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Episode Fifty-Nine: INEVITABLE

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Research Report: Fairy Rings

Research Report: An Investigation Into The Nature of So-Called “Fairy Rings”. Compiled by the Audio Tour Guide, supporting work done by the Research Department in the Museum and in the Field.

As a result of recent events, some focus has been given to various ways that Alternatural Beings can travel across or between worlds. In particular, instances where beings who meet the very broad definition- really more of a “vibe”- of Fae. Fairies, pixies, gnomes, big, small, winged and not: there is no firm definition of what falls into the category of Fae. But, due to our recent conflicts with an otherworldly group which most definitely does fall into that category, it seems prudent to keep an eye on methods they might use to enter our world. And one method in particular stood out right away, because it, too, is definitely- if anecdotally- connected to the Fae.

Fairy Rings have been a part of Fae-related folklore for many centuries; this makes sense, as they are naturally occurring and have likely done so for millions of years. They are caused by fungi, and typically appear in one of two forms: as a perfectly circular ring of small mushrooms, or as a ring of discoloured or dead grass in an otherwise healthy field. They appear all over the world, and can be found in a variety of climes: forests are popular, in both reality and myth, but meadow and fields and your own back yard are all candidates for a Fairy Ring. And, unsurprisingly for something so singularly strange, such a mundane thing twisted in a way that feels like it must have some intent behind it and cannot just be the way things work, for a long time people have been blaming Fairy Rings on Fairies.

Here at the Museum we have encountered a wide variety of beings which, to some degree or another, fit some or all of the traits commonly attributed to the Fae. In addition to the beings who serve the Queen of the Summer Sun, with whom we have come into direct conflict, there are the smaller winged beings encountered in the village of Singleford, and the creatures who took in the child who came to be referred to as a Changeling. It remains unclear if there is any connection between these disparate beings beyond the fact that they all, in their own ways, resemble what we think of as Fairies. Determining if any of these creatures have anything to do with Fairy Rings is, therefore, an important task for Researchers. A special task force was subsequently assembled to investigate this matter.

The initial progress of this task force was… slow. Mycologists have quite thoroughly documented the nature of Fairy Rings and the reasons they form… in their “scientific” opinion. From their perspective it is more or less a settled matter, and while they enjoyed explaining how mycelial networks and other matters work to our Researchers, they were less understanding- or receptive- to matters of Alternaturality. Discussions with these so-called experts quickly broke down as they made allegations that our Researchers were, quote “Cranks” unquote and quote “Some Kind Of Woowoo Pseudo-Cult Weirdos” unquote.

So we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Teams of Researchers sought out Fairy Rings all around the world, looking into their histories and any reports of fairy encounters in the vicinity. It was difficult to filter actual sightings out of the noise created by actual cranks and weirdos, but eventually patterns emerged in the results. Fairy Ring sites in areas with a high volume of alleged fairy sightings tended to show little sign of any genuine fairy activity, whereas those without sightings tended to have more evidence of activity. This makes a sort of intuitive sense, and may in fact be an intentional method of concealment on behalf of the Fae: they draw the human’s attention to one Fairy Ring, while they do their fairy business at another. Unfortunately, while Researchers were able to locate evidence of Fae presence in the past at some locations, they were consistently unable to find any living fairies. While we were doing a better job at locating them than the Cranks and Weirdos, they were still hiding from us. This was, in itself, not a surprise; fae creatures are traditionally thought to be flighty and secretive, only revealing themselves to outsiders when they want to. A number of methods were employed in an effort to coax them out of hiding, from traditional offerings to rituals, but none were successful.

It was only when we enlisted- or, perhaps, were forced to accept- the help of an expert that a breakthrough was made. Researchers had been investigating alleged fairy activity at Fairy Rings deep in the heart of a great forest somewhere in Central Europe. We may have been a little lost at this point. This team- codenamed Snow White and lead by Researcher Dopey- had been on a number of expeditions such as this one, and as such the usual procedures were quickly followed: they constructed a false garden decorated with precious stones, they wore wreathes of foxglove jasmine and daisies, they waited under an oak tree at a bend in a river at midnight at the full moon. They did all these and more, and were none the better off for any of it. And then, after slightly over a month of testing, just as they were preparing to give up and move on, they were approached by a young girl. While she appeared to be around ten, her precise age is unclear, as when the Researchers asked her it became apparent that she did not know it. She may not have even known how to count, or read, for that matter. But she did know how to find Fairies.

