· The Shadow Court
o Perhaps, however, the most secretive of societies within the Kithain is the Shadow Court – these devoutly Unseelie changelings who do not fear the coming of Winter, but blames it on the cowardice of the nobility, the compromise of the Unseelie court, and the naiveté and failure of the Seelie Court. They have their own version of the Escheat (though they also have their own Winter version of such), called The Manifesto of Endless Winter, which is as follows:
§ Understand the mortal world, and shelter those who cannot live in it.
§ Understand the supernatural world, and make and break alliances as necessary.
§ Harvest Glamour and prepare for the approaching of Endless Winter.
§ Overthrow the Seelie Court and the nobility.
§ Fulfill the ritual obligations of the year, culminating in the rituals of Samhain.
§ Spread chaos, revolution and anarchy.
§ There is no tenent number seven. All hail Discordia!
o As well, the Winter version of the Escheat:
§ The Right of Demesne – Power to rule lands or people belongs in the hands of those who are strong or clever enough to take it and keep it. In many cases, this may be a single noble or a house; in others, groups of Kithain – both noble and commoner – may achieve dominance over a freehold or even a kingdom. Being a Seelie noble is hardly sufficient grounds in and of itself for rulership.
§ The Right to Dream – Mortals have the right to dream. Any way in which we can encourage them to dream for our benefit is good. That includes both inspiring through Musing, or Ravaging for what we need. Some among us practice direct infusion of creativity to incite Rhapsody. Who can argue with genius and the masterpieces it creates?
§ The Right of Ignorance – The fact that mortals don’t know of our existence is vital to our protection and survival, but paranoia has its limits. Sooner or later, as Endless Winter draws nearer, we will have to come back out of our freeholds and hidden places and brave the shock of the world. When that happens, we will need to surround ourselves with mortal armies willing to serve our purposes. This means that we will have to risk revealing ourselves to the world at large. As for making ourselves known to Prodigals and certain mortals already sensitive to our presence, individual judgment has to take precedence over hard-and-fast rules.
§ The Right of Rescue – Any Kithain who falls into the clutches of Dauntain, the Inquisition, or mortal institutions which threaten to destroy their faerie natures needs to be removed from danger. Period. New changelings – whether they are commoners fresh from their Chrysalis or nobles just booted out of Arcadia – need succor and protection until they can make their own way in the world. This is not a duty, it is just common sense.
§ The Right of Safe Haven – We need to protect our freeholds from Banality and violence to ensure that we, as well as the Seelie, survive. All Kithain in need of shelter are welcome in our places of power, so long as they behave like the guests they are. What better way to win friends to our cause than to provide safety in times of trouble?
§ The Right of Life – Destroying the soul of one of the Kithain destroys all of us in some small measure. While we should avoid killing those of faerie blood if possible, there are times when extreme measures are called for. Those who betray us forfeit their part in the Pageant.
· The Pageant
o The Shadow Court believe in a concept called The Pageant – the world is truly a stage, and every being on it is an actor, merely playing his or her already scripted part. The heart of the Pageant once was the seasonal passage, the journey of the faerie soul through all its arcane twisting and turnings – both Seelie and Unseelie. This ended with the Shattering, and while the fae who were left behind tried to maintain the Pageant, Banality overtook the world, leaving most changelings to the bare-bones of their life-dramas. The Unseelie, with their dark natures in a darkening world, seemed to adapt better to this, and have at least kept the Pageant alive in the autumn and winter rites and ceremonies that marked the Unseelie half of the yearly cycle. Of course, the Shadow Court see themselves as directors of the Pageant in the modern world, able to change the script if necessary. For further information on the Shadow Court and its workings, see The Shadow Court – there may be an additional write up on such; however, if necessary.
· Political Impulses
o As with the Seelie and Unseelie courts, the Shadow Court has their own political Impulses, and much of their court’s maneuverings revolve around such. Each political impulse listed below is associated with one (or more) tenets of the Manifesto of Endless Winter (see above). Regardless of their differences, however, each political Impulse in the Shadow Court does have a common goal threaded throughout them: overthrow the Seelie Court.
§ Purist – Purists are usually misnamed Traditionalists. These Unseelie want things to return to the original way in which Seelie and Unseelie divided up rulership through the year. While they do not advocate bringing it on, Purists prepare for the Endless Winter. They are most concerned with gaining power and influence in the mortal and supernatural worlds and with harvesting Glamour, which they will believe will be needed to see them through the hard times ahead. They are not above Ravaging when quick Glamour is needed, but many purists believe that Glamour is a vanishing commodity, and seek to preserve their Dreamers rather than waste their potential. While the Purists are led by Unseelie sidhe, there are a large number of commoners who agree with their philosophies.
