Word Portrait Gallery
January 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
I write portraits of people I know. I can’t draw to my satisfaction with ink or brush, but the sense I have of a person isn’t so visual anyway – it’s tactile, richly sensory, and a collage of imagery.I don’t often think of people as their name-words. I think of them as this–sense, this feeling of texture/scent/imagery that is them, and it’s hard for me to wrap up all that complexity in one inadequate spoken-written word. So I sink into a partial trance, sifting through the feelings and associations and symbols and half-formed imagery that arises when I think about an individual. I seek a coherent theme, some way to translate it all into words. And I paint a picture of them in poetry.
Late Spring Sun
She is warmth and sunlight and the bright wet chaos of spring blooming into summer.
She belongs to the in-between and to beginnings: the time when morning warms towards noon, the threshold of summer, the dawn of adulthood when child-wonder is still a vibrant memory. For her, though, it is more than a memory: she embodies it, she is a creature of wonder and joy matured into self-awareness, laughter bubbling through aspen leaves, sunlight sparkling off dewdrops.
It is as if she contains a piece of the sun within her, as if the sunbeams Raven once stole have been cached in a dancing human form. You can see the subconscious recognition of this in everyone she passes: people orient to her like flowers to the morning light, drinking in the warmth.
He is stone and shadow, the musky coolness of a cave in an old-growth forest, dripping stalactites and heavy loam.
A cave may seem shallow and simple, a single cramped opening for bears or badgers, but explore into the deepening layers of darkness in its depths and you may find that it goes down for lifetimes, labyrinthine, full of twists and turns and secrets. Here, a cavern painted in primal ochre, stories of a lost tribe’s hunt. There, the bone-strewn lair of a hunting-cat. Deeper still, and there are chasms that seem to sink to the earth’s heart, a void of air and coolness. There are veins of copper and gold, there are crystal caves and barren ones, there are old scars of mining shafts and new scars of rockslides and cave-ins. There are dangers here, and wonders, and depths that aren’t immediately visible.
Because he wreathes himself in shadow and ivy and moss. He sinks beneath awareness, slips from sight, surrounds himself with brighter beings that draw away attention. A cave can be a potent shelter from storms and pursuit, so long as the hunting-cat with its sharp white teeth hasn’t claimed it first… but you have to know where to look.
They are something sleek with a sharp-toothed grin hidden beneath mist and warping light. They are all air and water, deep mist over a placid pond, gleaming white with the first light of morning; the mist hides teeth and coiling sinew in the watery depths, hunger and a keen-minded glee.
When air and water meet and mix, they obscure, conceal; add light and shadow, a breath of wind, and half-seen images distort and dance in the fog. Was that the true figure within that you saw, or just another illusion?
The mists are thinner than they once were; the air is clearer, the water more still. Beneath it all, the shadowy sleek creature with the Cheshire smile seems to be aware of itself, where once it wandered lost in its own disguises.Alexa
Ey is quiet intensity, a strange mix of satin and iron. Surgical healing, a scalpel’s aid. Gentle is the surface but there’s a dormant predator beneath the calm. Yes – calm is a good descriptor. Ocean calm. No… jungle calm.
And by that I mean growth and shadow, nature’s balance; the deep jungle is vivid life and there’s a peace to nightgreen things growing and wood creaking and shadows deepening, a coiled quiet in the loam and thick carpet of moss and ferns and wet –
Ey is deep-tropics undergrowth and caves behind a sheeting shallow waterfall, and ey is velvet liquid fur over sheathed claws and barely visible jaws/teeth/steel and eyes that gleam, hunger, dissect.
Patience and silence and the healer’s knife and the predator’s fangs. There is a certain magnetism here, softness-over-steel that draws one to touch, to lean against the fluid solidity that seems like potential support/aid/strength/protection even while the scent of potential danger/death/dread smokes velvet/shadow/subtle in still undertones.
I guess it’s the same appeal found in leopards and katanas.Ges
She bounds and pounces, all autumn leaves and sable fur. She smiles and dances, bends and prances, and trips on oversized paws.
There is innocence here, but it is not the innocence of naïveté; not child-innocence. She knows, and she experiences, and sometimes she flinches away with ducked head and tucked tail and hurt in liquid eyes… yet there is innocence still. It is the innocence evident in the large-heartedness of labradors, of wriggling hounds with glossy fur and eager-to-please snufflings.
