The Shadow Court is a secretive court of Unseelie Changeling opposed to the 600 years' rule of the Seelie monarchs. Many of them are ritualists and have many traditions and holidays, like Samhain, and want a return to a winter rule by the Unseelie and a summer rule by the Seelie. Most members of House Balor and Thallains are members.
- 1 History
- 2 The Manifesto
- 3 The Pageant
- 3.1 Romance
- 3.2 Shadow Courtly Love
- 3.3 Honor
- 3.4 The Escheat: Winter Version
- 3.5 Crime & Punishment: The Shadow "Courts"
- 3.6 Politics
- 3.7 Alliances
- 4 The Wheel of the Year
- 5 Shadow Courtiers & Other Unseelie
- 6 The Dark Arts
- 7 Agents of Winter
- 8 References
Centuries ago, there was an agreement between the two courts of the fae: In spring and summer, the Seelie would reign; in fall and winter, the Unseelie would rule. The equinoxes marked the transition between the two courts. The Kithain understood the balance between creation and destruction, order and chaos, and winter and spring. When the world was in harmony, the brighter emotions of the Seelie were pure and held power but could not exist unless they were balanced with the darker emotions of the Unseelie. Their passions were just as pure. Seelie and Unseelie had an understanding, and the harmony of the world reflected that balance.
Mystics have said that the Shattering was as certain to occur as the passing of the seasons. Since the dawn of time, the world has been dying. When the Mythic Age ended, Summertime began. The way of all things was disrupted, and the Kithain have been trying to recover their world ever since.
As this sundering between dreams and reality grew stronger, the two courts abandoned the idea of sharing authority. They contested with each other over how to heal the world. To this day, they have held different visions of how to restore the balance. The Seelie have tried to preserve the world by nurturing Glamour, preserving honor, and treasuring the nobler emotions. They have tried to hold on to their traditions, no matter how anachronistic this may make them seem. Opposing them, the Unseelie have prepared for the onset of Winter. They value change, and do so by changing the world around them, learning to Ravage the Glamour they need, and trying to adapt to a rapidly dying world, they ready themselves for the worst.
When the nobility fled to Arcadia, the two courts tried to repair the trust that had been broken. Both have failed, even though both courts wanted, and still want, essentially the same thing: the restoration of balance and the eventual return of spring. Yet with each passing year, the shadows lengthen. Hope dies, and the gentle lands of Arcadia become more distant. If the world can never return to the springtime, the dream will die.
Despite the conflict between the Seelie and the Unseelie, there is a third group that has prepared for this tragic fate. They are waiting for the world to die, and they hide in the shadows until the time of their triumph is at hand. For them, there is no end to the world — only a chance for a dark new beginning. Their story begins before the Shattering, before the nobles left the world in the 15th century.
The Earliest Shadow Court
Before the Shattering, relations were not as strained between the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court. Just as the Unseelie would relinquish power at Beltaine each year, the Seelie Court was prepared to step down and make way for Unseelie rulers when Samhain arrived. The festivals of the autumnal equinox were more than simple celebrations — they were dangerous demonstrations of who the Unseelie really were.
On the glorious night of Samhain, the order of Kithain society was tossed to the winds. Nobles dressed as commoners and begged for food, wandering in disguise to free themselves of their identities. By the light of blazing bonfires, commoners would then elect a “mock court” to act as their nobles. No one believed that the simple folk had the nobility to rule, but the election of this Shadow Court recognized the noblest among them. The humble were proud, and the starving feasted. On that one night, Seelie would try to understand their Unseelie natures, and the Unseelie would be generous to them. Every- where, the Kithain would revel, giving in to temptation. Samhain was a night without sin, without blame, and without recrimination. At dawn, the Samhain Mists would erase the memories of all that had transpired, and all would be forgiven.
On that night, away from the mock courts, nobles revered their ancestors. The veil between the lands of the living and the lands of the dead was thin. Just as the flowers that died in winter could be reborn in spring, so could the fae renew themselves. Death held little meaning for them, for they aged slowly in those days. Those who met with death could be born again. Fae who passed beyond this physical world began a long spiritual journey through the lands of the dead, following an ancient trod known as the “Bright Road.” When a Kithain soul completed this quest, they would be reborn, and in this reincarnated form, they would await their Saining and new identity.
The quest was always hardest for the sidhe. When the world was young, the only way for a sidhe to change court was to walk the Bright Road and return to the world forever changed. Only the knowledge hidden in the Gremayre would reveal the truth of a sidhe’s origins. For commoners and sidhe alike, the journey was a lengthy one, but each year, the rituals of Samhain renewed the courage of both the living and the dead. When the veil between the two worlds was thin, those who were forgotten were remembered, and those who were lost could glimpse the world they had left behind. The brave few who dared to speak into the void would have their messages carried on the wings of eidolons, and pilgrims who traveled the Bright Road would respond.
Yet the spirits of the Earth could never fully tolerate communion between the two worlds. When the living and the dead conversed, the strength of the Mists grew. Every year, on the morning following the autumnal equinox, the Samhain Mists were perilously strong. Foul deeds were forgotten, revelry was forgotten, and communion between the living and the dead was forgotten as well. The balance would be restored, the Unseelie would rule, and the Seelie Court would wait for the return of spring.
Then the Shattering came, the balance was lost, and everything changed.
The Dying Times & the Long Night
When the nobles left the world, many commoners believed that the nobles had earned a place in Arcadia, and they wished them good fortune. Others cursed their names for abandoning them. The Unseelie, filled with anger, accused the aristocracy of cowardice, believing them to have fled. Some commoners believed that the nobles perished outright and whispered that gatherings of sidhe walked the Bright Road again.
Each year, with the passing of Samhain, the world fell further from the state of grace it once knew. The two courts no longer trusted each other. Sharing leadership became unthinkable. Political factions fiercely debated how to handle their affairs, but the two courts could never agree. The strife between the Seelie and Unseelie grew, creating a perpetual schism between the two.
Masquerading as humans in a world of mortals, the Kithain began to turn away from the old traditions. Just as the Mists obscured the trods to Arcadia, the Dreaming became more distant with each passing year. Commoners realized that their world would never again be the same. Some waited faithfully for the nobles to return as shadows lengthened, but as the situation worsened, they began to realize that it was a world that they had to rule. Each year, the ritual of Samhain was held with greater reverence, and its meaning became more important.
Seelie and Unseelie came to realize that they could no longer war with one another if they were to survive. Any commoner could rise to the prestige of ruling a kingdom. Seelie fought to preserve what the Unseelie would disdain, and freeholds and kingdoms changed hands in these disputes. As a result of this conflict, changelings could choose their Legacies more freely. Even more disturbing was the fact the those few sidhe who remained behind could choose their Legacies without passing through the Bright Road. This became a more common practice, as many of those who set out on that spiritual journey never returned.
As falsehoods became truths by the light of day, truths were revealed in the shadows. Cliques of Kithain who returned from the rituals of Samhain with their memories intact learned to use the Mists to their benefit on that night, and they treasured the memories they retained. Ritualists guarded this knowledge and allied with those who respected the choices made during the mock court. Soothsayers witnessed dark prophecies of the future, and the future of the world looked bleak with visions of an Endless Winter. In the shadow of the two courts, as preparation for this revelation, a secret conspiracy was born.
Conspirators, who knew of the prophesies and remembered the black secrets they learned on the night of Samhain, believed that Spring would never return. While changelings who lived by the light of day were preoccupied with the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, those who adored the night communed with the Shadow Court.
For six centuries, the shadows lengthened, and with the death of magic came the death of hope. Slowly, monsters who waited in the shadows returned. As Arcadia grew more distant, horrid things, long forgotten, crawled from the regios that hid them to slither and crawl across the Earth again. Needing magic to sustain them, they consumed raw Glamour as they Ravaged the world, bringing the onset of Winter. With them came the neglected cousins of the fae. An innocent changeling would find a Ganconer seducing a lovely young lass or a bogie sucking the breath from an infant child. These creatures were known as “the Forgotten” — the Thallain.
Despite the slow invasion of these horrors, the rituals of the autumnal equinox were never neglected. Their taint — the Unseelie Legacies that slept within their souls — gave them the strength they needed to survive. Each year, Kithain still waited to hear the whispered voices of long-lost nobles to give them guidance. Unseelie raved in the night, Seelie were tempted by their abandoned legacies, and the commoners revered the noblest among their people with their mock courts.
The disappearance of the nobles had brought about a certain fatalism in the Unseelie Court. The myth of Endless Winter and its stories spread far and wide among their kind, but rarely bolstered the courage of loyal Unseelie. Every Unseelie on Earth knows that there is a Seelie Legacy within, and that if circumstances are favorable, any Unseelie can become Seelie again. The world is bleak, but there is hope for redemption and the restoration of balance. Despite this, if the Shadow Court grows strong enough to take the world, Endless Winter will forever destroy all Seelie Legacies everywhere.
The Dead of Night
Today, few would speak openly of the six centuries of the Long Night. The Resurgence was a chance to escape from that world and allow wayward sidhe back into positions of power. While most commoners were pleased with the compromise of the Resurgence, not all fae were as forgiving. Today, some are still old enough to remember the bloodshed of those years, and some still whisper tales about the Long Night. Commoners have learned to survive without their masters.
