Against a Crimson Sky, a Game in Five Parts
Act I: An Introduction, or All the Stars Come Crashing Down
In Adelaide there exists a society apart from the world of humankind, beyond and beneath the everyday struggles for life, love and happiness. It is a reflection in a stagnant pond, shattering as the Hand of God reaches to the depths and the ripples make it something new altogether.
They are strong, they are weak, but most importantly of all, they are lost. This society attracts those who have been forgotten, those who no longer have a place in this world or any other, those who have been forged anew only to discover they are brittle like pig iron instead of strong like steel.
Their home is the tunnels, the back-alleys, the secluded manses that echo the faded grandeur in which they drape themselves. Lingering beyond the kenning of the morose masses that wander the streets day and night, these lost souls make for themselves whatever sort of existence they can. Their universe is one of colour, music and wonder, but of a sort that they can never hope to share with those nearest and closest to them.
Forced by fate and an uncaring universe to live their lives apart from the world, these wanderers long ago recognized that they must come together for protection and the reassuring presence of their own kind. Forming with an eye to defending their own and making the world a slightly warmer place, the Caring Heart Society for the Lost and Needy was formed, known in its more exclusive circles as the Freehold of the Bloody-Hearted Labyrinth. Founded in the early days of Adelaide’s existence, the Society brings together a diverse range of individuals whose mission it is to provide support and aid for those who cannot support themselves, those who have had their opportunities torn from their still-beating hearts, those who get drift with no purpose or home to their name. If these people happen to be among those who have returned from exile in the distant world of thorns and magic, then so much the better.
Act II: The Themes, or Peering Into the Abyss One Hour Too Long
Scene I: Everyday Struggles, or A Day In the Life:
Changeling: The Lost is a game of paradox and uncertainty, and those who bear the name Lost know these feelings stronger than any other. The stories the Lost tell in the nighttime hours or keep silently within their hearts are ones of the utmost profundity, but at the same time, they are stories of friendships, bitterness, love and the constant fight to exist in a world which is offended by ones very existence. When creating a character, remember that for the Lost having a job, a family, paying the bills or caring for a sickly parent are things to be fought for, things that take away the pain of having a life stolen and changed forever. Living in the world, and coming out triumphant against all odds is a symbol of triumph against Fate and the Fae; it gives meaning to lives and is the stuff of the greatest literature ever written. And, of course, there is the simple fact that Changelings are so much more than human; what they feel is more intense, to them it is more real and more poignant than for any mortal. Infused with the raw essence of the Wyrd and human emotion, losing the house that someone grew up in can be enough to drive a Lost insane with grief. Everyday struggles to maintain relationships and ties to the world will be important, as well as the subtle power of apparently mundane issues.
Scene II: The Hand of God, or The Uncaring Face of Fate:
Changelings are creatures of circumstance. As often as not, they are taken by the Fae simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When they first find themselves in Arcadia, the Lost lose some degree of choice over their ultimate fate. They become the playthings of twin powers beyond their control; the Fae, and of course the Wyrd. These things define them, rebirth them as something entirely new and set them back down changed forever. Life for the Lost is a battle to decide ones destiny despite this, to be in control for the first time since they were taken. The archetypal paths some changelings follow, and the fatebound nature of the Wyrd make many question just how much free will they truly have. The Hand of God is something that has shaped the Lost as they are today, and continues to affect their lives and activities until the day that they pass from the earthly coil and perhaps gain some new measure of self-determination.
Scene III: Brittle Like Pig Iron but Strong Like Steel, or The Art of Being Strong:
The fae are capable of almost anything; when unleashed their fury can be like a supernova, their passion greater enough to forge time and space to their own will. They have emerged from the durances inevitably stronger, greater in many ways than they once were. However, below this lies a hidden fragility. The Lost are broken, they are warped and twisted and beaten. Beneath the most forceful and proud of façades, the fae are brittle inside. When the world is a dangerous, awesome place, one can’t help but be afraid of the things that bump in the night. The things that most Lost endured in Arcadia are things that mortals were never designed to bear, that the most horrific descriptions of hell can do no justice to. As such the damage that they bear runs as deep as oceans and is as varied as the fae themselves. No matter how hard the Lost may try to ignore it, they cannot hide from their own minds forever.
Act III: Motifs, or I See With Mine Own Two Eyes.
Scene IV: Faded Grandeur, or A Sepia Image on a Washed-Out Wall:
Rotting tapestries and nicked blades call to mind the glory of Arcadia while reminding fae that they have built something here for themselves. Just like them, their world is beautiful, but far from perfect. Their fortresses crumble around these children of the Wyrd, as they feel themselves fracture from within and without. As people like any other, they build a world with what they have at hand and the people they surround themselves with, and as the months turn into years the stone turns to dust as they realise just how futile it really is.
