Hello. It’s me again, the Fairelander. If by some small miracle you are reading this message, then perhaps you will understand my plight.
Perhaps you, too, still set your Scroll of Teleportation for Junction, only to see a blinking cursor above a nameless ocean. Perhaps you, too, still wake up giddy to greet the morning at Midas, only to rub the sleep out of your eyes and realize that Ishtar’s Gate has drifted away with the Mists. Perhaps you, too, adjust the pieces of your complete Her Highness’s Treasures gacha set, only to feel a profound emptiness—a void where something should be.
In my case, that void is the blank page I now hold in my hand, one page among many that I found washed up on the steps of Midas minutes before the Great Bongs of Doom sounded and the Fairelands vanished into the aether.
Sharni Azalee co-owns The Looking Glass with Marcus Inkpen, and has also been a world builder of Fairelands for ten years. They’re both the world builders and sponsors of The Shrine Tree this year. She tells us how their co-building process works, what is her favourite moment every Faire and also why she is a centaur this year!
There is a place that rests within the Twilight where neither light nor darkness holds sway. There are sanctuaries within such a temple where peace is unattainable. No, in these hidden alcoves illumination comes from violet hues. The whispers begin quietly, almost imperceptible. They lure you with promises of power and wealth, tempt you with assurances of a life without worry and absent pain. “You can still hear them, can’t you?” She whispered to me after I had spent my days and nights (years?) within those walls. The voices haunt me. I dream of them. I hear them beckon me from shadowed hallways even though I am far away from that place, that temple that houses something more present than a god. “Their song will never leave your mind.” She promises me, her voice sweeter than freshly gathered honey, Spring’s first flowers. She is a creature comprised of everything pure now twisted and distorted into that which the absence of light may define. Her words ring with truth. Melodies which once pleased me, lulled me, echo with strains of foreign chords. Alien strings pluck on strange instruments. The conductor is not the same who orchestrated the symphony before.
There is a place where memories go to take their last breaths. A land breathes composed of the ashes of all that which has departed, everything which was once known but now lies forgotten. Is he a specter in this place or is he another memory? He has known so much sorrow in his long life; it is plausible that long after his passing some semblance of sentience remains. He suffered so many trials, celebrated so many victories and failures which have led to this moment. Deep in a temple dedicated to a thousand shrines and even more faiths, he can be seen repeating the motions of a life well-lived. Once upon a time, he had boasted of being a warrior; later he had become a king. He had been a lover, a husband, a father, both hero and villain in his own story and those of others. There are varying tales of his death, and there are stories yet where he remains alive and forging new paths through one world and others.
If you just know how to turn, you can get there from anywhere. It’s a little slump to your left while turning slightly to the right and letting one tear roll down your cheek. Whisper a name and suddenly you’re there- the place where shrines go when they turn to dust. Where they celebrate their lives all which started with the departure of another. The memories they kept alive have all faded away but the shrines remain. The forever reminder- “We lived- We loved- We were here!”
The Shrine Tree by Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee.