The Year of Frozen Iron

Chapter 4

Prologue The chill of winter clings tenaciously in Duluth, insidiously creeping around the tall dark stranger framed in the doorway and into the room beyond. His eyes are black, his bearing regal, his hair strewn with the dark feathers of a bird. “Brothers and Sisters,” he says to the assembled Lost, “I come before you with a heavy heart. I bear a message from the Fae Lords themselves, and I promise you this: your masters will come for you at season’s end to drag each and every one of you back to the land beyond the Hedge.” So begins Spring: perhaps the last season of freedom upon this earth for the Lost of Duluth. The messenger is known as Alistair Darkwing, a member of a noble order. He goes on to say that the only way to escape the catastrophe at Spring’s end is for individual Changelings to mark a mortal to go in their place.

Part 1 As the chapter progresses, our brave heroes struggle to confront their own demons before they are able to band together in mutual defense.

Blanche du Niege: The fair princess is rudely abducted by a government spook who has incomplete knowledge of the gentry and their servants. He explains that his only daughter has been kidnapped, and that the Fae have taken her. Mistakenly believing that the Changelings are working with the Fae, the spook threatens great pain and death unless Blanche helps him get his daughter back. Blanche readily agrees to help him and convinces him to stay his hand, but how far can a desperate man be trusted? p. Ticktock Jack: The clockwork man’s dear twin sister is abducted by a powerful undead adversary. In a desperate bid to reclaim her, he tracks down the vampire with the intention of killing it himself. Fortunately, his stalwart allies join him in his quest. With subterfuge and epic feats of strength, they penetrate the inner sanctum of the vampire, gird their minds against his mental assaults, and deliver him into Final Death. Jessie is rescued and our heroes successfully fled the facility, but will there be repercussions to their daring acts? p. HUGO 7SN-E0: In a misguided display of loyalty, HUGO returns to Arcadia to serve his Master. To his surprise, the Light Personified does not accept HUGO back into his service. In fact, rather than clarifying HUGO’s purpose and re-affirming his place in the world, his Master sends him away with only one thing: a mysterious recipe for souffle. What does this recipe mean, and where will it lead? p. Zvwaychel: p. Paul Twicetaken:

Part 2

As the season progressed, Paul Twicetaken was grappled with seemingly insurmountable challenges as the leader of the Lost in Duluth. First, he had to find a way to root out the cancer lurking in the heart of the freehold: those Changelings who secretly remain loyal to their Fae masters and those who aid the privateers in the surrounding Hedge. Second, he had to find a way to deal with the Fae threat looming at season’s end. Deciding that the latter threat required his full attention, he delegated the former task to his second in command, Edward Nightcap. He also suggested to Edward that he might be able to lure out traitors by insinuating that his own loyalties are subject to corruption.

With time, the Motley’s attention fell upon a baker; one of the Lost known as the Muffin Man. His time in Arcadia was neither kind nor pleasant, and the strain of adjusting to life back on Earth pushed his mind beyond the breaking point. Following evidence discovered in the Hedge, our party of heroes discovered the grim truth: that both the Muffin Man and his good friend Flint Stone were secretly aiding the Privateers in their dastardly work. p. Following close on the heels of this discovery, the Motley went to confront the Muffin Man. As they approached the bakery where he often worked, they narrowly escaped as the building exploded in an intense conflagration. Apparently, the traitorous cell in the freehold had discovered that the Muffin Man was under intense scrutiny and had decided to kill him themselves rather than allow him to fall into enemy hands. Significantly, Edward’s jet black Ferrari was seen speeding away from the scene. p. On the run from both the freehold and privateers, Flint and the Muffin Man made a desperate gambit. They contacted the Motley begging to make a deal: in exchange for clemency and protection, they would turn over the names of their fellow conspirators. HUGO and Ticktock Jack met with him, but lack of trust coupled with a misunderstanding led to a physical confrontation instead of a deal. Despite considerable magical and physical prowess, both Flint and the Muffin Man perished in the fight. However, with his dying breath the Muffin Man began naming names: “Muffin Man, Flint Stone, Pandora, Edward Nightcap, Paul Twicetaken…probably, Al…” p. Before he could finish the final name, the Muffin Man was assassinated by a dark, shadowy figure perched amongst the rafters. The figure leaped through a mirror and into the Hedge as the mirror tipped and fell, shattering on the ground and preventing any pursuit. In the aftermath, HUGO recognized the Muffin Man’s body as a powerful reagent required for the Souffle recipe that his master had given him. p. Endgame