Memories about the Resurgence vary. Some of those who remember the opening of the gates of Arcadia remember the Shining Host (“the Fallen Ones”) returning to the world they abandoned. A few remember what came behind them: foul clouds of darkness, hideous monstrosities — True Unseelie, the foulest of the fae, and their armies of Thallain. Right out in front, the Shining Host charged into the world again. Seelie remember it as an attack on a dying Earth; Unseelie recall it as a retreat from a lost cause — it all depend on your point of view. The rumors of a war in Arcadia are not dead.
Today the nobles fight a different war. The casualties are victims of a banal world. There is a saying among the nobles: When the land is crownless, it lacks a soul. The return of the nobles has not purified the land, however. Even the greatest of the nobles feel their Unseelie destinies calling them, and that taint is reflected in the kingdoms around them. The political games and courtly romances they use to amuse themselves are only diversions from the state of the world, and they cannot hide the growing states of Banality in their souls. Yet there are also commoners who commune with the world fully, desperately trying to understand the horrors that surround them. Perhaps they are the true heroes in these dark times.
Commoners and nobles still have their differences. Ancient grudges are hard to ignore. Many nobles fear the Shadow Court because they fear the threat of assassination. In truth, most recruits of the shadows would not dare resort to such extremes. Some who join do so merely to overthrow a Seelie rival or exact revenge against a member of the nobility. When their goals are achieved, they return to their former lives. They get what they desire, and the Shadow Court gains their temporary support. Untroubled by conscience, these lesser subjects scoff at the stories of a world without light. After all, Endless Winter is only a myth. Yet those who join the Shadow Court permanently do so to reaffirm this dark prophesy, a threat worse than the threat of death.
Adventurers who do not hide themselves from the world confirm the legends of Winter’s approach. Wilder cliques who have listened to the tales of the Kindred and the Garou have heard of the onset of the final days: Gehenna or the Apocalypse. The most Unseelie fae are not troubled by these legends. For them, these portents herald the beginning of a new dark age.
Secretive cliques watch the final days carefully, for they confirm the tragic destiny of the world. If the finest of nobles can be cast out from the world, the nightmare of Endless Winter can also become a reality. The Shadow Court blames the fate of the world on the failure of the Seelie Court, the compromise of the Unseelie Court, and the cowardice of the nobility.
If the world is to be conquered by the Shadow Court, they must seize their opportunity now. The world of Seelie ideals is gone: Chivalry, true love and honor are relics of the past. The spread of Banality is a portent of the future, and when the world at last descends into Endless Winter, the masses will revolt and the structure of Kithain society will be forever broken. The Earth will bask in darkness, and the foulest of the fae will revel in perpetual anarchy, chaos and discord. The Endless Winter will begin soon. The revolution begins now!
As part of the secretive alliances of the Shadow Court, generations of courtiers have detailed and redefined the goals they would need to realize the prophecies they had witnessed. The seven tenets of their desiderata are described in an agreement known as the Manifesto of Endless Winter. Not all courtiers agree on these goals or how to enact them. The only way to fully understand how these goals are enacted is to ask the members of the Shadow Court themselves.
- The First Tenet: Understand the mortal world, and shelter those who cannot live in it.
- The Second Tenet: Understand the supernatural world, and make and break alliances as necessary.
- The Third Tenet: Harvest Glamour and prepare for the approaching of Endless Winter.
- The Fourth Tenet: Overthrow the Seelie Court and the nobility.
- The Fifth Tenet: Fulfill the ritual obligations of the year, culminating in the rituals of Samhain.
- The Sixth Tenet: Spread chaos, revolution, and anarchy.
- The Seventh Tenet: There is no tenet number seven. All hail Discordia!
More than their Seelie counterparts, the Unseelie, particularly members of the Shadow Court, view fae life as a Pageant, a formal drama in which everyone is an actor. The play has been written, and it needs only to unfold. This imbues the actions of the Unseelie with a certain distance, since they are merely fulfilling their destined roles in the Pageant, and need not take anything they do or say too seriously. At the same time, the Pageant itself is extremely serious, since it tells the story of the continuous rise and fall of the Dreaming itself.
Some claim that mortals, in the old times, having seen the elaborately choreographed interplay between light and dark, winter and summer, Seelie and Unseelie, created their own version of the Pageant — giving birth to drama as a creative expression of their own rituals of the spirit. Whether or not this is the case, the Pageant of the Fae once incorporated all of the children of the Dreaming into its grandeur and from it arose the cyclic structure of faerie existence.
At the heart of the Pageant lies the seasonal passage, the journey of the faerie soul through all its arcane twistings and turnings — both Seelie and Unseelie. As the two courts stepped their way through the year, they re-created the spectacle of birth and rebirth, of constant renewal through constant, progressive change.
All this ended with the Shattering. Although the fae who were left behind when the sidhe fled the mortal realm tried to maintain the Pageant, the necessities of survival forced them to abandon all but the bare bones of their life-dramas. In particular, the Seelie changelings were hardest hit by the drastic changes that were taking place around them. Little by little, the memories of the Pageant and what it meant disappeared.
The Unseelie fae were able to harden themselves to the worst effects of the Shattering, possibly because their dark Legacies adapted more easily to the corresponding darkness of the world. Thus, they remembered what others had forgotten. They kept at least part of the Pageant alive as they preserved the rituals familiar to them.
When the sidhe returned, they found that the world had undergone cataclysmic changes since their departure. While the Seelie concentrated on reestablishing a social system which afforded them some security and restored to them their roles as leaders of the fae, the Unseelie began to salvage what was left of the Pageant. As the Seelie began to dominate the realm of fae politics, the Unseelie drove straight to the heart of faerie spirituality, resurrecting the Pageant as the best way to put the changing world into perspective.
The Pageant, therefore, comprises all the social interactions of the Unseelie fae, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. Romance, honor, politics and relations with other creatures are all contained within the scope of the Pageant. It is Unseelie life itself. The Shadow Court, of course, sees itself as the directors of the Pageant, with the ability to change the script if necessary.
For the Unseelie, love is a powerful emotion, but it has a different meaning from the usual connotations of affection, gentleness and fidelity. The concept of romance, especially of courtly love, has little or no meaning. Instead, the Unseelie fae embrace love’s darker side, recognizing it more as a cry of defiance against oblivion than an affirmation of life.
And so the Unseelie are far more prone to giving in to their instincts and lusts, surrendering to the impulses of the moment, without regard to the consequences or wisdom of some of their dalliances. Although the fae, in general, are less bound by the morality of the mortal world, the Unseelie excel in pursuing alternative avenues of sexual pleasures, sometimes for the shock value alone, sometimes for the total experience. There are no taboos for them.
This does not mean that all Unseelie are faithless or fickle lovers (although many of them are). Fidelity is present in the moment, but usually has little to do with long-term promises. Members of the Shadow Court are so aware of the impending Endless Winter that they are reluctant to commit themselves to relationships that might not weather the “end of the world.” Today’s passions are savored without the delusion that they will last beyond the morrow. An Unseelie Kithain may be utterly devoted and maniacally faithful to their current lover while realizing that at any moment that passion may change.
Displays of love are less tender among Unseelie, but often just as extravagant as those of the Seelie. It is not uncommon for Unseelie lovers to display their “affection” for one another through acts of violence, emotional and mental cruelty, or extreme displays of jealously and posses- siveness. Political correctness has no place in the Unseelie bedroom.
Doomed love confers a certain prestige among some of the Unseelie, particularly when the lovers expose themselves to great risks by their passion for one another. Tales of lovers who have broken vows or ignored traditional enmities to be together and whose love has ended in tragedy for both of them are told and retold among the Unseelie.
Shadow Courtly Love
Where many Seelie, particularly the nobles, devote themselves to the ideals of courtly love, the Unseelie of the Shadow Court tend either to ridicule the elaborate structure of romantic involvements or else to take the already highly formalized patterns and stages of courtly love far beyond the boundaries set by their Seelie counterparts. Most of the younger Unseelie ignore courtly love altogether. It is seen as a symbol of Seelie decadence.
Shadow Court Romantic Societies
- Mockers: The satirists of courtly love.
- Masquers: Courtly love is a re-enactment of the Pageant.
- Danseurs: Courtly love is all about me.
Shadow Court Romantic Legacies
See the larger article: Romantic Legacy.
Most fae consider the Unseelie to be without honor, since they do not subscribe to the code of chivalry or to any recognizable structure. Indeed, these decriers of Unseelie knavery couldn’t be further from the truth.
Unseelie honor is an individual matter, governed by no body of laws or customs. Each Unseelie Kithain usually develops their own code of conduct, and determines what they have to do to remain true to themselves and to their larger goals (if they have any). This code may be a strict adherence to behavior that exactly mirrors what the Seelie think of as “chivalry,” or it may incorporate lying, theft or even murder (for a justifiable cause). Seelie are continually surprised when they encounter Unseelie knights who seem as honorable (or more honorable) than themselves. They fail to realize that the Unseelie’s reason for following the chivalric code (i.e., that it is the part assigned them by the needs of the Pageant) may wildly diverge from any justification the Seelie would understand.
