It's almost impossible to map the Twilight Realm. Areas of dream-reality mutate constantly as the dreams that shape them change. These geographical changes are referred to as the Firchlis and can be troublesome affairs. There is no guaranteed route through the Dreaming, not even in that closest to the mundane world, the Near Dreaming. That's one of the first rules of the Mythic Realms.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Cities in the Flesh Realm tend to have mirror images in the Near Dreaming, though the mirror used is most certainly distorted. A few of the most powerful freeholds are actually situated at the cusp of Flesh and Myth. They manage to exist in both places. Perhaps it is these seats of Kithain power that actually hold the dream cities stationary, though no one can say for sure.
The entrance to freeholds are the only guaranteed stable points in the Dreaming. They remain the same from visit to visit, always recognizable, though everything around them may well change completely. In the Dreaming, it's not unusual to encounter a freehold's trod that is surrounded by trees and a fast flowing stream where, only a week before, there was an open field filled with flowers. The changes are inevitable, though gradual enough that only individuals who've been away from the freehold for a few days ever seem to notice.
Numerous Kithain build homes in the Near Dreaming, usually close to a freehold, and sometimes even physically anchored to such a structure. Despite these precautions, even the best of these domiciles are affected by the Firchlis as it sweeps the Dreamscape. Few homes here ever stay the way they looked when the were first built, at least on the outside. A massive structure of pure, white marble might well become a wooden fort in a week's time and then continue changing until its resident discovers they have a home in the base of a massive redwood tree. Within a few more weeks, the structure could well be a glass palace or a gigantic mushroom in a forest of fungi. The interior of the home usually stays the same, but changes on the outside are beyond the control of all but the most diligent changelings. A few Kithain, normally pooka and trolls, take bets on what shapes houses will take after the next Firchlis.
Freeholds also connect the most important facet of the Dreaming, the trods. These pathways have often existed for hundreds of years, and they are always present. The difference between the trods and freeholds is that trods often change over time, bending in new directions as the land beneath them flows and mutates.
Each Firchlis holds a potential danger for al Kithain using the trods. As the landscape changes, trods tend to conform to whatever alterations come along. Changelings are not quite as mutable, however, and the unwary traveler might find a trod moving quickly away if they aren't firmly in place. It's seldom that a Firchlis is sudden enough to cause a problem, but there have been cases. In one noteworthy situation, a troll named Reighuar stepped off a trod to make certain a group of marauding chimera stayed well away from the band he'd sworn to protect. When he turned back, the trod was moving rapidly away from him. By the time the Firchlis had finished its changes, Reighuar had run almost 20 leagues in an effort to keep his allies in sight. That's one of the reasons changelings always warn one another to stay on the trod at all times. There's no guarantee the Silver Path will still be there when you return from a side trip, no matter how brief your time away might be.
Types of Realms & Other Things
Most freeholds are linked to the Dreaming by a trod, though not always. In some rare cases, they actually exist in the Mythic Realm, though such places are rare. But even these anomalies are somehow linked to the mundane world. For that reason, freeholds are safe from the ever-changing chaos of the Twilight Realm. Kithain who dwell within the freeholds understand this fact, though they no longer understand exactly how these powerful places between the worlds were created.
Despite their presence in the Near Dreaming, changelings in freeholds do not experience many of the changes that affect kithain who are in the Mythic Realm. The memories of such fae are unaffected, and while Banality isn't gained in freeholds, it isn't easily lost, either. The same aspects of a freehold's nature that protect it from the Firchlis prevent the Dreaming from influencing, at full force, the Kithain who remain inside a structure's safety zone.
The Silver Path
The very nature of trods is often confusing to people, since a trod is both an entrance into the Dreaming and the road upon which the fae walk while in the Dreaming. Trods are, indubitably, the safest method of travel for changelings. Still, they have their own risks. Some trods have a tendency to fade away beneath the feet of anyone who travels upon them, unless certain conditions are met. Others simply refuse a traveler entrance.
Entering the Near Dreaming
The most common means of entering the Near Dreaming is through a trod in a freehold. Trods link the freeholds and mark out areas of the Dreaming that are considered “safe” by changelings. While there are still temptations and curiosities in abundance around trods, Kithain who remain on the Silver Path are generally insulated from harm. Only ones foolhardy enough to leave the Path are in danger of being attacked by chimera or need fear getting lost in the Mythic Realms. Trods are Stable Points within the Dreaming and offer substantial protection from the myriad of threats to Kithain well-being. Of course, trods all have starting points at some freehold, but freeholds are not always available, so other routes into the Near Dreaming must sometimes be found.
