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 CourtsEdit
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.