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Changeling: Malibu Dream House (Actual Play)

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  • Changeling: Malibu Dream House (Actual Play)

    Changeling: Malibu Dream House is a Changeling: The Lost Campaign based in the Santa Monica and Malibu area of California USA. The Changelings have been entrusted with ownership of a Cabaret and Burlesque called the Malibu Dream House by their Courts (Well, those with Seasonal Courts have, the others are tagging along) to run a Lost friendly establishment which can help provide Glamour to area fae. Most of them are strangers when they meet at the house, but time will forge them into a Motley that can face some of the unusual dangers waiting for the unwary Lost.

    Like my other campaigns, the story of the Last Dance Motley of the Malibu Dream House will be told in in character journals that will describe events in game, with commentary from me. This will my second Changeling: the Lost Campaign. The first ran about 3 years. My other CoD game Balance of Shadows is going strong after 4, and I am also running a Sandboxy Vampire game that is just starting year 3. Malibu Dream House will be heavily Sandboxy, like Balance of Shadows; a lot of the spurring to act will be on the PCs part. If you find the numerous perspectives disorienting, You may want to read a few and go with whoever's perspective you like best. I expect 1-3 journals per session depending. Hoping for two regularly.

    We are using some bits of GMC, including the new combat system and social system and more flexible virtues and vices, but not the Beat system at present.

    As an aside, our usual sheet maker, DJ Gasmask, is not in this, so these sheets maps, and group pics were not the work of a pro graphic designer. That makes them all the more impressive to my mind; I would say they turned out absolutely awesome. Also, while Ace has two pages on his sheet like the rest, the second had issues being screenshotted as a jpg, so only the first is here. You should get the idea.

    Our Cast, the Last Dance Motley

    Aaron Constantine Evermore “Ace”
    Court: Summer Court
    Seeming: Beast
    Kith: Coldscale/Venombite
    Entitlement: None
    Mask1, Mask2, Seeming, Sheet

    Ace is a Snake aspected Beast from England. He arrived in the city sometime after his Durance, and lived on the street until he was given the option to stay at the Malibu Dream House. He is the MC and Barker at the Malibu Dream House.

    Ace is well rounded, with a slight focus on combat but reasonably skilled at social interaction and fairly good ability at espionage, but he has no real focus. He is skilled at Boxing as a fighting style.

    Court: Autumn Court
    Seeming: Darkling
    Kith: Razorhand/Whisperwisp
    Entitlement: None Initially, later Sacred Band of the Golden Standard
    Mask, Seeming1, Seeming2, Sheet1, Sheet2

    Calamity was dragged from her home into a dark setting of cold war-esque suburban nightmare. She had to be a perfect daughter in a paranoid world of spies, where an unseen whispering Keeper took away those who were bad and the safest way to survive was to betray. But Calamity was a rebel, and fought her way out, her physical and emotional scars becoming a badge of pride. Calamity handles backstage security at the Malibu Dream House

    Calamity is oriented toward stealth and combat. She uses the Knife fighting style with her own abilities as a Razorhand. She is certainly not the face of the group. She strikes from the shadows rather than being a direct fighter.

    Insincere Marguerite
    Court: Night Court (Moon Court)
    Seeming: Darkling
    Kith: Tunnelgrub/Lurker
    Entitlement: None
    Mask, Seeming1, Seeming2, Sheet2

    Insincere Marguerite was born in Paris, but found her way to LA sometime after being taken. Stolen by a Gentry mastermind, Insincere Marguerite was being groomed to be a Gentry herself, and now must fight the desires her Keeper encouraged. She handles lights, curtains, and various backstage and behind the scenes effects.

    Insincere Marguerite is a sneaky type. Her talents lend themselves to stealth and larceny. Essentially, she is a master of getting into and out of places. She is not a combatant, and her social skills are not bad but not exceptional.

    Jacob Stojanovic
    Court: Winter Court
    Seeming: Elemental
    Kith: Snowskin/Coyote
    Entitlement: None Initially, later Knighthood of Utmost Silence
    Mask, Seeming, Sheet1, Sheet2

    Jacob Stojanovic was an adventurous soul, a dutiful son, and a kind-hearted brother… until the Lady of the Winter Winds froze his soul with a kiss. For a time he worked as her pawn, hunting down and retrieving other changelings who had slipped her grasp. Since leaving her employ, his heart has melted a bit, and he serves as the Malibu Dream House’s bartender in an attempt to regain his lost empathy… and his sense of mischief.

    Jacob (pronounced YAH-kǝb) is a well-rounded young man, light on his feet and agile. While he lacks the sheer strength of a character like Gawain, he makes up for it with his dexterity, his finesse, and his mastery of the element of ice.

    Gawain Vert
    Court: Dawn Court
    Seeming: Elemental
    Kith: Metalflesh/Smith
    Entitlement: None Initially, later Family of Silent Nights
    Mask1, Mask2, Seeming, Sheet1, Sheet2

    Gawain was a good-hearted young man who was drawn into the Dreaming and forced into morality plays in the dreams of Dreamers as the Green Knight. He kept count of how many dreamers he has killed because of the arbitrary nature of these tests. He met Calamity on emerging and became somewhat smitten with her. Gawain is the Bouncer at the Malibu Dream House, but also helps with some of the building sets and props.

    Gawain is combat oriented, skilled in the Langschwert heavy sword style. He fights with a Zweihänder and as such is a Juggernaught on the field. Gawain also has some skill at craftwork. Finally, he is being built as a dream warrior, with contracts to enter dreams and engage in dream combat.

    Lorelei Grace
    Court: Spring Court
    Seeming: Fairest
    Kith: Minstrel/Windwing
    Entitlement: None
    Mask1, Mask2, Seeming, Sheet1, Sheet2

    Lorelei Grace grew up in rural Iowa, chafing under the strict rules set by her Methodist preacher father. When she and her friends were taken to Arcadia and transformed into human songbirds, they were given two jobs: sing well and look pretty. Now she’s a performer at the Malibu Dream House, singing and dancing the way she wants to… but always living with the memory of the two dear friends she left behind in Arcadia.

    Lorelei is a social juggernaut. The gifts she was given in Arcadia enhance her singing voice, making her particularly adept at evoking emotions of her choosing in mortals, and then harvesting their glamour efficiently. She’s pretty much hopeless in a fight, though.

    Here is a map of the Malibu Dream House 1st Floor, 2nd Floor, Basement and Attic

    Session one will take place on Sunday, and the first journals will be two weeks from Sunday. In the meantime I will be putting up some backgrounds of some of our protagonists. Two of the shorter backgrounds will be up within 24 hours, and then we will have backgrounds going up every few days until the first session journals 2 weeks from Sunday. Comments and Questions welcome.

    Actual Play Starts here
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 01-29-2018, 08:29 PM.

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    [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]

  • #2
    The area we are setting the game, the general Santa Monica and Malibu area, is under the control of the Seasonal Courts. Points East and South into downtown LA has a Day and Night Court Presence, but they have no influence where we are. Despite this, two of the six are from Courts that have no control in this little slab of “paradise.” Let’s see their stories first, before moving into those better integrated.

    Please note: Insincere Marguerite’s story is mostly tame but has some parts which might be triggery for the implication of someone being captured then sexually assaulted. It’s mild, but the implication is strongly there.

    Gawain Vert, Dawn Court Elemental Metalflesh and Smith

    “Alright, Nosy Ned. You asked, we answered. It’s your turn.” The smaller of the two men in a traveling motley poked Gawain and smiled good naturedly.

    Gawain returned the smile. “Sure thing. You guys know the story of Gawain and the Green Knight, right?”

    “Uh, can’t say that I have.” The small man gave off looking quizzically at the green suit of armor that called itself Gawain to look at his friends, who shook their heads.

    “Oh, well, it’s a fourteenth century poem. Nobody knows who wrote it, but it’s got this wicked cool blend of Germanic alliterative stuff and the more romance-y type rhyming. Tolkien did a really neat interpretation of it...”

    “Gonna stop you there, man. Your nerd is showing.” The elfish man laughed as he interrupted Gawain, and even the pixie girl snickered a little. The giant stayed quietly interested.

    Gawain paused, a look of confusion momentarily on his face. “Huh? Oh, right, sure. Well, see, it’s a morality tale, really. Mostly about how women are evil temptresses and men shouldn't’ listen to them. Sorry.” He looked at the pixie and Calamity. “They weren’t very enlightened, you know. But if you ignore some of the last bits, it’s about being honest, and brave and true to your word and stuff.”

    Gawain gathered a few sticks from around the campfire and used them as props, grabbing a new stick with every new character introduced. “See, the Green Knight was a giant, dressed all in green, with green skin and green hair. He came to King Arthur’s court on New Year’s Eve, and gave a challenge to see if anyone would try and cut off his head, with the bargain that in a year and a day, the Green Knight would get to strike his own blow. Arthur wanted to, but Gawain stepped in, cause it’d be bad if the king died. So Gawain took up his weapon and cut the giant’s head off!” Gawain made the Gawain-stick chop the leaf off the top of the Green Knight stick. “And then, the Green Knight picked up his head and rode off, telling Gawain to find him at the Green Chapel in a year and a day.”

    “Rode off on his giant green horse, I imagine?” The giant spoke up for the first time while not telling his story.

    “Right!” Gawain beamed at him. He made a show of the trials of the Gawain-stick as he waited until Halloween, then made his way to the Green Chapel. “And just when he was about to give up, he found a castle! An awesome castle, with a beautiful lady and a handsome, well-spoken lord. He told Gawain that the Chapel was only a few miles away, and invited him to stay for Christmas, cause Christmas was a big deal. So he did, and the last three days the lord of the castle made a deal with him - the lord loved to hunt, and Gawain was still recovering and sleeping alot. So the lord would go out hunting, and give Gawain everything he caught in the hunt. And Gawain would rest, and go to church and chill out with the lady, and Gawain would give the lord everything he got.

    “The lord was a really good hunter...”

    “Wait a second Gawain, that stick was the Green Knight. No fair reusing props.”

    Gawain waved him off. “Hush, I’m telling the story. So, the lord was a really good hunter, and brought back boar and foxes and deer and they feasted every night. And the lady liked Gawain a lot, and kept trying to get him to kiss her, which he did, once the first day, twice the second day and three times the third day. So, Gawain always traded kisses for the results of the hunt. But also on the third day, the lady gave him a green belt that she said was magic and would make it so he wouldn’t get hurt. And Gawain didn’t trade that in to the lord, like he said he would everything he got.

    “So, New Years Day came and Gawain rode out to the Chapel. He finds out it’s just a grassed over hollow hill, so he thinks the Green Knight is the devil, but he still calls out, even when he gets really scared cause he hears the Green Knight sharpening his axe. The Green Knight comes out and gets ready to take his swing, but Gawain flinches, so the Green Knight makes fun of him and then when he swings again, he just fakes it, to make sure Gawain wouldn’t flinch again. Gawain gets all angry, but the Green Knight promises to do it for real this time, but only nicks the back of Gawain’s neck. Gawain jumps up and gets out his weapon, saying that was the one blow he had to take, but the Green Knight just starts laughing and leans on his axe. See, the Green Knight was the lord from the castle all along...”

    “Aha! I knew it.”

    “And!” Gawain faux-glared at the small man. “The three blows were for the three nights of their bargain - he only got nicked cause he didn’t give over the belt.” He paused. “I think the Dream-lord got the story from my head. I heard a deep voice coming from everywhere and a million miles away saying ‘That will do.’ Then I was the Green Knight, except I had a sword, not an axe. I never was very good with an axe. And the Dream-lord would bring mortals into a dream, where they were Gawain. Then, if they didn’t speak up, or come to the chapel in time, or broke the rules or lied, I killed them. I tried not to, the first few times, but the armor kept moving even when I stopped my arms. It hurt really badly too, cause my arms got broken. They got fixed up as soon as it was a new dream, but I stopped fighting eventually. And just killed them. All of them. Except the last one.”


    The Green Knight, sometime baron of the lands that lay not two miles from the cavernous mound he currently waited in, stood impassively. He had just left Gawain’s side and had been unable to turn him from his purpose, so he waited for Arthur’s knight to make his way to him, provided the man did not lose his way in the meantime.

    The man inside the armor was bored. The year of waiting between blows always went by so quickly, a vague memory of seasons passing. But the hours of waiting in the chapel felt like forever.

    The Green Knight went still, listening. The jangling sounds of a knight’s horse’s passing drifted through the hollow mound, followed by the louder sounds of the knight’s dismount. He drew his sword and removed himself to the whetstone, sharpening it in preparation for the task that was now at hand.

    It needed it, the man inside the armor thought. This Gawain had given him the first night’s kiss, but nothing the past two nights. And it had been a bad run. The nicks weren’t there where they should be... but the whole head chopping thing always seemed to do bad things to the blade.

    Gawain called out, into that cavernous place, and the Green Knight responded, asking that he abide. In due time he emerged, greeting the other knight warmly, as befit his timeliness and faith. And upon his request, the other bent his head, baring his neck.

    The man inside the armor expected but did not feel led to compensate for Gawain’s flinch. He did make fun of him, but the knight made his promises and knelt at the stone again after only a little time. When he swung at Gawain again, he was surprised that an invisible force stopped the blow from falling.

    The Green Knight smiled, well pleased, praising Arthur’s knight for his courage. Gawain responded angrily, but held to his troth, waiting for the true blow. And so the Knight braced himself to strike, only to find his hand stayed again.

    Gawain - the dreamer - looked up at the man inside the armor. The man stared back, flabbergasted, then glanced at the dreamer’s waist and the plain leather sword belt he wore. The sword fell from his hands. “You didn’t - you didn’t take...” He was interrupted by the distant baying of hounds. The man grabbed the dreamer’s shoulders and pulled him up, shaking him slightly. “Wake up! You have to wake up!”

    The dreamer just stared. The hounds sounded again, closer, and the man let go of the dreamer and ran. After a few moments arrows flew past him. Only a stumble as he crossed a stream that marked a change from wooded paths to dense thorny bushes saved him from a final arrow. Even so, it managed to nick the back of his neck.

    He pushed his way through the branches, finally leaving the sounds of pursuit behind. Still, the man kept running forward, ignoring the thorns and branches catching on his armor. He didn’t notice the rents and nicks smoothing over and filling back in, or the colors lightening and changing in ways that didn’t have anything to do with the woods he had come from, didn’t notice anything until he ran headfirst into a young girl.

    ************************************************** *****

    A loud noise. Should look. Danger? No. Changeling man and changeling girl. A fight? Maybe. Girl swings her glass at him, but stops. Is green? Silly girl. Green is danger sometimes. Man doesn’t want to fight. Silly man. Man follows when girl runs more. Maybe man wants to fuck. Like fucking. Follow too.

    Man and girl change. Girl’s skin comes off on thorns. Silly girl. Man disappears. Man is just metal now, not hurt by thorns. More running. Am better at running, over thorns and around branches and between roots. Man and girl just go through, through, through. Oh! Man and girl find gate. Follow more.

    Outside. Is dark. Man and girl stop running. Still. Very still, no one sees. Maybe fucking now? No fucking. Girl wants to go home. Heh. Heh heh. Silly girl. Changelings don’t go home. Man wants to follow. For fucking? For danger. No, for being lost. Heh heh heh. Man doesn’t remember home. Poor poor changeling man. Heh.

    They walk. Still no fucking. Boring now. Heh. Go home. Heh heh.
    ************************************************** *****

    HannaBoBanna: Hey Rache, you know that guy you sat in my section?

    LadyTightPants: Huh?

    HannaBoBanna: You know, movie star guy.

    LadyTightPants: Oh yeah. :-) Don’t say I never did anything for you.

    HannaBoBanna: Hey, he was waiting for someone.

    LadyTightPants: So I didn’t put him on a silver platter, what do you want from me?

    HannaBoBanna: Whatever. Anyway, I think he had amnesia, or something.

    HannaBoBanna: The girl he was with too.

    LadyTightPants: Oh?

    HannaBoBanna: Yeah, I was being a little flirty and asking if he was staying long, that kinda thing.

    LadyTightPants: I’m shocked.

    HannaBoBanna: :P

    HannaBoBanna: Well, he said he didn’t know and that it depended.

    HannaBoBanna: When the girl got there, he asked how things went and I dunno what she said but it wasn’t good.

    HannaBoBanna: And when I brought him some more coffee, I heard her asking if *he* remembered anything.

    LadyTightPants: Did he?

    HannaBoBanna: He said something about Pen-sick or something and visiting friends and going off to the woods with some girl, but the way he said it was like it was all he remembered about anything.

    LadyTightPants: Bah. He was prob just trying to convince his girlfriends he was too drunk for it to be cheating.

    HannaBoBanna: I don’t think so. He got real interested in the TV just before they left.

    LadyTightPants: And manipulative cheaters never watch TV, amiright?

    HannaBoBanna: (I’m ignoring that.) I tried to see what was on and it was just some news thing about Santa Monica.

    HannaBoBanna: And it was like he was remembering or something. I think he said they should go there cause he thought it was maybe home.

    LadyTightPants: So let me get this straight:

    LadyTightPants: You think that, in our diner in prim little Bellevue, Washington, we got an amnesiac mystery movie star prince from Santa Monica, who’s prob fabulously wealthy, who’s totally going to remember the waitress who refilled his coffee four times and make her his princess.

    HannaBoBanna: Well, when you say it like that, it sounds silly. :P

    HannaBoBanna: He does have a prince-y kinda name.

    LadyTightPants: Gawain, was it? He was a knight, not a prince.

    HannaBoBanna: Close enough.

    HannaBoBanna: A girl can dream, can’t she? Besides, I left some impression, he left like a 100% tip.

    LadyTightPants: He had a single coffee! I swear, sometimes I don’t know what to do with you.

    ************************************************** *****

    “Hey, kid, everything alright?” The bartender peered across the bar at the 7-foot tall, apparently empty, suit of armor that, from the angle of his helmet, was staring at his beer like he could burn holes in the can.

    “Twenty. Fucking. Years.” Gawain drank half his beer in one gulp, then slammed the can onto the bar.

    “Kurt Cobain will always be missed, but what’s that got to do with you buddy?” The bartender cracked a smile, tilting his head to see if he could get a look in the helmet.

    “Twenty years since that smug, self-righteous...” Gawain fumed, crumpling his can and moving his arm to hurl it at the wall.

    The bartender ducked out of the way instinctively. “Hey, watch it!” Security, over by the door, stood up and started to wander over, but the bartender waved her off when Gawain set the can back down sheepishly.

    “Sorry.” Gawain muttered as he straightened the can back out, smoothing out the wrinkles until it was ok to drink from again.

    The bartender watched him, a bemused look on his face. “The can wasn’t really what I was worried about. C’mon, bud, get it off your chest. You’re pretty new back, huh?”

    Gawain nodded. “And I don’t really remember a whole lot from... before, you know? I was part of the SCA, that’s the closest thing to a clear memory I’ve got so, I thought, you know, I’d jog something, going to a tournament. I guess I did, to be fair. I mean, we were all sitting around a fire and people started telling ‘no shit, there I was...’ stories and I remembered one. I’d, well, I’d had a few and thought I’d tell it, and maybe someone would recognize me, or even just somebody in it.” He looked up bleakly. “They finished the story, word for word. They said, if I was going to steal a story to sound cool, I shouldn’t steal them from the most famous duke in the kingdom, especially in his local barony.”

    The bartender nodded knowingly, waiting quietly until Gawain spoke up again. “So I shut up and started poking around. Duke Thibault Faure. Mundanely, Tobias Steele. 43 years old life of the party who does what he wants while living off his family’s copious amounts of money.”

    “So. You know your name.” The bartender spoke softly as he got out a pair of shot glasses and the bar’s good whiskey.

    Gawain shook his head. “My name’s Gawain. That’s... that’s somebody else.”

    “Amen, kid, amen.” The bartender poured two shots, pushing one towards Gawain. “To new lives.”

    “To new lives.” They both sat in their own thoughts for a few minutes before Gawain broke the silence. “Wait, did you say that Kurt Cobain was dead?”

    Insincere Marguerite, Night Court Darkling Tunnelgrub and Lurker

    “Just Like Me”

    Hello! My name is Insincere Marguerite. It is nice to meet you. I want to go ahead and clear the air to let you know that I am not a thief. I simply like going into places I should not be and looking around. You understand that, yes? The call to adventure, to explore? To find a dark place and scuttle inside? Safe, hidden and warm.

    This house is safe, certainly? Well, you thought it was safe, anyway, before I was here, n'est-ce pas? Oh, but it is still a nice place. Nice vases, nice paintings? Nice windows?

    No, I am not a thief. Perhaps I should explain. You are of the kind yes? Fairest by your look, Day Court by your Mantle, yes? Yes. I, too am of the kind. A Darkling, it is clear. I was taken young, like so many, you see in Paris…I am from Paris. You are from here, yes, I…

    Yes I am Night Court. How did you know? Oh. Anyway, I was in—

    No, I am not a thief.

    I grew up in Paris, and liked getting anywhere I was not permitted. Museums, estates, historical buildings, forgotten places. That last got me in trouble. Oh, the mind is curious, is it not? It drives us to where we should not be…

    Yes, like here.

    I was taken exploring an empty house. All boarded up. For many of the kind, the Durance was a thing of horror. For me, it was not. I was taken by Mama Lion, a feline master criminal, and added to her gang of thieves. We stole from the Gentry, you see…she had a grudge against several and we took so many things. I was a favorite. She said I would be just like her. She said it just like that. I reminded her of herself she said, a long time ago, and I would be just like her. That’s why I was her favorite. I became a master thief.

    No no, I said I was then a thief, I am not now a thief, and there is a difference. Once a thief always a thief? Oh no, nothing so trite. Such a simplistic worldview, I…

    How many people must I kill to be a murderer? An excellent question, perhaps I should say retired thief? I am getting to why.

    I stole many things. As I worked, Mama Lion made me better. Better and better. One night, we broke into the castle of the Widow of Horrors, and I stole many things. Mama Lion said because I was going to be like her, I could keep one. I kept a Fairest Treasured, Yvette.

    Oh Yvette, with white skin and black hair. It was so stark. She was so frightened when she saw me, but even more frightened when I chose her. I took her down, deep into the dark, and I made her mine. I took her where I sleep, where everything smells like me, and she slept where I sleep, and soon she smelled like me. She asked me to let her go, but I would not. Mama Lion said I would be just like her.

    But you see, to steal things is to steal people in Arcadia, and I stole a very nice thing. It is a rush, like when you have snorted the dreams of orphans wishing to be adopted off of the rump of your precious, precious Fairest, how could anything compare? I enjoyed it. I decided I would be an excellent thief, and I was.

    Mama Lion made me even better at sneaking into places, and even prettier to lure things into my sack. We were strong, and the other thieves envied me. As they should have.

    What? I am called Insincere Marguerite because I am insincere. Why else would I be? There are many Marguerites in the world, are there not? I am but one. But I am Insincere Marguerite. There is no other Insincere Marguerite, only I. So call me that, please. Thank you.

    Anyway, Mama Lion had many enemies, and one night we were attacked. Mama Lion tried to escape, so so many enemies, the Chalcedony Psychopomp, The Weeping Warrior, The Bridge in the Mirror, they closed in. Many of the others were killed. Not us, not Mama Lion or I, we were too sneaky. She said I was just like her. But Mama Lion could not escape and take me, so we separated. She told me, before she left, that I must flee to the world were it is safe, but sometime, someday, I would return, and when I did, I would become like her. Then we would be the most feared criminal team Arcadia has ever seen. She said it just like that. I was sneaky even then; I could escape.

    But I could not leave my Yvette. So I went, and I told her she was free. Free to escape. She looked like she did not believe me, but I told her she was free. I said it just like that. I led her out, but I was faster, and sneaker, so she and I separated to make our way to the world. Deep down, I know she made it, just like Mama Lion did. She said I was just like her.

    When I returned, time had passed in Paris. I went to my old home, and found me there. Well the other me, the Fetch. Do you have one? My Fetch was no longer like me. Round and fat, where I am skinny and supple. Maybe she would have been me had I not been taken. I was enraged. No one who was me would look like that! Oh do I sound like a Day Courtier there? I am so sorry, I will not again.

