The Redcap is a traditional fairy, from the border between Scotland and England. Specifically, they’d inhabit the many castles and forts left there by the days when the Scottish were threatening to pour over the land and into the fertile belly of England. (HFM: In other words, as recently as September 2014.) Traditionally, they would haunt these walls. They were notorious for being fast runners, and wearing heavy iron boots- A notable choice among the iron-fearing fairies.
The behavior of the Redcap is particularly brutal. They were unrepentant murderers, because of their needs. They would murder travelers, and soak their hats in the blood of the victim to prolong their lives. If you know anything about fairies, this should throw up some immediate warning flags; It sounds more like a vampire, doesn’t it? Well, I suspect that the stories are inaccurate. First of all, if outrunning a redcap is impossible, and they kill travelers, how would anyone ever find out they exist? How would they describe all of this stuff? (Alfred: Well, they were also renowned braggarts, and other fae might have known of them.) (Polly: Oy.)
I suspect that the blood is relatively incidental to their actual needs for survival, and that what really matters is the intimidation. Fear, panic, terror, these things are what feed a Redcap. Thus, the brutal stories and the threat that they’re impossible to outrun. A Redcap hangs out in a spooky looking castle and hides until someone comes along. At that point, they jump out, terrify the sweet merciful piss out of some poor unfortunate, and are laughing all the way to the bank. Basic bully. (Polly: Oy!)
Funny thing is, they’re not all bad. There’s one who lives in Perthshire, it’s said, who grants good luck to anyone who sees him. I don’t know what the hell that’s about, but it is Scotland. Maybe he’s just so surrounded by fear, panic, and intimidation at all times that he doesn’t need to hunt for food and has gotten tame.
Redcaps aren’t generally found much in America, because of their uniquely British composition and upbringing. Honestly speaking, Redcaps worry me. They don’t need to kill, but many of them historically did. I would rather not run into any of them if I could avoid it. Shouldn’t be too likely, though. (Polly: No wonder you’re so goddamn paranoid about me dating Alfred! Y’know that your kind were burning witches and Catholics and invading Ireland mercilessly around the time redcaps were murdering people for blood, right?!)
The myths of redcaps and the realities describe a few things. First of all, they’re fans of big, heavy, unwieldy weapons. Pikestaffs were the traditional favorites. (Alfred: A type of very long spear intended for thrusting and use in infantry formations. If you can’t wield it with one hand, it’s a pike, not a spear. Also used for stopping horse charges, since they were one of the few weapons that could be set against the ground to stop a charge, not to mention stabbing cavalry riders off of their horses.) (Atina: How male.) (Alfred: I know you’re just saying that to needle me.) (Atina: Well, yes. But it works.)(Alfred: It really doesn’t.)
Historically, they were extremely fast, and strong. The nature of this strength has mostly been unclear, but Alfred has some interesting insights into them.
Alfred: Basically, a Redcap’s power comes from the red of their hair. While historically they dyed their hats red, the rise of cheap red hair dye has made hair dying much more popular. It’s a strange kind of combination of traits, from what I can tell: The dye, whatever it is, must be acquired in a state of fear and intimidation. Whether this means mugging for the money, intimidating a shopkeeper, or just killing someone for their blood, the fear and the red make a surprisingly potent combination. (Polly: Huh, so this is why you were asking all those questions! Nosy. Doesn’t have to be exactly like that, I can just buy red hair dye without any fuss, but without people getting afraid and angry, it doesn’t do much. And vice versa, just pissing folks off doesn’t make me any stronger. Still, when I am strong, I’m mighty strong. Atina’s seen that much!)
Players who make a pact with a redcap are rare, because most wizards aren’t terribly… athletic. (Atina: Bunch of nerds.) The gifts a Redcap gives make a man stronger, faster, quicker healing, but they depend on initial fitness. Someone who’s out of shape will receive only a minor advantage, while an Olympic athlete could break most human standards. (Polly: This goes for a lot of other things, too, like endurance. See, when Alfred’s feeling in a particularly frisky mood, I- *The remaining four paragraphs have been heavily scratched out.*) (Alfred: If Atina sees that I let you write about what we do together in her case files, she’s going to force both of us to eat iron filings.) (Atina: I know what sex is, Alfred.) (Alfred: You really don’t.)
I’ve heard some people say that there are Redcaps who have some more esoteric abilities; blood manipulation, thaumaturgy, that kind of thing. It would be unusual, to say the least; Most redcaps are not nearly intellectual enough for such things. (Polly: I’m pretty sure you’re just being deliberately hurtful at this point!) (Alfred: You are a rather notable exception, darling. That’s why I love you.) (Atina: Don’t flirt in my case files.)
