|Nicknames:||Court of the Night, the Wayward Road, the Black Rock|
Moon Court characters value freedom and chaos, and revels in what they have become. They thrive on Disgust.
At night, the monsters howl and play. They hunt the innocent. They leap over fires. They drink and smoke themselves into languid stupors. They invite peril, taunt the Gentry and become masters of Goblin Markets. Beneath the full moon, all manner of strangeness and depravity may bask in the bare light -- all the better to serve the darkness and to snub one's nose at the fools of the Sun Court.
It's odd, in a way, that the Moon Court is ultimately less concerned with the Sun Court than the Sun Court is with the Moon Court. Members of the Moon Court don't really seek to undo what the Court of the Day does, instead doing their own thing with great glee and abandon, knowing full well that it invites the revulsion of those supposedly virtuous upstarts.
So, what is it that they do? Whatever they want, for one. The Moon Court doesn't care to give its members many boundaries. They don't view this is as sin, but instead see it as freedom. Want to shoot up Afghani heroin in a vet curtained jazz bar in Kiev? Want to sell Afghani heroin in Budapest? Want to stalk the lonely women of Warsaw, haunting them night after night until they cannot sleep for fear of the nightmares they'll have? Want to pierce your face with slivers of bone and lengths of chain, brand your body in a spider web network of puffy scars, or play a game of Russian roulette with your nearest and dearest? The Moon Court asks only that you do as you desire, worrying about the consequences later. The stranger and more grotesque the urge, the better it is.
Simply put, the Moon Court is composed of changelings who know that they are monsters and relish in the fact. Does this make them evil? Perhaps some. Because they are allowed, even encouraged, to embrace their monstrousness, this leads some to be particularly horrendous. It's amazing, though, how few of them are truly malicious. Many are tricksters, yes. Con men, sure. Some flaunt their ugliness and deformity like a strictest of senses. Most are just gleefully selfish, glad to give into whatever so-called wickedness demands their attention at any given moment.
At night, they own the surface, and during the day, they dwell beneath the ground in sewers and subbasements and caves. But even when they retreat to the world below, they still leave their mark on the world even as the sun shines high in the sky -- they leave behind allies, networks of criminals and human monsters who are as bad as or worse than they are. They like to think of it as "leaving a present or two" behind for the Sun Court. Just enough to keep the righteous fools busy and out of real trouble.
The Moon Court takes all types with open arms (never mind if the arms are scaly, slimy or sore-encrusted). Many of the changelings who comprise the Court belong because they see themselves as something other than human, something that has crawled out of the Hedge but doesn't truly belong in the light. It's no big stretch to see that they're the monsters from the old tales -- or, at least, illustrative of such monsters. Many believe themselves to contain at least a small part of those old monsters -- the cannibal hungers of Baba Yaga, the one bloodshot eye of the Likho, the hungry lusts of the man-eating Queen Thamar, the suicide girl known as Vila.
Of course, not all end up in the Court because that's where they truly want to belong. In some cases, the Sun Court rejects them. That group may think a changeling too horrid in her appearance or not "moral" enough for them, and so they cast them away -- down and into the dark, where the Moon Court waits with a smile. Others may join because they want revenge against the Found Path, having some cross to bear -- justified or not -- against those prideful Lost. Finally, some see the Moon Court as the ideal way to fight the Fair Folk. The old cliché of fighting fire with fire applies; here, it's fighting darkness and monstrosity with a dose of the same.
In the end, the Moon Court teaches its members to embrace its awfulness and inhumanity. (Again, this doesn't mean evil. While some may take it as a license to commit truly heinous acts, many instead believe it condones bizarre or otherwise grotesque behavior.) The members run the spectrum: A circus geek biting the heads off various animals, a homeless lunatic presaging the end of the world with his shit-smeared signs, a prostitute with blistered thighs, a street vendor selling the finest sweetbreads and brains. They are the unwashed, the mad, the monstrous. And they love it.
The Moon Court tells an old story of how over time, the sun in the sky became smaller and smaller -- and so, the day became darker and colder as the days and years went on. It came time where the sun was no longer doing its job, and so the Black God Czernobog had to step in and destroy that sun. In doing so, he was able to replace the dying sun with a new sun of his choosing, and while that sun was alive, Czernobog was given more power. He was a hero for a time, and the Moon Court uses this as a bit of legendary egg on the face of the Sun Court... for one day, they will winnow and become smaller, and the Court of the Night will destroy them and gain power and kudos for having done so.
The day that Czernobog's triumph occurred is said to be on the Winter solstice -- called Korochun among the Slavs. This New Year-type celebration is a renewal of all things, and the monsters of the Moon Court use it as an excuse to give in to whatever mad urges call to them on that long night. Many use it an excuse to give themselves over to great excess: Drugs, drink, lust, dreams bought from Goblin Markets, foolish pledges and so forth. Others mark the day as a perfect nadir to the year, a time when true horror can be visited upon the world. Some courtiers slake their vengeance against those who have wronged them, harrying and hunting them, torturing them just to hear their screams cut across the dark forest or empty alleyways. During this night, the Court gives two sacrifices to their gods: A young man and a young woman, killed, their bodies cast into a river. Their youth, beauty and vigor please the dark gods, and ensure the Moon Court will gain strength in the coming year. When day finally comes after Korochun Night, the courtiers crawl back into their holes and sleep, fatted, sickened, blood-slick.
