Kingdom of Moon and Mist
-The Kingdom of Moon and Mist-
It was a warm, sunny afternoon much like any other, and on this particular afternoon, a young boy panted heavily as he ran toward the dense forest. His elders had warned him many times that it was dangerous to go alone, but on a day as nice as this, surely it would be all right. What would his friends think when he told them he had braved its mysterious paths alone? What stories would he have to tell?
"I could go wherever I wanted. Even WHENever I wanted. That's what the stories said. I could even see mother again..." The boy mused as he ventured deeper into the woods.
As he stopped to daub the sweat from his face, he came to the sudden realization that the forest had grown far too quiet. He could hear no chirping birds, and scarcely even the rustling of wind through the canopy above. As he turned, he realized that the light mist he had seen around him had thickened into a fog, obscuring the way he had come.
"How strange... I was just going to head in and then back out, then be home in time for supper. But...where am I?"
A creeping fear settled upon him, revealed in his words, though he himself did not realize it. Was this glimmering fog a trick of the fairies who had since ancient times called these woods home? As he tried to reorient himself amidst the hazy landscape, the fog continued to thicken, to the point where he could scarcely see past the thick trunks of nearby trees. The boy made his way slowly forward, uncertainty marking each footstep. All he could see were pale lights that seemed to dance and weave deeper within the fog.
The boy lost track of all time, uncertain how long he had been trudging through the fog. After what seemed like hours, he saw a faint ray of sunlight piercing through the fog, and suddenly, the mists rolled back to reveal before him a vast, blue ocean.
"W-wow... So that's the sea. I remember mother would sometimes talk about growing up near the ocean. It's just like she described it in her stories! She might have played on a beach just like this one when she was a girl, running up and down the shore!"
The boy, who had been raised far inland and never been to the coast, breathed deeply, taking in the salty scent of the ocean for the first time in his life. The thundering of the waves breaking upon the shore filled his heart with wonder.
"That forest near home is nowhere near the ocean. How did I get here? It certainly wasn't just walking..."
Struck with sudden suspicion after his initial delight, the boy sat down on the sands, the wind rustling his hair. Something was odd about it - he knew the area around his home village, and the sea wasn't a place you could get to in a half-day's walk, or even a whole day's travel.
"Huh. That could only mean...it worked? It...really worked! I'm going to see my mother! I've no time to dawdle here!"
His worry melted away as quickly as it had come, and the boy rose to his feet, a grin spread across his face. He continued down the beach, feeling the warm sand between his toes, as the shore seemed to expand before his eyes.
He awoke slowly, opening his eyes to see a dimly luminous fog around him, obscuring his sight. Where had the beach gone? He was walking down the seashore, and now...more mist? Soon all before him had become a blur of churning white, but he picked himself up and continued his walk, breaking out into song as if to soothe his uncertain heart. He could make out no detail in the fog-shrouded landscape that would give a hint as to his location. It was eerily silent, and he had never felt more alone.
"You really can't carry a tune, can you?"
A small voice rung like a tiny bell in the silence, speaking to the boy. As he sunk to the ground in fear and amazement, a little ball of light approached him. It flitted around him, continuing to speak, almost as if sorry for scaring the lad.
"Oh dear. I've gone and frightened you, haven't I? The truth is, I've been watching you since you first set foot in the forest. It's been a long time since anyone ventured this deep into the woods."
"Wh-who are you?"
"I'm a fairy. It's my job to guard the mist, at the behest of our Queen!"
The tiny fairy broke into a tittering laugh, beaming every inch with pride. As he continued his trek, the boy began to talk with the fairy, and as they conversed, he learned that the strange glowing fog in the forest had a name: the Feth Fiada, a magical mist created with the power of the Fairy Queen herself. It had the power to spirit away anyone who entered it to whatever place their heart desired to go.
"Of course, not just ANYONE can pass through! Our Queen would never allow those with evil intentions to abuse such a wondrous magic! That's why she entwined with the Feth Fiada a very special enchantment. When you try to pass through, the mists will sometimes take you to a location not of this world. Just a bit of fairy whimsy, of course.
That land is known as Tech Duinn - a phantasia of the void that exists only within the heart of the mists. Those who end up there can get lost forever, trying so desperately to get to the place they truly desire to see. But the Feth Fiada answers only to the pure; those whose hearts are noble and kind."
"Amazing! Does that mean I'll be able to see my mother? She...she died some time ago..."
"Oh-ho-ho. Are you a good boy, pure of heart?"
"I am! I wake up early, don't stay out too late, respect my elders, and always do what's asked of me!"
The two continued to talk as they traveled along, enjoying each other's company. After what seemed like many miles and many ebbings and flowings of the mist around them, they came to a place covered in a deep darkness, as though far underground.
"Erm...where IS this place?"
"Wait a minute. Didn't you say you wanted to see your mother?"
"I did, but...this place seems so gloomy. Why would my mother be underground? My father said she's gone to a wonderful land where each day is full of delicious food and beautiful music. A place where she doesn't have to be in pain anymore..."
The fairy let out a deep sigh, seemingly flustered by the boy's answer. But at the same time, she began to feel a strange fear, for it had not expected that the mists would bear them to the very land of the dead.
"Ooooooh, you've really done it now, kiddo. This is the underworld, the final shore where all souls congregate when their lives have run their course. The Faerie Queen holds no power here - this land is governed by the King of Death, and let me tell you, he's terrifying! Darkness and the night itself are his to command! What were you thinking, coming here? It's super dangerous, and--"
The fairy's ranting lecture was interrupted, however, by a strange aura that seemed to pervade their immediate surroundings. The boy quivered, as something ice-cold passed by him. He kept his eyes down, wanting to gaze up but fearing what he would see if he did. But as the coldness spread over him, it seemed to lay heavy upon his heart, and he found himself transfixed to the spot.
"... .... ... .... ...."
"Hey! Listen! Why aren't you answering ? H-he's asking if you've come to resurrect your m-mother!"
But the fairy was trembling with dread just as much as the boy himself, a loud whisper into his ear the most she could manage. It was only then that the boy realized the tingling chill he could not understand was a question, posed to him by the presence that hovered above him.
"I-I'm... I just... I wanted to see my mother's smiling face again! I swear! *sob*
The boy's answer came soft, almost inaudible but for the vast silence that lay over that place. All that the boy could sense was darkness, fear, and that overwhelming pressure that surrounded him like a shroud. All thought of time fled, and he knew not how long he and his fairy friend remained in that place. Eventually, he felt his trembling lessen, and his ears perked up, realizing that a voice that had belonged solely to his happy memories was calling to him...
The boy returned from his fantastical adventure, and upon hearing his tale, those from his village broke into laughter. A magical mist? A fairy companion? Meeting his departed mother? It was all hogwash, they said - no more than the vivid imaginings of an idle mind.
But among their number, some harbored a faint hope, and as the weeks wore on, many would make their own journey into the forest, just as the boy had done. However, the hearts of most were filled with thoughts of wealth and greed, and they never returned from their sojourn. Perhaps they had found what they sought, but...without pure hearts, they would not find their way back through the shifting landscape of Tech Duinn.
The boy wondered whether he, too, would have returned. He had seen his mother again, if only for a short time, but her wise advice and the fairy's prompting let him know that, as a living soul, he could not remain long in the world of the dead. All these memories he kept in his heart, living near the forest, but as the years passed, the secret of the Feth Fiada and the fog-shrouded landscapes of Tech Duinn were gradually forgotten, for who was there in this world who could walk the mists with a pure and noble heart and find their way back again?