The Setting

Everything Fades

A Fantastical Noir-Punk Game of the Stories That We Tell As the Night Closes In

The Freehold of the Bloody-Hearted Labyrinth

The Freehold of the Bloody-Hearted Labyrinth is a benevolent one as these things go. It does a great deal of work for the poor and homeless, though whether this is out of a genuine sense of compassion or simply because of a contract written on the Wyrd itself is hard to say. In wide-open halls, the once-new paint tearing at the edges, faeries pour murky soup into hungry mouths and minds. The literature is there for those who can read it, telling the needy how they can achieve a better life by trying hard enough, but in honesty, the Freehold needs its dependents. They give it credibility, purpose and most importantly of all, glamour. Most of this raw magic goes to the Monarchs, true enough, but that is often enough.

The Freehold claims as its true commons an abandoned facility below Adelaide, originally carved from the Earth for some infrastructure project or other but now left to rot and decay by its creators. In exchange for promises of riches and power, a select few ensorcelled mortals from amongst the ranks of the Society’s charges maintain the echoing rooms, polishing the grotesque trophies and cleaning the décor gleaned from decades of scrounging the hedge. There is room enough for a main hall and amenities, installed painfully and with style, as well as accommodation for those who need it. Assuming that they are favoured by the Freehold, of course. Swipe cards and thick doors guard this home for those who belong there, not to mention whatever arcana the four founders wrought from the Wyrd when the ‘hold was established.

For ceremonies of ritual significance, those which call the seasons to hand and strengthen the ties of debt and bondage, a common hollow is maintained by the Autumn Court. Carved from the guts of some hedgebound titan, the entryway is a gasping maw, twitching occasionally in time with the step of the Lost. Inside this gullet there lies a door, sturdy and strong and carved from the stuff of dead dreams, ivory and cold. Only the Magister may open the gate, and even then a libation of blood is the cost. Whose is not important, and the Magisters have long since learned that gaining access to animal blood is a wise move to make. When the price is paid, there is a sensation of movement from within the door, the perception that there is something moving within it and pushing against the fabric of its frame. Light and colour pours into the door, quickly becoming a mess of contrasts before showing itself to be nothing but a membrane that pulls back as the Magister approaches.

Within, the sound of a beating heart is everywhere. Sometimes heard on the edge of consciousness, and other times making the walls vibrate with its thump-thump rhythm. The heart is seen by none but the monarchs of the freehold and the magister. Most don’t even know its location, and avoid the numerous unopened doors, each with their own cost. The gut of the great hollow was moulded from shivering flesh that has long since ceased to writhe, now hardened and dried until it appears a simple wall of slick grey stone. The magister always enters first, and whatever bizarre rituals they perform within, the room always appears a great throne room with décor and props suiting the season that holds sway and the event for which it has been commissioned.

As with any organization devoted to deceiving and destroying the Fae, the Freehold is a creation of mysteries and magic. Appeasing the pledges made by the founders and maintaining the citadel despite its cracks and tears is guesswork as often as it is rote.

Freehold Pledge:

I swear on this token of my liege that I shall be faithful to him, to cause him and his representatives no harm unjustly and to give of my skills to the best of my ability for the good of the freehold. In exchange for the protection that the freehold may offer, I shall render up to this ‘holds lord the proper homage of glamour in its proper time and will devote of my time to the care of the lost and needy. May I be banished forever from the warmth of my liege’s hearth should I be forsworn.

Type: Corporal, Nemesis Emblem

Tasks: Fealty (-3, both), Endeavour (-2, vassal)

Boons: Vassalage (+3, vassal); Glamour (+2, vassal must render a tithe of glamour equal to the liege’s Wyrd at some point during the year); Blessing (+2, medial [Safehouse Amenities 2]).
Sanction: Banishment (-3, vassal); Poisoning of Boon, Medial (-2, liege must offer up an amount of Glamour equal to what he would have drawn)

Duration: Year and a day (+3)

Invocation: 1 Willpower (Both) + 1 Willpower dot (liege; paid only when he first takes part in an oath of fealty as liege)

The Courts

The Spring Court

The Verdant Crown rests on the tanned brow of Bastiza de Innocenti, and she oversees it with subtlety and tact. Brought to Adelaide by the near-mythical Tiberius whose tales of trickery and finesse are orally passed from one generation to another, the Spring Court has always carried with it a somewhat Byzantine feel in all senses of the word. Social and ready to enjoy themselves, the Spring Court make themselves well and truly known. They take pains to make themselves as visible as possible, much to the chagrin of the Winter Court. The Emerald Court in Adelaide is responsible for organizing and maintaining all Freehold rituals, and the Magistrate is almost always chosen from amongst their number. They take to this with gusto, and tend to be responsible for organizing a range of other social gatherings as well.

