Stolen Dreams of the Ocean

It has raised comment that I referred to my most recent foray into soup as an attempt to steal the dreams of the ocean and turn them in to broth. Well, not raise comment as much as have people confused as to what I was saying until they tried it.

I have been making noodles again, no doubt to a general lack of surprise. In this case I’ve been working off a white miso base, heavily augmented with elements of my substantial cache of dried seaweed, which the hipster label tells me is called sea vegetable. I refuse to address it as such.

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Here is a picture of these things  bubbling happily away in a pot.

And I am fully aware that miso does not come from the sea. I just use it to cultivate the kind of murky, salty solution that the sea carries in my memories, which I could probably equally achieve with actual seawater were I to find some way to reliably extract the sand.

As some way of explaining my current turns of phrase, I have also recently been playing a frankly improbable amount of Sunless Sea. Damn the replay value on that. Join me in this haunted, zzoup eating place.

 

 

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There were also several mushrooms involved. Here are some in their natural habitat, my chopping board. I am aware that neither shitake mushrooms nor the amazing black and white fungus – I had no idea how to prepare the latter until I discovered some in a dish at my favourite ramen shop – grow in the ocean, but I think that at this stage the metaphor is flagging. Needed some protein in the soup, and when you spend as long vegetarian as I have you learn to love fungus.

Now, all of this presents a taste that is very rich, but lacking in much in the way of definition. The noodles will add admirably to the body – even if they are the cheapest noodles available – but we need something to give it some punch. Or… tentacle whip, I guess, if were sticking with this.

So I shred some leeks, as they will give the soup a bit of zazz to bite down on, and I throw in some tiny flakes of a dried chili of ill starred origin. With the happily boiled black fungus on top, we have a hearty soup that reminds me of the crashing waves in which I spent my youth.

Stay fed folks.

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Changelings of the Outer West Part 5

Part 5: The Summer of Blood Part 2

And here we have it, another installment for Changelings of the Outer West. I was able to find one of my old notebooks from when we ran this, so my report may be marginally more accurate than it would have been with just me memory! Yay! For those of you just joining us, the previous installments are available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

As a refresher, our protagonists are Anais, a Fairest Dancer and escapee from the Maze, Blaize, a Fireheart Elemental also fleeing the Maze Lord’s diabolical clutches, and Father Callahan, a Wizened Brewer and former slave-alchemist in the Witch of the Wilds’ Midnight Forest.

Having secured their new transport the motley set out to fill their side of the agreement with Mama Park. Pedaling their bicycles through the early twilight, they reach the outlying town of Black Hill as the sun is fading away into nothingness. The place is eerily quiet; most of the buildings on the outskirts looking to be either abandoned or in a state of disrepair bordering on collapse. As they move towards the center the signs of habitation grow thicker, but without the vivacity that normally comes with a town center. It doesn’t take an expert to see that Black Hill is dying, but Anais struggles to understand why anyone would stay at all.

As they lock up their bikes, they notice a group of kids throwing pebbles at the windows of a house. The kids scatter when Callahan calls out, but Blaize smells something off. She ruffles Owl’s feathers, and lets him fly off into the night (he’d been riding in the bicycle basket up to this point), but not before her eyes have grown reflective and sensitive like the little bird’s (through the use of her Contract of Fang and Talon). Using her night vision, she picks out that the little stones are oddly shaped, and one picking on up sees that it is a human tooth.

There is a flash in her memory, the old forest and the pack.The tear of human flesh between once human teeth.

She shakes off the haze, and glances at the windows. Signalling for her comrades to wait in the alley behind, she creeps up to the open window and slips through. The house inside is dusty and almost forgotten, but the fire sprite can hear someone in a side room. She moves as quietly as she can between stacks of newspapers and meticulously stacked garbage, and sees a hunched, wheezing figure in the front room, shrouded and leaning heavily on the window frame. Between laboured gasps, Blaize can hear the figure whimpering out a prayer. She leaves them in peace.

On returning to her motley, they come to the conclusion that there is something much worse at play here than a recession. They ascend the last streets to the old town center, and see the church and its cemetery on the other side of the green. A number of large black carrion birds lurk in the bare trees of the park, taking wing as the characters approach. All Blaize gets from their caws is “poison”.

