ANother World of Darkness - Alpha Network
“Never in my house.. Ye abide by m’rules ya see…”
True Fae are the immortal, mighty and remorseless inhabitants of Arcadia, which lies beyond the Hedge. Also known as the Others, Gentry, Old Gods, Kindly Folk or simply Fae they are creatures that abduct humans and gradually transform them into changelings.
Changeling the lost escape by moritat
They seem to have no names for themselves as a “race”, and indeed do not think of themselves as such; each of the Fae is unique, and they refer to other denizens of Faerie by titles and names. The euphemisms used by changelings are many, which helps to prevent them being summoned at the sound of their names. When used to mean the True Fae, “Fae” is always capitalised; “fae” without the capital refers to any creatures touched by faerie, including changelings.
The Fae’s perceptions, motivations and actions are alien to humans. They seem to understand the world through relatives rather than absolutes; many are bound by obscure and bizarre oaths and rules; others act seemingly at random, obeying a logic opaque to all humans. While they may sometimes take the form of human-like beings or animals, they are often incapable of understanding mortals, one of the reasons they find them so fascinating.
In their home realm, and to a lesser extent the Hedge, they possess god-like abilities, able to shape and command all the elements of their domains at will. Their powers in the mortal realm are greatly lessened, but still awesome; their influence extends there by means of Contracts they made with the mundane elements long ago.
The Fae are difficult to comprehend. Their true nature is beyond imagination and their might is matchless in the mortal world — but they can’t always do as they please. In exchange for self-identity, they obey powerful obligations. What laws bind the True Fae? Even the Lost don’t know for sure, but they’ve learned fragments and patterns of behavior. These rare consistencies offer some clues, but there are no guarantees that these, or laws that cause them, are stable facts.
A faerie can never intentionally violate a Contract he swears on his own name. When an Other commits to a namebound Contract, obeying it defines his existence. If he breaks his word, he destroys his Name — and for the Gentry, namelessness is obliteration.
The Lost have a plethora of nicknames for the True Fae: The Keepers, the Cousins, the Fair Folk, the Good Folk, the Gentry, the Lords and Ladies, the Furies, etc. One changeling might refer to them as the “Others,” while another calls them the “Strangers.” (And yet, use of either casts little doubt as to whom the changeling refers.) Certain regions might offer their own cultural or local variants on the name — an Irish changeling might call them the Daoine Sidhe (thee-na shee), a Scotsman might call them the Host or “Sluagh,” whereas a changeling of India might call them the Rakshasas and a Catholic Lost might think of them purely as “the Demons.” The names for the True Fae are as myriad as their horrid and beautiful faces.
It is, in a way, comforting for a changeling to consider the origins of the Fae. By pondering their origins, a changeling lends a veneer of logic to these entities; it’s a way of explaining them, of understanding their motivations. By being understood, the Others can therefore be denied or defeated — or so a changeling likes to think. Of course, no changeling truly knows where the Fae come from, or how long they’ve been absconding with humans back to their tangled realm. What’s more concerning is that all evidence suggests that the True Fae themselves don’t know — or don’t care — from where or whence they came. Those Fae who have bothered to ruminate on the subject with their kept changelings don’t seem to give it much thought at all: The Fae are what they are, they exist, and that is all they seem to understand. Rumors exist of changelings who have convinced their Keepers to pursue these questions and uncover whatever diabolical genesis spawned them, but that’s all there are: Rumors.
What follows are a few examinations of where the True Fae came from. Note that no consensus exists among changelings — one freehold’s changelings may believe the True Fae to be gods, other changelings may think the True Fae are demons. Moreover, the following theories are by no means exhaustive. Some combine these theories (accepting, for instance, that an angel is an alien and vice versa), while others have their own bizarre notions they purport. Each examination is given a concrete example of this theory in action, an example that can be researched by changeling characters to help them understand or at least label the flagging memories that haunt their worst dreams.
The simplest explanation for the True Fae is that they are gods. Certainly the forms they take and the powers they possess could be described as divine. Moreover, they obviously believe themselves high and mighty, as any godly being might. Could a Fae with stag’s antlers or crooked caprine legs actually be Cernunnos from the Celtic pantheon, or Pan from the Greek? Could a terrible hag whose face is beautiful but whose body is that of a maggot-chewed corpse be Hel, the Norse goddess of death and decay? After all, she had two servants, Ganglot and Ganglati — perhaps both poor mortals taken away and made to become part fae.
Of course, therein lies a “chicken-and-egg” problem. Did the presence of the True Fae in this world inspire the myths of humans who longed to give a name to the powerful entities that lurked outside the world’s physical borders? Or did the myths and legends have enough real power — viral ideas so potent they infected whole cultures — that from such narrative intensity the True Fae were born? Stranger still, could the True Fae have consciously borrowed their forms and habits from the capricious whims of the world’s gods and goddesses?
