Changelings of the Outer West: Part 1

Hey folks. Before I left Australia, I was running a game of Changeling: The Lost for my little group.

As a sort of personal challenge, I decided that I would make my first stab at an Australian setting. My previous settings had been a Vampire the Requiem chronicle (later dubbed the Atrocity Machine) in an entirely fictional Scottish small town, and my Call of Cthulhu stories had tended towards the traditional occult center of Arkham. So I wanted somewhere distinctively Australian, but with enough capacity to just make things up on the fly. So naturally, I chose Cootamundra in 1972.

An entirely fictional version of Cootamundra, admittedly. The setting is kind of cobbled together from my memories of Bathurst and Dubbo, though alarmingly my improvised locations began to appear when we later looked up the map. Turns out the Chinese takeaway actually is next to the library by the clock tower. So maybe I really am narrating reality again. Weird. Anyway, in part for the fun of sharing and in part as a sort of reference for when we pick up the “8 years later” arc, I’ve decided to put our little rogues gallery. So here you go. Some characters and sites from our Changeling game.

Our Heroes

Anais: A Fairest dancer who escaped from the Kingdom of the Maze Lord with Blaize. She was captured on the night she turned down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, put to work in her master’s surreal ballroom. Of all the characters, Anais lost the most of herself to the thorns, and her story focused mostly on nostalgia, loneliness and loose ends.

Blaize: A fire elemental who escaped with Anais from the Kingdom of the Maze Lord. Captured as a young girl and transformed into a burning huntress to guard the woods of her fae master’s realm, Blaize’s story has focused on learning, acceptance and growing up.

Father Joseph Callahan: a Wizened Brewer, the former priest was forced to become an alchemist in service to the Witch of the Wilds. After escaping back to reality, his story focused in a return to religious practices that he had begun to doubt, while brewing and testing an obscene amount of hallucinogenic potions.

The Mundanes and Not Quites

Petey: the owner of Petey’s Record Emporium, Petey is an aging hippy who loves the Burning Man festival and complaining about his ex-wife. After a drug binge in which he saw Blaize using her fire conjuring abilities, the elemental bound him into a pledge that rewarded his silence with youth and good health. This led to something of a free love revival in Cootamundra.

Mary McIver: You hear Mary before yous see her. Her heavy Scottish accent rings out across the town square from her hole in the wall grocery store, the place Blaize found her first job. She has a penchant for saying ominous things, though whether this is because of a touch of the Second Sight or just the Wyrd putting words where lost fae can hear is unknown. She certainly puts no stock in prophesy.

Josiah: A mentally shattered man left homeless after his return from Vietnam, Jo had become a fixture in the town square. After running into him repeatedly, once asking him for directions after ingesting too many Hedge berries, Father Callahan started to feel responsible for the young guy, and struggled to alleviate his nightmares. After months of unconventional psychic therapy, he began to glom onto the charismatic priest.

Father Damian Crowley: The occultist pastor of the neighboring Black Hill hamlet has been battling the supernatural for years. He collects texts stolen from the local supernatural community, as he looks for a way to defeat the fallen “Vampire Star” now buried beneath the town, slowly draining life from its citizens. His occult warding was until recently reinforced by a bound ghost the motley subsequently exorcised while retrieving a text stolen from Mama Park. There were a few more run ins, and a degree of respect built up between Crowley and Callahan.

Mama Park: The owner of Mama Park’s Chinese Takeaway, Mama Park is not from China. A refugee from the war in Korea, she and her sons speak with smooth American accents and have a marked knowledge of the supernatural. She frames her spirit binding as Classical Confucian magic, based on a text hidden by her family first from prying eyes and warring empires. She frequently engaged the motley for favours in exchange for false ID’s, money and a home. By the end of the story,  Father Callahan cut a deal with Mama Park and her demon Mr Chiang, trading five years of servitude to escape his former Keeper’s Servitors. Her sons are Jimmy, Harry and Sammy. Blaize and Jimmy pursued a surreal and awkward romance throughout the arc, concluding ambiguously with his discovery of her supernatural state.

Changelings

Solomon: This ancient man, whose Mask covers a body of paper and ink, inhabits the shadows of the Cootamundra library. He is often the first contact freshly freed Lost have with their new lives, and his strange knowledge of occult secrets seems at odds with his apparent amnesia. In truth, Solomon is an exiled Fae, once the Watcher in the Tower, who failed in a bargain with his rivals, and had his memories flayed out before he was released into the mortal world. For years, he has believed himself an escapee like his fae cohabitants. He acted as a mentor to Blaize, but his powers began to return as the motley helped him reclaim his memories, and he came very close to a return to Arcadia. In the end he was convinced to choose a mortal life, and the artifacts that held his memories hidden away.