The concept of oaths and geases are just as binding for the Unseelie, but they also recognize the dubious but no less real “honor” of the oathbroken or the forsworn. Those who, for one reason or another, join the ranks of violators of sworn promises have their own mystique and are accorded respect if they can prove or if it is believed that they have gone back on their word for good reason. (Sometimes it is necessary to break the letter of an oath in order to keep its spirit intact. See Darkain.)
The Escheat: Winter Version
Although most Unseelie fae, particularly those operating within the confines of Seelie society, pay lip service to the Escheat, or code of the fae, their private interpretation of that body of laws and customs differs somewhat from that of their Seelie counterparts. For Unseelie fae, the laws of the Escheat are not written in stone. Although these traditions have a purpose in ensuring the survival of the fae in an essentially hostile environment, the Unseelie (largely through the efforts of the Shadow Court) are preparing themselves for a time of cataclysmic upheaval. For now, they abide by a version of “the rules,” but they are in the process of rewriting the script.
The Right of Demesne
Power to rule lands or people belongs in the hands of those who are strong enough or clever enough to take it and keep it. In many cases, this may be a single noble or a house; in others, groups of Kithain — both noble and commoner — may achieve dominance over a freehold or even a kingdom. Being a Seelie noble is hardly sufficient grounds in and of itself for rulership.
- Reality: Who holds the power, makes the rules.
The Right to Dream
Mortals have the right to dream. Any way in which the fae can encourage them to dream for their benefit is good. That includes both inspiring through Musing, or Ravaging for what they need. Some among them practice direct infusion of creativity to incite Rhapsody. Who can argue with genius and the masterpieces it creates?
- Reality: Mortals have the right to dream; the fae have the right to the fruits of their dreaming.
The Right of Ignorance
The fact that mortals don’t know of the fae is vital to their protection and survival, but paranoia has its limits. Sooner or later, as Endless Winter draws nearer, the fae will have to come out of their freeholds and hidden places and brave the shock of the world. When that happens, they will need to surround themselves with mortal armies willing to serve their purposes. This means that they will have to risk revealing themselves to the world at large. As for making themselves known to Prodigals and certain mortals already sensitive to their presence, individual judgment has to take precedence over hard-and-fast rules.
- Reality: Nobody believes in faeries anyway, so why bother?
The Right of Rescue
Any Kithain who falls into the clutches of Dauntain, the Inquisition, or mortal institutions which threaten to destroy their faerie natures, needs to be removed from danger. Period. New changelings, whether they are commoners fresh from their Chrysalis or nobles just booted out of Arcadia, need succor and protection until they can make their own way in the world. This is not a duty, it is just common sense.
- Reality: Rescuing a Seelie noble from Banality puts them in the Shadow Court's power... where they belong. Garnering favors never hurt anyone.
The Right of Safe Haven
The fae need to protect their freeholds from Banality and violence to ensure that they, as well as the Seelie, survive. All Kithain in need of shelter are welcome in their places of power, so long as they behave like the guests they are. What better way to win friends to the cause than to provide safety in times of trouble?
- Reality: The fae need to fight tooth and nail (iron nails, if necessary) to keep what they have. Let supplicants and petitioners come. They’ll take them in... for a price.
The Right of Life
Destroying the soul of one of the Kithain destroys all of the fae in some small measure. While one should avoid killing those of faerie blood if possible, there are times when extreme measures are called for. Those who betray the Shadow Court forfeit their part in the Pageant.
- Reality: Death is the greatest risk of all. Any takers?
Crime & Punishment: The Shadow "Courts"
Most Unseelie fae do not recognize the Seelie system of Commoner and High Courts, preferring to adhere to their own methods of dealing out justice whenever possible. The Unseelie rarely bring suits or claims before the courts of Seelie justice. Unseelie fae who dwell within the domain of a Seelie ruler, however, leave themselves vulnerable to Seelie authority.
In freeholds governed by the Unseelie, the ruler usually dispenses justice, sometimes along with a council of advisors (usually members of the ruler’s clique). Because of their generally unlawful (according to Seelie definitions of the word) attitudes, what constitutes “criminal” or punishable behavior in Unseelie eyes is open to interpretation.
The Unseelie are much more prone to settle individual matters of dispute or alleged wrongdoings on the spot, through duels, brawls, or sometimes, complex bargaining between offender and offended. The Right of Fior (or trial by ordeal) enjoys great popularity among Unseelie nobles. Some commoners even prefer this method of settling quarrels. Often an Instigator will oversee one of these trials to bind the combatants or competitors with Glamour, thus ensuring a “fair” judgment.
The Midnight Court
See the larger article Midnight Court.
The Honor of the Forsworn
Among the fae in general, the swearing of oaths ranks as a solemn undertaking, enforced by Glamour and the Dreaming. The Unseelie and the Shadow Court often bind themselves with oaths or find themselves forced into giving their solemn word to Seelie. Their ideas about oaths are entirely different from those prevalent among the Seelie Court, however. Many Unseelie believe that the oaths they freely make and those made to fellow Unseelie are inviolate, while those sworn under duress or to the Seelie are just so many words which may be kept or broken as they see fit.
The Unseelie believe that if a changeling changes their court, all oaths sworn while of the old court are considered null. Further, if an Unseelie find it necessary to ally with others whom they eventually mean to betray, they hold, within their heart, reservations which are not stated at the time the oath is sworn. Since their intention was to eventually break their oath, they see no harm in doing so. Many even believe that such “cheating” can be done with impunity, so long as their original intention was never to keep to the agreement. Unfortunately, the Dreaming itself rarely agrees with these interpretations.
In other cases, keeping the intent of an oath sometimes involves violating the actual words of the oath. In these cases, the penalties for breaking an oath may or may not befall the oathbreaker. (This is usually a matter for the Storyteller to decide on a case-by-case basis.)
Those who break their oaths are often branded “Forsworn” by both Unseelie and Seelie. Among the Unseelie, however, the word often bears with it a certain amount of respect and adulation, marking those who bear the title as “set apart” from their peers. Some members of the Shadow Court belong to the ranks of the Forsworn, and seem to suffer little loss of respect because of it. In fact, those with an understanding of the demands of the Pageant believe that these oathbreakers are merely fulfilling their destined roles in a drama which demands that betrayal and loyalty exist side by side. The Pageant needs villains as well as heroes.
The Midnight Court considers it one of their duties to recognize the Forsworn, holding special ceremonies in which the oathbreaker is simultaneously damned and delivered by the conference upon them of the title. In some cases, the Forsworn are bound by geas, further setting them apart from other fae and guaranteeing their future loyalty to the Shadow Court.
Like their Seelie counterparts, much of the Shadow Court’s maneuverings revolve around the various members’ political beliefs. The Seelie content themselves with three major political impulses, and believe that these are echoed by corresponding Unseelie versions. While there are some similarities, the Seelie have no understanding of or appreciation for the subtleties inherent in the Unseelie viewpoint; subtleties that lead the Shadow Court to embrace five political forces rather than three. Each political impulse is associated with one or more of the seven goals (or tenets) of the Shadow Court, though none of them agree to all of them. Further confusing the political scene are the cliques who band together along political lines. Regardless of whatever else they believe, however, all the factions have one goal in common which allows them to act in concert and provides a common ground for the Shadow Court’s meetings: the overthrow of the Seelie Court.
- Purist: Which to return to divided leadership by Seelie and Unseelie.
- Repudiator: Desire a complete Unseelie takeover.
- Anarchist: Those who believe there should be no rulers.
- Ritualist: A spiritual impulse.
- Modernist: Similar to the Seelie impulse of the same name.
The Parliament of Dreams
A few Unseelie nobles belong to the Parliament of Dreams. Some among them believe that they can best make their views known and lobby for support by acting within the Seelie system. Others are there to act as goads, subtly disrupt the proceedings, make deals, and spy on the opposition. Some are not known as Unseelie at all. These, of course, are of greatest value to the Shadow Court.
Membership in secret societies is almost a given within the Shadow Court. An exhaustive list of all these esoteric groups is impossible, particularly since many societies change their names and, occasionally their goals. Although some secret societies, notably the Monkey's Paw and the Ranters, contain both Seelie and Unseelie members, a few groups are unique to the Shadow Court.
- Knights of the Cold Watch: A group of fae who remember the horrors that followed them from Arcadia.
- The Glowing Eye: Believe themselves to be a secret "inner council" of the Shadow Court.
- Pilgrims of the Bright Road: A group mostly composed of Ritualist grumps.
- Children's Crusade: Young assassins.
- The Seelie Court: Remaining objective about these usurpers poses an almost insurmountable challenge. By all the demands of the Pageant, they should be not only allies but willing abettors of our goals. They remain locked in the delusion that they can postpone Endless Winter indefinitely. Some few of them may eventually come around to the realization that the halcyon days of summer and the slow decay of autumn must surrender to the revitalizing changes possible only during the winter. Those can be used. Coexistence with the Seelie is necessary until the Unseelie are ready to make their move. After that, all bets are off. The strong will survive.