They follow the path of darkness to the side door of the church, and quietly spring the lock. The church seems normal in most ways. It has pews and a heavy altar in the Catholic style, but it also has an odd set of banner strung along a ceiling that seems lower than it should, and grates in the floor that even Blaize’s owl-eyes struggle to see far beyond. The Father follows his instincts, and locates the hidden staircase at the back of the vestry in short order. The three changelings began to ascend, and found themselves in a long room with a loft at the other end, a lamp glowing on a desk. They fanned out and began to make their across the silent room.

Callahan moved to the bookshelves, and in the low light of his smothered torch saw an occult library fit to make the eyes bleed. As he passed, a book feel from the shelf. He turned, and the old leather bound book on the floor has fallen open on a print: I white man gesturing over kneeling slaves. The priest notes the title page: “Superstition Among Antebellum Slave-Peoples”, and puts it back in its place. When he turns his back, he hears it fall again. Its around this point that Anais screams.

She had been moving towards the lamp, across an open stretch of floor. One moment she was there, the next she was falling. The Fairest tumbled, and managed to catch a banner rail before the floor four meters below had the chance to break her legs. She hung maybe a meter beneath a gap she had thought was solid wood. She called to her compatriots, and together they managed to haul her back up through the gap; it took a moment, but eventually their fae-selves were able to to reconcile the illusion for what it was. As they did so, Blaize heard a giggling, and looked up to see a scrawny figure scramble on all fours toward the stairway. She immediately gave chase.

Sensing they were out of their depth, Anais made a careful break for the loft, hoping the book they were looking for would be in one of the cases up there. Callahan moved to the table, only to have the chairs hurled at him by an unseen hand. He dove for cover between the bookshelves, and pulled the fallen tome into his satchel; it had opened on the same page once again.

Blaize ran after the spindly gremlin, down the step and through the vestry. The creature darted through a door, and Blaize made to barge through after it… and promptly knocked herself into near unconsciousness against the heavy wood of the locked door. She fell, her vision swimming. Anais scrambled up the steep steps to the loft, and saw a book that looked very much like the one Mama Park had described under the lamp. She raced to the reading bench, when a freak gust blew out the old lamp flame. Running her hands over the table, all she could feel were old, heavy chains. A ray of moonlight fell across her face, and across the face of a tall, heavily muscled African man, his neck in an iron collar, and his eyes weeping liquid darkness. A whisper cuts through the dusty night air.

“Would you die without a name?”

A moment later, the Fairest crashes into the railing of the loft, and before she can cry out she is airborne.

Father Callahan heard Anais hit the floorboards hard, clutched the silver cross around his neck and muttered something that doesn’t bear printing. Bracing himself, he makes a run across the open floor, only just ducking under the table as it is hurled after him. He grabs the unconscious dancer’s collar in his skinny fingers, and drags her frantically back towards the stairwell. The broken furniture rattles ominously, and he sees a hugely muscled silhouette against the moonlight for just a moment before he reaches the stairs and slams the door behind them.

Blaize manages to drag herself to her feet, and found a conspicuous note on the desk, obvious enough that it seemed strange they hadn’t noticed before. Written in what looked like spilled ink, it simply read “Forgotten”. Callahan slumped down the stairs with a barely responsive Anais in his arms, informed Blaize that this was no time to practice her reading and that his noodle arms weren’t going to cut it on this one.

Together they began moving their unconscious friend towards the exit…

And the air reverberated as the main doors were pushed open by none other than Father Damian Crowley. The hatchet faced old man, with a number of people behind him, strode down the aisle of the church, switching on lights as they went. The motley backed rapidly into the vestry and Callahan, hoping he wasn’t making a big mistake, put a hand on the arch of the stairway, called up his Glamour, and asked it to Let Him In.

The Hedge Gate shimmered open, and the motley didn’t wait to see if anybody was following them. Dragging their fallen friend through, Blaize and Callahan fell into a sucking mire of mud and creeping thorns, with little in the way of leaf cover or trees. The Gate closed again behind them, with no normals having had a chance to look through, the arch standing like a tombstone in the mire. Blaize kept watch in the moonlight while Callahan managed to coax Anais into drinking a concoction he’d distilled from the Hecate’s Eye fruit that grow in the Mirrorbird’s Grove. Soon enough, she was back on her feet, and the gang began trooping off in what they hoped was the direction of the River.

