Circa 1938. Curiously, he's neither the person who signed the autograph, or the person the autograph's addressed to.
Charity. He's always there to lend an ear, and sometimes to guide events in the right direction.
Sloth. He makes stories happen, but he doesn't participate. He's just there to bear witness, and to tell people about it afterward.
Age: Indeterminate. Could be anywhere from mid-thirties to late fifties.
Eye Color: Grey
Hair Color: Black
Skin Tone/Complexion: Run-of-the-mill Caucasian
Hair Notes: Conservative, working-class, and mid-twentieth century. He doesn't use product, and so his hairstyle often looks rather slept-in.
Figure Notes: He's a small guy, moderately built but quite short. His facial features, beyond indicating "nonspecifically white American mutt," are profoundly unremarkable, to the point where you could hardly call him attractive or unattractive because you have failed to notice him in the first place. He invariably looks rather tired, and older than his indeterminate years: he walks with a bit of a slump, and his face is more lined than it should be. He does have a kind, sympathetic smile, though -- easily his best feature, and one that has won him more than his share of confidants.
Clothing Notes: Usually an unremarkable black suit, white shirt, and faded tie, of the sort that went out of fashion in 1939 -- along with a battered fedora of similar vintage. Always
looks mildly rumpled.
Accessory Notes: A wallet, notable for its lack of any identification materials whatsoever. A set of keys, to…somewhere. A gold wedding band. A gold-and-red-lacquer tie tack, his one ostentation, showing a pair of dice coming up seven. At official functions, a gold pin bearing the emblem of Hudson's Rest.
Very much the same, but semitransparent, including any clothes he dons: to other changelings, he blends into the background quite literally. He has no eyes in this form, just empty holes, behind which can be seen a grey-white mist -- same thing when he opens his mouth. Being nameless tends to do this to a person.
He doesn't remember his old life. He conjectures that he must have been somewhere below middle class, and that he may have been involved in some variety of gambling, and that he knew a bootlegger or two at some point. He is absolutely certain, however, that he was -- and remains -- a New Yorker.
He imagines that His Lordship picked him because he was a good listener, and a good sport. His Lordship had led a long, eventful life, full of impossible quests, harrowing battles, and shocking turns for the worse -- and he needed someone to tell
it to. So His Lordship locked him in a small room, and talked. Sometimes he would be given a pen and paper, but most of the time he just had to keep the stories in his head -- His Lordship liked having his own autobiography told back to him by his captive, and if it wasn't both accurate and suitably evocative, there would be consequences.
Sometimes His Lordship brought in a deck of cards, or a handful of dice, because his captive was good at games, too, and because His Lordship disliked being bored.
And so the man became very, very good at several things. He became good with words, and stories, and the vagaries of chance, and he became very good with names. And so, one day, he decided that it would be a very good idea to get rid of his own name altogether. That day, while His Lordship was talking, the captive walked casually over to the door, opened it, and walked out. His Lordship just kept on talking. How could he have noticed that someone had left, when nobody had really been there in the first place?
The changeling landed on Broadway, in 1927. He was quiet and unobtrusive, so he joined the Winter Court -- mostly a semi-legal organization, as with most of Hudson's Rest in those days, with one foot squarely in the demimonde of organized crime, racetrack touts, and two-bit hustlers. He was easy to talk to, so he made a lot of friends, and witnessed a whole mess of crazy adventures. But he had nobody he could talk to. Not really
. He wasn't used to talking about himself.
Then, one day in 1929, he had a chance meeting with an amiable short story writer and ex-baseball columnist, over a plate of marinated herring in a Times Square delicatessen. The two of them hit it off like gangbusters. The writer was a mortal, to be sure, which was inconvenient. But he was a gambler, and a good listener, just like the changeling. The writer may not have been conscious of the fact, but a pledge was struck that night, an equal collaboration between new friends: the changeling would tell stories, of himself and of Hudson's Rest, that he wanted the world to hear; and the human would write them down, publish them, and win the public's acclaim in the changeling's stead.
