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CtL: Water Under the Bridge (2e Playtest AP)

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  • Satchel
    The Lamplighter's Association it is, then. The next vote will be after the conclusion of The Events of April 2nd and will be over what element of the Wind Court to cover between Chapter 7 and Chapter 8.

    Due to the wide variance in temporal origins among the motley, the preludes aren't exactly uniform in the story beats they hit. That being said, each of them covers about three scenes, including at least one in Arcadia and one on Earth post-escape.

    Prelude 01: The Maker of Fearful Noise (A Brief History of Mister Jonathan Holt)

    In headaches and in worry / Vaguely life leaks away, / And Time will have his fancy / To-morrow or to-day.

    Johan’s story opens on the initial meeting with his Keepers in the Grand Estate — a Huntsman of eldritch flame pulled him here in the chaos of a room explosion and he feels a little concussed. The Lady of Dread and Fire argues with the voice that emanates from the Annex of Echoing Clockwork, then hands the watchmaker’s son over with visible frustration.

    Johan asks the Annex what’s going on and it gives him the basics of the job description — he’s here to keep the contents of the Timekeeping Wing working, which should be substantially less onerous than what the Lady of the Estate would’ve had him doing — along with a warning to stay out of the Fae noble’s way when She stops by.

    Johan gets his bearings enough to essentially piece together that he’s in a place that is not strictly real, then asks why a teenaged apprentice is preferable to his father or his grandfather. He gets the twofold answer of “it has to be you and there wouldn’t be time to get anyone else anyway,” and then a clock right next to him starts to break down.

    Johan expresses concern that he’ll be missed back home. The Annex simply tells him that “arrangements have been made” and sets him to work.

    Time passes. An escape attempt almost succeeds.

    Johan is among the group of recaptured servants of the Estate that stand before the Lady of Dread and Fire. The gathering is soon broken up as Her hunters take his fellows off to be more thoroughly broken; one of the captives exchanges a look with him as the Keeper Herself takes Johan, aiming to rub the reclamation in her cohabiting enemy’s lack-of-a-face.

    The threshold of the Annex suddenly becomes very far away and the Lady engages in questioning to pass the time. Johan, who needs to buy all the time that he can, indulges her:

    “What possessed you to run away?”

    “I am a maker, Lady, not a repairman.”

    “Oh? Do you mean to acknowledge your proper place as a maker of fearful noise?”

    At this point, the Lady abandons the prospect of gloating to Her Peer and hauls the Wizened into a cramped space the size of a boiler room, wrought in lead and eldritch flame — a torture chamber, essentially.

    A fire roars beneath a metal bed with a drainage channel, and a pile of decidedly unfriendly-looking tools lies next to the slab, mixed in with a lot of more familiar implements. The Lady summons a pair of Her servants, who set about preparing the space as Johan plays the timeslayer for a little longer, counting the seconds from the hot seat.

    Johan suggests there are more appropriate people for the task of fearmongering and tries to appeal his utility as a clockmaker. This is a mistake.

    The Lady of the Estate had the grandson of a Great Fire survivor brought to Her because she had need of a new blunderbuss. She asks Johan if he’s ever frightened anyone before; he says he hasn’t and wouldn’t be any good at it. This gets a dead laugh and a remark on self-knowledge among the fae out of the servant stoking the flames, who promptly loses an ear.

    The Lady says that a premonition such as the one she had of her fearsome noisemaker’s resonance with terror does much to persuade her that Johan is mistaken, and he realizes that the other servant who his Keeper dismissed left the room with most of the tools they were carrying.

    The temperature is rising. The instruments that form Johan’s Maker’s mien are starting to melt as he makes another appeal for his input on the resulting aesthetics, for which the Lady laughs in his face, and then the other servant loses an eye for pointing out the missing tools to his Keeper before being sent off to get their fellow hunter.

    The Annex of Echoing Clockwork laughs, and the Lady of Dread and Fire sets about the ruination of Its handiwork by carving runes of molten metal into Her Estate’s former logistics technician. Johan recalls a fragment of information about the Others’ abilities of deconstruction and hopes that this process is not lethally disastrous.

    Cut to black. The backup plan goes off with few enough hitches for the newly-branded Ifrit to get out.

    Time passes. A lot of time passes — Johan reemerges in Chicago circa 2011 and is drafted into the Court of Fire for a time, gaining ample experience in breaking both locks and legs before he reacquires his grandfather’s shop, has a chance encounter with Caulfield the one-time Crown Princess, and jumps ship to the Iron Bell amid a general mess of unmet expectations.

