While there were, in the past, many natural sites called Glades where faerie magic existed in the world, Banality has eroded them over the centuries. The enchanted forests, sacred groves, and faerie rings are mostly gone, as are the great castles of the sidhe and fortresses of the trolls. They have disappeared into the Mists, hidden even from faerie sight, and the trods that once connected them to Arcadia lie closed by human disbelief. Some few places, though maintain their connections to the Dreaming and their Glamour or can be given such things.
Freeholds exist in the mundane world but, touched by Glamour, have a chimerical reality as well. They have a mundane existence, appearing in the Autumn world as normal houses, storefronts, or highway pubs, and a faerie one, just like the Kithain themselves. They are often warded to protect them from prying mortal eyes; that abandoned warehouse you pass on the way to work everyday may in fact be a thriving faerie tavern with wards that make you ignore it. An Eiluned Sidhe baroness' manse may be an old victorian house with wards that make it seem spooky, making any mortal who comes close want to flee.
Creating a freehold in the mundane world is not a simple matter, though not impossible. One must find a place with a certain amount of natural Glamour. Such locations are rare, and usually discovered only by luck or chance. Indeed, some Kithain spend years searching for one. With the location determined, the would-be creator must light a torch from another freehold's balefire and bear it to the newly established haven. They must light a new fire with this torch, investing a certain amount of their Glamour.
This fire becomes the balefire of the new freehold. The amount of Glamour invested determines the freehold's level (never over 5). The player subtracts the points from the Character's permanent Glamour rating, unless they bought the freehold with the Holding Background during character creation. Sometimes several changelings may hold a freehold, going so far as to use a commoner balefire. (The difficulties to resist Banality are reduced by one for shared freeholds.) Each can withdraw what they initially invested in the freehold. Thus, a changeling who invested three points of Glamour draws from the freehold at a higher level than the changeling who invested on point does.
Role in Society
As in the Medieval feudal society that focused around land, freeholds create the structure of Kithain society. The Glamour rich sites provide the power and influence needed by the nobles and commoners who can claim and hold them. As these sites can have parts that exist in the Dreaming they can also serve as gates to the Near Dreaming.
Many changelings discover freeholds or are granted them, either as part of swearing vassalage to a liege or inheriting them from the fae who fostered them. After acquiring the site he or she must swear an oath to protect and invest Glamour in it. The owner may gain glamour from the site or grant it to whomever they wish. Some kithain steal glamour from such places in a process called Reaving but this harms the site and can even destroy it.
While most changelings live in the mundane world, freeholds become the heart of their faerie experience as they consider their local freehold as their true home; the place where they feel most comfortable and where they can be their true selves without attracting ridicule from Banality ridden mortals. A few kithain, most notably nobles, will often reside full-time in freeholds but this constant exposure to the Dream carries with it the danger of Bedlam.
Because of this value, the Fae will be deeply loyal to their freeholds, even to the point of obsession over every detail which can turn disagreements in furnishings into major conflicts. Threatening a freehold is on a level with personal attack and defending a freehold is a sacred trust for every changeling. Without their freeholds, a changeling community will eventually wither like thirsty plants
The greatest concentration of Glamour in any Freehold is the Balefire, or Ignis Vesta. This chimerical flame is the heart of the freehold and the center of all magic in the structure. If it burns out the freehold is lost to Banality. When the sidhe left during the Shattering, they closed their freeholds but left the fires smoldering, waiting their return all through the Interregnum. With the Resurgence, these fires and freeholds reawakened. The source of all Balefire in North America is the great Well of Fire at Tara-Nar; High King David's castle.
Appearance & Structure
The chimerical aspect of a freehold may not have any resemblance to the mundane structure. A Castle may be a dilapidated mansion, an old warehouse, or an abandoned church. A Mew, a commoner freehold, may be exactly what it seems to be: a great workshop in a warehouse, a tavern an abandoned building downtown, or a fantastical bakery behind the storefront. To an extent, the tastes of the highest ranking fae, assumed to be the head of the freehold, determines the appearance of the freehold as the Dreaming recognizes his or her right to the site, enforcing it with Glamour.