§ Repudiator – Once called Reformists, the
Repudiators wanted to completely divorce themselves from the constitutional
monarchist Seelie reformers. To make clear their disgust with the Seelie
in general, they took the name Repudiators. These fae desire a complete
takeover by the Unseelie sidhe, who will then rule. They argue that 600
years of Seelie governance have led to ruin, and that only a total reversal can
save Changelings now. They work to bring on Endless Winter. Some
among them believe that the Winter is coming regardless of what they do.
They think those who are strong and ruthless must be in control when it does.
Others fear that the Winter is already upon us and the Seelie are just too blind to see it. They forsee that Spring will only come again once control has returned to the Unseelie for the centuries-long Winter. Repudiators seek power and influence among mortals and supernaturals, harvest and hoard Glamour for themselves, work toward the total overthrow of the Seelie, and closely follow the yearly rituals, especially those pertaining to Samhain. Commoners are welcome to their ranks, but definitely take a back seat to the Unseelie sidhe.
§ Anarchist – Those who do not believe there
should be any rulers belong to the Anarchist impulse (if the idea of a group of
Anarchists isn’t a contradiction in terms). In actuality, this catch-all
category throws together both those who believe the system of fae government is
outmoded and should be torn out for something better (but have no idea what that
‘something better’ is), and those who just want destruction for its own
sake. The former might better be called the Rebuilders and the latter the
Destructionists. The Destructionists see no future for themselves, for other
changelings or for the world. They don’t believe in the promises of an
Arcadia Never Neverland.
Neither group particularly cares about the Endless Winter – the Rebuilders because they see enough problems with the way things are now, the Destructionists because in a future where there is no future, such things as annihilation just don’t matter. Most of them cheerfully Ravage for all the Glamour they can get, try to overthrow the entrenched Seelie nobility, and spread anarchy and chaos however they can. There are as many commoners as sidhe among the Anarchists.
§ Ritualists – Many see the Ritualists as
offshoots of the Purists, but their interests are more spiritual than
political. Where they verge on politics, it is because they believe
political systems should be subservient to the spiritual life. They fully
subscribe to the ancient ways, believing that the king is the land, and that
sacrifices are necessary for the good of the land and to preserve its
connection to the Dreaming. They see the Endless Winter as a necessary
part of moving through the cycles and on into a new Spring. The Unseelie
calendar is a creation of the Ritualists and they are the ones who pay the most
attention to it.
Most Unseelie have great need for a major spiritual presence in their lives. Thus, anyone may become a Ritualist in addition to whatever other party she espouses (except Anarchists). Rituals can be used to legitimize just about any political impulse. Since the Unseelie are the ones who acknowledge the Endless Winter and feel they are to play a large part of it, they are far more given to spiritual shows and celebrations than their Seelie brethren. Ritualists are concerned with attaining influence and alliances in the supernatural world, in taking and storing Glamour for the Winter ahead, and in performing all their ritual obligations correctly and meaningfully. They are the most likely to create treasures and store Glamour as Dross. Many commoners like the Pageantry of the Ritualists, but sidhe are the group’s backbone.
§ Modernist – Though Unseelie, the Modernists
have no problem with sharing a name with a Seelie political impulse, for their
views are somewhat similar. Often confused with the Repudiators, Unseelie
Modernists believe the class distinction between commoners and nobles is
ludicrous. They acknowledge that the world is not the same anymore, and
that no one (not even the oh-so-genteel sidhe) can cram a 14th-century
government into the modern world and make it work. Nor can changelings go
back to the old ways; therefore, the only thing to do is make up new
ones. If changelings throw off their outmoded ideas and learn to live
fully in the modern world, Banality and all, they may be able to prevent the
Endless winter or ride through it with very little damage.
Modernists believe that the reason the Endless Winter is creeping up on the fae is to shake them out of their old ways and force them into the vanguard of a new era where they belong. Fae are supposed to be bright new dreams, not the outmoded, discarded ideas from yesterday. These changelings are the most likely to court knowledge of Banality in order to survive its effects as the world becomes ever more inhospitable to the fae. They seek knowledge of the modern world and alliances within it, both with mortals and supernaturals. They harvest Glamour, but are more experimental with it than other changelings, and they see that the old Seelie rulership has got to go modern if ideas are to be given serious consideration. There are far more commoners than nobles among the Modernists.
· Secret Socieities
o Membership in secret societies within the Shadow Court only makes sense – after all, they are the most secret of secret societies. This is a small list, as a complete list would be impossible, as many societies change their names and occasionally their goals. Although some secret societies, notably the Monkey’s Paw and the Ranters, contain both Seelie and Unseelie members (see Secret Societies in the first Political writeup), a few groups are unique to the Shadow Court.
