Laws of the Land
The traditions that make up the Escheat form the basic laws of Kithain society. Believed to have originated among those wise faeries who lived closest to the Dreaming, they were recorded after the Sundering as a way to ensure fae survival in the face of inexorable change. Passed down and enforced by the nobility, the Escheat’s tenets are respected by both Seelie and Unseelie nobles (though each Court has variations on how it interprets each principle). Seelie nobles and their subjects generally follow the letter of the law, while Unseelie nobles and their minions tend to find the loopholes and work through them.
Unlike Oaths, the authority to enforce the Escheat is not backed by Glamour. Instead, it carries the force of law, tradition and custom. Occasionally the Dreaming works its own chimerical subtleties around the Escheat, making certain that its rules are kept or forcing those who break it to reap the consequences of their actions. In other words, those who break the tenets of the Escheat will sometimes find themselves acquiring Banality or suffering bad luck and cursed fates, if the Dreaming wills it.
The Right of Demesne
A lord is the king of his domain. He is the judge and jury over all crimes, large and small. His word is law. A noble expects obedience from his vassals and respect from all others. In return, a noble respects those lords superior to him.
Reality: Nobility has had to make concessions in the face of modern ideas of democracy and popular rule. Most nobles rule through force, cunning, personal magnetism or custom.
Annarbour’s Reality: As the Baron, Aitur is the Lord and master, and he backs up his authority with several Sidhe knights, Trolls, and thanes (Enchanted mortals and commoners who comprise his foot soldiers and cavalry). Aitur has established a High Court and a Low Court. The Low Court is overseen by commoners who handle minor crimes, often of the civil sort, such as petty thievery or vandalism. Aitur himself oversees the High Court, judging crimes of a more serious nature, such as murder.
The Right to Dream
Mortals have a right to dream unhindered by the needs of faeries. The Dreaming will die if they steal directly from the font. No one is allowed to use Glamour to manipulate the creative process. Although they may inspire creativity in the mortal mind, it is forbidden to give direct instruction or to infuse a human with raw Glamour.
Reality: Most changelings interpret this as a prohibition against Ravaging — the forcible ripping of Glamour from beings. Many Kithain — particularly Unseelie — ignore this ban, seeking a quick fix or an easy way to instant power. Since this form of acquiring Glamour often permanently drains the victim, convicted Ravagers suffer harsh punishments as a deterrent to repeating their crime. Disturbing rumors claim that some changelings infuse mortals with Glamour, overloading the mortal souls with too much creativity and feeding from their brilliant dreams. This practice, known as Rhapsody, also violates this portion of the Escheat.
Annarbour’s Reality: Anyone caught Ravaging a mortal is harshly punished in the High Court. Aitur, being a Seelie Gwydion, does not suffer the abuse of mortals lightly.
The Right of Ignorance
Do not betray the Dreaming to Banality. Never reveal oneself to humanity. Not only will humankind hunt faeries down for their wisdom and their power, it will overwhelm them with Banality and destroy their places of power. The more humanity knows, the more ardently it will seek them, draining the world of Glamour and petrifying their essence with its basilisk’s gaze.
Reality: Most changelings, both Seelie and Unseelie, respect this rule since it serves as protection against the forces of Banality. Glamour is hard enough to find, and expending it on mortals so that they can witness the Dreaming for themselves is wasteful. Some changelings enchant select humans in order to bring them into their freeholds as lovers or retainers, but they are careful to remove any evidence of their existence from the minds of these mortals when they return them to the mortal world.
Annarbour’s Reality: This is strictly enforced if necessary, but even most childlings know better and don’t go around being stupid. Changelings who go around wantonly Enchanting mortals or Prodigals without good reason may get an unpleasant visit from the Baron.
The Right of Rescue
All Kithain have the right to expect rescue from the foul grip of Banality. They are in danger together and must strive together to survive. Never leave anyone behind. Kithain are required to rescue other faeries or any creature of the Dreaming trapped by those who serve Banality.
Reality: Most changelings adhere to this principle. After all, they might need rescuing one day. Seelie and Unseelie will forget their differences and come to each other’s aid when one or the other falls prey to the Dauntain or some other agent of Banality. While many changelings will try to rescue chimeric creatures such as unicorns or griffins, few risk themselves for minor chimera.
Annarbour’s Reality: This is upheld by Aitur and encouraged among his vassals and other denizens of the Barony, although it cannot be enforced, per se.
The Right of Safe Haven
All places of the Dreaming are sacred. Kithain cannot allow faerie places to be endangered. All those who seek refuge in such places must be admitted. Freeholds must be kept free of both Banality and worldly violence.