Another potential difficulty is that drawing too closely from existing myths gives players a level of familiarity with the True Fae that might run against mood. If you name one of the Gentry “Zeus,” for instance, then players are going to bring a lot of preconceptions to the table every time you mention said thunderer’s name. While there’s some fun to be had in presenting familiar names and then unexpected twists to such figures, it can mess with a player’s mythic reflexes.
Alternately, consider, too, the possibility that the True Fae are gods, but are divine in a way that isn’t connected to mythology. They can be gods, after all, without mortals truly knowing their name. Similar to Lovecraft’s elder gods from outside space and time, perhaps the True Fae are so eldritch that they are wholly unknowable. The gods of humans have nothing, then, on the alien horror that these distant beings could theoretically represent.
She That Formed All Things. It may seem odd, that humans would protect her, but they don’t know what she really is, do they? They believe her a goddess — Tiamat, from the old Sumerian legends — and why wouldn’t they? She comes to their small bayside town on a black boat whenever the moon is orange. She has a serpent’s tail and a human’s face, a mouth filled with dragon’s teeth and a chest of plump teats that drip salty tears. Whenever she comes, she takes one of the people from the small village of Baytown, a person whom the townsfolk offer to the goddess as a kind of appeasing gesture. They know that when they do not let her take one of their own, she curses them with luck so foul that the tales of misfortune have become legendary. Those few changelings kept by Tiamat (for she will answer to that now) have tried to return to Baytown to tell their once-brethren the truth. But they won’t hear it. The mortals have shovels and shotguns and a crazed look in their eyes. They believe themselves god-touched, and maybe in some way they are.
Angels and DemonsEdit
Consider in mythology how strange an angel appears. Animal parts and human faces. Pulsing light and deep shadow. Both profoundly beautiful and clearly inhuman. Consider, too, encounters with these supposed messengers of God and how unsettling or unpredictable they can be. They might demand odd tasks (as they do of Ezekiel) or levy lunatic prophecies against whole villages. Certainly the True Fae cannot be real angels of God, can they? Some changelings speculate that maybe the True Fae are. Maybe they abduct and punish those who deserve it. Or maybe in a kind of Deist perspective, God has truly left the world to its own devices, but the angels who remained behind went mad without His light to guide them? It’s easy to view the abduction experience through the filter of organized, monotheistic religion (though one’s changeling condition is a little harder to reconcile in that worldview), and angels seem perhaps the most straightforward answer to the identity of the Fae.
That is, except for demons. The Fae might very well be demons and devils, as well. What of the succubus or incubus, who violates mortal beings while they sleep (and perhaps goes on to use the fluids collected from such an experience for its own diabolical ends)? What of the beautiful demon Azazel, who tempts women into sin, and teaches them to “paint their faces fair” with makeup? Or of demons who abduct humans and give them a glimpse of Hell (which could be just an infernal part of Arcadia)? In fact, some changelings view Arcadia as Hell, or a kind of purgatory. After all, isn’t it a place of both punishment and pleasure for the changeling? Of wretched tortures and unholy desires? It may not look like the medieval idea of Hell with pits of molten metal and geysers of fire, but metaphorically, the shoe fits.
Minister Thorn. This is what several of the Lost within San Francisco freehold remember. They recall being part of a “congregation” led by a figure in a dark suit with a priest’s collar. Sometimes he called himself Minister Thorn, other times, Sammael the Thorn. He shackled the changelings to pews made of dark wood, and then vines grew from his eyes and bleeding roses bloomed from their tips. He spoke of love and punishment, and of the eventual fall of humans. He spoke of beautiful Adam and beautiful Eve and how he coveted that beauty so deeply. Sometimes he would allow the changelings to confess, and in confessing, join him in his bed. He had many Bibles in many languages — some languages that were definitely not human. The thing is, he shows up in human dreams, too. He appears there chastising sinners and lamenting the loss of innocence. He finds weakness in those who believe themselves base and vile, and he worms his way between the cracks in one’s esteem. Poets have written of him. Usually before ending their lives.
Neither Heaven nor HellEdit
According to some traditions of folklore, the fae are creatures that are part of Creation, yet “undecided” in the war between good and evil. Some note that they’re angels who refused to side with either God or Lucifer, and for their refusal were condemned to an immortal existence without the knowledge of Heaven or Hell. Others might trace their roots to celestial envoys that dallied too long on the mortal plane and lost their state of grace, such as the book of Enoch’s Grigori (or their children, the nephilim). From this tradition come other beliefs, such as the idea that the True Fae must pay a regular teind of souls to Hell — to which end they kidnap mortals, of course.
This explanation endures today, and many Lost find it as plausible as anything else. The Others give no impression of ever having been mortal, and yet they have a great fascination, even obsession with mortals. Arcadia could well be a realm the Others created in a pastiche attempt to emulate Heaven. Or Hell. Or both.