    I became angry. I ordered my Fetch to lose weight. She did not know who I was. I tied her up, she could not slip out. She was not like me. Or so I thought. I left for a bit and she did escape, and she called the police. I found it prudent to leave Paris at that point.

    I traveled far away. First to Montreal, where I met the Night Court. I was offended by their accents, however, their…their…not French they spoke, so I moved to a different location to find different Night Courtiers: Los Angeles. Perhaps they sent me there to see me killed. I cannot blame them, wrinkling my nose as I did when they spoke.

    The Night Court in LA is chaotic. But I found a home among them. By now, I learned that Mama Lion was unusual, and most Keepers are downright dark. Perhaps that is why we stole from them. I also realized I was taking Changelings, people just like me, and keeping them…like I did Yvette in the dark, I…

    No, I do not know what happened to Yvette. But I think if she finds me, she will try to kill me. It would be entirely appropriate; really, there simply is no justifying the things she has been through. Still it is nice to believe we had something between us. She was really starting to warm up to me after a point, I think. But no, I suspect I will be stabbed, than burned. I am not ashamed of what I did. I am Night Court, after all. But her reaction would be appropriate.

    Anyway, I did not want to steal people. Well, I did, but I decided not to do so. It’s not that I never steal, I just do not do so professionally, I am not a thief…I…

    Oh you heard about that? Once I settled in the Night Court I made something of a name for myself by breaking into the Day King’s mansion, backing up the toilets so they flooded it, and spreading two twenty pound bags of roaches through his house. How they scuttled! How they ran through the murk and the mire. How they found the dark places, like my little Arcadian Hollow!

    I was perhaps a little too proud. What would be the word in English, cocky? Your people found me, did they not? Put the heavy piece of…concrete, was it, on my sleeping form and caught my apartment on fire. It burned brightly. Fortunately, I wiggled out from under the stone in time.

    No really it was a measured approach. We in the Night Court do not fail to understand justice, after all; we just feel no shame. I can’t say I blame them. Who leaves two twenty pound bags worth of roaches in someone’s house, anyway?

    Where does that leave us, then? I am so glad we have had this talk, you and I. You are handsome, after all, and your wife, in her small way with her long pale legs reminds me of Yvette. Is the night sky not beautiful out the window, my sweet?

    Oh that was a long fall, wasn’t it? I should probably clarify, I said I was not a thief; I never said I was not a murderer. And to be fair, I am not even going to take your wife away, not that you would notice at this point.

    Because you see, Mama Lion said I was just like her and I am not.

    Am I?

    Next background will probably be Saturday sometime, possibly very late. Comments and Questions welcome in the meantime.
    Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 03-27-2014, 03:35 PM.

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    • #3
      The campaign begins today, and there is almost a “night before christmas” giddiness among us. Most of us have not really played Changeling in 2-3 years. A couple never have. So it is exciting.

      Starting Seasonal Courts now, here is Jacob’s background.

      Jacob Stojanovic, Winter Court Elemental Snowskin and Coyote


      This story starts much the same as any other. A young couple, Anton and Maya, fell in love and got married. Some years later the happy couple found that they were soon to be blessed with children. Maya was delighted and began preparing a nursery in their house for the twin babies in her belly. Anton, the talented son of a carpenter, began to build a crib and other furniture. And not long after the room was complete, the children were born, a boy and a girl. They were named Jacob and Elena, and they were inseparable. As they grew up they shared everything, toys, bedroom, even a kitten named Chekov. As they got older their interests started to diverge, but they remained close.
      Some years passed and work became scarce for the furniture maker and his wife, so they decided to move from St. Petersburg, Russia to halfway across the world to the United States. They found jobs and a happy home in the slightly warmer climate of Portland, Oregon. There they lived for many years in happiness. The family loved the outdoors and spent many hours hiking, riding bicycles or going camping.
      It came to pass that shortly before the twin’s birthday in December the Mikhalevfamily took their annual camping trip to the Cascade Mountains. They were going to go to Mount Rainier as they had done for years. They always went early in the winter so the snow wasn’t too deep, and the cold kept noisy tourists away. The twins were buzzing with excitement about the trip. They made sure to pack everything they might need, and probably a few things they didn’t, as is the way of such things. Before they left Elena thought to pack the handkerchief their grandmother embroidered for Jacob that year. The young man tried to say he wouldn’t need such things but his sister was insistent. She had a feeling it would be needed, and that’s all she would say.
      During the trip the family had a wonderful time. Anton told stories from Mother Russia that his grandmother had passed down to him when he was a child. Stories of wolves, lost children and winter queens. The children listened as they always did to the old tales, with half an ear to the words and the other half to each other. The next day the siblings told their parents that they were going to hike up the hill to see where the glacier used to be. The twins had been climbing these hills as long as they’d been able to walk, so Anton and Maya waved them on and wished them an exciting time. Jacob packed his usual small bag with some water, snacks, a pocket knife, and a flashlight before heading out with his sister.
      The twins climbed the familiar paths until they came to a section that looked like it had been washed out in a rainstorm some time back. The path looked different than they remembered, but it was heading in the right direction so they continued on. They walked a while longer until they came upon a surprise. Before them stood the entrance to a cave that went straight into the ice. The siblings looked at one another and murmured excitedly that they thought the Paradise Ice Caves had melted away, and yet here they were. They had heard wondrous tales of the beautiful caves that ran within a glacier but had never seen it. They had been told that just a few years after they were born the glacier had moved back and the ice caves melted. Smiling the siblings joined hands and walked into the cave.
      The cave seemed to go on forever. The floor had a thin layer of crunchy snow and ice so it was easy to walk on, and the sides were smooth like glass and reflected the light from the flashlight in a seeming rainbow of color. After a short while Elena thought that she saw something stuck in the ice near the wall ahead. She knelt down and then called her brother over. It looked to be an old style black wool coat crumpled in a heap. Most of it was caught in the ice. The only parts that could be seen were the sleeve and part of the shoulder. Jacob knelt down and tried to pry the coat away from the ice. It was stuck fast so he tugged harder. After a moment the sleeve ripped and from it fell part of a skeletonized arm. Both twins reared back in surprise and horror, falling to the ground, as the bony remains fell to the floor and seemed to point at them. Elena remarked to her brother that perhaps it was time to head back. Jacob agreed and helped his sister up. As they were getting to their feet they heard a cracking sound, deep and resounding like a frozen river creaking as the ice shifted. They froze and stared in worry at one another. Another crack sounded, louder and closer and they saw the ice wall cracking. The fissure started where the wool sleeve poked out and ran up the wall. It grew in length and breadth as they watched. The twins started running as fast as they could back towards the entrance, but the cave seemed to shake and chunks of ice and snow fell from the roof as they ran. They knew that they were close to the entrance. They could see reflected sunlight on the walls ahead and started to increase their pace. As they started to round a bend they skidded to a stop as a thick wall of ice started to form from the floor, walls and ceiling, closing in like the iris on a camera lens.
      Jacob and Elena grabbed each other’s hands and started running as fast as they could. The hole in the ice wall closed steadily and when they got close it was only a few feet across. In that instant the siblings looked at each other and seemed to have an entire conversation. They expressed their fear and anxiety, but also their love for one another. Jacob motioned for his sister to go first. He assured her that he’d be right behind. Elena was most of the way through when the hole in the ice started closing even faster, like watching frost form on a window pane sped up. Jacob pushed Elena through and snatched his hand back just in time to avoid it being caught in the wall. He pounded on the ice and screamed his sister’s name. She did the same on the other side of the ice, but neither could hear the other. They were alone.
      Jacob pounded on the ice wall with all his strength, but could not get though. He couldn’t even make a scratch in the surface, not even with his pocket knife. After some time he decided to see if he could find another way out of the cave and back to his twin. He walked for what seemed like hours following the curving path of the cave walls. There were a few short offshoots here and there, but they only went a relatively short way before stopping. As he traveled Jacob noticed that the temperature kept dropping. He bundled his warm winter coat around his body and tucked his gloved hands deep into his pockets.
      Eventually the cave got wider and Jacob saw dim light ahead. He ran as fast as he could, believing that he had found a way out, only to find a vast forest covered in snow. Jacob took off his glove and fished in his pocket for his compass. He pulled it out to see what it said, not noticing the embroidered handkerchief as it fell to the icy floor. After determining that the compass just spun in circles, he explored, looking for anything that might tell him where he was, but none of the landmarks were familiar and some of the natural signs in the area seemed wrong somehow. It seemed to him that he walked for days, looking for a way out. After a time he tried to find the cave so he could have shelter at least, but it had disappeared. The young man despaired of ever finding home and cried for a time in the lee of a great ash tree. After a while he started once more looking for shelter and for food. He had come to realize that he could not find his way back. Jacob had no idea how long he’d been lost. The sun did not seem to move, leaving the land in a seemingly permanent twilight.
      Jacob occasionally saw other people or signs that they had been there. It never lasted long though. The first time he found a girl huddled under a fallen tree, he had offered to help her. They packed the snow around until they had a windbreak and something of a roof. That night while he slept the girl snuck out of the shelter and took Jacob’s flashlight with her. He woke the next morning and found that she had stolen away in the night with some of his things. Sometime after that the young man was traveling and was set upon by a group of people. They beat him to the ground and proceeded to pull off his coat, gloves and pack. One of them pulled off his own frayed and thinning jacket and threw it over the shivering boy. The group ran off and Jacob pulled the cast off garment over his shoulders and continued looking for shelter. His life became routine. Looking for food, never stay in one place too long. The cold and hunger became a constant ache, and after some time they were all that mattered. The young man even forgot his name
      Time passed and Jacob grew older. He stayed away from other people except when he needed to trade for items or to steal something. Any concept of charity or generosity seemed to wither and die in this place where everyone saw to their own needs at the expense of others. Jacob learned these lessons hard, so when he became too tall for his jeans he found someone the right size and took theirs. One day Jacob was setting snares when he was ambushed by two older men. Jacob was angry and fought back fiercely. The two men fought hard, but the younger man was tired of acting fairly and losing so he decided not to. He broke a good sized icicle off of a fallen tree and used it effectively as a dagger, killing the two attackers. The young man looked down at his bloody hands, realizing that he should feel bad for what he had done, but he found that he could not. He only felt relief that he had not been the one to die. He took the clothes and anything else he found and continued on his way, living the way he had since time immemorial.
      A relatively short time later Jacob found a shallow cave in a rock hillside and set up camp somewhere dry for the first time in quite a while. He had just settled in for the night when a shadow fell across the opening of the cave. Jacob leapt to his feet, makeshift blade in hand and was surprised to see a woman in a long gleaming white dress standing there. Her hair matched her dress and her skin like fine ivory. Jacob found himself lowering the icicle and taking a step back. She assured him in a voice like falling snow that she would not hurt him, that she had in fact seen his strength and sought him out to offer him a place in her employ. He stood transfixed for a moment before nodding his head. She smiled with a small quirk of her lip and stepped toward the young man. She leaned in and kissed him on one cheek numbing him from the cold. He signed in audible relief as the all-pervasive pain from the cold faded away. She kissed Jacob on the other cheek and the memories of his family and home slipped away, leaving faint touches of frost on his face. She beckoned him forward and he followed.
      Rime, as the young man had been renamed by the Ice Queen, the Lady of the Winter Winds, was brought to a beautiful castle made of ice and snow. He began his service as a squire to a young knight called Rook. The older man taught Rime how to fight, and how to harness the gifts of snow and ice that the Lady of the Winter Winds had bestowed upon him. Rook favored shadow and darkness, and between the two they made a formidable pair. They kept peace and order in her Majesty’s realm, protecting her from threats, punishing those that had gained the Lady’s enmity, and sometimes helping lost souls find their way to her Majesty’s protective embrace. Rime had regained something of his mischievous spirit after the Lady’s kiss, and was sent more and more often to cajole, entice or just plain trick lost travelers to follow him into the icy realm. Some he sought as playmates, as friends. Others spurned his Lady’s gifts and those he led to dark crevices, deep in the mountains to shiver and die.
      After some years passed the Lady of the Winter Winds knighted Rime, and bestowed upon him the honor of being one of her elite warriors. Rime and Rook were tasked with the most sensitive assignments, reserved only for those the Lady trusted above all others. They were dispatched to the mortal realm to retrieve those subjects who had run from the Lady’s benevolence. They had taken the gifts the Shining One bestowed and fled like traitors in the night. Rime and Rook went after them and brought them back to their Lady.
      During one such errand for the Lady of Winter Winds Rime was to retrieve a beautiful young woman that the Lady called Delight. Delight had fled back to the mortal world and so Rime followed. What the young knight did not expect was that the young woman, who retook her mortal name of Diane, had made friends. She had joined a group of other Changelings, as they called themselves, and banded together for mutual protection. Rime believed he had found Delight alone and undefended. He was mistaken. A large ogre of a man came from behind the young knight and they fought. Rime was quick and agile, using ice as daggers and wounding his formidable opponent more than once. The other man was far stronger however and when he hit the knight the younger man staggered from the blows. Eventually Rime succumbed to his wounds and the band of Changelings bound the young knight and took him away.
      The leader of the band and the ogre-man questioned Rime repeatedly on the strengths and weaknesses of his Lady. He refused to answer and the leader admired his stubbornness, but the ogre only got angrier. One day after fruitless questioning the ogre’s thin patiencesnapped like a thread and he hardened his fists and beat the young knight within an inch of his life. The leader of the band, or motley as he called it, stopped the ogre and forced him to leave the room. Everything faded to black, and Rime awoke some time later to the gentle ministrations of Delight tending to his wounds. He was lying on a soft bed, his wounds bandaged, and surprisingly unfettered. Rime shook his head in confusion and questioned his captors as to why he was alive and unbound. He asked why they had healed him and given him a soft place to rest when he was their enemy. Diane, she insisted was her name, shook her head sadly and smiled at her attacker. Has no one ever shown you kindness?she asked in a quiet voice. The confusion on his face melted her heart and she leaned close and kissed him on the cheek, warmth seeming to spread from the touch of her cool lips.
      Rime’s wounds were slow to heal, but with time and the ministrations of the lovely Diane they did. As he recuperated Diane brought him food and water, and occasionally kept him company. At first he did not speak back, he just listened as she told him the tale of how she’d become lost and what she came back to. Sometimes a young girl, no older than ten years, would come with Diane. She had been fae-touched like them. Her eyes were completely brown, her ears like a yearling deer, and her legs ended in brown hooves. Something shifted in Rime’s chest as he watched the young changeling girl hide behind his minder. He did not know what this emotion was and so he pushed it aside. A few days later she came with Diane again, this time holding a cup of red juice. The little girl was lamenting the heat outside, so Rime gave her his spoon and asked her to put it in her drink. Curious, she did as he asked. He then slowly reached forward and gently touched her cup. Within moments the juice inside the cup was frozen. He indicated that she should pull on the spoon, and a look of delight spread across the young changeling’s face as she looked at the popsicle now in her hand. She looked at Rime without hiding behind her bangs this time and thanked him quietly. Without realizing it a smile quirked at the corner of his lips and Rime felt that same shift in his chest.
      Rime came to understand after talking with Diane that he was a guest of the leader of her motley, who was also highly placed in the leadership of the local changelings. He was not restrained but asked not to leave the house. At first he could barely walk so that wasn’t an issue. As he healed someone stayed nearby at all times. Then one day he was locked in the room he’d woken up in without explanation. Diane was not there and the young man who locked him in was tense, his face drawn with worry. Rime was left wondering what was going on for almost a full day. Then quite suddenly the door to the room was flung open and the same young man from earlier ran in carrying the young fawn girl in his arms. Strong arms pulled Rime from the bed and the girl was laid upon it. She was badly injured and blood covered her clothes. Rime heard other wounded being brought in to other rooms, but his gaze was transfixed on the little girl. He stood in the corner of the room, forgotten. He probably could have left at any time. No one was paying attention to him, but the thought didn’t even cross his mind.
      Sometime later Diane sat back with a sob and wrapped her arms around herself. The young girl, who Rime discovered was named Felicity, was too badly hurt and had succumbed to her wounds. Someone carried Felicity out and the room emptied, save Rime. He sat on the straight back wooden chair Diane had used and waited. He looked at the blood stained sheets and he felt that twinge in his chest again, stronger than before. A short while later Diane returned and shut the door furtively. She explained to Rime in a quiet voice that a dark man with yellow eyes and control of shadows had attacked. He had declared that he served his Lady of the Winter Winds and was seeking friend and foe. The freehold of changelings had fought back, and had been run off temporarily. It had been decided that keeping Rime there was too much of a risk and they had decided to dispatch him. She believed that he deserved a second chance and had decided to let him go. She bid him good luck and kissed him on the cheek before quickly opening the door and looking out. Rime’s hand brushed the warmth left by her kiss and he nodded. He thanked the young woman he’d once been sent to capture and left quietly.
      On the edge of town the shadowy knight Rook stepped out in front of Rime halting his stride. Rook expressed relief at having found his former squire and tried to enlist his help in completing the mission to recapture Delight. And then, much to Rook’s surprise and to his own, Rime said No. Rook, assuming it was a joke, smiled and clapped his friend on the shoulder. Rime stepped back and repeated that he would not help Rook take back Diane, nor would he allow the older Knight to do it alone. Incensed at the betrayal of his one-time friend, Rook attacked the still wounded man. Rime fought back as well as he could, but his former injuries still slowed him down and eventually he fell. Rook picked up his former student and returned to his Lady.
      The Lady of the Winter Winds was not happy. In fact, she was quite put out. In her rage at Rime’s betrayal she scourged his back until he danced on death’s door then healed him fully with the wave of her hand. Rime looked at the Lady as if he’d never seen her before, or perhaps just now seeing her as she really was. She took out her rage on the young knight, healing him when necessary. Sometimes she allowed Rook to discipline her once favored servant, which he did with savage creativity. Rime lost all track of time and his world once more descended into cold and pain.
      After some time had passed the Shining one came to Rime and explained to him that while she was quite cross with him, she would like to give him a second chance. She said she had realized that he must be completely broken before he could be rehabilitated and made whole again. Rime watched as she left and Rook walked in. The other knight pulled Rime to his feet and gently traced a line on Rime’s throat with a dagger made of shadow. The keenness of the blade made it cut deep and Rime forced himself not to flinch. Rook promised that this was just a taste of what was to come. Before the shadowy man could do more a servant stepped into the room and said that the Lady wished his presence immediately for something urgent. Rook growled at the shivering retainer and dropped Rime to the floor. The servant held the door as Rook strode out, closing behind him as he left but not letting it latch.
      Rime did not know if the servant had left the door unlatched on purpose or not, but he did not waste the opportunity. He struggled to his feet, one hand holding his throat, and stumbled out of the room. He carefully and quietly made his way out of the castle and into the surrounding wood. Back into the cold and the dark. Back to what his life had been before the Lady raised him up, but something was different. This time he had a goal beyond just surviving in the ice and snow. This time he wanted to leave.
      The young knight bound his wound and traveled as fast as he could. Over what seemed like days Rime traveled to the closest gates that he knew of but found that they were guarded. Rime was in no condition to fight anyone, so tired but determined he traveled on. He used his gifts to cover his tracks and make his path through the snow easier when needed. The further he got, the darker the sky seemed to become. The Lady’s wrath must be great he thought,if she is darkening the skies. Spurned by the knowledge that the Shining One knew of his escape he began looking for someplace to find cover and perhaps escape her wrath for a time.
      The wind began blowing harder and harder, getting colder and colder. Rime noticed that he started feeling the cold like he had not in years. He traveled deeper into the realm, farther than he had in a long time. The young knight began to stumble from the wind and from his wounds. Just as he thought he could not go any further Rime noticed a color dark against the snow covered trees. Moving towards it he realized that it was a cave. He did not remember there being a cave here, but he was not going to overlook his good fortune. As he stepped inside the cave, the winds died down considerably and he sank to his knees in relief.
      Rime shuffled further into the cave and found the wall to lean against. As he laid his back to the hard rock he let his hand fall to the ground. It took him a moment to realize that he was touching something soft. He looked down and saw a piece of yellowing cloth. He waved his hand and released the fabric from its icy prison. He turned it over in his hand and saw a small design embroidered in red on one corner with the initials J.M. Suddenly Rime saw in his mind a young girl handing him this very handkerchief, telling him that she thought he should pack it. She had felt that it would be needed. He shook his head, trying to clear the unfamiliar images from his mind, but they persisted. He saw this same girl teasing him about the first time he got poison ivy, and then her giving him a wood handled pocket knife for his birthday. In that instance the cave seemed familiar and he had a feeling that it went further back. So, he climbed wearily to his feet and began walking, the Lady’s wrath momentarily forgotten.
      The weary knight walked further and further into the cave. Following the twists and turns as it led away from the wood. The walls began to close in around him as he walked. Sharp icicles began to protrude from the walls and ceiling. Rime continued, walking carefully around and between the sharp points of ice. Pretty soon it did not matter how he twisted his body and moved his limbs, the ice cut into him as he made his way through. He knew that he had to keep going. He knew that if he just got out of this cave he could be free of the Lady of the Winter Winds. The smiling face of the young girl flashed into his mind, and Rime redoubled his effort. He ignored the cold as it seemed to seep into his bones when the icy thorns drew blood. Visions of faces filled his mind startling Rime at first. Then he realized that they were the faces of all the Changelings he had returned to the Lady’s realm over the years. He saw the despair written on their faces and it began to seep into his own heart. He forced himself to continue, crawling when the roof became too low. Just when the former knight thought he could go no further, endure no more pain, he saw light ahead. He quickened his pace and before he realized it the floor of the cave gave way and Rime fell down and embankment and away from the mouth of cave. Paradise Cave, the name popped into his head, and as he stood there the cave and the glacier it was in seemed to shimmer like a mirage and disappear.
      Time passed quickly after that. Rime stumbled out of forest and happened upon a family camping in a clearing. He refused to be taken to a hospital, but accepted the ministrations of the father. He explained that he was a doctor, and Rime thought he remembered that they were healers. He left a short while later with the gift of some money and a change of clothes. As Rime traveled he began to remember more and more of his life from before. He remembered his true name, Jacob Mikhalev. Unfortunately he found that his name was already in use by an eighteen year old boy in Oregon. After he got over the initial confusion he remembered that those like the Lady left copies of the people they took, fetches they were called. This situation also made him come to terms with the fact that only two years had passed, while years uncounted had passed for Rime. No, he thought to himself. He was Jacob.
      As Jacob traveled south he stopped in Portland, Oregon to see the poor copy of himself. After some looking, what he found was a spoiled boy who rebelled against his parents and his heritage. He had at some point started using the American pronunciation of his name and had friends calling him Jake. The quiet changeling then sought out his parents one night and saw them living in the same house, happy in each other’s company and doing well as far as he could see. Jacob could not see his sister, and from overheard conversations he found out that she was going to college in Santa Monica. New destination in mind Jacob set out and started traveling south. He hitched rides and worked odd jobs to pay for a room and food. He took on the last name of Stojanovic in honor of his grandfather since he could not keep his real name.
      During his travels he had stopped in a small town to see what money he could make. While working in a tavern of sorts making drinks, Jacob met another changeling. This led to an introduction to several others. Jacob told an abridged version of his story, letting them explain what they were and what their ‘keepers’ were. The traveler listed with apparent interest, though he already knew a great deal of what they were telling him. What they told him of Changeling Courts was mostly new though and he paid attention. He found himself drawn to the members of the winter court, and someone started teaching him their way of controlling ice and snow. Jacob enjoyed his time there and ended up staying a few weeks rather than a few days as he’d initially intended.
      A time later Jacob continued his travels and eventually arrived in Santa Monica. Almost blinded by the constant sunny days in California, Jacob took to wearing his hood up most of the time until he got a pair of sunglasses. He did not mind the distinct passage from day to night since he returned however, and though the sun was rather bright he welcomed its presence. Since arriving in town Jacob took an odd job here and there until he found a decent one at a small restaurant that employed his knowledge of spirits and how to mix them. It was at this small restaurant that he saw the young woman’s face that he’d seen in the cave. It was Elena, his sister. She came in with friends and he waited on their table. She commented that she had a brother named Jacob, pronouncing the “J” the American say. The older man winced slightly and corrected her pronunciation. He explained that it was a Russian name, not American. She smiled and in between other customers they talked. Elena explained that she had decided to go to college, while her brother stayed behind and moved into an apartment with friends. She did not seem to be excited about his future plans.
      Meanwhile during his free time Jacob had met with some of the local changelings. Within a fairly short time he had met several members of the Winter Court and had been asked to join. Feeling that he’d found a place he could stay Jacob agreed. After that Jacob noticed that a few changelings would come to to the restaurant to eat, and one day the Winter King himself came in. Jacob had met the wintery monarch already, but the man had never come to where the younger changeling worked. Master Darke and several friends came up to the bar and asked for several drinks to be made. Common drinks, complicated drinks, even drinks that Jacob had not heard of, but was able to make with the help of a drink guide. The King seemed impressed with the white haired man’s skills and asked if he would like to represent the Winter Court while working at a new burlesque house in town. Jacob considered his options with speed and realized that aiding Winter King in his plans may work to his own advantage later one. And so the ice-aspected changeling agreed.

      next background will be Wednesday. Not sure who’s yet, but you have now seen half of them. 2 weeks from today session 1 journals go up. Comments and Questions welcome.
      Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 03-31-2014, 08:42 PM.

