The Seeming is a term used to describe a Changeling's age and appearance.
Trapped on Earth, chained within mortal flesh, and exiled from Arcadia, changelings have adapted to a human world. Balancing a mortal life against a Kithain existence has a profound affect on a changeling's personality, but there are other factors as well. How a fae is perceived by her peers is strongly influenced by her age. As part of their price for living in this world, changelings age at the same rate as the mortals around them. There are legends of fae who have lived for centuries, but the world discourages such a blatant display of magical power. Youth is highly prized in Kithain society. With youth comes innocence, trust, and belief in the magical.
The Kithain have very pronounced expectations on how age affects identity. The age at which one undergoes the Chrysalis strongly influences how a changeling is perceived. All Kithain are considered to belong to one of three categories, which are collectively referred to as seemings. The seeming reflects the changeling's chronological age, as well as her physical age in the mortal world; the fae self is instead reflected by the mien, which reflects both the character's kith and the character's physical age within the Dreaming.
- Childlings, who are generally between 3 and 13, and are much closer to the Dreaming, because of their innocent nature. Confronted with mortals who insist they know what's best for them - such as teachers and parents - childlings are forced to hide their faerie identities. If the pressures of the mundane world grow too great for them, they have no choice but to run away from home and seek out a freehold that will look after them. Childlings enjoy a certain degree of privilege in Kithain society. They're nurtured, taught, and encouraged. Inexperience, however, shuts them out from many adult activities.
- Wilders, who are generally between 13 and 25, and are the most numerous of the Changelings. Their perspective on creativity becomes more acute than that of childlings, and the Glamour of music, movies, or anything on the cutting edge draws them like moths to a chimerical flame. When the fires of creativity consume them, they fully realize what it is to be alive. That flame can sometimes be a little too compelling. Burnout is a wilder's greatest fear. After all, growing old brings with it Banality and eventually the Undoing.
- Grumps, sometimes called Grey-beards, who are often older than 30 and are highly affected by Banality. They are often cynic and bitter, as Banality destroys their idealism of youth and they have to struggle to maintain their fae natures. Greybeards see themselves as the most reliable and responsible of the Kithain. They often assume the duty of caring for childlings, as wilders think they have more important things to do. They are also keepers of tradition and lore, and they are eager to pass on this knowledge to the young.
Commoner Views Edit
Commoners have a long outlook on seemings. With each progression of age, there are certain behaviors and responsibilities that must be learned. If childlings don't learn to respect their elders, they turn into a bunch of spoiled brats. If wilders don't kick up their heels a bit, they're bitter when their golden years hit them.
First of all, let me assure you that learning can be as fun as any game. The childling years are for training, education, and practice, but that doesn't mean a bunch of dreary lessons. Young ones should learn from life. That means working in the kitchen, planting seeds in the garden, or helping a knight polish their sword. What child doesn't like to help make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, then eat them hot from the oven, or plant a seed in a cup and watch it sprout? The important thing is that mature changelings take childlings under their wings, nurture them, and show them the Kithain way by actions; this is what Fostering is all about. With good mentors, they grow up to keep the Dreaming alive. It's hard, though, to find the right balance between learning and fun. Remember, childlings are closest to Glamour and the Dreaming, and both great wonder and big trouble come form these little ones. Who do you think makes most of the random, stray chimera seen? The childlings! Every child has nightmares, but what fae, kid or adult, wants to face a living nightmare? See why it's important to treat childlings well but with a firm hand? Unhappy kids have bad dreams, and that's a problem for everyone.
Another problem with childlings is that most still have mortal parents. More and more fae mentors are learning tricks to get kids away, at least for a little while; they masquerade as piano teachers, dance instructors, or coaches. These deceptions get the little darlings away from their oft-Banal homes long enough to let them keep their charm and learn about being Kithain. But there's still lots of trouble when the childlings prefer the company of their fae mentors over their parents. Sometimes the young ones run away to freeholds, which on more than one occasion has led the authorities and worse straight to the fae.
But back to the topic at hand. At the time deemed appropriate by the mentor, the local noble, and usually the court sorcerer, the fledge presents themself and is given their True Name; this ritual is called Saining and marks the entrance of the changeling into formal Kithain society. Before Saining, many kith have childlings undergo the Fior-Righ, a test of courage, wits, and artistry. It used to be for nobles only, but that seems to be slipping by the wayside. It really depends on the kith as to what form the Fior Righ takes. Artistry to you or me might mean designing an elaborate herb garden, but to a redcap, it could be carving the grossest tattoo imaginable. Usually the mentor and their trusted friends come up with the tests, often with the blessing of the local noble. While the Fior Righ is more or less optional for commoners, it's terrible luck for any changeling not to undergo a Saining. Most slip into Bedlam... or worse.
I should mention that fostering has nothing to do with Court. Every changeling has both Seelie and Unseelie natures. It would be denying tradition if the young one weren't taught about their more chaotic tendencies. It's true that like follows like, but few would turn away of childling of the other Court in need.
