Season 1: The Summer of Blood Part 1
If you’ve only just arrived, the previous installments of Changelings of the Outer West are available here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Now that we’ve got our introductions out of the way, its probably time that I get to recounting the chaotic trajectory that began with our escapees bursting free from the Hedge and the clutches of their former masters, and ended with them settling into real jobs, testing the limits of acceptance, and maybe making deals with abominations beyond human understanding (net gains, guys, net gains). I decided a few sessions in that our arcs would follow seasonal themes, and… well it was actually as we were coming to the end of our Summer arc that I realized how closely it had followed the themes of the Summer Court, and I sort of jumped on that to give our arcs a bit of cohesion. I won’t pretend that I planned ahead any more than I did.
So Summer was our first season. Summer is the season of Wrath, the season of War, of fires raging in the hills. It’s blood on the thirsty soil, and between the terrified newcomers, the angry dead, and deals turned ugly, that’s exactly what surfaced. Admittedly, I am recounting events purely from memory, so I may miss some things.
And that’s where we start, with a group of escaped fae having made their way back to their town, on New Years Day. The first day of their first year spent free.
To refresh your imaginary memories, dear imaginary readers, our escapees are;
Anais, Fairest Dancer from the Ballroom in the Maze;
Blaize, Fireheart Elemental from the Forest that girds the Maze, and;
Father Callahan, Wizened Brewer from the Witch’s Dark Forest.
The nightmare of captivity is behind them, as the memories begin to fade like raindrops on dry ground. An old priest bursts through a hotel mirror, and thinks it strange that the man who throws him out the door makes no comment of his purple stained skin and sharp goblin teeth. When the machine he dreams takes him to find Blaize and Anais, they are running together from things that are hounds that might have been men but are now monsters.
They drive into town, in a car held together with twigs and mud.
On their arrival, the newspaper tells them that it is New Years Day, 1972, and they struggle to remember how long ago it as that they were taken. The stall vendor unlocks his roller door, and smiles at the dazed passers by. He comments that they look like they had one hell of a party. Their clothes are in tatters, and at least a decade out of date to boot.
The sun crawls higher, and the town stays quiet. The Chinese Takeaway begins to open in expectation of a lazy lunch hour. They notice activity behind the closed doors of the library.
Through snatches of confused conversation beneath the clocktower, the three bedraggled strangers move to the library door, and knock hard. The answer takes a long time to come.
The door edges open, revealing a man in an old tweed jacket, unreadable words crawling across his paper skin. He eyes them cautiously, then waves them inside. They engage in tense small talk initially, the librarian says that their kind are common here, but not all will be as accommodating as he is. When asked of what kind he thought they were, he responded.
“We’re of the same… breed, as it were. We’ve all spent time under Their rule – best not to speak of them in too much detail – but… come through. I’ll get you some clean clothes. You can call me Solomon.”
They step into a reading room. The lost dancer sees a book that she remembers reading, and the librarian agrees that she can borrow it. She takes the name Anais from the spine.
He gives them new outfits from a duffel bag that he keeps tucked away at the bottom of a cabinet. When asked where they go from here, he quickly leafs through a battered filofax and offers them a card with an address.
“This is a place you can stay…” he says, “Not owned, by any means, but downtown, if a house isn’t sold within six months… well, it won’t be. And really, you only need doors and you can have all the space you need. Its yours, along with my arranging a meeting with the leader of the Cold Hill Crew, if you’ll owe me a favour in future.”
Half stunned, Blaize takes the card. They feel a strange hum in the air like an active Tesla coil as the Wyrd falls into place.
“What do you mean…” Anais murmurs over her book, “Space from doors?”
The old librarian smiles, and turns to the closet door of the reading room, the Staff Only sign clearly emblazoned. He knocks three times and intones,
“Let me in.”
A desert breeze kicks up from the depths of the library as Solomon opens up the door to his Hollow; a dry, dusty expanse girded with woven stringybarks and creeping vines.
“You can get in here from anywhere you need to,” he says, “Just take care not to open too many, otherwise They will start taking notice. Be careful, plenty of dangers on both sides of the doorway…” He closes the door again. “Best of luck. And one final piece of advice. Don’t go near Mama Park.”
