Ailil | Balor | Leanhaun
(Pour L'Amour et Liberte: The Book of Houses 2, pp. 5-50, The Shadow Court, pp. 62-63; Book of Lost Dreams, pp. 40-42)
House Ailil is perhaps the best known of the Unseelie Houses. They take an active role in changeling politics, openly opposing the stranglehold on power that the Seelie Court possesses. In Concordia, they are often found as a small, underrepresented, yet highly vocal, minority in the Parliament of Dreams. Ailil fiefdoms are rare, and are almost invariably Unseelie. They are watched with care by Seelie rulers, as they are hotbeds of Unseelie insurrection and Shadow Court manipulation. Distrusted by Houses such as Gwydion and Dougal, they are nonetheless treated as distant cousins by House Eiluned, which is their sister House. Relations have always been fairly peaceable between these two lines of Sidhe; many even consider it ironic that the more "noble" of these two Houses is so unrepentantly Unseelie, while the shady and secretive Eiluned claim allegiance to the Seelie Court. Some old legends persist that Ailil and Eiluned themselves were brother and sister, and that Ailil was a Seelie-disposed king, while his sister was an Unseelie-aligned sorceress. How the two gathered courts around them that were so obviously opposed to their attitudes, thereby forming Houses of Sidhe around them, is anyone's guess.
House Ailil wants to restore the ancient traditions of half-year rule, wherein the Unseelie Court would control land and political moves for the fall and winter of the year, and then restore the crown to the Seelie for spring and summer. House Ailil claims that the Seelie have betrayed the trust of the Unseelie Courts, and grossly destabilized the Dreaming itself by reneging on their promises. Some among their number suggest that it is not too late to return to this practice, and are ready to make the exchange in any year the Seelie will finally agree to it. Others believe that the Seelie control of the past six hundred years has upset the balance, and that only an Unseelie control for the next six hundred will clear the slate.
House Ailil provides much of the leadership for the Unseelie Court, defending Unseelie commoners and the other Sidhe, and invariably acting as the open adversaries for House Gwydion. Despite the noble face of this House, its members see themselves as unjustly wronged by the Seelie Court, and are fully prepared for all manner of treachery to revenge themselves. Assassination, kidnapping, framing, conspiracy, blackmail, seduction, deception, and more are all common weapons in the Ailil arsenal. They are strong believers in doing the job themselves, but also see the need for monkeys paw and thugs, to keep their own hands clean. Internal competition is common and expected in the House.
Boon: Sidhe of House Ailil are experts at political manipulation. All rolls involving manipulation are made at a -1 difficulty, Members of House Ailil can never botch rolls involving Subterfuge or Politics.
Flaw: Despite their insistence at the great differences between their House and their enemies of House Gwydion, members of House Ailil are cursed by the same arrogance of the Seelie adversaries. Ailil are almost totally incapable of admitting their own mistakes. They tend to take on tasks that others would shy away from, convinced that their own cunning or skill will see them through. In non-combat situations, they must make a Willpower roll (diff. 8) to admit that they are wrong, even when it is obvious to everyone else, and even themselves. If they back down from a situation, such as a battle they know they cannot win, they suffer a +1 difficulty to all Social rolls until they gain some sort of victory that restores their confidence and their face. House Ailil nobles are likely to abuse their underlings in these situations, taking some pleasure in showing up those who are beneath them.
(Pour L'Amour et Liberte: The Book of Houses 2, pp. 103-149; The Shadow Court, pp. 63-64; Book of Lost Dreams, pp. 42-43)
Most Sidhe who hear the name House Balor regard it as little more than a jest, a cruel joke designed to aggravate Traditionalist Sidhe. House Balor derrives its name from a powerful Fomorian king named Balor of the Evil Eye, whose gaze could destroy his enemies. Most Sidhe who recall Balor's name believe that the Sidhe of House Balor intend nothing more than to aggravate the Seelie with a reference to one of their ancient enemies. House Balor have no intention of dissuading them from this erroenous notion. In truth, House Balor believe their founder was Lugh of the Long Arm, the half-Sidhe, half-Fomorian grandson of Balor himself, and a hero of the Sidhe in the wars against the Fomorian Courts. Thus, the Sidhe of House Balor believe that they are the true kings of the Dreaming; their blood is that of Fomorian and Sidhe intermingled, and they laugh at the claims of House Gwydion, or even their own allies among Houses Ailil and Leanhaun. Just as Lugh slew his own grandfather, House Balor believes it is their destiny to triumph over the Sidhe of the Seelie Court and take their rightful place as rulers of the fae.
More than any other House, the Sidhe of House Balor believe that Winter is almost upon the world. Without a strong hand to lead them, the fae will surely perish. House Balor fully intends to set itself up as overlords of humans and Kithain alike, demanding tribute and guiding the waking lands and the Dreaming through Winter with an iron fist. Until this goal can be reached, the fae of House Balor cultivate allies among the Unseelie Court, both commoner and Sidhe. Additionally, these Sidhe are always on the look-out for Prodigal races who can be converted to their cause; already they have found allies among several shapeshifter species, especially a twisted race of werewolves who call themselves Black Spiral Dancers. House Balor forms alliances with a number of murderous, dark, and twisted spiritual organizations and supernatural races; many whisper that chimera of Nightmare are found commonly in the council-chambers, and even the beds, of this House.
At their worst, House Balor are insane tyrants, desperate to seize control of mortal and fae worlds alike and grind them beneath their boot. Others, however, point to a proud history of betrayal in the past of House Balor; some optimists claim that just as Lugh drew upon his Fomorian and Sidhe magicks to destroy Balor, so is it likely that the Sidhe of House Balor form alliances with dark creatures only to betray them one day. Many insist that their convuluted geneaology cannot help but force them to knife their current allies in the back, and that, should Winter ever come, they will be staunch allies of the Seelie Court, secret infiltrators of the Nightmare camp.
