Buena Vista (Changeling: The Lost)
Buena Vista’s freehold operates on the classic seasonal court system common in the Western world, with some of its own variations. One of the subtle defenses against The Gentry is the passing of ruling power between each court. Ruled by self-centered whims, the Gentry have difficulty understanding a system where a ruler voluntarily cedes power to another, based on a fixed, external cycle. In the Seasonal Court system, rule over the freehold passes at each solstice and equinox, marking the end of one season and the beginning of the next.
Additionally, courtiers are protected by the “Approaches” their court provides: The Gentry and their Huntsmen, bound by ancient and arcane laws of the hunt, must abide by their target’s Approaches. This effectively limits the number of abduction methods a courtier has to be wary of. Accordingly, these Approaches tend to be inline with the court’s specialties: The Fae have to overcome the court’s greatest strengths to claim a courtier, such as defeating an Autumn courtier in a contest of magic, or embarrassing a Spring courtier in public.
A more obvious benefit of joining a court is the support network it provides. Changelings have unique needs the mortal world can’t provide. This includes solace in knowing others who have been through similar horrors in Arcadia and can sympathize. This larger network, when working effectively, can also identify and hunt down Privateers, Loyalists, and other threats to its members.
Each season has a “Monarch” elected each year by popular vote within the court, and a Champion appointed by this Monarch that represents the ideals of their court, but serves the freehold as a whole as their first duty. Elections tend to be relatively simple in procedure, given how small the freehold is in comparison to human societies, and can involve quite personal disputes between voters and candidates.
Beyond those two roles, each court is allowed to organize itself as it sees fit. While Spring and Summer have their organizational schemes public, Autumn and Winter keep portions of their hierarchy secret, with rumors that their “Monarch” is more akin to a diplomat, representing their real leaders’ interests in dealing with the other courts.
The Dangers of Intrigue
No society ever works perfectly. Despite the omnipresent threat of the Gentry, keeping a freehold united against this common enemy is more difficult than it may seem. Each court has its own philosophy of how to keep its members safe. When courts aren’t privy to each others’ dealings, suspicions of Loyalist infiltration arises. Without complete sharing of information and total surveillance, infiltration is still possible. Even if the freehold were to institute a police state, many members would find it intolerably reminiscent of their Durance.
Every Changeling craves both freedom and security, and must find where they think the balance lies. Even those with the best intentions may find it tempting to trade others’ freedom for their own security. Trust is difficult, but simply isolating oneself is more dangerous than the risk of betrayal.
Given how strictly the Wyrd can enforce pledges of loyalty, Changelings often find themselves having to make an impossible choice between their motley, court, and other allies, or finding and exploiting loopholes in their vows so they won’t suffer the Wyrd’s wrath and be marked an Oathbreaker. Though Changelings are (usually) human enough to recognize extenuating circumstances, the fae portion of their minds instinctively distrusts those who break their word, whether intentionally or not.
Knowing this, Buena Vista’s freehold favors “escape clauses” in their loyalty pledges where the conflicted Changeling can petition the ruling Monarch or one of the four Seasonal Champions for permission to break a freehold or court law without being punished by the Wyrd.
The Four Courts
The Court of Spring: The Floral Crown
Ruling emotion: Desire
Specialties: Community, social life, growth
The Spring Court strives to make the world beautiful and wondrous. “Carpe Diem” is a big part of their philosophy. Though they may appear as reckless hedonists or naive dreamers, fulfilling their desires is a part of how they keep the Gentry away. They reason that their Keepers are expecting them to be broken and afraid, so they hide by being happy, or at least maintaining the appearance of happiness.
The Spring Court’s Approaches typically involve disruption of the courtier’s social life, breaking their composure, or luring them too far into recklessness by exploiting their vices.
The Court of Summer: The Iron Spear
Ruling emotion: Wrath
Specialties: Martial strength, courage, glory
The Summer Court isn’t content with safety. They want to hurt the Gentry. They aren’t so foolhardy to storm the gates of Arcadia, but they believe the best defense is a good offense. Though they emphasize physical strength, the Iron Spear recognizes that there are other means to fight. The Summer Court is typically given authority in matters of war and carrying out the punishment of the freehold’s enemies.
The Summer Court’s Approaches are usually direct challenges, mostly physical, and may include duels or other physical contests. Sometimes, however, Huntsmen may manipulate a courtier into losing control of his anger, hurting his allies and thus isolating him.
The Court of Autumn: The Leaden Mirror
Ruling Emotion: Fear
Champion: Ziggy Zapf, Sorcerer of Autumn
Specialties: Oneiromancy, arcane lore, indirect methods
The Autumn Court doesn’t hide. They lurk. Where the Gentry may see the Summer Court as a standing army, the Autumn Court is a ring of assassins who study their targets. The Autumn Court is awash in occult research, turning their fae magic into weapons against their former masters. As the Court of Fear, the Autumn Court maintains the appearance of knowing more than they do, which is already a lot. If your enemy thinks you know their weaknesses, they won’t attack.
The Autumn Court’s Approaches are generally arcane in nature, requiring Huntsmen defeat them in mystical or abstract confrontations. Autumn courtiers also risk the vice of hubris in wielding forces they don’t fully understand, and may find their weapons turned on them by Huntsmen.
The Court of Winter: The Silent Arrow
Ruling emotion: Sorrow
Specialties: Stealth, blending in, caution, sacrifice
The Court of Winter knows how dangerous The Gentry are. You can defeat one, but there’s always countless more waiting in Arcadia. Keep your head down and think before you act. Always be ready to run and hide, but don’t panic. Jumping at every blip on the radar is only going to draw attention. Additionally, nothing draws attention to a Changeling like a mortal who knows something supernatural going on.
The Winter Court’s Approaches are the stuff of spy drama. Changelings are fugitives from Arcadia, and Huntsmen need to “remind” Winter courtiers that they have no safe haven from the Lords and Ladies of Faerie. Sometimes it comes in the form of the Huntsman’s calling card on the courtier’s bed. Other times, it means exposing them as unnatural beings to their mortal friends. Though Winter courtiers can uproot, there is always something a Winter courtier won’t abandon, and it’s the Huntsman’s job to figure out what that one thing is.