The escapees nod, and shrugging into their new clothes, and trying to figure the best way to get halfway across town to their new squat. Blaize also decides that she’s hungry, and would like some Chinese food.
Leaving her compatriots in the town square, the young Fireheart barges through the red and gold doors to the front counter, where she sees a middle aged East Asian woman waving a couple through and guaranteeing that they will want the banquet in an extremely thick accent. Once the couple is seated, the woman adjusts her glasses and practically nails the changeling to the wall with a wry stare.
“Why hello…” the hostess says in perfect American English, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
Blaize blinks, and realises very quickly who she’s talking too.
“Er, yeah?” she stammers, “How do you know?”
“I know everyone around here darling,” Mama Park replies, “Enough to know that you’ve not been here before anyway… well, if you’re blowing through, would you like to pick up some work before you leave?” (Out of characters, Mama Park’s response is summarised as “Yay! Drifters!”)
Blaize leans in to the counter.
“Can you…” she waves at her face, “see me?”
Mama Park nods conspiratorially.
“Where did your accent go?” Blaize presses.
“The punters seem to like it,” Mama Park murmurs, “They like the Mama Park character as it were. And they like Chinese takeaway better than Korean barbeque so… yeah, I make do. So, you interested?”
Blaize’s stomach growls conspicuously.
“Well, my friends and I are pretty hungry…”
“Not a problem.” The Korean matron replies.
Blaize emerges in the town square with a bag of Korean takeaway pretending to be Chinese takeaway and a promise to return and hear Mama Park out.
“But he said not to speak to her!” Anais mutters as they follow the librarian’s directions south.
“She seemed… nice.” Retorted Blaize, “And she offered me a job. Even though she knew what we were.” She thinks for a moment, then adds “Maybe it was better you two didn’t come in with me.”
They find the house soon enough. By a fluke of luck, the hot water is still connected, and they make do without electricity for a while by using Blaize to boil water. Its not luxurious, but there’s enough bedding for each of them, and its a quiet place to stay.
Anais elects to do the washing, which leads to all three fae hanging around the house in bedsheet togas while she stirs a barrel in the back yard and they all wait for their one functional outfit to dry.
Eventually, they find their way back to Solomon, asking if he knows any way that they can find some money to live on, he does suggest that there is a way to “game fate” by playing into Fae ideas; in this case, by swearing a familial bond they might have a number of odd coincidences work in their favour. When he hears about Blaize’s encounter with Mama Park he buries his face in his hands for some time, but agrees that now she’s promised she had better go through with it, facing the reverse side of the “gaming fate” coin.
They promise to watch each others backs, and never betray their comrades in word or deed for a year and a day. If they fail, curses of blindness or crippling are put forward. The very next morning Callahan starts finding money in his shoes, while Blaize and Anais begin to grow more connected with their acquaintances and the world around them.
Blaize returns to the restaurant, this time with Anais in tow to try and avoid any further fuax pas. The Korean restauranteur discusses her terms; someone has stolen a book from her, and she would like it back. The thief, a Father Crowley from Black Hill, has used some kind of Geomancy to ward his church against the Park bloodline, so she would like the newcomers to retrieve it. When she finds that they are in need of ID, she agrees to arrange something for them, as well as setting them up with legitimate access to their own property. The Bargain is struck.
In the meantime, Father Callahan has opened a doorway to the Hedge using the door to the broom closet. The escapees agree to go through the door together, in case anything untoward occurs, and after slogging along a long, dusty path in the shadow of immense termite mounds, they come to a clearing with a pool in the middle. A tiny figure dances across the water, while a gang of raven-sized birds that appear to be made from broken glass look on.
The birds seem wary, but Blaize speaks fluent Owl (Fang and Talon Contracts) so Mirrorbird isn’t too much of a stretch. In short, she cuts a deal. The Mirrorbirds will guard their turf, along with the small grove of Goblin Fruit and their Hedge door, in exchange for a Glamour tithe and the changelings carrying one of their eggs into the real world where it can grow strong by eating dreams. Blaize builds it a nest in a pine tree later that night. The birds also mention that the strange little spear wielding bushes from the next pond over tend to be less than friendly.