      Onyx Path Moderator
      Forum Rules
      This is my mod voice. This is my goth voice.
      [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


      • #4
        Session one went well, Journals will be a week from Saturday. Mostly RP, letting players try on their new “skins.” It looks like we will have accounts from several PCs for session one, I have four in hand and one whose player have said they intend to do one, so you should get several views for the first session and, for those who don’t like reading all of them, an idea of whose to follow based on your likes.

        In the meantime we need to get the other half of the group’s journals out. Here is our other Darkling, and Autumn Courtier’s, backstory. Again, there are disturbing elements in this backstory.

        Calamity, Autumn Court Darkling Razorhand and Whisperwisp.

        Old Scars and New Beginnings

        It's all my own fault. Bad things happen to bad girls and I am most definitely a bad girl. Good girls do as they're told. Good girls don't sneak out at night. Good girls stay pretty and never mess up their make-up or their new dresses. Good girls smile, not just with their lips but with their whole face including their eyes. Good girls are happy and healthy. It's very hard to be good and if anything bad happens it must mean they did something bad, because bad things only happen to bad girls. And so many bad things have happened...

        It feels very strange to write here. Wrong almost. But at the same time, there is a certain sense of completion to add my thoughts to this diary. I wrote the first entries almost twenty years ago. Before I was taken. Reading them brings back memories sometimes. And other times it's like the words of a stranger. Her, no MY, handwriting doesn't match my own at all... and between those words and these are that thing's entries. The sinister bitch. How is it that no one noticed that she's fucking left handed?

        I was born Katheryn Elizabeth Moss. Looking back, I was an intelligent girl. Perhaps too much so for my own good. I was smug in my knowledge. I was elitist and judgmental of those around me. I was pretty but not beautiful. My family was well-off but not rich. I was a white girl in a nice neighborhood going to a nice school. So yes, I suppose I was privileged though I never really thought about it back then. Social issues were not of interest to me. I just looked down on those that were lesser than myself and I thought that applied to the vast majority of my fellows. So yes, I was not a good person. I was cold and mean and perhaps even cruel sometimes. I was difficult, never accepting anything without asking why. Never quietly doing as my parents or my teachers told me to. I was a bad girl. I was also all of thirteen fucking years old.

        The last entry I wrote was August 18, 1994. The night before my fourteenth birthday. The next entry is August 19 and it's in her handwriting. Mine was neat, tidy, precise. Hers is spidery and flowing and has that distinctive left handed slant. I don't remember being taken. I don't remember the hell of Snow Globe ever being strange and new and alien. But that's part of it. It's timeless and static and unchanging.

        Snow Globe was a town from one of those TV shows from the 1950's. Or better yet it was all of them rolled into one. It was in black and white. The buildings and trees and sky were all shades of gray. The people were too. Well, most of them. That was how you could tell someone was new. They'd start out in color. But once they learned to be good and play their role they would fade. And the more you faded, the less you were anything but your character until you were in black and white and just another part of the scenery.

        I was Jane Smith. I was ten years old. I was in the fourth grade at Snow Globe Elementary School. My older brother Richard was the starting pitcher for the Snow Globe High varsity baseball team even though he was only a junior. Dad was very proud of him. Mom was very proud of him. Everyone was proud of him. Snow Globe was a good town full of decent, hardworking folk. You were decent and worked hard or you were punished. Days came and went. Weeks and months and seasons and years passed. I went to and had birthday parties. There were final exams that Dick got stressed over because he had to find the time to practice and study both so he drank too much coffee. But I was always Jane. I was always ten years old. I was always in the fourth grade. Dick was always a junior and everyone was so proud of him being the starting pitcher even though he wasn't a senior. Nothing changed in Snow Globe. Never. Ever. No matter what.

        They came at night for the bad children. First the dark would get darker. Like pure ink poured into your eyes that blotted out any hint of a shadow or shape. Then you would hear Them. The Whispering Voices were soft and quiet. So many different voices all speaking at once. The strange thing was that you could understand all of it. Somehow you knew all of the dozens of things They had just said. They would tell me they had come to punish me. They would tell me how very disappointed they were. They would sigh and sometimes They wept softly in the darkness for what I made Them have to do. But They were never angry. They never raised Their voices. Their touch was silk. Soft and cold and fleeting. They would touch me as They spoke. Brushing my hair or trailing along my arm or my cheek. So gentle and affectionate. They never stuck me. No, the pain came in precise doses. Measured punishments that fit my crimes. Sharp needles and razors. Thin canes and slender whips. Things that had no name and no description. Never Their touch. They would hurt me and I would scream and scream and scream as They counted and measured and delivered exactly the amount of pain I'd earned. Never more. Never less. Then They would hold me and brush away my tears and matted hair and blood with their cold and ephemeral caresses as They asked me why I insisted on being such a wayward thing. At some point I would pass out and wake the next morning torn and sore and aching from my punishment.

        You can't hide in Snow Globe. Everyone is watching see you if you're being good or not. And if you're not they'll tell on you. They'll tattle and then the Whispers will come in the night for you because you're bad. So you smile and you pretend not to hurt as you walk and you try to be good while you watch the ones with the special tickets go into the candy shop and get their treats. You watch them and you smile, not just with your mouth but with your eyes because it's bad to hate them for being tattle-tails. You watch and you watch and wait for them to do something bad so you can tell on them and let them cry in the darkness and then you smile smugly at them as you go get your reward for being good. Oh Zod that fucking candy was so damn sweet...

        No one ever gets any older in Snow Globe. The weather is always nice. Sometimes it was winter and there was snow, but it was pretty and good and perfect snow to play in that never made the roads icy to keep Dad from going to work or Mom from running errands or making her beauty appointments. Sometimes it was summer and we went swimming and had cookouts. Sometimes it was spring and there was planting flowers in the flowerbeds. It was never cloudy. It never rained except when we were inside and having an inside rainy day. Everything was always just right. Everything was always proper and orderly and just so.

        I hated every second of it. Because everything was so good and I was not. I got bored. It was always the same and it was dull and I hated wearing my proper dresses and sitting still while Mom fixed my hair. Because she was always watching as she did it, looking to see if my stockings were perfectly even and my shoes were clean. Because that was her job, to watch me and make sure I was good and proper and quiet and modest and perfect. And I knew she wasn't my real mother. And the man who went to work and tucked me in and tossed the baseball with my fake brother Dick wasn't my father. He was watching us to make sure we were being good, just like we were watching them to make sure that if they messed up we could tell the Whispers in the dark and get them punished and be rewarded for being good with tickets to the candy store. I didn't know what they got for telling on us, but I know that many mornings when I crawled out of bed sore and sick and nearly voiceless from screaming I'd see one or the other of them looking so happy as they got ready to go out for their treat. Never showed any pity. Not for me. Not for the bad girl. Of course, I never felt bad when I saw Mom limping and Dad wincing as he sipped his coffee after I'd told on them. Not after I learned the secret.

        I don't remember how long it took, but once I figured it out I never felt bad about what happened to anyone. Because just as it was my fault that I was there, it was their fault that they were there. They were bad people too, every single one of them. The milkman that waved and smiled while he eyed Mom like a side of meat when he thought no one was looking... The teacher that hissed all those terrible words under his breath when his back was to us... the girls that I went to class with and giggled and talked to about nothing... all of them. We were all bad. We were all being taught a lesson. Sometimes the people who faded would keep fading and vanish completely and then someone new would be added and they'd made mistakes until they learned how to be good. I don't know what happened to the ones that vanished, maybe because they learned to be good they got to go back. Maybe the Whispers killed them and ate them. No one ever spoke about them and pretty soon it was hard to remember they'd ever been different. I think I had three Dads and two Moms while I was there but I can't be sure. But it didn't matter, I knew what they were supposed to do and right quick they figured out what happened if they weren't good and proper. We were all bad people and it was our fault we were there.

        I was there because I am a bad girl. I didn't listen to my parents, my real ones, when I had them. I wasn't proper or modest or quiet. Not before and not after. No matter how many times the Whispers came for me or what They told me, I just couldn't be a good girl. I tried sometimes, if only to keep them from hurting me, but in the end I always fell short. I laughed when I should have been demure. I was too bold. I couldn't stay clean and tidy. I was a bad girl and They were always so disappointed that I kept making Them come to me at night. I was the worst girl, the one that They had to keep coming to. I was stubborn and wouldn't learn my lesson. I was vulgar. I cursed at Them as They punished me. I hated Them when They were trying so very hard to make me a good girl. I made Them sad because I was bad and no one would ever want a bad girl like me. I was broken and wrong and They wanted so badly to fix me and I simply refused to get better. God how I hated Them. Most of the time, I wouldn't even try to be good, just out of bull-headiness.

        But no matter how bad I was, They never got angry. Not even when I pushed the neighbor kid, Timmy, down into the old well while we supposed to be playing hide and seek. He liked me you see, so I took him by the hand and I whispered naughty promises in his ear if he could find me and I kissed his cheek. And he followed me out to the edge of town and the old well and he stood there with his eyes shut tight counting as I crept in close and shoved him. He fell and fell and fell and landed with a terrible sound because there wasn't any water in the old well. I knelt and peered down at his broken body. I'd done it. I'd messed up Snow Globe's perfect orderly world at last. I'd broken the Whispers' toy.

        And as I huddled there feeling a strange thrill of victory, it got dark. They came. I was afraid and excited both. I'd DONE something. I'd CHANGED something. But had I made Them angry? And if so, what would they do to me? But They came and They were simply disappointed. They gave a chorus of long suffering sighs. "Such a bad girl... Always the troublemaker... Why must you be so ill-mannered... Now we're going to need another Timmy..." And that was that. My punishment that night was epic. It felt like days or even weeks passed in the sightless dark. My voice gave out as did my flesh. But there was no escape from punishment. I could not pass out before They allowed it. I am sure I should have died from the injuries They inflicted but They would not allow that either. And when They did finish and let dawn come, Mom had invited Timmy over to have breakfast with us. He smiled, all bright and in color and new and asked me if he could ride his bike with me to school.

        After that I almost gave up. So much pain. And all for nothing. Nothing had changed in the least. Timmy was new and in color, but that was it and that was normal. It was that sense of futility that almost broke me. For the first time, I felt like I could never win. That no matter what I did The Whispers would just keep punishing me until I obeyed. Their patience was infinite. So I did what I was supposed to do. I followed the rules and played my part. Every day that they didn't have to come to punish me made it easier. It lasted a while, I can't say how long but weeks, perhaps even months. I had gone from weary and resigned to just... numb. I didn't think about it, I just did what I was supposed to do. And that's when I noticed it one morning. I was brushing my hair and I realized that I had started to fade. I'd lost most of my color. Just hints of hue against the greyscale. I stopped and I stared and I felt a fear so intense it actually hurt down inside.

        And it was that fear that set me free. Before I had been resolved to some never-ending battle, to digging in my heels and refusing to change and accepting the punishments as a trophy for my victory. But then I'd slipped and I'd come dangerously close to fading away and losing myself completely. I knew I had to end my imprisonment before I got so tired of fighting that I just gave up like that again. Finding a way to escape was my only option and failing to succeed couldn't be worse than the torment I'd gone through and would undoubtedly bring upon myself again sooner or later. Of course, my fear of that suffering made me cautious. I quickly dismissed the idea of trying to seek my freedom under the watchful sun. Little by little, I started creeping out of my bed on the nights when I hadn't earned a punishment and feeling my way around the dark room. And oddly, it seemed ever so slightly less dark over time. I was patient and only went a little further astray each time, always mindful of being caught and always vigilant.

        My room became my house and then my yard. My yard gave way to my street. Farther and farther afield each time I went out until at last I found a disused and winding road that I'd never seen during the day. I followed it, crawling along the overgrown rutted dirt path in the dim night. I knew I would never make it back before sunrise but somehow I also knew this was the way. And at last I found the edge of town. I pressed my hands against the gently curving wall of glass that soured upward in a graceful curve to vanish in the night sky above. Casting about I began to hammer at the glass. I used a branch until it broke and then I found a rock. It was heavy and took both hands to lift. I sank down to my knees and pounded it against the hard glass barrier. Over and over and over. The sky grew lighter and the sun rose as I chipped away at the wall. Tiny little fractures formed and I drove my makeshift tool into the heart of them relentlessly. It took most of the day to break through. The sun had set and the last light was fading when the wall gave a great and thunderous crash. It wasn't really a huge hole but it was big enough for me to fit through and I could see trees and bushes beyond. Green and gold and red and all the colors of fall and life. I wept as I smelled the scents of actual forest.

        And then it was dark. I felt a dread and my heart began to race. Not now. Not when I was this close. I started forward, scrambling in a mad panic for the hole I knew lay directly before me. But I felt Their touch. Even as They whispered their litany of disappointments and promised punishments I tried to make my escape. As soft as ever but also just as inescapable cold silk wrapped around me and lifted me up and away from that tantalizing freedom. I reached and clawed and as I was leaving the ground my hands closed on something sharp and heavy. I clung to that shard of glass as They brought me close. They turned me and blindly I lashed out. I thrust the shard forward and slashed at where my mind told me They had to be to hold me like they where. The cry was a mixture of surprise and pain. I felt something wet and so bitterly cold it burned splash across my face and hands as I was dropped to the ground. It smelled like needles stabbing the inside of my nose and throat and it tasted... bitter-green is the only word I have.

        I scrambled to my feet and began to run blindly. I would never get a second chance at this. I would never find this road again. I knew it in my heart. Even if the Whispers spared me They would hide or guard this path and They'd watch me at night. Or maybe They would just leave me broken and unable to walk. Or perhaps They'd kill me, or keep me in some agony worse than death forever. I didn't know and I wasn't going to find out. As I ran blindly, the overgrowth got heavy, catching and pulling and tearing at my night dress and then at my skin but I didn't slow down. I covered my face and charged forward.

        I charged forward right into him. One moment I was forcing my way through the underbrush and then suddenly I hit something hard that wouldn't move. I stumbled back and lifted the shard of glass I held in my bloody hands. In hindsight, I must have been a sight. A girl in a torn nightgown waving a hunk of glass in front of her. And before me was the Green Knight. I blinked as he lifted his empty hands, showing me that he was unarmed. And he was so very bright and in color that I knew he could not be from Snow Globe. I believe the only words I managed were to exclaim that he was green. I didn't know if the Whispers had given up or if they were still behind me and he was clearly fleeing as well. He asked if he could join me and I nodded. Together we forced our way through the hedge. He tried to clear the way for me but the thorns and vines always managed to catch and tear at me anyway. And as they did, they caught at my skin as well as my gown, tearing and cutting me. And when the first strip of pallid skin came away I was worried but there was no blood. As we ran, I shied Jane like a butterfly leaving behind its cocoon. Gawain changed too. He seemed to get younger every time he looked back at me.

        Eventually, the thorns got smaller and the trees farther apart. We stumbled into a clearing and stopped. Somehow, we knew we'd made it to safety. I leaned against a tree and looked down. Jane was gone. I was a woman and the tattered cotton night dress that had been so properly modest on her was barely decent on my new form. I also realized that the glass I'd taken from Snow Globe's wall was gone. I hadn't dropped it or let it go. No, I'd clutched that glass tight the whole time... hadn't I? My hands were bloody from it but it had vanished, melted away like ice or something. And when I looked up at my fellow escapee I was shocked. He was gone. His armor was still there but the man inside wasn't there anymore. Our escape changed us both.

        It was only then that we had time to speak. And of course, names were one of the first things to be exchanged. Only I wasn't sure what to tell him. I wasn't Jane. Not any more. Not ever again. But I couldn't remember much about who I'd been before her. I stood there and blinked and wet my lips and tried to recall. But the more I tried the further from my mind the old name got. At last I gave the only answer that came to me and I have been Calamity ever since.

        It turns out we'd returned in Washington state, not that far from the town of Bellevue. I had vague memories of the house I'd lived in before while Gawain couldn't recall anything at first. He asked to accompany me as I searched and I agreed. We were both terribly lost and as much strangers to ourselves as each other but it was better than being alone. I followed the breadcrumbs and tidbits of memory through Bellevue to a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Gawain agreed to wait for me in a diner while I approached. I'm glad he didn't come. I'm glad he didn't see what happened... what a monster I am.

        I don't know what I was expecting as I knocked on the door. I knew I'd been gone a long time. I didn't expect them to recognize me. I wasn't even completely sure that this was still my parent's house. What I wasn't prepared for was to be greeted by my mother with mild surprise and chided for not calling ahead to let them know I was coming. She swept me inside and into the den where my father was waiting. They were both older but seeing them and that house made so much come back to me in a jumbled rush. I managed to nod and stumble my way through conversation somehow. My mother made tea, lady gray, according to her my favorite. I didn't understand what was going on. I'd never heard of a fetch at that point but the fact that as far as they knew I'd never left was obvious to me. I was in something of a daze. Trying to grasp what was going on and buffeted by the jumble of random memories. There were pictures... of me as an older teen standing in graduation robes and then slightly older and holding aloft a college diploma. Of me in a wedding dress standing with a man I'd never seen before. I guess it's a familiar story for our kind but walking unprepared into it was hard.

        Still, I managed to avoid saying anything too bizarre, noncommittally prompting them to talk and reminisce about the me I didn't know between the usual neighborhood gossip. But the more they talked... the more obvious it became that they were proud of this imposter. I moved to the pictures, me dressed as a cheerleader... oh how they'd been so glad when I tried out and made the squad. That was when I had started to finally blossom and come out of my shell. As they kept talking, I heard the Whisper's voice echo in my ears. They had told me so many times that my parents' had wished me away. That they had wanted a good girl. I hadn't believed it but hearing my parents talk about the thing that had replaced me...

        I wish I hadn't gone back when I did. I wish I'd waited until I knew what a fetch was. I wish... I wish... It was a mistake and I wasn't ready. I am so sorry...

        It hurt. To hear them speak of this imposter with such pride and love. It hurt to hear them telling me that the Whispers had told the truth. They loved this other me. She was such a good girl. Not at all like the bad girl she'd replaced. They hadn't missed me because they'd had this perfect daughter instead. It hurt and I started to cry. I clenched my hands and closed my eyes and bit down on my lip to try to hold the pain inside, to try to push it back down like Snow Globe had taught me to. But the pain just... bloomed. It spread and I screamed as it because very real and physical and burst forth from my skin into jagged shards for the first time. I turned on them wracked with pain and anger.

        When it was over they were both dead. A strange numbness that hindsight tells me was shock came over me. I went to my old room, only now it was her room instead. But my old desk was there and my diary... this diary... was still in its hiding place between the second drawer and the frame. I grabbed it shoved it into a worn backpack, I guess one of hers. I took the photo albums and mother's jewelry. I found the fireproof box they'd always kept in their closet. I stole the cash from my father's wallet and my mother's purse. I ransacked my childhood home and I fled into the night. Eventually I found my way to the diner where Gawain was waiting.

        I couldn't tell him what I'd done. I think he could guess... The glass had only just started to grow out when I'd left and despite using the bathroom to clean up I still had traces of blood on my hands and clothes. Plus I had a backpack full of stolen memories. But when I told him that it didn't go well and that I didn't want to talk about it he let it drop. He's a good sort that way. Far better than I am. And as we were in the diner he saw something on the TV about Santa Monica that sparked some of his own memories. It was my turn to ask if I could tag along and he agreed.

        It took us a while to hike and hitch rides from Washington to California. I was pretty sullen for a while but Gawain put up with it like the gentleman he is. Along the way we managed to cross paths with a few other Changelings and learn a little about the Courts. Gawain took to the Dawn Court's optimism like a fish to water but I guess I am just a little too cynical and jaded for it.

        No, I've fallen in with the Autumn Court instead. There is power in secrets and fear and knowledge. After we arrived, I tried to sell my stolen valuables. I didn't have a clue how to actually go about this but I started by going to pawn shops. It seemed like a reasonable enough idea but without proof of ownership I got turned away more than a few times. That's when I met Austin. He approached me coming out of the fourth of fifth shop and shook his head. He offered to help me out a little, make a few introductions to the sort of people who'd barter stolen goods and give me directions to the Autumn Court. It wasn't free of course. He suggested I'd owe him a favor unless of course I was prepared to pay him with what I had, you know what I mean wink wink nudge nudge. I think he was actually trying to bluff me because he looked rather surprised when I agreed. To his credit, he tried to be gentle at first. But it reminded me way too much of those dark nights laying broken in the Whispers' not arms and I kinda freaked out. OK truth be told, I more than freaked out. I completely lost it. There was screaming and glass shards and blood. I guess it's actually good that I still didn't really know how to use my razor-hands at that point. Austin managed to get some leverage and pin me down until I came back to my senses but he was pissed even if he did seem to understand. I was scared and angry at myself for coming unhinged. And, long story short, we were both worse for wear by the next morning. I still see him around sometimes and while Austin’s made it clear he's had enough of that particular crazy train for one lifetime we are still at least business associates.

        As far as the court goes, I am only starting to learn the mystical aspects they seem fairly taken with me already. I know firsthand how powerful fear can be and shameful as it might be, I can still taste the terror my parents' felt when they saw the monster I truly am. They appreciate the ease with which I've learned to fight even if they're not overly surprised by it. Guess it's part of what I am really. But we play to our strengths if we want to get ahead and that's mine. Queen Charlotte has even asked me to represent them in a joint venture with the other seasonal courts. I don't honestly know anything about running a cabaret but I won't let her down. This is way too good an opportunity for me. And I've invited Gawain to join me. He's a strong asset and a good friend. A better friend than I deserve...

        In the mean time, I have also managed to learn a little about the shady side of the area. I've taken to haunting some of the darker alleys where the bad people ply their criminal trades. The humans I prey upon provide both cash and glamour and I feel no need to feel remorse for them. After all, bad people deserve the bad things that happen to them and I am a very bad thing...


        Next background on Saturday, then one in a week then we start the full AP. Comments and Questions welcome.

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        • #5
          Well, it’s time for another background. We start Actual Play in one week, and I have journals from 5/6 of the group, with a journal from the sixth promised. We won’t usually have so many journals, but this will give you a look at the character of each member of the posse.

          Background this time is for Lorelei. It is notably longer than the others so far. Enjoy.

          Lorelei Grace, Spring Court Fairest Minstrel and Windwing

          Three Little Birds

          The beautiful blonde levels her eerily bright gaze at you, and for a moment you are literally unable to turn away. You know in your heart that her eyes are a deep grey-blue… but for a split-second there you could have sworn that they were the soulless liquid-black of a gull’s eyes.
          “I know what you want,” she says breathily, her eyes dropping.
          Your own eyes follow hers, and you find yourself staring at the tops of her breasts above the low-cut leather of her costume. Of course she knows what you want. You want what anyone would want in this situation. But you’d have to be a real jerk to just come out and say it.
          “I…” you begin, your mouth suddenly dry, “I just want to get to know you, Lorelei. What’s your story?”
          Her eyes, grey-blue once more, snap back up to your face, and she smiles. “You want my story?” she asks, sounding flattered. “Okay, I’ll buy that. It’s not what you really want… but that will follow in time. So you really want me to tell you a story?”
          You nod eagerly. Her voice is hypnotic; you would agree to almost anything to keep her talking. “Tell me a story, Lorelei. Please.”
          Her smile is still there, but it’s not the brash, brassy smile she gives you when she’s singing or dancing on stage. It’s a quiet, secret, shy smile, unlike any you’ve seen before. “All right,” she agrees. She bows her head for a few moments, then looks up, and begins.