The Gentle Boatman. He is the kindest and gentlest of ferrymen; he says so himself. He appears beneath bridges, always called by some elaborate rule embedded in the local folklore: perhaps when a mother casts her unwanted newborn into the river, or when a virgin boy bathes in the creek by moonlight. The boat (or raft; accounts vary) that he poles is battered and seems as though it should have sunk long ago, but still he is able, with the sweetest and friendliest of speech, to coax so many of those who call him to go for a little ride. He tells the most marvellous stories of a bright kingdom that was once his and a dread cousin who tricked him into exile, but his mood turns quite sour if he dwells on the prospect for too long. The stories of the Gentle Boatman pose one interesting conundrum: Though he can talk anyone into anything with his silver tongue, or ask some of his other passengers to go and collect a person for him, he cannot set foot on one bank or the other. He rejected that choice long ago, and has suffered from it ever since.
The abduction phenomenon is part of modern folk-myth, and is generally ascribed to being the result of an alien (be it extraterrestrial or hyper-dimensional) abduction. Elements of this abduction are easily shared with the abduction experience that a changeling undergoes when taken to Arcadia. Abductees experience a loss of time or some kind of time shift. They may be experimented upon surgically or psychically. They are handled by clearly inhuman beings in oddly sterile environments (creative and biological sterility being an earmark between both alien beings and the Fair Folk). The aftermath or return is often marked by strange powers, bad dreams, incomplete memories and new phobias. Some changelings don’t hesitate to make the assumptive leap that, sure enough, they’ve been abducted by aliens and not by mythic dream beings. Given, too, the fact that a changeling’s memory of her durance is often incomplete (and just as any dream can shift and morph when recalled), it becomes easy for her to believe that she has been taken by alien beings and she escaped (or was let free).
Is it possible that the True Fae are actually aliens? Whether or not they are from another world, they’re certainly alien in nearly every sense of the word. They’re not human, though they seem to mimic humanoid behavior (as do aliens from various abduction myths). They seem fascinated by humans (perhaps that’s why the True Fae abduct mortal beings). They come from another dimension, a place not physically anchored to Earth. Is there any cognitive or important difference between a hovering craft of lights and sound and a shadowy carriage bounding down a pitted Hedge road? When put side to side, does it matter if one called the Fair Folk faeries or aliens?
Children of the Three Androgynes. Mortals have mentioned them, and so, too, have changelings. The Three Androgynes are hairless humanoid beings with flesh the color of bile and eyes like bright beryl. Some mortals claim to have seen flashing lights and experienced dizziness before meeting these three strangers. The human, always alone, encounters this triumvirate of “aliens” and experiences one of two situations. In the first situation, the aliens take something from him. He feels unable to resist as they hold him down and steal an item from him — a watch, a shoelace, wallet pictures of his family. Then they mark him with a small burn hole on his ear or neck. Then they’re gone. In the second situation, they take him away. They drag him through a hole between worlds, and he finds himself in a glowing craft over an expanse of thorny briar. When he awakens, he finds himself returned to this world one year and one day later, except now he is different. Now he is a changeling — Wizened, Darkling or Fairest — and like the others, he is marked by a burn scar somewhere upon his body. Stories of the Three Androgynes have been common for the last 40 years, marked in various Fortean journals and books.
What is perhaps the most common and most confusing theory espoused by changelings is one often known as the ‘Nightmare Factory’ theory. In it, we return once more to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.
Man has always had nightmares. Bad dreams are a psychological reality. Everybody has them. The assumption made by some changelings is that from these nightmares — so potent in their somnolent reality — the True Fae are born. Not every bad dream results in a nightmare, of course, but some are so wholly vicious and real-seeming that they literally create the Fair Folk out of nothing. It makes sense when recalling the Fae or when dealing with them. They are clearly creatures straight out of the worst dreams: Shifting faces, exploiting fears, imprisoning the dreamer.
Of course, it’s then also possible that nightmares do not spawn the True Fae, but that the True Fae spawn the nightmares. One’s nighttime horrors are therefore the direct result of some cruel Keeper somewhere in Arcadia, tugging on phantasmal puppet strings or painting horrid dream-vistas out of blood and black tar. A third corollary theory exists, and that is the one that speculates that humans did not dream the nightmare Fae, but that the Fae dreamed up humans so they could have a place in this world as well as their own. It seems strange to consider, but nightmares needn’t be sensible.
Although a lot is covered about the True Fae, the storyteller is always given the final voice in what they actually are. In contrast with the Fae of Arcadia from Mage: The Awakening, the Changeling version of the Fae offers them up as being fetches of the “real” denizens of Arcadia, which explains why the Gentry are able to create the doppelgangers in the first place.
Another possibility is that the True Fae are merely dreams given sentience and life through the power of the Wyrd, reasoning that this is why the Gentry are so capricious and unable to create anything without human intervention. Without dreamers, there are no dreams.