After a bit of further exploration, the motley runs across the trap-lair of a huge and snarky redbelly black snake, and only get away after Blaize sets the creature’s lair on fire. Father Callahan is bitten, but shakes off the venom due to his immense alcohol tolerance. They slink back to reality, with Blaize at least vowing revenge.
That nigh she summons Owl using her musical pipes, and the little guy crashes out of the sky and asks if she has any food. After gorging on chicken leftovers he agrees to help her find somewhere safe for the Mirrorbird’s egg to incubate. They settle on a tall pine tree and construct a nest in the top, overlooking several houses, and place it there after a brief debate over what form the egg’s dream-eating will take.
Father Callahan has begun making inquiries about a church near the center of town. The woman who cleans it seems to take a shine to the gaunt old priest, and confirms that the building is mostly open for tourists; the building has no priest or regular services. He decides to go to town hall and begins asking after securing tenure as a pastor, but is stymied by his lack of legal identification.
Anais hunts glamour from the back of cinemas, trying to skim off the emotional highs of romance and horror viewers, but the second hand emotions are thin and less than potent.
Their dreams are thin and scattered, but they begin finding ways to twist them. Father Callahan is haunted by images of the glowing forest, and the strange voices he hears from the Hedge-fruit. Anais’ dreams wander towards Louis, and she wonders where the man who wanted to marry her is now. Blaize dreams of her sister.
The house begins to devolve into distinct territories, with Anais claiming the master bedroom and Blaize the second, with Father Callahan most often wandering between a couch and his ramshackle alchemical lab in the garage, where he brews gathered goblin fruits into bottled potions. The Fireheart initially refuses to bathe, worrying that water would still sting her as it did in Arcadia, but Anais eventually wrestles her into the shower. Blaize screams as she scrubs, a habit that continues even when she takes to showering under her own volition.
That might have been the breaking point; the young Elemental hates bathing, but dislikes being beaten even more. She confronts Callahan at his workbench, and demands equipment to sort that chatty giant snake once and for all. The priest makes a spear from a trowel and a stave, as well as a collection of nasty dirks and knives. Thus equipped, they trounce off into the Hedge, past the Mirrorbirds’ grove, and back into the snake’s trap.
The giant reptile, not to be outdone, says that he has found a way to even the scales. From the top of the Hollow, the fae hear a screech of
“Simian Security! Cease and Desist!”
And the redcoat wearing monkey opens fire with his musket.
Th fight is intense, but brief. After his initial volley, the monkey-mercenary leaps down and attacks with his bayonet, only to be clubbed unconscious by Father Callahan. Anais manages to pin down the creatures tail, while Blaize fends off its bite at spearpoint, before finally finishing off the immense serpent with a flaming headlock. Having killed the creature, the starving motley begin to skin it for leather and meat – waste not want not – and graciously accept the surrender of Kensington, the security monkey, after he implies that he would be perfectly happy to transfer the snake’s contract to them if they let him live. Anais agrees, and takes the snake’s old hiding place as her Hollow.
The Father’s mysterious windfalls have proven enough to not only buy food, but also enough to secure bicycles for the motley. They buy these from a local store, as Callahan is beginning to run low on Glamour from constantly repairing their car, which has been affectionately nicknamed The Junker.
Blaize investigates a strange rattling in the fridge to find Owl eating his way out of a half stripped chicken carcass. She tries to get hold of her companion, but he flops out the door covered in grease and stuffing.
The motley waits until the sun gets low in the sky, and sets out for Black Hill, to try and understand how deep their promise goes.
I think this is a good spot to leave Part 1 of the write up, hope you all enjoyed it! The Summer of Blood was probably our longest arc, with a lot of it being used to get to know our characters, their world, and the strange new rules that apply to them. Add to this our group’s tendency to play home-maker, and you get a rich and detailed story that is kind of surreal. The characters delight in the mundanity of the everyday, which for Arcadian escapees feels new and different. So they build their house, and their lives, and they make them their own. Its not slaying a dragon. Frankly I like this much better.
See y’all next time, imaginary readers.