I'm an old man now. I have spent the last thirty years learning all I can about creatures that live in the wild places; the truth of mankind's legends. In these dangerous days, it behooves me to write my story down, that it might be of use to the next generation. This volume has been compiled and condensed from notes and reminiscences from a journey I took in October 1991. That fateful trip shook my understanding of the world, and set me on the path to my life’s work and purpose. –Basil Sykes, Crypto-anthropologist

My Grandmother taught me all about the faeries. She had played with them as a girl, and received a special peep stone to let her see through magic the Fae use to hide. I was the only one who believed her stories. When she died, I stole her stone to forever prove that she was telling the truth. Through the stone, I saw a path that had been invisible before. I followed it to a ring of standing stones.

Something was wrong. the stones had been defaced with glyphs, and a massive iron-rod driven into the center.

A horseshoe in the door, or a nail in the pocket can keep away mischievous faeries. An 8-foot spike at a nexus of Fae magic may disrupt an entire kingdom! I continued my search, but found only a single, weakened pixie. Its breathing was labored. As the morning sun filled up the clearing, the pixie turned to vapor in my hands

During my time as a graduate student, I came into possession of notes and an itinerary that would take me on a trip to North America that would bring me face-to-face with wonderful, terrible creatures, and define the course of my life from that point forward.

Before I knew it, I was getting off a plane at Dulles International, and driving westward to the mountains.

With a population of only a few hundred, there is an almost suffocating smallness to Purgatory, West Virginia; like walking in on a family meal without invitation

When I reached the center of town, I went searching for supplies and a good meal I saw an older man, screaming, red faced, at a woman who was loading $600 of canned goods into a car that might've cost half that much.

"You and your... people are bringing corruption and damnation to a land that belongs to God!"

I walked over to the woman and asked her if she would go find us a table at the diner across the parking lot. the move was a bit presumptuous of me, but she seemed happy enough for the out, and went on in.

"Steer clear of THAT one," the old man said before storming off. "She consorts with devils”

Seneca drove a convoluted route, one that I could never retrace, to a modest old farm house. She honked the horn. “Hey, Jack! Come help me load this shit on Loretta!”

A short man with a baseball bat came stumbling out of the house, rubbing his eyes from an afternoon nap. Once Seneca vouched for me, Jack’s human appearance melted away to reveal his true face.

I was elated. This mute shapeshifter was the first fantastical creature I’d seen since I was a boy!

“Loretta,” it turned out, is a car-sized, horned opossum that they employ as pack animal. Seneca’s car was incapable of making it the rest of the way to the settlement.

We had to pile the groceries into Loretta’s saddlebag.

I could scarcely believe my eyes! Well over a dozen dwellings built inside the massive skeleton of an ancient Hill Wyrm!

The Wyrm, which might have lain dormant for millennia, died sometime in the mid-nineteenth century as part of a disastrous expedition to find and extract unique mineral resources from the area. Nearby streams ran red with its blood for weeks, giving these haunted hills a bad reputation. Some of the local goat folk soon took up residence in the carcass. A number of demons would join them after being abandoned by their employer in the wake of a cave-in at a meta-silica mine nearby. Those two groups, along with the occasional drifter and a surprising number of humans, formed the community of Wyrm Holler.

Belladonna Henbane seems to be the matriarch here. She told me a story of fighting behind the German lines in WWII. As tough and resourceful as she is today, I do not doubt her.

The Goat-folk, I learned, have lived in these hills for hundreds, if not thousands, of years! Seneca tells me of other folk in The Fray. Long-sought cryptids, witches, and much to my delight, faeries!

I see now that Seneca wasn’t exaggerating when she described these creatures as her family. They have traditions and inside jokes. They share all they have, and spend their evenings around a communal fire. There is real love here. I don’t think I was expecting that. I came seeking the strange and alien. I was still that boy chasing fantasies. I have known and loved people like these. The thing that has shaken me is how these monsters, these demons, are remarkably human.

At University, I studied with Orem Fielding, professor of Anthropology. As an undergrad, I devoured his lectures on the History of Western Civilization. Fielding’s membership in the “Faithful and Discreet Congregation” was common knowledge. The sect was known for being somewhat controversial, but their emphasis on education had won them acceptance in academic circles.

In fact, I dated one of their number for a short time. She had let slip that Fielding had a secret room attached to his office. In my research, I had seen a scrap of the Congregation's holy book; not the commonly available "Book of Moriancumr,” but "The Book of the Higher Law," which is restricted to their priesthood. The book was written in a version of the Enochian script. The exact script that I had seen scrawled across a ruined stone circle as a boy!

I infiltrated Fielding's office, and found his secret room. There, he had a small, black obelisk; a miniature facsimile of the grand, stone one on The Congregation's compound. He also had instruments of magic, and arcane tomes of ancient as well as modern origin. The professor would regularly take “research trips to places as diverse as the Philippines, Madagascar, the Congo. I judged by his trophy collection that his purposes were anything but academic.