The society that the True Fae maintain seems to be stitched together, bound more by vague promises of social obligations than any real kinship. In fact, most Gentry seem to prefer the company of hobgoblins and abducted mortals to their own kind. It seems all too likely that the True Fae favor association with those who aren’t strong enough to challenge the Fae’s authority, question their whims or even resist changing when the True Fae feels like a change. Below are a few concrete examples of what changelings may remember about their durance, and what they witnessed from the Fae in regard to any kind of uniform “culture.”
Infernal Bargains – What economy exists between the Fae seems to be based purely on a fickle system of barter with few if any preset rules establishing “value.” Changelings have witnessed fairly unusual and uneven trades between fiends.
Monster’s Ball – The Fair Folk seem beholden to some tradition of parties and festivals, offering them with some kind of regularity. Such events often taint the nightmares of changelings to this day, even assailing them with waking visions of the madness put on display during such occasions.
Nightmare in Concert – Most Fae seem to operate alone. It may have to do with their jealousy and need for dominance. Some have speculated that it has to do with their general lack of dynamism — that sterility and hollowness leaves them without any kind of true bonds between one another, thus forcing them to work alone or in unique pairs. And yet, some Lost recall being abducted by or serving beneath not one Fae, but several acting in concert.
Power of Names and TitlesEdit
The True Fae play a game that revolves around the acquisition of Titles and devouring of Names. Each member of the Gentry has both a name and at least one title, but the more they have, the greater their power, as the title grants them control over certain elements and concepts. To lose all ones titles is to either be destroyed or be banished from Arcadia.
Titles are gained and lost by having the Gentry challenge each other to Feuds, or what the changeling Winter Court has codenamed Legends. A legend revolves around conflict between two or more warring Kindly Folk, who — after asking and acquiring permission from their opponent(s) — must play out key parts within the legend.
Sometimes a given title is too precious to a member of the Gentry to lose, but is so attractive to other players that the Fae is forced to constantly fight for its ownership. The solution to this comes in the form of tossing the title out of Arcadia- literally.
What happens to the title in question is that it becomes an avatar of the True Fae that discarded it, allowing the Gentry to be in two places at once, while protecting the title from being taken by rivals. The avatar’s nature is reflective of the title it was born from, and can sometimes even be mistaken for a changeling, much to the glee and pleasure of its True Fae progenitor.
Game of ImmortalsEdit
Legends mean something to the Gentry. They are a means to existing. Through the conflict of the Feud, True Fae are able to experience challenge and potentially become even more powerful. Why this is important varies from member to member of the Kindly Folk, but most do so in the name of ambition towards Wyrd Transcendence, a mysterious fate, even to the Gentry, that they are instinctively drawn towards accomplishing. In order for this to happen, however, they must acquire a number of titles and names within the Game of Immortals.
In truth, however, it is during these story games that the Gentry are at their most vulnerable, as they become forced to play out their parts, lest they risk losing their coveted title. Changelings that enter Arcadia may find this to their advantage, and may choose a side (or not), to gain assistance in destroying one or more of the True Fae. This can also lead to the creation of alliances through pacts with the two factions, the Gentry being sworn to uphold their end of the bargain in the name of the Wyrd.
Feuds are not the only way True Fae create conflict. There’s also the Hunt: an expedition beyond Arcadia to alien realms like Earth, human dreams and the Hedge. Natives challenge the Others with strong wills and strange ways. Changelings know the Hunt. Often as not, they were the prey. Mortals are valuable commodities: a free will is precious. Human duality grows stronger before Arcadia. Mortal fear, hate and disorientation strengthen psychic boundaries and feed a Keeper’s needs. Resentful slaves are the most valuable kind. When they rebel, they trigger Legends of their own, and True Fae revel in them. These conflicts sustain them, too.
Forms of the GentryEdit
The Fae are limitless beings, but it seems that they must restrict their powers to meaningfully interact with others. However, despite what most changelings believe, the True Fae are not simply powerful creatures that you can stab and kill. They are beings given power over aspects of the Wyrd, their names and titles allowing them to take on a plethora of shapes and forms. While even the weakest Gentry have tremendous power, there are still limits to their manifestations. A True Fae can only commit a Title to one form at a time (for example, a faerie with three Titles can appear as three different forms simultaneously). Of these forms, there are the following:
Actor – The most common shape that most changelings see a Kindly One as, the Actor is the sentient avatar of a given True Fae, using a title or name to grant itself attributes and power over certain elements and concepts. It is used most often when attempting to converse with Others, or hunting in the Hedge and mortal realm. The Gentry can put as many titles into their Actor as they desire, but can only have one Actor out at a time. If the Actor is killed, the Title is destroyed.
Prop – A sneakier form to take, the True Fae can take the shape of an object in character with the title it is created from. This is usually used to spy on slaves within a given Gentry’s domain, or enhance the powers of an Actor, be it the owner’s, or an ally Kindly Folk. Props are almost indestructible and can resist every form of damage but they always have a single weakness.
