|Character Creation||The City||Directory: Changeling the Lost||Changeling Cast List||House Rules|
|Society||History||About the Venue||Locations||Player Guide|
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
- Carl Jung -
- The Seasonal Cycle - New Freehold
- Freehold Oath
- Freehold Titles
- Freehold Rituals
- The Embassy
- The Court of Springtime
- The Court of Summer
- The Court of Autumn
- The Court of Winter
For info about the Three Pillars Freehold, click here
Among the many urban legends of the World of Darkness are stories of strange, otherworldly people and monsters that hunt silently on their own or gather in shadowy cabals. Changelings tend toward the latter. They are social creatures in part due to a longing for companionship that can’t always be easily gained from their lost loved ones, and in part from necessity. Most changelings know that alone, one of their kind can be easily captured by the fae or their changeling allies and returned to Arcadia. To hide and protect themselves, the Lost cluster in cities. However, for changelings, not all cities are created equal.
No one knows how many changelings there are, and their numbers vary wildly by city. A very few cities, like Miami, are home to a hundred or more changelings. The Miami freehold contains slightly more than 100 changelings. Between them, the four Los Angeles freeholds may contain a total of more than 400 Lost — the largest number in an US city — and before Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans freehold contained almost 90 changelings. Portland contains about 100 Lost at any one time making it a smaller freehold.
The reason for these high concentrations of changelings is largely that the paths between Arcadia and these cities and others like them are in some way easier or shorter than those between Arcadia and most locations. Unfortunately, these paths also go both ways, and so the fae are more likely to visit these same cities. The connections between these cities and Arcadia are also not always static. Occasionally there are unusual events that result a dozen or sometimes as many as a hundred changelings successfully escaping Arcadia and all ending up in the same location in the mortal world at the same time, typically a location in or near a city that already has an unusual number of paths leading from Arcadia.
Like most cities, supernatural events are relatively common and these events create short-lived paths between Arcadia and the weirdest city. These are one way escapes for the soon to be Lost within. Unfortunately, Portland has been something of a broken place in regards to the Freehold till now. These paths would be found by Loyalists quite often and the errant changeling could soon be captured. It’s happened before when Freeholds were corrupted but this lasted for over fifty years. The Freehold has mostly consisted of people who escaped from outside Portland in cities like Vancouver or Seattle. Those Lost would often make their way to the Three Pillars and find oppression and neglect. The dreams of a better world would bloom within many.
Through fire and blood a new Freehold was born as the old lashed out in it’s anger at those who would dare defy it’s corrupted system. A Freehold must remain Free so many cried and the Blackbird, with his minions, fought so much more vehemently. Even his own allies were turned upon or broken as they found the extent of his madness including the venerable Princess Ro Hime who the Blackbird took great pleasure in manipulating. One crown refused to be a puppet while an old enemy to the Blackbird stirred up rebellion and thoughts of a better world.
Now the three pillars lie in ruins with the Blackbirds feathers scattered. Four crowns rose from the ashes to take up the mantle of the seasons. Great heroes such as Jennifer Silver, Ophelia Vann, Alastair Bolte, Conall Reese, Sylvester Eldridge, Oliver Vann, and Vrys Sarkhet along with numerous Ensorcelled individuals have helped give the new Freehold solidity. Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter stand together. The ways out of Arcadia are clear and safe now with new lost being able to step into a world that will give them the tools they need. No longer will exile be a norm but instead mentors will take up new lost to teach them the ropes and help them reclaim their lives.
“I <name> promise to always uphold the values of the Portland Freehold. I promise to stay vigilant against the tides of the True Fae and their Loyal. I promise to be supportive of my fellow courtiers when possible and in my own way. When the True Fae’s influence comes to turn us from our path I will stand defiant against their influence for my sake, and the sake of other Lost.”
Though each Lost my hold loyalty to a court, all are part of the Freehold. Each person will no doubt carve out their own life again and find their place not only within the mortal world but also within the Freehold and courts. Titles come from that and each gives a role, function, and power. Words have power and the True Fae recognize titles: even the pitiful ones granted from the freehold.
Mantle is not only the resonance a changeling feels with that particular season but it’s also a mark of status within the hold. As mantle rises a Lost will naturally gain a title, change titles, or be offered titles as a mark of their station and actions. Every court has their own titles they grant to individual courtiers but the Freehold has some of it’s own. Every title leaves a mark that the True Fae can see. This is something of a defense with powerful titles as it may change the perceptions of the True Fae towards a courtier slightly: you’re still ultimately chattel though. Rather than being a book, lamp, or piano the courtier is something of a dog or horse in their eyes: property to be reclaimed but something to be respected lest it bite or kick back.
A courtier is a changeling within the court who hasn’t taken up an entitlement. When an entitlement is taken up this title is replaced by the new entitlement specific title. Depending on the courtier’s titles can shift. For instance, a mantle 3 member of the spring court may be considered an Avante Guard or Joyeux while a mantle 3 member of the Autumn Court might be a Paladin of Shadows or Dark Ranger.
The Freehold needs a voice among itself and outside sources. This is the role of the Forerunner. While the ambassador handles diplomatic concerns the Forerunner handles internal debts, personal deals, and disputes between the courts. This position can be taken by anyone from any court no matter the season though they will find their mantle will shift slightly with the seasons. As a benefit the Forerunner has the option of gaining one dot of goodwill in the court of the season that can rotate with the seasons. If the changeling already has mantle in the reigning court it gains the potential to go up to a maximum of five.
It would be unwise to disregard prophecy, especially those of the dreaming worlds. Prophecy is inherent to dreams and can often give hints or overt clues as to what the future holds or even offer insight into current problems. The Annual Oracle holds a position of wisdom within the Freehold and they will often be asked to offer their insight on current issues during courtly events. (Mantle 3+ is required along with some source of prophecy.)
Stories are essential to a functioning Freehold as well as the typical politics of each day. It’s important to keep track of both for the sake of the future. The ancient tradition of verbal stories is something so intrinsic to human nature but it invariably changes each story fluidly, as it should. Recording those stories is of deep importance because no story is the same way twice when spoken aloud.
|Annual Scribe||Hunter Shadowstep||Darkling||Winter|
The Champion is the prominent non-royal changeling in the court chosen by the monarch themselves. This courier has taken up the responsibility of acting as a liaison to the other courts and is the chosen icon of that court. Courtly monarchs are often proud of their champions and other members of the court will often look up to them for advice, example, or as a powerful figurehead. Champions also represent their court at Freehold events and can often be called upon to make decisions, offer opinions, or vouch for waiting potentials. (Mantle 4 is required)
|The Sylvan Envoy||Empty||Empty||Spring|
|The Red Victor||Jennifer Silver||Fairest||Summer|
|Magister of Nightmares||Empty||Empty||Autumn|
|The Onyx Thane||Empty||Empty||Winter|
The power of the seasons will often choose someone to flow through. This can happen once per season and it grants the person can gain one more dot of mantle than normal to a maximum of 5. It often picks a person who has represented the courts and freehold well or a person who’s undertaken great deeds for their freehold. The Current Season Conduit will appear as bold and colored on the table below.
