The Greater New England Freeholds
"The Greater New England Freeholds" is a term used to collectively refer to the modern-day Boston and Cambridge freeholds. Each freehold acts entirely autonomously, with no official ties to the other, and operates through its own system of governance. The Boston freehold utilizes a traditional seasonal Court system, while the Cambridge freehold operates on a level approaching a true democracy.
The Boston Courts
The Boston Court system is a traditional four-season system, founded in 1960 and operating continuously until the present day. Due to New England's long winters, the Winter Court is the most powerful out of the four, and wields considerable power both in Boston and in the surrounding areas. Winter Court policies dominate the political landscape.
The Boston freehold's Courts became embroiled in a short but brutal civil war in 1992 when the Summer Court leader attempted to wrest control of the city from the Winter monarch. The war would have ended with the destruction of the Winter Court were it not for the intervention of Spring's forces. This war soured Boston's relationships with Cambridge, as the Summer courtiers made repeated attempts to bring Cambridge's Courts under their control. Autumn alone escaped the war unscathed, as its members went underground and declared that any attempt on the Summer Court's part to bring them under control would be met with full force.
With Summer's attempt at a coup soundly crushed, the Spring Court retreated into relative isolation. In the intervening years, the Summer Court has largely failed to recover its power, remaining Boston's weakest Court both in numbers and in political influence. Winter, meanwhile, has flourished, becoming the single largest and most powerful Court for miles in any direction. Attempts have been made to repair political relations between Boston and Cambridge, but many of the Lost are given over to powerful emotions, and they do not forgive easily.
The Spring Court
Current Leader: Peter Cottontail
Spring in Boston is an interesting contradiction. While it is the most populous of the four Courts, it holds less power than any of the others except for Summer. What little power it does possess often goes unused, as the Spring Court is more preoccupied with its own activities than the policies of the freehold at large.
Spring Courtiers are the least likely out of any of Boston's Lost to be politically active. The exception to this is in matters of personal freedoms. The Spring Court doesn't often exercise its power today, but during the freehold's founding, Peter Cottontail and his fellow Spring courtiers were the driving force behind the resistance to the Summer Court's attempt to make the Boston freehold into a military organization. The Spring Court also enjoys the best relationships by far with the Cambridge Courts, as they sympathize with the Cambridge society's desire to be free of organized rule.
The Summer Court
Current Leader: Proud Mary
The smallest and least politically powerful of Boston's Courts, the Summer Court never truly recovered from its defeat at the hands of the Spring Court in 1992. While Proud Mary has made it clear that she has no interest in repeating her predecessor's attempt at a coup, Summer courtiers are still largely distrusted both inside and outside of the Boston freehold.
Despite the fact that it nominally wields less power than any of the other Courts, Summer actually rivals Winter in the freehold simply because Autumn and Spring care little for political activism. Summer has little power, but a little power wielded skillfully accomplishes a thousand times more than more power wielded clumsily - or, as is often the case, not wielded at all. Summer has poor relationships with the Cambridge Courts, as, in the past, it attempted to force them into unifying with the Boston freehold.
The Autumn Court
Current Leader: Brom Bones
Officially Boston's second most powerful Court, Autumn might be mistaken as its weakest at first glance. Its courtiers prefer to act in an advisory capacity, offering advice and counsel to the other Courts rather than acting on its own. Its influence is widespread, but much less obvious than the other Courts', and rarely exercised. Autumn policies have been passed by the leaders of other Courts on multiple occasions.
The Autumn Court in Boston was largely unaffected by the city's early turmoil. Its courtiers are skilled at hiding, when they want to be, and the aura of mystery and fear that surrounds the Court served to dissuade Summer from attacking it directly. The full extent of its power is unknown, but none of the other Courts have had reason to try anything as of yet. Even if they did, it would be difficult to find who to attack; Brom Bones is the Court's nominal leader, but he does little when the title of freehold ruler passes to him, and none of the other Autumns of the city seem to care about him very much.
The Winter Court
Current Leader: Quiet Mira
The undisputed political power in Boston, and possibly the most powerful Court in New England as a whole. Due to the long winters the American northeast experiences, the Winter Court holds sway over its freeholds for much of the year. As such, Winter policies dominate the political scene. The Fae, rather than being directly opposed, are avoided. Changelings are encouraged to try to be as "normal" as possible, to live their lives largely as humans would.