Warmth bubbles from her; moods lift to sunlight as she dances the dog-dance of “play, pet, run!”, complete exuberance in life. She is playfulness and comfort; she is irresistible optimism, and cynicism melts in her glow.
This is not to say that she is happiness through-and-through. Even the cheeriest of labradors become sad: the eyes grow shadow-liquid, the tail droops, the ears twitch back and limp. Each emotion is fully consuming in a twice-sized heart. Happiness wriggles the body all over and barks joyful into air, infectious, bright; sadness melts her to a huddled keening, and what is more painful to see than a bundle of summer reduced to such deep sorrow?Amie from GLMF
This one is a river, deep and slow and strong. Not the clear hard rivers of New England, with their rocks and shallow swiftness, their sharp turns and hissing rapids – but a river of the old South, the wide gentle rivers that support sloping stretches of fertile greenness for miles on either side, brown rivers of earth and water both.
In such rivers, strong currents run deep, and so it is with her. She is changeable on the surface, even passionate; now there are tears, now there is a glowing sun-smile, now there is anger as a harsh wind whips water to white foam.
Surface problems affect her in a storm of emotion and white-capped floods, but they soon pass, and she is unchanged at the core. A deep river is not easily altered; it settles in its course and resists redirection. Over time she changes, but it is gradual and steady. The rare swift change is painful, and fiercely contested; it takes a dam, the digging of a new channel, floodgates, massive stone.
The depths of the river are steady and purposeful, with the power to pull a swimmer to the dark of the bottom, to smother or thrive as they will. Some suffocate and drown when they touch the river’s core and cannot escape; others strive to flee when they realize they are drowning; most remain on the banks, thriving in the endless comfort and rich fertility of water and earth, farming the green slopes, content to be affectionate companions and no more. Much more than that is dangerous; it means risking the undertow.
Yet there are some, those rare few, who have gills and can breathe water; there are those who can navigate the currents and delight in doing so. For them, there is no better place than the closeness of the deep river…Kara from GLMF
She is a child of flame.
At times she is a candle, lantern-fire, dancing bright in the dark. A flirting smile, a gleam of dark eyes, and others like moths are entranced. She is the center of white-winged flocking, and she moves with the twisting quickness of a flame touched by wind.
Yet the moths forget that fire burns. She is a child of passion, and she is fierce in anger. It shows in the glint of firelight on shining stone; her eyes are obsidian and flame. It is not loud anger; there is no volcanic roar, nothing louder than the occasional snap of wood. But it is hot, and flares quickly when sparked; it is as blinding-bright as ignited magnesium, though it rarely lasts long.
There are other colors to passion, though, and they burn within as well. Grief is powerful, and pain; happiness is bright as desert sunlight. When conflicting emotions flare simultaneously, equally strong, it’s a firestorm of confusion. Live hard, love strong, experience; what is life without feeling?
She is fiercely proud. Maybe that’s what leads her to shield vulnerabilities; reactions and emotions of any sort are too often expressed as anger, or hidden as she withdraws. She carries herself with straight spine, ready grin, direct gaze; it all speaks of confidence.
She is sun-warmed sand, summer fire, solar flare; within her, too, are the flame-shadows dancing on cave walls, the grit of red ochre, a certain raw primality beneath the surface. She is a child of flame, and fire leaps beneath her skin.Melissa/Pixie
Wind and Water, Silk and Steel
They are wind and silvered water, the intense razor calm of a hurricane’s eye. They are the wet velvet moss in the greenblack shadows of deep elder forests. A storm’s chaos whirls about them, threatening consumption of self or of others, yet there is silent order within.
They are silk and steel and blue-white coldfire. They move with the grace and tension of a kata, with all the warmth of such a sword-dance. Mirrors reflecting shadows, the calculating brightness of a raven’s eye, inky feathers sharp as words and knives at one angle but soft as fog at others.
Tension. Opposing forces held in a precarious balance. Trickster-ridden storm-crow, seeking, cataloging, weighing. Their scent is fresh-turned earth after a cold rain, lingering mist coating moss and pine, a cave’s entrance with its cool dank air.