          “Once upon a time, in a far off land where bounteous grain covered unbroken acres like a great golden sea, three little birds were flying away from their nests. They were good little birds, with attractive plumage and lovely lilting songs, and they loved their homes very much, but now that they had learned to fly, they began to feel that their nests were too small, and longed to go out into the great wide world and win their own places.
          “But though they were fleet of wing and keen of mind, they were unaccustomed to the ways of Men, and were therefore wholly unprepared for the net that descended upon them…”

          Summer came early to Defiance, Iowa in 1978, and the evenings were warm and pleasant by the end of May. It therefore came as no surprise to see three girls walking along the side of Highway 59 away from town. The girls looked to be about eighteen years old, and wore brightly-colored nylon backpacks, marking them as students (probably seniors) at the Irwin Consolidated School two towns over.
          The girl in the middle of the group was the tallest of the three, and her immaculately sculpted golden blonde hair set her apart from her cohorts. She had striking features, though unlike her companions, she wore no makeup and only a bare minimum of jewelry. She wore white slacks, tight around the hips and flared at the cuffs, sandals, and a long dark orange sweater.
          The girl to her left had waist length straight black hair and bright green eyes. She wore large turquoise hoops in her ears and matching bracelets on her bare arms. A brightly checkered sweater vest rested over a white button-up shirt, which was in turn tucked into a tight pair of denim jeans cinched shut with a wide braided leather belt. Incongruously, her outfit was completed by a pair of badly worn Nike sneakers.
          The girl on the right had mousy brown hair and freckles. At first glance, she seemed to be almost as tall as her blonde friend, but upon closer inspection, this was due to the three inch platforms on the bottoms of her shoes. She wore a paisley shirt with the top button undone, revealing a beaded necklace worn loose about her throat. Her green corduroy trousers made a distinctive viiiip, viiiip sound with every step she took.
          The three of them had been walking together in a comfortable silence, but all at once the blonde threw her head back and belted out in a high, sweet voice: “You make me feeeeeel like daaaaanciiiiin’…”
          The other two glanced at each other with matching grins and gave the expected response in unison: “I wanna dance the night away…” All three of them quickly dissolved into fits of giggles.
          “Leo Sayers?” the freckled girl said to her blonde friend. “Jesus, Jules!”
          The blonde chuckled. “I like that song,” she retorted. “It’s… ‘attainable.’”
          “Attainable my ass,” the black-haired girl said. “You sound better singing that abomination than Senor Falsetto ever did, Juliette.”
          Juliette did a mock bow to her friends on the side of the road. “Thank you, thank you! Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only at Madison Square Gardens, Juliette Wells sings the hits of Leo Sayers! Backing her up on vocals, Melissa Garfield and Jane Lassiter!”
          Melissa shook her shiny black hair in a haughty shrug. “Juliette? Singing popular music? What would the Reverend Wells say about that?
          Juliette smirked. “What the Reverend doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” she said mysteriously. “And speaking of what the Reverend doesn’t know…” She pulled her backpack off of her shoulders, unzipped it, and produced the neck of a glass bottle. “Fifteen year Macallan,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “Dad’s at a conference in Sioux City; he won’t be back ‘til Monday morning. What do you say, girls? Want to head back to my place and toast the end of our High School careers… at fucking last?”
          Melissa’s eyes widened in shock, but Jane nodded eagerly. “If we stop by my house first, I can grab some 8-tracks and we can make it a real party.”
          Juliette zipped the bag up again and the three started back on their way. A car approached from behind them and slowed down. Juliette grinned and allowed her walk to become a bit wigglier. Whoops and wolf-whistles filled the air as the car’s windows were rolled down, accompanied by a loud blast of rock music. The car sped up again once it had passed them, leaving in its wake the energetic voice of Dennis DeYoung. “Lorelei let’s liiiiiiive… together!”
          “They’ve got another album coming out this summer,” Jane said excitedly. “Styx, I mean. It’s supposed to be even better than The Grand Illusion.”
          Melissa snorted. “Too artsy. I mean, what was that ‘Come Sail Away’ song about anyway? Aliens pretending to be angels? It’s no wonder your dad won’t let you listen to them, Juliette. Give me Abba any day of the week. ‘You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen…’ Anyone can get into that.”
          Juliette shook her head. “Styx is about breaking away from the mundane. It’s about getting out. It doesn’t matter if the creatures in ‘Come Sail Away’ were aliens, demons, or angels… they were something else, and they were able to take the singer away.” She spread her arms to encompass the endless vistas of corn and wheat. “Away from this. Whoever they were, and wherever they took him… it had to be better than this.”
          Jane nodded her head enthusiastically. “Preach it, Jules! I hear you!”
          Melissa looked uncertain. “The guys in that car would probably have taken you away from all of this if you’d asked them,” she said with a small amount of venom.
          Juliette actually laughed at that. “Yeah,” she said sarcastically. “They probably could have taken us all the way down to Kirkman. Hell, maybe even Harlan, if we were lucky. That’s not away, Missy.”
          Melissa put a hand on Juliette’s shoulder. “You’ll be out of school in two weeks, Juliette,” she said softly, “and out of your dad’s house a month or two after that. You can ‘sail away’ to wherever you want after that. You just have to be patient.”
          Juliette’s sad smile never slipped. “I’ve been waiting my whole life,” she said simply. “Waiting to eat the food that I like.Waiting to listen to the music that I like. Waiting to dance like I know I can. We can’t even dance in this fucking county!” she shouted suddenly at the top of her lungs. “Because of my dad. You want to know when the last time he beat me was? He caught me watching Cabaret on the television late one night with the sound turned way down. Took his belt to my ass for what felt like five solid minutes after he turned the TV off. I couldn’t sit right for a week. That was last year. You know anyone else who still got spanked by their dad at sixteen? For watching a fucking movie?”
          Melissa gave Juliette’s shoulder a squeeze. “I know you’ve had it rough. But where will you go? Did you ever think about that?”
          “Figure I’ll hitch down to Des Moines or Omaha and then catch a bus West,” Juliette said noncommittally. Everything’s happening on the West Coast these days. You know, I just want to go to a place where people will appreciate my talents.”
          Jane harrumphed at her friends. “You guys are really killing my mood. It’s almost over, Jules. Now come on, I know what will cheer you up.” She cleared her throat.
          Melissa groaned. “Not again…”
          Jane hummed to get her pitch. “Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight, gonna grab some afternoon delight…”
          The edges of Melissa’s mouth twitched into a grin as she took up the tune. “My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right it’s right,’ why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?”
          Juliette allowed the two of them to approach the chorus, when she joined them in harmony. “Skyyyyrockets in flight… afternoon delight!Aaaaaaafternoondeliiiiiight!”
          Jane laughed as they came to the end of the chorus. “Remember the look on your dad’s face when he finally listened close enough to realize what that song was about?”
          Juliette nodded. “I’m just glad we were able to convince him that we hadn’t figured it out yet!”
          “Yes. It is quite amusing.” The voice was flat and had a slight lilt to it, as though the speaker was still holding on to the vestiges of a foreign accent which had become unrecognizable.
          The three girls spun about (Jane almost twisting her ankle in her platforms)to confront the speaker. Standing much closer than any of them liked was a man. His skin was pale and waxy, the color of ashes and bone. His black hair hung lank about his ears and peaked out in little tufts from under the brim of a large black top hat, which was pulled down rather too far on his brow. His clothes were seventy years out of fashion; with a white lace cravat and a heavy black topcoat in evidence. In the shadow of the stranger’s hat, all they could make out were two silvery glints where his eyes should have been.
          “Who are you?” Melissa asked in alarm. “Why did you sneak up on us?”
          “Forgiveness, ladies,” he replied in the same flat voice. “I heard you singing. I was most impressed.” He sounded as though he did not quite understand what it meant to be impressed.
          “Yeah,” Juliette said as the three of them backed away, “well, thanks for the compliment, Doctor Freakenstein, but I think we’ll be going now.”
          “A pity,” the man said, without blinking or turning away. “I provide entertainment to only the highest quality of client. I believe you would do well in my employ.”
          “You’re a talent scout?” Jane asked incredulously. “Out in the middle of nowhere?”
          Melissa shook her head. “He’s a pimp,” she whispered, her eyes widening.
          The man nodded. “I am all of these things. You will come with me now. I will place you where you were meant to be.”
          Juliette actually laughed at that. “Fat chance, Bozo,” she said, backing away more quickly now.
          The man shook his head. “You misunderstand. You will come with me now. I will place you where you were meant to be.” He reached out to the girls with arms which were suddenly at least ten feet long, the flaps of his topcoat trailing behind his hands like heavy black shrouds.
          One of the billowing wisps of fabric touched Melissa’s arm, and in an instant she was gone. The other two girls could see her falling into the darkness of the man’s coat as though it was a bottomless pit. Juliette and Jane turned to run in a blind panic.
          Juliette got about fifteen yards before she heard Jane’s shriek trailing off into nothingness behind her. Tears running back from her eyes, she spun to face her assailant, only to find him inches from her face. “Why are you doing this?” she asked through her sobs.
          “I have come,” the stranger replied. “I have come to take you away from all of this. You asked me to come. You asked me to take you. I am glad.”
          She felt herself falling into cold black nothingness. The blackness seemed to creep in from the corners of her vision, just as the cold slowly seeped into the deepest recesses of her heart. As oblivion took her, Juliette heard the flat, dead voice of her captor say one last thing.
          “It was not strictly necessary, of course, but it did draw my attention. It is always best to be asked.”


          “The Man who had captured the three little birds was in the service of a great Queen among Men. She had tasked him to go out into the wide world and find things which would be pleasing to her senses, and to bring them back to her palace. As the three little birds were all quite beautiful to look upon and sang melodies of surpassing loveliness, the Man felt certain that the Queen would reward him well for these gifts.
          “Before the Man could make a gift of them, however, he knew that he had to prepare them for her presence. For many days he groomed them and fed them and taught them the things they would need to know in order to please their new Mistress. And in time, when their feathers were brighter than they had ever been, and their voices as clear as the clarion call of trumpets, he brought them to Her…”

          Juliette Wells awoke screaming. She was lying naked on her stomach on a cold surface that felt like stone, and could feel a single line of fiery agony running the length of her right shoulder blade. It felt as though someone was using a broken glass bottle to peel the skin of her upper back away from her body.
          “Oh God, stop. Stop! Stooooooop!” she screamed as the line of fire began its slow journey down her body once more. “Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?”
          Whatever was behind her paused in its efforts for a moment. Though the cutting implements were not removed from her back, they did not move as her captor spoke. “Perfection. I want perfection from you, Little Bird. Anything less will mean my skin.” Juliette recognized the cold dead voice of the stranger she and her friends had met on Highway 59.
          The stranger continued his slow dissection, and Juliette shrieked once more. “Oh God, please just kill me! It huuuurrts!
          The stranger gave a soft snort behind her; it might have been a laugh, but if so, it was the only sign of emotion she ever got from him. “I am not going to kill you, Little Bird. I am just making a few improvements. You are not perfect yet, and if you die before you get there, you will never be perfect, and I will face the terrible wroth of Her Ladyship.”
          Juliette screeched again as she felt long delicate fingers pulling her mangled flesh apart, exposing raw muscle and bone beneath. A dozen jagged shards of glass seemed to sink into her throat as something gave out there. “Oh Jesus, oh fuck! Please knock me out! It hurts too much!”
          “It is best if you are awake,” the stranger replied without a hint of sympathy. “Those hooks you feel in your throat will scour away your mortal imperfections, leaving your voice pure and untainted by the sullied structures of your body.” Again the stranger paused in his ministrations, leaving Juliette whimpering and sobbing in relief. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter, and sounded as though it came from about an inch to the right of her right ear. “Scream for me, Little Bird,” he said. “Let loose the raw and beautiful music of your soul. Your friends were disappointing. Even taken together, they only provided me with the Overture. I believe that you have entire operas within you.”
          Tears streamed down Juliette’s face to pool on the stone beneath her. “My dad will be looking for me,” she hissed defiantly. “And the other girls have families, too… Jane’s dad is the Sherriff…”
          “No one is looking for you, Little Bird,” the stranger replied. “You are at home with your father right now. It was simplicity itself to effect replacements for three wayward girls. Sticks for bones, sod for flesh, a hint of the sky for the color of your eyes, and a hank of Iowa corn silk for your hair. Do not worry about your father… your Fetch will love him as well as ever you did. Perhaps better.”
          The slow and steady slicing seemed to go on for hours. Blood ran from Juliette’s back in red rivers which flowed over the sides of the stone table in tiny thick waterfalls. Even Juliette, with her meager grasp of internal biology, could tell that she should not have been able to survive the loss of that much blood, but she never lost consciousness. After an interminable time, the stranger put aside his terrible scalpels and began to thread a bone needle with some sort of thick, sticky cord.
          “It is a delicate operation,” he informed her dully as he retrieved something large and colorful from an adjacent table (she could not see what it was through the runnels of her own tears). “We must first leaf the attaching musculature through your own existing muscles at no fewer than one hundred seventy-eight points, or your movement will be restricted when the operation is complete. Do try to hold still,” he admonished her as he began rooting through the wet ruin of her back, looking for a specific strip of meat.
          When he found it, a series of sharp stabbing pains began deep in her muscles. The stranger did not trouble to hurry himself; he went at a steady pace, placing each sting precisely, moving from the top to the bottom of her wounds before returning to the top once more. Each fold of muscle required more than twenty passes of the needle, though Juliette stopped counting sometime after the six hundredth suture.
          It felt like weeks passed before the man stopped. He did not stretch, or yawn, or crack his knuckles, he simply paused for a moment and listened to the wet rasps which had long since replaced her screams. She sucked in a large breath, coughed out a wad of bloody phlegm onto the pitted stone in front of her, and nearly screamed again at the pain of it. After minutes had passed, she began to speak in an exhausted whisper. “Is… it… over?” she asked.
          “Yes,” the stranger said. “You did well. Rest now for a moment. Then I will start on the left side.”
          She felt like screaming again, but knew that her screams would start with or without her conscious decision soon enough, so she simply broke into sobs instead.
          Hours or weeks later, the stranger finished his work with her. No sound came from her throat when she tried to speak or scream; even the hissing of her breath was as silent as the grave. She could feel two large heavy appendages pulling at the muscles of her back, but she was too agonized and exhausted to turn her head.
          “Rest now, Little Bird,” the stranger said. “I will take you to your friends. The worst is over.”
          And then she was being carried down a long, dark corridor; slung over the stranger’s shoulder like a gunnysack. She was dimly aware of passages opening to either side… but always barred. From the depths of these recesses, strange noises echoed faintly. Purrs, whimpers, yelps, and coos.
          “Here we are,” the stranger said after a few minutes of this. She felt his shoulder shift beneath her stomach, and heard the tortured screech of rusty metal hinges. He placed her on her stomach on a rough canvas pallet with surprising gentleness. “You will want to sleep on your stomach for now, until you get used to them,” he said quietly. “And I must tell you something very important. Are you listening?”
          “Fuh…” Juliette began before clutching her throat in agony. “Fuck… you…” she finally managed to gasp out.
          “Good,” the stranger continued, taking no notice of her vitriol. “There is nectar in the bowl in the corner of your room. If you drink it will soothe your throat, nourish your body, and begin the healing process. However, doing so also constitutes your agreement and consent.”
          “Whuh?” Juliette asked.
          “By partaking of the nectar, you agree that the nectar is real, and that it will nourish you. In so doing, you must accept that everything that has happened to you is also real. You accept your new reality, and everything that goes along with it.”
          Juliette had no answer for that; she simply began to sob, and buried her head in the scratchy canvas beneath her. A few moments later, she heard the rusty door clang shut. A few moments after that, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
          “Juliette?” a voice, familiar even in its agonized rasping, drifted down to her.
          “Mel…” her shocked response dissolved into a hacking cough, bringing up a wad of bloody phlegm.
          “Don’t try to talk too much yet,” Melissa urged softly. “Your throat is still bleeding. It’ll get easier.”
          Juliette clenched her eyes shut around the pain, squeezing out tears she had thought herself long past. “How… long?” she asked.
          “Don’t know,” Melissa admitted. “Time’s… funny. I think it’s been about seven or eight hours since he finished with me. Jane was already here when he brought me to the cell.”
          Juliette’s sobs redoubled. “Felt… like…”
          “Weeks, I know,” Melissa answered. “Can you move them yet?” she asked after a moment had passed.
          “Look at me, Juliette,” Melissa said, her voice thick with emotion. “It’ll be easier if we get this out of the way right now.”
          Juliette turned her head to the side and blinked away her tears. Melissa sat crouched before her, naked, dirty, her face streaked with the tracks of her tears, her usually lustrous black hair lank and full of straw. Her green eyes were dull and rimmed with red. From her back, two enormous feathered wings sprouted, shining golden in the light cast by the cell’s single hooded lantern.
          Juliette gasped and rolled onto her side, then yelped as she experienced an unfamiliar pain. “Wha… wha?” she asked helplessly.
          “Careful,” Melissa admonished, “they’re going to be tender for a while.”
          Juliette turned her head, dreading what she would see. Sure enough, wings sprouted from her own back as well, the feathers turquoise and yellow and red like an exotic parrot’s.
          “I can move them, a little,” Melissa said softly. She scrunched up her face in concentration. Sweat ran down her face as the massive wings first shuddered, and then moved back and forth slightly. Melissa let out her held breath in a ragged pant. “Jane’s better at it. It still hurts when I do it,” she admitted.
          “Jane?” Juliette managed.
          “Resting,” Melissa explained. “Over there…” she waved her hand to indicate the far corner of the cell they shared, where another pallet covered the floor. The pallet was empty. “Wait,” Melissa said, confused, “where did she… oh no.”
          She turned toward the bars of the cell, looking behind Juliette. “Jane, no! You heard what the creep said…”
          “It’s okay,” a sweet, melodious voice answered. Juliette recognized Jane’s voice… but at the same time it wasn’t Jane’s voice. It was richer, thick like honey, perfumed with jasmine and roses, and altogether more appealing than Jane had ever sounded before. It was almost like she was singing underneath her speech.
          “It’s okay,” she said again. “It’s good. And I already feel a lot better!”
          Juliette struggled up onto her hands and knees, and turned to look at her friend. Jane stood by a small wooden bowl which was filled with something that looked like honey. Like Melissa and Juliette, Jane was nude, but unlike the other two, she was standing up straight and tall. Her hair, usually a rather unimpressive shade of mouse-brown, now fell about her shoulders in chestnut waves. She had always been the tomboy of the trio, the least feminine in both attitude and form, but now her chest and hips swelled in graceful curves, and her skin – without a trace of the freckles which had plagued her since birth – flushed prettily high on her cheeks.
          Her eyes were solid black, with a liquid sheen like the eyes of a raven. She spread the bright green wings which sprouted from her shoulder blades and flapped them once, experimentally. “You guys have got to try this,” she said with enthusiasm.
          And – God help her – Juliette knew that it wouldn’t be long before she did.


          “The Queen was pleased with the Man’s gift, and valued the three little birds above all her other possessions, save perhaps a Hunting Hawk which was her constant companion. The Queen came every day to visit the three little birds, and had them sing for her in voices sweet as sorrow itself.
          “One day, a visiting noble asked the Queen which of her treasures shone brightest in her eyes. The Queen could not decide between them, for the thought of insulting two of the little birds to honor the third broke her heart. However, a question once asked can never be unasked. So the Queen – who was fond of games, contests, and challenges of all kinds – decreed that there would be a competition between the three little birds.
          “’Each of you, my beauties,’ the Queen said, ‘has a voice of surpassing loveliness. I love you all so much that I could never choose between you, for such would shatter my fragile spirit. And yet between us remains the question of which of you should have my favor.And so we shall have a competition between us. The first of you who can sing a song to make me weep salt tears shall have a dainty of her choosing for a prize…’”