    Johan does desk work during the idle hours of early dinnertime when the entry bell rings. Floodlight Jack and Yawn the lizard-man walk in, the former having paid substantially more attention to the look of the thing as far as not being there for a shakedown.

    Yawn says he’s got a job for Johan, bulls through his lack of scheduled appointment, and makes a not-so-veiled request for the Maker to mess with the lighting at a local pub.

    Jack follows this up, though with little enthusiasm, by name-dropping Terri as the next person they’d ask for this — the implication being that Johan can either go along with the demand or throw his mentor under the bus if he doesn’t feel like trying his luck in a quick-draw against a clearly armed Coldscale.

    To Jack’s exasperation, Johan tries to refuse through the medium of the pretense — he’s a watchmaker, not an electrician, side-job fixing phones notwithstanding — and Yawn asks an uncharacteristic and likely-rehearsed mythology question:

    “Do you know what an ouroboros is?”

    Johan knows what an ouroboros is.

    “And, remind me: You’re Wind Court, right? Pride-eaters and all?”

    Johan quietly resolves to cut out the vectors through which he keeps getting tagged to assist with shady jobs by former Courtmates, then agrees, reluctantly, to head right over to the pub.

    Yawn seems genuinely happy at this state of affairs and offers to buy Johan a drink (after the job is done, once Jack reminds him that messing with electricity while drunk is inadvisable), and the three of them leave the shop.

    Jack promises not to tell Caulfield about her ward’s hesitance in diverting trouble from her door and advises Johan to either ask her for help in staving off repeat visits from lesser Red Courtiers or get professional aid from the local marketing firm in adjusting the image he projects within the freehold.

    Johan gets the feeling it’s going to be a long night.

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  • Zooroos
    Lamplighters, please

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  • reseru
    The Lamplighters

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  • Satchel
    And thus ends The Events of April 1st in the game. The events of the following Sunday are something of a doozy, comprising four chapters altogether and leaning on elements introduced in the preludes, so what follows is a pre-arranged list for a bit.

    We're moving from Chapter 3 to Johan's Prelude and Milton's Prelude, leading into The Events of April 2nd (Chapters 4 and 5), followed by Danica's Prelude and Sparvayne's Prelude, which should help set up The Events of April 3rd (Chapters 6 through 9).

    Meanwhile, the next vote is for what to cover between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7: Do you want more details on The Marketing Firm of Razor and Newcomb or The Lamplighter's Association?

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  • Satchel
    [Previous Chapter (2)]

    Chapter 3: A Lot to Learn

    We opened on last session's cliffhanger. Johan, sensing that he didn't have much choice in the matter and remembering that he was under oath to help Danica out for the night, signed on with the motley.

    Some token attempts at getting the group to sort out first orders of business, pecking orders, etc, were made before Miss Warning advised them to enjoy the rest of the annual Fair while they have the opportunity and incidentally check out the wares on her lantern cart.

    Fairy lights can ostensibly do a lot of things, but the first demonstration was the Will-o'-Way, which was a little ball of cold green fire in a silver box that drifts directly toward the nearest Hedge gate.

    Milton abstained because Vector had another purchase on his mind.

    Sparvayne followed Milton.

    Johan was a stingy bastard and wanted to window-shop and check his budget before he committed.

    Dani had been trying to leave for a bit to check out other stuff in the first place.

    And I learned a valuable lesson about opening a game in a mercantile venue.

    We returned to the violet-mannequin's mat, where a grisly-looking blender and a threadbare bellhop's uniform caught the eye most out of all the other assorted junk left for sale. Milton's near-featureless mask seemed to prompt the shopkeeper to beckon him over, whereupon Spar demanded to know about a random item and got a demonstration of the Screaming Blender as a commentary on how much of the goods was pretty much exactly as it seemed.

    Milton used Inanimate Communion on the bellhop uniform and determined two things. Firstly, it was a Shiftingthread Shirt, which was basically a multitool if all the tools you could ever need were mundane worker's uniforms. Secondly, it had last been used in a dark and slightly-flooded tunnel by a man with wriggling worms for skin.

    Milton asked how much for the spooky magic jacket and got himself a quest prompt.

    The vendor took one of the violets from its head and asked wordlessly that it be placed at certain point in Chicago, chiefly the Pillar of Fire sculpture in front of the Fire Academy. Milton's secondhand Market Sense told him it was a fair shake.

    After a comical misunderstanding which shall not be described here, the Clerk voluntarily got his pledge to complete the task Sealed and the three children he's oathbound to help tried their damnedest to stop snickering at him.