Chapter 2
In Which the Weaves are Intertwined

Prologue: Once upon a time, in a land far to the North and bordered by nigh-endless amounts of deep, black water, a storm was brewing. The proper oblations had been made, the ancient script given new breath, and the Word called out over the waters of life and dream. Both stirred to her call and churned forth many secrets not seen for many an age, secrets of life, death, and that which transcends both. Secrets of corruption and salvation, both of which now plague the dreams of Man and Lost alike.

The 4 heroes are now well established in their fields. The Princess has established her court and drives it to her own ends. The Clockwork Man continues his endless motions, hoping that the last iteration will bring him to his sister. The Acrobat fights for his brethren and for himself, eager to shed the shame of his failure. And the Child is reunited with her family and lends Hope and Innocence to the increasingly embittered world.

But will the Princess’s glowing smile be enough to turn back the darkness? Will the Clockwork Man be able to keep going after joy turns to tragedy? Will the Acrobat continue to emerge victorious when the blood on his blade is his own? And will the Child be able to retain her innocence in the tumult to come?

The Four will be joined by a Fifth, and only by depending on one another will they be able to save themselves. Dreams are deep, Water is dark, and Nightmare walks slowly through the courtyard…

Session 1: A 5th has fought his way from the Hedge, his fists bruised and bloodied from constant fights. He has been reunited with one of his loves, but something still calls to him out of the darkness. For now the drink and fights will carry his ills away, but soon he will answer the call, either out of loneliness or desperation. He has quickly connected himself to the Clockwork Man, and by extension the rest of our heroes. In the woods outside of town the Princess has started to lose some of her dearest friends, victims of some kind of bizarre plot. Her investigative charms have led her to the Library and the mysterious man known as ‘Milton.’ The Child has brought hope to the Clockwork Man, for his sister will soon be found! The Acrobat, however, has finally met his match in his dark reflection. Can he stop the intruder before he strikes again?

The Acrobat has also taken up the cause of the razor-handed Twicetaken, soothing his dreams in an effort to make his days more palatable. His services will soon be needed for many more, as Nightmare has only made the first step in his promenade.

Session 2: The Princess found her librarian and questioned him about all things magical. Milton was coy at first, but quickly opened up to the lady’s charms. He showed her all manner of books that could guide her on a quest for magical power, but was interrupted by the woman Penny, who was a bitch. She stole Milton away to talk of other things, while the Princes walked away with her books. She enlisted the Autumn court’s assistance in determining what was happening to her little friends, and they vowed to help her learn some of the ways of thaumaturgy to do so.

The Clockwork Man received joyous news from the court of Winter: his sister had been found! Quickly he and the Child who had delivered the message raced off to see her and ascertain her fate; they found her, however, in a position most unkind. The Lords of Dream had penetrated the asylum’s walls and grew a garden amongst the minds of the mad. Jack, enraged by this treatment of his sister, called on his allies to help free her. The Shadow and the Acrobat raced to answer his call and a daring break in was staged. Thanks to the Child’s scouting the troupe managed to flow into the building undetected and make their way to the Sister’s cell. Along the way they were assailed by mad chorusing on all sides, and a faintly glowing light accompanied by the sound of horses’ hooves.

As soon as they had liberated the Sister from her cell the Master of the asylum began his hunt for them. Desperate flight through the darkened Hedge turned into a bitter struggle as the Keeper’s mad dogs rushed at the poor Lost, savagely attacking them. Fortunately Summer’s newest warrior and the tenebreous Vernal Knight stood fast and slaughtered their enemies, giving the rest of the troupe time to escape. The two warriors were almost lost as well as the Fae Lord charged them, escaping the Hedge only moments before he was upon them.