Realm – Under this form, the Gentry becomes a location within its domain in Arcadia—though there’s always tell-tale signs of the place being one of the Kindly Folk, reflected in the title used to create it. When they choose to manifest as Realms built from their thoughts, they can support civilizations, ecosystems, and myth-cycles spun from the Titles and Wyrd energies.
Wisp – Despite the name, wisps are not singular creatures when revolving around the True Fae, rather, they are a group of “minions” or “servants” that are relevant to the title that made them. They are considered less than automatons by other True Fae, and are used usually to maintain and/or defend a given Gentry’s domain from invasion. Rumor has it that when the world was closer to Faerie, the Others visited humans in Wisp forms. They were house-elves and hearth gods for anyone they favored — and monsters for anyone they hated. Wisps are strong in numbers: enemies must kill every Wisp in a pack to destroy their bonded Title.
A lot of changelings believe the Gentry are virtually omnipotent, others underestimate the True Fae. Sometimes the True Fae enjoy spreading lies about their vulnerabilities but every once in a long, long while the stories are true; the Other’s bound by oath to flee or even “die” before some strange tactic. As powerful as the Others might be, there must always be some risk for them when interacting with her lessers, or the appearance is meaningless – thus the Legends are born.
If they don’t engage in Legends, the Dwindling takes place and the will of the True Fae disperses into Arcadia. Some say that many of Arcadia’s leaderless Realms are the remnants of Dwindled Fae: corpses made of unclaimed Titles and stillborn conflicts. This fate may not be death, but Gentry fear it. They create Feuds to stave it off: covenants of Gentry who vow to plot against each other. Each faerie in a Feud sends manifestations of itself against others, where they play out tales of genuine peril and difficult victory.
A True Fae is obliterated when its Name is destroyed. This feat can be accomplished by another True Fae (maybe even a Nemesis), that devours all the titles and the name of his rival. However, breaking a namebound oath also means obliteration. Many Gentry cannot even conceive of breaking such an oath — it would be like asking a mortal to grow a new head.. but they can accidentally break it (and this might be their greatest vulnerability, but exploiting it requires incredible ingenuity).
The Fair Folk do not belong to the mundane world. It is as alien to them as Arcadia is to the poor souls dragged there as slaves. The Fae suffer here, finding their powers and actions imperfect. They’re able to only achieve a fraction of the power accessible to them in the Hedge and in Faerie. Moreover, they’re hobbled by several deleterious limitations that affect them when they are in this world.
The Fae have a time limit in this world. They cannot exist easily here — it’s as if the very fabric of the human realm eventually turns its eyes toward them, and upon recognizing something so aberrant and unnatural, it begins to nip and bite at them (assume that the Fae have a time limit equal to their Wyrd score in hours – once this time has passed, the intruder suffers one aggravated wound per hour after, and this damage will not heal in this realm). True Fae cannot create human objects. They have a very limited understanding of Computer, Empathy and Expression and a profoundly difficult time creating using these Skills – similarly, also cannot Hedgespin.
It is said that the only way to truly kill a Fae lord is destroying him while his entire essence dwells outside Arcadia (which makes them extremely potent, but still vulnerable to some things, like Cold Iron). Instead, this death curses them to remain, for ever tainted by this exposure. They have built up a kind of immunity to whatever it is about the mortal world that kills the True Fae by choosing to become one of the Charlatans – but in so doing they have barred themselves from easy return to their homelands. Not all of the Gentry are willing to become Charlatans, and some of them choose to die the true death instead.
Assume that all True Fae possess frailties. They gain one minor frailty (taboo or bane) from the very beginning, and at Wyrd 5 they gain one major frailty (taboo or bane). Obviously, the Fae keep these weaknesses hidden (though, curiously, some don’t seem aware that they even posses them in the first place). Some Lost may recall their Keepers having been confronted by a taboo of some sort while trapped in Arcadia, such as a Fae who accidentally spills salt on the floor while eating dinner and finds himself unable to cross that line until the changeling cleans the salt up.
The True Fae are sterile physically, as well. Sex with a human female doesn’t result in a pregnancy because the Others simply aren’t capable of producing anything. Well, usually.
Once in a blue moon — the chances of this are blessedly slim, but extant nevertheless — carnal relations between one of the Fae and a mortal woman results in a pregnancy. The strange, hollow matter of Arcadia lacks the potency and similarity to cause pregnancy, but sometimes these strange entities have just enough spark to seed the womb. What is born is never human, usually some kind of hobgoblin whose life expectancy is a number of days equal to the True Fae’s own Wyrd score. The thing inside appears human until its birth, which is usually a harrowing, bloody affair.
And what if a mortal man sleeps with a True Fae female? Nothing. The wombs of the Gentry are desiccated, bleak things as barren as a subterranean cavern (though some wombs are, like caverns, filled with strange life that has made a home there; insects, glowing growths, small mammals that lurk and linger). Some Fae, like the succubi of old, sleep with human men to collect their seed. The fluid, containing the spark of life, can be said to double the life of their botched creations when included in the crafting.