    Spar expressed a desire to find some goblin fruits, which Dani knew to be pretty easy to come by in a market setting, and the motley started heading in a direction following her lead, beginning the trip with a minor social faux pas.

    Then everything got uncomfortable.

    Dani explained the Fairest's error to him and it turned out Spar did not understand what a spouse was. In a fashion that lead directly into a headlock.

    After Dani stomped off, it was left to the gentlemen from the Wind Court to give technically-complementary answers and follow-up questions.

    Spar put on a brave face before confiding his stark and utter terror to Milton and prompting another round of technically-complementary explanations of the notions of marriage.

    The bachelors Johnson and Holt were nearly spared the agonies of having to explain love to an innocent houseplant by Danica's call to hurry along from up ahead when old-hand Johan had it impressed upon him just how fresh half the motley was just in time for the Ogre to hear about Spar's situation and feel bad.

    While this was going on, Spar fought off the mental breakdown prompted by unwittingly quoting Haddaway lyrics and picked up Acuity for the next week (It was Milton's fault).

    Johan got an abbreviated timetable of how long everyone had been back (about a month for Dani and Spar, a little over a year for Milton) and the motley's walking got them to one of the centerpieces of the Fool's Fair.

    One awkward silence later, they came across that perennial favorite Fair game, Chicago Roulette.

    (There wasn’t a lot to say about the game; it was gambling with goblin market stakes on a giant roulette wheel.)

    The time topside was announced to be half past eleven by a barker in a blue parka. Spar checked his understanding of the concept of roulette while Milton checked out his new duds.

    Old Johnny Boomstick figured he’d see if the winds of chance would care to change for him after the night’s preceding shenanigans. Danica advised him not to blow the entirety of the Fair “cash” they’d gotten from Ragpenny, since she had her eye on some stuff, and he agreed to limit his bets to the disposable assets of the bunch.

    Danica checked the stars to discern whether using magic to affect the outcome of the spin was against the rules (it wasn’t, and most participants knew that). Milton more thoroughly checked out his new duds were as stylish as he’d hoped (they were, if croupier’s outfits counted).

    And then a harebrained scheme was concocted.

    The plan was that Milton and Sparvayne would create a distraction, Danica and Johan would essentially throw their relevant Contracts at the wheel, and there was very definitely no short-term kidnapping involved at any step in this process (they all agreed).

    To save the dear reader some suspense, the conclusion of that huddle was immediately followed by a jump-cut to two hours later (We will ideally never learn the full extent of the shenanigans that transpired).

    Whatever it was, it earned everyone in the motley a two-dot chunk of Cash equipment and a quiet suggestion from MacDougall to figure out what they were going to do with themselves going forward.

    Leery Thorn-Piper tried and failed to get Milton to explain what happened behind the jump-cut while some of the rowdier Fire Courtiers set about dismantling the remains of the Fair around them.
    Last edited by Satchel; 10-09-2016, 08:23 PM.

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  • Satchel
    And here we have a little peek at one of the many Weird Things About Chicago:

    Freehold Fun Facts #2: The City Gray

    The City White hath fled the earth,
    But where the azure waters lie,
    A nobler city hath its birth,
    The City Gray that ne'er shall die.
    — University of Chicago Alma Mater

    Deep within the fae borderlands of Chicago, through miles of dream-twisted overgrowth, the broken roots of the city's history scrabble across the surface of the psychoactive landscape.

    It could be that the scorched fragments of nineteenth-century Chicago that litter the Underwood have been there since before the city first burned down. Stranger things have happened, after all, and the Wyrd is hardly averse to prophetic displays.

    As it stands, the Hollows and Hedge-towns strewn haphazardly throughout the territories of the freehold have only been a known phenomenon since its founding. Few of these fae estates are uninhabited, and fewer still house things less threatening than a clutch of territorial Hedge-beasts.

    Traditionally, freeholders lacking better Earthly prospects look to the practice of finding and claiming a piece of the ruins as a ready excuse to disappear for a few weeks. The Wind Court’s adversarial relation to the Hedge means the practice readily serves to gain renown among the Thorns, and a substantial bloc of the Fire Court has devoted their time to binding the properties into a secure nexus of transportation and communication.

    For those seeking to lose pursuers of a careful or halfhearted nature, the Hedge around the ashen buildings is substantially treacherous. Heat waves and cyclones and torrential rains plague most paths between the disparate portions of the City Gray, and the creatures that nest in such Hollows either have the means to flee through these elements or defend their homes to the last breath.
    Last edited by Satchel; 09-11-2016, 01:56 AM.

