- 1 First Edition
- 2 Second Edition
- 3 References
Each Court represents both a philosophy and a supernatural pact with an aspect of the world that helps Changelings bolster their existence in the mortal realm, making them less vulnerable to the attentions of the Fae. Most Courts also draw power from a specific emotion which is associated with the powers of the Court; Changelings of the Court find it easier to harvest Glamour from their Court's emotion.
Each freehold has its own local Courts, usually reflections of the larger Court structures known to Changelings. The best-known Court structure (at least in the West) operates on a seasonal system, but there are Courts which are affiliated with different Earthly phenomena. The structure of a freehold's Courts is usually heavily influenced by the cultural heritage of the area and the folk tales and superstitions known to its members. All that really matters is that the Courts' affiliation somehow confounds the Fae; this may be achieved through ties to cyclical events, as the Fae are unchanging, or by the sharing of power, a concept alien to the Gentry.
Joining a Court involves a pledge on the part of the changeling, and the changeling's Wyrd supports that pledge. The Wyrd ties strongly to the seasons' interactions with time and the emotional affiliations that each Court assumes. In return for the pledge, the character's seeming gains the Court's Mantle, a supernatural addition to the changeling's mien that reflects the Court's dominant characteristics.
The Seasonal Courts are most prominent in Europe and other Western countries. Ideally each Court holds power only temporarily, with each King or Queen (the ruler of a freehold's Court) ruling during their season and then passing on the leadership to the next Court. In practice this doesn't occur in every freehold; a particular Court may be ambitious and claim permanent rule (as in Miami), or there may simply be too few Changelings in a freehold for more than one Court to be adequately represented.
The four Seasonal Courts:
- Spring Court - Focusing on hiding from the Fae by living amongst the mortals. They thrive on Desire.
- Summer Court - Seeking to strike out against the Fae directly. They thrive on Wrath.
- Autumn Court - Exploring the powers of faerie magic and the enigmas of the unknown. They thrive on Fear.
- Winter Court - Masters of deception and keepers of mysteries. They thrive on Sorrow.
Each of the seasonal Courts have two Contracts: one Fleeting, which affects the court's emotion, and one Eternal, which draws power from the physical manifestation of the season.
In places where Asian mythology and culture is dominant, the Courts are often based on the four cardinal directions. While they do not cede their power over time as the seasonal Courts do, the Emperors and Empresses of the directional Courts share leadership geographically, with each Court ruling the portion of the freehold corresponding to their direction. Decisions for the freehold as a whole are made by the Court leaders working together.
The four Directional Courts:
- Court of the North - Become hard, detached, and ascetic; give yourself so little to lose that you are no longer attractive to the Fae. They thrive on Suffering.
- Court of the East - Accumulate wealth and power to be rooted firmly in mortal society. They thrive on Envy.
- Court of the South - Seeking enlightenment and joy in the Changeling condition. They thrive on Ecstacy.
- Court of the West - All life is war, and the virtuous must win. They thrive on Honor.
The directional Courts share a set of Contracts which allow them to find their way, sensing and manipulating the world around themselves both physically and metaphorically.
Day and Night Courts
Another court system is based on night and day; it is prominent in Slavic countries and other parts of Eastern Europe, where duality is an important concept in many folk stories. Traditionally the Sun Court rules during the day, and the Moon Court during the night; in some freeholds the division is brutally enforced with curfews and patrols.
The two Diurnal Courts:
- Sun Court - Believers in morals, the rule of law, and righteousness. They thrive on Shame.
- Moon Court - Valuing freedom and chaos, and reveling in what they have become. They thrive on Disgust.
These courts embody the change from one state to another, be it the fall from light into darkness, or the climb out of darkness into the light.
The two Transitional Courts:
- Dawn Court - Creators of their own destinies and a better future. They thrive on Hope.
- Dusk Court - Accepting of their doomed fate, but not going down without a fight. They thrive on Fatalism.
Each of the transitional courts has a contract related to its own philosophy.
Not every changeling joins one of the Courts. Such beings are known as the Courtless.
Created for the purpose of protecting the Lost from their former masters, the Courts can be found in a wide variety of forms. Most common among them are the four seasonal courts, but others (e.g. Dawn and Dusk; Land and Sea) exist, as well. The basis of this protection is a Bargain each Court has made with its patron concept. This Bargain, so long as it remains fulfilled, hobbles the True Fae in some way should they come calling. In addition to the Bargain, the Courts' sharing of power is anathema to the Others' mentality, disguising the Lost after a fashion.