After a few hours of scrambling over the morbid quagmire that Black Hill’s Hedge had devolved into, Blaize took a tumble down a ridge and landed in rich garden bed of ripe hedge fruit. As she picked herself up there was a frantic rattling from inside the corrugated iron shack rigged up under the spindly trees around the grove. With a shout, a half clad man with an akubra hat, a beard made of long insect legs, and a shotgun burst out, and an ominous rustling rose in the trees behind her. Glancing over her shoulder to see the six foot tall redback spider that had flanked her, she made a show of dropping her knife and told the others to come out slowly.

Things went better after the Skitterskulk, who introduced himself as the Wrangler and his enourmous arachnid pet as Scuttles, was convinced that these still badly injured strangers weren’t here to kidnap him, and mentioned that there had been some Cuckoo trouble in the area recently. When questioned as to what a Cuckoo was in this context, he responded;

“Er, right… slaver types. Folks like us who’d sell folks like us back to… folks like Them.”

On this, they settled in around the Wrangler’s campfire, and he fed them some Baconbloom (a furry, meaty, occasionally chatty tuber) that he’d grown in his garden. When asked about the taint in the Hedge near Black Hill, he mentioned that he’d noticed it, but it hadn’t found its way over the ridge yet. He also asked if they were coming to Market on Saturday.

Given our gang are clueless new escapees with only Solomon’s word (totally trustworthy) to go on as to what they are, they had no clue what the Goblin Market was, so the Wrangler took time to explain. Given the strange crossroads that seemed to form in the Cootamundra Hedge, the monthly Roped Lake market was probably one of the biggest gatherings of fae and hobgoblins in the region, all bent on engaging in their own twisted version of capitalism. He also made a point that they tended not to take cheques or cash, so bringing something to barter was probably their best option.

They talked a few hours more, until the sun began to rise. Then their new pal pointed them on their way down the River and described the Colonial stone bridge that acted as a Gate back into town, then said to give him a shout if they needed him. He didn’t often leave the Hedge, so he knew his way around pretty well. They picked their way downstream, strange figures of smoke and heat haze watching them from the other bank. When they reached the bridge, they sloshed out into the waist deep water and stepped  into the dry bed that lay on the other side.

They began their long walk home, only now realizing that they’d left their bicycles in Black Hill.

I think that’s a pretty good place to leave our hapless heroes. More Changelings of the Outer West will surface soon, and if anybody wants to sling comments to guess which famous Australian figure the ghost in the church is based on, you’ll get a prize. Since I’m poor, the prize will probably be one of my trademark surreal compliments, maybe arranged as a jaunty e-card. No, my players cannot participate, cause they already know and get plenty of compliments anyway. Have a good one folks.

Changelings of the Outer West Part 4

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.

Changelings of the Outer West Part 3

Part 3

And They All Went Mad Together: Origins

Hello again dear imaginary readers, and welcome to another installment regarding Talking to a Stranger, our Changeling the Lost chronicle from last year. Part 1 is our Rogues Gallery, available here, with Part 2 giving a setting rundown here. Today, you get a writeup of how the story began for our zany heroes.

So here we are, and I’m trying to reconstruct the introductions for about a year’s worth of weekly game sessions from memory. But I wanted to get the characters started with memories, to give them a life to lose before they are whisked off to their respective supernatural prisons. Arcadia took each of them,but before that we had a person, and the tragedy of the story is that our escapees never got the chance to live as that person.

As a refresher, our three escapees are:

Anais; formerly Gail Kelly, now a Fairest Dancer escaping the Maze.

Blaize; formerly Rose Anderson, now a Fireheart Elemental also fleeing the Lord of the Maze.

Father Callahan, formerly John Callahan, escaped Wizened slave-alchemist of the Witch in the Wilds.

The Beginning

It begins in memory, as these things so often do. Each changeling’s past is experienced as flashes of a past no longer there.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the drive.

Anias remembers the last dance class. She and her friends are working on a musical, big song and dance pieces set to knock an audience’s socks off. They wrap up for the night, and she says goodbye to the other chorus girls. Her boyfriend, Louis, is waiting with his car and offers to drive her home. After a little while on the road, it becomes clear that they are going the wrong way. They drive out to one of the hills outside of town, and Louis asks for her hand in marriage.