          The Songbird which had once been Juliette Wells stirred fitfully as her slumber was disturbed by the usual morning noises. She spread her wings angelically and stretched, displaying her altered body to its best advantage. Across the room, Jane lay back against the side of the large, magically-heated bathtub, sighing with contentment. Melissa was brushing her silky black hair in front of the vanity, cooing something that sounded suspiciously like “who’s a pretty bird?” softly to herself as she worked out the tangles. Her golden wings were folded around her shoulder like a cloak in deference to the modesty none of them truly felt any more.
          Juliette rose and stretched, walking over to the tub. “Mind if I join you?” she asked.
          “Come on in, Jules,” Jane replied. “I should get out anyway or I’ll get pruny. Her Majesty won’t like that.”
          Juliette sighed happily as she slid into the bath, draping her wings over the side to keep her feathers dry. “Don’t forget to do your toenails,” she reminded Jane as the other girl climbed out and reached for a towel. “Her Majesty whipped us all the last time you forgot.”
          Jane’s face took on a hurt look. “I said I was sorry about that, Jules,” she said sulkily.
          Juliette smiled gently. “I know, Jane,” she said softly. “Sorry I brought it up.” The awkward silence hung between them for a few moments. When Juliette had had enough, she spoke again. “What are you going to sing for her today?” she asked brightly.
          “I thought I might try ‘She’s Leaving Home’ by the Beatles… an oldie but a goodie. All about birds leaving the nest, and all that; I figured it might tug at Her Highness’ heartstrings a bit. You think you guys could back me up on it?”
          “Sure,” Juliette said, remembering the song. Melissa grunted noncommittally.
          Jane snorted. “And I suppose you’ve got something better, Miss Prettybird?” she asked scathingly.
          Melissa stopped brushing her hair long enough to favor Jane with an insufferably superior look. “Better than easy listening dinosaur rock? Yeah. I was gonna sing ‘Dust in the Wind.’ I know it’s new, but I think it has real staying power.”
          Jane tittered quietly. “Kansas?” she asked. “Really?
          “Cut it out, you two,” Juliette said sternly. The three of them sniped at each other all the time, but they also relied on each other to keep their sanity. They all lived within the gilded confines of this single room, after all, and had long since grown used to each other’s company. And when the lights dimmed with this strange realm’s irregularly scheduled twilight, they always fell asleep nestled in each other’s arms, their beautiful wings – gold and green and blue – forming a protective cocoon around their quietly weeping bodies.
          The lady known as the Violet Empress had occasionally brought other mortals into her home, but it didn’t pay to get too close to them. The Empress’ moods were mercurial and often violent, and none of her other pets ever lasted very long… aside from the dark and brooding man known only as Hunting Hawk.
          The last new pet, a painfully thin girl with hair and wings of deep crimson, had sung a song none of them had known, which led them to wonder exactly how long they had been in this mad world. The song had been called “Hurt,” and had been the darkest thing Juliette had ever heard. It had not pleased the Empress; she had pulled out the poor girl’s feathers one by one before tossing her to Hunting Hawk to do with as he pleased.
          “So what are you going to sing, Juliette?” Melissa asked. “Run out of rock ballads yet?”
          “Almost,” Juliette admitted as she rose stiffly from the water. “Thought I’d take a page out of my dad’s songbook for today.”
          Jane’s nose wrinkled cutely. “A hymn?” she asked.
          Juliette laughed. “I know better than that,” she said. “No, when he wasn’t bible-thumping, dad always liked country music. There are a lot of sad songs to choose from in that genre. I was thinking of either ‘Beyond the Sunset’ by Hank Williams or ‘Give My Love to Rose’ by Johnny Cash.”
          Melissa looked doubtful. “You really think Country-Western is the way to go with Her Majesty?” she asked.
          Juliette shrugged as she toweled off, taking care not to ruffle any of her feathers. “We’ve tried damn near everything else,” she said simply.
          Jane nodded. “Worth a shot,” she agreed.
          “Now,” Juliette said as she tossed the towel in a corner and approached her friends, “the pledge.”
          Melissa rolled her eyes. “Jesus, Juliette,” she said with exasperation, “again? We all know the plan. What’s the point in saying it again?”
          Juliette remained firm. “Remember what the stranger said to us when we were first captured? That stuff about the nectar? The given word has power here. Say the pledge with me again.”
          The other two looked into her determined face and nodded. Together they spoke the words which were now more familiar to them than the Pledge of Allegiance had been in grade school. “I solemnly swear,” they intoned in unison, “when my song moves Her Majesty, when the first salt tear falls, when the prize is mine, that I will not forget my sisters or their plight. I swear that I will win our freedom together, or not at all. I swear this on my life, my wings, and my soul.”
          Juliette stared into her friends’ faces for a long time after the words had been spoken. Sometimes – particularly with Melissa – she doubted their sincerity. They had been so long in the service of the Empress that it was difficult to imagine any other life. But this time their solid black eyes stared into her own with such determination that she could not doubt their given word. She pulled the two of them into a group embrace and kissed each of them softly on the forehead. “I love you Missy. I love you Jane,” she whispered softly. They murmured their responses in kind, and everything was alright for a few minutes.
          “Make yourselves ready for your Mistress, Songbirds,” a gravelly, dead voice spoke from the bars surrounding their room. “She will come within the hour.”
          “Hunting Hawk,” Juliette said coolly as she turned to face the newcomer. “I’m surprised to see you without Her Majesty’s leash around your leg.”
          The man’s eerie orange eyes stared unblinking into her own. He was at least a head taller than her, and his black hair was nearly as long as Melissa’s. His aquiline features were handsome but cruel, and the tips of his fingers extended in long curved talons. “In falconry, it’s called a jess,” he corrected her, “and I am not the one who lives in a cage.”
          “No, you just hang about Her Majesty’s wrist killing off vermin and begging for scraps,” Juliette taunted back.
          “Yes, I suppose it is a bit humiliating to do important work for our Mistress’ favor, when I could be singing pretty songs and painting my toenails,” he returned. “And speaking of which, unless you intend to be one of those ‘scraps,’ you’d best set about making yourself ready, whore.”
          Juliette seethed as Hunting Hawk spun on his heel and strode purposefully down the corridor. “I really hate that bastard,” she hissed softly at his retreating form.
          “Yeah,” Jane said, “but he’s the only man we’ve seen since the stranger brought us here, so there’s no sense making him an enemy. And besides… he’s right. We’d better get ready.”
          They didn’t talk much after that as they prepared for Her Majesty’s audience. Each girl saw to her own makeup with the old-fashioned cosmetics the room magically provided. Each girl styled her hair in whatever fashion she thought would be the most pleasing to Her Majesty, and painted her fingernails and toenails a bright crimson color. When the hour was almost up, they sat in a circle, each girl carefully grooming another’s feathers. When everything was perfect, they walked up to the bars of their gilded cage and waited.
          It seemed that barely a minute had passed when they heard the Violet Empress approach. Her every step was the sigh of a child, and the subtle scent of plum blossoms and lilacs preceded her into the corridor. A diffuse purple light shone around her, making it difficult to look directly at her. Her skin was a lavender so pale that it was nearly white, her hair was indigo, her diaphanous gown a watery orchid.
          The three Songbirds fell to their knees before her. She was their jailor, the cause of every fear and sorrow in their lives… and yet in her presence it was impossible not to love her. “Your Majesty,” they said together, their voices finding harmony even in speech.
          “Good morning, sweetlings,” she replied in honeyed tones. All three of them felt the warm caress of her approval, and Melissa actually shuddered with the bliss of it. “What new delights have you prepared for us today? We feel the pressures of the monarchy most keenly this morning, and feel the need for your soothing twitters.”
          The three of them shuffled their feet, each unwilling to be the first to sing before their Mistress. After a moment, the Empress laughed and reached through the bars, stroking Jane’s face indulgently. “Come now, beauties, there’s no need to be shy. You begin, my tiny jade piper…”
          Jane dropped into a curtsy. “As you command, Your Majesty,” she said with a lilt. Beside her, Melissa looked murderous with jealousy.
          Jane hummed briefly to find her pitch, and began. “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…” Juliette and Melissa dutifully provided melodic humming and backup vocals as it became necessary.
          Three and a half minutes later, Jane sang the song’s final farewell with a pretty flourish and looked hopefully at the Empress. The tall purple woman clapped her hands with delight and laughed with a sound like the tinkling of silver bells. “Delightful!” she applauded. “The girl leaves her mundane life behind, as you did, to glory in the magic and mystery of Arcadia! We never knew how much you appreciated our gifts to you, Little Bird! We are most pleased!” Jane beamed and rubbed her head against the Empress’ stroking fingers like a contented housecat.
          “Who shall sing for us next?” the Empress asked after a moment.
          “I’ll try my hand, if it please Your Majesty,” Melissa said nervously.
          The Empress continued to smile indulgently. “So bold for such a Little Bird.So eager to please us. Very well, dear heart… sing for us.”
          Melissa looked down at her own feet for a moment, gathering her wits, and then began.“I close my eyes… only for a moment, and the moment’s gone…” The Violet Empress was deathly still throughout the entire performance, her cheeks growing tighter and her eyes colder. Juliette would have warned the oblivious Melissa, but she knew that interrupting the performance would only make things worse.
          Silence followed Melissa’s performance, stretching into minutes that seemed like hours. Finally, the Empress spoke. “’All we are is dust in the wind?’ Truly?How dare you!” she shrieked. Her anger hit Melissa like a physical blow, knocking her immaculately preened feathers askew and cutting a thousand tiny lines of blood into her formerly unblemished skin. “You dare to compare one of the Gentry to something so mundane, so impermanent? We should have you flayed alive for this outrage, whelp!” A deep swirling vortex of purple energy seemed to be forming around her as her anger rose.
          Jane dropped to her knees and threw her arms around Melissa’s neck, hugging the sobbing girl tight to her chest. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…” she whispered over and over again, trying to soothe her friend. “We should have known… we should have seen…”
          “Forgive me, Your Majesty!” Melissa begged, her voice harsh and ragged for the first time in ages. “I meant no disrespect! I’m just stupid! Just a stupid little bird, but not bad…” Her words seemed to have no effect on the Empress’ gathering rage.
          “Shhh, it’s okay,” Jane said softly, “we’re here, Missy, it’s okay…”
          Juliette began to sing at that, quietly at first, but with more force as the words spilled from her lips. It wasn’t one of the country ballads her father had loved so; in fact it was a song she knew precisely because her father had loathed the singer. It’s not as though that atonal caterwauling is real music, he had remarked on more than one occasion. It’s primitive and savage, without an ounce of true beauty in it. Juliette had initially listened to the record just to anger her father, but upon hearing the songs it contained she had discovered just how wrong the old man had been. She had found beauty, and heart, and truth, and love in that album such as she had never seen in her own life.
          “Don’t worry,” she began at a whisper, “about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right…”
          Jane and Melissa paused in their litany of apologies and looked up at her as though she had gone mad.
          “Singin’ don’t worry about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
          A wonderful thing began to happen. Melissa’s tears dried up. Jane’s hopeless comforting noises trailed , nothingness. And the tide of the Empress’ anger seemed to recede the tiniest bit.
          “Rise up this mornin’, smile with the risin’ sun. Three little birds, pitch by my doorstep, singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true. Sayin’ this is my message to you…”
          The other girls picked up the harmony as she moved into the song’s second chorus. “Singin’ don’t worry about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right…”
          They repeated the song’s simple message a few times before ending with a harmonic slide not present in Bob Marley’s original version. Incredibly, even Melissa was smiling by then. Bolstered by their friendship, the three of them turned to the Empress, ready to meet their fate.
          A single tear the color of postage ink ran down one of her perfect cheeks. She reached up with a delicate lavender hand and stroked the tear off her cheek with her tapered fingers. “Oh, my treasure. Oh, my sweet Songbird…” she said in a choked whisper.
          “Your Majesty,” Juliette said, a bubble of excitement forming in the pit of her stomach, “the… the competition…”
          Hunting Hawk shook his head silently, once, from the shadows behind the Empress. Juliette chose to ignore him, whether he meant it as warning or admonition.
          “What is this?” the Empress asked, her brow knitting in confusion. “What are you chirping about, Little Bird?”
          “You said,” Juliette began, swallowing her nervousness, “you said, Your Majesty, that whichever of us could move you to shed a salt tear might have a boon…”
          The Empress popped her finger into her mouth and nodded thoughtfully. “Mmm, yes, I do recall something about that. And there is no denying that you have fulfilled that condition. And contracts are sacred. Very well, my Little Bird, my Rainbow, you have earned your place as my Favorite. You may claim your boon.”
          Juliette seized the moment before she could second-guess herself. “Please, Your Majesty, I’d like you to grant freedom… freedom for myself and my two friends.”
          A dangerous violet flash shone in the Empress’ eyes before receding behind a thin mask of good humor. “That would be three boons, Rainbow, and you’ve earned only one.”
          Juliette’s heart fell. “Then…”
          “She wants her own freedom, Your Majesty,” Jane shouted from behind her.
          Juliette shook her head. “No! I…”
          “Go, Jules,” Jane said quietly, “while you still can. When we had hope that we could get away together, we were strong enough to try. But now…” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Look at Missy. She can’t leave Her Majesty. I don’t think she can even try anymore…”
          Juliette glanced at her other friend. It was true. Melissa’s liquid black eyes shone with adoration, she hadn’t looked away from the Empress during the whole encounter… not even when the Empress’ anger had been tearing at her like a sandstorm. There was love in that gaze, and something more… a sycophantic need that could be filled by nothing else. Juliette recognized it, because she had sensed its beginnings in herself.
          She turned back to Jane. “Then you,” she said. “I’ll wish for your freedom.”
          Jane shook her head. “You’re the only one that has a chance of making it back home,” she said sadly.
          “But you’re not as far gone as Melissa,” Juliette began to argue.
          Tears shone in Jane’s eyes. “I can’t leave her,” she said simply.
          “You can,” Juliette insisted. “You’re still yourself…”
          “No,” Jane said quietly. “I can’t leave her.”
          That brought Juliette up short. “Oh,” she said simply. In the darkest, loneliest hours of the night, the three of them had often taken comfort in each other’s arms. They had never been given any clothing, and their cage allowed no privacy. Comforting embraces had sometimes become something more. Juliette had been intimate with both of them over the months or years of their captivity, but she had noticed that Melissa and Jane always tended to gravitate toward each other when they needed solace.
          “Go, Juliette,” Jane said firmly. “Now. While you still can. Live well for all of us.”
          Juliette nodded, and turned back toward the Empress. “Your Majesty,” she began. “I have fulfilled my end of the compact, and brought a salt tear to your eye. I now claim the promised boon. I humbly ask for my freedom.” Her own tears flowed freely from her eyes as she spoke, but her voice was level.
          The Empress smiled beatifically. “You have earned your boon, My Rainbow. And I grant it freely and with goodwill.”
          She waved her hand, and the door to the golden cage which had been her whole world swung open without a creak. Juliette walked through it, knowing that if she looked back at her friends, she would never be able to leave. She walked down the long corridor, through an open door, and into a courtyard. Once there, she spread her wings and flew up into the sky.
          The Empress waved the door closed and turned to her most faithful servant. “The compact is fulfilled. Follow her, Hunting Hawk, and mark where she enters the Hedge. Mark it very well.”
          The pale man with the dark hair nodded curtly and slipped silently into the shadows.

          Onyx Path Moderator
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          [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


          • #6

            The little bird, free of the Queen’s menagerie at last, flew off into the night. But everywhere she went, strong winds buffeted her this way and that, exhausting her and turning her head so that she could make no sense of her direction. At last, a particularly strong gust noticed her, and laughed with glee as it blew her into a thicket of briars.And still, the Queen’s faithful Hunting Hawk followed her.
            “To keep her spirits up, the little bird began to sing sweetly…”

            “Ten thousand flaming shits in hell!” Juliette cursed as the foot-long thorns tore at her wings. She’d all but abandoned the notion of flight, as the briars were so thick here that she couldn’t even spread her wings, let alone get aloft.
            In all honesty, she wasn’t very good at flying in any case. Though the movement of her wings had become second nature to her quickly enough, she had never had the liberty to experiment with true flight until the day her cage door had swung open… which might have been earlier that morning or several weeks ago.
            I need to get out of here, she thought dully. I have to keep moving forward. Hawk is after me. The girls, Jane and Melissa, gave up their freedom to give me this chance. Home. I’m going home.
            “Bitching pigfuckers!” she shouted as a particularly vicious thorn tore into her shoulder. The pain was distracting. It seemed to take more of her concentration, more of her being to keep going with every savage slash. The cursing seemed to help keep her focused.
            Must keep moving, she thought with dogged determination. Hawk… coming for me.Jane and Melissa.Jane and Melissa.Their sacrifice. That’s what’s important.
            “Flying fucking mother of a shitter!” A branch whipped back at her, a thorn digging a shallow furrow just over her left breast. It seemed to take a piece of her heart with it as it passed.
            What… what was I… so hard to think.Jane and Melissa.Hawk.Coming for me. Coming… to take me back. Take me back to Jane and Melissa. My friends.My love. My Lady…
            She fell to her knees, and even this caused movement pulled the thorns across her body, tearing at her soul and digging into her heart. Hunting Hawk will find me, she thought. He will take me back to Jane and Melissa. I just have to wait. I just have to… I… I… who am I?
            The loss of her own name didn’t trouble her nearly as much as the thought that Hunting Hawk might not be able to find her amidst the thorns. The thought that she might be forced to wait here in this place of pain and loss for all eternity was heartbreaking.
            She began to cry.
            There was something I used to do, she thought helplessly as the tears fell. Something I used to do when things were hopeless. To raise our spirits. Melissa and Jane helped. We would…
            “We would sing,” she said, her heart lightened by the thought.
            She searched the tattered remnants of her memory for something appropriate. The last song she had sung to raise Melissa’s spirit was still fresh in her mind… but it was no longer appropriate. It was about three little birds, and she was only one.
            An image popped into her mind; an image of a stern older man with a stiff white collar and hair the color of iron. She both loathed and loved the memory, for reasons she couldn’t recall. She associated the face with pain, loss, and anger… but there were good things about the man, too. The best memories she had left were of him teaching her to sing.
            “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” she began in a quavering voice. As she moved through the verses, she found new strength. The words came to her automatically, without the need for conscious recall. By the time she got to the third verse, her voice rang clear through the thorns.
            “Through many dangers, toils and traps, I have already come,” she sang, thinking that it was true enough. Her lovely wings were in tatters; her perfect pale skin marred with ugly scratches and lines of beading blood.
            “’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” The last word hung in the air for a moment. She was about to begin the fourth verse, the one about how God was her shield, when she heard something else.
            Somewhere ahead, off through the thorns, another voice answered hers. The song was different, and she couldn’t quite make it out, but the fragments of tune which drifted back to her were hauntingly familiar. She rose to her feet and began to push her way through the brambles, toward the high-pitched ululations.
            “When I think of Lorelei, my heart turns all around…” The singing was stronger now. It was definitely coming from somewhere ahead. And there was music, too… music from real instruments, as well as some sort of electronic wailing.
            As gentle as a butterfly, she moves without a sound…” Mimicking the lyrics, she crept through the thicket as quietly as she could, holding limbs and brambles aside as she crawled on her hands and knees. The undergrowth seemed to be thinning now; the branches and thorns were smaller and more widely spaced. Every so often, a thorn still scratched her skin or pulled at her wings, but she no longer felt the stings as keenly.
            The way she moves, ooh-ooh…” the strange song echoed from ahead. It sounded tinny now, as though she was hearing it issue from the mouth of a long tunnel. There was some strange distortion as well, as though waves were crashing incessantly in the background as the odd minstrels played on. The thorns hardly seemed present at all now, and they didn’t grow across her path. They seemed to grow straight up in neat and ordered rows. The thorns had become leaves, still sharp enough along an edge to cut, but not as vicious by half.
            But oooh, the song was so familiar. She had heard it before. She had heard it before. Before the stranger, and the Empress, and the cage. She hurried forward.
            “I gotta say…” she whispered, in time with the singer.
            Lorelei let’s live together!” her voice broke free of its bonds, and she staggered out of the cornfield and onto the grassy verge of a paved road.
            Twenty feet away, two young men leaned against the side of a strange-looking car. The windows were down, and the song was blaring out of the oversized speakers mounted in the vehicle’s trunk. When she staggered toward them, they dropped their beers in alarm.
            “Oh my god,” one of them said, pulling his coat off. “Are you okay, Miss?” He ran toward her and pushed the leather garment into her arms. “Did somebody hurt you?” he asked.
            “Yes,” she said softly, tears running down her face. She wrapped the coat around her. It was large, which was good. Her wings chafed within its confines, but it covered enough of her for modesty’s sake. “Yes, someone hurt me,” she said again, “but I’m okay now.”
            The other man rooted in the backseat of the car and emerged with a bottle of water. “You want us to take you to the police?” he asked.
            “No,” she said quickly. Most of her captivity was coming back to her, and she knew that she’d never be able to explain what had happened to the authorities. She was frankly astounded that neither of the young men had mentioned her poor, abused wings. “No, just… take me to my father,” she said quickly. “He’s the preacher in Defiance.”
            The two men looked at each other in confusion. “Miss… I think you must be confused. There isn’t even a church in Defiance. Hasn’t been for close to twenty years now.”
            She shook her head. “No, you’re wrong,” she said stubbornly. “I’ve lived there my whole…”
            The song faded into nothingness on the car’s radio, and the DJ’s voice came on. “And that was Styx with ‘Lorelei,’ a deep cut released way back in 1976 from the album Equinox. Hard to believe it’s been almost forty years since disco died, isn’t it?”
            She reeled backwards as if she had been struck. “What?” she asked faintly.
            “You okay, Miss?” the first man asked, reaching out a hand to steady her.
            “I… I’m fine,” she eventually managed. “Just… a little dizzy. Maybe… if I could just get some food, and some clothes…”
            The second man glanced at the first. “Looks like some of my sister’s old things might fit you. And I can get you a hot meal, though it won’t be anything fancy.” She nodded gratefully and allowed herself to be steered toward the car. “What’s your name, Miss?” he asked her.
            She thought for a moment, unwilling to say anything which might come back to haunt her later. “Lorelei,” she said at last. “Lorelei Grace.”


            “And so the little bird returned to her nest, only to find it long empty and abandoned. She turned her eyes to the West and began to fly, vowing that she would not stop until she had found her family, or the world came to an end. She flew over fields and forests, over moors and mountains, over hills and hollows. When she grew weary, she rested, and when she grew hungry, she ate, but every other minute of her day was spent in flight, always chasing the sun. When she tucked her head under her wing at night, when the world could no longer see her, she wept bitter tears for the friends she had left behind.
            “And then one day she came to the great salt sea, which shone in the setting sun with blues and greens as bright as those on her feathers, and knew that her journey was at an end. She could go no further…”

            “My, you are a pretty little thing, aren’t you?” the attractive redhead said as she lounged gracefully in an ergonomic chair. She was wearing an embroidered terry cloth bathrobe, but somehow managed to make it look like a royal lady’s ball gown. Her hair had a wet sheen, as though she had just stepped out of the shower. “I like the wings. The wings whisper ‘angel,’ but the colors shout ‘party girl!’ The locals are gonnalove you.”
            The young woman who now called herself Lorelei blushed, but said nothing. The redhead was easily one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. It hadn’t been easy getting in contact with other people like herself, the eerie children who had been taken by the Gentry and changed into something not quite human. Those who called themselves ‘changelings’ or ‘the Lost’ were a notoriously secretive group.
            “So,” the redhead continued after an awkward moment, “what brings you to Malibu?”
            “Well,” Lorelei said simply, “I came here looking for my father. I found him. Now, I’m just trying to get along. I’ve taken a few modeling jobs, mostly burlesque costume fetish poses for private collections. That’s not the sort of work I can get back East. I’d like to settle down here, and I want to be on good terms with the locals.”
            The redhead nodded. “Good thinking. So you heard that I was top dog in this town, and you came by to introduce yourself?”
            Lorelei nodded, then rose and bowed stiffly. “My name is Lorelei Grace, Princess Jolie, and I’d like permission to settle in the Freehold of Malibu.”
            Jolie stared hard at her for a minute. “Sing,” she said suddenly.
            Lorelei was wrong-footed. “What?” she asked.
            “Sing for me,” Jolie said again.
            “O-okay,” Lorelei said. After gathering her wits for a moment, she launched into a song that had been current when she was taken. “Don’t go changin’ to try to please me, you never had to work that hard…”
            When the final notes of the song faded away, Jolie nodded, as though pleased with what she had heard. “Can you sing anything? Like, any kind of music?” she asked.
            Lorelei nodded. “As long as I can hear the song, or see a copy of the sheet music, and have an hour or so to practice.”
            “And the burlesque thing… you don’t mind wearing skimpy costumes and having people ogle you?”
            Lorelei shook her head. “It’s not my ideal line of work, Princess,” she admitted, “but it pays the bills, and it gives me a steady diet of strong desires to feed on.” It was the strangest thing, but ever since she had escaped from the clutches of the Violet Empress, having a room full of people lusting after her had been more satisfying and fulfilling than a steak dinner.
            “Oh, this is too good,” Jolie said to herself, grinning like an extremely happy shark. “Next you’ll be telling me you know how to dance, too…”
            “A little,” Lorelei admitted. “Dance clubs weren’t allowed in my hometown when I was growing up. My dad was the preacher, and he didn’t approve of it. But a few of us used to get together on the sly and…”
            “Omigod, your dad was John Lithgow?” Jolie asked with wide eyes.
            Footloose. Rent it, watch it, love it. But never mind that for now. Have I got a deal for you, my new best friend.”
            Lorelei raised an eyebrow quizzically. “I’m listening,” she said.
            “A few friends and I have been working on a project for a while now,” Jolie explained. “A sort of combination of safe haven and all-you-can-eat buffet for local changelings. We want to set up a place where emotions run high, and the Lost can replenish their glamour in peace and security. To that end, we’ve purchased an old abandoned mansion on the south side of town with an eye towards renovation.”
            Lorelei nodded. “And… once renovations are complete, it’ll be…?”
            Jolie’s eyes sparkled. “A house of burlesque.A place where the mundanes will come to indulge in their desires, work out their frustrations, get away from their fears, and drown their sorrows.” Her smile widened, showing perfect white teeth. “And I bet someone like you will have them dancing like marionettes in no time,” she finished with glee.
            Lorelei leaned back in her chair. “You want me to work in a burlesque house?” she asked. Her voice was not shocked; it was merely a question.
            Jolie shook her head, her excitement infectious. “I want you to help run a burlesque house. Each of the local Courts is sending a representative to make sure the project stays on track; you could look after the Spring Court’s interests. Working there would be one of the fringe benefits for you; you could snack on the patrons’ desire for you and hone your skills at the same time. It’s win-win. So don’t keep me hanging here.”
            Lorelei returned Jolie’s smile. “You just met me. You’d trust me to take on such an important duty?”
            Jolie nodded. “You have one of those faces. I like you. I’d like to get to know you… better,” she said suggestively. “But I’d have to have some assurances from you. First, you’d have to officially join the Spring Court here in the Malibu Freehold. And second, the two of us would have to hammer out a pledge; something that would keep you working diligently in the Freehold’s best interests.”
            Lorelei considered. “Can I have a day or two to think about it?” she asked.
            Jolie smiled. “You’re interested. I can tell,” she teased.
            “I’m interested,” Lorelei admitted. “It sounds too good to be true. I just want to think it over for a while.”
            Jolie rose and extended her hand. Lorelei took it. “Sure. Go on back to your place. Think it over for a couple of days. Get a nice dinner. Rent Footloose. Then, when you come back to accept my offer, you can tell me how much you loved it.”
            Lorelei laughed. “Thanks, Princess,” she said warmly. “You’ve made me feel very welcome here. I haven’t really felt that since… well, it’s been a long time,” she said.
            Jolie leaned forward and planted a light kiss on Lorelei’s cheek. “You’re among friends here, Lori,” she said softly. “I’m offering you this opportunity because I need someone to take on the responsibility… but I also think it’ll be good for you. Now go on. Think it over. On your way out, tell Katie at the front desk that I said to give you a voucher for a free seaweed wrap. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
            Lorelei thanked her hostess and left her office, wending her way through the labyrinthine corridors of the expensive day spa. When she finally walked out into the bright California sunshine (the promised voucher tucked safely into her stylish leather purse), the world seemed to come alive around her. It took her less than a minute to hail a cab, and ten minutes after that she was most of the way across town, walking through the front door of a very different building.
            On the way over she had undergone a nearly miraculous transformation. Her white shirt, usually left open over a tight undershirt, had been buttoned all the way to the neck, and her flirty skirt smoothed down past her knees. She had pulled her straight blonde hair back into a neat ponytail, and a pair of rectangular reading glasses sat perched on her nose.
            As she walked up the central aisle between the rows of pews, she cleared her throat. The elderly man who had been fussing with the altar turned to see her, and his eyes, surrounded by thick nests of wrinkles, lit up immediately. “Lorelei, my dear,” he said, his voice still deep and strong, “how lovely to see you! I didn’t know you were stopping by today…”
            “It’s good to see you, Father,” she said brightly.
            He tsked in mock annoyance. “It’s ‘pastor’ or ‘reverend,’ Lorelei… we’re not Catholics here,” he admonished gently.
            She smiled. “Sorry, Reverend Wells,” she said, “old habits die hard, they say.”
            He shook her hand firmly. “To what do I owe the pleasure, my dear?”
            She shrugged. “I’ve got a new job opportunity,” she admitted. “It’s… well, it’s not really the most straight-laced work…”
            He leveled a stern gaze at her. “Nothing illegal…?” he asked.
            “No sir, nothing like that. I’d be singing, and dancing, and helping to run the theater.”
            “Oh, Lorelei,” he said, his face falling, “not a strip club…”
            She giggled. “No sir… not exactly. It’s a burlesque house. There’d be some… well, I’ll probably be wearing some pretty skimpy costumes if I take the job, but that’s about the extent of it.”
            The preacher tutted with disapproval. “Well, you know your own business, my dear,” he said with resignation. “It’s not for me to give or deny you permission in this. You’re old enough to make your own decisions, and I trust that you’ll know what’s right.”
            Much to the old man’s surprise, tears seemed to be welling up in the corners of the young woman’s eyes. “Thank you, Father… Reverend, I mean,” she said in a shaky voice. “You don’t know how much it means to hear you say that…”
            The old man took her hand in his own once more. “I don’t know why you should feel that way, my dear,” he said, “but it warms my heart. I had a daughter a lot like you a long time ago. After her mother died, I couldn’t cope with her wilder tendencies. Every time she acted out, I thought I was losing her, and I tried to put a stop to it. In the end, I drove her away, and she hasn’t spoken to me in almost thirty years. I tried to find her once… that’s why I came out to California in the first place. When that didn’t work out, I… I suppose I just settled in.”
            Lorelei swallowed to contain her emotions. “Your daughter… she doesn’t know what she’s missing, sir.”


