Viva la Vida
List of Seemings:
To survive is to carry scars. Traumas, both physical and psychological, can heal. The pain they cause can go away, but they’ll always leave something behind. It’s true of physical wounds, and it’s true of psychological wounds, too. Sometimes the scars we carry disfigure us both literally and psychologically, but survival implies recovery. As someone once said, that which does not kill us makes us stranger as well as stronger, and the changes wrought upon us by the traumas we have suffered leave a mark that is both a reminder of pain and a badge of honor, the proof of survival, the ability to truly understand the sufferings of others.
This is the way that the Lost view their seemings. They faced a season of suffering as the toys of the Fae, and they survived. They escaped. They found their way back to the world of humans. They were changed by what they went through. They carry their seemings like scars. Seemings are the permanent mark of terrible trauma. At the same time, they’re a badge of honor. The changeling carries his seeming as freedom’s prize, as if to say: “I got out alive. I tore my way through the Hedge and the marks have made me who I am.”
A changeling’s seeming is entirely her own. Although the seeming reflects in some ways the Fae who originally stole the changeling from the human world (or in some cases, the tasks the changeling was given by his Keeper), it’s only part of the story. An abusive parent instills something of his own personality in his hapless child, and even if the child overcomes the trauma of the abuse, those marks remain. But every survivor reacts to his trauma in his own unique way. It’s like that with seemings. The changeling’s time in Faerie changed her very essence. The seeming she bears, the Faerie characteristics that make her who she now is, they reflect that. But it’s still her. Even changed into something other than human, the changeling is still in some ways the same person. Older, wiser, her very essence changed, having made the first step toward growing up and healing, she becomes something that reflects what she has been through, but which is yet entirely separate.
A changeling who spent two decades as the drudge of a pitiless hag might herself have become rather hag-like, but where her Keeper was green and slimy of skin, red of eye and black of hair, the changeling’s skin has become black and leathery, her eyes like deep green beads, her hair like sheets of pale wet fungal rot. A being resembling an Ifrit, all pointed features, red-hot flesh and flames for hair, steals a red-haired boy. In his five years of captivity, the boy grows big and powerful where his Keeper is wiry and sharp-faced. The boy’s hot to the touch, just like his Keeper, but the boy’s hair becomes gray and smolders like hot charcoal. Another of the fiery Other’s thralls is made to dance for her new burning master, her face and limbs gradually developing inhuman grace and beauty as his servants anoint her anew with cosmetics that smell of faintly charred perfume. A girl is abducted by a bald, gray, long-fingered, huge-eyed being and subjected to a decade of frightful, pointless experiments. She escapes to find that her eyes have become huge and black, her hands are bony and her hair is gone, but her skin is now the purest shade of powder white. A fox-woman with nine tails takes a beautiful young man as her unwilling lover and thrall. Just as she, he can change into a fox, but his fur is red where hers was gray and his tails, of which he has only three, are long and bushy and tipped with white.
Seemings aren’t really social groupings at all. A changeling might draw his fae mien from his Keeper, or from whatever tasks he was set to perform, so any similarity between two Others doesn’t necessarily extend to their charges. The ever-changing Gentry can only be recognized on the grounds of what they do, rather than what they are, and a Fae who was 100 years ago a mischievous little goblin could today be a mighty king of trees or a graceful and cruel prince. The changelings the Fae caught in their web resist categorization in a similar way. The difference lies in that changelings describe each other by what they escaped.
In the end, the different kinds of seemings and kiths that the Lost recognize are not so much social groupings as they are a vague, general descriptive shorthand for how different changelings have been changed by their experiences. The kiths that further subdivide the Lost who share a seeming are only slightly more specific sub-categories, and even they can’t truly categorize the endless diversity of the fae.
All this doesn’t mean that it isn’t actually quite helpful for the Lost to think of each other in this way. Two adults who were both abused as children, for example, might have had different experiences, but they’ve immediately got things in common. It’s the same with changelings. All Lost share the escape from Faerie in common, but some have more in common than others. A changeling who took on a seeming resembling a one-eyed giant from classic Greece and a changeling who looks like one of those blue-skinned man-eating trolls who once lurked under Scandinavian bridges have come out of their time in the land of the Fae with very different powers and features. But they’ve both experienced the rough end of a master-slave relationship with a brutish, lumpen master, and they’ve both found the resources within themselves to escape it. A young man but recently escaped from the bedchamber of some bright, cruel Lady of Diamonds and Emeralds and a young woman who finally slipped from the clutches of her dark, dashing Demon Lover only a few weeks ago have something to share.
It’s no surprise that changelings who share similar seemings feel some affinity with each other. The seeming represents what a changeling has been through, but also what a changeling’s strengths are. It represents what a changeling can become, both good and ill. A person can be destroyed by a traumatic experience or can rise above it to become a person whose strengths are defined and proven by the refinement of suffering, through acceptance and growth. To accept a seeming is to accept the consequence of suffering and the prize of survival and escape, the final reward of having been strong enough to get out and make it back into the world of humans. To accept it as part of your self and to wear it well is to enter on the road to healing. To understand it and make it your own is to begin to truly grow up.