The Crowned leaders of each court are selected by the wyrd. Often done by contest of some sort, if there is more then one candidate for the crown. If there is only one person that the wyrd feels is best suited to bare the burden of the crown, that is who it will pick.
- NPC Only Position.
|Rose Queen||Nyan Skotoboinya||Fairest||Spring|
|Golden Queen||Debora Burnheart||Elemental||Summer|
|Ashen Queen||Amber Kalia||Wizened||Autumn|
|Onyx Queen||Krista Northbrook||Ogre||Winter|
The new moon is a dangerous time for changelings. The Huntsman can call upon the wyld hunt and bring fourth the baleful hounds to help hunt down changelings. It’s a night when cunning fae will remain in their hollows or homes to help avoid the hunt finding them. Others will go on the move and work to gain distance from their huntsman but the hounds are so very skilled at tracking.
Halloween and Samhain in general are a sacred time among Lost. It’s the one time of year where a changeling can walk around without a mask without the terrible effects of their mien striking mortals with inhuman terror. The veil between worlds is thin and humanity has grown to accept this a time for the weird and strange.
|Ambassador||Nyan Skotoboinya||Fairest||Spring||Seasonal Cycle|
|Mage||Sylvester Eldridge||Beast||Courtless||Seasonal Cycle|
|Mortal||Jennifer Silver||Fairest||Summer||Seasonal Cycle|
|Vampire||Ryuko Saito||Elemental||Fortean||Seasonal Cycle|
|Werewolf||Vrys Sarkhet||Beast||Spring||Seasonal Cycle|
The Blue Rose Crown, The Emerald Court, The Court of Desire
Anything that’s flawless is false. We are beautiful, my dears, not because we have no scars. We are beautiful because we refuse to be defined by them.
A crystalline sweat beaded its carved brow, and its Adonis-like smile splintered apart as she danced on. “This is not possible,” it said, more like a cough. “This is not your master’s music. That is not the gown your master dressed you in. How dare you laugh and sing and dance without me?”
A mortal might have identified the fear trilling deep within her eyes, but her smile was perfect brilliance, and the Huntsman wearing the Lover in Diamonds’ face quailed from it. “I’m deeply sorry,” she said. “Do I know you?”
“I swear unto spring that every moment of every hour of every day that I walk, dance, and sing free that I will keep desire rich in the world around me. Desire leads my heart and hope burns bright in my actions when the eyes of the true fae fall upon us all.”
Desire is a flame. It’s the fuel in the engine of ambition. It’s the warm rich red of passion and the pale insistent blue of hunger. It’s a will-o-wisp dancing just out of reach, leading the foolish to bad ends. You can’t live without its warmth and heat, but feed it too much and it’ll burn you to ashes.
The other courts don’t understand, of course. They reject the philosophy of desire. They may call it selfish, or short-sighted, or shallow. Why spend your time chasing pleasures, they may say, with the Others scratching at the threshold? Why don’t you understand what’s important?
Those are foolish questions. The Spring Court knows exactly what’s important. Passion feeds ambition and art. Hunger is an understanding of your needs. But most important, desire is the food of life. With laughter and joy and pleasure, changelings live — without these things, they simply survive. Desire is the key to taking your life back or building a new, full life. It’s an alluring philosophy, and it draws many Lost who don’t want to dwell on the past. And with the Bargain, it even refutes the power of the Gentry. Fuck you, it says, we don’t need you. You didn’t break us. You can’t break us. We’ll live and love and enjoy ourselves and forget you ever existed.
That last part is a lie, of course. But it’s a lie with power. If you seed the mortal world with pleasure, that dulls the siren song of Faerie. Your fellow Lost dream fewer dreams of return if there’s so much for them here. What’s more, the solipsistic Others can’t understand how their former pets can live without them. When they peer through a windowpane and see a room of Lost dancing and singing and making love as if nothing had happened, it confuses them. They doubt their own senses. Of all the ways to keep the Gentry at arm’s length, the Spring Court’s way is likely the most enjoyable — but it does require a hell of a poker face.
Spring is the enthusiastic patron of the Court of Desire. Spring is the transition from cold torpor to heat and light, the stirring of roots in warming earth. It’s a season for sex, as many human cultures recognize, but that’s an outgrowth of Spring’s role as the season of birth, when the world is turning greener and better able to nourish mothers and their newborns. The Spring Court often claims to have been the first Seasonal Court to form — while Winter was still in hiding, Autumn was still drawing upwards, and Summer was still daring hunters to chase it, Spring was receiving callers to see just what they wanted.
Desire may be the most pleasant harvesting, when compared to wrath and fear and sorrow. But it’s not always a matter of nourishing indulgence. Desire is one part passion, one part hunger. It can be a bitter dram of envy, a metallic tang of covetousness, or the overripe, perfumed bouquet of raw lust. A Spring Courtier might visit a strip club for a hit of raw sexual desire, or attend a social mixer for a more refined brew. But she can also find a poignant longing in an office building around five, when the workers who can’t leave yet desperately wish they could. A pet supply store’s adoption event is filled with the animals’ longing for security and belonging, reflected by human — especially childrens — desire to absorb and return a small animal’s love. Even a busy restaurant has strands of wishful thinking from diners who would like to indulge more.
Courtiers of the Rose Crown are especially aware of the reliance on mortal emotion. Many wish they could draw Glamour from the desires of their fellow Lost, particularly their lovers…and the Spring Court is not at all shy about encouraging romantic and not-so-romantic entanglements with other changelings. The mutual attainment of desire is a powerful tool for healing. It’s also a fine way to deepen bonds — if the Emerald Courtier is all that interested in deep bonds, that is.
- It’s a simple stereotype
- The Emerald Court is full of hedonistic, escapist lotus-eaters who refuse to look at anything unpleasant, or even admit it exists. As a simple stereotype, it is of course flawed and inaccurate. But it’s not entirely wrong. Most Spring Courtiers are clever enough to take the long view and disciplined enough to make sacrifices, because that’s what it takes to reject Arcadia and find your way through the thorns. And yet, the nature of their Bargain encourages them to look away.