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  • ArcaneArts
    In case we have people reading this, spoilers on what's happenng:

    Egos have been damaged.

    Buildings don't usually appear like that.

    How do people just end up on the roof like that?

    And, oh, by the way, conspiracy theories that may shatter everything we know.

    So, you know. The usual.

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  • ArcaneArts
    I was certainly missing from this one. And yeah, the character dynamics really start playing in the last few sessions.

    And yes, if Satchel tell you about cats, it's a lie. That's in the rules-he always lies about cats. Not like me, where in I will always tell you the truth about cats, particularly around Session 6. And they happened. Oh yes. They happened.

    We keep Okami on the side to stab people with tricky questions about cats. And stabbing people with tricky questions in general.

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  • Intrepid Vector
    I can't remember if that was one of the sessions where I was in some kind of flu fugue, which is less conducive for Changeling RP than you'd imagine.

    These sessions were fun enough, but I'm excited for you all to see what came later. Lots more fun character interaction and nonsense, as we found our groove and started bouncing off each other.

    If Satchel starts telling you stories about cats somewhere around Session 6, everything he tells you is almost assuredly a lie. Satchel is a trickster spirit and not to be trusted.

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  • Satchel
    [Previous Chapter (1)]

    Chapter 2: Double-Dealing in the Second City

    We picked up this session with Johan, checking out the Fool's Fair closer to the middle of the grounds after the crowds had thinned a bit more. Most of the inner spaces were taken up by goblin storytellers and Wind Court musicians and similar sorts of raucous entertainment; a four-headed crow traded blows with Yawn, a Coldscale Johan had an altercation with some weeks prior, in a little dueling arena.

    There were fewer shops in that part of the Fair, but most of them had sold a good chunk of their merchandise. Johan ignored the little red lantern cart, which was closed, in favor of looking at the old toys and puzzles being sold by a plastic mannequin bedecked in violets; joining him in this activity was Lazlo, still masked.

    The two Blue Courtiers made conversation and introduced themselves; Lazlo was looking for gifts to trade in the coming year and got caught up in reminiscing about his kid. Johan admitted that he didn't expect as much time to have gone by as actually did while he was in Faerie, then got an increasing sense that he was being watched.

    It was right around this time that Johan's Hedge-banished neighbor Floodlight Jack showed up, wearing a crescent-moon mask and very curious about his conversation partner. Seeing as the last time Jack and Johnny met the former was helping extort the latter into getting Yawn a snack, it can hardly be termed a surprise that Mister Holt was a little terse with his introductions.

    There was a uncomfortable silence, broken primarily by a short exchange with the shopkeeper mannequin, and then Jack says he's sure he recognizes Lazlo from somewhere and left with a cryptic comment about debt that caused Blue-Blood to blue-screen for a minute.

    Johan spotted the signs of something wearing on Lazlo and offered his sympathies for having to deal with whatever nebulous threat Jack was implying. Lazlo brushed it off and suggested he needed to sit down for a bit, which Johan took as his cue to help the old man get out of the thick of the Fair. Yawn chopped off another one of the Hedge-crow's heads, to the spectators' enthusiasm and Johnny's general disdain.

    At this point, we hopped back to the Lost Children tent to check in with Dani, Spar, and Milton, who had taken their seats for an audience with the Chief Lamplighter and the talking rat, who introduced itself as Leery Thorn-Piper (of the Chicago Thorn-Pipers) before deferring to Kenneth, who in turn deferred to one of the other Fire Courtiers in attendance. Having been in the freehold for significantly longer than either of the kids, Milton was equipped to recognize that their red-ribboned expositor was his fellow Clerk Patricia Warning, who he had occasionally run into at work or on the train.

    Warning gave the three changelings the rundown. In short, the city's scheduled demolition of the former Children's Memorial Hospital campus and its subsequent redevelopment were an issue for several families of Hedge-rats living in Hollows attached to those buildings; given Chicago had already established multiple safeguards against mundane rats fleeing the site into the surrounding area and the Hedge-rats' families include their children, the Thorn-Pipers et al needed to relocate in a more organized fashion.

    Unfortunately for the rats, the Underwood freehold is neither particularly safe nor especially hospitable outside the context of a deal or similar engagement; therefore, because the characters were (not to put too fine a point on it) fresh and/or nonthreatening, they were tapped to serve as a go-between to represent the Leery and co.'s interests until such time as they managed to relocate.

