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Gneiss, Cedar, & Katydid: Bargains with the Shadow

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  • Gneiss, Cedar, & Katydid: Bargains with the Shadow

    It was a week after Marianne went missing that we finally pieced together all the clues: her visits to the village priest, the strange books we found in her room which we realized were the cause of her asking to borrow money from each of us, the times we would find her staring out into the nothingness of a distant treeline, speaking quietly to no one, or so we thought. In time, we managed to follow her trail into the forests of Ardennes, deep and wild places lost or still untouched by mankind. It was there that we found the shrine to Notre Dame du Bois, a small but colorful thing adorned with offerings of flowers and glass, its centerpiece a statuette of the Blessed Virgin painted to reflect the surrounding sylvan hues. It was there that we found Marianne, kneeling before her shrine, and when she turned to face us, her motley-mates, tears of blood seeped from her eyes and ran down her cheeks, contrasting sharply with both the pearly alabaster of her skin and her broad, beatific smile. “My dear friends,” she said, “the Chasseurs cannot find me when I am in my ecstasy.” The boughs of pine above our heads began to rustle.

    Mortals aren’t the only beings into which the Lost can enter Bargains in order to hide themselves from their former Keepers. Some changelings find stranger paths to wander, and in the vast empty beauty of the desert or beneath the floorboards of a supposedly haunted house, ephemeral creatures glide and whisper to those willing to listen.

    The Autumn Court keeps a number of records of Bargains with the spirit world in its Ashen Archives, eager as it is to seek out all manner of occult power to keep the Strangers at bay. Changelings look to the Shadow for any number of reasons: previous dealings with the mortal world have gone poorly due to ingrained trauma or too much lost time; most spirits lack the sort of individuality necessary to break a promise on a whim; only a vanishingly few Huntsmen have any experience with the Shadow; what the denizens of the Hisil can provide in return for symbolic service is so much more useful than a mere pie on the windowsill or handful of cash. Darklings, with their penchant for mystery, often discover the occult lore necessary to truck with spirits by seemingly pure accident, while Beasts, with their affinity for places where the wall between worlds tends to be at its thinnest, might find allies of convenience and even sympathy in the Shadow’s feral courts and broods. Other changelings, in a turning of the tables, discover that a particular spirit has been secretly watching them for days, weeks, even months, and only now has chosen to make its presence known to the Lost, willingly proposing a binding to the Wyrd.

    And what is it that spirits require? The perpetuation of Resonance tends to be high on the bill, with Lost serving as shamans, shrine maidens, and hierophants to their ephemeral allies, tending to shrines that symbolically supplement a spirit’s power, ensuring the propagation of a certain species of plant within a region, breaking all the lights on a bike trail at night, performing a song that inspires a particular emotion. Some only want a willing body they can ride from time to time, in exchange for the assurance that no harm will come to pass to the possessed changeling or her loved ones. In the weird politics of the Shadow, having a fairy servant can be a useful bargaining chip, especially as their minds are less prone to breaking than those of mortal supplicants, their demands more modest overall.

    Bargaining with the spirit world comes with its own perils, of course. The beautiful madness of Arcadia hardly prepares a changeling for the primal madness of the Hisil. Spirit nobles can harbor aspirations of grandeur to rival the Gentry, and the Lost might find themselves used as pawns in a game far beyond even their ken. The Resonance a changeling fosters in her Bargain draws an ever greater number of spirits to her, each with their own hungers and demands. A cunning sorcerer might exploit a spirit’s Ban to force it to break its pledge and leave the changeling in the lurch, or the numinous power she can now evoke draws the attention of other creatures of the night, and soon it’s not just the Wild Hunt the changeling has to fear.

    Systems

    A changeling that Bargains with a spirit gains the Obliged Condition as normal, though with several changes and stipulations:
    • At the place where the changeling performs her duties for the spirit in the Flesh or anywhere in the Shadow, the changeling can hide herself, as normal. However, in doing so, the Lost disguises herself as a spiritual being; any supernatural ability that detects spirits registers her as such. Other spirits treat her as one of their own, with their perception of what kind of spirit she is colored by Seeming, Kith, and Mantle. A werewolf’s senses pick up on the changeling’s spiritual veil, but only a deluded or naïve Uratha would mistake her for a native of the Shadow.
    • For the duration of the obligation, the changeling gains a Resonant Condition appropriate for the spirit. This Resonance manifests itself in the changeling’s Mantle (or Mien if she has none).
    • The spirit may, if it wishes, grant the changeling a name in the First Tongue relating to her nature. Any magic relying on true names to function (including the powers of the Gentry) must include this appellation. The changeling may possess only one such Shadow-name at a time, even if she holds Bargains with multiple spirits.
    • The changeling can always perceive the spirit with which she has Bargained in Twilight. When suffering at least one point of mild Clarity damage, she can perceive any unmanifested spirit in Twilight, and while suffering at least one point of severe Clarity damage, she can physically interact with the same.
    • A mage who casts Masking the False Fae on a spirit in a Bargain automatically increases the primary spell factor by one step (see Dark Eras 2, pg. 376).
    • A Bargain with a magath adds one die to any Clarity damage roll the changeling suffers. A Bargain with an idigam adds two dice.
    In return, the spirit in the Bargain gains the following benefits:
    • Once per week, so long as the changeling keeps up in her duties, the spirit automatically gains Essence equal to half the Obliged changeling’s Wyrd (rounded up). The spirit can harvest additional Essence daily from the changeling’s Resonant Condition.
    • Once per chapter, the spirit can use one of its Influences or Numina to assist the changeling at no cost.
    • The spirit can Fetter itself to the changeling at no cost, even if it does not normally possess this Manifestation. Wise Lost tend to stipulate in the Bargain that this is as far as any sort of merger can go. The changeling can Unfetter the spirit by spending a point of Glamour.
    • The spirit can see through the Mask of its Obliged changeling, as well as that of any other Lost with whom she has sworn an Oath.
    • A spirit that breaks its part of the Bargain is immediately banished back to the Shadow and loses the changeling’s Wyrd in Essence. At the end of any scene, a Formless idigam can choose to forsake its pledge with no retribution from the Wyrd.
    NB that these systems pertain only to Bargains made with spirits of Rank 5 or lower. For Rank 6+ entities, refer to Oak, Ash, & Thorn.
    Last edited by espritdecalmar; 09-18-2020, 10:29 PM.

  • #2
    *The Forest of Teeth takes notice*


    Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
    The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
    Feminine pronouns, please.

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    • #3
      Yep, These look neat. I'm gonna borrow 'em.
      Thanks


      Thoughts ripple out, birthing others

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