A Trod is a path or highway of the Dreaming.
Before the Shattering, trods connected freeholds together and to Arcadia and other points in the Dreaming like a giant web. Though they are fewer in number now, these magical ways still connect the Fae and provide a means of travel from one place to another. Few leading into the Dreaming functioned well during the Interregnum as most were shut by Banality as surely as the road to Arcadia and the few left were hard to find, almost impossible to open without the right rituals and timing, and extremely dangerous to use. And of course none of them led to Arcadia anymore. Anyone seeking that place ended up lost in the Deep Dreaming instead. Some Trods abruptly end in the Dreaming, holding great dangers for those who haven't traveled it for 600 years.
- See also Paths of Balor
Travel & Adventure
Trods may lead to a number of places. Most follow a path leading from one earthly location, through the Near Dreaming, to another earthly destination. Other trods end at specific locations within the Dreaming. The Dreaming is a place of constantly shifting time and location. After over 600 years of being severed from the Dreaming, most commoners are not adept at traveling through it. Few changelings live directly in the Dreaming, due to its hostility and restless nature. The risks of chimerical threats and the dangers of Bedlam cannot be overlooked. Those who leave the safety of the trod's Silver Path risk becoming lost forever in a constantly shifting wilderness, with only monstrous chimera for companionship.
Trods rarely lead directly to the place intended and never instantaneously. Travelers will end up having an adventure. The Dreaming is made up of stories, after all. The journey may be quick and easy but more likely it will be long, arduous, and challenging. The journey usually takes the same amount of time as real world travel at least, though magical means may shorten it. While on a Trod, a Changeling can practice their Arts freely and without fear of Banality as they travel entirely in the Near Dreaming. Brave or foolish fae may travel into the Far Dreaming to seek shortcuts. And sometimes the journey of what seems to take forever in the Dreaming takes only a few moments of real time.
Some trods aren't accessible all of the time. Some only open when a certain magical phrase is uttered, others only at certain times and seasons. Still others require a sacrifice of some kind or a riddle to be answered before allowing themselves to be used. Whatever conditions must be honored to open the trod, chances are more such puzzles and riddles will be required along the way as well. Distractions will pop up as well.
If Glamour is the life's blood of the fae, then trods are the arteries through which it flows. Trods are the fae's nearest connection to the Dreaming and Arcadia beyond. They are also power. The Sidhe realized this fact, during the Resurgence and acted quickly to claim the lion's share of the recently reopened trods, Those who control the trods wield great control over fae society. Troops and secret missives may be moved quickly and secretly through them in times of war, while they are ideal trade routes and vital connections to the Dreaming in times of peace. The Sidhe know more about trods than any other changeling kith. (There are some nonfae who know more than the Sidhe).
Some Sidhe lords and ladies have encouraged their subjects to create homesteads in the Dreaming along the Trods or where they end. These homes, markets, and workshops serve as places of Glamour, rendezvous points, and play lands. Other homesteads have sprung up with no relation to the nobility; the commoners who live there seeking to avoid the returned Sidhe, or there were always fae there who don't take kindly to the newcomers. The Dream-Craft cantrip Homestead is vital for those who wish to set up shop in the Dreaming.
A trod can come in many different forms. While many may parallel roads in the mundane world, others can ignore terrain all together; heading through the sky or floating over the sea. Some move through mountain mines or the deeps of crystal lakes. Wherever they go, once on them, the changeling is hidden from the mundane world and may not interact with it, being now totally in the Dreaming and subject to its rules and peculiarities.
Each trod also has a different feel. It can be something as tangible as chill in the air and winter all around or as untouchable as a song that hangs in the air. Trods can also manifest aspects of those who live along them or at the end of the trail. A trod that leads to a circus of Pooka may have landmarks that look like jokes or toys or may answer wrong guesses to riddles with pies in the face or maybe only lies can answer the questions. A path leading to a Troll fortress may require feats of strength and bravery and one that leads to a corby of Redcaps may require the worst possible eating contests.
- Land: Land trods may be anything from a wide superhighway to a narrow path along a precipice. They may pass through idyllic faerie towns, by literally burning deserts, or through forests of mists and moaning trees. A changeling may walk, ride, or drive along these trods; mode of travel is limited only by terrain.
- Water: These trods may be as small as a mountain stream or as vast as a thousand oceans. Due to the lack of recognizable landmarks, travelers on this type of trod must rely on charts and other navigational treasures to travel these watery paths safely.
- Sun: Sun trods are sky trods that are open only during the day. Only those changelings who can fly (even in a balloon) may travel these ethereal highways. Sun trods may appear as shafts of focused sunlight or as paths along sunlit clouds. A changeling traveling a sun trod must find a moon trod to continue their journey after dark,
- Moon: Moon trods are sky trods that are open only at night. Only those changelings who can fly may travel these lunar phantom trails. Moon trods may appear as dust motes dancing in shafts of pale moonlight or as paths along night-sky clouds.