The temptation of Spring is to draw power from what you want — which makes it all the harder to deal with what you don’t want. Pain, fear, rejection, loss…to most people, these things are the opposite of desires. The Rose Crown is absolutely strongest in times of beauty and prosperity, when everyone around them is either achieving their desires, or even better, has the hope that the realization of their ambitions is just around the corner. Conversely, Spring is weakest in ugly times when hope is dim. Emerald Courtiers gradually learn that it’s to their advantage to tell people “don’t worry about that for now.” And to some extent, to not worry about that for now themselves.
That’s the bitterness that balances out the sweet. Other Lost may admire and covet Emerald Courtiers for their passion and enthusiasm…and at the same time, hold them in some contempt. If you’re in real trouble, your Spring Court lover might be the last person you turn to, because she’s the most likely to change the subject. They aren’t often seen as reliable, and that can hurt. Even so, the disapproval of one’s peers is not the worst problem with denial, not when one considers the Fae. Their mastery of desire makes Spring the best-suited of any court to see through the beautiful glamours and temptations of the Gentry — but their penchant for denial leaves them vulnerable against enemies who use more brutish tools and tactics.
- High Spring
- The Emerald Court takes power with a revel. The rise of a new Spring monarch requires celebration, for reasons far deeper (and more contractual) than a show of pride. This first lavish event sets the stage for a Spring reign, as a promise of many more. Some Emerald monarchs hold grand parties as shows of power, demonstrations of their influence, and public displays of courage — Winter is over and done, and the freehold can fly their banners in pride without fear of being seen. Others think in terms of freehold morale. A populace that allows itself to be happy together will be stronger when the hard times come again.
Spring monarchs lead by example. They live extravagantly, succulency, to entice other Lost to do the same. It certainly helps that they’re feeding their own desires in the process. Of course, not all changelings look at these glorious excesses with admiration. A Spring monarch can easily acquire a reputation for useless decadence more than anything else. In some cases, it’s accurate. But other Spring monarchs know the value of skill of arms, occult learning, or a strong information network. These wiser rulers are generous with their favors and privileges in order to win the goodwill, loyalty, and sometimes love of the other courts. It’s not too difficult to tell the lackadaisical epicures from the dedicated leaders. A freehold quickly learns if their Rose Crown’s tines are blunted or razor sharp.
- Low Spring
- It’s fair to say that freeholds of the Seasonal Courts need all four courts to run properly. But the Spring Court is necessary to the other three in ways that are hard to equal. The Court of Desire is, among other things, a support group for all the Lost who need one. You need the Winter Court to gather intelligence, the Autumn Court to cast the magics, and the Summer Court to lead the fight — but you need the Spring Court to live in between all that. When the Courts tell newcomers what they have to offer, the Rose Crown stresses healing and camaraderie. We want you to be happy and healthy. You deserve that. Some praise the Spring Court for being supportive of each other court in turn, lending their diplomatic skill to help smooth out conflicts. Others criticize the Court of Desire for petty politicking and ridiculous games of one-upmanship. Both are right. The Emerald Court overflows with energy that doesn’t subside when they cede the throne to Summer. They can pour that energy into productive tasks, or they can vent it in potentially destructive intrigues if they don’t feel that they’re being properly appreciated.
In times of Low Spring, the Rose Crown takes roles that improve the freehold’s overall quality of life. Some tend to the physical needs of their fellow Lost. Spring produces quality horticulturists and gardeners, who may have a knack for goblin fruits as well as more mundane crops. Some take to healing, be it physical medicine or emotional therapy. At least one Spring Courtier in every freehold volunteers as a master of ceremonies and ritualist to help the other courts run their celebrations smoothly.
When Spring reigns, it compels an odd, partial peace. The Gentry and their loyalists cannot do violence to a freehold where a Spring monarch rules, unless that violence is born of heart’s desire. Lesser urges cannot negate the geas. It halts a traitor attempting to line his pockets, even if he “desires wealth.” It stays a raging Huntsman, even if one might call her wrath “a desire for vengeance.” To pierce Spring’s Bargain, one must truly covet one’s target…such as a Keeper coming to reclaim its absolute very favorite, the one who got away. The Court of Desire encourages all of its members to be very honest about their relationships with their former Keeper and fellow servants, in order to keep track of who will be the greatest potential threat year round.
In true Emerald Court fashion, Spring’s Lost try not to think about the ramifications of the Bargain too much. If Spring will permit violence meted out in the name of true desire, then does that mean their patron is more sympathetic to certain True Fae than to the changelings they harm?
The Court of Desire has near-innumerable rituals, celebrations, and obligations to perpetuate its Bargain. Other courts regard the Emerald Court’s obsession with festivals and balls as a dereliction of responsibility. Quite the contrary: Spring requires celebration. It begins each year with the Spring Revel held when Winter cedes power to Spring. At this bonfire-lit event, the court does its best to ensure that each guest has some desire of theirs met before the revel ends. Another common celebration is the Homecoming. This event is much more like a birthday party than the “homecoming” parties held by schools or sports teams. It celebrates the date that a changeling returned to the mortal world from Arcadia. Each year a Homecoming for the Spring monarch is most likely, but the court is glad to honor others, particularly the strongest and most delectable potential allies from Summer, Autumn, or Winter.
The court is also bound by one universal rule: Your Desires Are Your Own. This “Verdant Rule” has many interpretations and ramifications, but at its heart it is a meditation on responsibility. It reminds the Rose Crown to acknowledge the desires of others without judgment, to recognize that desire is a mirror of the self, and to make no apology for their own wants.
- Mantle Effects
- The Spring Mantle is warm and enticing. It breathes renewal, redolent with scents such as new flowers, rain on earth, or the sun on the grass. The air moves around the Emerald Courtier — stagnation is the antithesis of Spring. The colors may change around her as well: Greens become vibrant, war colors become richer, or the lighting seems to take on the same cast as a morning sunbeam. At its most powerful, the Spring Mantle leaves the image of flowers growing up in the changeling’s footprints.
- A beauty merchant sells mortals romance in the form of haunting perfumes and exquisite jewels, taking their money but also their lust for status and respect. A white-haired Beast with pearlescent antlers runs at the head of an adoring motley. A Wizened storyteller loops heartbreaking tales into visual novels sold to only a few. An erotic oneiromancer crafts dream venues for his clients to safely explore desires that they could never voice aloud.
A literal firebrand whips up crowds with promises of better days ahead. A therapist becomes far too involved with her clients, soothing their wounds and exploring their wants in ways that would get her license revoked. An urban gardener establishes community gardens in low-income neighborhoods. A parole officer goes the extra mile to help his charges rebuild their lives, and discreetly harvests a touch of their new hope.
The Golden Spear, The Crimson Court, The Court of Wrath
Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
The hunter chose the horned Beast in the hoodie first: a sharp kick to the virilities, and the bull-man was down. Next was the troll with long, Black Annis fingers: she was still gawking when the baseball bat smashed into her temple. But when the hunter rounded on the third member of the motley, he realized he’d prioritized his prey all wrong. The waif held a blade near-long as she was, a crimson cloth knotted around its guard, and its point was already at his throat.
