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Who Are The Fata?

Fatas by Kay Nielsen (1912)

Fata are always female, usually fey, can appear beautiful or ugly, young or old, and frequently come in trios. The similarities to hags and confusion with them is understandable, because of a secret too private for fata to even allude to and too dire for hags to ever admit: The two are related. Fata are the benevolent sisterhood to the sinister sorority of hags. The main difference is that where hags are evil, fata are good, fata being the fairy godmothers of legend.

Kay Nielsen (1912)

Photo Credit: Kay Nielsen (1912)

Faces of Goodness

Age and youth, ugliness and beauty, poverty and prosperity, are less predictable, changing with the seasons, whims, fashion, and the vagaries of fey law and etiquette.  Fata can appear as ancient crones, kindly matrons, pretty or plain young maidens, haggard beldames, beggars or queens as it suits their designs, testing mortals to learn their true natures or teaching them to not judge a book by its cover.

Which Witch is Which? 

It should be stressed that mortal standards of beauty are just that — mortal — but fata and hags are wise enough to know them and so assume guises of utter ugliness, supreme beauty, or perfect plainness with no correlation to wickedness, goodness, or neutrality except as suits their designs and mortal expectations.  Moreover, beauty, ugliness, and plainness? All three can be both blessing and curse and deployed as such to teach whatever lesson a fata or hag wishes to teach or used as reward or penalty.

Fairy Godmothers

Fata do not have children of their own but love to stand as godparents to the children of others. If misfortune befalls the rightful guardians of a fata’s godchild, the fata will step in, raising the child as her own and doing her best to see that they live a happy and fulfilling life as a mortal. But sometimes the child decides to follow in the godmother’s footsteps and so is welcomed into the sisterhood.

Hags Inverted

The darkest secret about fata and hags is also the brightest, for just as sometimes hags metamorphize from one type to another — and fata do the same — sometimes in a metamorphosis something goes deeply wrong or very right: a fata can become a hag or a hag can become a fata, good and evil trading places. As with all things fey, the cause can be as great and as trivial as an unintentional slight or an unexpected kindness, and as with prophecy, hard to predict, but easy to understand in retrospect.

Faerie Gifts

While fata hold as much secret knowledge and power as do hags, they do not trade it in dark bargains like their wicked sisters, but instead give it away to the worthy, the righteous, and the needy.

Fair Natured

While related, there are some key differences between fata and hags which the canny may observe: Where a hag perceives beauty as ugliness and ugliness as beauty, a fata does the opposite and more, perceiving evil and sin as ugliness but goodness and virtue as beauty. As such, where a hag will often cover herself with filth and grime to enhance her ugliness, wearing frayed and tattered garments at best, a fata, even an ugly one, usually prefers to be clean and spotless, her clothing appearing neat, carefully mended, and maintained. 

This extends to the environment around a fata as well: Where a hag’s domain is one of gloom and horror, a fata’s demesne is bright and cheerful. This even extends to her collection of charms: a hag’s lair is filled with grisly curios and fell fetishes, but a fata’s domain has charming oddments and quaint knick-knacks. Fata especially love to make a grand and beautiful entrance, so will appear in a chariot drawn by cats or swans or descending by means of an enchanted parasol or fancifully colored giant bubble.

Bright Sisterhood

Fata love and respect their fellow fata and so respect every courtesy, announcing their presence when they pass through another’s territory, bringing appropriate hostess gifts, and if there is time and they are welcome, making a proper visit. They treat hags with the same decorum, if not more, which inevitably leads to conflicts and careful diplomacy.

Fair Lairs

Fata dwell in lovely surroundings — shining seashores, wildflower meadows, glittering oases, gingerbread cottages, and castles on clouds. In time, the land around a fata demesne shifts to reflect the fata’s nature and may even work to keep away the wicked and unworthy while providing shelter and sustenance for the innocent and the good. That said, a fata who has transformed into a hag may keep the pleasant trappings for a time, her lair only revealing its sinister nature when it’s too late.

Green Ladies

When a Green Hag transitions to a fata, becoming the Fata Verte, while her magical powers remain mostly unchanged, her obsession with tragedy changes to an obsession for happy endings. She will become as beautiful as she was ugly and will cause flowers to bloom and songbirds and small forest creatures to appear as she goes about matchmaking, mending broken hearts, and finding ways to right old wrongs.

Sea Nymphs

Sea Hags who make the change to fata become the infamous Loathly Ladies, appearing foul and loathsome until such time as a hero treats them with perfect courtesy, at which point they become beauteous nymphs. Their Horrific Appearance is replaced with Blinding Beauty, giving the Blinded condition to any who behold them in their true form. Their Death Glare power is replaced by Charming Gaze, allowing them to charm any who have been previously blinded by their beauty.

