Every schoolboy learns that the Midlands of England were the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and the history of the area is written in its smog-encrusted buildings and churches. Once burning with the fires of inspiration as well as coal, the Kingdom of Smoke has in recent years tried to reclaim its heritage of song, color, and light. Though not the most pastoral or picturesque part of England, it has its moments.
In the days when the region was known as the Kingdom of Wool, it was one of the largest and most powerful of all the fae kingdoms in Britain. Queen Caerna's reign was a golden age, and her court was known to be one of intrigue and pageantry. But when her reign ended at the Battle of Grimsfen Tor, it seemed that the age of fetes and festivals had come to an end. Over the next four-and-a-half centuries, a half-dozen different rulers came and went in the Woolenlands, none of whom seemed able to rouse the people to the joy they had known in years past.
Moreso than any other area in England, the Kingdom of Smoke shows how closely tied the people and the land remain. Nockers now hold sway over the Smokelands, as they have done for several centuries, but every day the Dauntain gain a stronger hold on the place. Like the nocker's creations, the industries that have grown up here in the English Midlands have brought progress, convenience, and modern technology to even the common folk, but at a price. The flaws that at first seemed so minor, like pollution, have forever scarred the land and its people. The skies are gray even as spring dawns over the cities, and more and more Autumn People appear each year, drawn by secure jobs and a comfortable (if drab and boring) middle-class lifestyle.
But the Kingdom of Smoke is not all cities and pollution. Some of the most influential musicians of the 20th century have their roots in the Smokelands, and in fact, one of the most popular park areas in the Isles can be found smack in the middle of the region: the Peak District. While much of it is overrun with tourists and day trippers seeking time away from the cities, some of the local Kithain (with help from many ecologically-minded kinain and other mortals) have managed to keep the old traditions alive. Recently, through the efforts of a number of local folk (including Verbena adept Diana Beals), a large area of the Kingdoms of Smoke and Heather has been set aside to be protected from further development. While naysayers claim this only forestalls the inevitable, it will keep the land safe for at least a few more generations to enjoy. The more people who have a chance to form a true personal connection to the land they call their home, the better the chances of staving off the detrimental effects of development.
In particular, the tradition of "well-dressing," observed each summer in the Peak District, serves to maintain the ties between the people and the land. The tradition is to decorate clay slabs with the petals of wildflowers near each of the principal wells, to give thanks for another year of water. While the tradition itself can be traced back to ancient pagan rites, it also has the effect of replenishing the supply of Glamour in the area. As each person forms a unique pattern of petals; they infuse their creation with some of their own creative energy.
The Smokelands Monarchy EditThe rulership of the Kingdom of Smoke has remained solidly in the hands of a series of nockers for several hundred years. The latest of that line, a wilder named Davey Wheelwright, is known for his brilliant (if complex) attacks on Dauntain strongholds throughout the region. His critics (and there are many) claim that if he spent more time looking after the people of his kingdom and less time building chimerical siege engines and the like, he would be better off. Thankfully, he has of late been taking a great deal of advice from Lady Ellyndil of the Principality of Tears, and her influence has helped to keep Davey focused on the needs of his people.
Some have warned that the nobility in Nottingham could become a problem; though he seems charming enough, Lord Greenlance is said to have ties with the Shadow Court. Still, as long as Nottingham stays quiet, Wheelwright is unlikely to take any action against it. He has more than enough on his mind already.
A New Threat Edit
Lord Wheelwright's rediscovered knack for leadership comes not a moment too soon. The problems with the Dauntain show no signs of abating and a new menace has begun plaguing the countryside in the Kingdom of Smoke. Recently, sightings have been reported of an enormous chimerical copper-colored beast with the head and wings of an eagle grafted onto the body of a lion. Its savage attacks on several rural motleys have caused widespread panic throughout the kingdom. Lord Wheelwright offered a boon to anyone who could provide information leading to the capture or death of this beast. Less than a day later he received word from the household of Lord and Lady Greenlance of Nottingham. The household's records spoke of just such a creature, supposedly summoned by a great ruler to attack the kingdoms of southern Caledonia centuries ago. It is believed to have perished, or to have pursued its quarry beyond the lands of men, perhaps into what mages refer to as a Horizon Realm.
Wherever it disappeared to for all those years, it is back, and it appears bent on destroying any Kithain whom it comes in contact with. Those who have faced it say its keening wail chills mortals though they cannot see it, and can pierce the hearts of any Kithain who hear it with an icy cold that even Glamour can not ward off. Lady Greenlance has postulated that the creature may have been a chimera, which, after centuries of frustration and loneliness, has become banal. Whatever its nature, Lord Wheelwright has reportedly offered a sizable reward to anyone who can slay this beast.
- See the article The Copper Griffin.
Cities & Sites Edit
The Albion Well Edit
For more on this important magical site, see the article Albion Well.
Birmingham EditBirmingham stands as one of the Technocracy's most shining achievements. The character of the city is immediately evident from the moment its I960s-era concrete towers come into view. After the devastation wrought on the city by World War II, it was practically rebuilt from scratch. Few of the old buildings survived; most of those that did were scrapped anyway in the succeeding decades to make room for ultramodern conference centers and office buildings.
Though a few nightclubs hum through the nightly haze, Birmingham is a shining testament to the encroaching Winter. An "art" museum, better known for its stunning collection of preserved insects than for the dusty canvases dotting its walls, is the only bright spot in this city, which is otherwise described by Lord Wheelwright as a festering sore of Banality on the face of the land. Few Kithain stay long in Birmingham, leaving its neatly manicured hedges and identical gray buildings to the Technocrats, who seem to thrive here.