Dawn Song: In the twilit ballroom of the Maze Lord, this porcelain man sawed on his cello all night so that the sun could come up. His speech is disjointed and small, but his music still sings across town each morning from his east facing apartment window.

The (Former) Golden Dragon

Alice “Golden Girl” Macdonald: This Draconic Fairest escaped Arcadia only to be recaptured by the Maze Lord. The bargain she made kept her and Snake free, but required a tithe of captured changelings to maintain. With a web of pledges she was able to bind the loyalty of her late husband’s biker gang and open their eyes to the supernatural world, remaking them as the Golden Dragon. Her roving privateer ring lasted until the motley and the Cold Hill Crew tracked them to their hideout in the Hedge, and Father Callahan put a bullet in her heart.

Snowblind: This ice Elemental has not said a word since she broke loose from the bonds of the True. She found a calling as a trump card with the Golden Dragon, solving problems with cold and stormy violence where they can’t be solved with knives and pipes. She met her end as Blaize tried to free her prisoners, the two elementals burning and freezing the ruins of the Hedge to destruction as they clashed.

Snake: Snake was taken by the Storm in the Desert, and turned from a man into an animal. His Mask manifests a red birthmark from his chin to his chest, marring his otherwise beautiful skin. His mien is like that of a red belly black snake, and he was first encountered running with the Golden Dragon, as he and the Golden Girl had sworn to defend each other from harm (a big mistake when the Wyrd is involved). Before she died, however, his tryst with Anais had become something more, so much so that when the Wyrd’s judgement blinded him for his failure she sold her own memories, and some of her already frail connection to reality, so he could see again. They have been lovers ever since. Of Darug descent, he has been unable to reconnect with his family, with the exception of his nephew Tony, the only one who believed his story on his return.

The Cold Hill Crew

Half Penny: In her short life, the woman who called herself Half Penny has been stolen twice. As a young girl, she was taken from her Aboriginal mother who was deemed unfit to care for her. As she grew to adulthood, she was taken again by the Maze Lord. He forced her to live in the cracks in his walls, until her hair became worms and her skin was scorched to charcoal. Through mortar and furnace, she was able to worm her way free, and the cracks in the world hide her still. She took the name of her despised foster mother, and took her revenge on the judge who signed off on her being taken from her family. She kidnapped his grandchildren, one by one, and took a year of their lives, their first steps and first words. She had them call her mama before she gave them back, and ate the sorrows of their parents. As the story grew, her loyalty to those she considered family came into greater focus, and she and the motley became allies as winter grew closer.She and the Cold Hill Crew are Cootamundra’s resident adherent’s of Winter, though they would never call themselves a Court.

Jawen Nomansson: This Swedish lake troll is a recent immigrant, and fell in with the Cold Hill crew after finding work the abbatoir. His personality is friendly and affable, almost childish. When he is stressed or angry, though, his dissociation becomes clearer. He can kill a man as easily as a cow, and his big hands make it very easy indeed. Nonetheless, he loves Penny and Junior with all his mighty heart can muster.

Junior: This little Wizened almost personifies the tinkerer, and though he looks maybe twelve years old his eyes speak of a much older person. He seems unable to speak above a whisper, though people tend to listen to somebody whose last sentence ended with “hovercraft”.

The Blossom Motley

Lucy May: Marked with magpie feathers by the Storm in the Desert, Lucy is a captivating figure and one of the few fae in town with a Spring mantle. She lives in the moment, acted as Anais mentor when she sought work as an exotic dancer, and loves to drink, dance and collect beautiful things. She has been with Julia as long as they have been free, and counters her chef motleymate’s bitter humor with sanguine vivacity.

Julia Small: Some Wizened build, but Julia creates; she makes bland foodstuffs beautiful, and makes fine ingredients sing. The second Spring adherent in a Courtless region, she pursues beauty as much as her motley mate, but where the chase energises Lucy, it leaves Julia feeling very small. She knows that she needs Lucy far more than Lucy needs her. Julia is a stick thin woman whose grey hair suggests old age, but her face makes you doubt that assumption.

Nomads

Suzan Slaughter and Little Mack: This mismatched pair have spent the time since their escape travelling Australia in a battered combi van. Suzan is a six foot six Amazon of an ogre, and has made a small living for her motley in the newly arrived field of Pro Wrestling. Mack acts as her manager and fixer, putting his business brain to good use. Even if people sometimes sit on him without realizing he’s on the couch.

Scruffy the Rat: This former wanderer and lamb roast enthusiast was rescued when the motley broke up the Golden Dragon, and spent a few weeks sleeping behind their washing machine before settling down in Cootamundra. His twitchy mannerisms, rodent like buck teeth and strange clicking run have made him an amusing if somewhat unpredictable acquaintance; but the motley took a shine to him, enough so that they chased him into a locked dream that nearly killed them.