These Courts are based around the turning of the seasons. Each rules in its time, after which it steps down, handing the reigns to the next. While the dominant Court often flavors the freehold it rules, subservient Courts play support, acting in the background.
- Spring Court - These courtiers exult in living, denying the pain of the Durance. Spring's Bargain denies the ability of a Stranger or its minions to do violence unless it is born of a true desire. Lesser urges cannot negate this geas.
- Summer Court - Summer's children draw on focused wrath to guard a freehold from its enemies. The Summer Bargain prevents the Others and their servants from fleeing battle. Often, the freehold will target weaker groups at this time, so as to deny them any escape.
- Autumn Court - The Autumn Court utilize fear as sword and shield; they particularly focus on those few things with the True Fae might fear - their own power. The Leaden Mirror's Bargain requires that, before attacking, the True Fae and their loyalists announce themselves to the freehold in advance; the more powerful the Other, the sooner it must make the announcement.
- Winter Court - The Silent Arrow keeps close its pains - both to turn to strike at the enemy's will and to avoid pointless temptations. Winter's Bargain requires that True Fae attackers ritualistically mourn their victims before attacking again, during which time courtiers are free to strike.
More common in the East, the Directional Courts follow the notion of the Mandate of Heaven, each playing its part under Heaven's command. All five Courts rule simultaneously, sharing power and working together, rather than passing the power along.
- Court of the Black Tortoise - This Court believes that true enlightenment comes of suffering; as such, they eschew the comforts to which most cling.
- Court of the Vermilion Bird - Focused on inducing change, the Vermilion Bird revels in rebellion, daring the enemy to attack.
- Court of the Azure Serpent - The Azure Serpent views money in all its forms as being emblematic of true power. They gather money and utilize it to inspire envy.
- Court of the White Tiger - Predisposed toward martial prowess, the White Tiger focuses on honor - a finicky emotion whose definition shifts from courtier to courtier.
- Court of the Yellow Dragon - A Court of silence and reflection, the Yellow Dragon frequently takes ascends to power after another Court has concluded its business. Their primary focus is on reflection.
Born of the conflict known as the War of the Roses in the 1400s, these three Courts remained engaged in a cold war in the wake of its end.
- Court of Ash - Tentatively allied with the Court of Snow, but staunchly neutral in their conflict, the Black Rose recruited among the fringes of society - the Catholics, the beggars, and the mad.
- Court of Blood - Seeing itself as the natural leader of the freehold, the Red Lion has ruled since 1485, when Henry VII took the throne. Having supported the Lancasters, they considered the Court of Snow to be adversaries.
- Court of Snow - Supporters of the Yorks, the White Rose plotted insurrection against the Court of Blood in the wake of the war's end. Their membership was primarily commoners.
Courts of Creation
Composed of the Courts of Arts and Sciences, this system was active in 19th-century Mannheim, Germany.
- Court of Arts - A Court focused on longing, the Folk Court was primarily comprised of the upper classes, until lower-class folk artists pulled off a coup.
- Court of Sciences - A Court whose primary emotion is wonder, the Clockwork Court was manned by any who had interest in the physical world and invention.
Bay City Marshals
- Bay City Marshals - Having made a Bargain with Retribution, this Court devoted itself to vigilante justice. Its power-sharing was done with itself; that is, the Lost ceded power to the mages within its ranks and vice versa.
In Hellenistic antiquity, the Lost gathered in loose coalitions known as Symposia, rather than Courts. These Symposia made no bargain governing the behavior of the Gentry, though they still defined themselves by a certain emotion. Among the known Symposia (though little elaborated on) were the Seasonal, the Tide, and the Traders'.
An ancient Symposium active during the third century BCE.
- Dream Builders - The Symposium of Fortitude was largely focused on the harvesting of dreams from the Hedge and subsequent gifting of said dreams to mortals. The purpose of this was to maintain the Great Bargain, a contract with the Lady of Life Beyond Death that bars the minions of the Gentry, the Huntsmen, from entering the mortal world for most of the year.
Known to have been active in Rhodes during the time of the Web of Seven, the Tide Symposia were composed of the High, Low, Ebb, and Flood Tides. Which Symposium was in control was based on epagomenae, the period of time in which the Others were free to attack. Usually, Low and Ebb were in charge; leading up to the event, Flood controlled Rhodes; during the five days, the warriors of High Tide would throw themselves into the fray.