Overview EditJust a few blocks from Boston Commons is a section of the city dubbed "the Combat Zone." The buildings here stand in various states of disrepair. Car fumes, cigarette smoke, and the reek of unwashed bodies mingle against the bleak backdrop of a passing train. Homeless wander asking donations while pickpockets work the crowd.
To outsiders, this building is just another casualty of time and progress. It looks like an old factory but no one remembers when it was built or what it produced. The only feature that marks it as anything different is a marble bas-relief of a tree, two stories up on the wall facing the street. This marble tree stands over the very spot where the Liberty Tree was reputed to have stood two centuries ago... a tribute to United State history.
With the walls, though, Glamour runs free. The decrepit door on the side of the building has a remarkably new handle. Inside is a tavern reminiscent of the commonplace taverns of the 1800s. All Kithain are welcome in its walls; Seelie or Unseelie, Noble or Common, as long as they follow the rules of the establishment. It's a spot of welcome respite from the world's Banality.
There are two centers of focus in the tavern. First, the huge hearth that takes up half the back wall of the room. An intricate pattern is woven into the stone of the granite framework; sort of a Celtic knot with a light blue crystal at its center. It was created over a century ago by a grump nocker and if one traced the whole pattern, they would find it entirely composed of one, unbroken line. Huge iron bars reach up to hold the logs that produce the Balefire. It burns brightly, sparkling with different colors. According to legend the balefire has never dimmed since the tavern was opened except on one occasion during the Accordance War. The keystone on the hearth reads Caed Mille Failte (one hundred thousand welcomes), dated 1834.
Over the fireplace is a large mantle made of stone and travelers will find many treasures sprawled over it. A scroll bearing the signatures of all the winners of the Riddle Contest lies next to the first edition copy of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Caroll. In the center, a green dragon wraps its ceramic body around her treasure while pondering the mysteries of the opal in her claw. Beside it is a pewter hand holding a thin, silver chain adorned with a tear-shaped crystal pendant throwing sparkles about the room. If asked, patrons will swear the crystal holds the memories of thousands of people then direct you to John to tell you the story. A simple leather bag sits at the end of the mantle; its contents a mystery.
Next to the hearth is a large hickory chest containing a variety of relics from the past. The owner also stores in it items of amusement including wood-carving tools, multi-colored slinkys, a translucent marble or two, and a dice bag. An old mahogany box holds the chess figures and checkers for the corner table while a leather-coated box holds Mah Jong tiles.
The second focus is the large, circular table in the center of the room. This is the actual stump of the original Liberty Tree. In the freehold, the stump sparkles with Glamour and appears to be a smoothly finished table rising out of the floor. At times, it is said, the stump will call new Kithain to it, awakening their souls upon arrival. To the regulars, it's the symbol of the freehold.
Tapestries rumored to be woven from clouds, moonbeams, and pure Glamour hang on the walls. They depict various scenes from history including an image of the original Liberty Tree and an illustration of the battle that occurred in Boston in the Accordance War. If you watch them, the Glamour in them will seem to bring the scenes to life. Patrons will, at times, amuse themselves by watching the Accordance War replayed on the central tapestry. Many claim to see Margaret's husband die at the hands of the Duke's men.
A large oak bar takes up the wall on the right where the drinks are mixed and served. Three chairs are set aside for a group of eshu who make a yearly journey to trade stories with the regulars. An old grump nocker is always in his rocking chair by the fire, carving a piece of wood, and a story or song can always be heard coming from one of the patrons.
Revolutionary War Edit
In 1765, a large elm tree stood on the corner of Washington and Essex streets, known at the time as Hanover Square. Under its branches the leaders of the American Revolution met and discussed politics, current affairs, and, of course, war. In 1765, Colonel Barre gave a speech to the English Parliament calling these rebellious colonists the "Sons of Liberty." It was from the branches of this tree that the Sons hung an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the stamp master, on August 14, 1765, with a devil peering out from under a boot which represented Lord Brute, the prime minister who signed the Stamp Act. Lt. Governor Hutchinson ordered the militia to remove the effigy but it drew such large crowds that they feared to rouse the anger of the people and disobeyed. The Sons of Liberty took the effigy down that night and processed it in a funeral procession to the Town House where the government was discussing the affair and finally to Fort Hill where they burned it in full view of Oliver's house. After this event the tree became a sacred symbol of freedom for the colonists and the Sons of liberty determined to look after it and treat it with respect and reverence. They placed a plaque on the tree in 1766 reading "This tree was planted in 1646 and was pruned by the orders of the Sons of Liberty, Feb. 14 1766." On the eve of the renunciation of the Stamp Act in May of 1766, the tree was decorated and festivities were great.