The last thing worth noting is what happens when a True Fae sleeps with an already-pregnant woman. Nobody knows what happens for sure, but somewhat unexpectedly the child after that always carries easily and safely to term. Such children, though, aren’t quite right. They always possess the Unseen Sense Merit, and many end up twisted and confused: Serial killers, madmen, wandering homeless, addicts.
Although a True Fae’s appearance is never the worst thing about the creature, it is the visual hook upon which the rest of the horrid memories hang, and thus often ends up being the first thing a changeling recalls about her Keeper.
The Fair Folk are creatures whose appearances are not so easily defined. While changelings, too, have a wide array of fae façades, it’s easy to look upon them and note at least a few common elements that connect them (the horns of various Beasts, the eerie perfections of the Fairest, the unnerving imperfections of the Wizened). The Fae share no such easy categorization. Some appear entirely or mostly human. Others may resemble more grandiose (or monstrous) versions of the changeling seemings. Some, though, feature faces and bodies that go well beyond the limits of what is known or demonstrated by the Lost: a Fae who appears like a crashing wave with a watery maw, a Keeper who is a slowly turning red and black mandala or a fiend who has the face of a woman atop the body of a stone tiger with a tail like a barbed leather flail. Abstraction and deformity come together to make fiends who represent both unearthly beauty and unholy foulness.
What determines a True Fae’s exact physical appearance? Nobody knows. Some assume that, when the True Fae crawl from whatever nightmare spawns them, they take on the countenance of the dream itself. The elements of the nightmare come to them, merge with the consciousness and bloat the invisible body with the nighttime images of horror.
Some evidence gives credence to this theory of being built from images and impressions they steal from the psyche of mortals. One changeling is said to have been taken by a True Fae who appeared almost exactly like the changeling’s own wife (whom he accidentally had killed years before in a drunk-driving accident). The Fae didn’t seem initially cognizant of this fact, and her other kept changelings saw her the same way (in other words, they did not each see her as some reflection of their own pasts, but instead each saw her the same way, indicating that her countenance was not a ruse or illusion). The ex-wife had figured prominently in the changeling’s own dreams, a phantom from beyond the grave chiding him with words that became whips that flayed his skin. No surprise, then, when the True Fae who looked like her could do similarly, turning her words into literal barbs and thorns to score the flesh.
Of course, evidence exists, too, that points to the contrary of this — no known Fae has ever replicated a known monster or pop culture figure. While children and adults are capable of dreaming nightmares that feature Michael Myers or the Creature from the Black Lagoon haunting them, no changelings as yet have ever seen Gentry who appear as such. Some speculate this is answered easily: The Fae steal their faces from only nightmares born of the dreamer. The shared horror of, say, Frankenstein or Freddy Krueger simply don’t have the horrific impact necessary to bear consciousness like terrible fruit (whereas nightmares of elfin abductors or gray aliens have true cultural resonance). More argue that it’s because the Fae aren’t born from nightmares at all, but are simply predators that treat nightmare as a hunting ground. The reason they themselves appear like things out of nightmare is because they can create only what they know, which is their own twisted beauty and grotesqueness.
How many faces does a Fae truly have? In Arcadia, their appearances seem limitless, though still somehow seem bound by theme. A dark shadow that stalks the woods outside the manor can become all kinds of predatory creatures both real and imagined: Wolf, tiger, hawk or something with parts from all such beasts. It could also become part tree, part snake or even show up as the barest slivers of light that dapple down from the pleach of branches above. And yet, that Fae could not become a terrible machine with gnashing teeth. Why? Hard to say. If the Fae belongs to the forest and is a dream born of the terror of the dark woods or the wild heart, then the Fae must cling to such a living theme as due to some kind of dark logic. A river hag might appear as anything that one can associate with the river, be it a fat-bellied toad-woman or a massive serpent made of tangled bulrush and chokeweed, but she could not be a creature made of fire or an idol formed of gold. The logic of Arcadia, such as it is, fails to allow such transformation.
In this world, however, a Fae is limited. The verisimilitude formed by this so-called reality doesn’t allow the True Fae to fulfill the spectrum of forms available to a given Fae, and thus, she can only become two forms. One form is ostensibly human. It appears in most ways humanoid. This humanoid form might feature a few oddities (forked tongue, talons topping long fingers, irises colored red or white or some other unnatural color), but does not feature abnormalities that would distinguish the Fae as inhuman from afar (wings, horns, multiple limbs). The Fae’s second form is kind of a “pure form” of its theme. No telling if the Fae chooses this form upon whatever gross birth stirs it into existence, or whether this form is simply part of the fiend’s fabric of existence from the start. The pure form could be anything: Draconic entity, a pulsing dark light, a many-limbed goddess with a mouth of blood and a head of worms.