- Cursed: Cursed trods have been corrupted by some means. Perhaps a powerful chimera, changeling brigand, or a wicked monarch has taken up residence beside it and kills all who travel it. Banality may block or sever some trods, trapping travelers win gray pitfalls where their Arts are of little use. These areas of the Dreaming are often home to feral chimera and other monstrosities. Any type of trod may become cursed.
- Chimerical: Chimerical trods are far too ethereal for material creatures such as the fae to travel, but chimera have little trouble using these Glamour-rich roads. Some arcane Arts may allow changelings entry to these alien trods. Such paths are extraordinarily dangerous, even to the most potent Kithain. The Silver Path does not extend into these trods.
- Nightmare: The Nightmare Realms fester in the Deep Dreaming like an insatiable cancer. Dark and twisted trods spiral from them, touching almost every other part of the Dreaming. Malignant chimera and even darker creatures travel these fearsome roads. Some Unseelie changelings use these trods on secret errands, but these paths are dangerous even to them. The Silver Path exists along some of these trods. Most believe the Tuatha de Danaan built the path there during their wars with the Fomorians. In recent decades, these trods have disgorged increasing numbers of malign chimera into the Near Dreaming and the mundane world.
The Silver Path
The Silver Path is the only reliable way to travel a trod. It is a guide and one is safe who remains on the path. One who leaves it is unlikely to reach their destination alive.
The Lore of the Road
The Nature of Trods
Here's the difference between trods and territories. Territories have names, addresses, and permanent allegiances; trods are vagabonds who are never around when you want them and never where to expect them to be. Oh, I've seen the so-called "transformation holds" that the stay-at-homes claim constantly shift shape and nature, but even these anomalies tend to stay in one place.
Trods are always on the move. That's the dream-meaning of the Road that lies in the middle of the Realm of Scene, halfway between the little places and the big ones. The Road is always in motion: between the little and big, between the specific and general, between the familiar and the strange.
You'll always be surprised by the open road. Otherwise, you're just walking, not really Wayfaring. Sound like a paradox? Good.
The Wayfarer's Escheat
See the article Wayfarer's Escheat
If you're a trodfarer, you're not only allowed to be crafty, it's almost a professional obligation. People expect you to show up where and when you're not expected. Your reputation depends on how constantly you can surprise your friends and enemies. With that in mind, start experimenting with all the ways you can play with trods, if you haven't already. For example:
The shape of the road tells you something about the shape of where it leads. Trods share in the realm affinities of the territories at their end and beginning. In fact, you could say that a trod is simply the process by which the affinities of the beginning place are transmuted into the affinities of the destination through dream-logic. However, the important thing to remember here is that the affinities of the destination territory are always visible (if hidden) in the very first steps of the trod that leads there.
Yes, this means that, with work and perception, you can determine the sort of place a trod will take you before you actually start down it. This ability is very handy when wandering down unfamiliar roads. Taking the wrong fork could lead you to an ogre nest or the lair of some marrow-eaters. Know what you are getting into before you start down any path!
There's nothing more unnatural than a locked door. Doors, by their very existence, imply passage, free travel, and no questions asked. Otherwise, they'd be walls, wouldn't they. Unfortunately, the Dreaming (excluding Arcadia) is an imperfect place, and there are individuals who would lock various trods to patrol and keep undesirable types from making a mess. You've done the riddle contests, played the chess games with empty suits of armor, and figured out the passwords and hedge mazes and all that other stuff. Maybe you've picked fights with the chimerical creatures, or maybe you've distracted them in some other way while you slipped past.
The most important thing to remember is a very simple truth: The guardians are all part of the Dreaming, which means that can belong to you as easily as the now belong to whomever dropped then on the road in the first place. If you can find a way to communicate with them, not as an adversary but as a sympathetic listener and possible friend, you may be able to win the over to your side of things. Once that's accomplished, it's easy for you to slip by them without going through all the time consuming password checks and challenges.
Or, if you make an especially close friend of the guardian, you can ask them to watch the road for you, even to keep your enemies from following you. It's OK when we drop guards and wards on the roads... it's usually to discourage or confuse pursuit, not to guard our pitiful little freeholder treasures.
How do you make friends with guardians? Dumb creatures always like food, and smarter ones (particularly the more intensely fae) tend to feel the same way about sugar. If there is any chance that the guardian can understand you, make an effort to be kind to it. Ask how it's feeling. Compliment it on whatever you think it might feel proud of. Above ll, understand that it is not your enemy, only a chimerical freehold dweller doing a job. Your enemy (if any) is the person trying to block your progress by dropping this poor thing or beast or person on the road.
Also, be aware that many guardians serve out of love. Most of these creatures are affiliated with decent, honorable freeholders who just happen to have enemies (which may or may not include you personally). Not only is it difficult to subvert this sort of guardian, but it is valid to question why you would want to be harassing the sort of freeholder anyway. If you encounter one of these loyal, deeply devoted guardians, it might be easier simply to explain yourself and wait for clearance from the freehold itself.
