In many places – particularly in places where Western culture is dominant – the Hedge lives up to its name, appearing as a thick hedge of thorny brambles, but it may take many forms. However it appears, be it swamp or desert or jungle, the Hedge is always wild and seldom safe; its thorns tear at the mind and soul as well as the body, leaving a Changeling's memories and often identity in tatters.
Within the Hedge are paths called trods which lead from gateways to other significant locations. Many trods run close to the mortal realm, which is visible when it is near. Others lead deeper into the Hedge, to Hollows – stable areas claimed or cultivated by Changelings or other fae creatures – or to Arcadia, the realm of the Fae. It is impossible, however, for any but the True Fae themselves to enter Arcadia from the Hedge; while mortals can blunder into the Hedge on their own, they only enter Arcadia when taken by the Fae.
The Hedge is full of life; as well as the thorns there are many plants, including mystical Goblin Fruits of many kinds. There are also creatures of all shapes and sizes, which the fae refer to as Hobgoblins. Whether these creatures are native to the Hedge, or are creatures originally from Earth (or possibly even Arcadia) who have been warped by prolonged exposure, is debated by the fae, though many agree that these explanations are not mutually exclusive. Most Hobgoblins are hostile, though a rare few are relatively benign and may be befriended by Changelings.
Changelings may enter the Hedge through gateways which exist in any number of places, and may even create their own through the power of Glamour. Any portal – be it a door, window, or merely a gap in a fence or mundane hedge – can be a gateway. Some gateways have existed for centuries; some older gateways may even be opened, accidentally or otherwise, by mortals. These most commonly require a key, a specific combination of objects, circumstances and/or actions that must come together to open the gateway. Changelings do not need a key.
Entering the Hedge
Anyone, changeling or otherwise, can enter or leave the Hedge via an appropriate gateway. Any opening, archway, doorway or even reflective surface is a potential gateway, provided it is large enough for the changeling to pass through. It merely requires a changeling or other fae being to activate it.
Activating a gateway is not complicated. A changeling merely needs to touch part of the gateway and make some sort of request to be admitted. A knock or a verbal request ("Let me in, damn it!" is acceptable, as are more polite overtures) is sufficient. The player spends a point of Glamour, and the gateway opens, provided that it can. A door that is locked, bolted or rusted shut does not open for the changeling, which is why most fae use archways and other open apertures rather than doors. It remains open for a number of turns equal to the changeling's Wyrd after the gateway is no longer being used. For instance, if a changeling with a Wyrd rating of 1 activates a gateway and four of her friends use it, the gateway remains open for one turn after the last changeling has passed through it. While a gateway is open, anyone can blunder through it.
Leaving the Hedge through a gateway works much the same way, and if the changeling has kept the mortal world in view enough to keep a sense of perspective, the changeling can create a new one in the same way. If a changeling turns her back on the mortal world, though, she must find an active gateway, and this can take a great deal of time and perseverance.
Gateways do not stay open long, but once a door, archway, mirror or any other entrance is made into a gateway, it remains a gateway forever. A changeling making use of an existing gateway can forego the Glamour expenditure and simply command the gateway to open (this requires a successful Wyrd roll, though, so weaker changelings often find it more expedient to use the Glamour). In areas where changelings gather or the Fae are active hunters, gateways become more common. This, in turn, leads to people getting lost in the Hedge more often, which leads to more legends, which leads to changelings gravitating to the area in hopes of finding their fellows, and the cycle goes on.
Why, then, do gateways become commonly used, if changelings can so easily open new ones? Part of the reason is because one never really knows what is waiting in the Hedge. If word gets around that the entrance to the antique store leads to a safe place in the Hedge (or to a particularly tasty goblin fruit tree), that doorway becomes more commonly used. Repeated use of a gateway, especially under specific conditions, can form keys over time, allowing mortals and other beings to access the Hedge. Some rulers also pass laws within their domains stating that changelings may only create gateways with permission. This might seem like an abuse of power, but it does serve a useful purpose — if changelings are not creating new gateways into the Hedge, they find it easier to notice when new gateways are created leading out of the Hedge. Since it tends to be the Others or newly arrived changelings who create such gateways, this can be extremely helpful information to have.
Leaving the Hedge
Escaping the Hedge is simpler than entering, but by no means easier. To escape the Hedge, a changeling either needs to find an active (not necessarily open) gateway, or find a suitable door, archway, mirror or what-have-you to make into a gateway. Finding either from the Hedge is easy enough as long as the changeling can still see the mortal world through said gateway. If a changeling so much as turns her back on the mortal world, though, perspective is lost, and gateways simply become part of the landscape, while mortal-world features disappear entirely.