    Milton and Dani asked a couple of clarifying questions — namely, what the task entails and why it matters. Patricia specifies that the characters will essentially have to find or make a suitable living space for the rats in the Hedge, as well as a doorway to an acceptable part of Chicago. To MacDougall's exasperation and Leery's terror, part of the countermeasures the group would have to deal with included sponsored colonies of feral cats in the area around the hospital.

    Most notably, the reason this matter was even on the table was that the Hedge-rats were all natural dream-walkers; given the nature of the city'd Bulwark, it would be a tremendous waste of a potential asset at best to not do something about that kind of resource being jeopardized. That was, in fact, part of the reason the characters were picked rather than somebody more established; few members of the Underwood nobility have reason not to wring as much benefit out of the Thorn-Pipers and their kin as possible for as little investment as they can afford.

    Sparvayne chimed in with a salient question about their deadline; the Clerk noted with some satisfaction that thanks to multiple standing lawsuits the demolition would almost certainly not be done on time, controversial as it was, but also that the characters would be expected to have made clear progress by the fifteenth of April, two weeks from the current day.

    Leery was acknowledged as the main contact with the families and Miss Warning noted that the political complications surrounding the case necessitated something of a legal boon; to that end, the characters were asked to form a motley using an oath formulated to make a collective entity recognized by freehold law (and the Wyrd) for the purposes of that job and any subsequent work.

    Sparvayne, fae-struck fish-out-of-water that he was, jumped right in and then asked what a motley was. Milton and Danica were less gung-ho, but both opted in with only a little time spent on contemplation.

    Leery was overjoyed. Leery took up a new seat on Milton's knee. Milton had been trying to sit as far from the talking rat as possible for the entirety of the discussion up to that point.

    He succeeded the subsequent Composure + Politics roll to keep his cool, but the prospect of its failure has been filed away for dream fodder and/or apocalyptic AU fanfiction.

    Now that the motley was actually a motley, Warning went through a short list of some of the things they'd need to keep in mind.

    First, any action the freehold took to help relocate the rats had to go through the motley; there was too much bad blood between some Court nobles and the families to trust their independent activity as being in the appropriate parties' interest.

    Second, the fact of their task involving an old hospital and its planned replacement venues, combined with the interconnected nature of the freehold and mortal society (and individual members of both in particular), made it unlikely that the motley would get through the job without negotiating with other changelings in some way.

    Lastly, getting a new Hollow all but necessitated exploring the local Hedge; given how the Crowns changed hands in the Underwood, it was important that the motley take care when dealing with hobgoblins and Hedgebeasts while on the job.

    Milton made some notes and posited that the motley would have a progress report ready by the middle of the week.

    Then Lazlo showed up at the entrance to the tent with Johan behind him; MacDougall didn't seem surprised by this development.

    Milton and Spar said hi. Spar mentioned that he'd joined a motley and introduced Dani, who was pretty clearly worried about the fact that her other oathbound compatriot was standing outside.

    Lazlo took this opportunity and Patricia's offer of a chair to ditch his mask, have that sit-down he was going for, and demand an explanation; Dani asked the Clerk to bring Johan inside to confer.

    Milton did the extreme Cliff's Notes explanation of what their job was. "What about the motley thing?" Lazlo asked, and that prompted Spar to repeat his earlier question to his mentor.

    The Treasurer's explanation including the phrase "irrevocable binding of fates" kind of underlined how big a thing this was. MacDougall got not-asked why this was necessary and Milton inadvertently framed the lead-up to the oath very undiplomatically. Two of the Fire Courtiers on standby clarified in a way that very visibly did not improve the Darkling's mood (as he made atmospherically evident), and then Dani of all people de-escalated the situation in the process of trying to catch Johnny up.

    The matter of trust and the fact that the oath's wording was in print (they read it off of prepared cards) seemed to manage the feat of calming Lazlo down a bit. He asked the Chief Lamplighter why his ward was involved in the plan without consulting him; Kenneth's response was that Lazlo was not exactly impartial when it came to MacDougall's involvement and that the decision was made by somebody else besides.

    It was around this time that MacDougall shooed the motley out of the tent to discuss "a private matter" with Lazlo, directed them to the red cart Johan saw earlier, which turned out to belong to Miss Warning, and implored Danica to untangle her standing oaths while the proverbial iron was hot.

    Proper introductions were made among the motley-plus-Johan, Danica's pledgecrafting issue was poked at, and the group made their way over to Pat's Lantern Shop, where Danica dragged Johan over to ask the Clerk if there was going to be a problem with her being in an oathbound alliance with one character while in a motley with two others.

