The Grove of Exiles
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The Grove of Exiles

We dare not name the place where our friends fled for fear of recreating that which led to their haven's creation. While it has many names, none will be listed here, as its true name is a great taboo.

Conspectus

The forest of our friends1 is a place of great danger. Inside, those who abhor iron hide from the Jailers, the ones who sent them there in the first place. The forest of those who seek Names is mutable and unpredictable, and should be explored with extreme care. Adventurers are advised to take precautions before venturing into the arboreal refugee camp, and should pay special attention not to refer to anyone or anything encountered within by any titles or designations, especially their own Name or names.

Knowledge

Traits: The foremost attribute of the land of the orphaned Children is the complete, all-encompassing, and inescapable might of one of the oldest known powers: the Name. While all titles, names, and descriptive designations are tremendously dangerous, it is one's Name which one must protect with all care.2 The inhabitants of the woods full of orphans will try every trick in their repertoire to regain what they've lost and rejoin our world. Every polite gesture, every barbed quip, every veiled insult will be in pursuit of a Name, because only those with Names may leave.3 Everything in creation has a Name, whether living or dead or inorganic. By giving something in the cursed place a name or Name, you expose to it the force that allows you to exist, something which each inhabitant, whether living or dead or inorganic, will absorb like a sponge. You then become the Name which you bestowed upon it, and that which you Named becomes you.

The world beneath the well is accessible via a very specific set of instructions.4 A ritual is used to access this forbidden location, the exact details of which are unknown after the theft of the original document in 1966. As of late, no other safe entrances have been discovered.

The forest in the flue can be reached by descending a staircase within a fireplace, then climbing out from a poorly-maintained well which appears to have been constructed of brick and mortar. Under no circumstances should one stray from this path, as none who have strayed have ever been heard from again.567

Nature: There are dozens if not hundreds of additional rules and suggestions,89 but they all boil down to the following: be detached and polite to all you meet, and do not give or accept any Names. Those who dwell behind the veil have lost their Names, and without a Name, they have become broken and incomplete. The woods in which they are trapped was specifically crafted to take advantage of this. Each entity within wants a Name of its own to replace the ones they lost when the Jailers stole the Name of their Queen. Among the trees which have seen much sadness, their lack of a Name is no longer a hindrance, but something which was grants them a new and unexpected power: the power to steal the Names of others.10

Remember that, although the entities living within the woods of words can be dangerous, even malicious, not one of them is there by choice.11 An essential part of interacting with the inhabitants is remembering that each and every one of them is a prisoner, locked in a place from which there is no escape without the theft of another's identity.

History & Associated Parties: In order to explain the history of that which we cannot discuss, one much first learn the stories of two negligent mothers: that of a great and terrible killer called the gumiho, and that of a Queen with nothing but hate in her heart.

Once upon a time, when the earth was new, there was a race of creatures once known as fairies. The superstitious called them the Fair Folk, and fair they were, as they were once possessed of a great and haunting beauty. The fairest of them all was a being who was once called Queen Mab. She treated mankind, who the Fair Folk referred to as the Children of the Sun, with the greatest irreverence; those who were not like her were not worthy of her respect.12 She was the greatest and most terrible of the Fair Folk, the most fickle and unpredictable of a fickle, unpredictable race. Her powers were wild and unnatural, and she wielded death with an uncanny amount of grace. Her aversion to iron, a common and unremarkable metal, was well known among her people and ours. Her sister, the Titan Queen, had more respect for humans, as her greatest love was stability and the natural order.

This dichotomy came to a head when Queen Titania commissioned cells to imprison the worst of the Fair Folk and their creations. Titania was able to subdue Queen Mab by removing her sister's heart and storing it deep within the earth where, unbeknownst to her, it festered like a wound and became a place of great wickedness and despair. She locked her sister within her own body, a body which became a prison for anything plaguing those known as the Children of the Night. Many of those who had supported her became guards at that prison, imprisoning their rivals within the bowels of the arboreal jail. Without their Queen, many of the fairies not located in Titania's Prison fled to the fringes of the universe, and began calling themselves the Children of Mab.

When the Jailers discovered the fell location of Queen Mab's heart near the dawn of the twentieth century,13 the Children of Mab approached them, seeking the dark heart of the Queen who slumbered beneath it. The Jailers refused, and so the Children of Mab slaughtered their opponents by the hundreds. One human, a particularly bright individual, was able to turn the tides with a weapon, a thaumatic ritual which ended their conflict instantaneously and nearly caused the genocide of the remaining Fair Folk. Queen Mab was dead, and when this bright doctor unleashed the ritual, it eradicated all traces of her Name. With their Queen's identity gone, the Fair Folk became the Children of the Nameless Queen, their once great beauty melting like ice. Some became skeletons as their perfect skin sloughed off their high cheekbones, their faces consumed by fire. Some became as woodland creatures, losing their proud and graceful bodies to those of field mice and rabbits, the lesser beings they so despised. Most blinked out of existence, never to be seen again.