I managed to steal one notebook, full of research and reconnaissance about a town in the Appalachian mountains. I came here hoping to save them from such a fate. I hope it is not too late.

They have Members here!

First, we saw smoke down the mountain. The farmhouse was burning.

Jack, the shapeshifting watchman… We knew as soon as we saw him, face-down in the field behind the house. Jack's wife managed to drag herself as far as the tree line, despite grievous wounds. In her arms she held their small son, whom I fear may soon be an orphan. High Priests of the Faithful and Discreet Congregation left their spray-painted mark on the door before setting it ablaze. Wyrm Holler is in danger. I can't let them face this alone.

Seneca had mentioned a community of faeries that lives here in The Fray. For all these years, I have held onto my grandmother's peepstone. The time has come for me to use it.

With Belladonna to help navigate, and my stone to lead the way, my little fellowship and I struck out into The Fray to find the path to the faerie kingdom. If we hurried, perhaps we could save Wyrm Holler.

Millennia ago, a calamity struck here. The fabric of reality was left in tatters. In time, it healed over, but not entirely and not cleanly. This is what they call TheFray. The loose threads are existential cul-de-sacs that can form entirely new biomes! Ones flush with exotic magics.

Sooner than expected, we made it to the gateway! Fortunately, a gift of music tapes and snack cakes got us past the gatekeeper.

I yearned for so long to visit the Fae. At my grandmother's knee, they always sounded so mythic and grand. After two days in Wyrm Holler, Fearies seemed familiar. Quaint, even. Even the king's castle was surprisingly humble. These Faeries had seen some hard times, which I suppose accounts for their lack of pomp and grandeur.

Most surprising was the king himself, who appeared to be human; an Irishman who said he could "smell the English" on me as we approached. Liam O’Leary was his name. He was not forthcoming about how he came to lead a Faerie kingdom. Though, it was clear that he had lived for centuries at that point. “I’ve seen what your people do,” said the king, referring, I presumed, to my nationality.

“I saw it at Kinsale, then again when I led The Folk in their flight to America. You think you have a monopoly on civilization. That you have a mandate to murder and enslave to build the world in your image.” “I’ll not defend the legacy of the empire,” I replied. Then, thinking of what Seneca had said of the demons of Wyrm Holler, I added, “That ain’t us. These folk right here need your help against exactly the evils you rail against.” At length, O’Leary gave his word that, when the fight came, the Fae will be there. Then he sent us on our way. I didn’t know if I could take him at his word, but I hoped.

By the time my party returned, there had been barricades raised at the entrance of the Wyrm, and those who were fit to fight sat at the ready. As the sun descended behind the hills, the headlights of several trucks pierced the twilit foliage. A half-dozen silhouettes of armed men emerged, and my pulse skyrocketed in anticipation of the battle. I am not a fighter. I never wanted to do anything like this.

My heart almost failed entirely when a familiar figure stepped into the clearing. “Basil Sykes!” he called. “I hope you’ve been enjoying the book you stole from me.” Professor Fielding was here!

I stood, shakily, and stepped into the light. “These people have done nothing wrong!” I said. “They deserve to live in peace.” Fielding’s face twisted with disgust. “They are not ‘people,’ Sykes! They have no souls. They are enemies of God. Do not make the mistake of getting between them and the cleansing hand of the High Priesthood.”

A creature of nightmare symmetries bounded to the professor’s side.

“We fight on the side of Angels. If you have chosen to reject righteousness, you deserve to burn with the rest of them.” Then, I got shot in the head.

I’m expected to make a full recovery.

A bullet grazed my skull, leaving me concussed and useless. I don’t remember much of the battle for Wyrm Holler, but at some point two of my fingertips were chewed off. I woke up in a hospital with very few answers about the fate of my friends. I found a note by my bed.

After everything with Professor Fielding, I didn't feel safe returning to Oxford. I went underground, running with demons, monsters, a coven or two. I did, eventually, find my way back to Wyrm Holler. It was long-abandoned by then, but it was good to remember. In nearly thirty years of living on the fringes, I haven't seen another group of misfits as close knit and welcoming as the Wyrm Holler folks. I wonder if things might be different if only the very strange weren't forced to live in the shadows. Oppression and violence thrive anywhere there is a people who are written off and ignored. I hope that, after hearing the tale of Wyrm Holler, you will understand why I have devoted my life to fostering ties between communities. Those you see as the "other" are more like you than you know. Maybe, in time, we can all learn to live together; that, though most of the residents have been scattered, the spirit of Wyrm Holler might live on. Warmest regards, –Basil Sykes

Wyrm Holler is just the beginning! Shannon Moore is a self-styled Demon Hunter who is only beginning to understand how large and strange her world is. She must heal from past traumas, and gather a misfit group of allies to save The Fray and, perhaps, the world. Wyrm Holler was conceived as a small-scale project during a hiatus from my first graphic novel, Love & Sects . It was always meant as prologue to something more ambitious. Enter The Fray , available online and, eventually, in print.

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