Just as important a responsibility of the Verdant Court is keeping track of the members of the Freehold and ensuring they fulfil their more mundane responsibilities and obligations to their fellows. Prudence Marie is the Director of Human Resources in the Caring Heart’s Society, having been delegated the position by Bastiza.

Their heraldry features the thyrsus, Salvation Jane and heads of grain. They are the court of new life, of love, of lust and the desire to persevere in the face of all that is dark and wrong. Passed down from Tiberius, himself a collector, is a feathered mask of obsidian and glass.

Satrap Bastiza de Innocenti, Verdant Sovereign:

Bastiza is newer to the Freehold than many, she arrived ten years ago and made Adelaide her own. A fragile young thing, she quickly attracted a base of support, friendship and admiration. Demure, she wooed her followers and watched from the sidelines until she was ready to take her place amongst the Freehold’s elite. One night, popular rumour states, she made her way into the hedge and returned bearing the spring crown. Ein Sof, the previous ruler, simply woke up the following morning only to find that he had been usurped. Not even Nelson Heidegger, Bastiza’s bodyguard and champion is aware of exactly what shifted the balance. Although this happened a good five years past, Ein still fumes and while he still has high station within the court and freehold, relations between the two have not been the same since.

Bastiza has an elflike appearance, and olive skin that speaks of her Mediterranean background. Truly beautiful, she reinforces that image with grace and a carefully cultivated distance. Since visiting Melbourne six years ago, she is a member of the Satrapy of Pearls, and as with all of their kind always appears impeccably well groomed.

The Verdant Sovereign carries the scent of flowers and grass gently blending with the prickle of roasting meat. Her mantle is slightly intoxicating, imbuing others with the promise of good company as the bite of aged wine is felt gently on the tongue.

Location: Quantum Perspectives

Bastiza runs a mid-sized PR and consultancy company based out of Adelaide, turning her Verdant nature to a somewhat non-traditional field and feeding from the desire of corporations and individuals to be well regarded in the community at large. Quantum Perspective’s office is located on Hutt Street, Adelaide, and is open knowledge for members of the freehold.

The Summer Court

A ring of bloody thorns protrudes from the skin of Carroway’s forehead, a symbol of the honour accorded to him by Summer and its courtiers. While the summer lords and ladies of many freeholds flare with unbridled rage, Carroway smoulders, the slow anger that is difficult to understand until it is far too late. And his court reflects this, it always has. They are slow to strike, but when they do their fury is like a tidal wave; all-encompassing and vast. Their annual forays into the depths of hedge are truly something to be seen. Months of planning culminate in a week-long purge that all Summer courtiers are expected to participate in. Their ways are often archaic and their attitudes old-fashioned, but their tactics are decidedly modern. They are not the court of champions and chivalry that the Spring Court is often seen as, instead they are the court of concealed weapon and the unfair advantage. When they fight, they make sure that it’s on their turf and on their terms.

The Summer Court is also responsible for periodic patrols of the hedge, identifying potential threats and when possible finding out what they can. Carroway holds his directorship in the Society close, coming from the tradition of strong central leadership.

The powerful introspective focus of the Summer Court in Adelaide is reflected heavily in their heraldry. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man takes pride of place, bound to a ring of fire. The Architect, one of the founders of the freehold and a member of the Summer Court, chose the symbol and though its original meaning has been lost, it is commonly thought to reflect the inner humanity that the lost strive for and the anger that they find themselves compelled to follow. Also frequently appearing are helmets of all descriptions, bulls or bull-horned figures and the trident. The significance of armour is such that a helm and breastplate engraved with runes handed down from monarch to monarch, the runes said to represent the true name of a bound god.

Carroway, Rex Populi of Summer:

The King of Summer was a great man, once; in many ways he still is. He still wields his iron pipe with wicked force and directs ensorcelled hit squads with brutal efficiency. However, the fiery passion of his younger years has boiled away, leaving only simmering rage. He was once a man of great charisma and eloquent rhetoric; over the decades his verve has charred to the point that he prefers to get his point across with a caved-in skull. He escaped from the Hedge in 1974, still a young man, and was the King of Summer within five years. His hands are clawlike and his knuckles like whorls in an ancient tree. The smell of spices; caraway, cloves and cinnamon surrounds his presence and their dust coats his skin, filling the senses of those near him with warmth. Carroway’s teeth are stained a deep purple, as though the juice of wildberries is fresh on his tongue.

He defeated his predecessor in a war of words, setting alight the minds of those listening to his rhapsodic speech. To the Summer court, he is somewhat of a father figure, something of a mentor, something of a guardian. The courtiers were shocked when he gutted the last contender to his throne in a vicious duel he emerged from with deep wounds and a scar where his throat was gouged open in a wide, deep gash. The medic on-hand managed to stop Carroway from asphyxiating like a fish in the air, however his opponent wasn’t so lucky. His intestines drying in a splash of colour on the dusty tarmac, Eddy Small was the last one anyone expected to bring the challenge to the Summer King. The next day, Carroway walked into the hedge and came back precisely one month later, refusing to speak of the incident.

