Gather, mortal children, and I will tell you of Glimmerdark, the faerie revel which, like all things fae, is filled with great wonder and beauty, but is dangerous to those who aren’t careful. Listen closely. If you heed these words, you just might make it out alive.
The revel takes place in Princeton, NJ, in the Hyatt Regency hotel, in the dead of winter. Fae (and mortals) from all over the region gather at the hotel filling it with song and dance and food and mead. The halls and common rooms fill with peddlers selling all manner of wondrous goods.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with the fae is not to take anything for free and not to enter into any bargains unless you are absolutely sure of the terms, lest you find yourself in their debt. This is why you must not enter the hotel floor without a festival pass. Nothing in fairie is free, not even lilting notes of music or the graceful sweep of a dancer’s hand caught out of the corner of your eye. Your pass is your payment for these things, and your permission to enter. If you attempt to enter the faeries’ temporary realm without permission, you may find yourself spending a year in faerieland for each night you stole.
The second thing you must do is assume that everyone you meet is fae. Some will have obvious markers, like horns and hooves and pointed ears, but many will look just like you. Do not be fooled. There will be other mortals at the festival, surely, but fae glamour is strong and wiley, and most have centuries to perfect their human disguises. The gap below the pointed ear, the band you see holding the antlers to the head, may just be illusions: clever, efficient little glamours designed to give the appearance of humanity with minimal effort. Be careful, and don’t let down your guard. Treat everyone as you would one of the sidhe: be courteous and respectful and don’t take anything for free. Fae wizards have turned mortals into fish for decades for annoying them, so it’s best to take precautions. Even the hotel staff could be fairies in disguise, so tip generously if you don’t want everything you eat to taste like toenails for seven years.
Pack carefully, so you don’t need to barter with the fairies for items you’ve forgotten. Arrive by Friday evening. Check in to your room and claim your badges. There will be a table with pens and blank spaces on the badges, on which for you to supposedly write your name. Do not do so: this is a trap. Write a false name, a book character or gamer tag, or leave the card blank. Revealing your true name to fairies gives them power over you and makes it easier for them to ensnare you with their contracts. Do not give it out unless it is absolutely necessary.
When you are settled in your room, afix your false name-tag about your neck and descend to the lobby floor. Walk under the cloud of mirrored diamonds suspended from the ceiling, past the pools of koi fish that may or may not have once been human, and make your way to the hotel bar. There, you will find delectable food and ale and sweet honey mead. These things aren’t free but, like much of Glimmerdark, they are worth the price.
When you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, wander the festival, seeking out the music and dancers tucked into the Hyatt Regency’s halls and conference rooms. Browse the vendors, but be wary of trying anything on. Clothes and jewels of faerie make are exquisite; if you try them on you may have difficulty taking them off again, and if you can’t take them off you will find yourself indebted to the peddlar. I made the mistake of trying on a jeweled circlet topped with pheasant feathers. If you are willing to pay the price, you can make off with all sorts of beautiful artifacts.
Children are welcome at Glmmerdark and would no doubt be delighted by the sights and sounds. Bring your children if you wish, but keep them within sight. Nothing tempts the fae folk more than human children to steal. To be safe, disguise your little ones as fae creatures to make them less tempting targets.
As with any festival, it is important to stay hydrated. The wait-staff may offer you water with your meals, claiming it’s free. Nothing in Faerie ever is, and, for the weekend, the Hyatt Regency Princeton is part of Faerie. Be sure to offer something in return: a short song or poem or a bit of prestidigitation to delight your server. You can avoid this entirely by bringing your own water or joining the ‘Endless Tea Party,’ which gives you access to unlimited hot tea. This may seem too good for its price, but be reassured: the tea is mediocre and the water a bit too hot. Fortunately, these things hardly matter at a festival in the depths of winter. Besides, you can always supplement your tea with something from the cash bar.
If you are reading this, you must be fond of games. You have this in common with the fae. There is a game room off one of the corridors. The walls are lined with games and models. There are tubs and racks of shining dice. And, of course, there are tables on which to play the games. Play them with your companions, or with strangers if you dare, but wager at your own risk.
You may see signs for a ‘batfrog habitat.’ This is billed as an art installation but is, in fact, a portal to a tiny pocket of faerieland. If chosen to enter the portal, make sure your companions know where you have gone. Once on the other side, breathe in the sights and sounds, let them wash over and through you, but always remember who you are and where you come from. Consider tying a rope around your waist before you enter so that your companions may pull you back, in case you do not return on your own.
A few words about fae hospitality: they take it very seriously. As long as you are a guest of Glimmerdark or the Hyatt Regency, no harm will befall you and you may not harm your hosts or another guest. Doing so will result in expulsion from the festival…or worse. Bringing steel weapons to the festival is considered a breach of hospitality; it is well known that fae kind are vulnerable to iron. The rules of hospitality protect you to a degree, but not completely. The terms of fae bargains supercede hospitality, and, furthermore, faeries can have creative definitions of what constitutes ‘harm’ (the koi in the pond, for example, are perfectly healthy).
Finally, the highlight of Glimmerdark, the fairie circus, is not to be missed. This is not because missing it will cause you to be cursed in any way. It is simply a very, very good show. There are acrobats, dancers, and even a singer. Just try not to react when the dances poke fun at foolish mortals. And, since the circus goes above and beyond the rest of the festival, make sure to tip the performers.
If you follow all these rules, you will return home at the end of the festival tired but happy. Your wallet may be thinner but you will still have your freedom, your human shape, and your first born child. A fair bargain indeed.
(Soliyra is a mortal human who enjoys normal, human activities while not writing. She has never even contemplated stealing a human baby.
Glimmerdark is a Faerie convention held in Princeton, NJ every February.)