In order to counteract the increasing instability of that area's reality, members of the Serpent's Hand managed to successfully spirit away those who had not ceased existing. The Serpent's Hand was able to use an ancient ritual pioneered by Elder Jeon, under the supervision of his only daughter, to create for them a prison, a land ruled by the power of Names where they would be able to exist without ripping the fabric of reality itself. There they remain to this day, the last of the race that once ruled over all of us, broken and leaderless and animalistic.

There are those among us who think this is a good thing.

Approach: Be polite. Be courteous. Be firm. Be wary.

Alternatively, do not approach at all.

Observations & Stories

Long ago in Korea, an elder Taoist warred with a prolific killer known to us as the Millennium Nine-Tailed Fox. This elder was unable to slay the beast, but did arrange a prison for her, a prison which held for nearly two hundred years.14 There are many theories on how he was able to accomplish this, but the most likely is the one which hinges on his theft of the source of the Fox's power, her "vulpine essence (狐精)" or "fox's marble".15 The elder perished during this attempt, but his methods survived with the other elders, passed down through generations with the help of his only daughter. Thanks to her, the ritual survived, and was added to the Wanderer's Library by members of the Korean Serpent's Hand in March 1919.16

A London scholar named Isabelle Holloway compiled an exhaustive dissertation of the rules and nature of the forbidden wilderness in a single volume called The Land We Cannot Name and the Laws by Which It Abides in 1923, which resided in the Wanderer's Library until its theft in 1966. In 1981, a revised version was published by Dr. Claire Wythers (née Horvath).17 The 1981 edition remains in the Wanderer's Library to this day, and the search for Holloway's original is ongoing. How she obtained such detailed knowledge of a book she couldn't have read remains unknown.

In 1999, a pregnant Dr. Wythers ventured into the place where words have power with her husband, Adam. Her reason for visiting was to seek out a native inhabitant, an alleged innocent who was caught up in the war with the Jailers in 1911, and ask her to be the child's godmother. Some days after the visit, Claire and Adam Wythers held a baby shower for their unborn son Jack, which the godmother witnessed from afar. The child was born shortly after, and proved from a young age to be a potent thaumaturge and reality bender. However, the child was abducted by the Jailers per something they referred to as Protocol-4000-Eshu,18 and the child's father was killed in the ensuing fight. Dr. Wythers left the Serpent's Hand, and her son's location remains unknown to this day.

A 2014 exploration revealed a human within the unstable woodland realm bearing the name of a known Jailer. However, none who encountered the name suffered the typical effects of such an event, no matter how he begged and pleaded and insisted that he was the true (removed).19 Based on encounters with the man with no name, he does not seem to be a threat, nor does he seem to be capable of utilizing the unique power of the place of his imprisonment. Please include any additional details found during encounters with this person should you encounter him.

Doubt

There is much about the fabled forest which we do not know. Studies and explorations are ongoing but difficult due to its unique properties. Although no other safe points of entrance have been found, members of the Serpent's Hand theorize that they may exist somewhere, as yet undiscovered.

Because the "essence" of the demon fox was contained within her fox marble, it is likely that the gumiho and Elder Jeon switched identities before one perished and one was imprisoned. Given how much of her power the demon fox lost, it stands to reason that she, like Queen Mab, lost her Name and had it absorbed by Elder Jeon, which allowed here to be imprisoned within Peach Blossom Land.20

  • There exists the concept of "true name (K: 휘 hü)", an idea which is roughly analogous to one's Name. This idea has existed in the eastern world for centuries, and is it perfectly reasonable for Elder Jeon to have known about this.212223

There is a significant amount of doubt as to where exactly the remains of Queen Mab are located, if such a thing even applies to her. Parts of her seem to exist within the location known as the Factory, some part of her is surely within Titania's Prison, and some may have been carried to the woods we cannot name. Even in death, even without her Name, some vestige of the Nameless Queen certainly exist somewhere. If it didn't, the place which is taboo would be empty. A bit of her may remain in each of the Children of the Nameless Queen, implying that she, and by extension they, may never be truly eradicated. Though their numbers are presumably few, they are ancient and powerful, and are known to have long memories and hold long grudges. They will not easily forget the slight dealt to them by humanity, and likely never will.

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