During the civil war which shook the early Boston freehold, Winter was the weakest of the Courts, unable to defend itself from Summer's attacks, and was saved only by the intervention of Spring. Despite its shaky beginnings, the Silent Arrow has become the most powerful of the city's freeholds by dint of time. A Court which rules the city for almost half the year becomes powerful, whether it wants to or not.
The Cambridge Courts
No one knows exactly when the Cambridge freehold was founded, because the Courts which make up the freehold are only semi-permanent, and none of the founders remain. As such, the Cambridge freehold is much more mercurial than its Boston counterpart. The Courts don't cycle regularly like the Boston freehold. Their "ruler" is elected democratically, and remains in office until the council decides they want someone else in there.
Cambridge's Courts are, truth be told, usually little more than Motleys which have decided that they'd like to be considered Courts instead. Very few Courts have more than half a dozen members, and none have more than thirteen.
The Cambridge Courts govern themselves through an odd combination of democracy and republicanism, perhaps best described as "the American government, minus the Supreme Court and the House". The Cambridge Courts convene regularly to meet and discuss freehold issues, propose and ratify laws, and elect the "Enforcer" of the freehold. The Enforcer fulfills the duty which most other freeholds would recognize as "ruler", but actually does very little ruling. He passes no laws himself, but is responsible for their enforcement. He can be deposed and replaced at any time via a Court meeting.
The Cambridge Courts have very poor relations with the Boston Summer Court, due to the takeover attempt during the 1992 Boston freehold civil war. In contrast, it has very good relations with Boston's Spring Court, as its members came to Cambridge's defense against Iron-Tooth Thomas' forces.
The current Cambridge Enforcer is Mister Gone of the Nowhere Court.
The Boston Tea Party
Current Leader: Watchtower Robbie
Originally a Boston Motley, the Boston Tea Party relocated to Cambridge soon after their founding in 1990, seeking to escape the civil war that they felt was coming. It still consists of its original six members, plus two more promising changelings that they have picked up since their founding, with Watchtower Robbie - one of the founders - acting as its spokesman on all official matters. As one of the oldest "Courts" still active in the city, and as one with several of the city's most formidable Lost among its members, the Boston Tea Party wields considerable clout within Cambridge.
- Mantle: The Mantle of the Boston Tea Party manifests as occasional distant notes of music just barely recognizable as "The Star-Spangled Banner", accompanied by the sound of waves and distant shouting. It functions identically to the Summer Court Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Patriotism
- Court Contract: Punishing Summer
- Associated Entitlements: Adjudicators of the Wheel, Guild of the Sacred Journey, Knighthood of the Dragonslayer, Legion of the Iron Wall
The Back-Alley Court
Current Leader: The Garbage Man
Essentially a collection of all the Lost of Cambridge who have nowhere else to go, the Back-Alley Court is a loose alliance of street scum, beggars, criminals, and ne'er-do-wells who have decided that it's better to join up and keep the streets clean than to spend the rest of their lives wishing they could find somewhere to spend the night. The Back-Alley Court members are always happy to offer a hand to a fellow Alley Cat, free of charge. And the offer the same service to others - though that comes with a price.
- Mantle: The Back-Alley Court Mantle manifests as a slight dimming of the light and the smell of garbage. It functions identically to the Mantle of the Moon Court.
- Court Emotion: Fellowship
- Court Contract: Den
- Associated Entitlements: Family of Silent Nights, Hedge Wardens, Knighthood of Utmost Silence, Squires of the Broken Bough
The Nowhere Court
Current Leader: Mister Gone
"Nowhere and no one". That's how the Nowhere Court describes itself. Its members are almost all Mirrorskins, blending in with the others of the city. The Nowhere Court was created as a way for the Cambridge freehold to ferret out loyalists and privateers. Its members are the best spies and assassins in the city, and the elusive Mister Gone is their leader - and current Enforcer of the freehold. If they don't want you to see them, you won't.
The Nowhere Court has no agenda of its own. It consists entirely of Lost who were previously members of the other Courts and who volunteered to give up their positions in order to defend the freehold.
