Plane: The Realm of Fey
The Realm of Fey is a vast one, located where the Astral Plane borders the Beastlands and Arborea. It is the homeland of the eladrin and all fey beings. Many strange things originate from it - some foul, some fair, and the vast majority somewhere in between. Common lore states that the elves, along with many of the strange beings that dwell on the planes, have their origins in this mysterious realm. In particular, the Fey has many connections to Arborea (known as Arvandor by the elves), where the "Wandering Seelie Court" moves daily. Many of the planes that contain the strangest and most magical beasts have some connection to the Fey, via the Ethereal. Morus is one such world, and was connected to the Fey long before the mortal races thrived on its surface.
The Fey is dangerous to visit or even to study, and no two scholars agree on its true nature, but most will at least concede that it is incredibly vast, and that in many ways it seems to be limited only by the imagination. Its denizens, though wildly disparate and numerous, also seem to follow a general theme or feel, a sort of "fey nature" that is difficult to describe. It is often characterised by powerful magic with hidden drawbacks, capriciousness, strange coincidence and contrivances of fate, and the particular brand of "fairy-tale" magic that abounds in the Realm of Fey, which they know as Glamour. The nature and origin of Glamour is unknown, but the striking similarities between it and Wild Magic indicate that it is likely magic in a purer and rawer form than mortals usually work with.
The Alignment of the Realm of Fey is Chaotic Neutral. Time fluctuates wildly within the plane from realm to realm, and magic tends be significantly more powerful and unpredictable when cast here. All magic weapons and armour increases their bonus by +1, and many magical items - particularly those which are subject to probability or chance - function very unpredictably.
The Ocean of Fog
As noted above, the realm of Fey is located on the Astral Plane, but it has roots that spread down into the Inner Planes, most notably the Deep Ethereal. It is said that somewhere in the Deep Ethereal, one can find a fog-shrouded, freezing shore that overlooks a seemingly endless ocean. This ocean is always completely still, and there are neither waves nor winds to carry vessels across it. This is the Ocean of Fog. Travel over this ocean is windless, and oars slip through the water as if it were made of mist - only magical means can impel one across this expanse. The Ocean of Fog travels through the deepest, darkest parts of the Deep Ethereal, where some of the most alien and strange denizens of the Plane dwell. The Dreamlands are located on the Ocean of Fog, and those passing through it will undoubtedly pass between - perhaps even through - many half-formed and crumbling dreams as they make their voyage.
Any voyage through the Ocean of Fog will be long and fraught with peril, but if one is persistent and heroic (and a little lucky), they may make it through the Dreamlands and into the far end of the ocean, the part that lies in the Astral proper. If they make it so far, they will eventually see the West Beacon of Tanelorn, the first hint of something real and truly alive since they first set sail. Once you see the West Beacon, there is no turning back - you have entered the Lands of Fable.
The Land of Fable
Located at the edge of Fey and at the far end of the Ocean of Fog, the Lands of Fable are the most "real" parts of Fey, and the part that most mortals will find themselves in. The Lands of Fable are comprised of many magical realms out of myth and legend - some have been drawn into the Fey from other places, while others are manufactured out of whole cloth. Fable is a place where fairies tales are a reality, where magic is common and deadly, and where werewolves stalk the woods in search of the weak. Although Fable is the part of the Fey that is least deadly to mortal creatures, only one map has ever returned from Fable. The West Beacon of Tanelorn is the first thing to greet travellers when they finally make it over the Ocean of Fog, and those few who have returned from the Fey often go no further.
Any creature, even those without an inherently magical nature, that dwells in Fable - demihumans and monsters alike - tends to take on over the course of generations a more magical, primal form of their own kind. The adjective 'Grey' is used to set these aside - the Grey Elves (fairies), the Grey Dwarves (dvergr), and so on. Generally speaking, living in the Fey tends to change one, bringing them closer to the primal and animistic forces that represent their true inner nature. It is said that those who are most in touch with their inner self and the rule of natural Chaos over unnatural Law are least affected by the strange power of the Fey realm.
It should be noted that Grey Elves, or fairies, are not the same as the eladrin, the native beings and protectors of the Realm of Fey, Arborea and the Beastlands. It is commonly thought that the ancestors of the Grey Elves were, in fact, eladrin that settled on material planes and became "mundane", but they are now two separate species. In a manner of speaking, the Grey Elves can be considered the least of the eladrin.