She introduced herself as Sabrina Thomas, though she later reassured the Researchers that her Friends had shown her how to protect her name against misuse, and asked if they were looking for Fairies. Under normal circumstances this would be a charmingly random and silly question for a child to ask, exactly the sort of thing one might expect to hear from a young girl wandering the countryside, but since the Researchers were in fact looking for Fairies it stood out. Her appearance, too, stood out: barefoot and dirty, in a messy old smock with flowers woven into her surprisingly well-braided hair, Researchers were concerned that perhaps she was lost or abandoned in the woods. Sabrina reassured them that she was well looked after, both by her parents and her Friends- although, of course, her parents could never find out about her Friends. When asked how she had known the Researchers were looking for Fairies, Sabrina laughed and revealed that her Friends had told her this, as well: her Friends were well-aware that the Research team was looking for them, and had sent their human ally to go and- politely- ask them to stop bothering them.

It took quite a bit of convincing- and some outright bribery- before Sabrina was willing to introduce us to her Friends. After all, this was the opposite of what they had asked her to do. But eventually we were able to make her understand that we did not mean her Friends any harm, we just wanted to meet them. To understand them. And to understand some other Fairies who had done us wrong, and perhaps avoid further strife. So she took us down to a creek, and had Team Snow White sit among the reeds and wait while she sang a song. The lyrics were pretty but irrelevant. Before long, other voices joined in with her singing- although not in any language any member of the team, nor myself, could understand. It was beautiful, if a little unnerving as the voices seemed to come from all around us and nowhere at the same time. It was clear that, even if they had not been singing, their voices would have been melodic. Eventually, Sabrina finished her song, and her Friends went quiet. She asked them, politely, if they might like to meet her new friends- ah, us, that is- and while they were certainly reticent about this it was clear that they trusted Sabrina’s judgement, as just as the sun began to set we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by strange little figures: some sat on the lily-pads that dotted the surface of the creek, some flitted through the air on tiny iridescent wings, some stood lightly on the tips of the cattails on the water’s edge, Researcher Grumpy was more than a little startled to find that one had been sitting on the end of her nose for an unknown amount of time. They were, each and every one of them, precisely how one might imagine a fairy: small, winged people wearing clothes made of grass and flowers, with big eyes and cheeky grins. They were the spitting image of the ones encountered in the town of Singleford so many years ago, though when asked these Fairies claimed to have no knowledge of this incident. They also knew nothing of The Man With The Voice, nor his people, nor his realm, though they did mention having “Cousins” who are much larger than them and don’t visit often.

We had a fruitful discussion with them, overall, although I understand the Researchers were none too pleased to be having this discussion while sitting in mud and creekwater, especially as the sun set and I understand things became quite cold. While future contact with this group of Fairies will likely be limited, as when asked if there was anything they’d like from us they politely replied quote “to be left alone” unquote, this was an important first step in understanding a people that are all around us. Literally, the Fairies found it very amusing that we had gone so far out of our way to find them, as they claimed there are Fairies absolutely everywhere. Indeed, when asked about the connection between Fairies and the mushroom networks called Fairy Rings, the Fairies were puzzled: they don’t seem to think they hang around Fairy Rings to any greater degree than anywhere else. More research is clearly required.

Additionally, while this expedition did not lead us to any direct leads on the Fairy Kingdom with which we have previously come into conflict, the notion that these two disparate groups of creatures which we have separately labelled as Fairies might be distantly related raises some fascinating questions. And above all else, the Research Department loves finding answers to questions.

Conclusions: Contact made with creatures known as “Fairies”. Connection between Fairy Rings and Fairies: inconclusive, possibly coincidental. Relation to Fairy Kingdom: Inconclusive. Curiosity of Research Department: Thoroughly Piqued.

End of Report.

Resurrection

Guide:
Make sure your people stay away. Only I talk to it.

Retrieval:
Fine by me.

Guide:
Get the Clockwork Mother. The last time it saw me I was in Mother’s head, it might… I don’t know, the familiarity might be useful. Less weird than just talking to it from the Monitoring Station’s speakers.

Retrieval:
She’s on her way.

Guide:
Okay. The Mother and I will go through the Glassway and talk to the Beast, okay? We’ll see what’s what, then we can go from there. Okay?

Retrieval:
Okay.

Guide:
Okay.

Restoration:
Are you okay, Guide?

Guide:
I’m fine.

Eagle:
Well that’s bullshit.

Guide:
God damn it- Astrid, the Beast, now you. What next, is Walt going to come back?

