuff into a rough form and stretched it around their feeding maws, making them more than just a ball of Chaos. Some take humanoid forms (though rarely truly human shapes), while others prefer to be animals, monsters, or even emotions or landscapes.
The Shaped Fair Folk (or simply Fair Folk) further divide themselves into Noble or Common Fair Folk, depending on their relative powers (and how they came to be, whether their consciousness shaped itself from the Wyld, or whether they were created by another Fair Folk). These yet again divide themselves into Courts, much like Creation’s elementals, the better to politic and circle one another, to create thrilling dramas in which they can play many parts. For, you see, the Fair Folk feed on emotion, and while their passion plays and diversions can keep them somewhat sated for a time, the emotions and thoughts of the Creation-born are vibrant delicacies.
The Unshaped, on the other hand, dwell in the deepest reaches of the Wyld, leaving all the things of Creation to the Creation-born or their lesser cousins. They wander the depths of Pure Chaos, and their motives are as many and varied as they themselves. However, one thing can be stated with as much certainty as anything among the Fair Folk: the Unshaped hate Creation, and are, indeed, Creatures of Darkness in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun. They are inimical to Creation, and their very presence can unshape and dissolve vast swaths of Creation itself back into Chaos.
Whether Shaped or Unshaped, Fair Folk can feed on the souls of the Creation-born. To do this, they drain Virtues or Willpower, regaining Essence from the exchange. Some Fair Folk survive exclusively on this feeding while in Creation (for Creation’s static nature drains Fair Folk rapidly without some alternate source of energy), while others merely dabble now and then. This feeding leaves mortals forever changed, drained of their emotional extremes or even of volition itself. The Guild makes a practice of selling slaves to the Fair Folk, for them to drain into such mindless husks, and then buying those same husks back as cheap, disposable, manual labor.
Shaped or Unshaped, Noble or Commoner, all Fair Folk exist to amuse themselves. Indeed, stories are their literal reason for existing. In the Wyld, they can tell fabulous tales of kingdom-toppling love or hatred that can animate the dead, feats of daring both heroic and villainous, or anything in between. The Wyld is their playground, and they control it utterly. When they come into Creation, they are no less dangerous, though they may be less powerful, for life and death mean nothing to them, and the people of Creation are little more than strange, new pawns in their never-ending games. They are a worthy foe for any Exalt, for though they may not be an Exalt’s equal in combat, even the mighty Exalted can be caught up in their stories.