Meanwhile, the Drunk was despondent. His bar was closed and little drink did he have to pass the time. He ran into an old friend from the home of his youth, but was turned away by the foul, black and orange cat posing under the name Mr. Bojangles. He seduced a recent divorcee, and was attacked by the cat once again! Vowing vengeance and giving it the Evil Eye, the Drunk had little course of action but to watch it depart. Later, after his performance with the Lords of Iron was a success, one of the members of the crowd suddenly attempted to shoot him. Failing in this, the assailant was quickly captured and determined to be under the influence of the Fae. Finally, in a final battle, the Lords of Iron joined forces with the Drunk to take down the mad cat fae, Black Tom, and bury his broken corpse in the Hedge.

Session 3: The Princess followed up her investigations by attending the Harvest Ball that the Autumn Court was hosting. She managed to get a bit of information about the wider supernatural community, as well as some more pertinent information about her quest from the pink-coiffed would-be-Minister Julia Swoop. Minister of what, we’re not exactly sure… and to some it might be better that way. It seems that Milton was interested in summoning something or someone, and that the research would be best helped by obtaining Milton’s research notes on the subject. Whether by hook or by crook, it matters not; the fate of the Freehold (or perhaps just that of the squirrels that reside in it) is at stake. There is also the question of the woman Penny, who gave off a very supernatural air about her. What and who is she? The Princess is determined to know. Even if it means talking to a man whose heart has long since stopped beating with blood, kindness, or remorse… She also began building a relationship with the Twicetaken, finding valuable information about Edward’s past with the former Vernal Sovereign.

The Clockwork Man ran into even more difficulties with his sister. Her dreams have been tormented for far too long for much sanity to remain. The prognosis is grim: her dreams have been poisoned, and for too long. Only a miracle could save her from the predations of the Fae or the headsman’s axe… now all that Jack has to do is find one.

The Twicetaken, the Acrobat and the Drunk were sent on a quest by Jack to harvest more goblin fruits. A simple sounding task, but those are often the most dangerous. Along the way the group heard the sound of someone choking, and raced to find a young fae woman being strangled by a vine. Cutting her down, but breaking her arm in the process, the band warily accepted her into their company. She led them past a carnivorous plant and to some bloodfruit, but from there their troubles seemed to multiply. First briarwolves charged past the group, then a Fae Lord and his hunt made their way along. Seeing as it was Paul’s and Ozzy’s former Master, the group was shaken and had to move quietly through a tight and dangerous section of the Hedge. Thorns tried to pierce the group and grow inside them, then mud tried to pull them down. Finally, sabotage almost threatened to bring the woods crashing down on the poor travelers, but the elf’s sharp ears heard the sound of the saw before too late. The fae woman revealed herself to be one of the noppera-bo, mischievious hobs that take others forms to lead the Lost into danger and terror.

At the end of their excursion, the group went to see Richard Eye only to find him in a black mood from his examinations of the Sister. The Drunk asked for aid in his quest to beat his opponents to bloody pulps, and Sir Eye agreed, on one condition: find the Fetch that murdered his wife.

The Year of Frozen Iron
Chapter 1

Once upon a time there were four people walking upon the Earth, each with a secret song in their heart of hearts. One was an acrobat who flew through the air with unearthly grace. One was a princess, who ruled her kingdom with love and kindness. And two were children a girl and a boy, who dreamed of a world much brighter and more magical than their own. Each was unique in their own special way, and each could sense the fantastical world just waiting around the next bend.

The Gentry looked down upon the Earth and spied these four as they went about their day and desired their uniqueness. One desired the acrobat’s grace and stole his heart away with a poisoned promise. Several desired the beautiful princess and took her away with no one the wiser. One desired the boy, and worked him into his ominous waltz. And one desired the girl, leading her astray with twisted visions. Each was changed in their own special way, and each could sense the familiar call of home just waiting around the turn after tomorrow.