§ Knights of the Cold Watch – When the gateways
to Arcadia burst open, the sidhe were not the only beings to cross the Mists
and enter the mortal world. Other creatures, born from dark imaginings
and possessed of hideous mein, made the passage as well, dispersing themselves
to the four winds while the newly arrived sidhe were still reeling from the
shock of their journey. The Mists have blinded the eyes and clouded the
memories of most returnees, so that these corrupters are seldom recalled except
in nightmares, which are then soon forgotten. Some few individuals, most
of them Unseelie, retain stronger memories of these monsters. These
haunted sidhe have gathered into a self-appointed group of sentinels known as
the Knights of the Cold Watch.
Their purpose is to scour the world for evidence of the dark things that invaded the mortal realm from Arcadia’s dark borderlands. Many sidhe (both Seelie and Unseelie) consider the “Watchers” to be deluded fanatics and false harbingers of doom. The Knights of the Cold Watch believe that the Seelie sidhe are naïve in their pursuit of temporal power while the world is besieged by unknown assailants of inestimable might. Most members of this group belong to the Purists, although they have put their political aspirations on hold until the creatures they search for are identified and dealt with. There are a few secret Anarchists who have infiltrated this society and who are interested with allying with the monsters once they have been tracked down, for one glorious orgy of destruction.
§ The Glowing Eye – This group of Unseelie
knights and nobles is controlled by a triumvirate of a sidhe from House
Balor. Consisting of those nobles who believe they are best suited to
lead all fae into and through the Endless Winter, members of the Glowing Eye
think of themselves as a secret ‘inner council’ of the Shadow Court. Just
as the real Shadow Court hides behind a façade of powerless poseurs, these
ruthless Sidhe believe they use the court for their own ends.
Allied with Black Spiral Dancers, certain fomori and several rogue vampires, the Glowing Eye works to place its members in positions of power both in the mundane world and the courts of the Kithain. The few highly placed members who hold power in Concordia and Hibernia are adept at masquerading as members of other noble houses and are little suspected by the Seelie monarchs they purport to support.
§ Pilgrims of the Bright Road – Within the
Ritualists, a small group of extremists have found a way to go beyond even the
fastidious observance of their impulse. Calling themselves the Pilgrims
of the Bright Road, they focus their attention on establishing a lasting means
of communicating with the dead – both the spirits of fae who have died and those
of other creatures in the Shadowlands. The Pilgrims believe that the dead
possess answers necessary for achieving Unseelie supremacy and survival of the
Endless Winter. Some have even revived the practice of the teign, or
‘sacrifice to hell,’ a custom said to originate in the earliest times and in
which the fae guaranteed their serial immortality by offering a sacrificial
victim to the Underworld every seven years. The chosen one would
voluntarily accept permanent death as a title in return for allowing other fae
to walk the Bright Road and return to the world in a reincarnated form.
The details of this society are closely guarded secrets, even from Ritualist leaders. The Pilgrims are thought to have formed alliances with certain groups of Heretic wraiths, Euthanatos Mages, Shadow Lords and vampires of the Giovanni clan.
§ Children’s Crusade – Made up largely of redcaps – most of them childlings and young wilders – the Children’s Crusade has only one goal: to assassinate as many of the Seelie nobility as possible. The Crusade is popular among Anarchists and Repudiators, though some Modernists also support this ultra-radical group as a means of increasing the power of the commoners. The actual assassins are almost always childlings, as they are able to flirt more easily with the Banality engendered by their killing other fae. Further, they are less prone to feel guilt over their deeds. Some indeed seem to behave as if it is all a cartoon in which the victim will climb back to his feet after begin squashed by the steamroller. Others get away with it by crying crocodile tears of regret for what happened while voicing that universally recognized childish cry of “Oops.”
§ Cat’s Cradle – Made up of both Unseelie and
Seelie noblewomen, this society attempts to breach the gap between the two
courts. Although their primary goal – ensuring the long term survival of
the fae – often puts them at odds with one or another of the political impulses
of the Shadow Court (particularly the Repudiators and the Anarchists), they are
often the best sources for information and contacts within both Unseelie and
Seelie factions. Because many Seelie members would balk at associating
outright with fellow conspirators who openly espouse Shadow Court sympathies,
the society’s ‘official’ position toward the Shadow Court is one of opposition.
The women of the Cat’s Cradle wield great power and influence (either directly or indirectly) within fae political society, and those who suspect their existence credit them with preventing outright war between the Shadow Court and the Seelie power structure. Indeed, there are some who believe that without the subtle manipulations of this group, the Accordance War might have had a very different, and much bloodier, outcome. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Cat’s Cradle lies in the connections it has established between Concordia and the other kingdoms of the fae.