Amusingly, the space inside versus the space outside may not be the same. A small starter house may actually open up into a grand foyer and many rooms instead of the three rooms of the physical structure. This is largely determined by the power of the freehold. One with little Glamour will be less capable of such feats than one with legendary power. Of course, this is only possible if the entrance to the freehold is in fact a doorway into the Near Dreaming where anything is possible. If the site exists only in the mundane world it is restricted to the physical space it covers.
Effects on the Local Dreaming
The owner of a freehold has the same effect on the local Dreaming as they do on the freehold itself. The color scheme of the freehold will manifest in the flora and fauna around it. The emotional state of the owner can also manifest as weather and ambience of the area.
Freeholds are protrusions of the Dreaming into the mundane world, but the opposite is also true. Freeholds feed the Dreaming Glamour, but Banality leaks into the Dreamrealms through freeholds, trods, and other such sites. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the mundane world gives the Dreaming form and variety. In its purest form, Glamour is ceaselessly chaotic. Freeholds are, by necessity, more banal than the Dreaming around them.
Most known freeholds are protrusions between the Autumn World and the Near Dreaming. Some may exist between two Dreamrealms, such as the Near and Far Dreaming. These are usually shadows of Earthly freeholds that have migrated (willingly or unwillingly) deeper into the Dreaming. Changelings call a portal between realms in any kind of freehold a Rath.
Ownership of a Freehold
A changeling may acquire a freehold in one of four ways. They may create the freehold, gain it as a gift or inheritance, discover it by chance or as the result of a quest, or they may steal it from another changeling. If the fae discovers or inherits a pre-existing freehold or glade, they must swear an oath to protect it if they wish to stake their claim. The changeling must also invest an amount of temporary Glamour equal to the level of the freehold. If something destroys a changeling's freehold, the owner gains a number of temporary Banality points equal to the level of the freehold. If they created the freehold, they also regain any Glamour they invested.
Changeling tradition holds that once a changeling claims a freehold, no other may claim it until the owner's death... unless they chose to give it away. The full force of the Dreaming backs this law, making "claim jumping" rare. There are exceptions, though.
A noble with a pennon treasure (a count or higher-ranking noble) can use it to take a freehold against a commoner's will, though they must invoke a formal fior to do so. A "neutral" noble, mutually agreed upon by the contestants, chooses and administers the fior. If the commoner refuses the fior, the freehold becomes the legal mystical property of the noble and it responds to only their command. The returning sidhe used this age-old power to take over a number of commoner freeholds, but this practice has slowed considerably since the Treaty of Concord. Nobles who use this power too freely are understandably unpopular among commoners, and occasionally meet nasty ends.
If a changeling becomes Undone by Banality, their freehold's balefire gains a bluish tint and the freehold "dries up" at the rate of one Glamour point per year. If the changeling's Undoing is temporary, the owner may rekindle their freehold by spending a temporary point of Glamour. Another changeling may claim an "abandoned" freehold on the basis that it is better to rescue a freehold than to lose it to Banality. Seelie tradition dictates that the original owner has the truest claim to their freehold, and that a new owner should return the freehold without protest. The original owner typically thanks the freehold's "caretaker" with a small gift for protecting the freehold while they were away. Unseelie tradition holds more to a tradition of ownership by the strong; a changeling who becomes Undone is obviously unfit to maintain a freehold. A returning changeling must often invoke a fior to regain their lost property.
The owner of a freehold may use it to renew their Glamour, though they can also grant this power to another as a favor instead. To obtain Glamour from a freehold, the Kithain must sleep and dream in the balefire's light, or near the secret stone of a glade. Upon awakening, they recover a number of Glamour equal to the amount they initially invested (or the owner invested in the case of a favor to another) Of course, the changeling may never gain Glamour above their permanent Glamour rating. An unscrupulous fae can steal the Glamour through a process called Reaving. Glades function slightly differently; the first person to dream within the glade in a night is the one who gains Glamour. Changelings share glades.