- Seelie Commoners: Although many of these Kithain have a genuine loyalty to their Seelie rulers, others only pay lip service to the conquering host from Arcadia. Where there is discontent, the Shadow Court must sow more. Where there is unhappiness and resentment, they must foster anger. Inside every Seelie changeling, there lurks an Unseelie, waiting for the key to unlock the chains that keep it confined. Here is where the real task lies.
- Lost Ones: Finding the enchanted places, where these remnants of the ancient times linger in solitude, should be one of the Shadow Court's highest priorities. The amount of Glamour these Lost Ones keep to themselves could turn the tide in the struggle. Allies may even be found among some of these ancient fae, if they can be convinced to step out from behind the wings and enter the Pageant in all their glory. They may burn but briefly before Banality consumes their unshielded spirits, but what a bonfire of Glamour their presence will provide!
Gallain & Thallain
- Nunnehi: The Nunnehi have little understanding of the subtleties of Seelie versus Unseelie politics. All they know is that many lands they once held have since been claimed by others who have tried to impose their rule on everyone and everything within their grasp. They should be natural allies. If their anger and resentment at having their sacred places usurped and turned into palatial freeholds could be channeled, the shadows will have an army of guerrilla warriors ready to strike when the time is right.
- Menehune: Like the Nunnehi, the Menehune have been driven out of their natural places and now hide themselves from the eyes of mortals and Kithain alike. It is said that they possess an intuitive understanding of the power of shadows, and that when they are under the influence of their War aspect, they exhibit a savagery the Shadow Court would do well to mimic. Whether use can be made of them or whether Unseelie concerns have any meaning for them requires more observation to ascertain.
- Inanimae: Many of the Inanimae are far too weird to bother with. It is difficult to conceive of any of these useless Kithain by-products as potential allies or adversaries. Possibly they can provide a source of Glamour if a means can be discovered to extract it from them. Let the scholars study them, if they wish. Perhaps something useful may come of their endeavors.
- Thallain: Our forgotten cousins, the Thallain, are dangerous, uncontrollable, treacherous, and bizarre. That makes them of inestimable value to the Shadow Court and they should protect them, encourage them, and aid them whenever possible — preferably from a safe distance.
- Fomori: The Fomori's ability to thrive in the midst of Banality and sheer corruption may hold the key to fae survival during the coming hard times. If they have some skills or Arts that enable them to feed on Glamour’s antithesis, their secrets must be discovered. The sidhe of House Balor claim to have formed alliances with individuals among the Fomorians. More must be known about who (or what) these misshapen creatures serve (or if they serve anyone at all). Let Balor continue acting as emissaries to the Fomorians, but watch for signs of treachery.
Children of Lilith
The vampires understand the game of politics all too well. Some of them even look forward to a time of future upheaval, called Gehenna, which sounds suspiciously like the onset of Endless Winter. The older ones remember the fae, and it is possible that they may still have allies among those who formerly held connections among the Unseelie and Shadow Courts. The younger ones, however, must be courted with care, since they are so caught up in the politics of survival that their first instincts often lead them to “bite first and ask questions later.” They have as many clans and factions as the Kithain, and each of them must be dealt with differently.
- Malkavians: These vampires resemble fae in the throes of Bedlam. Some of them display an uncanny insight into the realms of time and space, as if they were somehow connected to the Dreaming, though their dreams are more like nightmares. If we can ever begin to understand what makes them tick (or ticks them off), we may be able to use their unique viewpoints on reality to lay the background for universal change and discord.
- Ravnos: Undead Gypsies are Gypsies all the same. They, at least, retain some knowledge of old customs (now called superstitions) from before the Shattering. They are dangerous to us because we fall into the category of outsiders (non-Gypsies) and are, therefore, fair game for any of their pranks and other deceptions. Their powers, like ours, are based on illusion and some maintain that they invented the Art of Chicanery. Playing with them is like playing with fire: risky but rewarding.
- Lasombra: I have heard rumors that some of these vampires have already formed an alliance with us and with some of the changing breeds in Scandinavia, where they have devised a grand scheme to permanently blot out the sun. That would certainly hasten the approach of the Endless Winter. The one I met demonstrated, to my eternal jealousy, his control over shadows. We need to cement an accord with them as quickly as possible. We cannot afford to have them as our enemies.
- Sabbat: This group seems to be the Unseelie equivalent in vampiric society. They understand the darkness intimately, and they are not afraid to take extraordinary risks, sometimes for no other reason than to prove they can look annihilation in the face and survive. Like us, they recognize that mortals are their natural prey and treat them as such. Their Samhain celebrations rival ours in licentiousness and abandon. They take the coming of Gehenna seriously, a fact which seems to make them our natural allies. They are obsessed with secrecy, however, so they must be approached very, very cautiously.
These creatures were once Kithain, but have become so entrapped in their bonds with the animal world that they make pooka look like stuffed animals. Werewolves (or Garou, as they call themselves) are the most common ones, but there are others we would be loath to ignore. The Unseelie Court and the Garou Nation have never fully understood each other. Alliances made between Unseelie and the werewolves never last long. One of the greatest obstacles to building understanding between us is their concept of the Triat (their name for a tripartite godbeing). We are not fully of that which they call the Wyld or the Weaver. Our ever-changing natures, so I have been told by a talkative werewolf with the unlikely epithet Bone Gnawer, result in their “smelling the Wyrm” on us one week and “feeling our Wyld” the next. If the Shadow Court does contact the werewolves, they usually do so under the guise of merely representing the Unseelie Court.
- Fianna: Their Celtic origins give them much in common with a number of Kithain, and many individuals have close ties with both Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Their opposition to the coming darkness, however, makes them more likely allies for our enemies, although a few of them understand the necessity of change and the importance of a balance between light and dark. They are excellent companions in revelry, particularly when they have sampled some of our faerie mead. Some few can be provoked to such a rage, particularly when they are reminded of how badly humans have botched things, that they make superior cannon fodder for Shadow Court activities. Just point to something and say “Wyrm creature!” and see what I mean.
- Shadow Lords: The Shadow Court and the Shadow Lords have a mutual understanding: Neither one trusts the other. The two have been known to ally briefly, but the chances for one to betray the other are too strong for more permanent alliances to be made. Loremasters who are familiar with the legends of the Society of Nidhogg believe that they may be allied with certain Instigators, but many of these so-called “experts” become either curiously silent or suspiciously absent after they make public declarations to this effect.
- Black Spiral Dancers: These werewolves suffer from Balor’s taint (if you can call their proclivities “suffering”). They are firmly committed to the advent of the dark times and worship a monstrous “thing” known as the Wyrm, possibly an ancient, powerful chimera conceived from the earliest nightmares of the first Dreamers. The Knights of the Cold Watch have taken a great interest in the Black Spirals, as have a number of Ritualists, hoping to learn some of their secret lore. They are great companions for parties of Ravagers. The Shadow Court is allied to them through the graces of House Balor, whose kin they claim to be.
- Bastet: If the changing breeds have a nobility, these are their aristocrats. They have cultivated the arts of license, hedonism, passion, and intrigue. Their love of secrets is legendary. We can only envy their languorous decadence. They serve our purposes when and how it suits them. If we treat them right, they make perfect cats’ paws for our schemes.
- Corax: I have heard that these werecrows are descended from the Morrigan. If that is anywhere near the truth, then they understand both war and its aftermath. They are keen observers, and if we can reach some accord with them, our network of spies can only profit from their reconnoitering.
The Kithain have a long history of strife with human wizards and witches over their stealing of Glamour to power their own magic. They are especially hungry for dross, which they have an uncanny knack for locating. We have lost many glens and faerie rings to their depredations. In medieval times, some of them hunted faeries for the “Quintessence” in their blood or bones. Like us, however, they have suffered from the waning of magic, and modern mages (as they now call themselves) are more open to alliances with both Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Indeed, they hardly seem to know the difference.
- Dreamspeakers: — They, like we, have been shunted aside by the modern world. They, like we, are damn tired of it. Many of them have strong ties already with the Nunnehi and other changelings indigenous to the lands they inhabit. If they truly work dream magic, then we must exert every effort to win at least some of them to our cause. Perhaps we can convince them that they can win back what has been taken from them by bringing about massive changes in the world as we know it. After all, most dreams happen during the night. Who knows what dreams they may find in the long nights of Endless Winter?
- Order of Hermes: It is difficult for me to speak objectively of these mages. They were the wizards who hunted us and who saw us as little more than fuel for their magic and experimental victims for their research. Still, they are the guardians of much knowledge that has been lost to us. While I would urge caution in dealing with them, it might be possible to launch them like arrows at some of our greatest enemies within the Seelie Court.
- Verbena: Like the Dreamspeakers, the witches are in tune with the cycles of birth and death, summer and winter, creation and destruction. They understand the power inherent in the shedding of blood and the ongoing spiral of creation, making them our natural allies. We share several Samhain rituals and celebrate many of the same festivals throughout the year. An exchange of knowledge and pledges of assistance against the Hidden Ones’ Banality-laden reality might net us a group dedicated to using their potent magic in our behalf.