In mid-December of 1773, the Sons summoned the consignees of the tea to the Liberty Tree to publicly state why they couldn't refuse the tea and return it to England. When they failed to appear, the Sons led a riot near the Town House. All this happened within days of the Boston Tea Party.
Of course, the Redcoats and Tories wanted to destroy this symbol and one August day in 1775, they marched to Hanover Square to destroy it. Amid "laughing, grinning, sweating, swearing, and foaming, with malice diabolical, they cut down the tree because it bore the name of liberty." And so the great tree fell, but not before it made its mark.
Birth of a Freehold Edit
After the war the site became an informal landmark. In 1830 the Liberty Tree Tavern was established and its walls enclosed the Liberty Tree stump. This Tavern drew Patrick Drey to Boston. He was too young to remember the Revolution but he had lost his father in the war. His eshu nature inspired him to wander the east coast on a quest to find his inner identity. He never felt quite comfortable around the other Kithain he met and after a few years of wandering he found himself drawn to Boston and to the tavern. At the first site of the stump, he knew that this place could become a freehold. and began seeking out other fae who shared his vision. Two years later he met the nocker Thurston Winters.
The two plotted to get resources to buy the tavern (where Patrick was now working) and then began circulating terrifying stories of the ghosts of the Sons of Liberty haunting the place. The tales were terrifying and the patrons stopped coming. The owner quickly relinquished control of the haunted tavern to Patrick and on Beltaine in the year 1834, the balefires began to glow in the Liberty Tree Tavern.
Thurston began to work on the hearth and it took him over five years to complete. The freehold "officially" opened, though, in 1839. From the very beginning Patrick and Thurston meant for the tavern to be open to all, no matter their Court, in memory of the tree. Too many fae had forgotten their nature and they wanted to remedy that. In 1841, Patrick renamed the tavern "The Fool's Gambit."
40 years of peace follow. The natural Glamour of the place made it appear old and run-down to mortal eyes. The few children who wished to investigate the ghost stories were quickly run out by Chicanery and cunning. The Civil War didn't affect the freehold directly, though many Kithain mourned the atrocious loss of American lives. In 1872 Patrick, growing too old to maintain the place, passed ownership on to a satyr named Daniel.
Fighting Banality Edit
With the advent of the industrial revolution, Daniel began to feel the cold of Banality coming close to the freehold. The entire block was transformed into a row of factories, all with abysmal working conditions. The fae came less frequently; trips to the city were too much for their already tender ties to Glamour and the Dreaming. Daniel feared the Mists, and worried Banality would triumph. So he initiated the yearly Riddle Contest.
He chose to hold the contest on the 4th of July in honor of the Liberty Tree and the Sons of Liberty. He set a large barrel in the corner of the tavern where the patrons could submit their riddles to share all year. He drew up the first scroll of names and in 1876, he judged the first Riddle Contest.
That first contest was mediocre compared to the festivity that surrounds the contest now. There were seven participants and 2 were eliminated in the first round. Only regulars attended that first event but Daniel persisted and within a few years the contest had gained a name for itself. Local kithain returned to the city to visit the freehold again, wanting to participate. The winner was soon dubbed the "Riddle Master" and was promised a warm seat at any time during the year. As the festival grew, even kithain from the wider world learned of it. Multitudes now travel to the tavern to try their wits against other of their kind and by the end of it, most feel light-hearted and refreshed.