Outposts of nearly all the Conventions are stationed in the city center, connected by a warren of tunnels the likes of which would drive a sluagh mad with envy (save for the fact that they are brightly lit and cleaned nightly by sweeperbots). While labs and other research centers can be found, many of the outpost's staff are devoted to "citizen education," producing articles on the "Power of Science" for local and national newspapers, writing textbooks for schools, and producing anesthetizing documentaries for the BBC on modern technology.
Just outside the city limits of Birmingham lies one of the first "corporate lifestyle" experiments: Bourneville. Natives to Britain will recognize the name as that of a popular chocolate bar, produced by the Cadbury company. Long before Disney World set the stage for corporate principalities in Concordia, Bourneville was developed as a new concept in factory towns: an entire self-contained community for factory workers (and later, corporate executives) at the local Cadbury plant. A 20th century innovation, perhaps the result of post-war development? No.
Bourneville dates back to the height of Queen Victoria's reign. Although many among the Traditions and the Kithain have long suspected something was not right in Boumeville, efforts to discover anything truly nefarious have come up empty. The people who live and work there seem to be content and happy workers, willingly devoting every waking hour to the company or one of its approved recreational projects. Are these people who genuinely find the element of conformity comforting, or is there some darker purpose behind this self-contained corporate community?
Manchester is one of the UK's most active university towns, and one of the ugliest. Concrete and a century and a half of pollution have washed most of the city in a dull gray film that seems to permeate everything. Scholars among the sidhe have found that Manchester has the highest percentage of Autumn People of any city in Albion, and Dauntain seem to be found more frequently here as well.
The city does have a fairly active nightclub scene, though even that seems to be more of a temporary distraction from dismal day-to-day life, rather than the celebration it seems to be at clubs in London and Edinburgh. Many of England's most popular punk and heavy-metal bands have started in Manchester. While many young people enjoy the post-modem Gothic atmosphere of the place, the city seems to dampen even the brightest spirits after a few months. Though not seen by most Kithain as a "lost cause" in the same manner as Liverpool, Manchester is more popular with sluagh and the occasional eshu than any other kith.
- See Also Tapestry
Fabled homeland of Robin Hood and his merry men, the once-verdant Sherwood Forest is now thinned and bare. Like Stonehenge and Tintagel, Nottingham is dominated today by Robin Hood Auto Repair Shops and Maid Marion Beauty Salons, as eager businesses try to capitalize on the magic of local legend to boost sales. The recently appointed chairman of the Nottingham Tourism Bureau is in fact a changeling who has forgotten his fae self, and has become one of the Dauntain. Some believe it was despair at seeing the once-beautiful countryside replaced by factories, others say that his love for a woman chilled by Autumn froze his seeming. It is partly due to his influence that so many businesses have jumped on the Robin Hood bandwagon. By doing so, the power of the tale is diminished. The heroic characters become associated with fish-and-chip shops and vacuum cleaners more than with legendary deeds, and the power of their story is trivialized.
The Shire of Nottingham has been under control of the Kithain Greenlance dynasty since the 15th century, and its private library remains one of the best-kept secrets in the Kingdom of Smoke. Though the first Greenlances were commoners, today two of the most cultured sidhe in the kingdom control the shire. More often than not, the lords of Nottingham have been of an Unseelie bent, though they have often remained willing to help out any other Kithain who sought their assistance (and who were willing to repay them in kind). Boggan and sluagh gossip at Lord Wheelwright's court indicates that the current Lord Greenlance is in fact a member of the Shadow Court, but Wheelwright has his mind on other matters and pays the whisperers little heed.
The gossips have only half the story. Lord Greenlance is indeed a member of the Shadow Court, with allegiance to House Ailil. His wife, Lady Greenlance, whom most believe to be of House Fiona, is actually a satyr with ties to House Leanhaun. Their villa is littered with half-finished paintings and sculptures, the works of Lady Greenlance's "wards." The two have found the Kingdom of Smoke very much to their liking, and are currently biding their time before making a bid to remove Lord Wheelwright from power. Their only fear is a reprisal from Wheelwright's allies to the north. Still, if the griffin continues its rampage, it is unlikely that the northerners will have the resources to stand in their way.
- NB: There is confusion in the source materiel. Above it says the shire is controlled by two sidhe, but the character information him says Wilmaron Greenlance is an Eshu and that his wife is a satyr. Storytellers will have to resolve this for themselves.
Best known now as the birthplace of the Beatles, Liverpool was once the launching point for travelers headed to the New World. Outcasts, profiteers, and bold adventurers set out from Liverpool, Portsmouth, and countless other towns along England's south and west shores with hopes for a new start (and just maybe a fortune as well). In the years that followed, the shipping trade kept the city invigorated with a constant stream of travelers and entrepreneurs... until the world wars. The bombs of the two world wars hit the Smokelands hard, but the increasing dependence on airplanes for transporting both people and freight eventually left Liverpool without a purpose, and fewer dreamers were drawn to her bleak shores. Those who stayed lost themselves in the day-to-day routine of work, and Autumn descended hard on the people and the land.
Those who have struggled to shake off the Banality of the place have generally fared very well, or not at all. The Beatles are the most well-known example of this, though several other local bands, artists, and writers have also gone on to become popular.
Few Kithain stay long in Liverpool or its sister city, the aptly named Blackpool. Those who do reside here face down the Dauntain and Autumn People with a wry wit and a love of the land that no amount of Banality can crush.
Though the Kingdom of Smoke is home to some of the most bitter Autumn Folk in the Isles, there are still a great many Kithain who remain, trying to turn the tide. Others plainly state that it's high time the Kithain learn to adapt to their surroundings, and try to fit into the often regimented and sterile world that centuries of industrialization have created.