Nameless: A Wizened Smith with a Goblin-esque appearance
Amber Sunshine Jones: A Darkling Mirrormask with an alien visage
Morosa Scorned: An Ogre Witchtooth/Clotheshorse
Syd Fairfield: A Wizened Artist/Muse
Lyra "Andi" Andromeda: A Fairest Telluric/Bright One
SESSION ONE: DEALT IN
The escape through the Hedge was disorienting--the thorns tore away their memories and they could not fully recall how they’d gotten away nor found each other. The sounds of the hunt were close on their heels-- a strange mixed crew of Syd, Andi & Morosa from one durance and Nameless and Amber the sole representatives from each their own. Time, as it always does, ran weirdly for them, so how long they wandered they could not recall. Some had trained themselves to survive in places like these, to avoid traps like gibbering hedge fruit and liquid-glass water puddles.
Andi was first to sight the light of a campfire from a clearing -- but the smell of the wood fire was foreign to her. Syd recognized the smell and pushed forward. At a campfire carefully constructed of wood logs brought from the outside--from the Real World—they saw a figure waiting for them. They could tell it was a Changeling like themselves, black-eye and wearing armor and jeans, with a sword across her back.
She moved carefully, recognizing the group would be skittish and paranoid. She called herself Regardless. She had expected someone(s), but not so many. The group approached with caution, Amber hanging close to the edge of the darkness, and Morosa looming over hungry but waiting. Regardless threw over to them delicious snack foods--so wondrous and novel to Andi (who was Taken as a child) that she lit up with a sugar-fueled brilliance. These Regardless offered freely, which set off the incredulous Syd who demanded to know what the stranger wanted.
And when Regardless returned, they would kill her.
The Wizened Nameless and the rest of the group questioned her. She had a 'heavy fate' upon her--hence the extraction of the promise. She could say little beyond what she had- and the hour was growing late. Regardless iced the promise cake with mention of supplies just outside the exit to the Real World
Nameless agreed--he checked her worst fear and saw that in that moment t she feared she would be forgotten. Andi agreed without qualms, being a child almost wholly of Faerie upbringing. Syd agreed, adding the condition that Regardless would have to look her in the eyes and say she still desired death upon her return. Amber cautiously agreed with the nodded silence of a Darkling. Morosa agreed and requested a token to know Regardless by. The armed changeling walked over, footsteps of hot coals forming under her bare feet as she stepped. She handed Morosa a business card--“Simon M- House Sitter, Counselor, Fan-Fiction Editor”-- with an address and “IOU” written in Sharpie on the back.
Then Regardless concentrated, opened a new corridor in the hedge, and told them to run. And they did, pell mell, not daring to allow the corridor to close back up. The group reached a threshold clearing. Across they saw an open door to the Real World. However, they found their path blocked by two 6-foot round Doghead Pursuers, hedge beasts who hunted for stray Changelings to drag back into the Hedge. Morosa rushed forward and delivered a magnificent kick to the back of one, knocking it into the other. Syd, in fine spunky heroine form, lodged a giant Hedge thorn into the jaws of the stunned second dog. Andi shot through the clearing and out into the Real World. Nameless was distracted as he wracked his big brainy brains for a way to protect his newfound allies and only made it close to the exit. Caution and slowed Amber who only made it partway across the clearing.
Syd pressed her luck and tried to kick the thorn up through the roof of the dog's mouth. Instead the thorn dropped into the back of the Pursuer's throat, gagging it. Morosa, unwilling to be further upstaged by the always-up-for-the-starring-role Syd, grabbed her up by the waist, ran her to the exit and dropped her into the Real World. There was a tangle at the exit and the thorn-throated Pursuer started to gag and heave in that awful doggy way with poor Morosa clearly in the trajectory. Nameless, calling upon his hobbish appearance and furious nature, burst out with a string of profanities and confusing threats so convincing, the poor Pursuer swallowed the thorn and cowered. The group made their escape.
Andi saw the Real World for perhaps the first time.
She stood in an outdoor museum of neon signs. In the distance she could hear singing, discordant and metallic coming from multiple directions. Snow, cold and dusty just barely covered everything. She wandered and as she did, the signs flickered and lit, reacting to her nature. In her mind things began to come together, falling together in a certainty about how the world worked.
The others emerged from the doorway, which shut behind them. They looked around the Neon Boneyard and heard the Christmas carols in the distance. Syd spotted a duffel bag left for them by Regardless and grabbed it up. After methodically checking to make sure they were not in space, Amber spotted a clear plastic envelope on the ground. She picked it up carefully. Inside was a page from a notebook, handwritten. A strange hand-collage'd tarot card was taped to the paper. She scanned it cautiously and then handed it to Nameless. The group moved to follow Andi, led by afterglow trail of neon where she’d passed.
They slipped through the gate and walked out onto the streets of Las Vegas. They could see the lights, decorations and projection of the Fremont Street Experience. The streets were lightly populated most people having headed home at this late Christmas Eve hour. After some discussion, they began rifling through the duffel bag hunting for money. They only found clothes, and Syd began to change- drawing the attention of nearby private security guards. The group bolted, heading for the address on the business card Regardless had given them.
They reached a door on the fourth floor of a hybrid mall/office complex and hit the buzzer. A voice wavered, clearly uncertain and then buzzed them in. They made their way through the low-rent facility back to the cramped and oddly appointed backroom where a formally dressed Changeling introduced himself as Simon Maggots. His strange mien shifted on him as he moved- turning his flesh monstrous in shifting patches. The group told them that Regardless had given them his card, but he didn’t know who she was.
With practical concerns somewhat set aside, Simon Maggots finally gave them a sense of the situation. He was the “Prince” of the Winter Court, one of four such Courts in Las Vegas. New changelings arrived in Vegas regularly- some escaped from the hedge and some having come through the dangers of the In Betweens. New changelings were, well, dangerous- to themselves and others. Until they understood their situation and the risks they faced, they could accidentally bring woe. To that end, the Freehold of Vegas maintained a place, Thorn Haven.
Transient changelings could stay there until they found a way to move on. Others, like the group, who planned to stay in Vegas, could stay in Thorn Haven to be mentored. That would take a few weeks in which they would be helped to acclimate and learn the ways of Changeling life. A small pact of mutual protection between themselves and the haven would ensure trust and respect. Once that brief period ended, their group could opt to join the Freehold. Doing so offered them benefits- social and material. It would require doing a small task for each of the Courts. But Simon stressed the voluntary nature of the process.
He called for some of his “people” to come and pick the group up to take them to Thorn House.
Note: We ended there- our next session (after two skips for Xmas Eve and New Year’s Eve) will take up after the group has gone through that orientation. I’ll have a small handout covering the most important points of difference for Las Vegas.