It's possible to enter the Dreaming by “Dream Riding,” literally catching onto a dream as it forms in a human’s mind and goes into the Dreaming, provided the rider is adept in the Dream-Craft Art. By expending a permanent Glamour point, the Changeling can grasp the forming dream in both hands and let it carry them into the Dreaming, as the dream moves from the mundane into the Mythic. The difficulty is finding a mortal who is just starting to dream. However, not only is this method very difficult, it can leave its user virtually anywhere in the Dreaming. As the Twilight Realm is filled with both wonders and dangers, Dream Riding is considered a last-ditch method for “jumping” into the Dreaming.
Traveling in chimerical vehicles can also lead to accidental excursions into the Dreaming. Such contrivances are wonders that many Kithain love to play with. Most changelings believe that the more outrageous the device, the better the ride. However, using strictly chimerical vehicles to travel the Flesh Realm is a dangerous game. With the greatest of ease, Banality can destroy a floating bicycle sculpted out of Dreamstuff, especially in cities where a changeling could well be spotted pedaling their legs and moving across the sky without any visible support, at least to the eyes of the mortals below, anyway. The changeling isn’t likely to fall to the ground and die, though. That would be too easy. Instead, Kithain caught by Banality in such a situation almost always get shunted into the Dreaming. Changelings believe this event to be the Flesh Realm’s method of dealing with unwanted and blatant acts of the fantastic (akin to Paradox). When thrust so roughly into the Dreaming, most changelings tend to fall into areas where there is no Silver Path. Without trods to guide them and offer protection from the menaces that thrive in the Twilight Realm, Kithain are not likely to find their way home for a very long time, if ever.
Aside from the aforementioned ways, there are still other methods for getting to the Near Dreaming. A few work even for mortals, though they are hardly the safest methods.
Some people who fall into comas find themselves in the Dreaming, though not in the same way that the Kithain are there. Instead, they become observers, shadows who can do little but enjoy the show and occasionally have a pleasant conversation with a passing chimera. These observers often learn amazing things about the Mythic Realms and the changelings, secrets they can revel in and wonder about for as long as they remain in their comatose state. Most forget the experience as soon as they awaken, though some are changed by their time in the Dreaming. Ones who remember the Dreaming are always cursed with only the briefest flashes, images that seldom make sense but that still generate a warmth noticeable by even the most banal souls. Humans who return from such jaunts into the Mythic Realm seldom go back to their old ways, and instead seek to recover their lost paradise by doing good deeds and helping others. The deeds make them feel better, closer to the Dreaming, which they’ve touched and lost.
Sometimes the very fortunate among these souls remain attuned to the Dreaming and capable of seeing changelings for what they are. Many Kithain have glimpsed in passing a kind smile from a mortal stranger who watched their antics, yet had no place in the world of the fae. Such people are truly rare but are a welcome sight.
The last way to enter the Near Dreaming is almost unknown, and even among changelings who understand the concept, it is often considered foolhardy. It is simply desire. By wanting something bad enough, a person, Kithain or human, can sometimes enter the Dreaming. What they want has to be some challenge that goes beyond physical possibilities, and, even then, it often takes many attempts. Trying to reach the clouds by climbing mountains isn’t enough; you must try to stand on the clouds before the Dreaming lets you in. Driving a fast as your car permits won’t gain you entry into the Dreaming, but driving faster than physics allows can sometimes get you there. In the end, it comes to solving riddles you weren’t consciously aware of, but which exist just the same. When you start taking shortcuts that don’t exist, you are at the edge of the Dreaming. When the shortcuts defy the laws of physics, you actually make it into the world of Myth.
Changelings in the Dreaming
The Dreaming has many profound effects on changelings. first and foremost, it purifies them, gradually removing most traces of Banality from their beings. The Dreaming is the source of all Glamour and, therefore, it always has an impact on changelings, but in the Dreaming itself that influence is increased.
All changelings find that using cantrips in the Near Dreaming is easier. They must still expend Glamour, but in a land created from Dreamstuff, replenishing Glamour is as easy as drinking water from a cool stream or even breathing the perfume of the trees. Even on trods, it's easier to replenish Glamour.