Storm-rider, sleek-feathered, shadow-draped: these are part of their name in my senses. Wanderer, seeker, migrating scavenger of words/thought/memory. Cold bright eyes in a dark cowl, gleam of silvered glass, toothed ripples beneath the death-silent surface of a pool. Hidden edges, stilting bird-grace, ferality kept in tight check with a shining veneer of utmost decorum.
There is no disguising her feral nature. It burns deep and dark with a garnet hue beneath the dried-blood intensity of her gaze, and with the smiling that is often close to snarling. She moves with a reptilian suddenness, a strange staccato grace with a predator’s sharp focus. The earth grinds beneath her skin like shifting tectonic plates.
There is no subtlety here. The directness, the raw motion, is almost refreshing. Animal stalks so close to the surface that humanity sometimes drowns in the memory of deep jungle and sky-ownership, metallic taste of blood so hot on the tongue, the hunt, ripping flesh, knife’s-edge danger in survival. So it is strange when the scales are peeled back to unfamiliar vulnerability; her first reaction seems to be to hiss and withdraw with slanted slitted eyes.
Fierce passion, proud instincts; she is heated blood and bunching muscle, fang and fire and earth and claw.
She is loam, and layers of autumn leaves; she is deep old forests, and she is the caves and hollows therein. She is the heavy scent of a den in dark earth, the spaces between tree roots. She is moss and mushroom and vine, shed antlers, old bones with new fern fronds curling up between clean-picked ribs.
There is earth, and then there is loam, the rich black dirt formed from layers of decay, pungent and powerful, seeded with life. She exists in that transformative cusp between death and life, and it leaves its indelible mark upon her earth-flesh, tree-bones, woods-heart.
She is the ancient forest floor in an old-growth wood.
He is a lightning storm: the charge of ozone in the air, the graying roil of clouds, rising gusts of wind off the mountain slope. And there are many faces to a storm – stages and sides, manifestations and transformations. It can be pounding, raging, and torrential, rain sheeting down to drench the earth. It can be sullen, growling, rumbling discontent with flickers of dry lightning behind low-hanging black clouds.
Or it can be almost laughing, almost mischievous, merry in flashes of brightness arcing from cloud to cloud, a shifting trickster breeze, shafts of sunlight opening and shuttering as the front flows across the prairie with a continuous drumroll and a whole flock of thunderbirds playing tag in the midst of it all.
A storm can be ecstatic in splendor, or howling in rage. It can build into pounding fury over hours and days, or spring full-formed from nowhere. It’s changeable, not always predictable – but remaining constant in its nature of storm, always charged and full-voiced. And so is he.
Lightning crackles beneath his skin and in his voice. He is elemental, sometimes inscrutably so. Containment and stillness are ill-suited states for a storm; he is restless motion, frequent movement, and needs space in which to breathe.
A storm can be destructive or ferocious, or it can nourish and provide fuel and power. Often it does both at once, and so it is with him as well.
First there is a silence so clear and cool it’s almost painful, a silence made of shards of ice that cuts so finely that you don’t notice the sharpness of it til you bleed.
And then, if you listen close – if you pitch your ears to the right frequency, just out of the range of human hearing – you might hear a sound like a wineglass circled with a slow fingertip, that high crystal keening like unused radio waves, or the hum of electrical wires across a meadow at dawn, or the ringing in your ears upon leaving the deafening roar of a club’s pounding music. It is the perception of sound within the ear in external silence.
Closer still, adjust your senses just so, and the ringing becomes a chorus, an alien song, so many voices – now harmonic, now just discordant enough to ring inside the ear canal.
It is like picking up a stone, thinking it to be opaque and motionless and singular; then looking closer, rubbing off the dust and dirt and discovering that this is something like onyx, marbled colors worn smooth, and within it flickers light and shadow. Movement within the stillness, and the stone is half-opaque, half-translucent, the ghost-light within creating an inconstant glow to illuminate the many shifting shadows.
They are a dynamic chorus within a seemingly single sound within a sharp and brittle silence.
She is wind and knives and the shadows that a fire casts. Not shadows from a half-tamed hearthfire, but rather the wild shifting phantasms of a revel’s bonfire or a hungry racing brushfire on a crescent-moon night.