- Cult of Ecstasy: Passion and creative impulses power their magic. Cool. Ours, too. If any outsiders belong among the members of the Shadow Court it is this group. They indulge in the same excesses, weaving their own sort of Glamour and enhancing their power by pushing themselves beyond the boundaries other, fear to cross. We understand and salute that.
- Hollow Ones: Like us, these workers of mortal magics seem among the disenfranchised. They see and embrace the darkness as a road to self-discovery. We may find allies among them.
- Hidden Ones: On the one hand, these mages who pass themselves off as scientists are directly responsible for bringing about the Shattering through their worship of Banality. On the other hand, their mastery of Banality is a skill which we would do well to learn if we are to survive the Endless Winter. If we learn nothing else from them, their tenacious struggle to remake the world according to their own vision serves to teach us that we can do the same. Dealing with them may be courting disaster, but we have never been too timid to choose dangerous playmates for our games.
In the oldest times, the fae paid homage on Samhain to Arawn, the Lord of the Dead and ruler of that part of the Underworld called Annwn by the Celtic tribes. The Seelie (most of them) have forgotten the bargains made between our kind and the rulers of the world of the dead. The distinction between a Renegade thrill-seeker, a Hierarchy stooge, and a Spectre corrupter is entirely lost on them.
We remember the deals made for our free passage along the Bright Road, but the Unseelie Court does not have formal relations with any of their factions nowadays. We know that the spirits of the dead inhabit a realm only barely discernible to us, and then only at certain times of the year, making communications difficult, at best. The sluagh are said to be familiar with their ways, but are unlikely to disclose anything without significant compensation.
Although I have not had the opportunity to travel the Bright Road (at least not that I can remember), I have spoken to some who have, and a very few of them remember it and offered me their knowledge of the spirits who inhabit the Shadowlands. It is worth repeating, especially as wraiths can witness conversations while remaining unobserved. We would do well to make certain no conspiracies are overheard and repeated to our enemies. The sanest response to meeting a wraith is to take precautions and get weaponry that can mess them up as soon as possible. Still, there are some factions who believe they may be worth allying with.
- Renegades: Even in the lands of the dead, it seems there are factions who support the principles of chaos and change and who fight to overthrow the stagnant power structure of the Underworld. These wraiths are called Renegades. If there were some means of recruiting them across the barrier between life and death, we would have a group of powerful allies.
- Heretics: These wraiths seem to have a lot in common with the Ritualists among us. They are obsessed with spirituality in the way that only the dead, creatures of pure spirit, can afford to be. Like all fanatics, they can be manipulated through pushing the right buttons. I have heard that some fae who walk the Bright Road and linger for a time in the Shadowlands become the focal points for some of these Heretics. What an army they would make if we could but open a path for them into some Seelie lord’s freehold!.
- The Hierarchy: Like our entrenched Seelie counterparts, these wraiths represent order and establishment in the Underworld. They are best left alone, although some of them may remember the ancient pacts between the fae and the dead. For now, the danger of becoming embroiled in their political games far outweighs any advantages they would bring to our cause.
- Spectres: Dealing with Spectres is like shaving with a sword, and should be entered into just as carefully. Their knowledge of corruption and darkness is legendary, but so is their perfidy. Making deals might be a matter of who betrays whom first.
Mortals are, simply put, our meat and drink. We need their Glamour, and sometimes, their bodies. They were put on earth for the harvesting. Some few of them may, in fact, understand their roles. Those, we admire and respect. Most of them, however, are like flowers to be picked, savored while their beauty lasts, and discarded when they fade.
The Wheel of the Year
The fae existed long before the coming of Christianity, and their civilization predates the advent of a calendar created to specify and regularize certain dates for all church celebrations. The modern calendar (and its ancient predecessor) is an imposition of order on the cycles of nature, an invention necessitated because people no longer live close enough to the earth to regulate their lives by the changing of the seasons. This is not so for the fae, especially the sidhe.
The Seelie have succumbed to the ease of using a calendar that may or may not be in sync with nature, but one that is easily understood. They hold their festivals at the times specified and everyone knows when those dates are, because they can look at their calendars and even mark them on the appropriate dates. The Unseelie have fallen into the same trap for the most part, but some among them, like Ritualists, pretend to observe the festivals decreed by the Seelie, while in actuality holding their own celebrations when they are in accord with the forces of nature.
Since their calendar depends on changes taking place in the natural world, the Shadow Court’s celebrations may take place on wildly differing nights depending on their geographic locations. Thus, those who live in gentler climes might celebrate Imbolc when the first crocus appear, while in harsher climates, that day may come two weeks or a month later. Were it not for the sidhe’s particular affinity with time, this could cause some problems and misunderstandings; in reality, no Unseelie ever misses the excuse for another party. They accept only a few dates decreed by the calendar, which need to be accounted for because of the Seelie practices that take place on those dates. Among these is Samhain, when power ostensibly passes to the Unseelie, for to do otherwise would so confuse the Seelie that they would stop even offering the change in mock ceremonies. Additionally, the actual date of Samhain has become so charged by belief that the veil between the worlds now thins on that date.
For the Ritualists among the Shadow Court, the calendar year consists of a series of festivals and celebrations that mark the passing of the seasons and the stages of the fae spirit’s journey toward knowledge. Thus, the Ritualists refer to the circular movement through the seasons as the Wheel of the Year. While most Unseelie participate in the major festivals, the serious followers of the Pageant spend much of their time observing both greater and lesser holidays.
Because of their Celtic heritage, the Unseelie of the Shadow Court reckon time as their Celtic ancestors did, believing that a day starts with the night that comes before it. In the same way, they see the year as starting during the dark months of winter. This represents the spiritual journey that once formed a part of every faerie’s life, the cycle from shadow to light, the spiral upward from ignorance and dreams of savagery toward knowledge and redemption. Like the changing cycles of the year, the fae passed through the realm of nightmare, embracing the darkest elements of self, then journeyed toward the light, eventually finding a rebirth in the revelation of their true selves.
The Unseelie Year thus begins and ends with the Samhain Festival, a celebration which embodies the transformations that lie at the heart of Unseelie beliefs.
Like human children, the Unseelie also don costumes, which marks Samhain as special, and sets the stage for the rest of the yearly Pageant. To many Unseelie, donning a costume and wearing a mask are not lighthearted matters. It is a serious, conscious attempt to show outwardly the start of an inward journey the Unseelie will make throughout the coming year. While the costume may betoken an actual persona they intend to adopt, it is usually more subtle and symbolic, signaling a “putting on” or adoption of certain ideas, points of view and philosophies as much as a change in personality. They can rarely see the outcome of this leap of faith, which (somewhat ironically in view of Halloween’s time-honored request by children) may indeed leave them open to a horrible trick or reward them greatly.
The Journey Home
Though the accepted dates are given for each of the festivals below, all except Samhain, Midwinter, Carnival and Pennons are usually celebrated by the Shadow Court when nature dictates that the time is right. Among mortals, these ritual festivals were once considered vital for the fertility and well-being of the land and the tribe. Considered as sacred times when the whole clan came together, they now serve Kithain as landmarks on the road to self-awareness. Many Unseelie, however, still see them as necessary steps toward preserving the land as well, acknowledging that the cycles of nature have spiraled into discord by those who no longer believe in the old ways.
Not every Unseelie is conscious of this great design. Many forget the actual purpose of their journey, falling into revelry, cruelty, mockery, rebellion, and violence for their own sakes. There is a powerful allure in complete freedom and the philosophy of anarchy. No rules means no limits, and faerie passions have ever been prone to excess. Indeed, many argue that Banality first entered the world along with the practice of self-control, putting a damper on instinct and passion. Some Unseelie succumb to the sheer glory of feeling, the celebration of pain and the drinking of dark Glamour. These never delve into those areas that might lead them through to the light which is the other half of every changeling. Thus, though the original intent of many of the festivals was to mark a faerie’s passage along the road to revelation, some choose to spray-paint vulgarities on the signs instead.
- Samhain (October 31st)
- Yule (December 23rd)
- Midwinter (January 13th)
- Imbolc (February 2nd)
- Carnival (February 28th)
- Vernal Equinox (March 21st)
- The Greening (April 4th)
- Beltaine (May 2nd)
- Midsummer (June 23rd)
- Highsummer (July 17th)
- Lughnasa (August 1st)
- Autumnal Equinox (September 21st)\
- Pennons (October 4th)
And so the world gyres, the wheel of the year turns once again to Samhain. It is the end of the year, but also the beginning. The Unseelie have traveled upon their journey of self discovery. They may have found what They sought, discovered the Seelie side of their nature, or slipped further away from understanding. Whatever has happened, though they have come round again to the place where they began, they are not the same. The world has moved on and the dancing spiral of time leaves nothing in its wake completely untouched.
Shadow Courtiers & Other Unseelie
While radically different cliques of the Shadow Court have been known to work together to enact their schemes, getting the three different seemings of kith to cooperate on common goals can be difficult. Changelings of each seeming have different outlooks on the court, and so any plot that involves all three should hold something of interest to each of them.