When the Mists Begin to Thin
Many changelings coming into the Near Dreaming claim to feel the Mists parting for them. Memories of who they once were, in previous incarnations, are stronger, more vital, outside the Flesh Realm. That's not always a good thing, as they can also remember slights from their past lives. Kithain who've had nothing but pleasant encounters in the mundane world suddenly begin to recall insults cast at them a hundred years ago, and some manage to hold a grudge, despite the general feeling of well-being they experience upon returning to the Mythic Realm. Bitter rivalries from the past can reignite, and so can romances that were completely forgotten. These relationships, too, can lead to disaster, especially when a third party has since stepped into the picture. Some Kithain forget themselves when they first enter the Near Dreaming; they can easily become lost in the past and act as if what once was still is. Brutal battles have been waged between longtime friends as a result of entering the Dreaming together. The same holds true of old lovers entering the Near Dreaming. It's a rare changeling who can stand the sight of a true love suddenly devoting attention to someone from past adventures and glories.
Memories in the Near Dreaming
Many changelings experience deja vu when the enter the Near Dreaming. Glamour fills the air and their souls are reminded of what the world once looked like and how they once lived, many incarnations ago. For most, it brings about a sense of well-being.
For some, it brings back the faintest stirring of past lives. They do not receive any bonuses as a result of these distant recollections. They simply begin to remember past associations. A Kithain known for years and thought of as a casual acquaintance might suddenly become far more important in the Near Dreaming. The past holds secrets well, and the Dreaming is often one method of getting a glimpse at those secrets. In the Near Dreaming, feelings stir more than actual memories do. A troll might suddenly be angry with a nocker, yet unaware of why they'e angry. Or a sidhe might be strangely drawn to study the face of a pooka, uncertain why the face they've known for years is suddenly so fascinating.
As Banality Fades
While it might take a few days in the timeless Dreaming for it to happen, Banality does begin to wash away from the Kithain in the Near Dreaming. For some, the difference is negligible, but for grumps, the difference is almost immediately noticeable. The lines of bitterness fade from a mouth often pulled into a scowl, and the eyes that previously seemed faded begin to sparkle again. It's not all that unusual for a grump to decide to stay in the Near Dreaming when the rest of the motley is ready to go. In many ways, the return to the Dreaming is like a chance to rectify everything that went wrong, not physically, but in the mind. Many grumps see the situation as an opportunity to start over, and a few have even managed to make a go of it.
Grumps in the Near Dreaming find the freedom from Banality's grip hard to sacrifice, for they know in their hearts that their return to the mundane world will mean the return of its slow, inevitable dulling. Murfred Trueaim, a boggan of some repute in the Kingdom of Pacifica, said farewell to his motley and set off along a trod that led to the Deep Dreaming. His last words to his longtime friends were inscribed on a statue in his honor: "I can no more return to the mundane world than I could willingly surrender my life to cancer. Banality creeps up on you like arthritis of the soul. I'll not feel that pain again." Below that inscription is the bogan's full name and another inscription: "He Smiled as He Left Us, and His Heart was Unburdened." A few who report having seen Murfred in the distance, not too far from the trod leading to the freehold, swear the old grump looked a dozen years younger.
Arts and Realms in the Near Dreaming are more powerful than in the mundane world. In the latter, cantrips usually have only chimerical effects, but in the former, all their effects are real. The same stands true of chimerical weapons and creatures. In the Near Dreaming, items crafted from Dreamstuff take on a new solidity. The damage caused by a chimerical mace is real here, and so is the damage it inflicts. Death in the Near Dreaming means death in the mundane world as well. Chimerical death simply doesn't exist in the Mythic Realm.
Mortals in the Near Dreaming
Although it's rare that mortals actually enter the Near Dreaming, it does happen from time to time. some of the influences remain the same as for changelings. Chimerical damage in the Near Dreaming is still real damage, even for mortals. In this sense, dreams can kill you. Mundanes who find themselves in the Dreaming at any stage soon discover that changelings have powers beyond mortal imagination. Mages, too, often learn this truth. Many of them manage to penetrate the barrier that separates them from the Dreaming and soon learn that the world isn't exactly what they originally perceived it to be. Time doesn't work on mortals the same way it does on Kithain. Mage and Sleeper alike sometimes discover that during their few hours in the Near Dreaming they were away from the Flesh Realm for several months. Just as often the opposite is true; half a lifetime spent among changelings in the Near Dreaming sometimes is only an hour for mortals.
As too the Mists, they often pull away mortals' mundane memories and leave them disoriented when they arrive in the Dreaming. All their beliefs in the banal are washed away from them as surely as they are from the Kithain. The difference is that the effect is strictly temporary: when mortals return to the mundane world, their Banality returns too. Most mortals remember their time in the Dreaming as little more than a dream, though a particularly vivid one.