She feels like knives in the same glittering, fanged way of the predator’s gaze reflecting firelight ’round the edges of a desert camp. This is no utilitarian eating dagger; it is instead the curving gleam of a blade made to draw blood: ritual, sacrifice, assassin’s trade… the flash of pointed teeth in a hungry smile.
And she is wind: cool dry breeze in the desert night, unchained. It’s a welcome relief from the heat, but it can change in a moment to something deadly – whipping up sand, stealing breath, obscuring sight.
Her movements are that of a predator, even when relaxed, even without prey. Yet she is not a hot-blooded creature; there is something scaled and fanged just beneath the skin.
She is deep dense fog in an old city’s night, the truth seen only in patches, glimpses. She conceals herself in gray formality, sliver of a fine-edged blade cloaked in the wet soft rolling of city-mist. Hides, too, the keen fragility of forging and reforging to such a long thin point, the careful brittleness within.
There is fragility in the heart-hungry wolf that stalks the edges of things, too: shadow-eyes burning with the blood-warm fever of life despite razor-lines of bones, ragged fur, stripped-down muscle. A fragility and a strength despite harsh conditions and so there is a challenge in the heated gaze seen through the fog: Try me, battle me, win my submission if you dare, if you can –
And the challenge is a plea, as pride and wanting clash within. Seeking to be seen, truly – and fearing the naked vulnerability. Seeking to touch, truly, or be touched – and fighting it, for what if someone feels the fragility in the touching? Safety in the pack alone and how many indeed are left?
Fur and fragile steel and fog, the concentrated warmth of gas-lamps in the city night, the wildness of the urban jungle.
Sie is a controlled burn contained in air, in glass, in crystal. Air-fed flame burning bright enough to blind at the core, and sie’s surrounded it with freezing to keep from being consumed. Or consuming, and the dry ice burn keeps others at a distance – better; careful.
So much of air and fire and mostly air since that’s safer. So much sie’s too untied to earth and so suppressing water. Sie is sky-flame, white-hot intensity, pain-sharp crystalline, drawing people as near as they dare to come; yet such deep shadows come from such light, and there is isolation in the white tower with its layers of finely crafted walls.
She is a supple strong grace, a willow tree grown in a valley thick with shadows. She is rooted deep in soil and stone, dark verdant life pulsing slowly through her core like the Earth’s own heartbeat.
Hers is the velvet jeweled shadow of wood and water. She stands in the hurricane and thrives, rustling her own quiet power in harmony with its fierce volume. She stands in the flooding of rivers, she survives fire and frost, rockslide and drought. The rings of her growth will bear testimony to her strength and trials, but they are held within for few to see. She gives shade and anchor because that is her nature and in providing, she is fulfilled.
He is a hurricane barely contained in heated hide, lightning sparking in his soul, thunder rumbling against his skin like a drum played from the inside.
There is coiled potential in his movements, a raw restless energy, as if he is an animal caged in his own body. As if moving fiercely enough, living passionately enough, might burst him from his hide-cage into roaring pulsing freedom.
A living hurricane, a feral thing barely pretending to civility, snarling at his own restraint.
She is cord and fur and caution, texture like a harp resting on furs, movement like a whistle-lean half-wild thing in the shadows of trees where the forest meets the city. Part in shadow, part in fog, yearning for the dappled sunlight through the pines.
Torn between skittish instinct and the aching need for contact. Torn between obligation and desire. Stretched, like a harp’s strings, between dreams, duties, loves. At the edge of things, spanning the gulf of things, tied to so many places and people and destinations.
Yet this is what makes music, this tension, these cords strung taut across distance. Too slack, and there is no sound. Without the stress of the winding pull of each pin from harmonic curve to soundboard, from oceans to mountains to deep southern hills, there would be only silence.
Vibrating harpstrings, heartstrings, thrumming/humming, a soft song at the woodland edge. Reds and greens in the fog, fur-musk and pine-scent, wild-shy.
Velvet opulence, the richest of sable and velvet draping over bed and chair and mahogany wood in a candle-lit fire-warmed openness, stretching in to starry night.
Poetry and passion, water contained in silver. There is little wilderness, here; only wild as the most civilized of fae can be wild, in a haunting graceful way with no hint of fangs. It is easy to drown in such decadence, a poetry that rambles for the sake of its own flowing music with no direction in sight, content to spiral and descent, circle and cycle.