On the other hand, guardians who are unlucky enough to be affiliated with self-centered, mean-spirited freeholders tend to hate their duties. Such guardians are easily subverted. Many are enslaved and just as unhappy to be stuck on a trod as you are to see them there. In these cases, you might pick up a valuable ally for the road by befriending or freeing said pitiful creatures.
Most major trods fray slightly along their margins, resulting in a chaotic system of subpaths and meandering trails that loop around and connect back to the main trodway at other points. Learn how to recognize these trails and use them tactically to evade pursuit or slip around impassible blocks. Be careful, though. Most of these trails are (if briefly) not on the Silver Path, and should be explored only with great care (or desperation). Some have been known to fade out, becoming dead ends in the trackless Dreaming. Others connect back up to completely different trods, enabling either impressive escapes or ominous wandering about, lost in the Dream.
With true trod mastery, it is possible to carve new associational paths through the Dreaming. Such expertise requires great sacrifices and questing, though, and is very dangerous. If you need to know how to make a new trod, odds are you are in trouble anyway, so I'm not going to make your trouble worse. Besides, there's really no rigid method. You simply tie yourself to something stable (like a freehold), step onto a trod, and then step off the path into the Dreaming itself. Then defeat all obstacles until you get where you're going. Easy, right?
Likewise, by attacking the Silver Path itself, it is possible to snap a trod and render it dead, useless for safe travel. The trod then proceeds, gradually, to trophy from the breakage point, rotting away as it reverts to primeval Dreamstuff.
Needless to say, I don't look too kindly on this sort of thing. If you ever do it, you'd better have a darn good reason. The last time it was done with any seriousness was during the Reverse Sycamore Walking, when the European fae erased the nunnehi "sideways trods" five hundred years ago. It's not something they're proud of.
Life on the Crossroad
Some people live on the trods. Not to say that everyone on the road is like the settled territory dwellers, living in their houses and staying in one place. They're still vagabonds. Besides, it wouldn't exactly be the road then... it's be tame territory.
Indeed, some trodfarers spend their vagabond lives wandering up one trod and down another, like childlings tracing the corners of a pane of stained glass. Most of these wanderers, oddly enough, are eshu. This is their true home, here in the changeable landscape under the changeable sky. They were born to take the messages from one road to another, to look in all directions with the same enthusiasm, to own only what they love enough to carry on their backs.
Of course, trodfarers have their markets and trodside inns, open to any wanderer, no matter where they come from or who they are. There's a hospitality on the road that, to some extent, has been lost in the tame territories. They do have their cads and bandits, but they're easy enough to avoid, when you truly know the road, and they're rarely wicked enough to abuse their fellow vagabonds. Most of their crimes are committed against hapless freeholder tourists, who tend to deserve what they get.
The Arcadian Roads
There are few absolute statements that are always true in the Dreaming. One of the most absolute of them is this: If it's still possible to reach, no one remembers how. The oldest among the changelings remember where the Arcadian roads once lay, but they are either sealed in various impenetrable ways or else simply no longer exists. They are truly exiled.
Still, the fae are nothing if not curious people, and they have made their own studies of the locks and seals barring their way back down the Arcadian trods. The most common of them is probably the one called the "Arcadian Knot," where the Silver Path curves back in on itself to form a region of increasingly elaborate knotwork. The Cat in the Cradle says that the Knot is the same pattern as both the Seal of Arcadia and the Labyrinth of Irrgarten, but the information, while fascinating, isn't terribly useful. The crucial thing about the Knot is that it tangles any and all trods that lead into it, thus confusing anyone who tries to walk the trods into the Knot and leading the traveler to unexpected destinations.
Most of the Arcadian roads sealed by the Knot are fresher ones that saw the most casual traffic, even in the pre-Shattering days. The older, crumblier trods often still have their original guardian beasts barring the way, just as they did when such trods actually led somewhere. Now, though, the guardians never respond to any of the old trials or riddle-tests or even violence. Where once they waited for wayfarers to perform the correct procedure or give the right response, they now ignore travelers completely. They are blind and deaf to everything they do, as if they had been turned to stone.
The annoying thing is that they bar trod passage just as effectively, now that they're immobile. There's no getting around them without loosing the Path, which means disaster, or at least distraction, in the forward wilds of the Dreaming. Some trodfarers have reported other variations on the Arcadian seal, including such things as riddle-locks with no answer, uncrossable chasms, and the rather standard walls of impassable substance (eternal fire, poisoned thorns, raven's teeth). For some, though, the saddest of all the reminders that Arcadia is gone is all the empty spaces in the Dreaming through which the roads that vanished used to run. When the Arcadian trods withdrew from the Dreaming, they left vacant holes in the world. If you look, you can still see the holes.