The changelings of the Serpent Court make no bones about it: Yes, they are greedy. Why shouldn't they be? They come back from a harrowing imprisonment deep in the middle of some madman's nightmare, and they return to this world as something unique, something no longer human. They possess strange and fickle magic that, when harnessed properly, can grant them all the wishes in the world. And that is what this Court does.
It's a twist on the seasonal Spring Court, but with a different shade of desire. The Court of the East ties power with wealth. One cannot have the first if he does not have the latter. By possessing great wealth, the Court of the East believes that all becomes possible if the money is kept in savvy hands. Want to own the temple in which waits a forever-open door to the Hedge? Purchase it. Or secure the employ of someone who can clear it out, take it over. Or have it destroyed. With a sack of gold and a no-limit credit card, what cannot be achieved?
It's all the more interesting that many changelings seem somehow destitute. They seem unable to reconnect with the human world and so they exist away from it, grasping at resources but letting them slip through their fingers like slippery eels. Not so with those of the Serpent Court. They reconnect with the human sphere as best as they can, often gaining quite a bit of temporal power in the process (for that is nominally where the money comes from). Many become experts at navigating that world, often with far greater aplomb than what they possessed before being snatched up and dragged into Faerie by unforgiving Keepers.
The Serpent Court expects its courtiers to possess some manner of wealth. This needn't be some unending cache of precious metals and glittering jewels, but some kind of prosperity is expected (in systems terms, assume that this means Resources 2 with the unspoken promise of trying to increase one's assets as time goes on). Certainly the Court has taken in the destitute, provided they show some signs of talent when it comes to aggregating wealth. A hollow-eyed pauper on the streets of Beijing can be a potential courtier provided he demonstrates the skill and the hunger necessary to join the Court of the East.
How do most courtiers amass their fortunes? The ways for a changeling to make money are as limitless as the blades of grass in the world. Many use their strange abilities such as pledge-making, dream-shaping and Contracts when it comes to making money. One might sell tokens in an open-air Bangkok market. Another might sell her beautiful body in the red light district (Patpong Street) of the same city. Magic can garner high prices -- some might sell ensorcellment or fulfill other promises and wishes. One courtier is even said to sell the richest Japanese businessman "pleasant dreams" for what could only be described as a jaw-dropping sum of money
Some refuse to use their magic for money (though one wonders why, given that the Court of the East fully supports doing so). Some simply use their cunning to become excellent in business -- the Court is home to more than a few CEOs, which many changelings find surprising. Others are inventors or market traders For as many ways as there are for a human to make money, changelings have those very same options -- except they have the fickle magic of their kind to back them up. They don't have to hoard their fortunes, either. It is quite acceptable to put that money to work, or even to invest in people by showing generosity to promising people in need.
Worth noting is that the Court, for all its seeming independence and individuality, is ultimately a self-serving entity. It runs on what is essentially a pyramid scheme. New members are only allowed entrance when they are sponsored by an extant courtier. The neophyte must kick money (determined to be a certain percentage as declared by the local Court) up to his sponsor at given intervals (also determined by the local Court). And, of course, that sponsor must tithe some of his money upward to his sponsor, and so on and so forth until it finally reaches the top of the pyramid. The Emperor of the local Serpent Court often makes the bulk of his largesse from doing nothing at all but feasting on the avarice of those beneath him.
The Qingming Festival -- a human holiday venerating ancestors -- is also one most closely associated with the Court of the East. The Serpent Court believes that those within its ranks who have fallen are still owed wealth, for even in death and among the ghosts, wealth gives one power. They venerate their ancestors and forebears by leaving money, tokens and other items of luxury on their graves or at house temples and altars in an effort to appease their spirits. If one's sponsor has passed, he uses this time to pay his sponsor what is still owed -- he pays this by either leaving it on the grave if that poor changeling had nobody else, or by paying it to his family or other designated beneficiary (one courtier was said to leave his tithing privileges to his dog, a three-legged Pekingese who once a year was showered in opulence).
The Court also performs other smaller rituals -- the Loosing of the Coin, for instance, where a changeling marks an item of money with his symbol or name, and sends it out into the world by buying something with it. If he receives that money back (and doesn't interfere on fate's behalf to get that money back), then it is considered to be excellent luck, indeed.
The predominant symbol of the Court is the Azure Dragon (Qing Long in China, Seiryu in Japan, Cheong-ryong in Korea), which the changelings imagine to be a great blue serpent coiled around his golden hoard. He further symbolizes the season of Spring (Spring indicates growth, and these changelings are all about growth -- provided "growth" means "growing wealth"), and the courtiers take on images associated with that season (flowers, green leaves, blossoms).
Other symbols prevail, as well -- the trident, said to embody wealth because it is how fisherman used to haul in the biggest, greatest fishes. The colors blue, green and yellow are key (blue for the dragon, green for plant growth, and yellow for gold). Many wear flowers of those colors on the lapels of their dark suits and elegant dresses.
The Mantle of the Serpent Court is about power and money. With Mantle 1 to 3, one exudes a sense of power, and the courtier may seem larger than she really is, or may appear to be composed of sharp potent angles that dominate the eye. Those of Mantle 4+ are paragons of dominance, seeming to always tower over or overshadow those around them, and stranger still, they give off signs of being made of money: coins seen in the dark of the eye, a rattling of gold when they walk, a glint of jewels on their teeth or fingernails.
A courtier with Mantle 1+ knows that procuring wealth isn't a cold game of numbers but one involving people, and so he gains an extra die on any Socialize rolls. With Mantle 3+, a courtier finds that his tongue (which may at this point become forked like a serpent's) will do what it must when money is on the line. When making a deal or stirring the envy in another, the character gains a bonus die on all Subterfuge rolls. Those with Mantle 5 wield their wealth like a weapon. Once per day, the character can add his full Resources score to any Social roll as bonus dice.
One might suspect that greed is the dominant emotion within the Serpent Court, and for many individuals, greed is. But what fuels the changelings' power is envy -- others want what their neighbors possess, or worse, what they can never have, and that is what gives the Court its power.
A down-on-her-luck actress who wants the best part in the commercial so that she can buy all those pretty dresses? The child who sees that his friend has two scoops of ice cream instead of his paltry one? The rich man who can always point to someone richer? These are what give the courtiers their power. If nobody cared about wealth and having something bigger, better, and more beautiful, the Serpent Court could not operate.
These changelings thrive on those who want more and will do anything for it. Someone who begs, cajoles, and weeps in trying to secure some kind of pledge or favor from one of the changelings is like sweet music or a delicious candy. The baleful stares of people on the street sizing up other passersby, wishing that they were as thin or wealthy or had such nice clothing... well, the courtier often feels like he's just sopping up gravy with a good piece of bread, it's just that tasty.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to stir the envy from time to time, to casually (so casually they aren't aware of the manipulation, the way Iago swayed poor Othello) remind someone that there's another out there who has it better and... don't they deserve more? The courtiers are often very good at reminding someone of his weaknesses. Once such a reminder is in place, it's easier for them to mount a deal and gain further power. It's battle, but without swords and guns. Weaken the enemy to take their position. Almost too easy.
- Winter Masques, p. 125-127