Beauty for beauty’s sake. But there are stories of faerie-glens for a reason: caution-tales of people becoming trapped within the glamourie, a fae-place that stretches on in endless timeless music and never ends, never moves, trap of honey for short-lived flies.
Her bones are steel – not the steel that comes only in rigid unyielding, but flexible, bending arcs of ordeal-forged metal. Her heart is passion-fire, sometimes consuming her from the inside out, sometimes fading to low embers from lack of fuel, and sometimes the ideal warmth of hearth-flame.
The easy analogy for this woman would be silk and steel, that core of refined steel with the outer softness of silk – but silk is an orderly thing, spun in crystalline moments by hungry patient spiders, and she is not so controlled. Her skin is not silk – it is living hide, dark and supple, warmed by the heat of her heart and her passion. A raw, primal creature dressed in civilization’s veneer, jewels on a wild thing, a sensual softness overlaying fire and steel and the hint of sharp teeth.
Thick soft fur. A hint of teeth. Vibrations rumbling through her like a purr. A flash of claws. Dilating pupils. Flickering ears, up-back-down-forward with conflicting moods.
When a domestic animal like a cat or dog grows a little wild, unused to human interaction, skittering on the edges of civilization … it’s become feral. Watching passersby with wide glowing eyes. Daring a suburban porch for a bowl of food, left out to coax it near. Bolting a safe distance away at any hint of approach, then stopping, staring, caught between wanting and fear.
She is like this: half-feral, craving contact and closeness, wary of those who might provide it. Earn her trust through slow patient waiting, quiet soft voice, no sudden movements, and she’s a pouncing wriggling purring creature. But the claws are still there, and the edge of wildness, and she can flee back into the urban jungle if she needs it.
I have seen the gateways of his mind before, and it is unsettling. Sentient shadows watching from within, waiting. Autumn leaves, crackling and rustling across iron and stone at the sky-entrance of a tower.
He is autumn, and twilight. The dusky in-between time/place. The threshold and the gatekeeper at once.
The void in him is not so deep as in some. There is inky solidity in his darkness, grounded control in his foundation. And his walls of ivy-strewn stone and his gates of worked iron are equally as protecting as they are forbidding.
Wire and Crystal
She is a work of wire and crystal. Fragility with a core of resilience, flexible response. Receptivity becomes hypersensitivity–tumbling, folding, reeling–but the wind whips through the wires and rattles the faceted glass and she returns to standing, willow-like, reed-like.
Currents flow through her and around her and within her. She is hollow, needing to be filled, yet copper conducts electricity too well and her wire frame coils and attaches and drains away the charge.
Copper and brass and aluminum, quartz and crystal and glass; the wires are smooth and winding, but some of the crystal is sharp shards, and there’s a core of dark matter deep within that hungers, needs, wants; devours the incoming currents and watches for more with an ice-glass gaze.
Brightness reflecting and refracting through faceted prisms and glass, gleaming off wire. Yet that reflection keeps the core from light, keeps the current controlled, from short-circuits deep within. Attraction and defense, form and function.
He is dark water – the slow dripping of mineral-rich moisture forming stalactites deep within the earth; the currents far from the ocean’s surface where light never touches; the silent pools of stillness just outside the river’s current, where fish sleep and light only just filters in, dimmed by depth and silt.
There are reflective stretches of water, glacier-blue, in the highest furthest pockets of the mountains, natural mirrors for the moon to preen in. There are hidden places in the cradle of tree-roots surrounded by rock and moss that fill with cool rainwater, places that the sun illuminates green and gold mottled with inky shadow through the canopy of forest leaves. These are the sort of waters I see in him.
He angers, but it is a cold rage, wind whipping up the lakes and oceans, a piece of a glacier falling into the sea, the glittering icy rage of fae. Mostly, he watches, and chooses to let others make of him as they will. His magnetism is that of the blackness of a forest pool that tempts you to dive, though it may have no end to its depths, and trying to reach the bottom may swallow you whole. His hunger is the gnawing mouth of a cave that stretches cold and deep and houses nothing but the dripping formation of stalactites.
Gentle supple strength, wolf’s eyes, the deceptive fragility of a willow tree. There is moonshadow at the edges of her gaze, slowly losing the pain it once had, softening from jagged sharpness to the quiet shadow silence of snow beneath the half moon.