Curiously, though, the Moon Court also marks Kupala Day as a holiday -- at least, sort of. The night before Kupala Day, the Moon Court members work themselves into a frenzy: Jumping over bonfires, beating each other into adrenalin-fueled bruise junkies, popping pills to get their hearts raging. Then they spend the rest of the night taunting the Sun Court changelings, mocking them from the shadows, threatening them. Anything to ruin the Found Path's coming holiday.
One small ritual -- a habit more than anything ceremonial -- carries on from nights past. The members of the Moon Court lead humans astray. The changelings find tourists and send them not to the local bar crawl or historic statue, but to the dangerous part of town. The Court members find lost children and direct them into the sewers where they may be lost or even taken in as family by other Wayward Road changelings. They take the drunken fools who can't seem to find their way home and steer them right into the Hedge (sometimes leaving little presents for the Fair Folk who might come and kidnap such an inebriated lout -- such as a pocket full of razors, a sexually-transmitted disease or even a live hand grenade that might explode when the fool Other goes to toy with it).
The Court of the Night associates itself with two gods: Veles, the subterranean god of earth and the underworld, and Czernobog, the "Black God," the cursed one. The symbols the Court keeps as significant are often those symbols associated with these two deities: The dragon or snake, the lute or panflute, the bloody bull or one-eyed ram. The volzhav, or sorcerer of Veles, is a master of music and magic, and carries with him weapons like small knives and daggers or the barbed whip.
Obviously, darkness is a key symbol, as well. Anything relating to the night -- the moon, stars, certain constellations, swatches of black paint or dark blood, shadowy cloaks -- certainly works, as do other more esoteric symbols of darkness (crows, ravens, owls, bats).
The Moon Court's Mantle is, appropriately, skewed to darkness. The miens of the courtiers seem to absorb light, and shadows move around them as if of their own accord. At Mantle 1 to 3, a changeling seems always cast in a band of shadow, even if the shadow has no source or shouldn't exist at that angle. At Mantle 4+, this shadow becomes something almost alive. It may ooze away like tendrils of fog or may pool at the character's feet and drag behind him like a sack filled with severed heads. Some have miens where only certain body parts are shrouded in darkness -- hands cloaked in tenebrous spheres, eyes "leaking" darkness like squid ink in an untroubled sea.
The courtiers of the Moon Court embrace (and are embraced by) this darkness, providing them with benefits external and internal. At Mantle 1, the darkness helps a character perform acts of minor theft more easily, as his hands are blurred by shadow -- any Larceny rolls involving manual theft or some other kind of prestidigitation gain +2 dice. At Mantle 3, the darkness may accentuate the character's already monstrous ways and features, casting sharp shadows and seeping gloom across tusks or serpent eyes or from long talons. Whenever the character spends Willpower on an Intimidation roll, it provides that character with four bonus dice instead of three. Finally, at Mantle 5, the darkness seeps into the character's own soul, nesting there and feeding. Any time the character gains Willpower from giving into his Vice, he gains two Willpower instead of one.
It's a subtle tweak on shame, an irony that the Moon Court favors an emotion similar to one given such importance by the Sun Court, but there you have it. Disgust is a beautiful thing to the seemingly monstrous courtiers of the Moon Court. It's in the way a beautiful woman stares down at a deformed cripple sitting on the curb or how a group of priggish socialites see a poor man (or worse, a poor man who is publicly and embarrassingly drunk). Disgust is the other side of shame; it's not what the actor of the sin feels, but what the witnesses to the sin feel. And to the members of the Moon Court, it's as good as a glass of sweet brandy.
They luxuriate in how others see them -- especially those courtiers from the Found Path. The more awful a changeling's mien, the sweeter the experience when a Sun Court prick stares upon her with a sneer and a squint. While humans do not by and large see a changeling's mien, they can perceive his human deformities and sometimes sense the grotesquerie that lies behind the mask. When this isn't the case, a Moon Court member might instead do something to disgust an onlooker: Biting into a meat pie filled with fresh blood, dropping one's blouse and squeezing a tit while making lascivious gestures or engaging in some sudden outburst of lunacy or violence.
And, while others feel disgust, the changelings of the Wayward Road feel no shame. Shame is simply not allowed. The Sun Court would have everyone believe that even the faintest indiscretion should come with a lifetime's worth of guilt, but the Moon Court offers that no action is worthy of guilt. Yes, some actions are punishable, but no action is deserving of shame. Disgust, yes. Disgust is sweet. Shame is bitter.
- Winter Masques, p. 140-142