For now the Sidhe of House Balor are content to plot with the Unseelie Court, forming alliances wherever they can among Kithain, Gallain, and Prodigals. While whispers link the Shadow Court to the Sidhe of House Balor, it seems as if the two organizations each have their own agenda. Many Sidhe of House Balor masquerade as members of House Eiluned or Dougal, worming their way into the Seelie Court. Most of them regard the Seelie Court as weak, and constantly probe and test it for opportunities to strike at it. Many members of House Balor enjoy politics, and are masters of treachery, though their flair for the dramatic tends to unmask them before too long, another example of their unhidable flaws, perhaps. Many of them are quite decadent and debauched, and demand total obessiance from their vassals.
Boon: The fomorian blood of these sidhe shields them from the worst effects of cold iron. Cold iron still causes them discomfort, but Balor sidhe take no penalty when performing tasks that involve contact with it. They do not lose temporary Glamour when struck with it. If slain by an iron weapon, however, their faerie souls are still destroyed.
Although every Balor sidhe has a Seelie Legacy, it is always subdued. Though they can masquerade as Seelie sidhe, they will never actually become Seelie. For members of House Balor, that's a boon.
Flaw: Each member of this house has a physical, mental, or emotional deformity. Neither prosthetics nor psychological help can correct it, though it can be hidden. This Flaw can never be overcome. In addtion, a Balor Sidhe cannot have a Willpower rating higher than 6.
(Pour L'Amour et Liberte: The Book of Houses 2, pp. 53-100, The Shadow Court, pp. 64-65; Book of Lost Dreams, pp. 43-44)
Members of House Leanhaun are often seen as the most moderate of the "Winter" Houses, for they throw their lot in whole-heartedly with the Unseelie Court. A few Seelie Leanhaun exist, but they are by far the exception to the rule. They are traditionally viewed as hedonists and rakes, fond of mortal company, and extremely vain. A tradition of musical and poetic skill runs through this House, and many of them find employ as the bards, harpers, talesingers, and historians for other Sidhe. There are few commonly known Leanhaun Freeholds or fiefdoms, and most of them are in Hibernia (Ireland). Those Leanhaun Freeholds in Concordia opened themselves as places of peace during the Accordance War, offering succor to both sides, and acting as neutral ground for the wounded and the desperate. This earned House Leanhaun a good reputation among other fae, causing many of the Seelie Court to believe that their reputation as Unseelie monsters is unjustly earned. This is certainly a popular sentiment among the commoners who have just met House Leanhaun.
In truth, House Leanhaun carries a terrible burden, which forces them to engage in activities that the extremists among the Seelie Court cannot permit. The Sidhe of House Leanhaun are cursed with unnatural aging, as their bodies continue to crave Glamour. Without a constant and plentiful supply, members of this House sicken and wither, physically aging in both their fae and mortal appearance, and even passing through the varios Seemings (from Childing to Wilder to Grump) as the years mount.
Members of House Leanhaun are known for their beauty and style, and many of them are vain sensualists. They live in dread of the House's bane, and resort to brutal methods of gathering Glamour to abate their curse. Though they control few Freeholds, they have mastered the art of Epiphanies, and are masters of Reverie and Ravaging.
In many cases, however, this Glamour is not enough to abate the hunger that a Leanhaun has, and so she chooses instead to Rhapsodize mortals. This method of Epiphany infuses a human Dreamer with Glamour, causing his creativity to burn like wildfire, producing some of the greatest art of their lives. However, this process inevitably burns out the artist, causing many of them to waste away or even take their own lives. Since the Ressurgence in 1969, a number of great musicians, poets, painters, and the like have perished as a result of the Leanhaun's tender mercies. Their creativity reached heights it might never have soared to, but they paid the ultimate price, all as the Leanhaun watched on.
Though House Leanhaun enjoys good relationships with some Kith, they are always slow to reveal their secrets, and never offer full membership in their House to any non-Sidhe. The commoners are far more useful as retainers and allies, free of the curse which afflicts the members of this House, and perhaps even unaware of it. Many consider House Leanhaun to be doing little more than upholding the Unseelie Code, which preaches that "Glamour is free." Rhapsody, Ravaging, and the suffusion of all aspects of life with constant sources of Glamour allows a Leanhaun to pass as any other Sidhe, and thus they sometimes wear the colors of House Fiona or Eiluned, and are virtually undetectable in these guises, with their smooth ways and silver-tongues. There is a definite emnity between Houses Leanhaun and Liam, most likely over the Leanhaun abuse of mortals. These two Houses have crossed blades more than once, and neither will trade with the other. Many members of House Leanhaun, when they have the ear of Seelie lords, warn against too many dealings with the Oathbroken House of Liam, claiming that they have never proven their alliegance to the fae over their love of humans.
Boon: Members of House Leanhaun acquire an extra point of Charisma, even if this raises the Attribute above 5. Also, all Seduction rolls are made at a difficulty reduced by one, and cannot be botched.
Flaw: Because of an ancient curse upon their house, nobles of House Leanhaun age rapidly. Those who do not engage in the forbidden practice of Rhapsody once per month age one year for each week beyond this time that they avoid this predatory epiphany, which robs the Dreamer it is enacted upon of the ability ever to create anything of any merit again. Rhapsody is a violation of the Right to Dream as set down in the Escheat and is severely punished where it is discovered.