Carroway’s mantle is fierce; a hot and dry breeze that soon chaps and dries the skin. If one looks at him for long enough, it leaves black spots on the eyes as though one had stared at the sun.

Hollow: Damnation View

The hollow of the Summer King is a fortress along Hangmans Step, a trod leading from within Adelaide and deep into the hedge. Built from immense poles of hedge-cut bark and wood the palisade walls are a deep, bruised-red brown. Jutting from the side of a mountain of refuse the View sends jagged spires into the sky like twisted parapets. From here the Summer Court ride out on their annual hunt, ready to purge the hedge of any threats they might encounter. The task, and the guardian lifestyle of Carroway and those Summer Courtiers who reside in the fortress is a thankless one, but a necessary one as the Summer Court is charged with guarding the Freehold from threats of the Hedge. Damnation View is also where the Freehold would retreat to in times of emergency, its sturdy walls and portcullis a boon against any large-scale threat. Within, it is well furnished, like a cross between a Viking hall and a medieval castle lightly plastered with an incongruity of modern touches. Hedgespun banners and tapestries cover the walls, displaying the exploits of the Summer Court and its kings since the founding of the Freehold, and it is here that Carroway holds court.

The Autumn Court

Despite accusations to the contrary, the Autumn Court have all the zest and flair of the other courts, they simply tend to focus it in more esoteric directions. Their ruler, Mother, leads from within the depths of her own hollow. The Autumn Court as a whole keep their arcane practices largely to themselves, and tend to go about their business as everyday, if unnerving, members of the freehold. Rumour says that membership in the Autumn Court is like a great mystery religion, each member only a pawn trapped in a web of promises and debt, waiting to be initiated into the deeper secrets of Wyrding power. Of course, if anyone were to ask one of the courtiers, they would certainly deny this. No one truly knows what the court are capable of, and the extent of their supernatural influence is obfuscated by ritualism and doublespeak.

The Court of Fear is tasked with two duties. One is to maintain the freehold commons, although perhaps satiating the great beast is a more appropriate phrase. While the Spring Court are responsible for the rituals it demands, the Autumn Court appoint it, secure its defences and perform a myriad of other errands. In a similar vein, they are expected to seek out beneficial gifts from the hedge, groves of goblin fruit and similar blessings. The Summer Court seek out enemies, while the Autumn Court tap it for all it’s worth.

In the Autumn Court’s symbolism prominence is given to scythes, wicker men and cornucopias of fruit, set on a backdrop of brown, dull reds and oranges. As per tradition, the objects of the monarchs office are a silver sickle that glints with the light of sunset and a staff carved from Woolemi pine, around which two live green snakes curl.

Mother, Witch-Queen of Autumn, Scion of the Third Hierarchy

Mother doesn’t come out to play often, but when she does, even the hobgoblins stand to attention. A porcelain doll, the movement of her mouth and eyes is disturbingly unnatural. Her mask is that of an older woman, skin pulled tight through surgery or chemicals, but her porcelain face is as flawless as the day she emerged from the hedge twenty-five years since, profoundly unfazed by the realities of her new situation. A sorceress of the highest calibre, only the Autumn Court know how she came to be the monarch, and they aren’t talking; at least not publicly. Pigsblood Helen, the previous ruler and a grim slaughterhouse worker, has settled into her new position as Paladin of Shadows, devoting herself to it with every bit as much effort as she did her rulership.

At this point, it has been several years since Mother last appeared in public. Her edicts are carried to the court by her chosen speaker, Dominic Zeitgeist, an eloquent and capable darkling. She could conceivably be challenged in her domination of the Leaden Mirror by Threepenny Jack, another Autumn sorcerer with his own cult of personality, however the responsibilities of his entitlement make such an unlikely possibility.

In her immediate vicinity, colours become washed out and tinted by the shades of autumn. Mottled green, brown and orange. Occasionally autumn leaves drop from the folds of her clothing and Goosebumps raise on the arms of lost as they pass.

Hollow: Chancibil Place

Chancibil Place is a well-appointed townhouse slotted between two rotten skyscrapers, festering in the hedge alongside Adelaide’s main trod. Like something from a genteel Victorian nightmare, it looms out, a swinging placard proclaiming it the sign of three moons. Acting as something of a focal point for the more occult amongst the Autumn court, it is known as a place of magic and lore. It is assumed that Mother makes her home here, and it appears as though whoever designed it applied a combination of modern design principles and a turn of the century aesthetic. The claustrophobic foyer is filled with the sound of ticking and swinging, as clocks and knick-knacks twirl and whirl. Whatever secrets make their home here are known only to a select few, those Mother refers to as the Paladins of the Second Hierarchy.

