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 The Seasonal Courts, The Changeling Factions
 Posted: Aug 1 2015, 06:54 PM
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Through the need for companionship and mutual protection in a world that is no longer truly their own, Changelings tend to gather in groups. The most basic of these is that of a "Freehold," a collection of geographically close Changelings that have agreed for one reason or another to affiliate with each other. Most of the time, these Freeholds are centered on a gap in The Wall, where the boundary between our world and that of Arcadia have weakened to the point to allow passage. Some Changelings gather there for the power that seeps through, hoping to tap it to strengthen themselves or their allies. Others seek to understand how these gaps appear and what it means to themselves, their companions, and the world at large. Others collect there for what is arguably the most common reason, to guard The Wall and prevent the Others from reaching our world to warp the lives of others.

Beyond the Freehold level, many Changelings choose to ally themselves with the worldwide organizations called "The Courts." There are four Courts commonly accepted in Changeling Society, with a "fifth" Court for those who choose not to affiliate with them at all. These Courts are organizations that have struck deals with some fundamental essence in the mortal world for protection from the Others. Whether it was originally by design or by jest is long since lost to History, but the ancient Changelings that struck these pacts modeled themselves after the four seasons of the mortal world (though variations in name and tone do occur in some places).

The Spring Court

Associated Trait: Desire/Ecstasy

Alternate Names: The Antler Crown, The Emerald Court, The Court of Desire, The Court of the East Wind

Description: Sometimes mistaken for base Hedonists, the Spring Courtiers are defined by their drive to experience human existence to its fullest. While the objects of one's desire is wildly diverse, these courtiers define humanity through the strive to achieve one's desires and thus seek to reconnect to their lost humanity through this selfsame search. While the stereotype of a drugged up and sex obsessed fool is certainly true of some few individuals in the Court, there is far more to the essence of Desire and Ecstasy than physical pleasure. Some follow their Desire into extreme sports, others into religiously ecstatic rituals, and still others starve or scourge themselves to strengthen their Desire. At its most basic level, these are the Changelings that seek to find themselves by realizing the extent of their Desire and hope to rekindle the hope that many lost within the twisted realms of Arcadia.

Advantage: Access to Contracts of Spring and the Blessing of Hope.

The Blessing of Hope - Infused with the ecstatic joy of desire, members of the Spring Court enjoy an unflappability that is unparalleled even amongst their exceptional peers. There is much in this world that inspires fear and worry in its denizens, but Emerald Courtiers find that no matter how dark the night becomes there is always another dawn that will follow behind it. When a situation would drive a Spring Changeling towards dark emotions through magic or other unnatural means, the promise of Spring will keep their spirits up. Even when her mind is altered by magic to feel terror or despair it is only half as effective.

Disadvantage: Emerald Courtiers have a problem with Vice and they know it. Spring is a time when the natural world explodes with new life and wild abandon, those who are sworn to its cause find themselves prone to losing themselves to this untamed passion. Every Spring Changeling has a chosen Vice of some sort: be it drugs, sex, extreme sports, or simply tasty foods. When presented with their Vice, Spring Changelings find it difficult to resist and will often do nearly anything they are required to indulge. This rarely results in direct harm to herself or her loved ones, they have more self-control than that, but many Spring Changeling have endangered their allies when they'd rather steal candy bars than stand watch...

The Summer Court

Associated Essence: Honor/Wrath

Alternate Names: The Iron Spear, The Crimson Court, The Court of Wrath, Court of the South Wind

Description: "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light." The Summer Court is anything but quiescent. Rather than quietly abandoning their humanity or seeking to bury themselves in books or pleasure, the Iron Spear defines itself in the struggle itself. The struggle, to fight, to live by a code, and even to die are the most essential trait of humanity according to these courtiers. Though not all are so literal to pick up sword and spear to charge an enemy, some preferring a war of words or intellect, all see competition and struggle as the path to reclaiming what they have lost. Whether a fierce debate champion, a raving barbarian, or a noble knight at court all Summer Courtiers spend their lives moving from challenge to challenge. They are all seekers on this path, even if some lose sight of the purpose for the war from within the battle...

Advantage: Access to Contracts of Summer and the Blessing of Justice.

The Blessing of Justice - Despite their famous anger, the members of the Crimson Court define themselves as much through honor and justice as wrath. A Summer Changeling cannot be easily tricked into betraying their own code of honor, and indeed mystic manipulators find it almost impossible to lead these Changelings astray. Those who would use supernatural means to force such a breach of conduct in a Summer Changeling will find their spells only half as effective as they should.

Disadvantage: The Court of Wrath has earned its nickname because its Changelings suffer under the curse of poor self-control. Most Summer courtiers find it easy to give into their passions so completely that it can sometimes blind them. Every Crimson Changeling has something that will send them into a Rage without fail. For some, their trigger is arguably noble, such as seeing a child suffering or a criminal who escapes justice. Others can fly into a rage after being insulted or having had too much to drink. Whatever the trigger, this Rage is wild and difficult to control, leaving the Summer Changeling equally likely to harm friend or foe when lost to their anger.