There is much of winter within her: frost clinging to a wolf’s thick fur, snow blanketing a den full of curling body warmth, evergreen scent heavy and cold on the wind. Dark greens, amber, dappled twilight.
I have seen winter’s breath drive harder within her, blowing hail against her spirit till she winces, curls deeper in her den with its velvet darkness and its bits of jagged rock that hold their own sharp comfort. Rarely, she is bared teeth and lifting hackles, more often protective over that-which-she-claims than her own self.
Moonsilver, star-shadow, frost and fir and snow, a wolf in winter.
Flame in Stone
It is not the sunlight creature that one might expect from muscles shifting beneath loose dark-tawny fur, from amber staring and twitching tail. Here is instead wary seeking, shadow prowling through the thick rustling of ferns beneath the sun-shield of tree canopies.
It is potential. The potential of force, the steel-springs under pressure sort of potential, of claws just sheathed, of sated felinity lounging. Potential at rest, coiled, waiting. Waiting and wary, wary and watching. Looking before the leap, the bite, the creeping-forward stalk with nervous tail-agitation.
There are no edges to it, all liquid muscle beneath fur-velvet, whisker-twitch. There is force, power, but it is a crushing force, not a slashing one–not saber, not rapier, not blade-edge. It is bottled fire in an earthen vessel, fire-in-earth, tiger’s eye or apache’s tear, the jungle flame living in a stone.
It is warmth, burning like embers and hearth-fire. Not raging bonfire, not leaping wildfire, not sunwarmth–but the fire that burns low and hot and deceptively quiet. There is no coldness to it, only that beneath-the-surface heat.
Lines and Water
Lines. Fracture-lines in darkened scrying mirrors. Strong thick spiderweb lines wrapping around the self, reaching to the surroundings, connecting, enfolding, entrapping. Jagged lines, curving lines, spiraling, a network of lines.
Compartmentalizing, and connecting, and walling off. The lines are cords and links–and they are walls within and without–and they hinder, and they protect, and they do nothing at all. They obscure and they outline, and she is covered in lines, made of lines, radiating them, entrapped by them.
Some are connected to others, and she pulls them. Some are connected to her, and she is pulled by them. Some once connected elsewhere and are now snapped, broken, frayed. Some are knotted. Some are slowly repairing, slowly growing.
She is all lines and often monochrome but there are flashes of color, some strange textures, red ocher and azure, golden, opalescent. In places she is held riged and in places she is as shifting-shimmering as water.
There is much of water here. Rainfall, storm-crash, new-moistened earth. And sometimes stagnant pools, murky, choked with moss and pondweed. She is a bark-skinned liquid chimera with half-wings nad fur and mismatched gaze, feet in four worlds. She is at once soft and spiked, staticky, roiling chaos with the wind that stirs the water or whips it into frenzy.
Water in lines, a net in the murky depths, tight-constrained and breaking free a tie at a time.
This is a creature of the threshold and the ways between, shadow-walker with a shapeshifter’s eyes. This is something synanthropic, the wild come to dwell and thrive amidst civilization, yet lairing in the cracks and edges of things, crepuscular, watching and waiting, observing with a night-bright gaze. This is something kin to coyote and jackal, buzzard and crow, fox and coon. A moonlight passion thrumming in the bones, but the passion is a quiet hidden thing, like the wild cracking through the edges of the city concrete, the startling sight of eyes in the alley glowing from a car’s headlights, the sleek shadow of a lean canid silhouette in an abandoned lot. The wisdom found in 4am stillness when the whole world seems at rest and the sky is infinite above. The kind of beauty you have to search for in back alleyways and abandoned buildings and overgrown cemeteries, the kind you can find nowhere else.
Theirs is not that of predator nor prey, not the hungry teeth of the stalking jaguar nor the rapid pitterpat heartbeat of the rabbit. This is a quiet confidence beneath the skin, a laughing wariness, neither aggressor nor victim.