- Mantle: The Nowhere Court's Mantle manifests as an absolute stillness, which would almost be peaceful if it weren't for the constant feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder. This feeling grows more powerful as the Mantle grows, but it can be suppressed with a thought. It functions identically to the Winter Court's Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Paranoia
- Court Contract: Fleeting Autumn, Darkness
- Associated Entitlements: Knighthood of the Dragonslayer, Knighthood of Utmost Silence, Knights of the Widow's Walk
The Bejeweled Court
Current Leader: Jenna Haze
The Bejeweled courtiers are a disparate bunch, tied together by a single thing: their fabulous wealth. The Bejeweled Court consists of the three wealthiest changelings in Cambridge, and as such wields a lot of power in both the mortal world and in the world of freehold politics. If you want it, they've got it, and they don't give anything up for free.
- Mantle: The Bejeweled Court Mantle manifests as a cloud of barely-noticeable flashes of light, like the sparkling of a diamond. It functions identically to the Spring Court Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Greed
- Court Contract: Vainglory
- Associated Entitlements: Duchy of the Icebound Heart, Guild of Goldspinners, Magistrates of the Wax Mask, Satrapy of Pearls
The Midnight Court
Current Leader: Strider John
The undisputed rulers of Cambridge's night life, the Midnight Court comes alive during the darkest of hours. Its members are dedicated to all kinds of nighttime pleasure, be it gambling, boozing, whoring or whatever else might pop your weasel. They claim the city's dives and nightclubs as their own, and ensure that they stay open and immaculate at all times. After all, they're here so that everyone can have a swingin' time, not just them. As such, its membership includes a large number of Chatelains.
The Midnight Court also understands that not all pleasure need be so... noisy, and that there is equal pleasure to be found in peace. It maintains a variety of rest areas and places of refuge around the city, and often acts as a kind of catering service to the rest of the Lost community. It endeavors to ensure that all of its "customers" are as comfortable as possible.
- Mantle: Neon lights and the smell of good food surround the members of the Midnight Court. It functions identically to the Mantle of the Southern Court.
- Court Emotion: Ecstasy
- Court Contract: Verdant Spring
- Associated Entitlements: Bishopric of Blackbirds, Family of Silent Nights, Knights of the Knowledge of the Tongue, Magistrates of the Wax Mask, Order of the Hallowed Garden, Order of the Oneirophysics
The Harvard Court
Current Leader: Amelia Ivy
An alliance of changeling students - and a few members of faculty - from Cambridge's many universities. While Harvard is, of course, its "primary" school, the Harvard Court is open to members from any of Cambridge's institutes of higher education. As such, it claims among its members some of the most respected academics and scholars in New England. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston, the Hult International Business School, and other nearby universities all unknowingly play host to several Harvard Court members. It occupies its time with research into various areas, such as pledge-crafting, Hedge studies, dream-weaving, and hobgoblin "biology", along with other, less-overtly-magical things.
The Harvard Court is Cambridge's oldest Court, having been established in the 1970s. It is also one of its most populous, and one of its most well-connected. As such, there are very few Courts in the city which would attempt to actively oppose the Harvard Court. Fortunately, the Harvard Court is content to lose itself in its studies for most of the time.
- Mantle: The members of the Harvard Court are accompanied at all times by a subtle quieting of all noise, as if they were standing in a library, and occasionally the rustle of dry pages can be heard. Nearby ivy also tends to turn slightly towards them. It functions identically to the Autumn Court Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Pride
- Court Contract: Spell-Bound Autumn
- Associated Entitlements: Barony of the Lesser Ones, College of Worms, Eternal Echoes, Hedge Wardens, Knights of the Knowledge of the Tongue, Lord Sages of the Unknown Reaches, Magi of the Gilded Thorn, Order of the Oneirophysics, Twilight Gleaners
The Night Runners
Current Leader: Alan Noir
A small, secretive Court with connections to the criminal underbelly of Cambridge. The Night Runners - and Alan Noir in particular - have friends in low places, and they know pretty much everything that goes on under the table in their city. People on the Night Runners' good side will find themselves strangely ignored by the muggers, thieves, and cutthroats of the city, while people on their bad side will be unable to take two steps without getting dragged into an alleyway.