“When I started sharpening this sword, 10 years ago,” she whispered, “it was a knife the size of my finger.”
“I swear that I will become as the raw forces around me and become an agent of wrath. I will use it’s focused edge to bring justice to the agents of the Others who wish to do us harm. I will remind them of my fury and remind them that they will always fall before my ferocity for summer’s rage burns in my soul.”
Wrath is rejection. Wrath doesn’t accept that things are the way they are, and there’s nothing to do about it. When someone shoves a knife into you, wrath is the urge to pull that knife out and stab right back. Let Spring and Autumn and Winter all try to avoid or mitigate their pain. Summer channels wrath to scream through blood-flecked lips, no more!
Nobody spends much time debating whether or not they belong with the Golden Spear. Summer Courtiers are those who drew a line and chose to push back. Maybe it was their own pain: loss, wounds, failure, humiliation. Maybe it was someone else’s. But something awakened that fury in them, a wrath pure enough that they stopped thinking about flight and decided to fight. It’s not always healthy, of course. Wrath doesn’t make you happy, even if it dulls the pain and gives you something else to think about. It might lead you to sacrifice yourself for an empty promise of vengeance. But nothing gives a hunter pause like a beast that has decided it’s not going to be prey any more.
There were other things that Summer had to offer, so long ago. But the Bargain with Summer was paid in wrath. It’s the oath of the blazing sun destroying shadows. It’s the vigilance of the longest day. It’s the spike in violence when the streets are baking and the AC is out.
Anyone harboring illusions about “polite society” would be deeply chagrined to find out just how easy it is to harvest wrath, especially in a large city. Sure, you can drink up the anger in a rust belt diner full of frustrated, still-unemployed workers or in a congregation listening to a fire-and-brimstone preacher scream about how the sinners are ruining the world. But the city’s full of people tightly packed…and hell is other people. Long lines at the bank or grocery store vent clouds of succulent frustration. Schoolyard bullies let out their anger on smaller children, who in turn seethe for retribution. Rush-hour traffic is practically a five o’ clock dinner bell. Sporting matches are festivals of tribalized wrath, particularly if it’s a contact sport.
Talk to a Crimson Court aficionado, and they’ll tell you Glamour harvested from wrath tastes like heat. Sullen, suppressed anger has a low slow burn, and a berserk tantrum is a peppery explosion. Truly righteous wrath has a cleansing, spicy heat that seeps into your lungs. Hatred and the lust for vengeance add a metallic aftertaste. If you’re unlucky and foolish enough to try drawing on the rage of something not human, like a werewolf, then it’s like drinking molten gold. But for all that, the Golden Spear teaches that you shouldn’t think of it in terms of consuming wrath entirely. You’re meant to just hold it for a while — to forge it and hone it and give it a new target. A target that honestly deserves it.
When everything is going to shit, when you’re afraid for yourself and the people you care about, you get angry. You look for someone to blame, because that’s better than being impotent. You need a target.
The line between wrath and anger is a thread spun from semantics. Summer philosophy holds that anger is wrath with less discipline, less direction. Anger clouds your eyes. It drives you to strike, strike now, no matter what or who you hit. Anger creeps up on you when you don’t have clarity of purpose. It makes you toxic — and worse, when the toxin runs its course, it leaves you weak and fatigued. Wrath is tiring, and anger doubly so.
That toxic nature spawns an ugly truth — many changelings fear Summer more than they fear Autumn. A Summer Courtier’s rage might be triggering in its familiarity. All the more reason to focus that wrath, say the elders of the Golden Spear. Wrath can deter the Gentry. Anger will drive your loved ones from you — or worse, hurt them if they don’t abandon you.
- High Summer
- Summer stands. When the Crimson Court is in power, it marshals the freehold’s defense. A Summer monarch doesn’t precisely militarize a freehold — though some would like to, or have tried. The Lost are individuals, and a freehold’s populace is full of people who might man a barricade in a time of need, but have no interest in making discipline and chain of command the new normal. But the Golden Spear usually has to spend three seasons watching the other courts ignore martial concerns. A Spring monarch typically leaves the freehold in high spirits but inclining to complacency. When Summer takes power, it’s time to clean the guns and sharpen the blades.
Kings and queens of Summer are exceptionally intimidating creatures. If you want to avoid conflict, you join some other court where it’s okay to hide or talk your way out of trouble. Crimson Courtiers test each other all the time, whether it’s sparring to blow off steam, settling who’s best with a sword or stick, or arguing over the best tactic for blasting out a warren of dangerous hobgoblins. The monarchs of Summer have to prove themselves constantly, and it shows. A tower of steel-cable muscle and scars flexes a killing strength in each finger. An elegant diplomat with cold iron in his voice never asks for anything twice. A plainly dressed woman seems smaller than she is until her thumb brushes up against the hilt of her blade, and the smell of blood seems to surround her. A crooked man in sunset regalia proposes daring offensives backed by seemingly uncountable layers of strategy.
An ascendant Summer monarch tends to focus on offense or defense. Defense involves activities such as gathering useful tokens of war, setting watchers on potential Hedge points of entry, building up the armory, and extracting pacts of alliance from whatever neighbors can be trusted to keep their word. Offense entails scouting missions deeper into the Hedge, grand hunts of particularly dangerous hobgoblins, and moving on tempting targets of opportunity. More fetches die when the Summer Court is in power than at any other time.
- Low Summer
- When another season holds power, the Golden Spear insists on offering counsel. A Summer advisor stands as close to the throne as she can, fully armed. She defers to the reigning monarch in most things, like a good soldier, but always has an opinion when there’s a mention of a Huntsman, or of the Gentry.
High-ranking Summer Courtiers tend to split between looking inward and outward. Focusing inward is usually a matter of keeping the freehold defenses shored up. It’s common practice to organize self-defense and physical training for interested parties, even weapons training for both ballistics and hand-to-hand combat.
Looking outward entails many things, in particular, small offensives against the Others. A hunt during Low Summer might not be large and grandiose, but a few truly dedicated Summer soldiers can do some real damage. In most freeholds, a Courtier of Wrath keeps something like a bounty system running year round, making public the descriptions, last known whereabouts, and names (if available) of the freehold’s most dangerous known enemies. The payments for a Summer bounty are as strange and tempting as you might expect — cash is certainly possible, if gauche, but the truly dangerous targets are worth weapons and tokens and pledges.