Scene V: Colour, Music and Wonder, or The Magic Beneath the Masque:
While the Lost surround themselves with rot and decay, the reality they see, the reality that sits below the surface of the unconscious flock, is one of magic and glamour. It takes its cues from the real world, but the wonders the Lost see are superimposed on their vision. The brightly coloured spines of a beast, the echoing trills of unearthly music and the simple genius of a box that sustains the beating of the glass heart of a wyvern are all things that a Changeling should expect to encounter. Such stimuli imprint themselves deeply on the minds of the Lost and hold special relevance for each individual.
Act IV: Mood, or The Golden King Sits Upon His Gunpowder Throne:
Scene VI: Pomp and Ritual, or Ceremony in the Time of Killers:
Changelings willingly place themselves into the service of the seasons, promising service in exchange for power. The seasons do not often ask much, but they are as old as Earth itself, and they expect certain things. These rituals are as important a part of Changeling life as the eating a meal or checking beneath the bed at night, they are taken for granted. Moreover, the Courts and Freeholds have existed for the length of history and they carry the accumulated weight of the centuries. Monarchs bear themselves with honour and ceremony because that it is how they have always done it, but also because they know that they deserve it. Social contract, entering into a pledge with the Freehold for protection while agreeing to its customs is one of the few things that changelings have on their side in the failing battle for freedom. And so when the Summer King orders his champion to publicly beat a disrespectful subordinate, all who watch know that such is the cost of freedom. Likewise, when the Spring Queen demands a promising newcomer bear her banner to the latest gala, it is because she is accepted as Queen among them and may do what she wills. Rituals and the pomp of court life will play an important role for changelings. Kings and Queens are just that, with all the connotations it carries. Some may be more or less formal, and many will grant special privileges to those they call friends, but with the position a certain mindset seems to settle in, whether naturally or through the weight of ages.
Chorus II: Urban Fantasy, or Watching the World Walk, Hand on the Wicked Blade:
For changelings, Adelaide is a very different place. Theirs is a fantasy life of dragons and knights, but these are dragons perched over the entrances to decaying apartment buildings and tusk-toothed knights bedecked with overcoats and shotguns. Fantastical elements always take place against the backdrop of reality, and that reality is characterized by concrete and flickering streetlights. The events of this grand play take place in what can truly be called an Urban Fantasy where the strangeness of fantasy mixes with the dark alleys and grim realities of modern city life in a world of darkness. Together it culminates in a baroque and threatening city for its Lost inhabitants.
The Finale: The Freehold and Hedge, or From Whence They Never Return
Scene VII: The Caring Heart Society for the Lost and Needy, or The Cost of Benevolence:
Founded in the days soon after Adelaide became a city in the truest sense of the word, The Caring Heart Society for the Lost and Needy was formed by a group of well-to-do citizens from Adelaide’s elite. No one can recall precisely when, but at a time, and perhaps even a place, the Society became the toy of a group of psychopaths, conspiracy theorists and gun-nuts. It was at this point that the Freehold of the Bloody-Hearted Labyrinth was formed, and the connection between the two organizations persists to this day. Staffed full-time by ensorcelled mortals, the Society’s office is the centre of much of its work in the real world. Reflecting the Freehold’s general benevolence, and as this has been the way it always was, as part of their obligations to the Freehold members are expected to volunteer regularly in one of the Society’s soup kitchens, shelters or other outreach efforts. Those who neglect this responsibility often find that they soon receive an unwelcome knock on their front door.
Scene VIII: The Freehold of the Bloody-Hearted Labyrinth:
The archivists of the Freehold are a stoic lot, as are any who try to record the frenzied movements of a group as chaotic as the Lost. However, due to age and a frequently high rate of death and suicide amongst members of the Freehold, important gaps exist in its history, the answers perhaps waiting to be found in some dank and dirty cavern or storeroom. As such, the identities of the Freehold’s founders have thus far been lost to time, as has the exact details of why the Freehold maintains its ties to the Society. Nevertheless, maintain them they do. The Freehold claims many of the tunnels beneath Adelaide as its domain, finding safety and comfort in the world apart from the world that these dark places create. Cavernous halls bedecked with silver and tapestries are the home of the Freehold’s central government. Their bloody heart is the pulse and flow of the lost who claim its membership, and the labyrinth is the tunnels, enigmas and conspiracies that they surround themselves with. The Seasonal Monarchs and select others also act as a Board of Directors for the Caring Heart Society.
Finale: The Hedge, or Of Barbed Wire and Bliss:
While small groves of greenery exist within the city, often wilted and choked unless specifically cultivated, the hedge at large is a morass of twisted wire, towering ruins and grasping vines. Sharp edges and shattered glass are as much a threat as the omnipresent thorns, tearing at glamour and sanity. Colour here is more likely to be a drip of crimson blood from a torn pipe than the mottled greens of trees and bushes. Likewise, the sky is a glorious panorama or a mess depending on the moment and the viewer, a constant clash of reds, blacks and oranges, a roiling sunset across the entire vista. The hedge is a disturbing, terrifying place, and hollows are bastions of sanctity in the wilderness. Only the bravest and strongest make travelling the hedge a habit, and even they listen close for the keening cry of hobs or worse.