Even after a chilling undergoes their Saining, they often remain near their mentor for some years. The truer separation is the Togail an Ainm, which is a sort of birthday that marks the passage to the wilder seeming. A similar affair comes when the wilder becomes a grump, too, though it's not nearly as joyous an occasion. On Wilder-day, there's usually a ceremony with friends and family, even mortals. Then the party begins, and it lasts for years while the fae enjoys the most exciting time of their life.
Wilders need to treasure their salad days; running all over creation, collecting stories, and living it up. Well, that's how it should be. What's the use of being young and fancy free if you don't do something about it? Life is too short, even for the fae, to not have some fun while the sun shines. Get all the hijinks out of your system while you're a wilder because life will surely get more sedate and responsible as you get older.
Most Kithain are wilders, and these years are the time for quests, politics, war, and romance, not necessarily in that order. Most put quests first, though, because many Kithain take on lengthy searches and missions after their Togail an Ainm. In part, this is to see the world and have a good time. But another reason is that quests and all that come with them help fend off Banality and renew a fae's stirring of Glamour. Most of the great commoner heroes you hear about were wilders; this is the time in life when both mind and body are sharp.
Wilders are notorious flirts; I don't care what kith you're looking at! Notice I'm talking about romance here and not marriage; that's for later. Some wilders have a love 'em and leave 'em attitude; look at those Fiona sidhe, and you'll see what I mean. Commoners, excepting the satyrs, are a little more sedate. Their ideas of romantic fun and games are things like kissing parties and exchanging cloved fruit. Many trolls will take on a quest for a loved one, that being their ultimate proof of affection. Ever seen a courting eshu? Now there's a lovely sight: goodies from all over, plus beautiful poetry and love stories to boot! Another custom, probably borrowed from the sidhe, is the Betrothal. This usually last a year and a day, and for that time, the couple tends to be faithful to one another. After a year and a day, they can renew the vow for another year and a day, split up, or make it permanent. The late, though, rarely happens until later life.
The wilder years are also when commoners get involved in politics. Take folks like Dewey St. John Flanders, Vlad Rogvodov, and even that crazed German nocker, Ragnild von Folkke. They're all wilders and didn't get involved in the Parliament of Dreams or in running a revolution until they were no longer childlings. It takes a little know-how and the ability to heft your voice above a squeal to have real political influence.
All in all, most changelings run headlong towards their wilder years and fight tooth and nail to stay that way. Too bad; there's a lot to be said for some of the pleasures of old age.
There is a time for everything, and after the long summer of wilder hood, most commoners agree it's time to settle down. As the oldest members of Kithain society, it's the grumps' duty at that point in their lives to pass on wisdom to the next generation. Rearing childlings is terribly bittersweet; it's a time for nostalgia and looking backwards because it's damn scary to look ahead. The childlings are the future, and grumps must be responsible for ensuring they carry on when the elders are gone. Nobody likes to talk about growing older, but it's better to plan ahead and make sure you've left behind some kind of legacy, whether a master work or a well-mannered childling. THat's why fostering is so important to grumps. Any changeling who shirks this duty... there's something not right with their thinking.
To Togail an Ainm marking the progress from wilder to grump is a solemn occasion but also a time for celebrating the many accomplishments of the guest of honor. Some wilders resist this with all their might, and it usually takes a word or two from the motley to get them on the right path. At the celebration, it's not unknown for a noble to grant a substantive boon to the new grump, in honor of the day.
And there are many joys still to be had. Wilders balk at marriage, children, and settling down; grumps rejoice in these things. Wilders don't understand these pleasures, but one day they will. Children help us remember the delights of our own childling years and bring back a little of what was lost.
The reason so many grumps fear getting old is this: they begin to Forget. This is far worse than death, which really isn't so much to be feared. After all, with death comes eventual rebirth. Forgetting is much more painful. It's a slow descent into mundanity and Banality; a departure from Glamour and magic. It's perhaps harder, even, to watch someone you love sink into Forgetfulness than to experience it yourself. Some grumps, particularly trolls, go on a last desperate quest. They like to die digging their axes into the hide of some murderous chimera or mythical beast from the Dreaming. You've heard how satyrs have one last big party before they end it all (see Tragoidia). Some other kith have similar traditions: eshu walking out into the sands of a great desert, boggans literally drowning themselves in food and drink one last time, nockers locking themselves in their workshops for a final night with their creations, and so on. Sometimes it's better to end a cycle of life on an upbeat note rather than simply watch it slip away.
When a commoner dies, it's not quite the horror as when one of the Shining Host passes. The commoners know that they'll come back one day, even if they don't know where they end up between one life and another. So commoners often have elaborate wakes instead of somber funerals, where no expense is spared on the best refreshments and entertainment. It's an occasion for both remembering the past and, dare I say it, considering one's own eventual demise... and to hope that it's still a good while off.