The owner of a Freehold may cast certain cantrips on the site itself that then become permanent. This is not often done as the personal expense to the fae can be great. The caster must invest a portion of his or her permanent Glamour for every level of cantrip as well have the highest mastery of the Fae Realm (5: Dweomer of Glamour) as well as the appropriate level of the Scene Realm to affect the space.
Fortunately this cost in Glamour may be shared by members of the caster's Oathcircle. Only one of them needs to have the Realms but all must know the Cantrip. This must be a willing sacrifice; the liege may not force his or her vassals, though certain cantrips may be used to coerce the expenditure of Glamour. Nobles and Commoners together often use this type of enchantment to create wondrous setting that defy the imagination.
Types of Freeholds
- Glade: Glades are sylvan glens, typically located deep in a forest. Changeling's favor glades for many of their festivals. Unlike most freeholds, Glades are naturally occurring founts of Glamour. Glades have a sacred stone instead of a balefire as their heart.
- Hearth: A Hearth freehold is a faerie tavern, bar, or coffee house, usually with a back-alley entrance. Many speakeasies from the 1920s are now Hearths. All changelings are welcome as long as they have something to trade. See for example the Toybox Coffee Shop.
- Lodge: Cottages, houses, and mansions, collectively considered lodges, can be freeholds. Lodges are typically the strongholds of nobles, who spend much of their time in residence. (See also Troll Lodges.)
- Manor: A manor is a small faerie glen surrounding a cabin or other building, and is usually located in the wilderness.
- Eyrie: Eyries are high mountain freeholds and are typically the refuges of outcasts. See for example the Cloudland Freehold.
- Grotto: Grottos are often overgrown sylvan glades or abandoned mines. Sluagh and nockers often gather in such out-of-the-way freeholds, though others use then as well. See for example the Freehold of the Mammoth. Cenotes are a subtype of Grotto.
- Faerie Ring: A Faerie Ring is a very small glen found deep in the forest. These naturally occurring freeholds grow increasingly rare as the wild places of the world dwindle.
- Isle: These enchanted islands are rarely on maps or sullied by mortal feet. Isles are private refuges, and are among the most prized freeholds.
- Thorpe: A thorpe is a faerie town. They are rare these days. One of the most famous is a mining ghost town known as Mother Lode, located somewhere in Nevada, while Ireland boasts the village of Glenlea. See also Dudleytown.
- Urban: Only the hardiest Kithain dare to live in the World of Darkness' choking urban sprawls. Banality is at its highest here, and untainted Glamour is scarce. These freeholds are on the edge of the coming Winter.
- Market: Faerie Markets are places, often freeholds, where changelings come to buy, sell, and trade strange treasures from a thousand realms. These places often share space with human markets covertly, though they may exist wholly in the Dreaming, such as the Goblin Market. A human may purchase a piece of faerie craft "Accidentally" on occasion. Such transactions may be lucky or disastrous for the unwary human. See also the Fulton Fish Market and Shimmer Alley.
- Lost One Freehold: Most sidhe left Earth for Arcadia with the Shattering and stayed away for over 600 years. Some, called Lost Ones, stayed behind, however, immersing themselves in their freeholds. These freeholds are rich in Glamour, but dangerous because of their Bedlam-inspiring qualities.
- Homestead: Homesteads are freeholds that are wholly in the Dreaming, yet without access to a Rath. They do not have the dual nature of most freeholds; their prime virtue is stability. The Kithain build homesteads to withstand the rigors of the Dreaming. Homesteaders are few but fiercely independent. Some changelings from every kith set up homesteads (even small villages) in the Near Dreaming. There is currently some tension between long-term homesteaders and changelings who entered the Dreaming after the Resurgence.
- Nunnehi Freeholds: Nunnehi freeholds are inherently different from any other kind, and are misunderstood by European fae. Severed from the Higher Hunting Grounds (their aspect of the Dreaming), Nunnehi freeholds may nevertheless have access to the "Upper" and "Lower" Worlds. They share many characteristics of Werewolf caerns and mage nodes; some Nunnehi and themselves in conflict with Garou or mages who covet their freeholds for their spiritual energies. Nunnehi freeholds vary widely in appearance and conform to the cultural conventions of the local tribe.