Often, the two forms — humanoid and unalloyed — make a kind of strange sense together. One Fae, for instance, has the pure form of a Ford T-Bucket roadster from the early 1950s, with tires rimmed with liquid shadow, a front grill that looks like clenched teeth and fire that belches out the exhaust. The humanoid form is complementary — a tall greaser with a mean eye, a meaner knife and a slick duck’s ass cut tapering his oily black hair. (And were a changeling able to soften his fear long enough to gaze upon this Keeper in both forms, the changeling would notice that the two share that same clenched grin, or that the headlights to the Model T sometimes squint and wink like the greaser is wont to do).
The Fae can mimic humanity, and this Mask is good enough to pass unnoticed among the human herd. No roll is necessary to assume this Mask; the Fae simply wishes it so, and the false visage takes over. Moreover, they seem to intuitively know the vast range of human tongues, able to speak in whatever language the listener himself speaks. However, the Mask is not perfect. A Fae’s faux-human countenance suffers from many small weaknesses, like cracks in an otherwise perfect mirror (in game terms, Social rolls made in a True Fae’s favor while wearing the mortal Mask are made at a –1 die penalty, and they do not gain the 10 again benefit from such a roll).
When a Fae affects the Mask, doing so costs him one point of Glamour to turn it on, and one point of Glamour to turn it off. The Mask’s duration is limited only by how long the Fae can remain in the mortal realm — once this time period is up, the Fae may no longer maintain the Mask. As noted, the Mask is imperfect. Even if the Fae is nominally beautiful, something seems off, askew, decidedly strange. Sometimes, this thing isn’t quantifiable, and the fiend only gives off an aura of “wrongness.” Other times, it’s manifested physically — index fingers eerily longer than all other fingers, pointed teeth, oddly colored eyes, a persistent nosebleed. The Mask holds up to casual scrutiny, but if a human or changeling stares at the Mask (assume a Wits + Investigation roll), she can see that something is wrong. Note that this doesn’t confer an easy answer of: “I’ve discovered one of the Others!” People look strange all the time. The deformed, the disfigured, the unkempt, the just plain “odd.” This doesn’t necessitate them being True Fae, but it shouldmake a changeling worry when she comes across such a person.
The Mask is hard for a changeling to pierce. The changeling is allowed to make a Wits + Occult + Wyrd roll versus the Fae’s Presence + Wyrd score. When suspecting that a Fae is wearing a mortal Mask, the changeling can also spend one Glamour point to try to peer through the illusion. In spending the Glamour, the changeling avoids having to make the roll, and automatically sees through the Fae’s Mask for a single turn.
The Fae may not access any of the supernatural abilities directly associated with their miens (as determined below) while wearing the Mask. While wearing the Mask, the Fae can access Contracts and other powers such as associated blessings, but her mien carries with it several physical manifestations that she cannot access when wearing the face and flesh of a mortal being.
Unlike the mien, a True Fae can change her mortal Mask once per visit to the human world. Upon leaving the Hedge or a mortal’s dreams, the Fae can spend two Glamour and roll her Presence + Subterfuge. Success indicates that she can appear as a mortal she has met in the past. If she tries to change into a human that she has never met, or attempts to concoct a human Mask out of her imagination, the roll suffers a –3 dice penalty. No matter how she decides to appear, her Mask is always a little off. Moreover, elements of her mien always seem to come through as it does with changelings.
Assume that a Fae’s mien allows her to possess a number of supernatural benefits (which are not available to the Fae while wearing the Mask). Each Fae has up to three of such mien blessings that accommodate the Fae’s form and grant her additional power. You can choose these three from the kith blessings or you can also choose from some of the blessings located immediately below.
• Binding Skin:The Fae’s flesh regenerates. Wounds expunge blood, then start to heal. Bones shift and pop while knitting back together. Bashing damage heals at one point per turn. Lethal damage disappears at a rate of one point per 15 minutes. Aggravated damage, however, is not affected by this ability, and remains to plague the fiend.
• Blurflesh: The Fae’s body seems to radiate an odd blur or mirage-like effect. It could be like looking at the fiend through water, smoke, fog or heat vapor. The Fae seems somewhat in control of how the blur occurs, and it’s distracting to those making ranged attacks against the fiend. The Fae can apply its full Defense against incoming ranged attacks.
• Flicker: The Fae gives off a distracting, even hypnotic aura. Whether it’s a shifting interplay of light and shadow or a effervescent parade of dizzying colors, the aura serves to distract and weaken one’s ability to attack. The Fae spends one point of Glamour to activate this ability. For the rest of the scene, all who see the Fae suffer a –5 dice penalty to their Initiative scores.
• Lyrical Voice: The Fae’s voice possesses magical qualities. Perhaps it is lilting and lovely, or it could be that it carries with it an unmistakable authority. Her words might sound as poetry, or remind one of a babbling brook or a keening violin. Any rolls involving Expression, Persuasion or Subterfuge gain the 9 again benefit.