The night sky is beautiful and cold.

She turns him down.

He takes it pretty well, pockets the ring. They begin to drive home. In the short view of the headlights, he sees… something on the road. He swerves, and the car rolls.

A pair of strong arms breaks the window and pulls her through.

The window that was lying against the asphalt.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the picnic.

Blaize is on a hill that tapers down to a creek. Her father calls for her to go and find her sister Belle, the sun is setting. Its time to go home.

She wanders, looking for her older sister, but all she can find is her clothing, folded neatly by the side of the creek. In a panic, she begins calling out for her.

She sees a hand sticking out of the water.

She jumps into the muddy creek, paddling out towards the hand, ducking under a fallen branch that makes an arch over her. She seizes the fingers, fearing her sister has drowned. But all that comes to the surface is a handful of twigs.

It’s then that she realizes that she can’t see the way back.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the service.

Father Callahan delivers the final lines of his sermon, and the churchgoers begin to file out like any other Sunday. An old widow approaches him, saying that despite all her prayers the ghost of her husband still haunts her house at night. The priest listens, and agrees to come to her home and try and exorcise the spirit.

On an afterthought, he puts his copy of the Fourth Key of Solomon into his satchel.

He arrives at the widow’s house, and sets up a chair in the living room where the ghost was last seen. She brings him a cup of tea. The sun goes down.

The night wears on, and the priest begins to nod off.

He wakes up in the early hours of the morning, and there is a smoky, vaguely humanoid figure with eyes like burning coals in the room before him. He pulls himself out of his chair, scrambles for his chalk, and begins to scrawl a binding circle on the floor.

But of course, there comes a voice over his shoulder. The forces from this point can trap someone in the circle. Like so…

A hag cackles as he is dragged by thorny boughs through the floor.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the ballroom.

She has been dancing as long as she can remember, surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful things. The night outside the windows in never ending, as is the revelry.

This is what the Lord of the Maze desires. The band plays on, wearing their porcelain fingers to dust.

She cannot remember the last time she slept.

Others slept, and they were quietly dragged away by the goblin porters who maintain the ballroom. Others are gathered to replace them.

The dance does not end, for that is what the Lord of the Maze desires, the dance and beauty and the insomnia and the midnight blood spilled in the space between breaths and stanzas drag on.

She cannot remember her name.

The dance pauses for breath as the porcelain band theatrically shuffle their sheets. She looks out the window into the starless darkness, and she sees a crack in the glass. And the crack spreads.

The world falls apart, and she falls with it.

She cannot remember her name.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the oubliette.

A little girl cries alone in the dark.

She has hunted through the maze for her big sister.

She has run from terrors, clambered over obstacles, and tried countless doors.

But she is here now, and there is no space to run, no holds to climb, and no doors to push through. She is here; she is forgotten. Alone with nought but a slowly burning lamp flame for company.

She doesn’t know how long it is before the flame starts to bargain. He says that he can teach her his magic, the way that fire can crawl and surge and consume, and that she can use that magic to break free through cracks so thin she can’t even see them. The little girl agrees, and she gives her fingers to the flame. It takes her hand, then her arm, her body and her screams, and together they crawl from their earthen cage in a surge of fire.

Time passes, and the girl grows up with others like her.

Blaize tends her campfire idly while her companion Lightstalker gnaws on a leg of meat. The forest is dark, but the sun should rise soon. Owl flutters down, and gets some of the meal for his trouble. Lightstalker complains that the runners barely give any sport at all any more.

Blaize cannot shake the idea that somehow, the little pink shoe on the end of Lightstalker’s meal is important. She says she’s going to take a look around.

Something makes her fold the discarded clothes outside of their camp neatly, the clothes of those who tried to get away. She is so close to remembering something, but she can’t quite place what it is.

She hears the Maze Lord’s hounds baying in the Goblin City. She climbs to the top of the wall, Owl fluttering ahead and giving commentary that she really needs to learn to fly better.

Someone is trying to get away.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the forest.

They don’t come every day.

For all that day means anymore. Father Callahan wakes in his lean-to under the incessant glow of the mushrooms that crawl up the dank tree trunks, or grow to the size of trees themselves. He wakes, methodically checks the lists that the Witch left for him, then gathers his things and presses out into the underbrush.