            “And so the little bird found what remained of her family at last, after many trials and hardships, and they settled down together and lived happily ever after.Almost. Because every so often, in the darkest part of the night, when the moon hid her face from the world, the little bird would remember the joy she always felt when she sang for the Queen, and for just a moment, she would long to return to the gilded cage and to her friends.The end.”
            You come back to yourself with a start, realizing that uncounted minutes – maybe hours – have passed since you were first enraptured by the sound of her voice. “That was… that was lovely,” you say, “but it wasn’t really your story, was it?”
            “Wasn’t it?” she asks, with a twinkle in her eye. “Well, whether it was or it wasn’t, it’s all you’re getting for tonight. You’re out past your curfew; it’s time to say goodnight.”
            “What?” you ask, disappointment giving your words an edge. “But… I thought… I thought you and I would…”
            Lorelei’s smile never falters. “I know,” she says softly, “as I said at the beginning, I know what you want. And you could have it. I want it too… or at least a part of me does. But not tonight. Not now. Savor your desire.”
            Your disappointment turns to annoyance. “What’s that supposed to mean?” you ask sulkily.
            Her eyes take on a knowing look. “You want me,” she said slowly. “You want me so badly that you can almost taste it. And why do you want me?”
            Your mind boggles at the question. “Lorelei,” you say desperately, “you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. You’re perfect.”
            She nods. “And I’ll remain perfect for as long as you want me. But once you’ve satisfied those desires… how long will it be before you start thinking about your ex? Or that attractive cougar at the office who’s been dropping hints? Or that cute teller down at the video game store on Third?”
            You bluster at that. “You’re the only woman for me, Lorelei,” you affirm.
            She strokes your face, gently, just once. “I know. And I know you really believe that. And I love you for it. I just want to hold on to it for a little longer. A wise man once said that the price of getting everything you want is having everything you used to want. You don’t know how true that is.”
            “How would you know?” you snap. “You’re one of the beautiful people. You’ve probably gotten everything you’ve ever wanted.”
            She nods. “I have,” she says sadly, “how do you think I learned that lesson?”


            OK, last background Wednesday, then we begin Saturday. Comments and Questions welcome.

            Onyx Path Moderator
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            [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


            • #7
              Apologies for the lack of background Wednesday. I only got it in today.

              OK let’s begin. All six players had journals, I sorted them Dawn-Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter-Night as it seemed the thing to do thematically. I hope you enjoy. As always, some people seem to like reading everything, others follow characters they especially enjoy. So do what you like.

              Session I

              Gawain’s Memories

              April 25th

              This was gonna be where I wrote down all the stuff I remembered, since it keeps coming to me in bits but I keep forgetting. To write it down, you know, not like I remember then forget again. Mostly. Anyway, since all this cool stuff is happening now, I’m just going to write all the crazy shit going down, in case I forget again or something. It seems like a smart thing to do, though I really hope I don’t forget again, cause that’d mean some bad news for me, but better to be safe, you know? So, dude-me-from-the-future, if you forget everything again, I am so sorry, cause you hung out with some seriously hot ladies.

              It’s all cause of Calamity too. Hopefully you remember her at least. She’s awesome - we ran into her when we got out from the Dream that first time. We stuck together at least until Santa Monica. She stayed on our couch sometimes. That’s really the only bad thing about this whole setup, is she’s got a place at the Malibu Dream House. I mean, that’s awesome and all, cause she should totally have a nice place and man is that a nice place. It’s got, like, a billion rooms, with two bars, a kitchen, three garages, and a fountain and a beach view. One of the garages had this nifty little nook that was perfect for my smithing stuff - I could even get a proper forge, instead of the portable job I have.

              Anyway, we started up towards the Dream House in the early afternoon. It’s right at the edge between Santa Monica and Malibu, so about a 25 minute drive for me. I decided to go ahead and stay in my apartment. At first I thought that’d just be how it was, since it was put together by the Seasonal Courts, you know? Like, those four would have places there since it kinda belongs to them, I think? Maybe in trust, at least. Calamity kept saying I could stay though and there was an extra bedroom. It just seemed a little weird, like maybe I might want my own place to go to sometimes. It seems kinda awkward, all living together like that. Couldn’t be much worse than the manor but... nah, not gonna do that to myself. Anyway, for now I still have my own place, but Calamity’s letting me stash some stuff in her room, like my spare flammenschwert, when I finish it, and any other smithing stuff I want kept, you know, safe. Safer than a garage at least.

              We got there in time, mostly cause of Calamity, but Ace and Jacob were already there. Ace is a cool snake guy from England. Liverpool, he said. I don’t think I’ve been there. I know I’ve not been to Russia - that’s where Jacob is from. Ace is really excitable and goes overboard sometimes, I think, but he was really into getting everything set up, you know. I think he said that his court would kill him if he didn’t get it done right, which hit a little close, but at least he knew what kind of promise he was getting into.

              Speaking of promises, this was where we made our Motley pledge. Well, I guess maybe a little later, when Lori showed up and we found Insincere Marguerite, but it’s close enough. Basically, we entered into an alliance with each other, to protect each other and the House, in return for skills that would benefit ourselves and our role in the Motley/House. And if somebody breaks it, they're pretty much sitting ducks for everybody else to beat the fuck up. I got better at intimidating people, and also telling what they are feeling. It seemed useful for being, you know, a bouncer. And for doing dream-stuff, which I'm not very good at (yet, I hope) but anything to get rid of these nightmares, and protect other people from douchebags like the Dream-lord. Everybody else got their own kinda thing.

              But I interrupted myself. I was talking about Ace, and Jacob. Jacob’s a little shorter than me, and kinda quiet but he knows all sorts of cool things. Like, that there are ghosts, but not in the house, and no dragons in the sewers. He’s in the Winter Court - everything gets a little chilly around him, with awesome tiny snow flurries sometimes. Ace is from the Summer Court, so he’s really warm - and likes it that way. I think it’s his favorite thing about California. Talking about Courts - Calamity’s Autumn. She has these awesome candles that just show up, wherever she is. It can get distracting while I’m working on the forge, but it’s a very soft light, so it never bothers me any.

              After a bit Lori showed up. Her full name is Lorelei, but she said we could call her Lori. I guess it would be Lore, but that doesn’t look right, cause you pronounce the ‘e’, you know? So, Lori. She is very pretty, and has beautiful wings. She sings really really good too. She’s from the Spring Court, and always had a sunbeam spotlight wherever she stood. She’s going to be performing for the Dream House (in case that wasn’t obvious). Oh! And Ace is going to be the barker/MC guy and Jacob is going to be the bartender. Me and Calamity are security - she’s in charge, which is good, cause it’s a big house. But I'm helping. Calamity’s also doing the books and stuff - one of her parts of the pledge was to do that better.

              While we were talking in the stage bits, Insincere Marguerite spoke up. It was a little creepy at first, cause I couldn't find her, but she was just up on the catwalk. I guess it was still a little creepy after that, cause Insincere Marguerite is a little creepy (her shadow moves by itself!). But she’s pretty cool. She’s from France, Paris specifically. We talked a lot about Paris while we were cleaning. I think I remember going to Paris - when I wasn’t thinking about it, I kinda knew what she was talking about sometimes. If you don’t remember things, you probably think it’s kinda rude to call her Insincere Marguerite, but she insists. There’s many Marguerites, right, and so she needs another name too. That’s what she said, at least. She is from the Night Court, not from the Seasonal Courts, but she had been living at the house for a while, and it seemed mean to kick her out, besides we didn’t have anybody to run light and music and technical kinds of stuff. So she’s going to do that. And maybe perform some too. She’s also very pretty, in a weird kinda way.

              The Courts had done a good job fixing up the public area of the House, but the rest of it needed some fixing up and getting in order. Insincere Marguerite knew where everything was though, and all the tools and storage, since she’d been there and watching when people had brought stuff in, so we got everything done pretty quick. Tomorrow’s going to be all about putting up fliers. Before we could do that, we had to design them, and Insincere Marguerite needed Photoshop to do it. Lori hasn’t done much with computers since she got back though - she thought we were talking about buying a camera store. To be fair, I only knew what she was talking about cause the guy in our building who keeps talking about making things fall off the back of the internet. He really likes Photoshop. Jacob really wanted to talk to him about getting it from the back of the internet, but Lori was worried it wasn’t legal, so Lori and Insincere Marguerite went to a computer store.

              I think Insincere Marguerite really likes Lori. Her shadow kept going after Lori’s, petting her shadow's wings and getting really close. Insincere Marguerite told it to stop, but it kept creeping over when she wasn't paying attention. It was a little bit funny. They did a good job together, with Ace too, on the fliers. I stuck around the house for a little bit, tinkering with my forge, getting it all set up in the nook. Calamity helped me out a bit. After a bit I needed sleep. Calamity probably pulled another all-nighter, but she was getting all the paperwork together, so I don’t think I’d have been any help anyway. She did say we’d have breakfast together, if I got back to the house early enough, so tomorrow should be good.

              April 26th

              So, the kitchen at the House is pretty nice. It’s not super fancy, cause there’s not a whole lot of food that’s going to be served, but there was plenty of equipment that I could make bacon and eggs-in-a-basket for everybody. There was no cheese though, which seems weird, but it’s kinda a special add-on anyways, I don’t really need it for eggs-in-a-basket. It really made me think more about moving into the House. If Lori keeps coming down for breakfast in only a shirt, I might be making enough breakfasts that I oughta stay there. It was nice getting to cook something for Calamity too. My apartment doesn't have much in the way of cooking space.

              We were all up fairly early, even Insincere Marguerite, even though she doesn’t like the sun much. We decided to stagger out our flier dropping off, and go to Malibu first, then Santa Monica College, then the Pier. It went really good - Lori, Ace and Insincere Marguerite did a great job getting people’s attention, and giving them fliers, barking, you know. Calamity, Jacob and I made a good team putting fliers up on telephone poles and bulletin boards too.

              The Pier was the most fun, cause there were other changelings there. Me and Calamity went to go talk with them while the others continued selling the House, especially the opening night festivities. First, there was Becky. She was from the Spring Court, with cool white hair and claws. She didn’t know Lori, so we pointed her out, since she was interested in the Spring Court representative. She worked as, like, a bodyguard for Spring Court stuff, and was really friendly, especially with Calamity.

              Monica was another of the changelings there. She had super big teeth, and all black eyes. She was from Summer Court and one of the Blackbird Bishops that Peter told me about, that help out people new from the Hedge, and told us to be sure to point any newcomers that needed help her way. She invited us to come visit her at the beach nearby, cause that’s where she usually hung out.

              The last of the changelings there was Joan. She was dressed all in white, with a golden shield slung on her back. She knew about the House and its setup, and warned us to be careful about the Director. He’s a Gentry that a whole bunch of changelings escape from into this area. She thinks that a lot of his escapees are loyalists - recruiters, she called them once. Her paranoid was pretty intense though, so I dunno. She was nice enough to say she didn’t think we were loyalists. I tried to get the topic a little away from her little bit of crazy, so I asked her about her shield, and what style she preferred. She actually knew a whole lot about bladework, so we talked for quite a bit about various styles and forms. It was a lot easier to talk with her about that, though I think Calamity’s eyes glazed over a little bit. I can get to going on about swords sometimes.

              Lorelei’s Diary

              First Entry:

              So, that was exciting. Over the last two days, my life has gone through some major changes, and I’m not quite sure what to think of them yet. I know I’m going to want to look back on these early days at some point, though, so I thought I’d resume my pre-captivity habit of keeping a diary. Picked up this blank book at Barnes & Noble, and here I am.

              I kicked Roland out of bed at about nine o’clock yesterday morning. He was upset, like Chris had been the day before and Catherine was two days before that. I’ve got to find a better way of doing this… sleeping with someone who’s attracted to me is a pretty good way to get them to really want me, but the short, sharp goodbye the next morning just tends to piss people off.

              No one seems to understand that real desire is pure, almost holy. It elevates our ideas about other people to impossible levels, making them angels in our minds. Once someone gets used to sleeping with me, I’m not an angel anymore; I’m just a lay. I’ve been trying to strike a balance… to give my partners enough of a taste to really want me, but not so much that it becomes routine. It isn’t really working very well so far. I need to find another way to stoke their desires without ending things awkwardly the morning after. But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I don’t think I can give up the sex completely; I enjoy it too much.

              After that unpleasantness was taken care of, I dropped by Ginelli’s for a late breakfast and drove down to the spa to talk to the Princess. Jolie was as perky and flirty as always, with that no-nonsense undercurrent that makes her such an effective leader hiding just beneath the surface. She was wiggling that perfect little ass of hers in a short tennis skirt this morning, and I could tell that she knew how much I wanted her. I decided to practice what I preach and let my desire simmer… for now.

              The Princess dropped a house key in my hand and let me know that I’d be meeting my co-managers at the newly christened “Dream House” at 2:00 that afternoon. I felt a little flutter of nervousness stir deep in my belly… or maybe that was just the tennis skirt above those mile-long legs catching my eye once more. I thanked her again for the opportunity and made my farewells. As always, we hugged and kissed each other’s cheeks in parting… and this time her lips landed on the corner of my mouth and almost instantly doubled my heart-rate. God, I just hope someday I’ll have the ability to affect people like that.

              I went back to my apartment and called one of those moving/storage companies. I told Mr. McCready at the front office to expect them the next day (that is, today), and arranged for them to pack up everything I own and leave it in one of those locked storage containers on the front lawn of the Dream House. Once I’ve set up my room, they’ll come back by and pick up the pod.

              I boxed up my few possessions and waited until about quarter of two before heading out. I couldn’t resist putting the top down so that I could feel the wind in my wings. It was such a nice day... and I’m still in love with the ‘vette. I couldn’t help it; I’d wanted one for so long that I just couldn’t resist picking one up as soon as the money generated by my pledge with Princess Jolie started to roll in. A candy-apple red ’75 Corvette Stingray convertible… mine at last!

              My thought was that I’d arrive fashionably late and make a big entrance; give my new associates something to remember me by. The way it actually played out served as a reminder that I’m still not very good at this social butterfly shit yet. My new friends decided not to wait around for the straggler and went into the house and spread out to explore. Note to self: the grand entrance thing really only works if you have everyone gathered together in one place. Instead, I ended up sort of timidly opening the front door and calling out “Hello?”

              Three men and one woman came out of the basement to greet me. They all seem nice enough, though some of them are pretty strange looking at first glance. Still, I suppose I shouldn’t cast stones at that particular glass house.

              The most flamboyant member of this group was a man named Aaron Constantine Evermore… or “Ace” for short. He’s a Brit… a Liverpudlian unless I miss my guess. At any rate, his accent sounds a lot like Ringo Starr’s. He had a blonde mohawk hairdo, and his threads were an odd combination of thrift store and barbarian warrior. Beneath the Mask, his skin was covered by a network of supple scales, like those of a snake, and his eyes were brilliant yellow-green orbs with vertical slits for pupils. Though very flamboyant and outgoing in most instances, he turned almost shy every time I turned on the charm. He liked the ‘vette, though, and we were able to spend a few minutes talking “classic” cars after he saw it for the first time.

              Ace is the Summer Court’s representative, which means he tends to be pretty gung-ho about whatever holds his attention at the moment. He made some sort of offhand reference to the fact that the Court would probably kill him if we didn’t succeed in making the Dream House prosper. I think he was joking about that.

              I thought, based on his hairstyle and wardrobe, that we might have something else in common as well, so I tentatively asked if he was a fan of the Pistols. He sort of shrugged and said, “Yeah, they’re all right. Gotta respect the classics, right?” (Actually, it was more like “Gorta spec da klissix, roight,” but that’s neither here nor there). I’m not sure how to feel about that… I mean, for one thing, it just sort of called to attention how very out of touch I am with the current music scene. Sid and Johnny’s falling-out is still so fresh in my mind that it almost hurts to think about it. On the other hand, it’s nice to know that people still remember and respect their work. I wonder what Sid Vicious is doing these days?

              Jacob Stojanovic (I had to ask him how to spell and pronounce it; his first name is supposed to be pronounced YAH-kub) appears to be a handsome young man a few years older than me. His Mask is slender and pale with dark hair and icy blue eyes. His mien is very similar; his hair is white and he seems to have frost creeping in from the edges of his face. He also has a few scars that don’t show through to the Mask. I didn’t ask about them; I learned pretty quickly that most people don’t like to talk about what happened to them in Arcadia.

              Jacob is – perhaps unsurprisingly – the Winter Court’s representative to the Dream House. The air seems to cool noticeably around him, and every so often a flake of snow drifts past him. I’m guessing most people in this part of the world have never even seen snow, so he tends to stand out among those who can see him as he really is. He hasn’t talked much since I met him, so I’m not sure what the Winter Court’s stake in this place is.

              I admit that his accent and his quiet nature threw me for a loop at first. I’m not one to judge someone before I get to know them, of course, but when I was growing up, kids were always warned to look out for quiet people who don’t talk much about themselves and speak with Russian accents. I mentioned these thoughts quietly to a few of the others, and they pretty much dismissed my concerns out of hand. According to them, most of the troubles between the U.S. and Russia were resolved years ago, though there have been some issues cropping up in the news lately…

              The young woman who calls herself Calamity is an interesting person. On the surface, she’s a very pretty lady, with green eyes and straight auburn hair. She’s brash and brassy, and doesn’t seem to care much what people think about her. For those who can see through the Mask, however, she presents a very different face. Shards of jagged broken glass jut through the skin all over her body, giving her a painful, monstrous look. She doesn’t seem to mind it, though, and she was very friendly every time I talked to her.

              Calamity is with the Autumn Court, which is a phenomenally good fit for someone like her. Everywhere she goes, little candles seem to appear, like the ones you put inside jack-o-lanterns on Halloween. Members of the Autumn Court excel at distilling glamour from fear, which I admit has posed something of a conundrum for me… I had intended to use my voice to evoke appropriate emotions in my audience based on what sort of changelings were in the audience. Desire and sorrow are easy, but how many really scary songs are there out there?

              I think Calamity’s into girls, or at least AC/DC. At least, she made some appreciative noises when I tried on one of the burlesque outfits later in the day (a darling little leather one-piece with fishnet stockings and matching boots). She seemed to keep one eye on my ass until I changed back into my work clothes a little bit later. I confirmed my suspicions the next day… but I’ll write more about that later.

              Calamity had brought a friend along with her to help out; a large man who called himself Gawain Vert. He was thin but muscly, with light brown hair and manly stubble. I confess my knees went a little weak the first time I saw his Mask… but underneath he’s a little disturbing. He appears to be an empty suit of green plate armor. There was no faceplate on the helm, and you could see a deep darkness inside that seemed to go on forever.

              Gawain is a member of an organization I’ve never heard of called the Dawn Court. I don’t claim to understand much of their philosophy (something about hope, I think), but as they’re not really involved in the Dream House, it only matters so much. Gawain was just here to help us set up as a favor to Calamity. Once the House opens, we’re going to hire him as a bouncer, I think.

              And speaking of Calamity… it’s pretty obvious that Gawain is harboring a major crush on her. Apparently they escaped Arcadia together (I didn’t ask for the details), and since he doesn’t remember much of his life before he was Taken, he’s sort of latched on to her as something familiar. While I admit that his Mask is pretty hunky, and his personality is adorable, I’ve privately vowed to stay away from him unless he makes a move. Those two are just too cute together.

              Okay, so the five of us were standing around on the stage hashing out what our individual duties would be when the Dream House opens, when another voice drifted down from above. The voice was light and feminine, with a lilting French accent and a hint of mischief. We all looked up and noticed a beautiful young blonde crouched among the stage’s rigging. She slid gracefully down onto the stage and introduced herself as Insincere Marguerite. She insists upon the adjective when we’re speaking in person, but in this diary I’m just going to call her Marguerite for brevity’s sake.

              Actually, now that I think of it… she never insisted that I call her Insincere Marguerite. She said something of the sort to Gawain, and I picked up on it, but before that she took the abbreviation from me in good grace.

              We introduced ourselves to her (I said “enchanté” in my passable High School French), and it was an amiable enough meeting. Marguerite has been squatting in this house for a while, and offered to help us out with the tasks of setting up and running the theater in exchange for the right to continue living here. Since she seems to know her way around the technical side of the theater arts, none of us felt inclined to deny her the chance to prove herself.

              She’s a changeling like us, of course. Her mien is very similar to her Mask, but her real fingers are much longer and delicately tapered, and she seems to have a very long prehensile tongue. She gravitated towards me as the conversation progressed, and seemed very taken with my wings. Her shadow occasionally moved on its own, and on several occasions it began to stroke my shadow’s wings tenderly. Marguerite was annoyed by this behavior, and irritably told the wayward shadow to cease (which it did).

              Marguerite belongs to another court I hadn’t run across before… the Night Court. I don’t know what their deal is, but they’re not officially involved with the Dream House, and they don’t have much of a presence in the greater Malibu/Santa Monica area, so I guess it doesn’t really matter in the end.

              With introductions out of the way, we began sussing out everyone’s various duties. I’m going to be a performer, of course… an assumption which no one questioned at any point. Ace is going to be our Master of Ceremonies and barker, introducing acts and bringing in the crowds. Calamity will serve as our accountant and chief of security, with Gawain backing her up in the latter capacity. Jacob has some experience tending bar, so he’s going to do that for us and oversee the kitchen staff when necessary. Marguerite is going to work the lights, sound system, and curtains. Other duties will be assigned as they come up in a catch-as-catch-can fashion.