As noted above, many of the humans, demihumans and monsters that are found both in Fable and the Material are the descendants of the lost travellers of bygone ages. Many (though not all) of them are aware of their origin - considering that new emigrants end up in the Fey all the time, it would be difficult for them to be unaware of it. Amongst the Folk, as the civilised denizens of the Fable call themselves, there is some prestige attached to those who have spent multiple generations in Fable as opposed to those newly stranded. Veterans of the Fey have more knowledge a of how this realm works, and their time in the Fey may have given them both intuitive insight and powers above those of normal mortals - so it is not hard to see where this prestige comes from.
As one goes deeper and deeper into the Lands of Fable they become increasingly fantastical, magical and disjointed. They hold less and less of a reflection of reality and nature and more and more of the wild, chaotic and magical nature that makes up the true Fey. Eventually, Fable gives way completely to the untamed wilderness of the Realm of Fey that is known to its denizens only as "The Mists". This is where the Fey is at its most chaotic, an endless swirling cloud of possibility and uncertainty that is peopled by all manner of fantastical creatures. Time, magic, perception; nothing functions logically or consistently in the Mists, and trying to measure or understand their patterns is an exercise in futility. They are chaos, formless magic, and some scholars even theorise that the Mists are either the source of all magic or are a manifestation of magic in its rawest form. Some posit that the Mists do have a source, a "heart" where the source of the chaotic power that sets the Realm of Fey aside from the surrounding Astral dwells. Some say that it is a font of energy that underpins the fabric of the multiverse itself, while others place it as the dwelling place of the creator of the Multiverse itself. In this swirling, ephemeral fog the many Realms of Fey can be found, like little pockets of relative order. They are too numerous to ever catalogue - some believe they are truly infinite - but the largest of them are the legendary Courts of the Sidhe.
The Fey is sometimes described relationally - with Fable being nearest the 'edge', followed by the Mists and then the Seelie and Unseelie Courts - but the truth is that its topography is not so easily mapped. While those who stumble upon the Fey will usually find themselves at the borders of Fable, any who enter the Fey or pass between its realms will end up going through the Mists at some point. The fey denizens of this plane are usually able to navigate them to some extent and end up where they want to go. Those who are not so proficient may find themselves wandering for hours, weeks or even years, and have very little control over where they end up (though as noted above, those who have come to the Fey from external places will usually wind up in Fable). There is said to be a "trick" to navigating the mists, which can be learned with time.
The Courts of the Sidhe
Though it is often used to describe the denizens of Fey in general, the word Sidhe properly refers only to fey that have aligned themselves with one of the two grand courts of Fey, the Seelie or the Unseelie. While some creatures have a predilection to one court or the other - most Grey Trolls are Unseelie, while most pixies are Seelie - there is no hard and fast restriction on which beings can be members of which court, and so it is entirely possible to find beings usually thought of as "dark" amongst the Seelie and vice-versa. Indeed, it is fairly common in the immortal lifespan of the fey for Sidhe to switch sides or turn from the Courts entirely.
The Seelie and Unseelie Courts occupy two realms within the Mists, and are by far the most massive of all. It would not be correct to call the relationship between the Seelie and Unseelie a cold war, but this is the closest term that can describe the complex dynamic between them. There is certainly no lost love between the opposing sides.
The Seelie Court
Of the two Courts of the Sidhe, the Seelie Court is that of light, though by no stretch of the imagination does this equate to goodness. Despite this, the fey of the Seelie Court are often easier to deal with than their Unseelie counterparts. The Sidhe of the Seelie Court are, if not ordered or regimented, at least somewhat structured in their approach. They are the true aristocrats of the Sidhe, and high-ranking members often serve as judges to arbitrate disputes between fey. The Seelie Court is very political, complete with cliques, factions, causes, gossiping and rivalries. The specifics are singularly unimportant, and change as often as the wind; the fads and clashes of the Seelie Court never stand still for long, and the whirling maelstrom of Seelie politics are bewildering even to the fey; it is no wonder that it has kept even such immortal beings amused for so long.
The Sidhe of the Seelie Court are callous, uncaring and capricious, but they are usually not openly malign. They usually have a light-hearted attitude (particularly those that do not participate in politics) and tend to adopt a friendly outlook on things. They have been known to help a human in need, especially if they like them - though the qualifications of their approval has more to do with interestingness and outwards beauty than inherent virtue - and unlike the Unseelie will usually warn a human that has unwittingly offended them. They are prone to good-natured pranks, and it is from this that their dark reputation comes; the Seelie are immortal, unchangeable and utterly inhuman. They are difficult to kill and tend to forget hardship or grievances quickly, and as such they quite simply do not understand what it is like to be anything other than fey. In playing a "good-natured prank", they rarely realise the effect their games have on humans. In this way they are much like a small child pulling on a dog's tail, too young to see it as anything more than a furry toy that makes funny noises when interacted with. They either do not understand or do not care about the hardship they leave in their wake.