Polly: Okay, here’s the long and short of it. I’m damn tough- Basically, if I have enough energy, I can take a bullet and shrug it off. Mind you, someone breaks out an assault rifle and I’d be in trouble. Second, I’m damn strong. That ball I kick around is a hundred and fifty pounds of lead; It could do some real damage. And those cleats I wear? Iron shod, baby. Atina gave me hell for wearing them in the house, something about the tiles. As to speed, well, I’m a fast runner, but I don’t quite get this one. It’s not like I’ve ever been able to do one of those crazy blurry moves like from Twilight or something. Maybe it’s something you’ve gotta learn…
Like almost all fairies, Redcaps were once human. Humans get made into fairies through adoption. When a fairy adopts a human child before a certain age- Usually about five or six- that child will become a fairy. The rules for this are… esoteric, to say the least, and I’ll go into greater detail on them later. Suffice it to say, though, redcaps are rare. You need to have a kid who’s raised in the right kind of place, and who has a penchant for violence and intimidation. Bullies would be a favorite. (Polly: Or kids who stop OTHER bullies. Man, I should sue you for slander.)(Atina: Libel. Slander is spoken, libel is written.)
Historically, Redcaps have never held offices of respect or noble position. You see them occasionally standing out as particularly impressive Champions or King’s Men, but they’re mostly only found in the Summer Court. The more subtle ones wind up in the Winter Court, and kill people in ways that are too ridiculous-looking to be taken for murder by the mortal authorities. I don’t actually know if there are any redcaps in Binghamton.
HFM: There are, in fact, three Redcaps in Binghamton that I know of. One is a rather unpleasant Scotsman who moved here a hundred years ago, and who lives near the Inebriate’s asylum- The Castle of Binghamton, as it’s called. He is, in fact, a member of the Fall Court, although I confess that he exists mostly as a bouncer; While the stereotype of the Redcap as thoughtless thug is a bit careless and cruel, we Fae are creatures of stereotypes. (Polly: I’m gonna give you people such a kick in the feckin’ arse for this.)
Of the other two, both are members of the Summer Court. They are unrelated, although both are interesting enough individuals, if slightly overzealous about their nature as intimidation fairies. They need to learn that there’s power to be had in subverting expectations, as well as fulfilling them. (Atina: Reminder to self: I should ask the Half-Faced Man what he means by that.)
I haven’t had any cases for redcaps. God willing, I won’t have to; They seem like they could be a real pain in the ass.
Polly: Okay, wow. I feel like I’m back in the 1920s. ‘No Irish need apply’, eh? Well, may you be eaten by a cat, and may the devil eat the cat.
I’ve kept my nose good and clean, by and large, but there was one particular run-in which involved a bit of assault. See, here I was, minding my own business, with my football team, when this chap comes up to me and starts talking shit about my hair. It’d been a while since I’d gotten a chance to dye it, y’see, and the color was getting a bit weak, so he starts going on about gingers and souls and all of that kind of bullshit. I very politely tell him that if he wants to see my hair properly red, he can help me. (Alfred: In point of fact, what she did was scream ‘Y’want to see red hair? How about I show it to you up close!’ and then headbutted him, breaking his nose.)
Now, see, turns out this fellow was a bigwig of sorts. (Alfred: He was a Sidhe noble, one of the Summer King’s Men.) He starts going on about honor and nobility and satisfactions and so forth, threatening me with a duel. And me, being the reasonable figure I am, decided to oblige him. (Alfred: By this she means that she kicked a soccer ball into his groin hard enough to bring him to his knees. The regulation kind, not the lead-filled one.) Then I give him a good kicking in the clackers for good measure. (Alfred: With her iron-shod boots.)
Yeah… Me mum was pissed. Still, nobody messed with me among the after that. And that was what gave me the idea for the soccer ball. Thing cost a pretty penny, but I can kick it through a brick wall, no feckin’ problem! I’ve been thinking about getting it a red paint-job or something. (Alfred: I’ve been trying to persuade her that this would be a bit over the top.)
Wait… I guess this technically doesn’t count as a case since he didn’t take me to trial because he was too embarrassed about getting his plums puddinged. Damn. But that just goes to prove that the stereotype of the Redcap as violent, criminal asshole is completely off-base, and you shouldn’t trust it when deciding who to associate with!
The Half-Faced Man
Talking about the Half-Faced Man is tricky, because I know he might wind up reading these case files. (HFM: This is true.) On the other hand, he seems to favor people who are honest about their feelings about him. (HFM: This is also true.) So I’m just going to try to put the information I have out there, and if he takes offense… Well, whatever.