Session 1:

Eventually the four escaped and were chased through the Hedge by the heartless prince’s hounds. Though the thorns did tear and the jaws gouge the four managed to return to the Earth in relative safety. A great hunter, Thomas Hartswood, saw to their safe conduct and brought them back to his home. The boy, now known as Tick-Tock Jack, decided to strike off on his own while the others, Mia, Princess Blanche du Neige and Ozzy Winters, decided to accept the stag-lord’s hospitality.

However, danger loomed even on the Earth. Jack was mauled by hounds of glass and hounds of law during his resolute and unyielding return home. The other three tried to fight the very forces of destiny to save Ozzy before he was taken, but to no avail. Another, Paul Twiceborn, joined them in this task but also failed to turn the tide. In doing so two of the four revealed the “gifts” they had received in Arcadia, causing a scene at the docks and surely arousing the attention of the Others. It was only through the timely intervention of a mysterious stranger that the four did not meet the attention of much more corporeal foes.

Now comes a delicate time. One must choose what to do with the destiny thrust upon him. One must abandon the past and forge his own path forward. One must find a way to rise in this new society that she finds herself in. One shall hide and observe, bearing witness to perverse salvation. And one must begin to atone for transgressions past and present.

All, however, must bind themselves together if they hope to survive the coming days, and all must find allies to weather the coming storms. For, while they are exceedingly mercurial, the Gentry never forget their rebellious toys.

Session 2: The mysterious stranger known only as Jack Smith spirited the princess and the acrobat away from the scene at the docks, only to ask a favor in return. After much deliberation, the two Lost agreed to the agent’s demands, in return for which their safety was guaranteed. They were released to face the Queen of Wrath and her unending ire, but it was Ozzy who stepped forward to save the day by claiming all problems to be on his own honor. The fiery Lord showed some mercy, choosing to bind the Two to the freehold rather than unleash her fury upon them.

The princess discovered the path to greatness among the fae begins in play, and has pledged herself to help Richard with the Summer Festival, while Ozzy has also entwined himself to the noble knight’s fate… as well as to that of the one called Cheerful Simon, and to our noble hero, Thomas Hartswood. So many pledges in so little time… can the poor elf keep all of them in the air long enough to see the rewards of honor?

Poor Jack has finally left his home and fallen in with a dark lady. For now she is kind and smiles, but anyone who calls herself the Minister of Shadows must not be taken lightly.

And of little Mia… where did she get off to? And for that matter, what of the acrobat’s abduction and subsequent fetch? Perhaps time will tell, and perhaps it will not. Fate has an interesting way of revealing these things at both the correct and wrong time, all at once. We shall simply have to read on then to find out how the Chapter ends.

Session 3: Our heroes awoke on the following day, having had disturbing dreams of portent and fire. The princess and the girl traveled with Twiceborn and the knight known as Richard Eye to the far reaches of the Inevitable Urban, in search of useful goblin fruits for the coming summer festivities. The Urban stretched on into forever, and many strange creatures wandered the paved streets of that bizarre place. Bloodfruit, sight-berries, sleepwort and its baleful cousin sleepknot were seen, and most were harvested.

The Nightcap stopped by to check on the progress of the festivities and took an immediate liking to our princess. He graciously offered the two ladies a ride back to Thomas’ before the great meeting was to take place, and offered disturbing hints as to a past treachery of Thomas’.

Meanwhile the elf reclaimed his identity from the forces of Chaos and the clockwork man struggled to find his long lost sister. Those bound to Winter aided the former but scornfully laughed at the latter, sending him on a path heavily laden with sorrow.

In the end our brave compatriots were presented before the assembled Freehold of Frozen Iron and were sworn into it, to abide by its laws and to help protect and preserve it at all cost. This latter came into effect right away, as the nature of the foursome’s fiery phantasies came to the forefront and needed to be dealt with.

Session 4: Our heroic motley was invited to a party by the Master of Festivities, one Edward Nightcap. This caused the stag-lord to fly into a fury, calling upon the sky to match his tempestuous mood. As for the other Forgotten Yesterday, he played the gracious host and taught his charges how to reap glamour, but most of the party was disturbed by his mannerisms, his company, and his choice of entertainments. Blanche is still under his sweetly dangerous spell, but how long will it last, and to what end?

