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Okay, my setting is medieval fantasy and I've come up with a bit of a snag.

Scenario: long ago, a merchant acquired some unusual gems and got a wizard to appraise them (since they're well-versed in exotic and/or magical materials. To his surprise, the wizard revealed the gems held sleeping fairies, and that once the gem came across the right person, it would shatter and release a fairy to aid them.

The merchant got the wizard's hint: some people (royalty/nobility, adventurers, crusaders, rebels for a righteous cause) would need the fairies, so they (the fairies) made sure they would get to those people. However, there are some problems here:

  1. There's nothing really stopping someone from breaking the crystal open by force and enslaving the fairy within-if that person knows there's a fairy inside.

  2. There's nothing stopping someone from abusing the relatively naive fairies desire to help and reducing them to servitude (not to mention collecting them for "because more help never hurt anyone")

  3. Fairies are small and peaceful; while they're as strong as a human but scaled down to their size (think Barbie doll) and can fly, people can catch birds (and therefore fairies, they take off, fly, and maneuver as fast as the typical backyard bird) with a net, if not their bare hands, and so what's to protect them from sadistic and/or perverted people?

  4. What's to prevent people from selling fairies to people for profit? No, the merchants are not planning on selling the fairy crystals for more than normal; if the right person walks into their shop and they can do it without being noticed, they'll slip that person the crystal (see 2 and 4 below). My concern is fairy trafficking, akin to human trafficking in the modern world, which also concerns the merchant guild because it would tick off both the Fairy Queen and Wizard, which would then wipe out the guild and see them replaced with a more "reasonable" guild.

Summed up, my question is How Can A Merchant Guild Ensure The Fairies Right's Are Protected?

Important Considerations:

  • Timing-This is in the Renaissance era, society and technology-wise.
  • Motivation-The merchant guild wants to ensure the fairy's rights are protected because A) the Fairy Queen will come after them if they don't and B) the wizard who informed them has threatened curses and plagues upon them if they don't. The wizard is willing to help them, however...
  • Mage Limitations-The wizard is reasonably powerful; he can't make fairy crystals as hard as adamant or impossible to break except for the right person. He can, however, make fairy crystals 'slippery to the sight'-the wrong person for the fairy will be subconsciously guided A) not to notice the crystal and B) not to look directly at the crystal. This is subtle magic; it doesn't work on those who know of the fairy crystals, and it won't work on someone who recognizes the magic or is simply so strong-willed they bulldoze through the enchantment. He can also make fairy crystals bad luck for unworthy candidates, causing clumsiness and increased likelihood of unfortunate events (bad weather, missed appointments, encountering a bear or bandits while traveling, etc.). In the latter's case, the enchantment merely increases the person's chance of something bad happening to them by 30%.
  • Identification Methods-The wizard has given the merchants special spectacles that enable them to identify if someone is worthy for a specific crystal.
  • One Last Thing-For (hopefully) obvious reasons, the merchants need to keep the fact that fairy crystals exist (ie. that fairies hide in crystals, just waiting for the right person to come along) while encouraging people to respect fairy rights. They could use their motivation (see #2 above) but most people don't know of or even believe in the elusive Fairy Queen, and the wizard's only one guy, and their influence only goes so far....there lies my dilemma.

EDIT: Fairy Power-Fairies don't start powerful; they grow alongside their bonded human and gain power over time. A regular Fire Fairy, for example, can throw tiny sparks or light a candle with a touch, and on a good day, throw a tiny (candle-size) fireball. However, a Fire Fairy that's gotten really close to their "owner" can create and manipulate a bonfire's worth of flame or heat (a la Firebender, like Prince Zuko) and their owner will have become not only fireproof, but capable of pyromancy (once again, look at Prince Zuko).

As always, I appreciate your input and feedback. If you feel the close to VTC or downvote, please give me an explanation so I can improve this question and post better questions in the future. Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ (1) Human trafficking is an ultra-modern concept; it has only emerged in the last half a century or so. In the Renaissance they called it "lucrative commerce", and did it with enthusiasm. (2) Protecting the rights of non-members is extremely out of character for a guild. The guilds were closed associations set up to protect the profits of their members; I've never heard of a guild which spend one farthing to promote the rights of non-members. Therefore, the question is how can protecting the fairies be of profit to the members of the guild? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 8 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ I believe I covered that; if the guild ticks off the Fairy Queen or the Wizard, they get wiped out and replaced by a rival merchant guild. Fairy trafficking would do just that. Should I add that to the OP? $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 8 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Uhm... What can the fairies do? If they're strong enough to be of help to a king, they should have the power to make people respect them. Even if they're wise or cunning, they could certainly find a way out through trickeries or pure determination. I don't mean they will not get hurt, but... $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Feb 8 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ More concerning... I'm invoking the right of challenging the frame here. Isn't giving of fairies to people like they were candies already a trespassement of their rights as a person? Wouldn't they be better if they stay with their own kind, instead of becoming forced, lonely migrants? Finally, isn't the mage actually evil? They force people to risk their job and therefore their lives because they purchased a seemingly innocent gembox, ie doing their job? Wouldn't it be in fact better for the mage to handle them? Ugh... I'm sorry, I noticed too many weird things and couldn't hold on :'(... $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Feb 8 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena, no problem, let me address that. First, see the edit: fairies want to help people, because they gain power from a bond with a human. So they want to be given to a person, just the right person. The mage isn't evil, just a bit kooky (and a bit too pro-fairy) and he can't handle this because he doesn't have business connections or people skills. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 8 at 22:25
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Partial frame of challenge here, you are warned :).