The fact about the Half-Faced Man is that I actually like him. I’ve had quite a lot of mentors in my legal career, people who thought they were helping me out and being useful. The problem is, most of them weren’t. Most of them were arrogant, dismissive of my abilities, and treated me as essentially a gofer, or someone to whom they could dictate platitudes. ‘Show up early, work late’. ‘Never give up.’ ‘Fight every case as hard as you can.’ The Half-Faced Man taught me that I can turn iron into an aerosol with the use of a spray paint can, some iron shavings, and some cooking oil. Practical knowledge is worth it’s weight in gold.
And that’s why this is kind of hard to say… But I don’t trust him. The Half-Faced Man has helped me a lot, but of all the people who I’d choose to be the one to betray me, it would be him. (HFM: A wise thing to state. And kind of you to tell me; The surest way to prevent betrayal is to expect it, and warn against it.) He’s a fairy, he’s full of secrets, he has his own motivations. And that reference to waiting until I was fully grown to cut me… That one kind of scared me. Because I still have no fucking idea what KIND of fairy the Half-Faced Man IS.
See, there are a lot of stories of fairies LIKE the Half-Faced Man. But none of them are quite on the money. They come close, they skirt the edge of describing him, but there’s always something wrong with the story. He’s not even like any of the ‘unique’ fairies- Puck or Anansi or so on and so forth. (HFM: Technically, Anansi is a god. And no, I am not a god.)
Alfred’s got a theory about it, based on something the Half-Faced Man said in one of these case files at one point. That basically, the Half-Faced Man is kind of like the mirror of a fairy.
Alfred: Most fairies are, functionally, stereotypes. The more closely they cleave to that stereotype, the more power they derive from it. Acting against their nature weakens a fae. But there is as much power in subverting expectations as there is in fulfilling them. I have theorized that the true nature of the Half-Faced Man is that he is defying his true nature. Who knows what lies below that sinister mask and those painted eyes? Perhaps he has a whole face after all, and simply pretends otherwise? Perhaps he is just trying to avoid being understood. Not a surprising pattern of thought for a member of the Fall Court. That still brings up the question of what he was, though.
Strictly speaking, I don’t know how old the Half-Faced Man is. He could be only a few decades, or he could be millenia old. He doesn’t have an accent that I can discern, and I haven’t been able to track who he was before he came to Binghamton. Obviously, it’d be damn difficult to do so if he didn’t want those things found out; He doesn’t need a social security number, or ID, or even to look the same. He is a fairy, after all.
Alfred: Similarly, I haven’t had much luck in finding anyone who’s made a pact with the Half-Faced Man. He is a bit of an enigma. There are a fair number of wizards who have tried in Binghamton, but he has very politely but firmly turned all of them down. I don’t even know what he feeds on.
HFM: Well, this is an easy one to answer. I feed on intellectual curiosity and stimulation. The feeling of a human mind working to solve a mystery is my meat and drink. Indeed, simply reading this file has been rather like enjoying a fine wine, full of nuance and flavor.
As to pacts… I made a pact once. It was with a young woman of great talent, and greater curiosity. I was uncertain what I could do with her, and we explored the pact together. I found that I gave her the ability to unearth secrets. To ferret hidden knowledge out of people, no matter how they tried to bury it. Things that should have stayed buried. Things that should have died countless aeons ago. It ended poorly. I was forced to kill her. I do not believe there are things that man was not meant to know, but I do know that there are things that some people are not prepared to know. Talent and curiosity are not everything that a human being needs to delve into madness.
As for what I can do… Well, I can kill wolves. What more do you need me to do?
There are two primary legal factions to a Fairy Court. There are the King’s Men, and the Champions. The King’s Men are the equivalent of prosecutors, and Champions are the equivalent of defense attorneys. I have been recognized as a Champion of the Fall Court, which essentially just means I’m on their books as available to defend. I don’t get a lot of high-profile clients, because I charge money, and most fairies have money. That means I’m limited to defending those who don’t have much of anything else with which to hire a Champion. And yes, I know, the Champions almost always charge. There’s not much of a Public Defender situation among the Fairies, besides me and Alfred.
The position of King’s Man is first and foremost to avenge slights against the King. They’re expected to win. Truth is also considered useful and important, but if you get the truth and you lose, it’s kind of a booby prize. The Fall Court’s procedures use riddles; Asking them and answering them, with the first to be unable to guess three times being the loser. The actual questions can be almost anything, as long as someone besides the asker could figure out the answer; No ‘What have I got in my pockets’ bullshit. Jeopardy, as it happens, is great training for this kind of questioning. The Fairies often try to cheat, by choosing stories that are long-since forgotten, but they’re not always the greatest at this.