• Many-Eyes: A Fae with this “blessing” might have multifaceted fly-eyes, eight eyes like a spider or a head riddled with blinking human eyes. The eyes grant two bonuses. The first requires no cost or activation, and allows the Fae to add her Wyrd to any Perception rolls. The second requires two points of Glamour, and allows the Fae to double her Defense for a turn because her eyes can see incoming attacks with far greater clarity.
• Nightmare Aura: In a nightmare, someone may find himself hampered — he cannot run, he cannot flee, as if his feet were mired in concrete or he were running on some kind of invisible treadmill (and meanwhile, one’s nightmarish adversary approaches with eerie confidence). This ability grants the Fae a similar effect, except one that occurs in the real world, not in dreams. All within 50 yards of the Fae find their Speed cut in half (round down). They feel sluggish, as if caught in the aforementioned nightmare… often while the Fae strides up behind them, knives unsheathed, lips twisted in a sneering smile. The Fae’s physical manifestation can be diverse, ranging from ghostly tentacles that seem to lash out and coil around ankles to a radiant effect in which the ground literally seems to turn to mush or mud (concrete may even appear to turn to its unsettled form).
• Quillbarbs: The flesh of the True Fae is riddled with quills, barbs, hooks, spikes or the cartilaginous skin of a shark (rubbed the wrong way, a shark’s skin causes abraded burns). A successful Brawl attack made against the Fae incurs one lethal point of damage upon the attacker. A successful Weaponry attack sees the weapon take damage — one point of Structure per successful attack.
• Sicktouch: The Fae’s touch is rife with disease. Perhaps her fingers fester with sores, or maybe little biting fleas leap off her skin. The Fae spends one point of Glamour to activate this ability for a single scene, and conferring the disease requires a successful touch attack. The sickness conferred is like a bad flu: it causes one bashing damage per day that cannot be avoided, and confers a –3 dice penalty to all rolls. To rid oneself of the disease, the character must succeed on an extended Stamina + Resolve roll. Five successes are necessary, and each roll is equal to one day. Note, however, that the illness does not begin immediately: just as all good virulence, Sicktouch takes some time to get going. The sickness does not take hold until eight hours have passed (and the character cannot start attempting to rid herself of the illness until it actually takes hold).
• Shocking Caress: The Fae, like an electric eel, can deliver a jolting shock of electricity through his skin. This can be used once per scene, and first requires that the Fae achieve a successful grapple. In the turn after a successfully held grapple, the Fae then spends a Glamour point. The sudden burst of electricity courses through the target’s veins, doing a number of bashing damage equal to the Fae’s Wyrd score. The victim must succeed on a Stamina roll (reflexive) in order to act in the resulting turn. If this Stamina roll fails, the target is still capable of moving around, albeit with minimal coordination. During that turn, then, the target’s Defense is halved (round up).
• Somnolent Perfume: The Fae gives off a fragrance similar to the scent associated with the Flowering kith, but this perfume’s effect is slightly different. The scent radiates off the Keeper in sometimes-visible vapors (it may look like a heat haze or a faint violet fog). The fragrance might be sweet, or it might be pungent, but its effect is the same: it can put others to sleep, en masse. By spending a Glamour point and rolling Wyrd against the highest Composure + Wyrd, those affected fall asleep for a number of turns equal to the Fae’s Wyrd score or until damage is done against them (bashing, lethal or aggravated). The fragrance has a radius in yards equal to the Fae’s Presence + Persuasion dice pool.
• Sovereign Limb: The Fae has an appendage that acts independently of the Fae. It might be a lashing tail, a whipping tongue, a third arm, even a barbed and braided length of ivy. The limb can be also something ethereal and unreal — a tentacle formed of shadow, perhaps, or an orbiting metal sphere. The limb has an Initiative modifier equal to the Fae’s Presence score and has the Fae’s Defense and Speed score. The limb’s attack pool is equal to the Fae’s Wyrd score, and does bashing damage. Attacking the limb is a targeted attack (and thus a –2 dice penalty), but damage done to the limb is transferred directly to the Fae. The only advantage to attacking the limb is that bashing damage done to it doestransfer to the Fae, thus bypassing the Fair Folk’s “Immortal Flesh” advantage.
• Swarmcloud: The Fae is surrounded by a persistent swarm of some ilk. This generally means something alive: biting flies, bees, locusts, gnats, moths, butterflies. The swarm can alternately manifest as non-living things — whorls of paper, a dusty sirocco of sand, even sparks of static electricity whipping and snapping in the air. It all adds up to one thing: the True Fae is harder to hit in combat. Whether because of biting flies or because the swarm obscures one’s sight, this blessing grants the Fae a +2 dice bonus to his Defense (though a –2 dice penalty to any Social rolls made on his behalf).