Most Unseelie members of this group belong to either the Purist or Ritualist impulses. Purists see the Cat’s Cradle as providing the necessary links that enable smooth transferences of seasonal power, while Ritualists hark back to the matriarchal customs that underpin many of the traditions associated with the year-long round of festivals.
o The Shadow Court also encompasses not only unseelie Kithain, members of the Unseelie Houses (and the occasional ‘Seelie’ poseur), but Thallain – twisted versions of various kiths. They are listed below with a brief description, as well as page references for further information. Keep in mind that Thallain, being the ‘nightmare cousins’ of the Kithain, do not have the same Birthrights and Frailties, so please see the book for clarification on that. As well, Thallain, being the stuff of darkness and nightmare, have no Seelie legacy – upon character creation, players are to choose two Unseelie Legacies.
§ Beasties (The Shadow Court, pp. 66-67) – Wild and Wicked Unseelie pooka regress toward their primitive states when their true seemings are revealed. The worst of these are not capable of shapeshifting into animals, but instead transform into hideous monsters. No two Beasties are alike, and some exhibit physiological tendencies heretofore unseen in nature by mortals. Like Pooka, Beasties can only shift into and out of their true forms when no one is watching them.
§ Boggarts (The Shadow Court, pp. 68-69) – Boggarts place the well-being of their kind above the concerns of all creatures. With a talent for getting organized, a very industrious spirit and an endless amount of greed, Boggarts can swarm over any opportunity like a hoard of rats. Although they are quite willing to help the Shadow Court, they serve themselves first and foremost. They’ll tolerate other fae, once they’ve been properly managed and organized, of course. A warren of Boggarts will only defer to the leadership of a fae of another kith as long as their demands are met and they’re compensated – in one way or another.
§ Bogies (The Shadow Court, pp. 70-71) Bogies give the Sluagh a bad name. They delight in killing and often have a very ritualistic approach to such activities. A bogie usually has a craving for a certain type of fluid or organ in the human (or nonhuman) body. Whether they drain blood, suck bone marrow or eat feces, their victims are usually burned or desiccated afterward. Bogies who are not able to fully indulge have to remain content with snacking. Dissecting and devouring the intestines of a household pet, or licking the wounds from a body that’s been whipped into unconsciousness will have to suffice.
§ Gobilins (The Shadow Court, pp. 72-73) – These close cousins of Unseelie Nockers are often mistaken for them, but they hide their more artistic talents. While nockers create chimerical devices or personalities, goblins delight in building physical machinery. Nockers are pleased by creation, but goblins are masters of destruction. They are commensurate scavengers when they start to scrounge for materials, and are known for their twisted applications of their skill at artifice. To them, manufacturing mayhem is an art form.
§ Ogres (The Shadow Court, pp. 74-75) – Ogres have no hope of redemption, and even worse, many of them are indistinguishable from trolls. They are completely without honor, and will exploit the weak. They hunger for flesh, and care little for where they obtain it. Violent and ill tempered, they are soon cast out from freeholds if their true nature is divulged, even if their identity isn’t.
§ Spriggans (Fool’s Luck: Way of the Commoner, pp. 126-127) - The spriggans are the Thallain cousins to the piskies. They are exceptionally cruel and greedy, and are usually frowned on by even Unseelie piskies (though a few of the worst ones will work with them). They appear as ugly piskies, with gray matted hair, the dark craggy skin of a piskey grump, and small, beady eyes. Spriggans smell bad, and usually wear dirty clothes. Spriggans do make good guardians, getting bonuses when watching over something, and are able to summon rain and hail storms at will. The thing that really makes them unacceptable to the piskies, is their tendency to kidnap children (fae children are favorite targets). These victims are usually not harmed, the spriggan just delights in the fear this causes the children and the parents.
§ Murdhuacha (World of Darkness: Blood Dimmed Tides, pp. 71-72) - The Thallain cousins of the merfolk, the murdhuacha, also called "merrows", are bound to undersea creatures such as octopi, squids, worms or crustaceans. Like the merfolk, they gain some advantages of the sea creature they bind with, and are able to breathe water. Murdhuacha, though the women can sometimes be strangely beautiful, are bizarre to look on and often hideous. Many, upon seeing a merrow for the first time will freeze in shock. Usually just long enough for the murdhuacha to take the advantage. The merrows suffer from Banality the same way the merfolk do, and also have certain Abilities restricted due to their lack of contact with the surface world.
§ Aithu (Kithbook: Eshu, pp. 64-67) - Thieving and swindling cousins of the eshu, the aithu are a secret that the eshu have kept for many years, as they had banished them into a Dreaming prison. Recently evidence has surfaced which makes it apparent that the aithu have escaped and are back in the Waking World once more. The aithu resemble their eshu cousins, except for appearing a little more disheveled, and a few slight differences. They have hypnotic voices that they use to entrance an audience into becoming more easily swindled, and are also able to change their appearance, usually to make them seem more innocent, or to escape detection. They can be detected by their inability to sit through stories and other lengthy narratives. If they don't continually interrupt the tale being told, they run the risk of being entranced by it in much the same effect that their voices have on others.