Lower-ranking Summer Courtiers find ways to serve the freehold. Obviously, they provide the lion’s share of soldiers, sentinels, and constabulary. Standing guard isn’t a full-time job — most freeholds aren’t nearly large enough to support that — but the Golden Spear is there when needed. In most freeholds, the Summer recruitment pitch is based on unity: Everyone does their part, but we’ll always have your back. It’s an attractive offer to Lost looking for a new place to belong and comrades they can trust, especially if they’re all right with rolling up their sleeves. Some take well to crafting, be it gunsmithing, archaic weapons and armor, or restoring and improving vehicles.
The Golden Spear encourages a volunteer culture in times of Low Summer, even outside the prospect of the hunt. Keeping busy is a good way to maintain or further your court standing. In the absence of more organized activities, Crimson Courtiers focus their energy into action —vigorous exercise, athletic competitions, martial training, Hedge raids, street races, poetry slams, all manner of pursuits. Wrath is a smoldering burden, and a responsible Summer Courtier (they’re not all responsible) needs to direct all that furious energy into something productive.
To be Summer Court is to remember the necessity of vigilance, year round. Most Crimson Courtiers understand joy, just not unfettered joy. They dance and sing and even laugh, sometimes, at the freehold’s celebrations, but the Golden Spear is the designated driver. At least one of them is always sober, eyes on the exits.
The Bargain of Summer is very straightforward: Where a Summer monarch holds power, the Others and their vassals must fight to the last. This compulsion isn’t courage — indeed, a True Fae may be hollowed out by panic when it realizes that its enemies will not flee, and it cannot. It can only try to push forward, hoping that it’s as invincible as it believes itself. The Golden Spear takes clever advantage of the Bargain during a hunt. If they can find a weaker enemy party, all they have to do is force the enemy to draw weapons in self-defense. The rest is bloody formality.
Summer also offers strength and focus. Strength is to be had in the Contracts of Summer — but focus is the philosophy antithetical to the Others, and therefore the first line of defense. The season guides its courtiers down a straightforward path, because straightforwardness is a weapon in its own right where the Fae are concerned. Gentry used to the perpetual twilight of their Arcadian realms falter when faced with changelings calling on the days at their longest and the sun at its zenith. Mercurial Fae, given to expect an echo of their fickleness, wither when confronted with the intense focus of the Golden Spear. Summer doesn’t equivocate or flee — an unthinkable character trait in the debauched Gentry so used to having others crumple before them.
The Summer Court draws the most forthright Lost to its ranks. A faerie might find it easier to outwit a Summer soldier, but it might also think too many steps ahead. It can be very difficult for the solipsistic Gentry to anticipate the Summer Court by asking “What would I do?” The immortal game players never wind up thinking in terms of “Stop fucking around and just hit them.”
In return for this strength and focus, Summer asks for blood sacrifice. Not of the B-movie, knives-and-altars human sacrifice variety, though — well, almost never — and not simply blood. The Crimson Court venerates their season with competition and physical mortification. They lead ritual hunts such as the Mir-Shikar, a grand hunt on the first day of summer targeting a foe or menace to the freehold. They hold tournaments of first-blood duels and cage fights, ranging from displays of meticulous dexterity and control to brutal punch ups where the victor’s the one who can still stand up. Their parties are physical affairs where they leap bonfires, run across coals, and brand their skin; they stage eating competitions and sporting matches and mock battles. The court stokes the flames of Summer with aggression, and has many rituals to direct that aggression safely against their own. Mostly safely. Usually.
- Mantle Effects
- The Summer Mantle is strength and heat. It may pulse warmth like a heartbeat, or it may be a level, dry heat that seems to press the skin flat. A stronger Mantle may display heat effects like a mirage’s shimmer or faint curls of steam. Standing near a truly powerful Crimson Courtier is like standing near an open furnace door — every time they shift, it’s like an exhalation out of hell.
- A betrayed mother swears vengeance for every year of her children’s lives that she missed. An Ogre meditates on his sword, an instrument with no purpose but to cut apart men and women. A rusalka armors herself in ice to keep her fury frozen in her heart. A spine-fingered guitarist pours his rage into a ballad of loss and vindication. A ragged woman in a ragged coat visits the freehold every full moon, eating and drinking enough for any five people before she wanders away again to resume her hunt. A soft-spoken, gentle Fairest writes elaborate and ruthless battle strategies on delicate scrolls. A short-tempered bully picks fights at the drop of a hat, then offers to teach a few fighting and first-aid tricks by way of apology. An unobtrusive custodian quietly builds another few shattered Hedge-spears into the wall. A Hedge courier hides her true lightning speed under a casual trot, seeing whom she might draw out to chase her.
The Leaden Mirror, The Ashen Court, The Court of Fear
Don’t be simple. Of course it’s not better to be feared than loved. But someone has to wear that particular crown.
The woman held out her fist, blood dripping from it and her skinner’s knife. “I call on the silver bear,” she said, and the Huntsman’s silver-furred cloak bound his arms to his sides. “I call on the seven wolf brothers,” she said, and the Huntsman’s hide boots slammed together and would not move. “I call on the red stag,” she said, and the Huntsman’s russet leather choker tightened around his neck. “Aid me,” she whispered once more, “and avenge yourselves.”
“I will walk the darkened road of Autumn to places few will go. When fear arises I will use all my will to stand my ground. Fear will not control me for it is my ally in the dark places when the eyes of the true fae set upon me.”
Fear is a line in the dust. It’s a boundary, an invisible wall. Fear keeps your enemy from crossing your threshold. Fear keeps your allies from presuming too much. Fear is a fortress, and the Leaden Mirror knows all the secrets in its foundations.
The Ashen Court has a complicated relationship with their signature passion. Some of them revel in the rush; others consider terror the most rational weapon in a frightening world. Obviously, they all know how what it’s like to live in constant dread, thanks to the durance — but that could be said to be true of every Lost. The difference is that it takes a certain amount of introspection to swear the Autumn vow. Spring and Summer might suppress their old fears, and Winter may hide from them. But Autumn has to come to terms with those old scars.
Why, then, doesn’t the Ashen Court play more like the Summer Court? Why do they treat the dread of knives and gasoline and broken glass as secondary at best? The answer’s pragmatic — as terrifying as the threat of violence is, it works best on mortals. The True Fae play by different rules. They don’t even reliably have bodies to break or blood to spill. To get at what frightens one of the Gentry, you have to threaten the rules they play by. And that requires sorcery. Nothing terrifies one of the grand gameplayers like the realization that what they’d mistaken for a pawn has its hands on the rulebook.