Good Fairies

Perhaps the most radical transmutation is when a Nighthag becomes her opposite, changing from a fey exiled to Hades to one exalted to Elysium, her face radiant as a Nighthag’s is shrouded in gloom, her devilish horns replaced with an angelic halo, as she becomes a Fata Morgana. Fata Morgana use their powers of illusion to enter the thoughts of dreaming mortals, inspiring them to commit good deeds and shun the path of wickedness.

Relations With Hags 

The curious thing with fata is that, as fey, their relations with the hags, their wicked sisters, remain mostly unchanged. Hags hate each other, but hate fata even more, and the feeling is mutual, though hate might be too strong a word for the emotions of the goodly and sweet-tempered fata, who are merely severely disappointed with their unkind sisters and await their reform, making the hags hate them all the more. Fata may even be part of covens, hags hoping they give up their extreme change of heart or hoping that it’s part of a long game and cunning stratagem.

Birth Blessings

There is nothing a fata likes better than blessing a child, whether in the womb or at a birthday or other appropriate rite of passage, but their favorite, by far, is at a christening ceremony where they might even be named godparent. That said, there are few creatures more miserable than a hag in a coven with two fata who drag her along to christenings where they expect her to give the child blessings, which the hag must do, because of the obligations of fey etiquette.

Poetic Curses

Of course, fata being reform-minded and still fey, the curses dispensed by fata rival those dished out by hags, it’s only a matter of who is on the receiving end. Hags curse the good, fata curse the wicked, and both, being fey, will curse the rude and impolite who do not give them proper respect. A fata’s curse will match the sin it’s punishing. A boor might become a boar, a vain individual might become a literal peacock. Fata will remove a curse when they are satisfied the subject has repented their sin and learned their lesson.

Fata Names

Like hags, fata like homespun names and will happily share some of the same titles as hags, such as old, auntie, or granny, as well as all the common hag first names but prefer more pleasant-sounding last names. Any of the following names are appropriate for both fata and for hags masquerading as them.

D12           TitleFirst Name      Last Name
1Madam  Bertha Sugarplum
3Little  Millie  Miniver
4Goodie Hazel Gumdrops
5Godmother    Trudy Turtledove
6Missus  Sophie Brambleberry
7Frau Susie Snapdragon
8Dainty Dora  Honeybun
9Nanny Clara  Velvet
10Fairy  AnnieCandyfloss
11LaughingLucy Sweetwater

Shared Spellcasting (Coven Only)

While all three members of a fata coven are within 30 feet of one another, they can each cast the following spells from the wizard’s spell list but must share the spell slots among themselves:

  •         1st level (4 slots): charm person, identify
  •         2nd level (3 slots): locate object, suggestion 
  •         3rd level (3 slots): counterspell, phantom steed, remove curse
  •         4th level (3 slots): fabricate, polymorph
  •         5th level (2 slots): creation, seeming
  •         6th level (1 slot): true seeing

In the rare case of a mixed coven of fatas and hags, the spell list, fata or hag, is determined by the majority.

Fata Baubles

A fata coven can craft a magic item called a fata bauble, which is usually a doll, stuffed animal, hobby horse, or similar child’s toy, but occasionally a hand mirror, cameo brooch, or other small object that has or can show a face. The fata bauble is usually entrusted to a godchild or trusted servant. A fata in the coven can take an action to see what the fata bauble sees if the fata bauble is on the same plane of existence and may take the same action to speak through the fata bauble’s mouth. Spells cannot be cast through a fata bauble, but information may be conveyed. A fata bauble has AC 10, 1 hit point, and darkvision with a radius of 60 feet. If it is destroyed, each coven member takes 3d10 psychic damage and is blinded and struck dumb for 24 hours.

A fata coven can have only one fata bauble at a time and creating a new one requires all three members of the coven to perform a ritual. The ritual takes 1 hour, and the fata can’t perform it while blinded. During the ritual, if the fata take any action other than performing the ritual, they must start over.

Check out the Fata featured in our Books of Beasts!

Fata Arie

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Kevin Andrew Murphy writes short stories, plays, poems, novels, and roleplaying games. A long-standing contributor to Wild Cards (www.wildcardsworld.com), George R.R. Martin’s super-hero series, Kevin’s story for Mississippi Roll, “Find the Lady,” won the 2019 Darrell Award for Best Novella. On the gaming end, Kevin’s currently editor in chief for Savage Sign, the Savage Worlds roleplaying game magazine. Kevin’s next short story is “Anastasia’s Egg” coming out in October in Weird World War III edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett for Baen. A lifelong resident of California’s Bay Area, Kevin has recently relocated to Reno, Nevada.

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