by Lieutenant Tes Anderson
Do the Sidhe have wings? It is a question as old as time, and one certainly not helped by the interpretive nature of the aether. Did the Sidhe of myth and legend appear as winged beings because our brains could not conceive their true form? Or did we perceive them as having wings because myth and legend taught us to see them as such? Present understanding suggests that these ‘wings’ are, in fact, a manifestation of a Sidhe’s aura, filtered through our collective expectation. Whatever the true answer, however, the association between the Fair Folk and winged beings is so old and ingrained in our culture that it seems impossible to imagine them as anything else. As such, it should come as no surprise that, upon its founding, Seelie opted to use the image of the butterfly — a creature whose myriad and colourful designs are often ascribed to the Sidhe in description and recollection — as its insignia and emblem. And no more is that emblem apparent than in the brooch that all Seelie officers must wear.
The brooch is about more than simple identification, however, and its creation is considered something of a rite of passage. As part of their graduation from the Academy, all would-be officers must craft, using materials they have themselves acquired, their brooch’s body. This process ensures that the brooch is unique to them and contains, through their effort, a fragment of their soul. Once complete, Seelie alchemists encase this body in a thin coat of metal, which is then marked to indicate the new officer’s rank — usually, at this point, a second-grade lieutenant — and division, and shape its initial, often unspectacular, wings.
Rarely does an officer’s brooch stay this way for long, however, as it grows and evolves to reflect its owner’s accomplishments and acknowledgements. The most common of these decorations in reflected in the metal used to coat the brooch, from a simple tin alloy for newly commissioned officers up to layers of gold and platinum for those of exceptional talent. To earn these upgrades, officers must partake in qualification exercises, entry to which requires sponsorship from either a superior officer or, more rarely, a member of the Sidhe Court. Rarer still, an officer might find themselves offered an upgrade without completing the associated examinations, having demonstrated their ability through their work alone.
More prized than these coats, however, which merely represent an individual’s level of talent, are the various wings an officer can earn as direct acknowledgements from both Seelie and the Sidhe. These range from the simple Red, Blue, Green and Yellow wings that division heads can award their subordinates, to the Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Topaz Wings that the Four Queens themselves bestow. There are also special designs awarded to those who take part in specific operations or campaigns, such as the Rainbow Wings that the Sidhe awarded to those who stood with them on the plains of Antarctica during the final months of the Apostle Wars.
Given their uniqueness and high personal value, it might come as a surprise to learn that Seelie brooches do not fetch a high price on the black market. That’s not to say that people have never tried to part an officer from their wings, but, since those wings contain a fragment of that officer’s soul, it can be a difficult task indeed to separate them — and a task that is rarely worth the consequences of trying. It is for similar reasons that few have ever tried to replicate such things. After all, it is crime enough to defraud a person with lies and deceit, but to attempt such a thing using a symbol and blessing of the Sidhe themselves is to risk incurring a relentless and incurable wrath that even death itself cannot abate.
So, although the question as to whether the Sidhe have wings or not may continue to perplex scholars for centuries to come, it is fair to say that few can doubt the wings of Seelie, nor the influence – and intimidation – they confer.
Tes (it’s short for Therasia) has a bronze brooch with garnet-lined red wings, awarded (along with her epithet, ‘the Scourge of Lemegeton’) for her work in combating the threat of nefarious demon summoners (an experience she isn’t fond of remembering, and which convinced her to quit front-line combat for teaching).