The Nature of Freeholds
According to popular opinion, all freeholds are pretty much the same thing once you strip away all the colored birds and ribbons and creative use of space; the decorations are just incidentals, peripheral to the real function of all freeholds: the storage and production of ambient Glamour. Most changelings are in such a hurry to get that Glamour that they barely even notice the dancing shadows and the twiddlebug towns that flourish in the wrinkles of their holds. The nod appreciatively at the details in the Dreaming, but never see to have time to look at them. The world outside the hold makes them tired and hungry for Glamour, makes then feel like there's not even enough time to savor it before they breathe it in.
The first law of holdcraft, though, is that this is the wrong way to handle a freehold. Granted, a freehold with no indoor rose gardens or rainbow frogs might theoretically still provide Glamour, but it deffinitely wouldn't smell as sweet. Reducing a freehold to a big Glamour collection site might be just as filling, but it wouldn't taste so great anymore. It wouldn't even be filling, really, because it wouldn't be a living freehold any longer. A freehold is only a freehold so long as it has the pomp and circumstance and irrational touches. The twiddlebug towns in the freehold evoke the Glamour... not the other way around. Killing or ignoring the twiddlebugs will make your freehold sick and your Glamour run dry.
One freehold is not "pretty much the same" as all others, or any others. If freeholds were the same, they wouldn't be freeholds. Each one is unique. The stronger it is, the more unique it is.
That said, holdcrafters and other sorcerers do find it useful to classify each freehold according to its "affinities," or the qualities that distinguish it from all others. This classification tells us a great deal about the inner nature of the given hold, its true name or "heart." If a hold were a person and not a place, the map of its uniquenesses would reveal its personal nature... the inner truth of geography.
Knowledge of this kind is useful for communicating with the hold, forging alliances with it, or simply making use of its internal magical preferences when weaving Arts. While there have been cases where this knowledge was used to damage or even destroy holds, such action is among the greatest crimes one can commit against the Dreaming. No enemy is so loathsome that they should be attacked through their freehold. Such enchanted places remaining on earth are fragile and not even the most corrupted deserves to be undone.
As with everything else about Faerie, the affinities that might describe an enchanted place can be classed into the Realms of Actor, Fae, Prop, Nature, and Scene. A small or sickly freehold that has little Glamour to spare can be built of only one or two Realms... a color perhaps, or a material like wood, paper, or fire, or a type of plant or animal. Stronger freeholds naturally partake in deeper dimensions of uniqueness, with the strongest of them being built out of 5 or more affinities.
Affinities give changelings the shape of the Dreaming's Glamourous vision for a given enchanted place. Affinities are how the freehold "feels," what it "likes," what it surrounds itself with. Cantrips grounded in the Realms to which a place feels an affinity are easier to cast and endure much longer than "unaffiliated" magic. Also, chimera created in a freehold with which they share Realm affinities tend to be healthier and less fragile than ones created elsewhere. In fact, free-wandering chimera who find a hold that feels an affinity for them often settle down permanently, which results in sometimes extensive colonies of chimerical creatures who fit the personality of the freehold.
Few surviving freeholds feel an affinity with the Actor Realm, and the ones that do are artificial krofts; glades, by definition, are allergic to human beings and die quickly when settled by humans. Generally, a kroft that partakes in Actor will be either a place where a certain type of human congregates (an apartment building where eccentrics tend to live, a college dormitory for budding mad scientists, a nightclub that attracts medievalists) or a place identified with a particular type of human activity (a coffeehouse, a theatre, a busy train station, a fashionable nightclub). Affinities for the first type are nouns; affinities of the second are verbs.