She is something fluid and fey, a dancing flame that burns with an otherworldly light, golden smoke and green faerie fire. She entrances and she dances, she is hot enough to burn and cold enough to freeze. Now she flares to fill the room; now she dims, ungraspable, slipping from sight. She is eyes in the flame, Cheshire-slitted, a keen mirthful awareness, a merciless evaluation. She gleams, and she laughs, and all the tales of the fair folk with their silver bells and will-o-wisp glances come to mind, all feline languor and a predator’s playfulness. There’s a rawness beneath that fey shining, a hidden heart of the eldritch flame, kept safe behind glamour and clever Cheshire sharpness and icehot changeling games. And when you try to grasp the flame of her, hold it still or hold it captive, is it you who feels the pain of burning or is it she?
They call the Fair Folk heartless, but I don’t think it’s true –
rather they live by different morals than me or maybe you,
And their hearts may be hidden in a stone or in a flame,
locked away with the key of their secret name.
They’re truer though than humans, cleave completely to their code,
a moon-bright sense of justice, though it be alien and cold.
Dia from LARP
Weather Eroded Arch
They are a methodical steadiness, a quiet keenness. They are the enduring dance of air and stone, both wind-sculptor and standing-stone sculpture. Patience and dedication wears away the stone from solid rock into a graceful arch, stone balanced impossibly on stone, rooted deep into the earth and whittled into shape by the ceaseless air. Stillness and dynamism, a rock that seeks the challenge of shaping, a sky that seeks the stability of stone. When worn too thin, perhaps they collapse to earth – and begin the work anew, fallen into a new shape, ready to windcarve again.
The Beast Below
They are a slippery skittering thing, evading grasp, evading definition. They are layered softness and shifting forms. Moss grown thick and lush over once-shining chitin. The chitin a carapace to protect the tender furred creature within.
They come from out the barrow, and the barrow is their home. They live beneath the earth with crawling things and slithing beasts, growing moss on their hide, fungi in their hair, the roots of the world entangling in their soul.
Listen, listen. The rhythm of their heart is a chittering insect sound but you have to listen close. The sound of their breathing is that of the wind over the heath. Spiders wove their spirit and cicadas sing their thoughts.
Look close. Burrow into the mud and grit of the underbelly of the world. Let the centipedes roam through your fingers and the worms taste your sweat. Learn to love the scent of decaying leaves. Be quiet and still enough to hear the small insect sounds of the underbrush, the brief bold lives of the people of the earth.
They are the soft rich yielding of grave-loam and the fire-heart beneath the earth’s crust and the heavy shifting of tectonic plates. They are the murmuring contact of ants and the biting defense of spiders. They settle into safe separate solitude beneath leafmold and winding roots where few will venture for fear of crawling things and imagined horrors, they befriend the many-legged and no-legged things of the warm dark of earth and heart, and they peer through the cracks of the world.
Creature of the Wood
They are the primal wild come home to dwell. Dressed in court finery, the gilt and glamoured gleaming of Sidhe regality. They move like dancing, like a hunting cat, like a courting crane. They are a horned creature dancing around the Solstice fires, head high and crowned in holly leaves, or perhaps in laurel or in ivy. Yet there is no ferality here, but an older kind of civility, the gentry of another world: a fanged smile, gilded hooves, an elegant bow.
They are the heavy shadows beneath ancient tree roots given form in city and court. There is an intensity and a deepness in their gaze, the world woven into a dance between two spirits. They are an elemental force and there is something fey about them, a glamourie of searing passion to draw in the touch-hungry and bright-eyed. Nowhere else will you meet a more gentle and charming hunter.
The Sidhe are always hungry and ever yearning, after all.
They are coiled grace and passion wound taut beneath the skin. There is a core of them that is incandescent and pulsing, a fire that needs so so much fuel to sustain it and yet gives out warmth and light and heat in return. That heart can scorch and sear and burn, too; no creature survives long without defenses.
(Can you glimpse such a heart without going blind, without burning your sight out, like looking into the heart of the earth, like looking into the sun? Will you be elf-struck and lose yourself? Or are you a thing of wildness and brightness and darkness as well, who can walk into fire and wood and cave and come out again?)
The bearsark is clad in rough-hewn plate, bronze and iron and copper all dulled and scarred through heavy use. The stories say they go shirtless into battle but this one clothes themselves in metal, holds their shape to human with will and caution. They are armed and armored, solid-standing, watchful-eyed.
(Do you see the marked bear pelt beneath the chipped and tarnished mail? No? Look close. Look careful. Approach slow and steady, and maybe you can glimpse it.)
