It started in Faeryland with the Faery Queen. Now, there were (are) more faery queens than could (can) be named, and each thought herself Queen of Faery entirely, but they each ignored one another quite well and so the illusion of their complete rule was upheld.
This Queen had a land of green growing hills and strong vibrant forests. She had castles more than could be counted and sons more than could be said, but the last and most cherished of her line was her only daughter and heir – Claire Clarice Clarene. The girl was as lovely as could be with skin as dark as night and hair as wild as the forests surrounding the castles. She could speak to any animal that did see her, and she could grow any plant she did touch. She could speak as eloquently as any and write as masterfully as scholars. She wore the finest of silks and the most precious of jewels. Nothing, however, could compare to her kind disposition and unflinching commitment to all that she did.
She grew, and as these things happen, many heard of her beauty. She was elegant and dark, they said. She is heir to a great throne, they said. She is the best rider in the land, they said. She is as tall as a fir tree, they said. And so knight of faery and men came to woo her, and her mother hosted them all.
Claire did not find among them good suit, though, and so her mother gathered all nobles in Faery to her castle for a great ball. Claire was older now and as tall as her mother (far taller than a fir tree to be sure), and she dances with all the many men in the room. But no boy caught her eye, for as soon as she had entered the ball she had seen by far the most beautiful person to ever be – a princess born to some unimportant queen (who no doubt thought herself the Queen of Faery, just as all did and do). She carried her dark brown hair in baskets, the length of it was so long, and she covered her tan skin in the brightest of cloths.
“That is who I wish to marry,” Claire said to her mother. The Queen balked.
“You point falsely. Show me the man you choose.”
“I choose no man,” Claire affirmed. “I choose her.”
The princess, having seen Claire’s gestures, came quickly to the throne where the Queen and heir stood.
“Is there some trouble?” she asked.
“Yes,” both mother and daughter cried.
“I wish to marry you,” Claire said, reaching forth.
“I wish you to leave,” the Queen said, pulling her daughter away.
“Wait!” the princess cried. “Give me but an hour with her, and I shall cure your daughter of this folly.”
The Queen considered, and seeing honesty in the princess’ eyes gave her daughter forth. The two hurried to a secret room overlooking the great wide road away from the castle, and upon closing the door Clair cried:
“Do you believe my love is folly?”
“I believe you know little of love, but your mother less still,” the princess said. She saw the tears that poured from Claire’s eyes and held her face in her hands. “But love strikes me too, though I know it should not.” She kissed Claire briefly, barely sparing a moment for them.
“I do love,” Claire whispered.
“If so, leave this place. For we are struck with affection, but there is no future here. Take half my hounds and men and flee, and find a place where love is above all things.”
She kissed Claire again and took flight from the window as a bird, her great cry signaling her troop to leave with her toward other castled lands in Faery. Below Claire could hear the howl of faery hounds, waiting. She leapt unafraid from the room, and with sure feet she landed on a steed and led the troop she had been given away, fleeing as her mother screamed her name.
They traveled an age, the hounds never tiring and the men never hungry, until at last Faery became wild and frightening even for them, and in the raucous woods they came upon a stream.
Claire – now Clarice – stepped from her horse and bid her group to stop. Rest was not necessary but a joy nonetheless, and she stripped eagerly before wading into the stream. “Oh sacred spring,” she murmured, lifting the water to her head. But she could speak no further, as at that moment rose from the water a woman with porcelain skin and reed hair with eyes like stones from the depths of a river. If the passion Clarice had felt for the princess was love, the awe that captured her now was ruin.
“Your beauty takes my tongue and bows my head,” she whispered.
The woman did not speak but moved forward, and it was then Clarice saw the jagged wound in her chest, pouring forth murk and muck and rough stone. She ached at the sight. Softly, she placed her hands upon the wound, and she felt underneath her flesh the liquid body stitch together and heal, a scar of silver running through the faery.
“Bless the one who heals me, and may I be forever at your side,” the woman said, and with a great cry fell dead at Clarice’s feet. Before the troop now lay no water but another path, the forests of Faery growing quiet. Clarice lifted the woman upon her horse and pointed forth.
The troop moved onward, pressing until all that lay before them was the steel and building of man and all that lay behind was the forest and field of Faery. Clarice looked in all directions, and with no hesitation slid from her steed and grabbed one rod of man and one root of Faery. She slammed each into the other world, and with a great sigh pulled forth her own heart, burying it between the two.
A great thunder was heard, and a great quake was felt, and in that space where her heart was buried burst forth a gate.
“All who enter here,” Clarice said, “are of the West, beyond faery and man both, in a land of both and neither. All who enter will be mine, to protect and love and lead, and this world will be our own – one where love and truth of each is free.”
She gathered the woman from her horse, and with a great heave opened the gate. The woman woke at once, and beheld the new world with a joyous cry, flinging herself into the land and bringing forth a river as wild and wide as any.
All those that had traveled with her joined Clarice – now Clarene – and that is how the West came to be.