Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Changeling: The Lost - Venice: Broken Mask, Shattered Dreams - The Freehold of Venice

The Freehold of Venice

The Freehold of Venice has been held by the Court of Carnival for many centuries. All that time countless Doges have held office. Some were granted the position by the departing Doge, others were simply bestowed the seat upon the death of the last Doge. The identity of the Doge has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the city. Every time a new Doge is appointed he is bound to keep that identity secret or he will die and the title is then past on. Meanwhile the old Doge slips back into his old life as if he was never gone. Gaps in details are filled in, and all memory of his time as Doge is removed. The only tie between the Doges of the Court of Carnival is the Book of the Long Masquerade, a journal detailing the history and lore of the Freehold.

The role of the Doge is that of arbiter and chairman. He is the head of the freehold but not a despot, his rule must first pass the approval of the Dukes of the Seasonal Houses. Only in times of great need can the Doge rule without question, but even that must be agreed upon by the heads of the Seasonal Houses of Venice. The Doge authorizes new laws for the Freehold, acts as the final judge of tribunals, and acts as the commander of arms when war is declared.

The Doge also plays a major role in the social aspect of the freehold, holding court and listening to the needs of his subjects. Thus the Doge performs an important part in the freehold, acting as counsellor and master of rites.

The Glamour that acts upon the Doge ensures that in the identity of the Doge is a secret and his human face is concealed when in court. Outside of his duties as Doge, the Doge is cannot reveal his title, and the magic associated with the title is not revealed. For all intents and purposes the Doge is just like any other changeling.

The Glamour associated with the title of Doge is not just limited to the Doge, but extends to all of those within court. When entering the official court of the Doge all other changelings have their mien banished and their image is concealed by a mask. The Pact of Carnival allows for all changelings to associate with each others as equals at the price of not knowing whom they are with. This curious effect means that only changelings that enter court together are aware of which mask that they each wear. For others that arrive at the court changelings must ask for their identity. Thus it is completely possible for changelings to remain anonymous in court, free to speak their mind to all others. Such a state of affairs means that concerns can be openly expressed without fear of repercussions. But it also means that rumour and conspiracy is rife, and paranoia reigns as changelings try to ensure that they are not identified and singled out for their views and actions. But this maddening court of intrigue, backstabbing and whispers is the price paid for their freedom. The Pact of Carnival gives the Lost of the city shelter from the Gentry. Carnival works its Glamour upon all members of the freehold, hiding their mien from the Gentry so that they appear as just mortals. This does not stop the True Fae however, it is just another mask and like all masks they can be looked past.

The most notable Hollow of the Court of Carnival is associated with the Ca’ P├ęsaro, the museum for oriental and modern arts. This stone-clad gothic building is covered in gruesome heads.

The current Doge is theorized to have been in power for the last decade at least. His rule has been characterized by his balance between tough justice and light handed rule. Balls and parties are allowed at all times but in the shadows his agents are constantly on the look out for loyalist, privateers, Gentry and militia. Within court the Doge has been attacked openly for not being more proactive, and has gained the hatred and distrust of those within the Summer and Spring house. This revulsion has been born out of the disgust at the Court of the Carnival preventing seasonal rule, but also the Doge clamping down on those parties and gatherings that have gotten out of hand, or the more militant Summer courtiers who think the Doge is not doing enough to actively hunt those who would bring down the freehold.

The Doge appears in court as dressed much like a prince or lord would during the 18th century. His attire is white and gold, with an opulent coat, buckled shoes and powdered wig. His mask fully conceals his face and is a shifting mask of emotions.

The Doge does not work in a vacuum, and has a number of aides that are known within Court. The Pact of Carnival allows for the changeling of the city to come to court and act anonymously, but there are those changelings of the court who are identifiable, at least within court. Outside of court their it is up to these changelings to reveal their title.