    Milton kind of froze as Warning revealed Leery's presence on his shoulder in the course of asking him to go check if Ragpenny would be alright with, in essence, folding Johan into the motley. Johan did a double-take at the prospect of being tricked into yet more Courtly entanglement, and Warning gave him the hard sell by reminding him that having people who are supernaturally obligated to help you out can only really constitute a good thing when your livelihood depends on an old-timey watch shop in a part of town frequented by the likes of Yawn the Lizardman.

    Leery came back with Ragpenny's okay and we ended the session on Johan getting the motley offer reiterated to him.

    [Next Chapter (3)]
    Last edited by Satchel; 10-09-2016, 08:21 PM.

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  • ZealousChristian24
    I'm always up for Fun Facts!

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  • Satchel
    I feel as though this week's session marks some sort of karmic rebound from the last.

    Sorry for the slow going on transcription, folks; still have a lot of plates I need to keep spinning and this one has a fairly forgiving set of obligations, temporally speaking. Will try to get Chapter 2 up by the weekend.

    After that, though, should the next between-chapter tidbit be Sparvayne's Prelude or Freehold Fun Facts #2: the City Gray?

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  • Satchel
    Some supplementary setting information before we proceed:

    Freehold Fun Facts #1: The Bulwark of Hoyle and Kerosene

    "Chicago has been called the “windy” city, the term being used metaphorically to make out that Chicagoans were braggarts. The city is losing this reputation, for the reason that as people got used to it they found most of her claims to be backed up by facts. As usual, people go to extremes in this thing also, and one can tell a stranger almost anything about Chicago today and feel that he believes it implicitly."
    — Freeborn County Standard, 20 Nov 1892.

    The ritual that safeguards the changelings of the Underwood against the Fae dates back over a century, and draws on one of the principle tensions of Chicago's supernatural landscape in the twilight of the nineteenth century.

    The modern municipal flag of Chicago is marked by four stars, each representing a historic event for the city itself. A fifth star has been proposed on numerous occasions since the fourth's addition in 1939, but the flag's original 1917 form only bore the reminders of two contrasting points, and the interplay between these stories is the principle drama that shields the freehold that calls the Chicago Loop home.

    The first star in the original order commemorated the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Nearly a third of the city was burned to the ground in a blaze whose origins are still shrouded in mystery and hysteria. Even without accounting for the disparate claims of what started the fire (everything from carelessness to acts of god), circumstances conspired to send the firefighters in the wrong direction, jump the flames from lumber to coal to lamp oil all along the river, shut down the city waterworks, and otherwise allow the event to last until it had nearly exhausted itself.

    The Great Fire was one of many disasters that plagued Chicago's early years; local fae claim that something (sources vary as to what, but the Lost naturally default to the Gentry) wants to unmake the city. Whether this is true or not, the shores of Lake Michigan seem to draw in Fae who sympathize with that speculative aim, and it was these Strangers and their entourage that gave rise to the Bulwark that keeps them away.

    The second star of the Chicago flag marked the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Jackson Park from May through October in the year of 1893. A great deal of temporary architecture was erected for the fair; the "White City" included fourteen "great buildings" and almost two hundred smaller constructions centered on the reflecting pool known as the Great Basin, as well as the world's first Ferris Wheel. Millions of visitors came to join the celebration that would serve as a symbol of Chicago's recovery from the Great Fire of two decades prior, and for that it was a point of pride.

    It is only natural, then, that the fae of the Lake were watching the proceedings with interest.

    Like most legends with legs to them, the details have been blurred by the ravages of time and telephone, but the version recounted by the Oracle Prester Midway goes something like this:

    Inquisitive fae drew close to the park almost from the moment of the fair’s dedication, such that it was rare to venture the waterlogged trods of the Underwood and not encounter some manner of otherworldly tourist. The Roteater Madam Hoyle, ever attentive to the activity of hobgoblins since her infamous escape into the chaos of Chicago’s post-fire reconstruction, took special note of how many believed that some pariah among the Gentry was hiding from Its fellows among the mass of human and not-so-human visitors to the city.

    The Fireheart Duke Kerosene, long returned from the ashen tunnels of Arcadia, caught wind of these rumors and saw in them the shape of something familiar. After days of drifting through the crowds at Jackson Park, the pair finally met on the last day of April to confer at the lakeshore. To the spectating fae, it had the seeming of an argument.