The oldest changelings have been known to suffer a considerable amount of prejudice. In Kithain society, which values youth and beauty, this minority forms less than 10% of the population. “Grumps” tend to have a certain elitism, which often prevents them from giving in to the whims of younger leaders, and sometimes drives them to the Shadow Court. Much of this is in response to the bigotry wilders and childlings extend toward them. Ageist views, including the idea that only the young can be creative, are an integral part of Kithain life. In truth, greybeards also have creativity, they just have a different style. The Seelie Court glorifies youth and beauty, but Unseelie grumps and the Shadow Court know the value of guile and treachery.
While Unseelie graybeards still value passion, their passion is like slow-burning embers, not the passing flames that wilders know. Banality halts them from trusting too quickly, but their deep understanding of it gives them an advantage over their brethren. Elders know that this force is a weapon that can be used to corrupt others who cannot weather it as easily. Once their curse has been inflicted on others, they can either win them to the Unseelie way of thinking, or destroy them, removing their opposition.
Graybeards also have a more thorough understanding of the “mundane” world and are more likely to balance a mundane life with their secretive activities. Skilled at negotiating with mortals, they often have contacts that can help a struggling clique. The most politically astute of the changelings have cronies in ever-mutating secret societies who can provide information and assistance. While many largely live in the past, they see their activities as progressive. Although their political impulses are often extreme, they have a vision of the world that’s more realistic than the dated and escapist views of the Kithain who deign to rule them.
Kithain society has rewritten the history of the Accordance War, but many graybeards remember a different version of history. They’re not as quick to forget the 600 years of madness that followed the disappearance of the nobility. When their fathers and grandfathers opposed the return of the aristocracy, nobles who slaughtered “upstart commoners” forever stained their hands with blood. Since outright warfare has failed them, the most insidious revolutionaries faded into the background after the so-called “Resurgence.” They have watched and waited ever since. The time to strike is now.
While graybeards are consumed by the hatred they’ve learned from the past, wilders desperately try to survive in the present. Unseelie wilders have little use for Seelie-dominated courts. The Parliament of Dreams is far more concerned with the traditions of the 15th century than the issues of the 20th. It’s an “old boys’ club” for the elderly few who have already been fully accepted by the aristocracy, and their policies reflect their isolation from the real world. They fail to understand the world outside their ivory and crystalline towers. There’s a world outside for the taking, and only the boldest can take it. For fae who seek adventure, the world exists now, and the attitudes of Unseelie wilders reflect that dying world.
Fae of this seeming consider Ravaging a sacred mission, not a Machiavellian amusement. Their immersion in the world makes them far more aware of the problems in the streets, and Ravaging increases that knowledge. In fact, many of them would prefer the world to be cold. Wilders in the Shadow Court are typically antiheroes who ravage and despoil the world around them to save themselves. Often fatalistic, they have little hope for the future. Nonetheless, wilders revel in passion and rage freely in a world filled with apathy and lacking in empathy.
Shadow Court wilders hold few illusions about “Prodigal races.” They seek to understand those who dwell in their world of darkness for what they are. Many of them disagree with the idea that the other races are merely lost fae. In fact, they are often eager to mix with the other races. This enthusiasm for “seizing the night” gives them insights that could benefit their older and more political brethren.
The youngest changelings don’t understand the past, and only dimly understand the present. For childlings, the future is everything. Chaos is the promise the future holds, and they delight in it. Whenever there is chaos, there’s a chance to change things for the better, however you might define it at the time.
In Kithain society, childlings are rarely held responsible for their misdoings, and Unseelie childlings push this to the limit. They are a curious mixture of innocence and amorality, and Unseelie elders are inspired by their innovative ways, even while they try to trick and exploit them. Childlings can be very perceptive, and thus understand that the world their Unseelie family can offer them is much more fun than the world the Seelie nobles want to rule.
Childlings value freedom above all else, and the Shadow Court welcomes this philosophy. Their Ravaging resembles impish delight rather than communion with the world, but they are still the most open-minded of the fae.
When a Shadow Court clique is formed, it is usually for a particular purpose. Like-minded Unseelie band together. Their goals may change over time, but if a clique is going to defy a world that rejects them and a court that reviles them, they had best get their objectives straight when they first get together.
A drastic shift in the Shadow Court occurs once a year in the ritual of Samhain. Titles are meaningless for more than a year or two, since they are redefined from one year to the next. Anyone hoping to “break up” a clique had best move fast when the leaves start to fall, and even then, the remaining fae can always start another one. Cliques have been known to swear fealty to one another, but they define it by means other than honor. Instead of living under duress, fearful to gain Banality for abandoning a clique, Shadow Courtiers comfort themselves with the thought that if they betray their clique mates, Kithain society, Thallain alliances, and betrayed comrades will all exact revenge.
- Graybeard Cliques
- Ravaging Cliques
- Pretender Cliques
- Obeisance Cliques
- Ritualist Cliques
- Jamming Cliques
- Chaos Cliques
Many of the most talented recruits within the Shadow Court come from within the Unseelie Court. In fact, it’s not unusual for an Unseelie to try to exist within both courts at once. A changeling can acquiesce to the whims of the Unseelie Court by day and secretly work for the shadows.
Any Unseelie who descends into the shadows, however, had best get his allegiances straight right away. The Unseelie Court has to compromise with the ideals of the Seelie Court and the Kithain, including their futile attempts to save a dying world. It entails the belief that maybe someday you too will become Seelie again, ready to reclaim your honor and chivalry, as their society defines it, and the delusion that someday, all the darkness in the world will go away, and magic will flood the world.
Believing in the fae does not require you to have the trust and intelligence of a five-year-old child. The members of the Shadow Court lost their innocence a long time ago. They have no delusions about the way the world is, and they try to understand their “true selves”: their instincts and impulses, lusts and desires. Shadow Courtiers don’t compromise with a world of humans. When they Ravage, they’re more than human. They’re creatures as beautiful and horrific as they are amoral. They’re Unseelie.
Boggans are always Seelie when they emerge from their Chrysalises, even though each one has an Unseelie taint sleeping within their soul. By continually acting as busybodies and do-gooders, Seelie boggans fanatically try to forget any disturbing self-doubts they might have. Cynical ones who give in to doubt and fall into their Unseelie Legacies are very ashamed of what they have become. Some begin to doubt themselves because they feel like they’ve been taken for granted. The worst even consider altruism to be a path to self-destruction.
Either way, boggans can become very secretive, and once their propensity for mischief and avarice increases, they become even more secretive. One of the reasons Seelie boggans develop such extensive networks of information is to ferret out Unseelie in their midst who are masquerading as Seelie. Unseelie boggans in particular are watched with great scrutiny, and for good reason. These greedy little bastards have big ears and cold hearts, and what they can’t get today, they’ll scheme for tomorrow.
Regardless of court, all boggans love to help others. Unseelie ones just have a slightly redefined version of what the word “help” means. While Seelie types are motivated by their need for selfless sacrifice, Unseelie remember people they’ve helped (whether their help was asked for or not), and they expect to get something in return. Economic opportunity is a common motivater, although some allow their assistance to become more of a curse than a benefit. If someone is truly down and out, exploiting their dependence or pretending to help them while actually driving them to ruin can be a particularly artful form of Ravaging.
Of course, Unseelie boggans are still capable of being charitable. No favor extended by one of these fae is ever forgotten. If someone’s taken advantage of a boggan, he can carry an epic grudge in return, and if someone who has received help doesn’t pay up with his pound of flesh, boggans have been known to extract payment by other means. First-born babies are an excellent choice, although there’s still a slave trade in Enchanted young maidens. More traditional thralls perform household drudgery, while contemporary slaves provide their masters with other services.
- Systems: Another reason Unseelie boggans often masquerade as Seelie is to further their talent at gathering information. The most useful service they provide is efficaciously gathering the filthiest of gossip in a household and providing it to the highest bidder. Through the Social Dynamics Birthright, they have a talent for figuring out who’s strong and who’s weak, who’s sleeping with whom, who’s hiding a dark secret, and so on. If appropriate, they’ll even present this information to the Shadow Court. Boggans are known for their honesty, so on the rare occasion when one is hired to spread misinformation in a freehold (“It’s only a rumor, I’m sure...”), he’d best get his Unseelie little ass out of there before the Seelie boggans tar and feather him. If his situation gets too rough, though, he can always find work with the Boggarts, his Thallain relatives.
One realm’s mysterious visitor is another’s renegade criminal. Unseelie eshu not only have an uncanny way of showing up just as the shit is about to hit the fan, but they also have a knack for disappearing right before they’re about to get caught in the rotating blades. They embody the worst stereotypical traits of the Gypsies they’re often mistaken for, including their penchant for scams, deception, and fraud, and will sometimes blame them for their activities later.
Unseelie eshu are masters of deception and have been known to spread lies and virulent rumors under a variety of false identities. These “lesser Unseelie” will sometimes stay with a clique for an extended period of time, divulging their true identities only to other members of their group.