The seneschal of the Doge is the Bauta. This changeling is keeping track of the details of the city, the funds that are kept by the Doge, files on the threats to the Freehold, working with the Dukes of the Seasonal Houses to distribute titles and duties, maintaining the location of Freehold commons, safe houses and hollows.

Of all the members of the Court of Carnival the seneschal is possibly the most important role but also once of the most disrespected positions within the Freehold. Many of the House of Autumn feel that the seneschal is intruding on their responsibilities, while the House of Summer and Spring see the seneschal as a puppet of the Doge.

The Bauta appears in court in robes almost opulent as the Doge, and his mask is the Bauta mask. The Bauta mask is a full face mask but with an angular pronounced jaw that disguises the mouth. The mask is covered in gilding and ornate.

The role of Volto is the official peacekeeper of the city. Dressed in the Volto mask, similar to the Bauta but in pure black, but worn with a tricorn and a cloak. The Volto acts as both investigator and executioner, and works in unison with those defenders of the Freehold from the Seasonal Houses. Thus the Volto acts as leader and commander of these militant changelings, but this an uneasy alliance that leads to conflicts of interest. Of all the positions with the city the identity of the Volto is well known to all changelings in the Freehold.

The Larva appears similar to the Volto, however with a mask of pure white. The Larva is the official ghost hunter of the Freehold. Such a position is required when the city has such a deep and troubled history. Thus the Larva is normally associated with the Autumn and Winter Seasonal Houses. The other main duty of the Larva is that of assassin. Whenever things must be done quietly then the Larva is the one that is called upon by the Doge. This means, unlike the Volto, the Larva operates in complete secrecy.

Servetta Muta is always a female changeling and dressed in opulent robes and a black oval mask that has only slits for eyes. The wearer must bite down onto a bit so that the mask is held against the face. Thus the role of the Servetta Muta is that of a confessor, the Lost of the Freehold can reveal their sins and troubles to her without the fear that she will reveal these secrets to others, such is the Pact with Carnival that is made by the Servetta Muta. Over the centuries others have tried to pervert this position, but before long there is a new Servetta Muta, a changeling is missing and the Larva is cleaning his blades.

The Columbine and Columbina are two changelings who are considered the most beautiful within the Freehold. The Columbino masks are the classic half masks, concealing just the eyes and nose leaving the lower portion of the face exposed. The masks are very ornate and so are the costumes that the courtiers wear. These two changelings are in charge of organizing the balls and parties of the Freehold, gifted in the performing arts, and also are notorious for their numerous and frequent sexual encounters at these parties.

The final official position within the Court of Carnival is the Medico della Peste, or Plague Doctor. This changeling is dressed in the traditional black robes and wide brimmed, with a mask that covers the entire face. The mask features small eye slits covered in clear stones, and is completely white. The main feature is the grim looking curved wide beak. This beak, during the Venetian plagues, was designed so that it could be stuffed with herbs and spices that would prevent the doctor from breathing in the plague.

The Medico della Peste is the Freehold physician, but also acts as intermediatory between the Freehold and the Vampire and sorcerers that live within the bounds of Venice and the Venetian mainland. Other than the Larva and Volto, the Medico della Peste is one of the most feared and respected changelings in the Freehold, and on rare occasions changelings that have been brought in for minor aliments have disappeared without trace.

The Mantle of Carnival

The Court of Carnival, the Thousand Masks, the Quicksilver Court, the court of revelry and laughter.

Some wish to hide, some wish to loses themselves to their desires, others give into their rage, and others wish to cause fear. But the court of Carnival is something else. It is farewell to the flesh, to let go of themselves and be lost within the festival of Carnival. If they are willing to make the sacrifice the Carnival offers safety, pleasure, mystery, magic, secrecy and power. The ultimate message of Carnival is one of festival, and showing that the Lost can turn the tables on the Gentry. Of course the question is when Carnival will come seeking to collect their debts.

