The fairy world, known as the Perilous Realm, was filled with chaos. Creatures owed no allegiance. Fighting was often violent, and death was common. These mad creatures of myth and legends – Trolls, Giants, Bog Sprites, Kelpies, and Elves – needed a way to survive.
From True Beasts (talking animals) to Bog Sprites (talking sticks), how do you keep such strangely different creatures in line?
The fae use the human feudal society to establish order.
In my fae world, which I call the Perilous Realm in the College Fae series, the beings of Fairy have a long history of admiring the way humans govern, especially our feudal systems. It’s why Queen Elixia and King Ladislas are dressed in Elizabethan clothes when Logan first meets them in Never Date a Siren, and why Chancellor Bandemer dresses like the French Sun King.
It is a system designed to hold mystique, power, and control.
The fae who desired to be leaders loved the idea! They immediately installed an absolute monarchy to create subjects they could control.
Feudalism is a human system of government that structures the community’s relationships between those holding land (such as queens in my fae world) and subjects who provide services or labor, and most importantly, loyalty to the head of state.
In a feudal society, each person has a clearly defined position in the hierarchy. Their role within it is shaped by how they relate to the kingdom and ruler, and what allegiances and exchanges are deemed suitable.
How Fairy Courts are formed in the Perilous Realm
In the Perilous Realm of my College Fae series, the court or the land is ruled by a queen who is linked to a genius loci. This spirit of place is known as an Elder. The Elder magically creates the court’s boundaries after it pair-bonds to a female fae who is then installed as queen.
In Bane of Hounds, this process is part of the main plot of the book. As a young nymph, Elixia went on a quest to find a genus loci (not easy, let me tell you!), and was lucky enough to find one willing to bond with her. From that sprung her court. There is a price for Queen Elixia is bound for her lifetime to the Elder, the spiritual center of magic in the grove.
As queen, she selects her consort or heart-partner (King Ladislas). She is the gatekeeper of who is allowed to be part of her realm. She demands that subject swear an Oath of Fealty, a vow of loyalty, to her.
The Code of Chivalry, among others, are put into place along with a system of Debts and Bonds.
By putting a heavy emphasis on oaths of loyalty and duty, the fae became bound in a way that would have severe repercussions if broken. An oath breaker could be put to death, exiled from court, have their partner bonds broken, or lose the circle of friends who protect them in a dangerous world.
Oath of Fealty
This is the oldest and most powerful of all oaths a fae will swear to their queen. In the fae world, not only do you give your word to obey and not harm the monarchs of your realm, but this is a life-sworn oath.
In the beginning, the ritual could have been violent. For example, a fight to challenge someone’s authority might end with the loser swearing fealty. Older versions of the oath included some sort of bloodletting – maybe the removal of digit (finger or appendage), or an ear or eye. These punishments-oaths were primarily for those who had displeased their majesties but who wanted to remain at court.
Nowadays, most oaths of this nature are performed with the petitioner giving a token piece of hair (see the end of Never Date a Siren). The hair symbolizes their life, something they have given to the queen to hold and to use as she sees fit.
Laws of Civility
All fae kingdoms (courts) acknowledge a code of behavior called the Laws of Civility. While enforcement is determined by the whims of the queen in charge, this is a framework for how fae are expected to interact with each other and governs their relationships.
Brigit is seen as being old-fashioned in that she rigorously enforces the Laws of Civility with her relationships. But even Brigit uses them to her own advantage. She clearly defines boundaries between her and other fae, and demands that they do what is right. Often this gives her an advantage (such as the situation with the troll at the end of Never Date a Siren).
Guest Right (Guest Law)
Part of the Laws of Civility, this ancient belief, both in the human lands and the fae courts, holds that once a being is given Guest Right (usually signified by the breaking of bread or consuming salt), they must obey Guest Law — such as not killing your host.
Brigit explains to Logan in Never Date a Siren that he needs to be careful of who he invites over the threshold, for once he does, there is a risk of harm until that being has broken bread or shared salt. In other words, has become a guest.
King Ladislas bends Guest Right in A Study in Spirits by threatening Logan. Technically, Ladislas has not broke bread or shared salt yet even though he has been welcomed into the home. This bending of the rules shows that the apple (Brigit) doesn’t fall far from the tree (Ladislas). Both like to twist things to serve them best.
Debts of Honor
Debts of Honor have to be acknowledged by both parties involved. How a fae handles, incurs, and manages their Debts determines their relationships with others, as it provides proof of your integrity (or lack thereof).
This delicate dance of favors owed and fulfilled obligations is how bondpartners are made and friendship circles formed. The act of not fulfilling an obligation shows to another you cannot be trusted. Fulfilling a debt is also a way in which former enemies can become allies. For if someone is honorable, regardless if they are friend or foe, they deserve respect.
In the first book of the series, Brigit owes Logan because he stopped her from drinking a poisoned brew. In A Study in Spirits, Brigit must pay Paul a Debt of Gratitude due to his assistance in Never Date a Siren.
Fiat of Harm/Injury
An official and binding declaration against another over a serious matter. Think of it as slapping someone in the face with your glove to declare a duel!
Brigit declares two Fiats: one against the Bog Sprites for attempting to drug her, and another against Sibyl for attempted murder in the first book of the series.
When death or severe harm was the intent, a lesser form of this would be a Mark of Injury. The formal word, Expletus, is used by a debt-holder to acknowledge the debt is at an end.
All beings will make mistakes. When Granite gets into trouble with Brigit over something he did (A Study in Spirits), by trying to rectify his fault, in the long run, he builds a stronger partnership bond with her.
Flattery is the best form of worship
I’m working on Bane of Hounds, and one of the Beta Readers asked about whether Chancellor Bandemer was really wearing ribbons below his knee. The short answer is yes, but the longer question is: why does Bandemer dress like an 18th century French courtier in the first place?
Before François Auguste Bandemer obtained the position as Chancellor at Leopold-Ottos-Universität Geheimetür, Bewachterberg, he resided as a courtier in the court of the French king, Louis XIV of France (1638-1715).
Louis XIV ruled France for 72 years and 110 days, setting a record for the longest continuous reign of a monarch in Europe. He was able to do this by holding supreme autocratic authority over his subjects. And one of his methods to control his court was to enrich the coffers of France by making luxury goods that the court consumed. This boosted the economy and let Louis set what was fashionable (meaning him!).
You can see why Bandemer would admire him! The Sun King heavily influenced Bandemer in how the fae king dresses and how he approaches his relationships with others.
Like many fae, Bandemer looks to human history to form his position and power in the fae community.
With lace cuffs, red heels, garter ribbons, and embroidered coats, who else has the wealth and confidence to dress like Bandemer?