He hunts the mushrooms with a sling. That’s how he knocks down the ones that move. Then he takes the ingredients he needs from their strange gullets. Sometimes they beg. They usually don’t.

He mixes the ingredients with the tubes and alembics he has cobbled together next to his lean-to. He stirs his drops and powders in the half light, knowing that if they are not perfect he will be punished.

The giants by the hills have been giving him trouble again. He mixes a potion of his own, the strongest sleeping draught he can. If he can slip it into their food maybe they’ll leave him alone to do his work.

The hut lumbers out of the woods on its jointed, rusty legs. It lowers itself to the ground like an immense farm bird, and the Wilting Waxen Woodsman gestures the frail alchemist inside with his axe, saying that his mother is awaiting her delivery.

Callahan pockets the sleeping draught almost without thinking, and shoulders his bag, the weight of his Bible and the Key of Solomon a comforting memory even as he faces the Witch of the Wilds.

It feels like a long time ago, but you remember the run.

The dancer’s world shatters like a glass ornament dropped from a height, and she finds herself hiding in the halls of a strange castle. The goblins are dragging the dancers… somewhere. She overhears that the Lord of the Maze has grown tired of these playthings, and would like to see them repurposed.

She tries to sneak out the door, but is confronted by an immense troll of a man that she recognises. Gruf had once helped with repairs in the ballroom, and today he is wearing a strange ring.

The dancer remembers a late night drive, and the young man who had given her that ring. She trades the ogre a kiss for the trinket, and wipes his tears when he laments that he’ll never see the beautiful dancers again. When they hear goblins approaching, he lets her through the door and says that he will try to slow them down.

Blaize watches from the top of the wall as a woman leaps out of the side door of the castle and begins to run across the courtyard. Her skirt billows about her, and the fire sprite remembers the skirts of her mother and sister that were just the same on windy days, and she remembers her father calling to her.

Its time to go home.

With a crash the side door gives out, and the two women see Gruf with the teeth of one of the Lord’s hounds buried in his forearm, a dozen more of the dog-men surging towards and over him. Blaize reaches down and hauls the stranger over the gatehouse, and they leap down the other side of the wall together.

Father Callahan’s vision swims as he looks at her, and the Witch chuckles away as she gorges on the last of he raw meat platter. She takes the potions she ordered from him, and takes them to her cabinet. While her back is turned, and the Woodsman looks out the window through his melting locks, the old priest slips his sleeping draught into the Witch’s meal.

She ties another spider silk list to his arm, cutting deep enough to bleed. She gulps down another slab of bloody meat, and makes to say something more. Before the words can fly, she collapses onto the table. The Woodsman thinks his mother dead, and flies after the old priest axe in hand.

They sprint through the dark of the forest, crashing through undergrowth and diving through spore clouds. Callahan runs until he thinks his lungs will explode.

Its then that he dives under an arch of boughs and falls into the light.

The light flickers, and the old priest finds himself in an unfamiliar bathroom, having just stepped out of the mirror. He clutches his satchel and tries to staunch the bleeding in his nose, but turns to see nobody following.

The man who throws him out of the hotel room was clearly both surprised and irritated that this tattered clergyman interrupted his intimate time with his partner, and Callahan has a vague memory of replacing the Bible in that hotel room, a long time ago. He walks until he finds a burned out wreck of a car. Half asleep, he guts the radio, assembling it into a device that rings a bell, but he can’t think why. After repairing the engine with mud and twigs, he begins to follow the ringing to a park he doesn’t recognise.

The hounds are snapping at their heels, but Blaize thinks she knows where she is going. They surge over the crest of the hill, and on the other side of a stretch of brambles they see a river. They plow into the layer of cutting leaf litter and wade under the arch made by the fallen branch.

Father Callahan’s strange device rings out frantically as two young women burst out of the near dry creek bed, pursued by a gaggle of hairy, fanged, human-like creatures. Blaize pushes her companion ahead, and lashes out at the pursuing hounds, grounding the first couple with furious kicks and elbows. Right as the mob looks set to overwhelm her, Callahan drives his scavenged vehicle into the middle of the pack, and the wounded fire sprite dives into the back seat as they speed away from their pursuers.