There is another part of the Dreaming that waits eagerly for mortals and seeks to claim what it once had. Every human dreams, and their dreams are a part of the Dreaming, along with their nightmares. Every hope and ambition they've discarded waits in the Mythic Realm, along with their past fears and the secret dreads they lock away in the darkest parts of their souls.
Chimera sense when a mortal enters the Dreaming and ones formed from the mind of the mortal in question often come seeking their creator. Most chimera are drawn by the raw Dreamstuff the human can generate when asleep. They've no real intentions toward the mortal one way or the other. A few seek something more, though. The personal nightmares of the human who finds themself in the Dreaming come to do what they've always sought to accomplish: to terrify and even to destroy. The dream lovers and erotic fantasies of the Dreamer sometimes come seeking to soothe the pain of the waking world. Others, such as long-abandoned imaginary friends, who were always there when needed and then discarded often seek revenge, or at the very least to demand to know why they were abandoned. Being creatures of dream, the answers they seek will seldom bear any connection to logic. Mages and dreamers alike have something to fear upon entering the Dreaming. Fortunately for them, chimera can move only so fast, and once abandoned, they can end up anywhere in the Dreaming. It often takes a long, long time for the chimera of an imaginary friend to reach its progenitor; otherwise, few mortals would survive their first few minutes walking through the Dreaming.
Occasionally humans visit the Dreaming when they sleep and dream. Most mortals must be enchanted to enter the Dreaming as a physical being. Once enchanted, they can remain in the Dreaming for a very long time, especially if their enchantment is replenished. They may gather fresh Glamour in one of two ways. They can either be granted Glamour by a changeling or they can consume the food of the Dreaming. Humans who eat here risk certain problems, though. They can enchant themselves into a world of trouble by eating too much. Food of the Dreaming is a delicacy, often tasting exactly like whatever a mortal might crave. When eaten in very small quantities (a single grape or finger sandwich, say) the Dreamstuff food can nourish them for however long they remain and even give them extra time in the Twilight Realm. Gluttonous mortals, though, who eat too freely are effectively enchanting themselves. Each morsel increases the enchantment and adds to the effects of the Mists. Anyone who eats too much is likely to forget not only where they are but who they are. The luckier humans who overindulge find themselves stumbling from the woods near their homes perhaps 20 years after their last meal. The unlucky ones often end up as the main course for one of the deadlier chimera in the Dreaming.
Mages often find that the Dreaming defies their magic. The laws of physics no longer apply in the same way and all their beliefs in the Spheres fall short of the reality of the Dreaming. What should occur seldom does, as the Dreaming makes the rules in its domain. An attempt to cast lightning from the sky is more likely to conjure a chimerical nightmare than it is to generate electricity. In most cases, the result of such an attempt is harmless, and after a fashion mages can indeed work magic while they visit the Dream Realms, but the end results are likely to work properly only if the mage can comprehend the Arts and Realms of the changelings, who long ago mastered the odd physics of the Dreaming.
Even here, mages are not safe from Paradox. If anything, they're more likely to suffer for their attempts to change the rules. A Nephandus mage of some repute once managed to enter the Near Dreaming. She was familiar with changelings, after having done a great deal of research and having tortured the truths of the Dreaming from a dozen or so.
Her plan was simple enough: by controlling the Dreaming, she believed she could control the dreams of humanity. By controlling the dreams of the Sleepers, she was certain she could control their reality. She was hardly the first to reach such a conclusion, nor was she the only one to suffer for her folly.
At first, she believed her scheme was working. She cast a summoning spell to bring forth her masters, hoping to free them into the world by bypassing the barriers between the Umbrae and the mortal world. For her troubles, demons did indeed appear, as did other things from the Nightmare Realms. She made her requests and believed her dark masters heard her and granted her desires.
At that praise moment, the Dreaming took notice of the Nephandus, actual notice as opposed to the casual notice it had given her before. The Dreaming was not amused. With the fury of a thousand storms, the Nightmare Realm the foolish mage had summoned rained down upon her. In seconds, her mind was shattered. Her body took much longer to expire.
Mages would do well to understand that the Dreaming takes care of itself and its minions.
Chimerical Death & Mortals
The Dreaming sometimes finds itself in an unusual predicament. The Mists and Glamour can get a human into the Mythic Realm and make them obey the laws of the Dreaming, but they do not remove the mortal shell of a human in the process. Chimerical death for changelings in the Dreaming means death, pure and simple. But chimerical death for mortals leaves a human who is no longer connected to the Dreaming and who risks infecting the Mythic Realm with Banality.