The Resurgence Edit
The next 70 years went by fairly uneventfully. Then in 1969 a man calling himself Tymon walked into Boston and declared himself Duke of the city and the surrounding area. He called the commoners to relinquish their nomadic existence and serve him. The Gambit was being run by a handsome boggan named Brian Murphy and his wife Margaret. Angered by the demands, the two quickly became leaders among the commoners. The "Duke" rejected any suggestions from the boggan couple and the city was soon rife with chaos and bad feelings. Commoners attacked nobility and the nobles responded with swift and harsh justice.
Everyone, though, noble and common, was shocked when they learned that Brian had been struck down during the Night of Iron Knives. In a city that had always been ruled by commoners, the fae turned to the only one they could: the grieving widow, Margaret.
Margaret watched as her city was ravaged by war. She was determined not to let the Duke take control and when the others looked to her, she remembered the the spirit of those who had stood up against the nobility in their city years before. She organized a group she named The Sons of Liberty, after the original revolutionary war heroes, dedicating to ousting Tymon. She organized infantry and quickly became renowned among the commoners in the Accordance War for standing up to the perceived tyranny of Duke Tymon. His worst mistake was in demanding The Fool's Gambit be turned over to a baron of his own choosing.
News of High King David's rise to the throne had yet reached Boston. The schism there was growing to deadly proportions. Margaret and Tymon both plotted against the other. Margaret relied on information from a vampire named Elizabeth while Tymon relied on rumors. When David finally heard about the situation, he order both parties to pay him court at The Fool's Gambit. He issued a compromise. The freehold would stay under Margaret's care while Tymon would benevolently rule the city. Margaret was to assemble a group of commoners to advise the Duke who was ordered to listen closely to their suggestions. Both parties acquiesced only grudgingly.
To Today Edit
This uneasy alliance has lasted since but the last few years have seen an increase in tensions between the two parties, though no blood has been spilled... yet. Margaret still owns The Fool's Gambit and is still the leader of the Sons of Liberty. Duke Tymon has made it widely known that he wants the freehold and will go to great lengths to get it. Margaret and the commoners won a small victory recently, though, when the knight Michael Delshire decided to eave the court. His friend, John McKroan, introduced him to the accepting atmosphere of The Fool's Gambit and they both now assist in the fight to keep control of the freehold in the hands of the Commoners. Their knowledge of the court has helped the Sons of Liberty keep an even closer eye on Duke Tymon's activities.
Margaret still upholds the tradition of the annual Independence Day Festival and Riddle Contest and invites Kithain from the world over to participate.
The Riddle Contest Edit
Every 4th of July, while Boston is busy with its own celebrations, patrons of The Fool's Gambit are invited to compete in the annual riddle contest. The freehold is considered neutral ground on this day and noble and commoner alike are called to test their minds against each other in a battle of wits and repartee. Any kithain may participate, provided they follow the rules: no outside help; no cantrips or other types of Glamour. The participants are disqualified if it is discovered they have views the riddles prior to the celebration. A judge is selected beforehand and their word is law. No one may argue their decision. Above all the day is free from politics or fighting. Independence Day is viewed as a day of freedom for the kithain and is treated as such. Anyone who fails to leave their issues outside the door will end up there themselves.
All year, the barrel sits in the corner and the fae are encouraged to drop their best riddle, with the answer, into its depths. The Barrel is always full by the 4th of July with riddles from all over the world. On the 3rd, the judge removes all the riddles and sorts them by difficulty. The contest begins at noon on the 4th. Each contestant is asked a riddle by the judge. If they answer correctly they move on to the next round. Otherwise they are removed from the contest. The riddles get tougher each round until only two contestants are left.
At this point there is a break of one hour to collect themselves and then they come back and ask each other riddles until one of the players is stumped three times at which point the winner is named. A huge party ensues that usually lasts well into the next morning.
Often, as a side effect, all participants find themselves infused with a small amount of Glamour. The longer the contest goes the more connected everyone feels to the Dreaming. The winner signs their name to the scroll that's always on the mantle and is guaranteed a seat by the hearth at anytime over the following year. Many kithain participate with hopes of being named Riddle Master. Kerem has been the judge for the last few years. Kurt Thompkins has reigned as Riddle Master for the last few years as well.
- Margaret Murphy
- Michael Delshire
- John McKroan
- Kurt Thompkins
- Elizabeth Whitt
- Alyson Dameon