Unless you have made a study of the Actor Realm, this distinction might be meaningless. However, it might help to think of Actor holds of the first type as encouraging Glamour relating to the specific roles that humans play and to specific humans who play those roles. In other words, all the dress-up and uniforms that fuel so much Actor magic. Actor holds of the second type encourage Glamour relating to specific human activities: dancing, drinking coffee, drama, traveling.
Both varieties of Actor holds express themselves by promoting "suitable" behaviors and activity in the humans who inhabit them or are merely passing through them. This influence spurs a truth that the poor blind humans have forgotten: Where you live affects how you act. Even places of the dimmest Glamour can encourage different moods and even different attitudes.
Any enchanted place can feel an affinity for an aspect of the Fae Realm, and the majority of healthy holds are at least superficially affiliated with Fae. The intensity of this affinity is one of the best ways of determining how deeply rooted in the Dreaming the hold is. Holds with little to no affinity for Fae tend to be superficially connected to the Near Dreaming, while ones with strong Fae affinities are firmly embedded in the Far or even Deep Dreaming. Those dim holds that have eschewed (or lost) their Fae affinities are often completely severed from even the Near Dreaming, living their geographic lives in isolation.
The specific form that each Fae affinity takes varies widely. Weak affinities tend to express themselves by encouraging a particular kith, seeming, or chimerical species to live nearby and indulge its own characteristic tendencies to the fullest. Thus, a Fae hold might feel a special bond with sluagh or grumps and make itself as ideal a home for them as possible. Changelings who come to a hold that feels an affinity for them will feel energized by it; given the choice, they gladly stay there as long as possible. Conversely, Fae holds that do not feel an affinity for particular changelings will feel uncomfortable to them in some way, and such visitors will generally not tarry long.
Stronger Fae holds express themselves by encouraging some abstract aspect of the Dreaming, such as a color, an emotion, a moral stance (honor or perversion, for example), an artistic medium, or some deeper truth. These abstractions encourage related behavior in all fae who visit to dwell in such holds, but do not discriminate according to any cruder faerie distinctions, such as kith or House. Some sorcerers claim that the strongest of all the fae holds are keyed to Arcadia itself, but this notion is conjectural at best.
After Fae, Nature affinities are the commonest; most of the more common elements of "freehold decoration," such as clear ponds, indoor trees, and tame birds and beasts, are affinities with Nature. Like other freeholds, Nature holds can incorporate chimerical elements which would be considered absurd or impossible in mundane places: chimerical lions in the Kingdom of Ice, green buttercups and other plants not found in the mundane world, and "natural miracles" including inextinguishable fire or furniture made from solid masses of cloud. Generally, the stronger the Glamour of a Nature hold, the more impossible its ecology can become.
Also common are Prop affinities, which tend to apply to the cluttered freeholds of collectors, misers, mad inventors, and other accumulators of both treasure and junk. Needless to say, glades never feel an affinity for Prop, as the very artificiality of Prop is antithetical to the enchanted natural world.
Prop holds express themselves by accumulating whatever aspect of the Prop Realm interests them. The exact criteria for this accumulation vary widely from Prop hold to Prop hold, with some tending toward quantity (and becoming vast heaps of dolls or antiques or books or shoes) and others tending toward idiosyncratic arrangements or reconfigurations of the accumulated props. A typical Prop hold subtly modifies props that spend extended lengths of time within its boundaries to better fit its specific affinity.
For example, a hold with an affinity for knives gradually causes chimerical shoes and other voile to wear down, giving them knife-sharp edges. On the other hand, anyone who visits a hold with an affinity for red ribbon gradually discovers that all of their chimerical weapons and treasures have been decorated with brightly woven ribbons.
With Fae, Scene is the most important realm for classifying the unique role a freehold plays within the greater Dreaming. "Freehold," after all, is the class of enchanted (Fae) places (Scene). Insofar as a hold is a place it possesses affinities with Scene.
The so-called "place-bending" characteristics of Scene freeholds that so confuse humans and fledglings are manifestations of the Scene affinity. In the mundane world, a freehold may be of any size, but most are quite small and unobtrusive. However, freeholds that have a particularly strong affinity with the truths of place are immune to the rules of mundane architecture and volume. I am sure you are familiar with the old credo that "the deeper you go" into a freehold "the bigger it gets" and that "the inside is bigger than the outside." both are aspects of the Scene affinity at work.