Well, the two of them stuck to their pledge, and the writer's stories became very popular indeed. A lot of them were still about humans, of course, and the faerie stories had the names changed and the details switched around, but you can still see it if you read them closely: there really was a Broadback named Harry the Horse who helped talk folks into safecracking, and a Stonebones named Earthquake who saved an ensorcelled cop from a cave-in. And a funny thing happens when people pay attention to faerie stories: reality goes just a little more interesting. There was something a bit dreamlike about Broadway in the '30's: Wyrd ran high; tragedies or comedies resolved out of random chance as if they were the natural way of things; people found their true loves in the unlikeliest of places. Capers
started happening. And the changeling, who was the source of these stories, found himself to be a nexus of sorts -- never quite instigating events, but always a witness, and always with a thoughtful word to help the happy endings along.
In unspoken recognition of the boon he had granted them, Hudson's Rest crowned him Winter King in 1931. He reigned for fifteen years, over a small golden age in local changeling society -- a bright spot in the dark years of the Depression. He held court in the same Times Square delicatessen, among gangsters, reporters, and ne'er-do-wells, Lost and mortal both. The human writer never quite had a handle on what his friend was up to, but friends they certainly were: two of the best.
The King resigned his position in 1946, when his friend died of cancer. He knew that the magic was soon to recede back from Broadway, and he didn't want to get in the way. By the late 1950's, the delicatessen had been bought out, but he stayed on, viewed as a polite relic of older times. By the Giuliani era, few changelings even knew he was still around.
By 2005, and the city-wide transit strike, he was the man in this story
-- and since then, he has undergone something of a late-career renaissance. Previously dismissive of his own romantic prospects (quote: "I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus"), his new bride has given him hope for the future of Broadway. Mrs. Jenny Showtime is a well-preserved Levinquick in her late '30's, with fiber-optic blue hair and glowing circuit traceries on her skin. Having been a gate in a living circuit board for her durance, she knows how the march of technology can make human experience feel obsolete; her initial philosophical connection with the old King has blossomed into something beautiful, and neither of them could be happier. For their part, the changelings of New York have rediscovered the old man's decades of experience, as he has reopened himself to them in turn: he now holds regular court at his Chinese restaurant, and even the reigning Winter Queen has come to him for advice on occasion. While he feels most comfortable in New York, he also travels a reasonable amount, as in the old days -- often to Florida, but occasionally to Europe, and farther afield as well. Wherever a good story is, that's where he'll be too…
Much as it was in 1934, really. He's amiable, easygoing, and an extremely good listener: genuinely interested in what you have to say, but never overtly intrusive, telling you exactly what you need to hear to solve your own problems. He also likes to spin a good yarn himself, often answering one story with another. He's quite old-fashioned by now, and rather set in his ways, but it's kind of endearing at this point. Protests vigorously when he's dragged into zany circumstances by questionable parties -- which happens to him with astonishing
frequency -- though one gets the impression that he's secretly having a grand old time. Enjoys a drink and a good game of chance, and is ridiculously lucky at the latter…at most things, actually.
Of course, he's also
a very high-Wyrd storysmith with over eighty years experience at it. As such, certain things about him are rather distinctive. He doesn't seem to have a job, or any explicable source of income, and yet still maintains himself at a comfortable working-class living standard. While he can usually be found in his restaurant, nobody has ever seen him sleep, or where he lives -- except maybe Jenny Showtime, and she's not telling. He speaks in a bouncy Manhattanite tenor, littered with Depression-era slang, but he never uses contractions (His Lordship was a stickler for linguistic precision), and almost never diverges from the present tense (His Lordship had a dim conception of time). When he doesn't want to be seen, he's very adept at just...blending into the background. Most notably, he serves as a sort of lightning rod for stories: when he's around, he seems to catalyze events into a certain kind of rollicking-yet-touching narrative. Jewel heists tend to happen, or craps games that save the orphanage, or old boxers going in for their last fight. Sometimes the stories are comic and sometimes they're tragic, but either way, he's there to witness them.
One last quirk: as he doesn't have a name anymore, people don't call him by one. Acquaintances are introduced to him without him being introduced back; he never seems to be in a position to give his signature; and on those rare occasions where he is directly spoken about in other peoples' conversations, he's referred to obliquely as "The old King," or "my friend," or just "him," and it somehow remains clear that he is the person referred to. Nobody aside from him appears to be consciously aware that this effect exists, and, having never brought it up publicly himself, he doesn't much seem to care.
Apropos of nothing, he actually likes that play they did about his stories fifty-odd years ago: he thinks the songs are catchy. Shame he never properly shows up in it, but he sort of expected that from the beginning.