    Hoyle could recite the myriad names of a dozen Keepers on the force of enmity alone, the Beast, and she was certain the exiled Stranger was a great stone man with the face of a hound and breath like an autumn storm, or a winged wheel of whirling stars and symphony, either one bound to the city by the disgrace of a failed hunt for some pilfered trinket.

    Kerosene was wholly unconvinced, having seen many things in the years since his return, powerful creatures that the Wyrd held no sway over, whether they be ancient shades from a vast pit of blood and iron or a wildfire that stalked the world in a skin of steel and leather. The Ogre staunchly refused to entertain Hoyle’s claim of cloistered Fae nobility.

    In what appeared to be a fit of pique, Hoyle proposed a wager. She would seek to draw out the phantom Fae through hearsay and rumor, casting lies upon the wind to force It to flee Its nest. Meanwhile, Kerosene would seek to discredit his counterpart’s tales, lest they draw the attention of some more baleful presence. The losing party would submit to rule by the victor for no more than a year and a day.

    Kerosene consented to the wager, but declared further conditions. Neither he nor Hoyle would decide the winner; rather, an impartial surveyor would be sent forth from the shore of the lake to the source of the Fire that was so foundational to each changeling’s history and back again once, asking everyone they met at a crossroads whether they believed the Beast's tale or not.

    This poll would be conducted between dawn and dusk on the anniversary of that famous blaze, and the success or failure of the story would determine which of the two won. The pair of them would spend the next six months exerting their respective influences toward this end, and they would let the dice fall where they may with regard to the rest of the year.

    Hoyle agreed to the Tunnelgrub’s terms, and the two of them called upon the creatures of the lake to witness their compact, which they did, concluding their performance.

    There was a catch, as there always is with Wyrded things.

    A green glass bottle washed up on the shore in answer to the wager. A strip of paper coiled within it, signed by a powerful Lady of Arcadia whose name is now lost to the Thorns. The letter was four words long:


    And that’s usually where Prester Midway shifts gears to describing those rare past occasions where the Underwood lost its annual bet, because one does not go far in the Court of Pride without picking up some capacity for showmanship. More practical-minded Lost tend to provide the operating basics to changelings looking to stay in the Loop for the long haul.

    Chicago seems lucky, in a way, because the gaps in its Bulwark are ultimately very small for a yearly ritual. Spending any length of time in the freehold during the summer months, though, is usually enough to dispel any illusions one might have of the Underwood as complacent in its security.

    The freehold's Bulwark operates in three stages. First, some time in the month of April, a hoax is perpetuated in the form of some piece of contentious misinformation or rumor, as determined by whoever holds the Crown at the time. Starting in the month of May, the freehold spends their time propagating this hoax through opposition or direct promulgation as suits their political leanings.

    On the day of October 9th, the freeholder bearing the title of Surveyor traces a route from the lakeshore of Jackson Park to the Chicago Fire Academy and back again, walking between downtown and the shores of Lake Michigan and asking anyone they meet at a bridge or crossroads their opinion on the matter of the freehold's hoax, tallying the results as they go.

    If, at the end of the round trip, more people believed the rumor than not or vice versa, then the Bulwark holds and the freehold is safe from the Others' direct attention. Wind retains the Crown in the former case, while the latter hands rulership to the Fire Court for at least the next day as though an appropriate state of emergency had arisen. Should the poll result in a tie or the Surveyor fail to complete the route by sundown, the Gentry of the Lake sense an opening as the Bulwark fails for the next year.

    Regardless of the outcome, the next six months are typically spent sorting out any fallout the ritual’s preparations generated. As this is work that usually requires no small amount of combing the Hedge in search of Dream Bastions, the Courts tend to more openly collaborate during the colder half of the year.
    Last edited by Satchel; 06-06-2017, 01:29 AM. Reason: Little tweaks.

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  • Satchel
    Chapter 1: Fair Folk and Masked Markets

    We set our scene at the opening of the freehold's annual Fool's Fair, a massive festival-slash-Goblin-Market held in a spacious Hollow rooted somewhere in Lincoln Park. There was a rack of assorted party masks by the entrance; they weren't compulsory, but everyone in the motley and several NPCs opted to wear one.

    Danica picked out a monochrome lunisolar piece at random after a passing cat-person crushed her hopes of being able to pawn any choice for living supplies, then headed into the crowds to browse. Breadth of supernatural knowhow is unfortunately no substitute for market savvy, so she was basically flying blind as far as what to expect anything to cost, but she managed to luck into a hobgoblin stall that was selling camping goods.