Reality: Competition for the few freeholds that have survived the Shattering makes this tenet a hard one to enforce. Rival claims to the same spot of dream-infused ground often lead to warfare that encroaches upon its boundaries, although in most cases combat on the actual grounds of a freehold is restricted to chimeric battle. Some lords bar their freeholds to outsider changelings for fear that unwanted visitors may waste the Glamour inherent in their holdings. Despite the demands of hospitality and courtesy upon the domains of nobles, commoner freeholds are often more inclined than their noble counterparts to admit changelings seeking refuge.
Annarbour’s Reality: The Baron’s freehold is open to all who seek sanctuary and respite from the Banality of the world. In the past, Baroness Ellune had closed the lighthouse rath, allowing only her vassals and the nobility entrance. Upon her death, the Back Room motley opened the rath again, allowing anyone into the freehold. The motley used the freehold proper as its seat of government, granting leave to anyone to sleep in the light of the Balefire, if they applied for it.
Aitur maintained the open rath after his ascension to the Barony’s throne. Although only his vassals and the nobility are now permitted into the freehold proper, the outer grounds of the thorpe are considered public ground. Those in need of refuge may find a cottage in the thorpe for sanctuary and shelter. If, for any reason, an unsworn Changeling needs to sleep in the light of the Balefire to regain Glamour, the Baron himself would have to give permission for it.
The Right of Life
No Kithain shall spill the lifeblood of another Kithain. No Kithain shall bring salt tears unto the earth. No Kithain shall take from the Dreaming one of its own. Death is anathema.
Reality: This tenet is almost universally upheld, particularly since the Dreaming itself seems to enforce it by inflicting Banality upon a changeling who takes another changeling’s life. When two Kithain meet in combat, they usually wield chimerical weapons, although there are exceptions to this (such as nonlethal duels to first blood). No “real” damage is caused by such a chimerical battle. The loser, if “killed,” merely dies temporarily to the Dreaming and returns to her mortal seeming until reawakened by an infusion of Glamour.
Annarbour’s Reality: Killing another faerie with cold iron is one of the highest crimes in Aitur’s Barony. Should it be proven that another faerie was killed, not only will the Dreaming heap on some Banality, but Aitur will have the criminal tried, judged, and severely punished.
Yes, they have to be paid. State, federal and the Baron’s taxes are a part of reality for the faeries of Annarbour Barony. In Annarbour, dross is the expected form of payment.
Under Ellune’s rule, taxes were fairly high at 20% and collected monthly. Those who could not meet the quota were punished, either put to work, chimerically killed (in some instances), or held as prisoners until the changeling’s friends or family could pay the debt for him or her.
Upon Ellune’s death, the Back Room motley lowered taxes to 6.5% and collected quarterly, to give some relief to those who had been struggling to meet the Baroness’ demands. They also allowed changelings to carry a balance if they had to, offering payment plans at 1.5% interest.
When Aitur took the throne, he lowered the taxes even further to 6% and has declared he will collect annually, at the spring equinox. Those who cannot pay the required measures of dross will be expected to perform a service of some sort, be it fostering a Dreamer who provides the dross, slaying a chimerical threat and harvesting the dross, or some other manner of work that makes up the loss. Childlings and Wilders younger than 16 are not expected to pay.
Feudalism and the Kithain
Kithain society is a feudalistic society. There are multiple reasons for this, the main one being that there is something about a changeling soul that yearns for such a thing. Before the Shattering in the mid 14th century, Europe was experiencing the height of feudalism as society shifted from scattered villages to more organised civilisation. Feudalism was a system that focused on the protection of the land. Knights and lords protected their lands, and they in turn were supported by the serfs who fed them.
Similarly, the Dreaming must be protected. Feudalism is a system that allows for its protection.
Feudalism in the Dreaming made a heavy comeback following the Accordance War, when the sidhe returned from Arcadia and waged war with the commoners. Treaties set forth have decreed that High King David rules over Concordia, supported by his own vassals the Kings and Queens, to form a rather complex pyramid of vassals and lieges, all woven together with oaths of fealty and loyalty.
While the noble hierarchy is fairly strict, it loosens considerably when it comes to the commoners. Traditionalist nobles consider all commoners to be their subjects, but a few commoners have attained rank and have slipped into the hierarchy. Commoners who swear fealty to a knight or a lord do not gain a title and may not be accepted as full members of the noble’s House, but it does mean that they become a part of the household and give their service in exchange for the noble’s protection (they become retainers). For Kithain who focus on the protection of the Dreaming, such an arrangement can be beneficial. It can also be highly abusive if the noble in question happens to go apeshit, but if the noble has sworn the Oath of Escheat to his vassal, the Dreaming punishes the noble for his dishonour.