The Autumn Court

Associated Essence: Wisdom/Fear

Alternate Names: The Leaden Mirror, The Ashen Court, The Court of Fear, Court of the West Wind

Description: When confronted with irrefutably warped nature of Changeling existence every soul responds differently. Some hide themselves behind thick walls, some charge blindly against all odds, some run from truth and into the arms of sensation alone, and some... Some have to know. Those of the Autumn Court are those who realize that something happened to them, something great and terrible that has turned them into something other than human, but that simply isn't enough. Why were they changed? Who are the Others, really? If these beings are so powerful, how do Changelings ever escape? Where exactly is Arcadia and is it truly "outside" of reality? All these questions and more consume Autumn Courtiers. They seek to know the unknowable, they think the unthinkable, they do the undoable. They collect information in all its forms and study it from every angle. Despite claims to the contrary, the Autumn Court occludes the truth as often as it uncovers it. Hiding behind fears of the unknown and nightmares dredged from the depths of the human psyche, they seek to dive deeper and leave no trail to follow behind them. The Autumn Court seeks to know everything... Even if there are something that were never meant to be known...

Advantage: Access to Contracts of Autumn and the Blessing of Secrets.

The Blessing of Secrets - The Ashen Court knows more than it ever should and many assume that this is purely due to its members being attracted to knowledge which is indeed true, but it is not quite so simple. An Autumn Changeling always knows when someone is keeping a secret from him. He cannot sense what the secret entails, nor why it is being kept, merely that there is something that is hidden from them. Please note: this is not a lie detector, as people can lie while not keeping a secret and vice versa, nor is it going to detect minor secrets (i.e. "someone didn't brush their teeth this morning") as this can only detect secrets that the individual keeping it acknowledges as a secret and is deliberately keeping secret.

Disadvantage: The Leaden Mirror is an organization of fear, plain and simple. It is founded on the fear of the unknown and thus devotes itself to making it known instead, but as Nietzsche once said: "When gaze long into an Abyss, the Abyss also gazes into you." Autumn Changelings deny it, but in their studies of the eldritch horrors that are the Gentry and other such unnatural things they slowly lose more of their humanity than Arcadia took. Those of the Autumn court become something darker and crueler than they once were. This curse is subtle, rarely making them more sinister than a dark prankster or fan of gallow's humour, it still lingers at the edge of perception and leads others to become increasingly mistrustful of the Autumn Court.

The Winter Court

Associated Essence: Stoicism/Sorrow

Alternate Names: The Silent Arrow, The Onyx Court, The Court of Sorrow, Court of the North Wind

Description: Some people just want to hide. Those who join the Winter Court are so overwhelmed with what they experienced in Arcadia that they detach themselves from everything. They typically show little desire to return to mortal society and prefer to find a comfortable hole to crawl into instead. This does not mean that all Winter Courtiers are depressed nobodies that lie around on the couch all day, anything but... Instead, most are more determined to build a safe and happy home for themselves and their closest companions, then shut the door and guard it with their lives. Where Summer Courtiers charge at their enemies full of heat and passion, the Winter Court prefers to defend themselves against the coming siege. They are the Court of silent strength, of hidden power, and of stoic guardians.

Advantage: Access to Contracts of Winter and the Blessing of Fortitude.

The Blessing of Fortitude - Those who join the Onyx Court can be of many kinds, but none could say that they are not strong. This is not the strength of the other Courts however, not the raw power of Summer or the hopeful strength of Spring. Instead, the strength of the Silent Arrow is stoic. Whether they are strong willed or simply stubborn, nothing can can move a Winter Changeling who does not want to move. Anything that attempts to frighten, trick, confuse, or otherwise drive a Winter Changeling away from their defended place (typically their home, but it can be anywhere they feel safe) through mystical means either fails or is only half as effective.

Disadvantage: When they pledge themselves to Old Man Winter, a Changeling's heart begins to freeze. As time passes, these changelings find that they become increasingly calloused and desensitized. While Winter Changeling still feel emotions as well as any other, they become muted and difficult to express. This leads to many dismissing them as cold and uncaring, even though most are as passionate as any other but merely unable to emote in typical ways. Some carefully train themselves to express emotions as normal, taking great effort to do so, while others instead express themselves through other means, art and music are both common means of expression for these Changelings.

The Courtless

Alternate Names: The Lost, The Ghost Court

Description: Some Changelings feel that they do not fit well into any one court, or maybe they feel that they don't belong in any of them at all, and thus never join one. Perhaps they were instead driven out of their Court for some crime, real or imagined. Still others feel that they are stronger alone and choose to remain independent. A few even actively rail against the entire Courtly system for some reason or another. No matter the reason, these are the Changelings that do not belong anywhere. Those that remain Courtless are often seen as pariahs, reviled or pitied, and are often excluded from full access to Freehold resources as they are seen as untrustworthy by most Courtiers. Additionally, without the patronage of an Essence, most Courtless are less protected than their Courtly cousins and thus more likely to meet an unfortunate hand at another Changeling, other supernatural creatures, or maybe even the Others...

Advantage: Freedom from Courtly Obligations, No Court Curse

Disadvantage: No access to Court Contracts, No additional Blessings
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