Viva la Vida
Queen: Terra Snowdrop
Called: The Iron Spear, the Crimson Court, the Court of Wrath.
The buck has horns. This is what members of the Summer Court want the Fae to realize the next time they come a-hunting. Changelings break free of Faerie and escape to Earth, and they are going to fight tooth and claw not to be uprooted again. In Arcadia, they were alone and helpless. Back on Earth, they stand strong together. The Summer Court welcomes any changeling willing to fight to the last drop of blood for her — and for others’ — safety.
The Court’s founder was Sam Noblood, whose mien always dripped with red during a fight. Legend has it that Sam topped an old branch with a bundle of autumn leaves to make a spear, and hunted down Summer. The pursuit was long, but Sam Noblood cornered Summer and extracted a promise: In exchange for peace, the season would support Sam’s Court.
That legend embodies the Crimson Court way to success in life: Through strength. What is worth keeping is worth fighting to keep, and a fight only ends in your favor if you make it. To members of the Summer Court, everything is something they must learn to endure and overcome. But not alone. A changeling’s family, friends and kinship with humanity have been stolen from him, but the Court offers a new family. Enemies of the changelings are to be faced and defeated, together, doing what no refugee could do before he escaped and found companions. Otherwise, there was no point in fighting free of Faerie in the first place.
Not all members of the Court are strong, but all of them see strength as the best means to achieving their security on Earth. Strength is an ideal for them, the ability to weather what the world forces on them and the power to shape events to the changeling’s best interests. Courtiers who do not wield such strength pursue it, and the Court supports its members in their pursuits.
The ideal manifests in many ways, from the simple brute who can take a punch (or a dozen) and dish it all out to the political fixer with the backup to stay connected and the clout to direct policy. For some, breadth of ability is another measure of strength. No changeling has the freedom to fight in only a single arena, so being capable in more than one is considered another expression of strength.
The Iron Spear’s dedication drives it to lend aid to any Lost who need help fighting off the Fae. It’s an ultimate measure of their power: If the Court can fight on behalf of all changelings and win, it is successfully earning its safety through its creed. The Court’s need to test itself causes them to champion fae society in other causes as well, often without being asked. Members of the Summer Court stand between the Courts and other supernatural threats, such as vampires or mages, and they act to stop human institutions that would do the fae harm, for example, investigative reporters and paranormal conspiracies.
Changelings who join the Summer Court are usually the more direct, conflict-minded refugees from Arcadia. When they see an assault, their solution is to fight back. To such a person’s eyes, webs of intrigue and plotting nearly beg to be torn down around their weavers. Their instinct after their escape is to pick up what pieces there are, suffer what they must and spit the Fae’s hospitality right back in Their faces. The Gentry are masters at finessing around or through such direct challenges to their slippery power, but the Summer Courts don’t care — and that’s part of what makes their survival such a big deal.
Besides that directness of manner, members of the Court of Wrath have the will to use it. For many, it’s the smoldering fury they hold for the Fae that stole their lives and didn’t even let their families mourn. If you don’t intend to let enemies live long enough to play games with them, why pretend? Others return to Earth with the patience burned out of them, or a steel-hard dedication instilled that they have trouble questioning. Some just like lording over the weak, and they fall into this category, too.
Some fae see those who join the Summer Court as leftovers from the other Courts. They aren’t elegant enough for Spring, inquisitive enough for Fall, or crafty enough for Winter, so they end up in Summer. These are stereotypes too often applied and only partially correct. A changeling who is none of those things and also not a fighter remains Courtless. And all too often, the other Courts recognize the Summer Court as a changeling’s destination before any Summer courtier meets her. The fae has the strength and will to fight, yes, but also seeks a foundation for her wrath. She needs a knightly brotherhood sworn to defend the refugees and destroy their enemies, because that is exactly what she burns to do.
Nearly all members of the Summer Court appreciate the direct application of force for its usefulness and elegance. Few restrict their study of direct conflict to brute-on-brute fights, though, and none of them ignore that most of their enemies use less straight-forward tactics. One courtier knows exactly how to read the intricacies of politics, and exactly when to cut through them with truth like a knife. Another undermines others in arguments, unsubtly but very effectively, and can sway crowds to her whim. The strategist sees where the enemy commanders must move their troops, and stations her soldiers in the perfect place to stop them.
Pledging to the Summer Court is an uncomplicated affair, just as the rest of the Court’s activities. The Court runs a potential member through a gamut of arduous physical challenges, from fist fights and rock-climbing to staying alive in the woods at night. (Basically, all the Physical Skills.) The intent is to see if the changeling can keep going through it all and to determine which (if any) skills are the individuals’ forte. Some don’t make the grade. (In game terms, most characters in the Summer Court have 3 in at least one Physical Skill. Some manage to join the Court with less, with liberal Willpower expenditure and a bit of luck.)