A changeling can search for an active gateway, and will probably find one, given enough time. This requires an extended action. The roll is Intelligence + Investigation + Wyrd. The time that each roll represents varies based on how familiar the character is with the surrounding area.
|Familiarity||Time Required Per Roll|
|Very familiar; neighborhood in which the changeling lives or claims domain||One minute|
|Somewhat familiar; section of hometown or ally's domain||10 minutes|
|An area visited only infrequently||30 minutes|
|Area visited only once or described in some detail||One hour|
|Unfamiliar area or enemy's domain||Three hours|
The number of successes required likewise varies based on how long the changeling has been in the Hedge.
|Length of Time in the Hedge||Successes Required|
|Less than one hour||2|
|One to eight hours||5|
|Eight to 24 hours||8|
|24 to 48 hours||10|
|48 hours to one week||15|
|More than one week||20|
Mortals and other supernatural beings can search for gateways in the same manner, but their players suffer a -3 dice modifier to the roll, as if they were attempting an unskilled Mental task. If such a character becomes practiced enough in traversing the Hedge to warrant an Investigation Specialty in "Hedge", this penalty no longer applies. Non-fae can only search for gateways in this manner. They cannot Navigate the Hedge in the same way that changelings can.
The Thorns are not just towering walls, briar-choked trees and crumbling hallways. A motley trekking down a long-forgotten trod may see strange architecture rise up out of the mist, or hear discordant music coming from somewhere, or wonder at a plume of black chimney smoke drifting up over the Hedge maze. These are not empty places — no vacant tombs or hollow castles. They swarm with life. Hobs clamber up over ramparts. Keepers exiled from Arcadia sit in the bowels of such places, plotting their eternal vindications or gazing at endless books and maps and paintings, just trying to make sense of it all. In overgrown courtyards, changeling privateers practice their blade mastery or simply count their many coins.
They are not empty places, no — and they are not safeplaces, either. The Hedge is given over to its own rules, and such towns and towers subscribe to an often alien mindset, as well. They are hamlets full of monsters, burgs chockablock with bandits and murderers.
Goblin Markets are the fae equivalent to black markets, often moving locations, in which changelings, hobgoblins, and even True Fae barter for illicit goods and services. Goblin Markets are usually found within the Hedge but, sometimes, they may be found outside it, in esoteric places at certain times of the year, month, or day. A goblin market is a place where anything and everything can be bought. Even things that seem impossible to acquire within the mundane world can be found here.
Once in a blue moon, war sweeps the Hedge. The lords of Summer go to battle against the Keepers that once claimed them, or two tribes of nasty hobgoblins clash their rusty blades over the muddy ground. The Thorns preserve the battlefields of such wars, and they also preserve the fortresses born of those conflicts. An old stone battlement may sit frozen, swarmed over by vines that shudder from the biting cold. A forgotten militia encampment sits, slowly sinking into the soft mouth of a malodorous swamp. A towering gate made from the bones of a thousand fallen changelings blocks the way down a legendary trod, and those who wish to pass must appease the shadowy soldiers that lurk within. Changelings who come across such places might find them empty, gutted of life but still with some cobwebbed weapons and tokens left behind — or, worse, such places may only appear empty.
People, hobs, and other… things live in the Hedge. A few changelings have retired to hidden Hollows. Some hobs dwell in thatch huts, gutted trees, or even within (or beneath) the Hedge walls themselves. Many, though, find community within the Daedalian walls, a kind of collective madness that may serve great purpose (protection, commiseration, exploitation) or no purpose at all. These small "Thorn-towns" exist in rare parts of the Hedge.
Some look like one might envision a town to look— a muddy crossroads separating four quadrants of houses cobbled together with various “found items,” or even a faux-suburban line of pastel houses confined in a world of white picket fences. Many, though, do not conform to anyone's rational idea of a “town” — a hive of hobs that live and work beneath the ground, a swaying skyscraper made of vine and petal instead of steel and glass, or even a bleak little burg trapped in a mirror. No matter the form, though, Thorn-towns have their own hard-to-peg cultures. Changelings learn quickly that such places belong to a whole other world.