Autumn had many gifts to offer, but the Ashen Court chose fear. It was a power that flowed from lengthening nights and dead leaves falling from skeletal branches, of ripe fruits rotting on the ground. Autumn granted the understanding that death itself is not as frightening as dying. Animals fatten up before winter, driven by the secret understanding of starvation. Rich greens wither away into sere browns. Mortals honor their ghosts and light lanterns against the deepening dark. Horror movies and Halloween are florid offerings to Autumn’s ancient and subtle truth: the unconscious dread that perhaps this will be the year you won’t see the coming of spring. The immortal Gentry don’t understand mortality in these terms — but who better than the Autumn Court to instruct them?
Fear is a dangerous emotion to harvest. Stir up too much dread, and a neighborhood starts looking too closely at anything strange going on. The fear you get at horror movies is superficial, about as nutritious as the popcorn. But the Autumn Court has its ways. They follow people home at night, staying just out of sight and making just enough noise to let the person fill in the rest. Children have vivid imaginations and low skepticism, making it worthwhile to seed rumors of the frightening house on the corner. A measure to frighten children might also infect their protective parents. An animal shelter reeks of the stuff, with stressed animals panicking every time one of them cries out.
Everyone relies on their mechanisms. When the pressure’s too great, an Autumn Courtier usually tries to find a way out. They don’t run and hide, though — all that trafficking in terror builds up calluses on the soul, keeping the fight-or-flight question at bay. They have time to ask questions like “What could I have done differently?” or “Is there anyone I can get to help me?” That level of awareness doesn’t mean they’re fully in control, though. It only means their desperation is more articulated.
The Leaden Mirror’s attention to the Wyrd feeds this character flaw. Magic has always been a practice of pacts and bargains, especially changeling magic with its Contracts and pledges. Do this, give that, and something will teach you how to turn the pages of reality until you find something you like better. So, when an Ashen Courtier feels her life or freedom is truly in danger, her first instinct is to look for some kind of escape clause.
Those Lost who’ve seen this side of the Autumn Court — really seen it — may find the Court of Fear even more frightening than before. When a desperate changeling starts thinking in terms of bargaining, well… The other courts are always at least a little worried that someone in the Leaden Mirror might turn coat and strike a deal with the enemy. The sorcerers are, after all, very good at bargains.
Worse, the Fae also know this.
- High Autumn
- Autumn doesn’t usually take the throne with grand displays like Spring and Summer. Their ceremonies are smaller, but more binding — an Autumn monarch will hold you to anything you say, so beware of empty platitudes for courtesy’s sake. When an Autumn Queen does plan a grand event to mark her ascension, odds are that she intends to secure her rule through fear, and the intention is that everyone will leave the ceremony afraid to cross their new queen. The coronation banquet of such a ruler is certain to be…memorable.
When Summer has primacy, they look to the freehold’s arms; when Autumn succeeds Summer, they look to the freehold’s magic. This often takes the form of a cryptic census. Ashen Courtiers visit every member of the freehold, inquiring in the King’s name as to any pledges they honor, any tokens they carry, or any oaths they are bound to fulfill. Usually people lie, or outright refuse to give up their secrets. The Leaden Mirror rarely presses the issue — secrecy is, after all, an important defense for the Lost. But given Autumn’s mastery of the occult, they can often offer advice for better using a token, dream, or Contract than the owner would have guessed. An honest changeling becomes an educated changeling. An educated changeling is of more use.
If an Autumn Queen needs to prosecute a war, or to complete a war that her Summer predecessor started, she plays dirty. She enlists the Winter Court to supply her with all the information they’re willing to share on the enemy’s weaknesses. She searches out the loopholes in the oaths binding her foes. She uses bait and false retreat tactics to lure hunters into arcane traps. She uses sorcery to obliterate magically weak opponents, and dispatches Summer Court volunteers to overrun physically soft targets. She disdains glory and honor for shock and awe. If she utterly destroys her enemy’s appetite for conflict with the freehold, she’ll have to fight only one battle during her reign.
- Low Autumn
- When another court sits the throne, the Ashen Court return to their archives. On a practical level, the Leaden Mirror appeals to changelings who want to learn. We all need to know more about ourselves and our world, just to survive. We’ll share our knowledge with you. Just about every Autumn Courtier has a measure of interest in magic, often with an occult specialization. One might be fascinated by words, and surround herself with books and blackboards; another, immersed in the symbolism of colors, keeps a spectrum of rooms where each is dedicated to the spells peculiar to its hue. The court is one part cabal of witches and one part scientific community, sharing their findings. They don’t hide from others the way the Winter Court does, but other changelings are often reluctant to seek them out. This suits them, of course. It gives them more privacy for their research, and of course, it isn’t a bad thing to be feared.
Autumn Courtiers settle into a variety of roles to support a freehold. They make fine advisors and soothsayers, but more interestingly, some are natural therapists. These Ashen Courtiers can surgically expose, identify, and soothe a person’s innermost worry and dread. The court also reaches for certain clerical duties, from cataloging the tokens known to the freehold to recording the freehold’s history. They make excellent solicitors, devising the craftiest and most beneficial wording for an oath, pledge, or Contract. Some put the court’s lore to work by exploring the Hedge, whether to find secret paths in and out or to tend and harvest goblin fruits. Finally, a freehold’s justice system is of great interest to the Autumn Court. Winter may provide more investigators and Summer more constables, but Autumn accepts the truly ugly business of playing gaoler and executioner. Caging another changeling is a disturbing reenactment of the durance, but when it must be done, best that the job goes to someone who can at least benefit from a prisoner’s terror.
No other court has anything close to the Autumn interest in the terrifying supernatural beings that lurk on the fringes of mortal society. While they don’t trust vampires, ghosts, werewolves, or the like, these “fellow Autumn People” are grimly fascinating. Other supernatural beings have magic of their own, and they are entities to be feared. They feel like kindred spirits, though you’d have to be a fool to assume any bond. The Ashen Court has a dangerous tendency to investigate rumors of other supernatural beings. Some hope for allies; some to steal valuable new magics. All are rightly cautious.
Autumn’s Bargain compels transparency. When the Court of Fear reigns, the Others and their pawns must give clear warning of their intentions before they attack. Autumn protects its children from the dread of uncertainty. The more powerful the Gentry, the further in advance it must announce its intentions; the time varies from a few hours to as much as a lunar month. The True Fae wriggle and writhe to find cryptic, unreadable ways that might announce their intentions only to someone capable of their riddle-thought, but these attempts inevitably fail. So the Others draw up their battle lines and send out liveried hobgoblin heralds, or they scatter engraved invitations to a slaughter, or they light runes of fire on the Hedge borders. If they aren’t permitted surprise, then they shall at least have grandeur.
The Ashen Court repays Autumn’s blessing with many rituals — more, truth be told, than Autumn ever required. At the smallest level, they practice tiny individualized superstitions as minor sacrifices. A courtier might bury a packet of burnt pumpkin seeds before a diplomatic errand, keep a bit of worn heartwood on a keychain, or count the steps every time she goes downstairs. These micro-rituals are a show of reliability, proving that the changeling can uphold even the most trivial of bargains.