Compared to the other Courts, the Court of Wrath’s rituals are abundant and unsubtle. Very common are contests of physical skill. The Court is full of changelings who place great value on sheer force or ability, and it pleases them to know who is best at any given thing. Wrestling matches or mock combats are common, as are footraces, free running and climbing competitions, martial arts contests, tests of archery and marksmanship and many other competitive endeavors. Most courtiers have running scorecards in their head that tell them who has beaten whom and how many times, creating an approximate pecking order that differs for each category.
One recent tradition that has caught on among many Summer Courts is to arrange official contests during their periods ruling the freehold. Each of the three contests tests a quality at which another Court is, ostentatiously, the best. Each Court chooses a champion for each contest, and the best fae brings honor and prizes to her Court. Unsurprisingly, the Autumn Court usually wins the contests of invention and magic, the Winter Court usually wins the contests of stealth and subterfuge, etc.
Most changelings see the contests as an opportunity for the Summer Court to challenge other Courts in their bailiwicks, trying to show them up. Few realize that the contests were designed to spread goodwill, as members of the other Courts reinforce their pride as the most eloquent poets or craftiest forgers. In this way, the Summer Court builds social awareness of the Courts’ individual strengths and weaknesses, shoring up areas that the Fae might try to exploit.
Some Crimson courtiers also try to take part in human competitions. Different Courts take different stances on such activity. While excelling at a craft is very much in line with the Court’s nature, doing so can also attract unwanted attention. Some Summer Courts discourage it, suggesting that the competitors instead hone their skills to fight the Fae. Other Courts support the idea as a way to draw out the True Fae for ambush. Problematically, truly national competitions take changelings far afield, where they don’t know the lay of the land and must interact with strange (and probably untrusting) fae in order to take basic safety precautions. The other Courts look down on such grandstanding in human society, believing that it can only cause trouble.
The Court of Wrath displays itself proudly, daring its enemies to approach. The Court’s colors are the rich greens of forests and open fields of grass, a spread of reds, from the succulent strawberry red of full summer to the red of hot metal and forest fires and the bright yellows and oranges of the sun at its zenith. Symbols common in their heraldry include an assortment of weapons (the spear, sword and mace are all common, sometimes all together), a shield, sunflowers, summer berries, a bright sun or a full moon, flames or fire, a mushroom cloud, a boar, a badger, an eagle, gold (the color or the substance), iron, a bloody pen or quill and a fist, among others.
The Summer Court’s Mantle carries the sensation of its pure, unrelenting strength. Characters with Mantle 1 to 3 demonstrate aspects of heat in their seemings. Heat distortions and the sensation of a dry, warm wind are common. Mantle 5+ is even stronger — people able to detect the seeming can feel a physical heat rising from it and sometimes feel dried out.
Mantle 1 gives the Crimson courtier an instinct about how to use his Strength to its best ability. Characters with that rating add four dice instead of three when they spend a point of Willpower on a Strength-based roll. Mantle 3 provides protection against the dangers of the world, acting as one point of armor at all times and against all dangers. Characters with Mantle 5 have a hidden reserve of strength to help them carry on: One extra health level.
There is a righteous wrath in the heart of nearly every member of every Summer Court. Somewhere deep, they want their tormentors to feel as helpless as the changelings once did. It is something that they must deal with — the sheer anger at how they have been abused, the rage at those who took what can never be returned. The courtiers of Wrath know how angry they are in their hearts. They try very hard to spend their wrath on something, anything, so that they do not lose their control. Strength without aim is too dangerous for the Court to favor it.
There is wrath in every competitor at a contest. Wrath lurks behind the desire to be victorious, disguises itself as competitive nature, but really wants the others to fail and you to win. A competitor wants the others to go down. This is the other reason the Summer Court holds so many informal competitions. In addition to honing their strengths, the contests burn their anger. The members work to keep their fires banked, so the flames will burn hot when the fae need them to but not before.
Members of the Court of Wrath do burn out occasionally. Having lost their driving anger, they often become Courtless. Recognizing the phenomenon, the Court makes an effort to provide its members appropriate fuel for their rages without letting it burn too brightly. One of the Court’s core purposes is to prevent its members’ wrath from consuming them, or from dying out and leaving changelings undefended.
In the pursuit of wrath, courtiers frequent sporting events. They let the competitive urges wash over them, flavored by the angers of clashing or disappointed fans. Changelings may become coaches or even influential teammates, working to fan the competitive rage that drives athletes. Humans are prone to anger, and the fae can usually create it with ease. One can pretend his car is broken in the middle of rush hour to anger hundreds, or one could order with infuriating sloth at the popular coffee shop to piss off a couple dozen. On a smaller scale, some changelings enjoy pretending to be telemarketers or evangelists and calling upon families at dinnertime. It’s small scale, but more personal.
Not every member of the Crimson Court considers petty anger appropriately wrathful, and some seek out deeper furies. Some visit prisons to get a sense of the prisoners, or correspond with murderers on death row. These can provide tastes of wrath current and wrath past, both of which are valuable to the Summer Court. Daring changelings may join or assist local criminal organizations, hoping to be near gun battles and dramatic betrayals, but others seek out positions in Hollywood or politics where such things are more common.