The bearsark moves with the stiffness of old wounds and healed scars. They move with the coiled power of long training and applied skill. They move with the carefully conserved energy of one who has experienced much and knows not to overspend themselves.
(Do you see the callouses and the scars on the skin beneath the iron plates? Do you see the bloodstained cloth and guarded stance? Look close. Look careful. Approach unarmed and unarmored, and maybe you will be allowed to see.)
They stand watch. They stand guard, and hold the meeting-place for the safety and comfort of others. They smile, readily; the armor is well-worn and rigid but they have a ready friendliness and camaraderie to them, a clap on the shoulder, a hard hug.
The mead-hall shines with firelight and merriment in the long hours of the night, and the bearsark stands at the door facing into the darkness. The mead-hall bustles with music and passion, and the bearsark holds the entrance. They greet and clasp hands with those entering and leaving; they drink a cup now and then; they share a dance here and there; they entertain with a joke or a story that diverts curious stares. They are part, yet apart. They maintain their human shape within their armor and stand steady.
(Have you seen the ferocious glory of the bear-shape, the beauty of claws and jaws and fur? Have you seen the battle-frenzy and the passion-fire? Don’t flinch. Don’t shy away. Have you seen the wide wilderness and smelled deep loam, old bones within the cave, the heavy heady musk of predator and primality?)
They are ferality tightly caged, they are wild and wounded, they are strength held in check, they are a warrior’s pride and disciplined focused power and a tender ferocity. They are taut grace, an immense force under tension and under pressure.
They are bright eyes in the summer undergrowth, the white of fangs in a merry grin. The greenery grows through the cracks of concrete and stone, and there they are too, bursting with irrepressible life.
Fairy-bells chime like silver laughter. Dandelions and chamomile erupt out of a sidewalk seam. There is a synanthropy of fluttering feather and flashing fur in city back-alleys. They are green summer life blooming in unexpected places, in spaces designed to keep it out, in scaffolding steel and the earth paved over. And they are the wonder and pause in the bustle of grayscale life upon noticing, like a sudden breath or a break in the clouds, the abrupt color of petals or the subtle gleam of fox-eyes.
There’s resilience in this verdant softness, and a gentleness. There is the service-delight of brownie and the green-tending of the sprite, yet there is too the tender sensitivity of brush-tailed fox and child-wise Fool. They are emotions experienced whole and pure, with sorrow and hurt flaring as vibrant as joy and delight.
They are the softness of fur in a close warm den, the tumble of fox-kits with their coats sun-shining. They are the shining fall of water down a cliff-face. They are soothing spiced tea and the warmth of friendship deepened over a shared cup. They are summer intensity in all its greenery and emotion and heat.
Imagine a valley in the heat of a desert. Parched land, cracked and hardened for miles, dotted with hardy dust-drenched wildlife and prickling cacti. In the midst of the desert runs a river: sometimes nearly barren, sometimes overflowing its banks, carving a sloping trench of greenery through the dryness and the sand. And where the green meets the sand is a tent of jewel-bright colors.
They are this: the floating of silks in the wind, the soft heavy drape of velvet, the rustle of cotton and linen. Layers of cloth to make a dwelling, to signal a presence, to conceal and reveal. Shifting fabric of every texture and rich color. A tactile experience and a visual one and through it all the scent of oils and resins perfuming the night air.
Are they a tent or a temple? A disorienting maze of silken walls that shift with the wind or a draping comfort that muffles the sand and sound outside? Is the brazier of incense a thing of sensuality or sacredness, or perhaps it is both…
At times one might glimpse a repaired tear, a sword-gash sewn back up and layered over with watercolored silk, a rip mended with gold embroidery and glinting beadwork, a handful of loose threads longing for their former mooring. There is calligraphy along every seam and hem, tapestries holding knowledge in their warp and weft, a wisdom in the paint and ink hidden in the fluttering of layered veils.
Here and there are crystals to catch the twilight filtering through the gauzy roof, and sometimes an open space above to see the diamond starscape. Now and then there are chimes softly singing, and a tent-pole strong and bracing amidst the fluidity of cloth. The sand shifts beneath the woven tapestries of the floor, yielding yet supporting all at once. All is air and water, the night breeze playing on the surface of liquid cloth.