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.:
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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.