Folk wisdom has it that the fata, or fey, are mysterious and frequently capricious entities from the Overworld. They are said to slip through the borders between worlds when the moon and stars are right. Grandmothers’ tales mention countless variants of the fata, from the harmless insect-legged griggi said to herd butterflies to the monstrous atropoi hags who light their lanterns with stolen souls. While the individual variants are innumerable, scholars of the arcane and the wild lands tend to group the fata into a number of general classes:
The Elementa: Faeries tied to elemental manifestations, such as storm-spirits and naiads.
The Grotesquia: The low-born of the Overworld, from wizened workers to immense, deformed fomoria.
The Nobilia: Fey that take humanlike form, beautiful and terrible.
The Theria: Animal-aspected fey, such as raven-cloakers and fox-women.
The Umbria: Shadow-fey, said to be as much of the Underworld as of the Over.
The Viridia: Faeries of growing things, from tiny flower-sprites to great and terrible dryads.
These classification are far from strict, of course; a powerful fae noble may seem like one of the Nobilia, but have an Elementa aspect of winter that defines him. It is in the nature of the fata to defy classification.
Fata and Mortals
The fata have a peculiar relationship with the mortal world. Many seem drawn to it at its wildest, encouraging forests to grow larger and thicker and stranger, drawing in more Overworld magic. Others are intrigued more by the mortal races than by the natural world. Disconnected as they are from mortality, the fae tend to see men and women as ephemeral creatures of peculiarly solid and yet fragile flesh. Mortals make the ideal playthings.
Yet tales persist of fata who learn to love as mortals do. While some portion of this is surely the result of wishful thinking, there exists ample reason to believe that faeries can indeed fall in love with ordinary men and women, even to give up their immortality to be with their earthly beloved. The elves, as scholars maintain, were once creatures of the Overworld. Of course, so were the goblin races—creatures to which selfless love is as foreign as dragons’ tears. They must have had a blacker love to draw them to the mortal races… that, or the story of the elves’ mortality is not quite as romantic as most would like to believe.
Folklore holds that iron is powerful against the fata. In general, this is true; raw iron, particularly cold-forged, seems to impede and disrupt certain fae glamours. Some fata are even vulnerable to the stuff, as it leaves wounds that bleed their essence as well as blood. However, even cold iron is no sovereign remedy. A powerful fae lord may find that the stuff pierces his enchanted defenses, but it will not kill him simply by its touch. For iron to prevail, it must be guided by an equally unyielding hand and will.