When they reach the centre of town, the newspapers are welcoming people to the New Year. 1972. The old librarian is among the first people they meet, and he tempts them in with the promise of explanations, even as indecipherable words crawl across his paper skin. The dancer takes the name Anais from the spine of a book she remembers.

It is New Years Day, high summer in Cootamundra in 1972. And three changelings begin their first day free.

Eat your heart out, Labyrinth fan fiction writers. Hope y’all enjoyed that, I’ll get on to a summary of the mismatched motley’s various adventures in the next post. This went on a lot longer than I expected… but it is a lot easier to say things than to write them. During the introduction I found the rotating use of ritual phrases (It feels like a long time ago, but…) very effective, especially in the twisted fairytale context of Changeling: The Lost. A great game in the World of Darkness line that I would highly recommend.

Any similarities to David Bowie or the works of Jim Henson in this work are, of course, entirely coincidental (cackles maniacally). I own none of the rights… but fiction has a strange life of its own…

Changelings of the Outer West Part 2

Part 2: The Trouble They Landed In: Setting

This is part of an ongoing series of memoirs about a Changeling: The Lost chronicle I ran before leaving for Europe. Part 1 is here https://nextbestplan.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/changelings-of-the-outer-west-part-1/

As mentioned, the Talking to a Stranger Changeling arc was set in an entirely fictional version of 1972 Cootamundra. I strongly suspect it has very little in common with that town at the time, and is mostly formed of my childhood memories of Bathurst, Dubbo, and a degree of frenzied improvisation.

For those unfamiliar with Changeling, you have a fractured reality; the world is divided between the “real” world that normal humans experience, a the Hedge, a surreal and labyrinthine place that is both a wall and a bridge between the real world and Arcadia, the realm of the True Fae. Our heroes also spend quite a bit of time in worlds created from their own (often traumatised) dreams, and the collective dreamscape of sleeping humanity.

So for the 1970s escapees of Arcadia, Cootamundra is a pretty complicated place.

The “Real” World

Cootamundra in 1972 is divided between the mostly Gold Rush era Uptown from the mostly residential and light industrial Downtown by the river, which due to several years of serious drought has become a mostly dry ditch.

In Uptown, the Town Square is dominated by the Memorial Clocktower, a monument to the fallen of the two World Wars, which casts it’s shadow over the Colonial era Library and Town Hall, a number of old fashioned shops with apartments above them and the lantern-bedecked frontage of Mama Park’s Chinese Takeaway. The proximity of Solomon’s hideout in the Library and Mama Park’s place of business has naturally led to some tension between the two.

Cross the bridges over the river and the town begins to gravitate more towards 1950’s suburbs. On the outside of this towards the highway there are a number of autoshops and light industrial areas, including the abattoir that the Cold Hill Crew lairs near. Though once thronging with life, with the local mines having run dry nearly ten years prior there are more and more abandoned buildings in both the suburbs and industrial area.

Nearby, the former copper moving town of Black Hill (also fictional) is in an even more advanced state of decay, most of the town having fallen to dereliction. The remaining residents cling on in under the life sapping curse of a fallen Vampire Star.

The Hedge

The Hedge by default tends towards thick and claustrophobic forests, which doesn’t really mesh well with the arid surrounds of Cootmundra. You step through a gate in town – the main ones are under the main bridge over the river and in the door of John Callahan’s church – and you emerge onto a dry outback path bordered by immense termite mounds, leafless trees whose charcoal black bark saps blood and memories, and an omnipresent heat haze that obscures the distant mountains. It is a place of dusty plateaus, huddled oases, shadowed gorges and scorching sun.

The River in the Hedge, unlike its earthly counterpart, runs wide and slow, and forms the main Trod of the region. You follow it downriver and you’ll eventually come to the Sins of the Nameless down by the coast. You follow it upriver… and if you’re driven, resourceful and crazy, you’ll hit Arcadia.

Heading away from the center of town one way, if you leave the dry bushland and cross the treacherous outcrops there comes and immense plain of long, biting grasses, dotted with tight clustered groves and small earthen altars watched by the little clay people who built them and the clattering wooden beast that circles in the sky above. In the other direction and the hills give way to cliffs over a river of crawling human hair.