Guards & Wards
Affinities are an important part of how holdkeepers guard and monitor the sanctity of their holds. The ease of spinning cantrips out of the aspects of Faerie with which a hold had an affinity means that most guards and wards of established freeholds partake in the same affinities. A hold with an affinity for fish takes various types of aquatic chimera, which could mean anything from mermaids to sea monkeys to giant, intelligent carp as its defenders. A hold with an affinity for small, claustrophobic spaces defends itself with labyrinthine tunnels and hidden entrances. On the other hand, a Fae hold typically resorts to riddles and magical bans to enforce its sanctity, and so forth.
If one acquires a freehold, the raw materials for guarding and warding are already there and need only be pressed into service. Befriending the autochthonous chimerical animals is always a good idea. If there are chimerical plants, convince them to grow into thickets and snares, or harvest them for defensive properties. Disembodied voices? Enlist them. Ask them to watch for intruders and make them challenge strangers.
The most important rule is to work with what the freehold provides, never against it. In time, the affinities will shift to better suit its holder's unique affiliations within the Dreaming (or, rather) the holder will shift toward them.
If one is birthing a freehold out of their own Glamour, the issue is almost too simple. The new hold's affinities are of your own design so choose carefully. If a fortress, choose for strength to better raise mighty guards and wards. If you are building for comfort and beauty, choose otherwise, or else combine any or all of these functions into the same freehold.
The Secret Life of Freeholds
After affinities, the most important secret of enchanted places to keep in mind is this: Your freehold may not breathe, but it, like every other aspect of the Dreaming, is alive. It might not think in the way a changeling does, but it feels. Freeholds have minds and memories. The have geographic hearts.
It's not for nothing they say "The liege and the land are one." It is a deep truth of the Dreaming that, once one of the fae claims an enchanted place (through attunement, the rite of discovery, or some other work of holdcraft), the place and the person grow increasingly similar. Not only does the temperament of the liege cause the freehold to reconfigure to match, but the affinities of the freehold have a complementary effect on the persona of the liege.
The two grow to act and think as a unit, almost as though they were bound bu the Oath of Truehearts. In a way, the Oath of Truehearts and Investment (by which a changeling becomes attuned to a freehold) are quite similar in effect. Both create reciprocal magical bonds between the object of the oath and the one who swears it. Most fae are familiar with the ballads of freeholds falling in love with their lieges and cloaking themselves in affinity-granted human forms in order to press their suit. Such tales are not ideal gossip. There is a strong romantic element to the relationship between liege and land.
This relationship manifests differently for every freehold and every holdkeeper. The more common effects range from the freehold teaching its liege its affinities in the form of Glamour Realms, to the liege actually merging physically into the substance of the freehold and reappearing only when necessary.
Bedlam Holds & the Lost Ones
The ceremonies by which the Lost Ones wove their holds around themselves like blankets of Bedlam still exist and can be used in extremity. Since the Resurgence, the most famous use of the greater attunement is probably the withdrawal of the Kingdom of the Mountains during the Accordance War, in which Queen Columbina pulled the entire faerie fabric of her kingdom away from Earth in disgust.
In less epic circumstances, the decision to perform the greater attunement of the Lost Ones tend to be motivated by desire to consummate the romantic bond between hold and holdkeeper. The holdkeeper is subsumed into the body of the freehold, never to return as an independent entity. In exchange, they gain vastly deepened understanding of all aspects of the freehold and its surrounding territory, and control over them as well.
Significantly, this ceremony appears to derive from similar rites passed down by the nymphs. The oldest among the fae say that these rite were used by the spirits who became nymphs to bind themselves to their heart-trees and gain respite from Banality at the cost of mobility. Likewise, the greater attunement imprisons the changeling in their freehold, which they may never leave again, but the binding also grants them additional powers and wisdom.