Greater rites are usually some variant of a harvest ceremony. A few of these are innocuous feasts, mostly notable for the amount of magical shop talk that takes place. But more are hunts — the Ashen Court harvests fear, after all. It’s unclear to outsiders what differentiates the Hunt of Leaves from the Falling Night from the Ash Run, even if those outsiders are invited. They all have very similar structure. The quarry is an enemy of the freehold, from fetches or changeling traitors to True Fae themselves. The Autumn Court provides weapons and masking spells to all interested parties, and in return claims first choice of any enchanted spoils they may find.
- Mantle Effects
- The Autumn Court’s Mantle is…peculiar. It’s distinctly Autumn — in its strength it may be a cooling breeze, a rustling rattle like a tree’s denuded branches in the wind, tiny flickering candle flames or lantern fires, dead leaves spinning from nowhere and vanishing to the same. A truly powerful Autumn Mantle withers green plants away to brown and sends shivers up the spine. But tied into all that are the marks of the Ashen Court’s sorcery. Occult glyphs shimmer like witchfire or spread like blotting ink before fading. An atonal chant sings a wordless warning. Sparks like dying stars fall from the changeling’s fingertips. An aurora of unearthly hues shimmers about the shoulders. The precise form these arcana take depends on the courtier, but wise Lost quickly learn to recognize the sign of a potent Autumn sorcerer.
- An aspiring general discreetly inquires into Contracts that strike at the enemy’s morale. An oneiromancer captures and catalogs nightmares, soothing his comrades’ rest and uncorking the terrors in the dreams of enemies. A literal internet troll hacks a dark-net database and threatens to dox the names she finds. A performance artist weaves spells of dread into an already disquieting act. An archivist searches out the details of every pledge spoken in the freehold, recording each one in massive chained ledgers. A candlemaker blends wax with the juice of goblin fruits to protect — or curse — certain favored customers. An alchemical vintner crafts intoxicating draughts that alter the drinker’s perception of the mystical. A lawyer goes over Contracts in exacting detail, extrapolating new possible loopholes to exploit. A would-be shapeshifter runs wild at night, and seems to have a different patch of fur or scales or feathers every morning.
The Silent Arrow, The Onyx Court, The Court of Sorrow
“Cowardice? Just how short-sighted do you think we are? We’re not trying to hide forever from the Others. That’s impossible. We’re finding a safe place to wait. Until.”
The long-fingered hounds ran without baying in all directions. One snuffled at each stoop along the street, reaching up to caress the door only if the lights were out. Another, pale and naked, clambered into a dumpster to prod for warmth. A third rattled up a rusty fire escape, looking into each window. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. No spoor, no footprint, no sign of their quarry. The only thing that was left was a white mask lying in the street, and soon it too melted away.
“I will walk the cold roads of winter where sorrow freezes all. I understand that it can cripple and freeze but I will not let the world die. In the long dark I will offer a ray of light to thaw those in need of hearth or become the storm to shatter the enemies that stand before me.”
Sorrow is a cage. It keeps a person from moving. It roots them in place, cold and unyielding. But people also willingly lock themselves within it. They embrace the bars’ strength, for they’re just as strong as the love for what was lost. They close the door to keep other people out, as if they were sharks. The Winter Court knows that sorrow can be crippling, but also inspiring. You just have to be certain you’re the one holding the keys.
It’s easy for a changeling to be drawn to sorrow. All you had to do was love enough. The Lost return home to find lovers in a false person’s arms, parents dead and gone, children grown and unhappy. The life’s work you built may be shuttered and lightless. The art you created may be destroyed or stolen. The Winter Court doesn’t offer the same strength as Summer and Autumn, or the same abandon and hope as Spring, but it has never lacked for numbers. Those who join the Silent Arrow don’t want to forget.
Sorrow’s strength is twofold. Turn it against your enemies, and you strike at their will to fight. Turn it inward, against yourself, and you can see through false hopes and useless temptations. The Silent Arrow keeps loss, regret, guilt, and despair in their quiver. They’re dangerous things to handle, but they have to be. So many of the Gentry aren’t prepared for the pain that comes with losing something you truly loved — because so many of the Gentry weren’t capable of truly loving in the first place.
Winter has always been the season of sorrow. Light is in shorter supply, and darkness comes early. The modern understanding of seasonal affective disorder offers a more scientific illustration of a relationship with Winter that some people have always endured. The longer the night, the easier it is to mourn.
Harvesting sorrow requires discretion, much like any other Winter Court affair. It wouldn’t do to be seen with a smile of indulgence at a funeral, or when families are picking through the tornado-strewn flinders of their houses. Guilt and regret are nourishing vintages, and churches and prisons tempting sources. The more ruthless courtiers are experts at finding and reopening a mortal’s old wounds, then feeding as they offer a sympathetic ear.
It takes immense fortitude to push forward under the weight of a heavy sorrow. The Winter Court has always been at greater risk for depression, both in the sense of major depressive disorder and in the more vernacular meaning. In the former case, it’s not because something in Winter’s Bargain may inflict clinical depression — it’s because changelings who suffer from major depressive disorder most often find their way to the Onyx Court. The Winter Court doesn’t offer a false cure for depression, but everyone there understands. And fortune willing, a changeling might be able to turn their affliction into surprising strength.
The specter of depression has developed an interesting counterpart to the Winter Court’s focus on remaining hidden. Pragmatism encourages the Silent Arrow to be ready to cut ties and run at any time. But pragmatism also encourages them to develop safe avenues to the things they enjoy and the people they love, as a means of staving off the sorrow that surrounds them. It’s a cruel contradiction: isolation helps keep a secret, but isolation can eat at your soul. Onyx Courtiers have to be clever to balance these two needs, but of course, the court teaching is that they have to be clever simply to survive.
The great danger of depression is inaction. If you’re always on the defensive, you can’t make any sort of progress. Conscientious Courtiers of Sorrow watch their fellows for the warning signs of a shutdown and try to be ready to help. Less empathetic courtiers don’t bother, figuring it’s every Lost for themselves. The dangers aren’t lost on changelings of other courts. Some can be loath to trust the Winter Court — when the Others come a-riding, what happens if the Onyx Courtiers crawl into their hiding places and refuse to stand with their brethren?
- High Winter
- A freehold with an Onyx monarch is like a forest in winter — the trees seem still and quiet, but the roots are still quietly at work beneath the frozen ground. The freehold withdraws, declares no new grand offensives, and settles in for a time. And all the while, the Court of Sorrow spreads throughout the area, blending in neatly and using the lull to best advantage. They collate rumors, upgrade security systems, and check to see if each freehold member kept their bug-out bag up to date. Succeeding the throne after an Autumn reign has its advantages and disadvantages: The Autumn Court usually tidies up after themselves, but their tactic of fear can sometimes leave the local Hedge denizens inconveniently jittery and the Gentry on the alert.