The Night Runners aren't the most popular Court in Cambridge, but their presence is tolerated because of a long-standing agreement between Noir and the other changelings of the city. Noir keeps his "boys" off the rest of the Lost's back (most of the time), and the Lost stay off of his boys. He keeps the other Courts pacified with occasional gifts, ranging from unmarked, untraceable bills to life-saving bits of information.
Internally, the Runners function much like the old-fashioned Mafia. They're a family. A scarily dysfunctional, bipolar, psychotic family. With weapons. And fancy suits. Your word is your bond, here more than anywhere else. Keep it, and you will find wealth and power. Break it, and you will find your entire family bearing down on you like a pack of wolves.
- Mantle: Night Runners are surrounded by a slight scent of expensive cigars and a haze of smoke. It functions identically to the Court of the East's Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Honor
- Court Contract: Oath and Punishment
- Associated Entitlements: Adjudicators of the Wheel, Bronze Beylik, Charmed Circle, Knighthood of the Dragonslayer, Phantom Tong, Satrapy of Pearls, Tolltaker Knighthood
Current Leader: Mister Geppetto
Mister Geppetto was taken by a Keeper with a twisted sense of irony. Originally a toy-maker - as in, he designed children's toys, not the whole carved-them-himself deal - he was stolen away and turned into a toy himself: a marionette. He never explained how he escaped from his Keeper, but judging by his behavior since his return, it had something to do with crafting a new toy of some kind.
Because Geppetto's first action upon returning to Cambridge was to gather a group of changelings together and create Geppetto's Court, a group of Lost dedicated to building and maintaining "toys" for the city's changelings. He and his fellow inventors spend their time designing and manufacturing trinkets of all shapes, sizes, and purposes, ranging from clockwork soldiers which really fight to Hollows with self-stocking pantries to small pop-guns which are more lethal than any human weapon. They also put these toys to use, guarding the local trods and Hollows.
- Mantle: Surfaces around Geppetto and his fellow inventors always seem to be covered in a fine scattering of sawdust, and seem to be slightly wooden in their movements. It functions identically to the Dusk Court's Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Ingenuity
- Court Contracts: Animation, Artifice
- Associated Entitlements: Ancient and Accepted Order of Bridgemasons, Hedge Wardens
The Ergot Misuse Prevention Society
Current Leader: Terrible Ethne
The Society is dedicated to safeguarding the mortal world against the Hell each of its members was dragged through; it is especially protective of mortal dreams, both the abstract ambitions and the literal mindscapes, so long as those dreams do not stray into a longing for the supernatural world - that is a madness that must be stamped out at all costs. Their fervency in keeping mortals walking well-lit roads is one familiar to the Scarecrow Ministry, sometimes uncomfortably close to that of the Bridge-Burners, but the methods they use tend to resonate with Desire rather then Fear. Dreams are their sword and shield against the Others; nightmares are their bane, and so they band together to slay each other's demons and thus become invincible.
It clashes frequently with the Harvard Court; if the members of that venerable institution weren't so unwilling to stir themselves from fae academia and the confines of their own campus, they would likely destroy the pretenders outright. So far, physical distance and political avoidance have allowed for an uneasy coexistence, but sparks are constantly flying between individuals - Harvard sees the Society as a mockery, the Society sees Harvard as irresponsible and detached. They also enjoy very poor relations with the Midnight Court and Boston's Autumn Court, but are perhaps the most strongly connected of any Cambridge Court to Boston's Spring Court, and actively cultivate an alliance with Mister Geppetto.
- Mantle: Things become idealized; the lighting is more favorable, and perspective bends to capture the best side of everything. Other senses are occasionally engaged with dreamy pleasantries - trance music, a post-coital warmth - and as Mantle rises these effects acquire an intensity and sharpness, grounding them in reality rather then fantasy. Its mechanical functions are identical to the Dawn Court Mantle.
- Court Emotion: Satisfaction
- Court Contract: Verdant Spring
- Associated Entitlements: Bodhisattvas Of The Broken Cage, Order of the Hallowed Garden, Order of the Oneirophysics, Satrapy of Pearls
This setting was created largely by Unbeliever. The Ergot Misuse Prevention Society was created by Viatos. Credit also goes to Josef Wilhelm, for providing the inspiration for many disparate aspects of the setting.