A popular example of this is of the wandering knight invited for an evening to join the merrymaking of a troupe of Seelie. The experience is sublime for the wandering knight, the food exquisite, but it carries with it a curse. When he awakens alone, he finds the company of his family and friends intolerable, the food of mortals like sawdust in his mouth. Bereft and forlorn, he desperately returns to the place of merrymaking. Depending on the version of tale, the Seelie have either lost interest in him and leave him to die there in misery, or they take him with them to carouse eternally in the Realm of Fey. Both endings reflect the capricious nature of the Seelie.
It should be noted that while this section has said much about the way that 'the Seelie Court acts', when dealing with fey it is impossible to marginalise or categorise them in this way, for each is completely different and individualistic. However, the Courts of the Sidhe tend to attract certain types of fey due to the codes of conduct they hold their members to; those who do not wish to abide by the codes of conduct of either court simply belong to neither, and are known as "solitary" or "unaligned", though they may dwell in either court or in the mists of Fey. The most common kinds of fey in the Seelie Court are fairies, pixies, eladrin, dryads, and other such creatures.The code of conduct of the Seelie Court is as follows:
Death Before Dishonor - A member of the Seelie Court protects his or her honor to the death. Honor is the single source of glory for the Seelie, the only way to attain recognition. A true Seelie would rather die than live with personal dishonor, and would never bring dishonor to another of the Seelie.
Love Conquers All - For the Seelie, love is the perfect expression of the soul. It transcends all other things. While romantic love is considered to be the highest and purest form of love, platonic love is also encouraged.
Beauty Is Life - Beauty is one of the first tenets of the Seelie Court. To belong, a fey has to be beautiful, and all beauty is to be protected. The Seelie are known to go to war to protect beauty, whether it is a beautiful person, place, or thing. It is for this reason that the more ugly or monstrous Sidhe are usually Unseelie; indeed, it is believed that the Common words "seemly" and "unseemly" spring from the dual nature of the Courts of the Sidhe.
Never Forget a Debt - This tenet works in two ways. The Seelie are bound by their code of honor to repay any debt owed as soon as possible. This includes both favors and insults. The Seelie repay a favor in a timely fashion. At the same time, they will exact vengeance almost immediately.
The Unseelie Court
The flipside of the Seelie Court, the Unseelie Court is that of darkness to the Seelie's light and chaos to the Seelie's order. Though again, terms such as good and evil cannot be applied to the fey, dealing with the Unseelie Sidhe tends to be unpredictable and dangerous. While the Seelie will toy with your fate, the Unseelie will toy with your health and wellbeing - which to some may be preferable. No offense is necessary to bring down the assaults of the Unseelie, and the folk tales of the Wild Hunt and the actions of malicious fey who capture humans and beat them or force them to commit evil acts for their amusement originates in the activites of the Unseelie. For this reason, the Unseelie attracts many of the more monstrous and darkly natured of the fey, who are predisposed to such action in the first place.
Unseelie are not completely impossible to deal with, however. Most Unseelies can become fond of a particular human if they are viewed as respectful, and may choose to make them something of a pet. Nevertheless, the Unseelie are without a doubt malign, unstable and dangerous. The majority of the Unseelie Sidhe are those creatures that old folk tales would call "things that go bump in the night", and they are as foul as the Seelie are fair.The code of conduct of the Unseelie Court is as follows:
Change is Good - The Unseelie firmly believe that security is an illusion. They consider chaos to be the ruling force in the universe, and accept that they must adapt and change to survive.
Glamour is Free - Glamour is the magic of the Sidhe, of all fey. Both the Seelie and Unseelie possess its power. However, the two Courts have differing opinions over its use. The Unseelie believe that to have power and not to use it is near to sin. They use their power for whatever they see fit.
Honor is a Lie - The Unseelie place no stock in the ideals of honor. Instead, they pursue their own self-interests vigorously. The Unseelie feel as if truth can be only be reached through a devotion to self, not a devotion to others.
Passion Before Duty - Passion is considered to be the truest state of being. The Unseelie act without thought on pure instinct and passion, and rarely worry about the consequences or ramifications of their actions.