Not big enough to be Thorn-towns, outposts are the “frontier settlements” of the Hedge. These far-flung gatherings are small — just a building or three — and serve as home to no more than five or six creatures or changelings. They often mark the edge of “known Hedge,” meaning that beyond an outpost lurks a part of the briar that remains largely uncharted. The outposts themselves serve various potential functions: they may watch the wildest parts of the Thorns for danger (exiled Keepers coming through the brush, rampaging hobgoblin beasts, lone changelings gone mad and become truly “lost”), they might serve as a waystation for those seeking to push deeper into the unknown, or they may consist of those changelings or hobs that simply wish to remain isolated from the rest of the realm. Outposts are always on the edge — sometimes literally, like those that sit perched on cliff faces or at the base of a dizzying Hedge mountain.
Most hobgoblins do not seem to read. If they do, they read books that human eyes cannot parse: pages that stir and flutter like a moth with a broken wing, or with words that seem to crawl off the page and into the eye of the reader. So why, then, is the Hedge home to weird little libraries that linger along remote trods? What is the purpose of such places? They certainly are repositories of knowledge. But for whom?
The Hedge is not all above-ground. Vast and intricate tunnel systems exist beneath the surface, many of which have been carved by enterprising goblins looking for a pretty gem, a vein of precious metal, or long-forgotten trifles. Most of the entrances and exits to such places are well-concealed, hidden the way a changeling might hide her Hollow. Most mines are small affairs, just a shaft and a tunnel, lorded over by one or a pair of goblins desperate for what the walls might contain. They might eventually bore their way through to a larger cavern system (or they might step on a weak patch of ground and go tumbling into eternal shadow). Some mines, though, are mammoth: entire subterranean worlds unto themselves, thousands of square miles of the darkest places in the Hedge. The hobs that live in such places are often blind, hungry, and quite mad.
Some of the worst, vilest prisons exist in the Hedge. Violate some unknown precept, and a swarm of hobgoblins might throw you into a dank oubliette, or might crucify you on a yew tree with four of your best friends. It is not just changelings that end up the victims of such unbidden authority, either — some hobgoblins police themselves, and others will even attempt to waylay an exiled or otherwise-weakened True Fae (and no changeling wants to be forever bunkmates with a trapped Keeper).
- The Gutted Ghob
It is old, the Hedge. How old? Hard to say, but suggesting that it is as “old as dreams” (meaning, old as humanity itself) is a common benchmark. Because of this, the Thorns carry with them a gargantuan measure of history. Admittedly, much of it is been lost to the shifting nature of the realm, but some signs and scars of the Hedge's past still remain on or near the surface. The land is dotted with ruins, half-collapsed cathedrals and villages and firegutted trees. These are markers of another day, one that forces a changeling to ask whether things “back then” were different, or whether the Hedge always remains the same, forever composed of the strange stuff of dreams and nightmares.
The Hedge is not without its religion. To most, the Hedge itself provides the gods, creatures and ideas worthy of worship, and lesser hobs are the ones who do all the bowing and scraping and worshipping — a bundle of black fruit on an altar, a statue of a leviathan beast wreathed with garlands of blood-red roses, a heretic bible penned in ink made of blood drawn from a thorn scratch. Arcadia provides its own gods in the form of the Gentry, with many of them receiving worship from weak-willed goblins (more than one changeling has stumbled across statues venerating their Keepers in dark corners of the Hedge). The real world, too, offers occasional “gods” and "goddesses". Take, for example, the hobgoblins that have placed an old blocky 1950s color television set atop an ornate stone dais. The glass is broken out of it, but the hobs think they can still hear whispers and prayers creeping from within.
- The Wineberry Cross
Mysterious PlacesThe Thorns play host to some places that cannot easily be quantified. These "mysterious places" abide by their own rules and have their own bizarre inhabitants wandering about, and changelings should truly be wary of their sanity and souls when nearing such a place. Such places, however, are not absent of reward. Changelings willing to make a grab for the prizes contained within may come out with a powerful new token... or reel back a puckered stump.
Nightmares take shape in the depths of the Hedge. Hobgoblins of all kinds, things that have been banished from Arcadia and entities that were too terrible for even the Gentry to let in stalk the darkening Thorns. Below we have included a list of a few creatures that populate the Hedge:
- Ambrosia, Lady of Delights
- Arcadian Huntsman
- Billy Birch
- Border Reavers
- Burr Cadger
- Fae Swarms (Somnus)
- Greedy Gobs
- Goblin Whores
- Hedge Beasts
- Laughing Ones
- One-Hand Sam
- Shadow Wolves
- Spenser's Nepenthe
- The Curator
- The Madam
- The Unmade
- Will O' Wisps