For the above reasons the Court of Carnival is eclectic, maddening, and colourful, attracting changeling from all walks of life. But typically the court attracts those changelings that have a taste for politics, intrigue, revelry and magic, all at once. They are all self styled princes of Faerie. But of course this intense mix is difficult for many changeling to accommodate, and often courtiers can be driven to insanity but the pressures of Carnival. But this is the cost of the power that comes from the court.

Of course the most important rituals of the court focus on the period of Carnival. Starting on the 26th of December the Doge, along with a representative of the House of Winter, lead the celebration of the start of Carnival. Masks are ritually burnt, signifying the start of the period of renewal. But first they must give up their past year and confide to Carnival their sins. The real celebrations do not begin until two weeks before Fat Tuesday, and on the Sunday at the start of this period the Doge elects the Carnival Prince and Princess. These two lead the balls and parties and act as a focus for the Freeholds celebrations, culminating in their ceremonial marriage on Fat Tuesday. This marriage sees a grand ball and Lost from other Freeholds beyond Venice are invited to join in the celebration.

The following day, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of Lent, and so the changelings of the Court of Carnival focus intently on their purpose and duties for the following year.

For the remainder of the year the Court is devoted to secrecy and study, defending, the Freehold and rooting out dangers within the city.

The heraldry of the Court is a strange mix. It is the clear blue skies over the Adriatic in February, the bracing sea breeze, the smell of mulled wine, the sparkle of light of the crests of waves, the taste of hot chocolate, the sound laughter, the ringing of church bells, masks, tricorn hats, cats, lions, violins, gondola, mercury, salt, a sense of disorientation and loss of direction.

The mantle of Carnival is somewhat a mix of all others. The Mantle gives a sense of Carnival as an overload of the sense as a means to hide the changeling. At Mantle ● to ●●● the mien of the changeling is confusing and sensual as the observer is assaulted by the smells and tastes of Carnival. When invoking a contract laughter may be heard or a cold wind blows. At Mantle ●●●●+ the mien of a Carnival courtier is even more intense as dimensions are confused, directions twisted, spices can be smelled in the air and laughter assaults the ears of the observer.

At Mantle ●+ a Carnival courtier become harder to spot and so those actively seeking the changeling have a -1 die penalty to their appropriate search skill (Wits + Composure or Wits + Skill) roll. At Mantle ●●●+ the changeling becomes even more masked by Carnival, their mien is diminished and they gain a +1 dice bonus to all ssubterfuge. At Mantle ●●●●● the previous penalties and bonus at previous levels increase by one. Thus their stealth/subterfuge rolls are increased by +2, and a -2 penalty to those seeking the changeling.

The emotion tied to the Court of Carnival is Carnival itself. Changeling harvest the Glamour associated with festivity, celebrations, grand balls, drunken parties. This emotion is brought to the fore in others as a way of once more feeling what was stolen from them by the Gentry. Only by seeking out Carnival can the Court feel as though it has turned the tables on their debauched Keepers, stealing back their old lives and the magic of Faerie. But also Carnival means acknowledging that all great things come at a great price, that their freedom and powers come with strings attached. It is only when this is acknowledged, that a changeling is free to celebrate his freedom, knowing what it cost to regain it.

The Court holds certain stereotypical views of the other courts.

Spring Court: The may indulge in their passions, but they lose themselves to easily to their desire and forget to celebrate all other aspects of life.

Summer Court: They may win the war but they never take the time to rejoice in the achievements. No instead they just seek out more war, more bloodshed.

Autumn Court: They may try to steal the magic of Faerie, and use such things for their own war, to make the Gentry fear their own tools, but they do not take the time to enjoy the pleasures that it can bring. Celebrate the world that it reveals. But always know that all gifts come with a price.

Winter Court: You can hide but Carnival will always come, always seeking to take what is owed, that debt. But also, no matter how the Winter Court act, they cannot deny that they have succeeded in escaping the Gentry, and not celebrating such an achievement is a terrible thing as then you have no drive to achieve greater things.

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