A Winter king or queen usually seems very conservative next to their fellows. They make few open decrees, instead dispatching courtiers on secret and often deniable quests. When they require the neutralization of a threat, they commission an assassination rather than a war party. Winter has a particular tolerance for fetches, if tolerance is the right word: Very few fetches die during a Winter reign, to avoid stirring up trouble with the mortal world.
If war comes to the freehold, a Winter monarch may take to the field — leading from a fortified rear or dressed like a simple soldier — or he may direct the strategy from afar. But optimally, there will be no war while Winter reigns. If their information networks, wards of misdirection, camouflage, and discreet assassinations have all been reasonably successful, the enemy will be too disoriented and scattered to challenge the freehold.
- Low Winter
- When another court reigns, the Silent Arrow melts into the background as usual. They remain active in the freehold’s affairs, gathering information and running covert errands. They openly volunteer just often enough that the other courts remember that they’re present and contributing. Apart from that, the Onyx Courtiers tend to act only when directly asked. The Winter Court accords more respect to rulers who remember their existence and make use of their talents. They also note that such rulers are more potentially dangerous to them…but that’s part of respect.
Winter Courtiers play support in a freehold. They may have a variety of roles — scouts, doctors, cleaners, communications, researchers, counselors — but they’re all tied into the same information network, and any freeholder with half a brain knows it. They also know a child of Winter will lie to your face, by omission or otherwise, without thinking twice. You can’t trust every word a Winter Courtier tells you, but you can be certain they have the enlightened self-interest that keeps them part of the freehold, and are invested in the good of the freehold as a whole.
In most seasonal freeholds, the Silent Arrow is one of the smaller courts. It’s easy to get the impression that they recruit new courtiers under protest, and would prefer to keep their numbers small and trusted. That’s not, generally, true. The Winter Court demands discretion, but they offer a place to any changeling who feels safest when they’re not attracting attention. They don’t make the same social demands that Spring and Summer do. We’ll keep you safe and informed, so you can be in control again. You just have to be able to keep a secret.
In that vein, the court upholds certain formal laws of secrecy, sometimes called the Icelaw. The Icelaw defines the most important things to protect. For instance, Winter stresses the medieval idea of courtly love, to protect the heart and reputation. Hate, like love, is best kept to yourself until it threatens to consume you, and then it must be acted on with swift discretion. A Winter Courtier must always be ready to evacuate or vanish, should the freehold suddenly fall. And the world is full of other supernatural beings who simply cannot be trusted — avoid them if possible, mislead them as much as you can, and never meet with one alone.
Winter’s Bargain is one of the strangest of them all. While the Onyx Court is in power, the Others and their hounds are compelled to mourn, to truly mourn, their victims. An invader cannot bloody its blade or talons a second time until it has ritually acknowledged the death of its first target. The Bargain makes a Winter battlefield a truly peculiar sight, for most True Fae have no real idea how to mourn and can only approximate some form of guess. A spidery figure crouches over a corpse, spinning and folding a sticky origami insect to lay on its chest. A ice-skinned lady twists the arm of her servant until tears well out of its eyes, and then daubs those tears on the eyelids of the fallen. A six-masked rider arranges its prey’s limbs into a mock-caper, and douses the carcass with blue fire from a Mobius decanter. And that’s when Winter strikes. Against the Gentry, there’s no room to honor these formal mimicries.
Like all other courts, the Court of Sorrow honors and repays its patron with rituals and celebrations. Winter’s practices are not as grandiose, though. Too much pageantry would defeat the purpose of subtlety, but more to the point, a truly riotous winter festival would be insulting. Humans build fires in the dark part of the year to hasten it along and to beckon forth spring. When the Winter Court builds ritual fires, they burn reminders of their old human lives or their secrets. When they hold grand wakes in honor of all the Lost who’ve perished at the hands of the Gentry, they drink little and let the other courts have the lion’s share of the debauchery. The Onyx Court pays their debt in ritualized grief and the recognition of loss. The most famous exception is the Winter Market, a bazaar that takes place the week before the winter solstice. Vendors must gain the court’s permission to set up, and most are Winter Courtiers trading information and “confiscated” goods. But the Winter Market is distinct in that all transactions gain the Silent Arrow’s gift of discretion.
The Winter Formal, another tradition with an innocuous name, is a once-a-year masquerade. The court requires masks to attend, and uses tokens and subtle magic to ensure that the identities of all participants are kept secret. The Winter Formal is an opportunity to socialize without the stress of politics, where everyone keeps secrets together.
Finally, Radio Free Fae is a tradition with no roots in the Bargain. As such, not all Winter Courtiers approve. Radio Free Fae is a bootleg broadcast, its location constantly moving and as secret as the identity of its participants. Its stated purpose is to share information that all Lost should know, even if the Winter Court hasn’t cleared some of that information for release.
- Mantle Effects
- The Winter Mantle is subtler than those of the other courts. At lower levels, the Onyx Courtier might be confused for a courtless; at higher levels, an observer might mistake the courtier for someone much less potent than they are. And why not? If the Silent Arrow’s primary goal is to elude notice, it would make little sense to proclaim one’s power far and wide. The most prominent feature — relatively, of course — is a feeling of starkness. The Winter Mantle creates a sensation of stillness and clarity, of light falling in just that way that reveals the little details in the changeling’s surroundings. At its most powerful, or when the Lost uses magic, Winter becomes a bit more evident. A few snowflakes fall, or a faint wind is cold out of all proportion to its gentle touch. If a full flurry churns around a Winter Courtier, run.
- A forensic scientist finds clever ways to destroy evidence or plant false clues to misdirect their hunters. An aged librarian teaches others the secret speech of riddles with no answers. A stone-skinned hitman loads bodies into the trunk of a car that devours them. A pale, eyeless architect builds tunnels and chambers that never appear on any map. A favor broker parlays stolen secrets into influence with the Goblin Market itself. A school custodian passes on news to other Lost about the children they never see. A therapist teaches her brokenhearted clients how to face their innermost secret demons and how to live with grief. A funeral-home director fakes the deaths of certain sensitive clients, for a reasonable fee, of course. A software engineer buries stealth code into apps to hide or reveal certain locations. A gawky wallflower attends all the grand parties with her more glamorous friends, and carefully notes with whom they leave. A conspiracy theorist catalogs evidence about the movements and activities of vampires and werewolves, and prepares elaborate contingencies should they look the freehold’s way.
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