The solution for this problem is simple and effective: when in doubt, discard the potential threat. Humans who suffer chimerical death in the Dreaming are immediately "dropped" into one of the Umbrae. In the cases of Wraiths, Garou, and Mages, they all fall into the appropriate Umbra. In the cases of the rare vampire who can gain access to the Dreaming, they are dropped into the Shadowlands... where they often find waiting for them a large number of wraiths who wish to discuss the method of their demise. In the case of Dreamers, they usually end up in the Near High Umbra where they are subject to the whims of the Weaver and the Banality the Weaver generates
Denizens & the Near Dreaming
The Near Dreaming has undergone great changes over the centuries, reflecting alterations in the Autumn World. Mostly contiguous with the waking world, the Near Dreaming roughly mirrors it in such peculiarities as geography, culture, Glamour, and Banality. Denizens who live here have had a window into the realm's ongoing metamorphosis, for better or for worse. Most upsetting to the area's Denizens have been the changes occurring in the short time since the Resurgence. Banished from the mortal realms during the War of Trees, the Denizens who settled here were at east able to console themselves with the fact that they dominated much of the Near Dreaming. After the Shattering, most fae either fled to Arcadia or remained trapped in the Autumn World. Taking advantage of the confusion and the weakening Silver Path, Denizens exacted fearsome retribution upon the remaining fae homesteads, herding them into small enclaves. During the Resurgence, returning sidhe again broadened the Silver Path. Many changelings, refugees from Banality, took up residence in the Near Dreaming and sought to expend their influence, resulting in hew hostilities between the old foes. At first the returning changelings took full advantage of the fact that they alone could travel into the Autumn Realms, launching raids on Denizen territories, then retreating to "safety" in the waking world. With the recent reopening of the Twilight Paths, though, the field has leveled considerably.
See the larger article Meridianus.
Places of Import in the Near Dreaming
There are Stable Points in the Near Dreaming, places where even the Firchlis doesn't manage to erase every feature of the Dreamscape. These are places of great import to the changelings, for they are rare markers that can help a Kithain find trods if they are willing to risk the inherent dangers around them. Some are rivers, some are mountains, and some are cities not quite like the ones seen in the mundane world.
Every Kingdom of the changelings is reflected in the Near Dreaming, just as surely as every city of the mortals is reflected in the Umbrae. Unlike those other reflections, the Kingdoms change constantly, victims, or beneficiaries, of the Firchlis.
Certain elements always remain the same: the trods and the buildings remain intact, though they, too, undergo constant alteration. In the Kingdoms of the Kithain, the desires and needs of changelings are constantly seen to by the Near Dreaming. Each Kingdom reflects the dreams of the Kithain and especially the dreams of its rulers. Seelie Kingdoms remain bright, cheerful places where the sounds of happiness fill the air. Unseelie Kingdoms often feature dark landscapes that drift further from the mundane world with every passing day. The Shadow Court holds these dark places in the Near Dreaming, whether or not they hold power in the corresponding mortal realm. Here, the chimera are stronger, more capable of ruling over anything they desire. The Kingdoms reflected the Near Dreaming are likelier to have dragons or giants in true control, rather than any mere changeling. A freehold found at the heart of such a Kingdom is safe from the dangers of the cities around it, protected by the Silver Path. But there are very real dangers to wandering through the cities in the Near Dreaming. They may reflect the ideals and hopes of the Kithain, but they also incorporate the dreams and goals of mortals, as well as their fears and nightmares.
While in the Near Dreaming Kingdoms, changelings can encounter the actual dreams of slumbering mortals. They can touch those dreams and take from them what they will, without causing any harm to the Dreamers in the mundane world. Much to the frustration of many Unseelie Kithain, though, fae can only effect cosmetic changes upon those dreams. Not even Kithain with the Dream-Craft Art can influence the dreams of mortals, save to add an occasional element and make the dream more pleasant or less so.
There are tales of powerful Kithain sorcerers cable of mutating dreams for their own purposes, but if any such beings still exist, they are well hidden, perhaps even dwelling in Arcadia. The chimera of the Near Dreaming simply don't listen well to the orders of changelings, not even the commands of the sidhe.
- The Great Chasm
- The Rivers of Phantasia
- The Lake of Sorrows
- The Seas of Dream
- The Middlemarch
- The Wyldweir