Dotted throughout the Hedge there are both disintegrating stone ruins and the odd clay-white Watcher Stones. These little half egg shaped stones with their two bored eyeholes make no sound or motion, but if you sleep near them or ask nicely enough you’ll find yourself elsewhere. A mostly empty, forgotten place, with islands of Hedge dotted far apart and disconnected, a place from before the imagination of the current crop of human beings.

The other major feature is the Roped Lake, an immense nest of rigging and suspended tents and platforms strung between immense tree trunks that forms the local goblin market. The unusually high number of escapees in the region allows the goblins a tidy trade.

Hedge Denizens

Here is a probably incomplete list of Hedge creatures that our motley has run across.

Charity Hogface, Goblin Merchant: Charity is a three foot tall bipedal hog who wears a tuxedo and pilots a steamboat up and down the River. As one of the prominent merchants of the hedge, he employs a gaggle of Smokeys and is prone to ramble on about the “invisible hand of capitalism” in his mincing South African accent. It is also noted that his chopper riding gunslinging cousin Wrath Pigface is a local menace though he has not received any screen time.

Coffincello, Goblin Merchant: a skull pokes between the strings of this casket turned stringed instrument. His skeleton arms strum the heavy strings that make his voice, deep and old. He deals in strange gadget cobbled together from junk, and made Snake’s new eyes from brass and lost memories.

The Mirrorbirds: a flock of raven like birds made from broken glass who live in a grove near the motley’s Hedge gate. They were convinced to guard the grove’s stash of goblin fruit by the motley’s promise to take one of their eggs to the real world and let it eat dreams.

The Bushmen: a gang of scurrying, semi-intelligent plants who use their sharp fronds as spears. They seem to worship a flabby tentacle-like creature in a small lake.

The Buried Giant: when Callahan attempted to dig termites from one of the huge mounds near their hedge gate, the mound flexed and was answered with a low rumble from beneath the ground. The giant was large enough to deter further investigation.

Simian Security: An alliance of monkeys and apes, dressed like English Redcoats, who operate as private security forces in the Hedge. Anias employs one of their operators, Kensington, to secure her Hollow.

The Yowie: an immense hairy humanoid with a taste for raw meat, the Yowie keeps a large clearing as its territory, and will generally attempt to eat interlopers.

The Quinkins: these stick thin creatures wander the Hedge in eery silence. They are inquisitive, often rummaging through stash of goods left within arms reach, but they tend to scatter info the shadows once observed.

Spiderbies: crawling creatures like wallabies with arachnid legs, these little guys travel in packs on the lookout for any Glamour they can find, be it the loose or walking kind.

Vultures: these immense, wind-voiced birds appear to be made of bones, old leather and tattered cloth. They live in the high places of the Hedge.

Meatbag, Goblin Merchant: Meatbag is a writhing pile of worms in a vaguely person shaped leather sack. But having made the bag themselves, they are naturally one of the best tailors in the Hedge.

Fox Brigade: these pig riding vulpine mercenaries roam the Hedge, trying to capture any changeling they can find fot sale. The motley managed to bait them into the Yowie’s clearing with predictable results.

Mushrooms: there are a lot of these guys dotting the dark places of the hedge. Nobody is sure if they’re sentient, but they seem to move around when people aren’t looking.

Owl: The undisputed star of the show, the best comic relief we get, Owl is Blaize’s hedge-beast companion. He is, for the most part, a gluttonous little kleptomaniac. But he’s pretty good at Owl stuff. Mostly. It’s not that Owl isn’t loyal. Its just that he’s easily… distracted by the promise of carcass.

Down the Skein

The final element of the world is a collection of dreamscapes, a world made of impossible numbers of human dreams tied together by the strange Gates of Horn and Ivory. These dreams are as varied as the dreamers, but Cootamundra is a town on a down swing, and has a number of troubled minds returning from the hellish warzones of Korea and Indochina. Coupled with strange, parasitic creatures like Judy, those who would wander in their dreams are walking a dangerous path.

Not that something like that has ever stopped this motley…

Once again, I’ve probably missed stuff. This is in part a memory jog for my players, as we’ll be commencing our 1984 arc fairly soon (a prize to the first imaginary reader who can guess its name!) but also cause its nice to share. Feel free to butcher and cannibalize any ideas for your own games folks, just don’t go quoting me in Cootamundra guidebooks.

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.