Emissaries from the Sins of the Nameless The Sins are the city of Sydney’s largest freehold, divided into a Day Court and a Night Court. The Day Court try to keep the True at bay with their belief in Law, whereas the Night Court do so by disregarding all rules, including the promises that define the Fae. Both Courts also give up use of their names, taking a nickname for ease of communication.

The Huntress, Day Court: The Law does not stop at the border of the freehold, and if you break the laws of the Day Court you can expect the Huntress to be hard on your heels. This Fairest combines investigative acumen with social prowess and a strong right arm with a discus for those who think they can run.

The Enemy, Night Court: The Enemy feasts on disgust, and uses his mastery of Mirrors contracts to get under people’s skin. To Catholics he is an unwed mother, to veterans a pacifist. Lately he had grown fond of a young Vietnamese face in Maoist regalia. He is a liar, and a shameless flirt, but is otherwise oddly friendly. If only he knew what his real face looked like.

The True Fae

The Maze Lord: aka Totally Not David Bowie from Labyrinth. At the insistence of the players, the Maze appears in all its twisted glory, with its goblin legions, insomniac dancers and forests full of cannibalistic fire sprites. The characters escape after some upheavel in the Maze, with the Maze Lord having grown tired of his ballroom dancers and looking to “repurpose” them. When he appears it is in full pomp and regalia, and he rarely bothers traveling to the human world himself. As far as the motley know, Blaize’s sister Belle remains a prisoner in the Maze.

The Witch of the Wilds: The Witch of the Wilds lives in a walking hut that strides through a bioluminescent forest of whispering trees and scuttling fungus, where the sun never rises. She has little time for agents, and is more likely to venture directly into the real world in pursuit of new slaves and secrets. Her slaves she puts to work, harvesting the strange plants of the forest and brewing them into compounds that she never explains the use for. She usually appears as a hunched, blinded hag with iron teeth and wire for hair, but her servitor the Wilting Waxen Woodsman will appear to either aid her or act on her behalf.

The Surgeon: Seen only in brief, the Surgeon appears as a jaundiced woman with no visible hair, dressed in plastic lab whites and long latex gloves. She played a part in amputating Solomon’s memories and scattering them across reality upon his exile.

The Storm in the Desert: This roaring and terrible sandstorm lives in the strange depths of Arcadia, on a dry and crumbling plateau beneath an alien moon. Sometimes he appears as a building cloud, or an immense stone giant, or a crawling Yaramayahu. His slaves are altered into beasts of the ground or air, or ferocious elementals in imitation of their master.

Fetches

Blaize’s fetch was dead at the start of play; the little girl drowned tragically in the same river that took her into the Hedge. Her sister, however, may be a fetch. She remains unsure.

John Callahan: This fetch replaced Father Callahan, but always possessed a sense of the supernatural. He turned this sense to tracking and eliminating any supernatural creatures, including fae, that he could lay his hands on, indoctrinating a small cell of hunters as he did so. In the end, his victims caught up with him.

Gail Kelly: Anais’ fetch took her grace and presence, and followed it to become a pub rock icon. For her, the roaring crowds and whiskey soaked parties were a natural progression, but Anais naturally had different plans for her life, and Gail was ubderstandeably hostile when this doppelganger appeared claiming it was the original. To make things worse, glamour seems to fail near her, and the loss of their magic left them at a loss with how to deal with her, and her national your continued. She remains at large.

Stranger Things

Judy: Nobody ever quite figured out who or what Judy was. She lived in Father Callahan’s dreams, wearing the appearance of a lover from his youth. He proved powerless to resist her charms, and had to enlist his motley to help scare her off. When they arrived in the dream, however, he was distracted enough that he couldn’t think why he would ask for that. They managed to free him. Eventually.

Ruby and Mr Gold: A pair of God Machine angels (totally not qashmallim for this one) sent to hunt out the “largest anomaly”, Solomon in this case for reasons they didn’t disclose. When the motley capitulated in the face of implied mass murder, they returned artifacts connected to his memory to try and accelerate his return to Arcadia to let them shore up the barrier between reality and the Hedge. Ruby fell after Callahan’s exceptional success with the argument “That seems a little roundabout. Why don’t you just kill ’em all?” She later took on the identity Gene Scarlet, working in “animal control”.

Meg: This odd woman arrived in town and started telling jokes about angels along into churches. She later kidnapped Callahan’s fetch, who had previously tracked down her “mother”, who in photographs seemed no older than Meg. Meg turned out to be a Frankenstein Promethean, though her search for her mother was never resolved.

The Vampire Star: It fell from the sky over Black Hill, and scored it’s way into the abandoned copper mines beneath the town. Since its arrival, the residents have been suffering from a strange wasting disease, and cannot leave without dying.

Well, I think that’ll be all for this week folks. Intending to follow this up with a rough sort of “setting” and “what happened” section. Once again, this is mostly for our memory, but feel free to swipe any ideas you want.

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