Winter Court:

Apart from one or two resident occultists, the Winter Court has turned its eye firmly on the mortal world. Dealing with finances, identities and other such matters of real-world security. They take this thematic direction to its logical extent, being the watchmen of the freehold commons and holding the directorship of the finance department in the Caring Heart’s Society. While they are not the freehold’s fighters by any stretch of the imagination, Carolus Crane, their current king, has taken pains to organise changeling-run courses for members of the freehold in such diverse fields as urban survival, stealth and larceny, security and similar. Overall, they provide a genuine understanding of the myriad skills a changeling needs to survive in the dark streets and cold alleyways of Adelaide. Out of habit, many winter courtiers develop a careful glance. Being trained in the arts of subterfuge and survival, especially amongst a paranoid society like that of the lost, tends to breed a degree of caution and subtlety.

Apart from the obvious role of king, the internal hierarchy of the Onyx Court tends to be a mystery to outsiders. While there is no obvious ruling against the revealing of ranks and positions within the court, by virtue of their own preoccupations the winter courtiers of Adelaide tend to be reserved when discussing internal matters. Regardless, they are the people to go to in an emergency. While the other courts, especially Carroway’s Summer Court, can be slow to provoke, the Onyx Court are always ready to flow into action.

Adelaide is not a city of snow and frost like the countries that spawned the great Seasonal Courts, and thus their heraldry has its own distinctive features. In keeping with their thorough adaptation to the modern world, the Winter Court’s icon is an entirely postmodern corporate logo, the outline of an archer in black on a white-splash background.

Carolus Crane, King of ‘Thawing’ Winter:

A windwing, Carolus is modern and sophisticated, although this façade is marred by a curious shyness. At a first glance, he does not appear to be leadership material. Indeed, his ascension to the Winter Crown came as he was the close confidante, motley-mate and designated successor to Peter Farrow, the previous monarch. Farrow died of old age, having spent over forty years tending to the needs of the freehold and monitoring dozens of manhole-protected hideaways. No one has seen fit to openly contest Carolus’ rule, and certainly he appears to be doing a competent job. He is well informed on all the current events of the freehold and the mortal world, presumably holding down some minor job in government or the public service. For all intents and purposes, he is a sleek bureaucrat. A long-necked and white-feathered bureaucrat, but an administrator nonetheless.

Where his true character lies, or so it would appear, is through the persona of his beloved wife. Melody Crane is Carolus’ partner of the last decade or so, ever devoted, loyal and true. Never having felt the tender slice of a Keeper’s blade against her skin, dark-skinned Melody is bound to Carolus through a pledge of ensorcellment. Their affection is genuine, and it was formalized in a traditional marriage ceremony that all members of the freehold were invited to. He has been criticized behind private doors for his apparent attachment to the world of mortals and his lack of restraint in showing his feelings. Hence, he has been unofficially termed the King of Thawing Winter, while he personally goes by the simple and traditional title. Despite this one apparent shortcoming, Carolus is a bastion of the Icelaw, more than willing to explain its nuances to any prospective or learning winter courtiers. Perhaps his failure to maintain the second tenet, “Hide Your Love and Hate” is why his mantle is weak compared to those of the other seasonal monarchs.

Carolus’ mantle is naught but a subtle chill in the air and a tendency for water to freeze and snap on the surface. As with everything of Onyx, it is discreet and invisible.

Location: The Serrated Cloisters

The cloisters are a series of boltholes maintained by the Winter Court, access to which is given to those members of the freehold deemed in good standing by the Silent Arrow or who are truly in need. They are small one-room apartments in dingy buildings, greasy workshops at street level and similar, keep in a state of readiness should any emergency present itself. They are not particularly nice places to stay, and nor should they be; the cloisters are intended to be used as a last resort, not a home away from home. Within lies a healthy supply of preserved food, basic supplies, heavily locked doors and telephones. Nothing potentially incriminating is left within by the ever-cautious Onyx Courtiers, the rationale being that they are supposed to help fugitives escape justice rather than attract more ill-repute.

Trod: Hangman’s Step

Hangman’s Step is the main trod through Adelaide, a trash-covered highway penetrating the interchanging thorns and tearing barbed ruins that make up the hedge. It is dimly lit by twisted and rusted streetlamps that flicker with malevolent frequency and from which hang the strangled bodies of hobs, animals and humans. Such a sight instantly sets off alarm bells; however as far as any of the freehold can tell the corpses do not correspond to any known disappearances. Whether they are truly human is another matter for debate, potentially they are simply illusions or vegetables spawned from some sick plant deep within the thorns.

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