They don't need to be protected more than that

There are three points that make me think that :

  • First, the choice of person : If the person given is truly the chosen one (like in most stories), they wouldn't dare hurting their new friend. And not hurting them includes putting them in useless danger.
  • Extending from this point, if said person is the chosen one, they should definitely come to help the fairy, should they get caught by an enemy.
  • Finally, bad guys won't find any use of the fairies if said fairies don't grow close to them, as you described. Lighting a candle is as useful as a match. If an unwilling, always trying to break free fairy is worth only a flint and steel, then I'd rather go to the market buy one of these item instead of bothering myself making iron chains and feeding daily a fairy to do the exact same job (if they even agree to do it!).

You will always have fairies who will get hurt and their rights baffled, but the most effective way to reduce them from being so is not to protect them like an overly bubbly father or mother. Doing so will at most give them a sense of false security, and at worst you'll get them dead because they have no knowledge of what the real world can be.

Now, to truly respect the fairies from the start

As of now, the merchant would be dead by curses and Fairy Queen magic by the time they reverse-pocketed the first gem to someone. Indeed, you shall not give them as items, that's the first thing to do if you wish to respect their rights.

Instead, awaken the fairies and offer them the choice. The choice of going with the stranger, staying with the merchant a little more or simply letting them away, Tell honestly and truthfully what they should expect if they make one or another choice, so they can make an informed decision, as a person. And this is true even if they only have the mind of a child. They have the right to know, and the one to choose for themselves.

It's a bad habit to think about someone based on their purpose (here, helper/supports), forgetting they have their own desires as well. It's surprisingly true when you think of fantasy creatures who only serve as the side-kick to clean the dust of the already brillant, marvelous main protagonist. And feys, due to their historical roles in fairy tales (not accounting the fact they're often females), are very sadly one of them.

My answer : teach

As to give an answer (it's still only a partial frame challenge), if you have to give them protection, it's through the person you choose who will live with them. They will become their mentor and friend and help them face the good and the bad side of the outside world. It's entirely useless to protect them physically or magically if they don't know what their rights are or if they face blindingly head-on the danger.

But before letting them go, the first, most trusted teacher the fairies should have to know how to live on a day-to-day basis with humans is you, the merchant. First because you can trust yourself, and you have a very good reason to keep them safe, Then, because you met and will meet a lot of different people, you should have an easier time recognizing the good breed of people from the suspicious ones, even without magic spectacles, and so can you tell the difference to the fairies. Also, given your large stock of items, they can learn what things do, and note the ones which are a threat to them and the ones which are not.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your thoughtful answer! I'll be using parts of all three answers, but I believe I'll be accepting yours. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 10 at 4:42
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Make the faires holy. They might be called fairies but society looks at them more like little angels You can't just sell them to anyone Without the approval of the church, And you can't buy them without this approval either. And trying to abuse them or enslave them is an automatic death sentence for blasphemy.

Also spread the word about that a unworthy man who tries to use a fairy will encourage the wrath of God Bad luck charm should help with this. This will encourage only people who are certain that there on the right side from trying to use the fairies.

Perhaps you could also have some sort of Holy paladin crusader group With fairies of their own. They could act as some sort of police force to deter fairy crime.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer! Religion is perfect for this! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 8 at 22:30
  • $\begingroup$ However, there are still some problems: plenty of hypocrites exist within religious structures, the Catholic Church got pretty corrupted around Renaissance times (if I remember my history right) and that automatic death sentence will just make people more secretive when it comes to fairy-related crimes.... $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 8 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias True its not perfect solution but there is no perfect solution. If there was a perfect way to stop abuse we would have found it. Best we can do is make incentives and deterrents. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 8 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't saying I wanted a perfect solution. I was hoping you could add more to your answer to address additional concerns, it's okay if you don't want to. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 8 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias I have a few more ideas $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Feb 8 at 22:53
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Fairies hatch.

The crystal is not a hammock. It is a chrysalis. The fairy-to-be inside is not ready. You can cut open a chrysalis if you want, but the thing inside is not a butterfly. So too the crystal and the fairies. If the crystal is broken prematurely, the thing inside is just a sad, dying thing of no use to anyone. For a fairy to finish metamorphosis, the crystal must be taken up by the right person.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, thank you! I'll be using this answer, so please don't feel upset if I accept another. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 10 at 4:43

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