              Once that task was out of the way, Ace was fairly insistent that we draw up a pledge to cement our new relationship. I kind of sighed at that; I’m not big on the whole pledge thing, and I was already tied down to this place with a pledge to Princess Jolie… but it had to be done, so I gritted my teeth and went along with it. In the end it wasn’t so bad; we just promised to actively support and help each other in all of our endeavors, worked in a blessing that should help everyone to do what’s necessary to run the Dream House, and added the standard penalty clause about how any harm we do to the group will be answered with swift vengeance, or something like that.

              The courts had done a fairly good job of setting things up and sprucing up the joint, but there was still a lot of work to do. The kitchen and bar were fully stocked (well, Marguerite had helped herself to most of the cheese and a bit of cognac, but still). Water and electricity were on. The bedrooms were sparsely furnished, but livable. The machinery was oiled and functioning properly. We even had a fairly large range of costumes ready for opening night. The only things we were missing were advertising and performers.

              We set about cleaning the upstairs and the basement. While the public areas of the house were already in pretty good shape, the less accessible rooms still needed some work. I claimed a bedroom on the rear of the second story, right down the hall from Marguerite’s chambers. I love it! It has big windows with a view of the mountains, and plenty of closet space.

              After a couple of hours of this, Ace, Marguerite and I got to work making fliers. Ace wanted to do something with a computer to make the fliers. I can’t claim to understand much of what he did, but he and Marguerite sure seem to know their way around those machines. He kept talking about how he needed something called “Photoshop.” At first I thought he wanted to go to a camera store to get the fliers printed up, but it turns out he wanted a special program or something for the computer. Gawain said he knew someone who could get this “Photoshop” cheap because it “fell off the Internet,” but in the end we decided to pick up a legitimate copy. If we’re going to set up a risqué business like this in a classy neighborhood like Malibu, we need to make sure everything is above board so that we don’t give the locals any excuse to shut us down.

              I drove Marguerite and Calamity into Malibu to pick up a copy of the computer thingummy. It was a tight squeeze in my little ‘vette, but we managed to make do, and nobody complained about the cramped quarters. (I should mention that Gawain really likes my car; he showed more genuine enthusiasm over the ‘vette than about anything else that’s happened over the past few days). I forked over the cash – several hundred dollars’ worth, if you can believe that – and we headed back to the House. Armed with the whatsits, Ace was able to print out some very classy and exciting ad fliers, and we set about printing a few hundred of them for distribution.

              I stumbled into my new room, stripped, and fell into bed after that, as it was getting quite late. When the morning sun peeked into my bedroom, I yawned and stretched, and on the spur of the moment decided to see what my new friends were really made of. I threw on a white tank top and a clean pair of panties. I spent a few minutes reminiscing about the time I had spent with Roland the previous night… and much to my chagrin, Princess Jolie’s face popped up in my imaginings a few times. That sent a pretty flush to my cheeks (and put the girls on high beam, so to speak). Then I tossed my hair a couple of times to give it that wild, tousled look and headed downstairs.

              I yawned and stretched theatrically as I walked into the kitchen, following the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I gratefully took a cup from Jacob and sipped at it while watching the others carefully. Everyone was up except for Marguerite, and they all reacted differently to my presence. Ace blushed slightly and stumbled over his words for a few minutes… it was the only time I’ve seen him acting shy. Jacob didn’t react at all, but his responses were very measured… I think he was trying not to be rude. Gawain gaped at me for a minute before turning back to the eggs and toast he was making for breakfast. Calamity ogled me without pretense or apology, and threw me a smirk when she caught my eye. I returned it with interest. I filed away their reactions for later reference and we began to talk about the business of the day.

              We decided to focus our advertising efforts on three locations: downtown Malibu, Santa Monica College, and the famous Santa Monica pier. The plan was to hit Malibu early and sedately post fliers in coffee shops and other “artistic” businesses before heading over to Santa Monica for some more enthusiastic advertising. I ran lightly up the stairs, calling out “just let me throw some pants on and I’ll be ready to go.” Marguerite poked her head out of her room at that, looked me up and down, and muttered something about how she would have to start getting up earlier. I gave her a big smile and winked at her.

              I’m not leading her on. I’m not. She seems like a nice girl, and she’s a knockout to boot. As long as she understands that I’m not looking for anything long-term or serious, I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a little fun together. Let’s face it, pretty much everyone in this house is a potential bedmate for me, and she seems to be showing the most interest at the moment. Well, her and Calamity. There’s no doubt that Calamity’s hot in her own way, and I really like her in-your-face, go get ‘em attitude, but… ouch. I’m not sure how that would work, you know… physically. And when I think about Marguerite… those fingers… that tongue… mmmm…

              Where was I? Anyway, despite my earlier comment about putting on pants, I came back downstairs a few minutes later dressed in a pretty but sedate sundress, ready to go. Malibu was nice, but some of my friends were getting some odd looks from the locals. Gawain, Jacob, and Calamity mostly stuck to posting the fliers on telephone poles and fences, while Ace, Marguerite and I did more face time with the people on the street, talking up our new establishment in the classiest terms possible. I’m sure we ticked off a few of the more uptight citizens, but I think most of them were pretty open to what we were selling.

              We hit the campus of Santa Monica College next, and we were allowed to be a bit more expressive there. Ace turned up the British, Marguerite went over all coy and coquettish, and I smiled and winked and laughed a lot. Hell, if I’m going to get invested in the success of the Dream House, I might as well use what God and the Stranger gave me to promote it, right?

              After a bit, we wandered into one of the common areas that included a small stage for performances. Ace and I had a whispered conversation, and he suggested I sing a bit of the old Peggy Lee hit “Why Don’t You Do Right?” because he thought it would resonate with the crowd. Something about some cartoon rabbit singing it in a movie. I don’t claim to understand his logic, but I can’t deny that he was right. That number might have drummed up more business than the rest of the time we spent on that campus put together… plus it allowed me to soak up a bit of glamour from the audience, as I was running dangerously low.

              We hit the pier as the sun was beginning to set and the lights were coming on. That’s where Ace was really able to shine. By allowing the pier’s carnival atmosphere to feed into his sideshow barker act, he was able to whip that crowd into a frenzy. For most of the time we were there, Marguerite and I were relegated to the positions of eye candy handing out fliers. When the crowds eventually began to thin, Ace asked me to pull more people in, so I jumped up on a bench and began to sing. I chose “Karn Evil 9” by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, as the lyrics seemed to fit our purpose well. Soon enough we were drawing a crowd again.

              While the three of us were working the mundanes, the rest of our friends were introducing themselves to a few of the local changelings. There were three women watching us from different positions on the periphery of the crowd. I picked them out of the crowd, but my talents were focused elsewhere at the time, so I didn’t have the pleasure of making their acquaintance. Maybe Calamity can introduce me at some point; she spent a lot of time talking to all three of them.

              The first of the three was a drop-dead gorgeous Asian woman named Becky Wan. She has flawless golden skin, striking pale eyes, and she’s voluptuous enough to make me the teensiest bit jealous, if I’m being completely honest with myself. I’m told she’s a member of the Spring Court, but I’ve never personally met her.

              There was also a very large green-skinned woman named Monica. She had a mouth full of absolutely enormous teeth, and her whole body was sheathed in hard muscle. According to Calamity, she tends to hang out at Muscle Beach, and our new “motley” has been invited to visit her there if we need anything (or just want to socialize). Seems like she’d be a good person to know, so maybe we should take her up on that.

              Finally, there was a Summer Court woman named Joan. Ace knows her. She’s pretty, with long straight blonde hair that she keeps in a ponytail and a face like a porcelain mask… and just as cold and impassive. She seems nice enough, but even from a distance it was obvious to me that she had a major stick up her ass. Maybe a night or two spent at our new cabaret would help to lighten her up…

              She did have some helpful information for us, though I’m not sure how immediately relevant it’ll turn out to be. She warned us against a… I’m not entirely sure what I should call Them. Most changelings refer to them as “The Gentry,” so I guess I’ll go with that for now. Anyway, she warned us against a Gentry she called “The Director.” A lot of people have escaped from his clutches lately, and the Summer Court thinks that most of them are probably loyalists. “Recruiters,” they call them; people sent into the mortal world with the sole purpose of bringing others back to Arcadia to serve the Director.

              I can’t imagine anyone doing something like that. I mean, my time in Arcadia obviously wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but to voluntarily go out into the world and bring other innocents back into Their clutches… it boggles the mind.

              We decided to head home after the fliers were gone. It’s pretty late now, and I really need to get to sleep if I’m going to sing at the church tomorrow morning. So I’m going to put this diary back on top of the box of my stuff (which was delivered today while we were out), turn off the light, strip down, and head to bed. Alone again… naturally.

              Lorelei Grace

              Ace's Log

              Dear diary, yours truly has got himself a job talking of all things. Aarron Constantine Evermore is also no longer homeless. Conveniently, these winfalls are not unrelated. Too right dear Ace is the well and duly appointed Summer Court representative charged with getting a burlesque house up, running, and profitable. The posh bit of porridge is me getting To live in the bleedin mansion while I'm at it.

              The house is right bloody gigantic and I went straight away to getting my own kip sorted up front. Nice little quiet room down in the basement like. It's away from the hustle and hoopla of the stage and what not up stairs. A good setup I wager indeed.

              Best you beleive, dear Ace is not alone in this castle. Other reps and personages are tasked to carry the ball or die trying, though they all proved a touch reticent on the "or death" part but I won't hold it against them. It is a motley assortment are cementing indeed.

              I met the man Jakob first. He's Russian so put a y in place the j and you are golden on his namesake. Cold bloke this one. Not unfriendly like cold, more he is cold like made of ice cold. He is winter court's man. He's right quite, but then next to me a parrot is quite so I won't hold it against the gent. He is tasked with tending bar so that should get him to open up some. I like that he seems able to fight a bit if need be. Violence comes wether you want it or not and we are made by monsters so prepared is best.

              Our other resident bloke is a one Gwain. He's a big one made of metal he is. Suit of green armour to be precise. Nice sort perhaps a bit new to nuance but nice chap still. Big bloody sword he has. Like claymore I mean, I have no idea how big his other sword is. Dawn court to be fair but he came with a friend so above board as far as my vote counts. He is on security and building duty. Brought his own forge so I am fairly certain he will prove a beast on the war front.

              Luckily our fair cabaret will not be an all male revue. Fairer sex one, or I should say fairest sex is our dear angel Lorelie. She's no sorry sight on the eyes and has right pretty wings to boot. Spring court is her liege and she no question looks the part. Rest on it dear reader our one Ace has no intentions on this one. She is the sky and I am but a thing on the ground. She will take up the job of singing in our little endeavor. No disparity on her character but I feel she might be shit in a fight.

              Autumn court's addition is a one Miss Calamity. Woman looks tough. She has little shards of glass coming out of her otherwise supple looking skin parts. I will also hazard her fingers could be used to take a blokes heart out starting from his hind bits so nothing but a bonus this girl. Her task is bouncer and overall security and she looks to excell there. Our dear Gwain came on board with her.

              I would say one of the more interesting add-ons to our conglomerate is a night courtier name of Insincere Marguarette. She wasn't sent in so much as had already laid a claim on the house. Not being terrible sods we all voted her in to the circus and she is going to work with our lighting and music. She is a sneaky one and likes the dark which is sad cause she is rather fetching in the light, no pun on our replacement fetches intended. She is agile but a bit I feel a bit frail on the rough and ready front.

              As to getting the cabaret up with a vengeance, I wager we are solidly on that horse. We banged out adverts in a night and set them all over town. I talked us up and Lorelei gave them her own bit of business, singing that is.

              Everyone is giving this quest full bore attention even if there is no pain of death so I couldn't be more enthused by the situation...
              Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 04-13-2014, 04:43 PM.

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              [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]


              • #8
                Calamity’s Little Black Book

                Friday, April 25, 2014

                It's my first night here in the Dream House and it's been a fucking day. If the courts really wanted this shit up and running by the end of the month they should have gotten us in here sooner. But they didn't and Tuesday is Walpurgisnacht and we HAVE TO OPEN. I'd never heard of it but according to Wikipedia (damn the internet has exploded while I was imprisoned in Snow Globe...) it is some manner of European pagan festival thing. Whatever. What matters is that I swore to oversee the Autumn Court's interests here and so if Queen Charlotte wants us open on Walpurgis Night then we will fucking be open Walpurgis even if I have to get up on stage and dance myself.

                Thankfully for everyone, it doesn't look like it's going to come to that. The courts did stock the place and clean the public areas up. They also hired on a kitchen and serving staff. We've got costumes in the backstage area and they did give us a short list of talent agencies which I imagine are going to be able to provide us with acts. Still, no time to put together anything or practice. I mean, I admit that I know fuck all about performing but it feels like we're flying this shit by the seat of our pants here. Plus, just as I feared, not a one of us knows anything about RUNNING a business. I'm not saying we can't handle this because fuck that noise I will make this happen if it kills someone. But we've all got a lot to learn and a really short amount of time to do it in.

                Jeez I'm fucking wound up and I've got no way to blow off any steam. Better yet, I don't see where I'm going to have a chance anytime soon for a decent pounding one way or the other...


                And Gawain just poked his head in to let me know he's going home. I told him he could stay, either for the night or long term but he said he wants his own space. I could tell earlier today that Gawain really didn't want me to move my things but honestly this is better. I've been crashing on his couch way too much. I should have found my own place before now but well... I just felt... safe there. Fuck. I don't need anyone to protect me, I'm a goddamn monster and Gawain deserves better...

                Hopefully with me out of the way he can find someone who's actually worthy of him. Of course, bringing him along on this venture means he's still going to be nearby most of the time. But it's too good an opportunity for him to establish himself and without a strong court to help him out he needs that. Plus I want someone I know I can trust to have my back working security with me.

                Fuck this, I'm raiding the damn bar for something to drink...


                Okay, I think it's down to just me and Marguerite at this point. (That's Insincere Marguerite as she prefers to be called, so as not to be confused with any of the other Marguerites out there.) She kinda came with the place. Well, not like an indentured servant or something fucked up like that (though as crazy and archaic as this whole Arcadian refugee deal is sometimes shit like that apparently can actually happen...) No, she was squatting here before we arrived and since she's like us we decided to deal her in rather than evict her. Not a one of my... well what do I call them... co-workers? It's hella more than that. We're all still too unknown to each other to be friends, though I think I could call them all that eventually. Well, anyway, none of the others seemed keen on kicking her out or being inhospitable to her situation, which counted a whole lot more on the first impressions scale than anything else that happened today. I mean, fuck it she'd claimed the place and we just strolled in like Columbus and planted our flag. Sure we've got the legal claim and given my oath I'd have fought her if it came down to it but I didn't want to and neither did the rest of them. Thankfully she wasn't spoiling for a fight either (or maybe she was just realistic about the five to one odds) and parley ensued.

                We pledged (yeah, I am still getting used to this mystically binding oath business. Fuck me I certainly would have never thought learning to min-max the wording of Wish spells would turn out to be a useful talent...) Anyway, we all made a pledge to support and help each other for a year and a day on the pain of being helpless in the face of the Motley's wrath so while I don't really know them I should be able to trust them not to fuck with me at least. And except for Marguerite and Gawain I know they've got a similar deal with their court to what I've got with my own. Hell, Ace said the Summer Court would kill him if he failed. (That might be hyperbole but he was the only one to suggest we put an 'or death' clause in the Motley pledge so who knows. I've heard his court is a little over the top like that.) Of course, I've given the same but really my pledge to Queen Charlotte to protect her court's interests here would include my counterparts from the other courts anyway.

                I'm still not sure about my pledge to Her Majesty, but fuck it. Bad choices make good stories, right? I mean the deal was a simple favor and transfer of the Autumn Court's quarter ownership of this place if I successfully guarded the Autumn Court's interests here and ran a profitable business (Fuck... I guess I am going to have to sort out being able to legally own property at some point...) And sure, I suppose if you consider what she can accomplish with a short phone call or a few words my request might be a waste. But I didn't want to be greedy and debts are like sand, they chafe after a while. So as I was sealing the deal I named my favor, a kiss from the Queen. I got a raised eyebrow and a little quirk of her lip so it did apparently amuse her. I mean, I already knew she had no issues kissing women or anything like that so I felt safe that I wouldn't offend her. Besides, if I am going to be all pragmatic about this, better to be on good terms with her than to just have her owe me you know. And who the fuck knows, maybe I'll get lucky...


                Alright. Looks like the fliers are almost done. I am still totally not sure how we're going to pull this off but if Walpurgis opening night falls short it will not be for lack of effort at least. And given the discussions earlier, we do have a wide range of useful skills between us. Having had time to go over this computer, it looks like it's got software to help a lot with the office work of ordering and keeping the books and all that. I've pretty much volunteered to be the one to figure it out and handle that in the off hours since acting as security is mainly just going to take place when we are open. I don't think it's beyond anyone else to do but someone needed to step up and nobody else seemed to want to.

                Gawain has set up his forge and seems intrigued with the prospect of sets and props and all that. He'll make a more welcoming than me yet still stern enough to keep folks well-mannered presence working the door I think. Beyond that, he's a good handyman and is already pitching in to help out wherever he can.

                The Summer Court representative is Ace, short for Aaron Constantine Evermore if I heard correctly. He's a Brit, not the uptight crumpet and cricket sort but more the warm beer and rugby punk type with the Mohawk and accent and everything. I might have to see about giving him a spin... I mean there can't be that many real ones out here in Cali, right? Anywho... He returned from Arcadia with the scales and eyes of a snake though his personality is far from that trope. So far he has thrown himself into every task with a very do or die attitude. He's quite flamboyant and has a flair for the dramatic, I would even go so far as to use the term bombastic to describe him. And he manages to be much more infectious than annoying (which is a good thing since someone turned him up to eleven and then broke off the knob) For the house, he will be the master of ceremonies, which suits him rather perfectly I think. He's got a mind for promotion, was very insistent on us needing to get that going and then helped Lori and Insincere Marguerite design the fliers we'll be putting up tomorrow. Plus he's working with Lorelei to put together our opening night lineup.

                Jacob, that's pronounced with Y because he's Russian, is pretty much the exact opposite which is oddly appropriate (if entirely coincidental) as he's representing the Winter Court. And he is, well, very wintery. He's got pale skin and hair like snow. He's soft spoken and has just enough of his own accent to give one goosebumps and shivers. (damn I really need to get laid...) He is quiet and reserved but has a definite presence and a dry wit when he chooses. He's going to be tending the bar as well as managing the bar and kitchen staff. Of all of them, he's the hardest to read and revealed the least but he strikes me as someone who'll be calm and level-headed in a crisis. Next to Gawain, I suspect he's the one I'm going to be able to depend on.

                The Spring Court's representative is Lorelei Grace. Everything about her is beautiful. Her voice, her looks, her wings... She's just so bright and colorful and it goes past the physical to her personality and manner. Fuck, with her here I might as well make wistful comments about the men because they're certainly not going to see me past all that. And I certainly don't blame them for it, Zod knows I couldn't keep my eyes off her once she tried on one of the costumes from the dressing room. I want to do bad things to her... very bad things... Not surprisingly, she'll be headlining the regular lineup and along with Ace organizing and overseeing the talent. She's a very optimistic and friendly and seems to truly love music. However, she's clearly got more than just songs between her ears. For one thing, while she hasn't been back longer than the rest of us she's managed to start building a mainstream career in modeling (hey, you play to your strengths. If I had half of what she's got I'd be flaunting it.) And if that classic Corvette Stingray she's driving is any indication, it has certainly been more lucrative than the fringe lifestyles of vagabond, day laborer, and criminal the rest of us seem to have fallen into.

                Then there is Insincere Marguerite. She's a Darkling like myself. Well, not exactly like me but we are certainly sisters in the things you find under a dark rock club. She follows the Night Court, which I don't know very much about beyond the fact that they're not a major player in the area. She's even more stealthy than I am, she has been living in the house completely undetected for the past couple of weeks while they were preparing the place to reopen and had she not approached us would still be as far as I can guess. She knows her way around the catwalks and has some experience with the technical side of a theater so she'll be working the lights and sound and curtains. Beyond that, she's mentioned being from Paris and does have quite a delightful accent. (Yeah, we do bring a full set of sexy accents to the table. Hell, I should learn one... may that Dutch-esque South African one...) She's a touch creepy and there is a predatory air to her but I like her well enough. Plus, I can only imagine what she might be able to to do with those long, long fingers and that tongue. I mean, fuck it's got to be at least two feet uncurled and she clearly knows how to use it... of course, she's got eyes for Lori like everyone else so it's kinda a moot point.

                So far it seems that Gawain and myself aren't the only fighters, though there has not yet been any chance to really see what any of the others can do. Ace seems like a hardy scrapper and he apparently trained as a boxer and while Jacob didn't really speak of his past he carries himself without a wasted movement. For now at lest, I'm sure they can both hold their own. Insincere Marguerite seems quite inclined to avoid direct confrontation with stealth or words but I have no doubt that she's familiar enough with violence to know how to keep her head down and avoid injury in a fight. So while I wouldn't count on her to take anyone out, I think she can take care of herself. On the other hand, while Lorelei is certainly quick on her feet she doesn't seem to have the skill or, more importantly, the demeanor to do anyone physical harm. It's hard to imagine surviving Arcadia without learning to deal with a fight but for now she's the one I feel will need to be protected if something happens. Of course, I won't know anything for sure till the shit hits the fan the first time.

                Yeah, so there's the crew. Gawain's coming around in the morning and we'll be putting up fliers to promote opening night tomorrow. Damn, at this point it's late enough to be early. I might as well just stay up and see what else I can find surfing the internet. I lost two decades after all and talking to the others made the weird time gaps we all suffer stand out. I think someone at Court mentioned that the BBC brought Dr Who back...

                Saturday, April 26, 2014

                I don't believe it but it looks like we just might pull this thing off after all. Fuck, have I been harping on that? So I'm worried about the tight timetable, sue me. But after breakfast, which consisted of coffee, bacon, some eggs inside toast thingys, and a really nice view of Lorelei, we headed out in Gawain's van to paper some strategic locations. We're going to need to get a van or some such for business use or at least spring to get Gawain's painted and cleaned up if we're going to use it for official stuff like this. Image is important and all that shit.

                We hit the shops in Malibu early and kept everything rather quiet and low key. Lorelei seems quite concerned that someone in that community will take offense to us setting up such a risque business on the outskirts of it. She's been insistent that we give no offense or at least leave them nothing to use against us. I can't argue with her logic so I made sure to be on my best behavior while we were there and it went off without us attracting more than a couple of dirty looks.

                Next up was the college and we loosened up a bit more there. Lori, Ace, and Marguerite put on the charm while Gawain, Jacob, and myself put up fliers. I handed the staple-gun off the Jacob once I caught myself carrying it in a nice two handed grip and drawing a bead on a particularly grumpy looking jock... so again, nothing exciting happened. And hearing Lori sing... fuck but I'm glad we had to swing back by the house to pick up more fliers so I could change out my panties after that.

                I guess then it's not surprising that when we hit the pier my mind was on anything but business. We broke into the same division of labor and Lorelei went with some Emerson, Lake, and Palmer rather than the torch singing. We ran across a few of the kind there and I took it upon myself to make friends. (Okay, they were all hot and I was, and still am, fucking horny. If I am going to stay here I need some fucking saltpeter or something. Either that or I'm going to murder the Energizer bunny to support my need for batteries...)

                Anyway... So, there was Becky Wan. She is a Spring courtier with pale skin and hair though without the snowy/cold thing that Jacob has going on. It's more of a, I don't know, regal sort of bearing? At any rate, she just exuded sexy. I'd call Lori prettier but Becky just had, you know, that something something going on. Oh, and the claws... fuck but I couldn't help but imagine her plowing my back like the back forty with those things... Yeah, hello my name is Calamity and I like it rough. She apparently does security and bodyguard work for her court (which she joked got her into all the good parties) so she does presumably have some fire to back up that smoke. I dropped a few hints, all subtle to test the waters since I do understand that some people are picky about silly things like gender or where and how many horns you've got (or don't have...). I was pleased to see that she responded favorably enough to confirm that she's not a no fly zone but it wasn't the time or place to do anything about that. Hopefully she'll show at the opening or better yet after that when I won't be running around like a headless chicken.