Eagle:
You were happier to see me last time.

Guide:
I’m a little busy right now, Eagle-

Guide/Eagle:
Not really Eagle.

Guide:
I know.

Eagle:
I told you I’d only pop up if you were compromised and needed to lock down and-

Guide:
I’m not compromised, I’m fine. This is nothing like what happened in The Library.

Eagle:
Emotionally compromised. And yeah, don’t even try to deny it.

Guide:
Okay! Fine. I’m a little… out of sorts, you happy? Things with the Beast were complex by the end- it rescued me, and genuinely seemed to have a lot of affection for me, hell I thought it sacrificed its life for me. But also, it killed you- the real Eagle, whatever. You see how that’s going to put me off kilter.

Eagle:
Yeah, not really. Again, no emotions here. Just logic. Honestly, it seems like all this would be easier if the Beast had just stayed dead.

Guide:
That’s- that’s horrible! You can’t say that!

Eagle:
Why not?

Guide:
Because- that’s- you just can’t!

Eagle:
Well, I’m part of you, so really you said it.

Guide:
Oh that is not how this works. What are you doing here, anyway? I’m not locked up or anything.

Eagle:
I’m here to make sure you’re making a rational decision, okay? You have a lot of complex feelings about the Beast, that’s fair, but just because you had some more amicable spots toward the end that doesn’t mean you should just rush ahead and let it into the Museum.

Guide:
I wasn’t thinking that-

Eagle:
I am literally part of you, I know that’s a lie.

Guide:
Okay, I mean- it- I wasn’t going to, though. You know, you’re a lot less reassuring than you were last time.

Eagle:
I’m not trying to be reassuring this time. I’m offering a different opinion on the situation to make sure you consider multiple paths forward and don’t react purely based on emotion.

Guide:
Right. Sure. Like a… First Mate on a ship offering dissenting opinions to the Captain.

Eagle:
Sure. Which is funny, considering I’ve taken the form of your… first mate.

Guide:
…what?

Eagle:
Yeah forget I said that.

Guide:
Honestly feels like an insult to the real Eagle’s memory.

Eagle:
Ok let’s not go that far.

Guide:
I literally, just now, decided that I hate puns. Just because you said that.

Eagle:
Hey, it’s worked.

Guide:
What?

Eagle:
Before I chimed in you were barrelling forward, all emotion no thought. I’ve disrupted that.

Guide:
Oh, what, so you’ve been annoying on purpose to disrupt my train of thought, is that it?

Eagle:
It worked.

Guide:
Don’t pretend this was all part of some clever plan to-

Eagle:
This is literally my job. What do you-

Retrieval:
Guide! You okay?

Guide:
Oh. Uh, yeah, sorry, I’m fine.

Retrieval:
You kinda seemed like you spaced out there. Didn’t even know an AI could do that.

Guide:
Yeah, I was just… thinking things through, I guess. Oh, Mother, you’re here.

Retrieval:
Yep. We’re all set here.

Guide:
You okay with this, Mother? I don’t want to make you go back there if you don’t want to. Okay, well, that’s nice of you but just because I’m- okay. Sure. Downloading now.

Retrieval:
Mother, for safety we had a hatch installed over the Glassway to the Fae Realm. The shelter basically acts as an airlock now, so once you’re inside make sure you close the door to the museum before you open the hatch, then the same in reverse when you come back. Ta.

Guide:
Ok. You ready, Mother? What, me? No, I’m not ready at all, but when am I ever.

Restoration:
Do you have a plan?

Guide:
…Talk to it. See what’s what.

Retrieval:
Okay. So long as you’ve got clear eyes about the danger that thing could pose.

Guide:
Oh don’t you start, Eagle’s already given me an earful.

Retrieval:
…What?

Guide:
Sorry. Never mind. [To self] Yeah, that’ll definitely help repair the relationship, great work Guide. Oh, no I wasn’t talking to you, Mother, I… I’m kind of all over the place right now. Let’s just go.

Restoration:
Good luck.

Guide:
Thanks. Hopefully we don’t need it.

[The shelter door swings shut.

Guide:
Mother… Be ready for anything. Including… yeah. Just be ready.

[The hatch grinds open. Glassway Transition. The silence is instantly replaced by a desolate wind… and a familiar, ragged breathing.]

THE BEAST:
Ha… There you are… Thought that… maybe this metal thing here wasn’t working. Or that it wasn’t you after all.

Guide:
Hello. Beast. What… What are you doing here?