Their more sinister relatives undertake epic journeys not to escape retribution for their misdoings, but to flee from their own guilt. They will often carry a dark secret in the blackest depths of their heart and travel to escape their own despair. This variety of eshu trusts no one, but can sometimes be called upon to carry out tasks that even the most suicidal of Unseelie wouldn’t want to be around to take the rap for afterward. Then it’s off to another kingdom before the pain becomes too great again.
- Systems: The Spirit Pathways Birthright allows an eshu to take the most adventurous route while traveling, but Unseelie seem to be drawn to the misadventure of others. Even if they tried to avoid this curse, they’d be blamed for the wake of misfortune behind them, so they might as well participate. If they wind up living out the events of a masterpiece of deception and betrayal, they can also use the Talecraft Birthright to gain an extra point of experience... and a story to introduce themselves with at the next Shadow Court freehold they visit.
Unseelie nockers pride themselves on their chimerical creations as effusively as their Seelie counterparts. When they interact with physical inventions, they don’t like to limit themselves to classical inventions. They have an acute gift for dealing with 20th-century innovations. Indulging in anachronism is less important than keeping up with the state-of-the-art technologies.
When fixing physical machines in the “real” world, nockers have been known to become so attuned to a particular machine or electrical system that their ward will begin to take on a personality of its own. When a nocker is familiar with a device they’ll often begin by giving it a name. They’ll then create an “imaginary” (read: chimerical) personality and characteristics for it. The “imaginary friend” may then have special requests it may demand in return for specific duties unless the nocker cows it into submission or uses Arts to manipulate it. Shadow Court nockers have thus been able to turn modern inventions against their owners.
Unseelie nockers rarely build physical devices, as their inventions are often so elaborate that they can only be constructed out of chimerical materials. Many of these contraptions are also designed to eventually disrupt the lives of their owners, and nockers who know the Delusion Art are able to “program” their creations with hidden commands. Unseelie who are jealous of their Seelie cousins have even managed to corrupt the chimerical creations of others.
- Systems: The Fix-It-All Birthright has one additional bonus for Unseelie nockers. During character creation, the Unseelie can choose one 20th-century invention as a specialty. They then get a -1 difficulty on any roll to fix, manipulate, or control that type of device.
Contrary to first impressions, the line of distinction between Seelie and Unseelie pooka can be somewhat blurred. Both types have a love of chaos, simplistic senses of humor, and an aversion to truth. The casual observer might also believe that the difference between them is the type of animal the pooka resembles. One can usually be sure of reptilian or arachnid pooka, but such creatures are incredibly rare.
The difference between the two is largely philosophical. As Unseelie, they know the value of following their instincts, and Unseelie pooka have a strong survival instinct. Their animal mien possesses greater cunning than their mortal form, so they’ll often carry over animal instincts into their mortal lives. Humans, after all, are less ethical than nature’s creatures.
Because they place their own survival first, not even the Shadow Court trusts the pooka completely. As part of their penchant for trickery, pooka have been known to switch sides without a care. Never ask a pooka whether he is Seelie or Unseelie without having a method of proving it. These critters are often considered loose cannons. The best a Shadow Court clique can hope for is that they’ll be loyal to their particular clique. That clique will almost always keep their pooka friend ignorant of any politics that come along unless the bond between the pooka and the clique goes back a long way. Keeping him ignorant of temptation helps, too.
There are legends of Unseelie pooka who are so terrible that their pranks always result in death or misfortune. There is no frivolity or joy in the pranks of this deviants, only malice. Tales of nightmare rides that kill abound. Unfortunately, no one is sure whether these stories started with the pooka in the first place.
- Systems: Unseelie pooka love hunting for innocents to ravage, and their ability as confidants magnifies their talent at Ravaging. The chosen “prey” will often wind up revealing their darkest secrets to a kindly pooka... only to find them used against them later as their life is destroyed. After drawing out the most troubling and disturbing thoughts within the mind of a human, even if the victim did not realize those thoughts were there, Ravaging magnifies these doubts, feeds Banality, and forces Glamour from the victim’s soul.
Learned sages have postulated that two redcaps who are truly in love are capable of producing a Seelie redcap as the result of their union, but that invariably, such an abomination will be eaten not long after birth. Sages who are adamant that this faerie tale is true tend to get eaten as well. Redcaps have a way of attracting a host of filthy lies. Some say they’re cannibalistic. Some say they eat the weakest of their young. And some don’t say anything at all... it might give the redcaps ideas.
Regardless, Seelie redcaps are exceedingly rare, and the few that exist are despised and hunted by Unseelie redcaps. The mere sight of a chivalrous knight with a red cap jauntily perched upon his head is enough to fill an Unseelie redcap’s soul with wrath. Their greatest redcap warriors, Unseelie Black Knights, live for the chance to tarnish their armor and spill their blood. As expected, Unseelie redcaps fight dirty, training for the day when they can take down a Seelie redcap. The concept of “too violent” is unknown to them, and many of them take body parts as trophies to commemorate their victories. Their intimidation isn’t just talk. In fact, browbeating is a way from them to think up new atrocities to commit upon others.
- Systems: The Dark Appetite Birthright provides a few particularly stunning options in combat, as it can also be used on living creatures. Any time a redcap attempts to use the Dark Appetite Birthright in combat the character must spend a point of Glamour, just as if he were trying to eat something not normally edible. The base damage for a redcap bite is Strength + 2 (difficulty 5). Additionally, the character may try to sever an opponent’s limb. Severing a limb with this ability re- quires five successes on a Dexterity + Brawl roll (difficulty 8), or three successes if the victim has been grappled first. This attack inflicts a minimum of three Health Levels of damage if successful, in addition to any damage rolled. Sometimes redcaps like to spit out what they’ve chewed, and in epic battles, one can see them wielding the severed arms and legs of their enemies.
Boundaries mean little to the Unseelie. Since satyrs have an undying lust deep in their souls, they seek to shatter boundaries of sexuality and pleasure in those who are close to them. The words “perversion” and “deviance” are curiously absent from an Unseelie satyr’s vocabulary. Everyone is waiting to be awakened into brave new worlds of pleasure, whether they realize this or not. Others find bliss in the ecstasy of drugs and psychic vampirism. Regardless of so-called “preferences,” Unseelie satyrs consider despoiling innocence an art form. To hell with wisdom. Passion and pleasure are far dearer.
In romance, not all satyrs limit themselves to human companions. As they have close ties with the natural world, many will indulge in interspecies romances to commune with nature. Tales of satyr bestiality aren’t too exaggerated, tragos who have honed and refined their ravaging techniques seduce or carry out courtly romance with animal companions. Animal companions don’t have typical objections to commitment, as they have less objection to being leashed than most humans, though not, of course, all humans.
- Systems: Bestiality isn’t for everyone. Some satyrs prefer to get back to nature by studying traditional herbal spirituality, providing their friends with natural blends that over a few hours can lower an individual’s Banality. The system is similar to the Gift of Pan, but the roll is Intelligence + Crafts (difficulty 7). Any who choose to resist do so by making a resisted Willpower roll. Most of these spiritual meditations are illegal in most states and can be revealed by chemical testing. Anyone under the influence of these natural medications has their Intelligence reduced by two dots during this time, but gifted mortals can see chimerical creations while their vistas are expanded.
Even Shadow Court fae tend to think Unseelie sidhe are a little extreme. They tend to fall within two categories: schizophrenics or epic antiheroes. The first category is more relevant to Seelie sidhe nobles. Some have been known to shift their court from honorable rulers to Machiavellian tyrants with the merest stirring of the breeze. Perhaps if they were in Arcadia, their fragile psyches would stabilize, but in a world of ethical ambiguities and lost faith, the Shining Host is like a glass menagerie waiting to be smashed.
Antiheroes sink into the dregs of the Shadow Court. A truly Unseelie sidhe will treat their Legacy as an epic journey, not a psychotic aberration. First, they will grow weary of their Seelie life. Next, they will tear themself away from all that they held dear, and then finally they will reject their own nobility as a weakness and come to terms with the taint within their heart. All other acts, no matter how base or ignoble, are merely distractions from the conflict within themself at this point, for nothing else truly matters. Some courtiers of the shadows write this off to typical sidhe arrogance, but it does help to give the Unseelie concept of the Pageant its meaning.
They have a weakness, however. It is almost impossible for them to purge themselves fully of their sense of chivalry. They will deny this, but it has prevented them from fully taking over the Shadow Court. Fortunately for the Unseelie, their nobility can become as tainted as their souls, and their sense of honor often becomes twisted and situational. Unseelie honor is a very personally defined thing, so a villain may very well redefine what they consider chivalrous to accommodate their corrupt morality.
A heartfelt appeal to a sidhe’s hidden chivalry may cripple them, as most sidhe are egotistical enough to want to finish off a rival with style rather than with simple butchery. Those who undertake the Quest of the Darkest Heart may try to hide their sense of personal honor beyond an image of villainy. Hidden chivalry is the most valuable quality any Unseelie sidhe can possess, and some have been known to take on Banality if they turn down chivalrous challenges. Then again, some of them would rather be slowly undone by Banality than exhibit chivalry openly.