HFM: I confess, I didn’t expect you to be so familiar with The Hobbit. Still, while winning is generally regarded as paramount, I am not necessarily so focused. It makes me a somewhat unpredictable King’s Man, but he still tolerates my quirks for the sake of my skill. When there is a case that I must win, I have never lost. And when I do not win, my liege is usually mollified by what I discover in turn. It is a delicate game, but one worth playing. The truth of the matter is that there are always more secrets to be found, and asking a question that nobody but you knows the answer to gives little satisfaction.
I was very impressed, though, with the way you taught me about happy primes. Few fae study such recreational mathematics. It was a novel approach to the riddle game. Those are the little things that I find promising about you.
So… There’s the obvious one, of course. The Half-Faced Man, in the first case we ever did, saved my life. I was about to get my throat torn out by some horrible thing from the nightmares of humanity’s early days, and he stabbed it with an iron knife. Killed the bastard stone dead. I’ve had my life saved a couple of times, but it was what happened afterwards that made the strongest impression on me. The two of us went to a bar together, sat down, and tore through some beers, and played some darts.
Most Fae can never turn off the whole ‘fae’ thing. They’re mysterious, above-it-all bastards all of the time. They’re a pain in the ass. (Polly: Hey!) (Atina: I wrote these case files before I met you.) (Polly: … Oh. I thought you were just trying to hurt my feelings.) But he was different. He was someone who I could treat like a normal person. So the two of us shot the shit for a while. He talked with me about some of the things he loved, I did likewise. We acted like two human beings, and we didn’t talk about the supernatural one bit. And so, while I know he may turn on me some day, and betray me, I still work with him.
Alfred: If you ever wish to have a good reason not to trust him, ask him about the Summer Queen. The previous one.
HFM: That… was an error in judgment. And it is also the reason why I no longer play only to win. The truth proved to be more important to me. If you wish to know the story, I will tell you. It is not something I am proud of. But it is not something I am ashamed of, either.
When I was a little girl, I loved dragons. When other girls were obsessed with unicorns and other phallus-adorned horses, I got a dragon doll. I thought they were the coolest thing ever. I read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern when I was about nine years old. I bought my first Discworld book, Guards! Guards! because there was a dragon on the cover and because it claimed to involve dragons. I was born in the year of the Dragon, for christ’s sakes, and I loved looking at the illustrations of the dragons on the placemats whenever my family went to the Grand China Wok Buffet. So, when I learned that monsters were real, the very first thing that I asked about were dragons. I wanted to meet a dragon. I wanted to pet a dragon. I wanted to make friends with a dragon. I wanted to ride a goddamn dragon.
So I asked Fang Fen, and she told me ‘They’re all dead.’ And I asked Alfred, and he said ‘They’re all dead.’ And I asked the Half-Faced Man, and he said ‘They’re all dead, but I met one once, shortly before she was killed.’
That’s life, isn’t it? You learn that monsters are real, that there’s a world of fantasy out there, and the one part of it you want so desperately to be real, the thing you’re most excited for, turns out to have been driven extinct a long time ago.
The thing that makes it complicated is that nowadays, nobody’s exactly sure what dragons WERE. They went extinct around the 1700s, with the close of the Age of Exploration. Some claim they were fairies of some kind, feeding on people’s fear of the chaos and the unknown. Others say that they were undead of a very peculiar type, who fed on some esoteric substances found only in princesses or on gold or whatever the hell else they fed on. But the thing that scared me the most…
In the bible, there’s mention of a creature called Leviathan. A beast so great that it was unkillable. Said to have twisting coils, and a whole hell of a lot of other traits that suggest that it was not a hippo, or an elephant, or anything but a dragon. It was made by God, as a signal of his power- A creature so great, only he could destroy it. Sort of like an omnipotence paradox, except with a threat implied: ‘I can make something so powerful that ONLY I can destroy it.’ Similarly, there are many representations of dragons in literature, often as a force of primal chaos; Apep, Typhon, Jormungandr, so on and so forth. (Fang Fen: Interestingly, you find relatively few of these kinds of myths in Eastern mythology. In the East, the dragon is a divine bringer of rain; Perhaps dangerous, but ultimately necessary.) (HFM: Though notably, the Naga of Indian mythology had a less-than-flattering reputation, at least in some of their epics. They are, however, considered relatively harmless to those who have not mistreated them, at least in modern times.)