Meanwhile the elf was entertained by Twiceborn and his partner, Damon, master of the forge. They talked of many things in their time, covering such topics as the best way to fight the Fae, bitter, painful memories and what to do next. Thanks to the forge-master’s prodding, and possibly a well timed bar brawl, the elf declared his intention to try for the Summer court and make himself one of them.

After their sojourns the four plus the Twiceborn returned to the freehold to find out what malevolent force was stalking our heroes’ dreams. Sir Richard and Ozzy were chosen to champion the cause of the fae, taking the fight inside the others’ sleeping vulnerabilities. As the night progressed Richard grew weaker and weaker while the dreams became starker and more deadly. As monsters began spawning from the ground Richard collapsed and had to be evacuated from the dreamscape. Now all that was left was Ozzy. Hurling himself at the enemy forces the brave elf managed to claw, kick and destroy all of the intruders, using some fantastic feats of imagination and teamwork to do so.

In the end, it was determined that the Marquis of the Inevitable Moment was behind the intrusions into our characters’ minds and that he had determined that they might become great agents of Chaos at some point. The fae were unsure what to do with this development, as the Marquis is near omnipotent in his domain over his chosen field.

Session 5: The four went their own ways in the week leading up to the grand Summer Festival. Jack received helpful advice from his shadowy patron and the tenebreous Paul to find and come into possession of a bar in Duluth. The deed, apparently the result of some of Cheerful Simon’s mischevious magicks, was cleansed and made whole thanks to quick use of glass shaping and the assistance of one of the Winter Court banks. Now with an occupation and a place to rest his battered pipe, the clockwork man need only wait until a time when his sister might be found.

Later that week Mia, Ozzy and Blanche were bound in Jack Smith’s machinations once again as part of the deal that they earlier struck with the mysterious agent of winter. Their mission was simple: to deliver a package to a place several blocks away. But, as always happens in these stories, there was a catch: they must not look behind themselves. The ordeal seemed to last hours as more and more distractions urged them to look backwards. Car crashes, friends from long ago, hot breath of a slavering beast and more tried to turn their heads away. Blanche succumbed at one point and found herself in the Hedge being hunted by the Fae. Ozzy and Mia decided to press on, and were joined by Blanche shortly as she escaped with only a few bruises and scratches. Eventually they came to the meeting point and dropped off their package, ending their ordeal.

Ozzy announced that he wished to try for the Summer Court, and was tested by the assembled Court. His speech of defiance against the Fae stoked the fires in the assembled crowds’ hearts into a roaring bonfire, and his side was pierced with a blazing spear. The Summer Queen declared that his cries of pain made him unfit for the position, and the dejected Ozzy was taken to a bar to drown his sorrows. On the way to pay for the Court’s tab he was knocked into a group of ruffians, spilling their drink all about them. A veritable brawl broke out in which the elf held good account of himself, and was eventually aided by the might of Summer’s warriors. Smiling, the dread Lord of Unbending Wrath conveyed her good wishes upon Ozzy and welcomed him as one of her warriors.

Session 6: The day of the grand tournament finally arrived. Our heroes arrived early to achieve their own ends. Mia hid in the shadows and stole the Victor’s Cup, earning her passage into the Winter Court. Blanche had some… interesting experiments with food and dominated the archery competition and graciously allowed Edward to win the storyteller’s duel. Ozzy ran rampant, claiming victory in sword play and obstacles. He would have claimed victory in Oneiromachy as well except for the strange potency of the dreamer’s drink. Jack popularized his bar and joined in the various escapades, and all had a delightful time.

Unfortunately that night, tragedy struck. As the Summer Court was carrying its vengeance to the wilds, two tied to the Lost were struck down. Richard’s wife, Ella, was strangled by a friend, while Paul Twiceborn became Twicetaken in a rumba of pain and mutilation.

So ends the First Chapter.


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