The circumstances under which one sidhe would kill another outright would still have to be rather extreme. Shadow Court fae have speculated that the only reason why the sixth portion of the Escheat, which prohibits the killing of Kithain, was articulated by the sidhe was because few of them understood what happened to their souls after death. The reason why most sidhe either return as commoners or never return from the Bright Road remains a mystery.
Many Unseelie commoners have little fear of death, as they understand the need for reincarnation and the change it brings into the world. Sidhe have intensified the amount of intrigue the three courts pursue because it destroys enemies slower than cold steel. The ultimate victory over another sidhe lies in turning their Legacy to serve your cause instead of someone else’s. Within the Shadow Court, there are often debates of which would be more efficient: killing them quickly with cold steel, or destroying them slowly with Banality. Such debates make cold nights pass quickly.
- Systems: Any Unseelie sidhe has a personally defined sense of honor, not a publicly defined one. Storytellers are encouraged to discuss the particulars of an Unseelie sidhe’s code in private with the person who portrays them after each session is over. Characters who deviate too far from this secretive agreement should slowly take on Banality.
Sluagh have a natural affinity for the Shadow Court. There are even Seelie sluagh who have an attraction to it. In fact, sluagh typically show more loyalty towards each other than toward either court. Many Shadow Court cliques are used to bargaining with sluagh for information, but they are somewhat hesitant to speak freely when one is about unless he, she, or it has been oathbound to a Shadow Court clique. If a sluagh betrays the Shadow Court, often other sluagh will harry the traitor. While the shadows know a few things this kith practices in secret, Seelie Courts tend to disavow such knowledge.
Sluagh are quite capable of duplicity. After all, they also live in two worlds: the world above and the world below. Regardless of their courtly existence, many hold hidden knowledge about the feeding habits of local Nosferatu vampires, the location of traps set by Ratkin in sewer tunnels, the effluvia created in spawning pools, the possible mating habits of Black Spiral Dancer werewolves, and so on.
However, sluagh don’t know everything, and thus, they sometimes need to call on the Shadow Court. Most importantly, a sluagh is reluctant to betray the shadows because of the valuable information they can gain from them. They seek out revelations and dark secrets, and both sluagh and the shadows trade in them freely.
As for the possible sources the sluagh employ, it is said by some Shadow Court sorcerers that sluagh whisper so that only the dead may hear them, but whether there is a connection between the rituals of the sluagh and the dealings of the Restless Dead has yet to be proven. Perhaps they are mistaken.
- Systems: Some sluagh are said to be able to use their Squirm Birthright to such effectiveness that they can slither into small cracks under doors or into other small spaces. Doing so causes the sluagh some damage however, (the sluagh suffers one Health Level of damage when attempting this stunt). The difficulty for slipping under cracks is always considered to be 10.
Some Seelie trolls are so pure of heart that loremasters refer to them as “giants.” They are handsome and noble, romantic and generous, and they are the enemies of Unseelie trolls everywhere. Some call Unseelie trolls ogres, though Shadow Courtiers know the true ogres to be Thallain, and more horrible than any Unseelie troll could imagine. Unseelie trolls have been known to become so consumed with their own self-loathing that the foulest of them inflict their suffering on the world. They are, as a rule, either unattractive or hideous, and the worst are deformed morally as well as physically.
Trolls, however, always have a fragment of nobility in them. As opposed to most other Unseelie, Unseelie trolls are loyal to those they support, even if they don’t display their loyalties openly. They aren’t always immoral, they just dedicate themselves to somewhat disreputable fae. A troll who becomes Unseelie will reject their old loyalties, but they can still develop new ones within the Unseelie Court or Shadow Court. No matter how great the suffering a troll endures, they will always retain a remnant of their honor. Unseelie trolls also have a very harsh interpretation of the word “justice.”
Even the noblest of trolls has a deep and furious rage sleeping within his breast. Just as the magma of the earth roils beneath the earth’s crust, so does gentleness and stoic grandeur sometimes belie a soul in pain. A troll will give trust grudgingly, and follow it fanatically, but if he is betrayed, mayhem and suffering may result. Trolls who become Unseelie after a betrayal of their trust have been known to embark upon epic killing sprees, leaving a trail of slaughtered victims in their wake. The infamy that results will leave an Unseelie troll in a state of distrust for a long, long time. Never, ever, move a troll to anger.
- Systems: A troll’s Titan Strength does not return until he takes a new oath of loyalty. When his oath has been broken by the other concerned party, this is an excellent rationale for fading into the shadows before exacting violent revenge.
The Unseelie Houses
Three Unseelie Houses made the journey back to Earth from Arcadia when the five Seelie houses came through in 1969. One of them, House Ailil, spread its members across Concordia and Hibernia (and possibly other regions as well). The other two (Houses Balor and Leanhaun) initially limited themselves to entering through Hibernia (Ireland). Since that time, many members of both Balor and Leanhaun have left Hibernia and begun infiltrating Seelie holdings in Concordia, sometimes masquerading as members of other houses. Some few let their actual house be known but keep a low profile among the overwhelmingly Seelie kingdoms of Concordia. What they do in secret is another story.
The three Unseelie houses have united with Unseelie from the other five houses and many Unseelie commoners to form the Shadow Court. Although each house has its own agenda, they all have some goals in common, chief among them being the overthrow of Seelie rule.
The other three Unseelie Houses have less of a presence in the Shadow Court since they are more recent arrivals to the Waking World.
For more on these nightmare fae, see the larger article Thallain.
Shadow Court Prestige
The Shadow Court doesn’t recognize titles, but it is possible to gain Prestige within the court. Trying to hold on to power for too long is seen as asking for trouble, but stepping down occasionally is often taken as a gesture of humility. A courtier will probably not know who is more than one or two levels above their station, but they’d be foolish to exploit anyone below them.
Prestige will not last longer than one year; if a changeling doesn’t get promoted at Samhain, they’ll lose at least one level of Prestige for the next year. In fact, since the court is always changing, there is no guarantee that this Prestige will last beyond the first few sessions. It is, though, the level of expertise you naturally gravitate toward. Consider it your reputation. (This acts as a Background.)
- Condemned: You are firmly entrenched in the court. Although you’ve had your chance to return to your former life, you’ve forsaken it. You’re eligible to learn the Dark Arts, and when dealing with fae who have property or power, they’ll usually defer to you as a representative of your clique. If you don’t have this background, you’re just running with a clique until you’re recognized and Condemned by an Instigator or turn Seelie again. If you don’t (or can’t) take this during character creation, your Storyteller may award your character this first background point after you’ve been accepted and condemned or after you’ve (hopefully) survived your first Samhain.
- Guardian: Within your territory, you watch over an important location. This might be a freehold, a city block or a place of economic importance. Perhaps you own a gun store or a basement large enough to cook up some chemicals. No one messes with your turf, and you keep cliques well-equipped.
- Pretender: You hold a title within the Seelie or Unseelie Court, at least that of a knight or squire. This gives you one dot in Title as well, but your position is a tenuous one. If it ever gets out that you’re in the shadows, you’re done for, but because you’re so valuable, jammers and anarchists generally will not mess with you. Your goal, of course, is to use the information you have to bring down those who are “above you” in station within the other courts.
- Mastermind: Not everyone who plots and schemes has this background, but Instigators come to you more often than your compatriots. You belong to a secret society of at least five others, and you trade favors freely. Through your connections, you also have an automatic three dots in Resources. You also receive regular correspondence from others: at the beginning of each session, the Storyteller will have a few choice bits of dirt for you.
- Instigator: You recruit others into the Shadow Court, although you cannot condemn them without the level-five Contempt Art: Condemnation. You’re slowly learning more about the more hidden secrets of the court. Representatives from (at least) two cliques also fill you in regularly on their activities. When you gather at least five Kithain in one place, any Perception-based roll to interpret your ceremonies is at a difficulty of +3. As you get more proficient, your talents will improve. (This Background is used by Storytellers who want to play high-powered political games, not chronicles about newly formed cliques!) If captured, you’ll take your own life to avoid divulging secrets. If you fail to do this, other courtiers will either rescue you or take your life anyway. (Have a nice afterlife.) As an added bonus, you have the assistance of at least two masterminds. Unfortunately, there are always Instigators more powerful than you. Give the cliques who consult with you a lot of slack. You do not rule them. If, for a moment, you think you do, the backlash is going to get nasty.
The Dark Arts
The Shadow Court has developed Arts that reflect their violent, sinister and devious natures. The two most-commonly learned Dark Arts, Contempt and Delusion, are only available to members of the Shadow Court. This knowledge has been jealously guarded, and typically a fae cannot learn these abilities until they have been indoctrinated into the Shadow Court with a ritual involving the level five Contempt cantrip: Condemnation. Anyone can be recruited by the Shadow Court, but only the most deviant and useful stay with them long enough to learn these abilities.
Use this knowledge wisely. It’s taken 600 years to acquire it.
Agents of Winter
- Aedward of Glastonbury
- Black-Tongue Dooley
- Eileen MacNamara
- Etienne duBois
- Granny Olympia
- Kali and Siva
- King Jasper the Wicked
- Marie Laveau
- Sabrina Lennin-Corvald
- Wilmaron Greenlance