Vassal vs. Retainer
What’s the difference? In short, a vassal holds land while owing allegiance to a lord or lady. A retainer serves a lord or lady in his/her court and does not hold any land.
Yes, it can get a bit confusing.
But in short, vassals hold fiefs of their own and are not necessarily a part of a lord’s court. They have sworn loyalty and will come to support the lord/lady when called, but they have their own lands to look after, and they may have their own retainers. A knight or a baron may be a vassal beholden to a higher-ranking noble. Queen Mary Elizabeth ni Dougal is a vassal of High King David, for example.
Retainers are most often commoners who have sworn loyalty and service to a lord, then gone to live in his court. They do not hold land of their own. Their time is spent in helping their lord/lady to manage their lands, which are most often a freehold. For the record, many motleys of commoners look down upon those who have become retainers to the nobility, seeing them as sell-outs. But some commoners are eager to gain a position at court, exchanging their freedom for protection and the payment of treasures or favours.
There are multiple roles that retainers fill in the typical noble’s household, including: herald, seer, chancellor, bard, jester, troubadour, scribe, steward, reeve, and thane.
Considered to be the backbone of feudal society, knights fulfill important roles in Kithain society. It used to be that only sidhe held titles, but in this day and age, it’s not unheard of for commoner kith to hold a rank as well. Typically, this happens with trolls, whose strict adherence to honour often impresses the sidhe.
Knight-errants are those who have sworn allegience to no noble in particular, and they roam from freehold to freehold in search of chivalrous adventures. These free spirits will occasionally find shelter and sanctuary with a Baron who will play host to them.
The next step up in the knighthood hierarchy are those knights who have sworn fealty to a lord or lady but have no holdings or fiefs of their own. These dames and sirs will abide in their liege lord’s household, acting as a warrior or a courier.
However, some knights have received small holdings or fiefs directly from their Barons, if such exist within the Barony. This isn’t as common as it used to be, especially in urban areas, due to the scarcity of Glamour in the world.
So do the commoners have to swear fealty? Nope. Once upon a time, before the Shattering, the feudal society was far more strict than it is now. All commoners served the nobility. Six hundred years have passed since then, and a war was fought to change that.
Nowadays, many commoners have not and will not swear fealty to the nobility. These Kithain operate outside of the feudal society and may have their own holdings, termed motleys. Many favour a more democratic method of government in their own territories. Feudalism may be in the soul of every changeling, but… It sure isn’t a strong enough impulse or desire that it can’t be overridden with a desire for freedom or enjoying an egalitarian society.
What happens when the commoners don’t want to follow the local Baron and run afoul of his laws?
Ugliness, that’s what.
Such things do happen, and they happen more frequently than one might think. In such cases, it takes a great deal of tact and political maneuvering to get through the situation without skirmishing. High King David has been known to personally intervene and mediate a compromise if the situation is dire enough for it.
Parliament of Dreams
Officially, this is the governing body of Concordia, set into place by High King David in 1971 as part of the treaties in ending the Accordance War. Although considered a noble effort and a start on a long road towards a better future for the commoners, the reality is that the Parliament is more of a figurehead than a force of power. The noble sidhe who make up over 40% of its ranks hold a lot of power.
Representatives of every freehold with a membership over 15 Kithain compose the body of the Parliament. These representatives are officially called Advocates.
Unity on any issue is a difficult thing to achieve. The commoner Kiths who make up the Parliament stand at odds with the sidhe, and even the sidhe stand at odds among themselves. Much of the government is done through coalitions.
Traditionalist sidhe can get their way on most issues through sheer charisma and persuasion, but occasionally, more moderate sidhe and a proper coalition of commoners can thwart them on some issues.
Laws passed by the Parliament are subject to approval by the nobility in the territory affected by the law. Unfortunately, the Parliament just doesn’t have the strength to enforce its own edicts if the nobility stand together in resistance. This is when the commoners often feel as though the Parliament is a farce. Only 5% of the Kithain are sidhe, but over 40% of the seats in Parliament are held by them.
Still, when Parliament is in session, it’s much like the English Parliament. Debates are lively and animated, punctuated by verbal jibes. The Parliament is guarded by a cohort of Red Branch Knights, at the order of High King David.