So, what happened to them? I’m not sure. But I’ve gathered some of the information that I could learn about them in these case files. I guess just as a way for me to try to reconnect with that idea. They’re a grand ideal, you know? Noble and powerful, the first of all things. There are suggestions I’ve seen that they were inspired by people finding dinosaur skeletons. And I suppose it would make me very sad if it turned out that they went extinct, too…
Historically, there’s no such thing as a ‘weak’ dragon. You never hear about dragon whelps being killed by some random person. Why is this? What is it about dragons that makes them so damn powerful?
Alfred: So far as I know, the last dragons died out in the mid 1700s. And the strange thing is that dragons seemed to become lesser as time went on. In the old days, they were deities, divinities. I believe that dragons may be a form of Fae for this reason, that feeds on- for lack of a better word- heroism. As the changing face of battle- firearms, artillery, and squad training- changed the way humans thought of heroism, dragons were gradually starved of their food source. It isn’t that the individual dragons were being born weak, but that they were being malnourished.
To my knowledge, they were massively powerful at their height. Dragons were the pinnacle of what it meant to be a hero; Slaying the primal chaos. They may have been simply a form of extremely peculiar undead. It’s said that they could take the shape of humans and did so to trick others; They might have been a primeval form of Lycanthrope. A terror beyond words. The strange thing is that they were also often thought of in romantic terms. Echidna was half nymph, half dragon, and certainly seductive.
Fang Fen: I have often considered that Dragons may have been a form of god. The old and powerful things that humans worshiped, back in the days when there still were gods. They certainly were potent enough, and they occupy a curious place in humanity’s imagination, as Atina has shown. (Atina: I’m never going to hear the end of this.) To be certain, it was never clear that dragons could coexist with humans; They always seem to be at odds with them. Humanity may have problems with their gods, but they never hated them, they never feared them, the way that humans hated and feared dragons. (Alfred: I don’t know about that. Some religions get very antagonistic about their deities.)
HFM: One thing that I am certain of is that they did not make pacts. No wizard has ever successfully gained power from a dragon, at least so far as I know. A few tried, a few more are recorded as having claimed to gain such power, but no dragon ever confirmed this granting of power. This may be evidence that they are not fae, or undead, or even demons.
WRONG WRONG WRONG
This one is… archaic. And kind of hard to believe. But the Half-Faced Man swears it’s true, so it’s either true, or a very elaborate metaphor.
HFM: Dragons are beings of the most primal chaos. They do not interact with society. They do not obey laws. They are forces of nature, and things unto themselves. They do not take leadership positions, because they do not need lesser beings to bring their views into reality; They could simply enforce their vision of the world onto what is real. But, in the great state of Atlantis (Alfred: Really?) (HFM: Is it so odd to believe that it could’ve been real?) (Alfred: Then why has no one ever found it?) (HFM: They are looking in the wrong place.) there was one who took power. The wyrm Halcifax, ancient and powerful, was the queen of Atlantis, and ruled over it with an iron fist.
I REMEMBER HER
Halcifax ruled over Atlantis, wise and kind, for a thousand years, before the inhabitants grew restless under her dominion. They demanded the right to conquer and spread, to share their power across the world, but were refused that right by Halcifax. And so, they turned against her, and as a punishment, Halcifax sunk the great nation below the waves.
In the wake of this destruction, the people of Atlantis were scattered, and it stood as a warning to all others that dragons were not to be trusted as leaders. And so the era of the great serpents ruling over their lessers was brought forever to a close.
… I put this here just because I wasn’t sure where else to put it. I have a theory about dragons. It’s a strange one, but… The bible said Leviathan was something very much like a dragon, and the same of Satan. Creations of god that were meant to test his other creations. So… What does that sound like?
In all that I’ve learned, I haven’t met a single member of the supernatural community who claims to have met god- Not even the demons. I don’t know if God exists, and nobody’s been very good about enlightening me.
But what if Dragons are a kind of demon? They’re notorious for their desires, their intense feelings, and their greed. What if they were a creation of God? … I try to keep away from demons in my business. Nothing good comes of making a deal with a demon, and I don’t much trust their laws and courts, not least because they seem to take so much inspiration from the human legal system. So what would it mean to me if it turned out that dragons were a kind of demon?
I guess it doesn’t matter that much. Much as I hate to admit it, they’re all dead now.
I AM NOT DEAD YET.
7 thoughts on “Case Files 2: Redcaps, The Half-Faced Man, and Dragons”
these case files are great! almost better than the story itself!
“(HFM: In other words [etc.])”
What does HFM stand for?
“*The remaining four paragraphs have been heavily scratched out.*”
oooooh, it stands for “half-faced man”. how do you delete comments?
Not sure it can be. I could put it in the trash, but I think it’s more fun to leave here. Forever. 😀