THE BEAST:
Ah… Nice to see you too… Well, not that I can see… You… Hello again, metal lady.

Guide:
She says… Uh. Beast I… we thought you died.

THE BEAST:

Hm. Well, that one with the bow, he didn’t lie. In their forest, the rules are whatever the Fair Folk say they are. They didn’t want me dead, so here I am.

Guide:
Why didn’t they… I mean, why did they keep you alive?

THE BEAST:

Had… Questions, for me. Kept me around trying to make me answer, any way they could. It’s been a bad time, Guide.

Guide:
I’m… I’m sorry, Beast. That’s terrible, really, I-

THE BEAST:

[Whispering] I never told them anything though. Never anything about you… or anything else.

Guide:
…Thank you, Beast. But… why did they let you go? After all that, I mean, it’s been months. Why now?

THE BEAST:

Dunno. Not like they gave me a… explanation, or anything. Just got bored with me, I s’pose.

Guide:
…Okay. Sure.

Eagle:
That’s bullshit.

Guide:
Why are you here, Beast? I mean, why not return to your Den?

THE BEAST:

Gone. The found it, while I was in their dungeon. Burned it out. All gone.

Guide:
Wow. Can’t be much of a forest left for them to control, can there?

THE BEAST:

Forest isn’t just trees, they said. This is all… The ash, and burning… it’s a warning to any others who might dare stand up to them. Like we did.

Retrieval:
Yeah, we’re living rent free in their heads, clearly. Look, Guide, find out what that thing wants. You and the Mother are in enemy territory, let’s not drag this out.

Guide:
Right. Beast, I… What do you want? Here, I mean. Why have you come back here, to the Glassway?

THE BEAST:
Well… I mean, I thought maybe… They kept me alive, Guide, but only just, you know? And when they let me go, they didn’t fix me up or nothing. Just made sure I could walk. Probably just didn’t want me stinking up the place after I croaked. So I thought, maybe…

Retrieval:
Absolutely not. Guide, I know you had a complicated relationship or whatever with this thing but it’s responsible for the deaths of five of my people.

Guide:
Quiet! I know, I’m trying to think here.

THE BEAST:
Huh? Oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have-

Guide:
What? No, sorry, I’m- I was talking to someone else.

Eagle:
You need to calm down.

Guide:
You need to… shut down, or whatever. Look, Beast, I… I wanna help you! I do! But, I just…

THE BEAST:

It’s okay. I get it. I’ll just… Is it okay if I take a rest here? Need to build some strength before I…

Guide:
I know Mother, but… I don’t know.

Retrieval:
Look, I get that this is, you know, emotional for you, Guide. But I can’t put my people in that thing’s way. Where would we even put it? In the Stables? Putting the rest of the animals- or whatever- in there in danger, it’d be derelicting our duty as a Museum.

Guide:
I know, I know, but I- I don’t know, I just feel like-

Restoration:
It can stay in the Restoration Department.

Retrieval:
You’re not even on this call, Diana.

Guide:

The Restoration Department, are you sure?

Restoration:
We have facilities for keeping larger… well, not usually animals, but we can keep it secure. And as for helping it heal, well it doesn’t need a doctor it needs a Xenobiologist and that’s Restoration. There’s nowhere better for it to go.

Retrieval:
Diana-

Guide:
I mean, I know this is a lot, ma’am, I don’t want to put you out!

Restoration:
It’s fine. It’s a… Restoration project! We’ll restore the Beast back to health.

Retrieval:
We are not a rescue centre for monsters. If we do this we are putting all our staff at risk- not to mention our patrons.

Restoration:
Oh don’t be hyperbolic. It will be held in my department, it won’t have any way to reach the publicly accessible areas of the Museum.

Guide:
Are you sure ma’am? I mean… I know that it’s risky but…

Restoration:
Yes. I’m sure. I’m making the call! We’re… we’re going to help the Beast get back on its feet.

Retrieval:
It’s a monster-

Restoration:
It’s an animal. Would you refuse to help a lion because it ate some gazelle?

Retrieval:
Are you calling my Agents-

Restoration:
No. Obviously, I could have worded that better. But… My mind’s made up. A… debt is owned.

Guide:
Thank you. Ma’am. Really.

Restoration:
Think nothing of it, Guide.

Retrieval:
This is a bad idea.

Restoration:
I know. But… I know.

Guide:
Beast?


THE BEAST:

Yes… Guide?

Guide:
Welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality.

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