                From there we moved to greet the jolly green giantess. She was all rock solid muscles and teeth. Huge teeth, but very, very clean and white and tidy, not the jagged maw so many of us have. And her eyes were solid black, a trait I'm told is common among her order. No, Entitlement is the proper term. Monica is an Ogre and a member of the Summer Court as well as being a Blackbird Bishop. And while she was imposing to say the least, she really was quite friendly, speaking about her role in helping new lost escape the hedge and find their way. She asked after all of us and made it clear that if we needed anything she'd do her best to help. She also talked about Muscle Beach, which is apparently the place to find her most of the time. I kept things friendly but not flirty, at least for now. I am sure that I'll see more her around.

                The last of the trio of beautiful women was Joan. Tall with white hair and a white outfit and a golden shield on her back that I'm fairly sure her mask concealed from the mundanes. She is also Summer Court and she has a white hot intensity to her that I quickly found a little off-putting. She is serious and no-nonsense with a manner that brought to my mind a state trooper or drill sergeant. Hell, my chosen name brought a scowl of disapproval. But she was civil and so I resisted the urge to try baiting her. And she did share some information about a Gentry known as the Director who's apparently known to let changelings escape and to send out some of them as loyalist recruiters for 'fresh talent'. Smacks of the whole sleazy Hollywood trope, luring and tricking his victims in and twisting them around to believe they're not victims. She said that the local courts didn't take him seriously enough and it was certainly the first I'd heard of him. At that point, Gawain asked about her shield and started a nerdalanche. Don't get me wrong, it was really, really good to see him find someone he could talk to about swords and fighting styles that could keep up. I listen but I just don't know enough to geek out with him like that. She seems a bit uptight and hidebound at first glance but she's got potential. I'll have to do some more checking. Maybe see if Ace knows her and ask around at court. It's too early to tell but she just might be a good match for Gawain.

                And that's pretty much the day. Lorelei has already said she's got an appointment early and isn't going to be staying up. I'm running pretty close to empty myself but wanted to get things down before I crashed out. Right now it is time for a cigar and a stiff drink (though sadly as much as I'd love it nothing else stiff in the cards for needy little me...) Might see if any of the others feel like joining me for some unwinding. Tomorrow's Sunday, so I'd imagine we'll have to wait till Monday line up the talent. Fuck, that's last minute. I really hope Ace and Lori can pull a goddamn opening night extravaganza out of their asses. But there is fuck all I can do about it tonight. I need to try to unwind before I pass out so this crap doesn't spill over and keep me from getting a decent night's sleep.

                Maybe I'll just cheat and dream someone else's dreams instead...

                Jacob’s Journal

                What the hell was I thinking? I just made a pledge with five complete strangers. I don’t know these people save for their names and courts. Any one of them could be dangerous to me. Except that they all just promised not to harm anyone else in the motley. But I guess that was the point wasn’t it? Everyone else seemed so eager to form this alliance, and we have been sent here by our respective courts, well most of us, to see to the running and success of this Burlesque house.

                I am here in Santa Monica, my sister is here. I was planning on staying for a little while anyway. Hell, I’m practically here at the behest of the Winter King. The irony of working for another winter themed monarch is not lost on me. But he offered me a job here, and I figured it would be good to have someone so powerful owe me something, or at the very least be supportive of me down the line. I know what’s coming for me, and allies would be a boon.

                So, I’m back to making a pledge with perfect strangers. I know what was going through my head at the time, so I’m not surprised. Scratch that, I am surprised. This pledge is for a year and a day. Granted I’ve only been back “in the world” for about four months, and I haven’t stayed anywhere very long in that time. Now, I’ve agreed to stay here, work with these people, live with these people, protect them if need be, for a year and a day. I suppose if I need to comfort myself, they have agreed to do the same thing for me. They cannot turn against me in that time or they will suffer the consequences. Even the gentry have to abide by these kinds of arrangements. I made a contract of sorts with The Lady and I paid the price for leaving. I am diminished from what I was. I had power, I had strength. I had a purpose. But, I gave all that up. Sometimes in the long dark of night, I regret my decision. Sometimes. Everything is so confusing now. I don’t know who to trust anymore, because any one of them could be working for the gentry. Someone may tell The Lady where I am. I know how this works! Hell, I’ve done this myself! Shit, I’m so screwed!!

                Okay…took a stroll on the roof and talked to Insincere Marguerite. I think she was a bit surprised, and maybe amused to see me up there. We made pleasant small talk and watched boats on the ocean. I don’t think that she is used to company. Truth is, neither am I. That’s why I chose the room furthest away from the others, but somewhere I could still see the sunrise. I’ve been back for months, but I have not yet grown tired of seeing the sun rise and set. I have not yet taken for granted a mattress to sleep on or a blanket to pull over my shoulders. And hot food! By the goddess, hot food! Hot coffee! One of my guilty pleasures when on errands for The Lady was to get a cup of hot coffee. Now there is a coffee maker just downstairs!

                But back to Marguerite, or Insincere Marguerite as she prefers to be called. She has been rather accepting of us since we moved in, considering that the house was all hers up until this morning. She has been very understanding. Too much so I think. She is accepting things as they are because she cannot change them. She is hoping to be useful so she will be accepted and allowed a place to stay here. Perhaps a job so her presence has purpose. We have only seen the “face” that she has put forward, which is by no means her real face. This one is shy, accepting and eager to please. I wonder what her real face looks like? I cannot judge of course. I see her motives clearly because I am doing the same thing. I need to be accepted so that I can have some measure of security, and so I wear the mask of a newly escaped changeling. Tired and frightened and confused by what has happened. This is what they must see. So, I understand Marguerite’s motives. I have seen flashes of annoyance at little things as the group goes about making a life in “her” house. I would be worried if I did not see them. It means that she is not broken, just hiding. Now to just coax her out from behind that mask. Or does that make me a hypocrite because I don’t plan on coming out from behind mine? I think it does.

                Anyway… some of the others seem so straightforward compared to little Marguerite. Gawain, for example. He is smitten by Calamity, seriously smitten. Apparently they escaped together, or met up soon after. It is kind of sweet to watch actually. He’s helped her move some of her things up already. Insisted actually. And it’s genuine! I’m used to looking out for lies, seeing if people are hiding anything, but he isn’t! I know liars. I’m a decent liar myself, but I don’t think he is! Gawain is here because Calamity is. He joined the motley for her. No one leaves Arcadia unscathed, but in some ways he seems so innocent. I didn’t know that was possible. I mean, Diane escaped and remained the kind and caring woman she was before, but I cannot say that she was innocent. I don’t know if she remembers that I’m the one that lured her to The Lady’s realm in the first place or not. Sometimes when I think about catching up to her in Claire Falls, I think she does. There was a brief look of hatred in her eyes right before her Ogre friend attacked me. I wasn’t sure if I’d seen it; I’m still not. My memory from that fight is still a little hazy. I’m blaming it on the angry man with stone fists hitting me in the head a lot.

                Gawain doesn’t have an expression per se, but his body language and tone of voice speaks of devotion to the Autumn Court representative and a genuine desire to help. Any of us. He came along happily enough to carry the heavy box of fliers that we printed out and were posting all over town to advertise the Burlesque house. Despite the kind demeanor I know that he is first and foremost a warrior. Hell, he came back as a suit of armor! He has a two handed sword in the back of his van taller than I am, and had a rather animated conversation with a Summer Court woman about swords and swordplay. I cannot underestimate the man regardless of his kind attitude. That said, I find myself hoping that he does not lose that innocent quality. It is a rare and precious thing.

                Let’s see, who else is there. Ah, Lorelei Grace. Not her real name of course, but Grace suits her just fine. She is a rather pretty girl with honey colored hair and beautiful wings the colors of the rainbow. She seems like the sort that my Lady would have kept as a prize. I know others of the Gentry enjoy keeping beautiful things, and Lorelei certainly fits that description. She is in the Spring Court and it’s not hard to see why. She is a very upbeat, friendly person. She smiles so easily, and most of the time it reaches her eyes. My guess is that she was kept as a prize. She is beautiful. She can sing. She moves with a fluid grace (no pun intended) that is lovely to watch. Being a prize is not always a good thing. It depends on how the Gentry treat their “possessions.” Lorelei seems to have come out of it okay though. No one comes away completely ‘whole’ but she seems to be well adjusted and genuinely kind.

                Then there is Calamity. I have noticed that changelings tend to come back to “the world” marked in some way. Their appearance tends to reflect something about themselves and something about their experiences in Arcadia. I feel sad for Calamity. Not pity. She is too strong a woman for that. But I feel empathy for what cannot have been an easy time of it. She has shards of glass coming out of her flesh, mostly on her face and arms. I do not know if this happens naturally or if she put them there herself. Either way it speaks of pain. I am well familiar with that and what it can do to you. Despite her past hurts she doesn’t seem to be consumed by it. She was friendly enough in a take charge kind of way. She has a no-nonsense kind of attitude, and I don’t doubt that she’ll do just fine helping to run this place and just in general.

                The young Autumn Court member is hard to read. About as hard to read as I am. Some things I can still tell though. Some things she can’t hide. Calamity is a fighter. She has a fairly slight build, so I’m thinking she could be good with some kind of martial arts or maybe knives. She has a fluid kind of grace like Lorelei, but while the pretty Fairest has more a dancer’s grace, Calamity has more of a fighter’s grace. There is more of an awareness of her surroundings in her movements. Plus she chose the name Calamity. That has to count for something, right? I have yet to see if her name is a promise or a threat. Time will tell.

                Ace, what can I say about Ace? He’s British. Very British. He is also a very outgoing person. He is going to be the… announcer? Barker? Not sure what the right term is. He will introduce the acts and presumably entertain the crowd between numbers. I have no doubt that he will be able to do this after seeing him advertise for the Burlesque house today. He was quite the showman. Ace told me his full name but I can’t think of it at the moment. I will need to remember to ask. Anyway, he told me a bit about his schooling and how he was a champion level boxer. He definitely has a bounce to his step, the way he moves here and there without wasted movement.

                Our resident boxer is a serpent aspected beast. I do not know if he is poisonous or not. I should probably ask. It is good to know the capabilities of your friends as well as your enemies. He is also obviously Summer Court. Again, given past experiences I’m a little wary of Summer Court folks, but he didn’t come across as overly hostile. He has an aura of heat and sun about him, and I found myself wondering if I stood real close to him, could we make steam? Perhaps something to try later.But back to Ace. He seemed very gung-ho about forging the motley and seemed fixated on ‘success or death’! We talked him down from the death part. I would not blithely enter into a contract that involves a penalty of death unless it was extremely important. And though I find I like the personalities of my new motley, I am not quite ready to lay down my life for them yet.

                So…I’ve been trying to figure out when people were taken. I think Lorelei was taken in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Given songs I’ve heard her hum or sing, references she’s made, and some things that she didn’t know about that’s about the time I would guess she was lost. I mentioned getting a copy of Photoshop to make flyers and she thought I was referring to a camera store. Gawain said that he knew someone who could get him a copy of the program that “fell of the back of the internet.” It was kind of funny to watch people’s expressions. Gawain didn’t know what the phrase meant, nor did Lorelei, but she seemed more interested in making sure that everything was legal. I was curious to meet this guy, but I wasn’t going to push the issue. So Lorelei, Calamity and Insincere Marguerite took Lori’s shiny Stingray to get a copy. Not sure how they all fit into a two-seater, but they managed.

                Calamity and Insincere Marguerite only seemed a little behind the times, as did Ace. Granted Insincere Marguerite has been back for about a year and some change, so she has had more time to get acclimated. I’ve been gone the shortest amount of time if you go by the date here, but it was so much longer than that in Her realm. Time seems to pass differently in each Gentry’s territory. I don’t actually know how much time passed in The Lady’s realm. She is timeless and seemingly as unchanging as a glacier so everything in her world seemed to stand still though time passed by. Forever twilight, never morning or night. Never midday. Based on my appearance I’d have to guess that about twenty years passed for me in Her place. I stopped growing some time ago. Though, I still have something of a boy-ish look to my face, but I certainly don’t feel like it.

                Since I’ve been back I’ve fallen in with the Winter Court. It seemed the natural fit. The element is definitely me, and I am well familiar with sorrow though I’m not as obsessed or consumed by it as some Winter Court members. Each Court has their own set of abilities you can learn too. The woman in the Winter Court that has been teaching me one of the Court abilities has commented on my aptitude for learning the “contract,” as it’s called. Of course I can’t tell her that it is very similar to the power that I wielded while in The Lady’s service. Plus, it is all about manipulating snow and ice, and I’ve had a good deal of practice with that. There are slight differences in how it’s done though, so I pay attention like a dutiful student should and learn the craft she has to teach me.

                Though an introspective is fun and all I should probably make mention of what the new motley has been up to. We need to name ourselves…I’ve heard of other Motleys that have a title or name to go by. Anyway… Ace, with the help of the lovely Insincere Marguerite and Lorelei designed some pretty professional looking posters last night, while I was checking out the house, and today we put them up all over the place. We started in Malibu, handing them out and putting them up in a professional and courteous manner. Then we moved to the college campus where Elena goes, and then the pier. While on campus I told my sister about my new job and asked if she could hand out some fliers. She seemed interested and I thanked her. I wish I could tell her. I miss her.

                The pier was interesting. Lots of people from all walks of life enjoying the sights and sounds. While there we met some other changelings. It was mostly Calamity and Gawain talking to them, though I came over after I’d finished with my stack of fliers. Ace was drumming up attention and Lorelei was serenading the crowd. From what I gathered the three changelings were Becky, white hair, dusky complexion. Monica, who has all black eyes, and a big smile. I do mean big. From what I heard she is Summer Court and a Blackbird Bishop. I’ve come across their lot in the past. Not here though. I should say I’ve seen several, don’t think they saw me. Well, one did. He was very serious about eliminating the threat to his community and I was that threat. To be honest, I was a threat. I was retrieving a runaway that was a hair’s breadth from escaping when the Bishop blocked my path. That terrified kid ran while we fought. He gave as good as he got, but he was new and I wasn’t. I did leave his body where his friends could find it. Not so much as a threat, but as a way he could be buried and mourned by those who cared. My, I am in a maudlin mood aren’t I?

                The other new, well new to us, changeling that we met was a woman named Joan. Another Summer Court, very no-nonsense, all white clothes, neatly dressed and a shield on her back. She seemed keen on warning us of The Director. He is apparently a Gentry that likes to hunt for folks in this area. He sends “recruiters” out to pretend to be newly escaped changelings, then lures them back to their master. I do seem to have come to an active city, don’t I? Well, I will have to take each day as it comes. I have a job as a bartender to do, which shouldn’t be hard, and I need to keep an eye out for my Motley. Some, I have no worries for as far as taking care of themselves. Others will need help. They have taken a vow to protect me and watch my back, and I have done the same for them. They seem like decent people, and I will do my best to make sure they come to no harm.

                Insincere Marguerite’s Whispers

                I am no longer alone. If this is good or bad remains to be seen.

                In the short term it is good. More people are more to protect me. Or dissuade me from my baser impulses. Thank goodness I had not set up in the basement yet. But they may also be used against me. The Court of Day, for all their claims of honor, are unafraid to do so. One of them also stirs…memories…best left alone. But such was inevitable. And she has a rather different look than my Dearest, so perhaps all will be well.

                I would say I had the good fortune to squat where a motley was about to form, and get honest work as a technician in a Burlesque theater. But it was not luck, it was the Wyrd narrating a twist in my tale. A tale that is already rather twisted.

                It was, I discovered, a Friday afternoon while I was looking at some puppets in the catwalks above the stage I heard the intruders. Not the first intruders to come, but when I peered at them they were of the Kind, though none had a shining Mantle of Day the Summer one, Ace, made me do a double take. I watched from afar until I knew they were neither assassins from Day or minions of my Keeper’s enemies seeking to undo me before I can join her again. Not that I will. No no no.

                Why do people not call me what I introduced myself as? I made it quite clear I am Insincere Marguerite. There are many Marguerites in the world, I am the one who is Insincere. Still, it was a faux pas not unique to them. I shall not hold it against them. They are Americans after all, well most of them. Not Ace, who is English, which is worse. Or Jacob. Anyway.

                I determined they were sent by their Courts, which would explain the food being brought here and water being turned on. Just as well, I ate all the cheese. Seeking to retain my living arrangements, I invited them to stay as if it were my call, and they went along with the polite fiction. They invited me into their Motley, and I accepted. I wasn’t doing anything anyway.

                We set about preparing for the opening, which is on Walpurgis Night. Calamity Lorelei and I picked up a copy of Photoshop, and Ace and Lorelei assisted me in making some fliers…Lorelei is remarkably out of touch with technology. I believe she was taken before I was born. I did not point that out.

                That was last night. Today we distributed flyers in various locations in Malibu and Santa Monica, including the Pier and Santa Monica College. My new Motley is…interesting. Certainly a mix of skills and personalities I find intriguing.

                Lorelei is a winged Fairest. She calls to me the temptation to touch, to taste, to keep her hidden in my chamber. I am not going to give in and become like Them, so I will not claim her. I hope. She has her room so close to mine, and seems receptive to my flirtations. If only she knew the danger she was in. Still, I like her. She pleases me. I like her smell.
                Assuming something awful does not happen we could be friends. Or lovers. Probably friends. Maybe lovers. Only problem is she really likes 70s music. I was unaware there was American 70s music. I was wrong, but not really.

                Ace is a snake Beast. He talks a great deal, but does not say much. Still, he is a natural with theatre. He is English, but I won’t hold that against him. He did good work on the flyers, with my help. He was a little…eager…with a sort of “succeed or die” push for the pledge. I dislike anything where my other option is “or die.” Of course, I have no desire to betray these people. Unlike what I feared from a Summer Courtier, Ace does not remind me of the Day Court. He seems less destructive than them…I don’t know what he is. But then, we just met.

                Calamity is a fellow predator. A fellow Darkling, she does not seem to sleep. She has the eyes of a killer. Who am I to judge? She is Autumn Court, an organization that intrigues me. She is soft spoken and a little butch, in a good way. She seems somewhat attached to Gawain. I suspect anyone who hurt him would face a knife in the back. She seems more amused by the others in the group than anything else. We have things in common, my fellow night stalker and I. Perhaps someday we may even whisper them to each other. Perhaps not.

                Jacob seems a nice sort, mischievous, Russian. He was quieter, but we did spend some time watching the sea and the highway together. I can appreciate someone else who likes skittering in high places. He is the cutest of the men here. Of all of them, he is the one I know the least well. I do know he plans to be the bartender, and is apparently good at mixing spirits. Lorelei kept mentioning Vodka, but he seems to know good alcohol as well. If nothing else, this is useful. He seems social as Elementals go. Perhaps we can get along too. As long as he is not too social.

                Gawain I am unsure about. He reminds me of the Day Court. I would say in a good way, but there is no such thing. However, he appears to be what they pretend to be. He is a suit of armor, which is unique. He is a craftsman, who wields a truly huge sword. He appears to be sweet on Calamity. I am unsure if she is interested (I think she might be a lesbian) but I think they would make a good couple. He is naïve, but good hearted. She is practical but heartless. They could fight together, he could be her conscience and she his practical side. I have no idea what the Dawn Court is, but I don’t like any Court named for the end of Night. He responded to me with politeness, so perhaps they are unrelated Courts.

                No it was no coincidence I found myself with these people. Was it Mama Lion, seeking to give me opportunity to take a changeling and become like her? Was it someone trying to manipulate events and put together people for some specific plan? Was it a twist in my tale, penned by fate? I know only that it was not a coincidence.

                Jumping at Shadows is fine when something is in them.

                End Session I

                Well I hope you enjoyed the journals.

                From a GM’s perspective, “let’s have the group meet session 1” is always daunting. However, I trust this group, and they cooperated very well. Perhaps there was some “PC glow” involved but it beat the alternative and, honestly, it was pretty logical.

                Not much mechanically to discuss. The only major contested roll was Insincere Marguerite sneaking around before she appeared…the others really did not get close to seeing her. Marguerite’s shadow issues and Calamity’s candles were their Mantles…Insincere Marguerite has 5 in hers, and I asked everyone to describe theirs and how it interacted. The tongue is a Merit, based on one from the Sluagh book for Classic Changeling (without the odd “stun” power that one has, which did not fit the tone I was going for) and can give her a die or so equipment bonus when a third hand would help, usually larceny, crafts, or athletics (it cannot support her weight, slim as she is, but can, say, hold something while she climbs). As was implied by reactions, Lorelei has two levels of Striking Looks while Calamity and Insincere Marguerite have one. My attempts to bully Jacob and Gawain’s players into getting some Striking Looks failed (to be fair, Gawain’s Mien is not sexy being a suit of armor). Lorelei has Fame 1.

                Some Kiths or Courts are not in the main rulebook. Coldscale, Razorhand, Whisperwisp, Coyote, Metalflesh Kiths and the Night/Moon Court are in Winter Masques, Minstrel is in Night Horrors: Grim Fears, Lurker is in Victorian Lost, and the Dawn Court is in Swords at Dawn. None of the PCs have entitlements yet. All Duel Kith-ers have the Merit, 2 for same seeming 3 for different. I have not assigned any extra contracts for Dawn or Night Courts…they just have fewer to choose from. They will not suffer for lack of options, however, and there is likely to be some goodwill for Summer for Gawain and Autumn for Insincere Marguerite.

                While this entry was longer than usual for my games, I hope you enjoyed it. Several players are reading as well as myself, so comments and questions very much welcome. And they can feel free to chime in too. I’ll have Ace’s background up in about a week for your viewing pleasure.
                Last edited by Baroness Nerak; 04-13-2014, 04:37 PM.

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                • #9
                  I am interested to see what happens next! Out of curiosity how did the players decide on the relationships between their PCs? Did Calamity and Gawain's players decide in advance that they'd know each other when they wrote them up or did everyone present their characters and then decided on how they would all tie together afterwards?


                  • #10
                    Calamity and Gawain did begin with the plan of knowing each other. When we sat down to begin work, Calamity had a very different concept (Was a Elemental Manikin/Treasured at first actually) but sort of evolved into Calamity. The general template to those characters existed, but Calamity pretty much became someone else and kept the same relationship to Gawain. Lorelei's player presented several concepts and settled on Lorelei after some discussion...they have made many general changeling concepts over the years. The rest made their concepts at the time, though Ace was made afterwards as his player was not present at the first meeting. I always prefer generating characters as a group...those often make the best stories, and Geist has been highly successful as a result of that approach. We had a lot of general concepts that solidified as we discussed them...several have at least one element suggested by someone else the player liked.

                    We also discussed roles somewhat, like Calamity, Gawain, and Ace are more combat focused, Calamity, Insincere Marguerite, and Jacob are more sneaky, Lorelei, Ace, and Insincere Marguerite are more social, etc. We did figure out no one is playing a mental heavy character which is unusual and a bit amusing.

                    We started off thinking about starting at the MDH already knowing each other and did some light discussion on how we met (like the Seasonal Courtiers having an assignment there, Gawain coming with Calamity since they were already linked, and Insincere Marguerite squatting there), but decided before game one we would prefer to meet organically. I sent out a questions list for general stuff (like what does your room look like, what do you do in free time, what are your romantic goals, who do you see getting along with, what do you think of the Courts sort of thing) which also really helped...we compared notes on some of who would get along. But we tried to make it as organic as possible, especially when we decided we were meeting the first time session 1. We don't have any pre-planned romantic entanglements...some seem likely, especially given most of the PCs are bisexual, and some movement as far as relationships that way happened last night session, though not what I expected.

                    Thanks for the questions, if you have more feel free to ask.

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                    • #11
                      I always enjoy your journals Herr Baron. I am curious to see how this works out and how Gawain's heartbreak turns out... It just seems likely is all.


                      • #12
                        Those two have an interesting dynamic and it will indeed be interesting to see how it turns out. Good to have you aboard omenseer.

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                        • #13

                          I know that glamour is derived from emotions, but is there such a thing as emotionally neutral glamour?


                          • #14
                            Glamour harvested from emotions is tied to that emotion, obviously, but if it is harvested another way it could be neutral...a goblin fruit that gives glamour won't generally have an emotion (but it is always possible for it to)

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                            • #15
                              I see. Thanks. I had this stray thought the other day of a human who was producing emotionally neutral glamour and reactions would be. Mild curiosity to none I suspect.