    Johan chose a fairly plain wood-and-bark mask, had similar luck trying to parse the mercantile habits of Hedge-fae, and found himself looking around at the same shop as Danica. Neither of them had met before, what with Dani being new in town and Johnny having been blitzed with lizardmen looking for a meal ticket for the last few years, but sympathy or caprice or something else prompted the owner of the stall to descend and make an offer.

    Enter Ragpenny.

    Ragpenny is honest. You can tell on account of the big red stovepipe hat that says "HONEST" on it.

    She was so thrilled at the prospect of having two such mutually juxtaposed customers in her store — both fiery-miened-yet-not in different ways, both new to the Fair in different ways, both wary of their peers in different ways — that she offered a fairly generous bundle of kit to the pair if they'd agree to be oathbound to each other until she next came to town.

    After some trepidation, they agreed to an anonymous alliance of mutual profit, for which they were given some mundane and low-key-magical camping gear and a few bits of goblin dross that amounted to a handful of limited-use Cash Equipment. (Neither of them had a very strong grasp on what this entailed, which will obviously have No Negative Repercussions Whatsoever later on.) They parted ways and went back to wandering around the Fair.

    Back at the entrance, Milton was introduced to Sparvayne by Lazlo, who previously requested that the former help the latter with getting used to Chicago and/or adult society and/or life on Earth. The Earthbones decided he wanted to wear one of the masks (with a mien like his, can you blame him?) and asked for their recommendations as to which. Sparvayne's sharp butterfly design lost to Milton's suggested mossy green one. (Spar wound up wearing his own pick; Milton chose a mask that was functionally a yellow circle with eyeholes.)

    Lazlo asked that the lads get to know each other and offered some window-shopping advice that amounted to a single use of Market Sense for each of them before disappearing into the denser crowds in the middle of the Fair. The boys set about browsing and came across a kind of tacky little stall run by a jaundiced little toad with a plastic book. Milton used Inanimate Communion on a cracked coffee mug (you can probably guess the tenor of the slogan printed on it) and got a brief vision of a mustachioed man dropping it in a blackout, then explained to Sparvayne how Goblin Markets can trade in intangibles.

    Spar badmouthed the vendor in front of it, which prompted Milton to check if the shadow of a coffee mug comes with free black coffee (it does not) and advise against this behavior.

    Spar doubled down on the grounds of not wanting to lie, leading Milton to continue his exasperated lesson on etiquette and recommend using flattery to remedy the bad impression.

    We put that to a roll. The roll we opted with was Presence + Empathy, a Skill in which Spar notably has zero dots.

    Spar's player rolled one success on one die.

    The Flowering managed to stumble his way through a litany of backhanded compliments and got offered a discount on his pick of the merchandise. Sparvayne didn't exactly want anything from the stall, so he just traded a cheap leather bracelet for the past two nights' dreams. Milton turned down an offer of the color of his eyes for the coffee mug.

    Milton was then approached by his technical employer the Marquis de Newcomb, less formally known as Thrice-Blind Aisling. The literally-sketchy Chimera indirectly informed him and Sparvayne that the toad's name was Wartholomew and that the Fairest's original conversation tactic may have actually been on-point, then made transparent remarks as only a Palewraith can in the process of telling the Clerk he was needed at a tent towards the middle of the Fair.

    The crowds had thinned around the edges since the Fair's opening and Aisling is sufficiently terrifying that her path left a wake, so at least getting there was easy. Spar tagged along on the basis of invitation and absence of other chaperones.

    Meanwhile, Dani was approached by the cat-man from before, wearing the same bright yellow lion mask and now swathed in a pillar of smoke; he directed her to that same tent, claiming that her help was needed identifying someone who wandered in.

    She made her way to the tent (a green "Hamlyn" brand number that someone unaccountably whitewashed the words "Lost Children" onto) and found a folding table, several folding chairs, a handful of incidental Fire Courtiers, and Kenneth MacDougall, Chief Lamplighter, inside, along with Milton and Spar.

    There was a lantern on the table, filled with liquid moonlight. Kenneth was looking into it like a bargain-basement fortuneteller.

    There was also a messenger bag, which turned out to have a moldy green talking rat in it. The rat said hello.

    (We ended the session there because it was three o'clock in the morning.)

    [Next Chapter (2)]
    Last edited by Satchel; 10-09-2016, 08:22 PM.

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  • Satchel
    Well, that was… eventful.

    The motley literally doubled their total number of Beats in tonight's session, to give you an idea.

    Half of those were due to social gaffes, one of which resulted in the game's first Clarity roll.

    They're definitely fitting right into the freehold culture, at least.

    (Full story to follow later in the week.)

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