Norwich Lost Introduction: The Watchtower Over the Water

Once Upon a time, the Old Gods promised to return their mountains and clouds, so long as they made a promise- “harm me not”- with everything in the Midrealm. Every stone and element, plant and beast promised, except for man and woman-and iron. This was a trivial detail and they ignored it, but the three cooperated and forged a blade that cut the wound and brought the Old Gods back…

…From the East they came, the Angles the Saxons and the Nor-men. Their wyrd was strong and manifest and the peoples of this world succumb [ed] to their end of days. Know this my child, your world was born in subjugation- This is your wyrd…

…And so it came to pass that as the heavens opened and the rain soothed his face, Elijah Morningstar dropped down dead with exhaustion and as it was foretold: the Free Lost had found their Promised Land…

Extracts from the Norvik Chronicle

 

The Freehold of the “Watchtower-over-the-water” has stood eternal for almost a thousand years. A city built entirely within the hedge populated by a dwindling number of changelings and numerous hobs. At its core lies this basic principle No world will accept us except our own: to the citizens of the ‘Tower’ the safety offered by the thick city walls is coupled with the security against the ignorance and prejudice that lies beyond. For many who have returned from Arcadia to find the world has moved on and forgotten them, finding a place in an accepting community that allows them to live in the open and validates their experiences is a strong comfort compared to the betrayal of loved ones in thrall of their fetches. To them the freehold is more than a simple support group; it is a chance to actually claim a meaningful and rewarding life to call their own.

However, for you that is not enough: You were ripped from your life, your world. Forced to endure the wild and hellish, whimsical and enchanting madness that is slavery to the Fae. And something brought you back: a feeling, a memory, a distant echo of who you “were”. You have recently returned, confused and delirious by what you find. But you are going to get it back. You are not going to be a victim any more…

Action 3 You are the only people looking out for the real world; prepare to get rough and ready if necessary. Note: I will always give opportunities for players to deal with problems without resorting to violence. If combat is going to happen there should be consequences.
Character dev. 5 IMHO Pretty much all plots should be focused around the decisions your characters are willing to make and the consequences thereof rather than a set solution to a set problem
Darkness 4 What choices will you make to regain and maintain your life???
Drama 3 For the Freehold at large this is ever present but depends on character interaction with the NPC elements
Intrigue 3 Certainly an option for characters who wish to dip into freehold politics
Manners 3 I’ve tried to imagine the freehold as something very set in its ways so either from the NPC’s or from fellow PC’s beliefs I imagine there will be at least a social pressure to decide what you think is ‘right’
Mystery 4 I’m not a fan of combat, especially the ‘Freehold Hammer’ kill-team approach. I will throw out stuff to investigate more than enemies to fight
Pace 2 Based on how I ST, reacting to player responses, I prefer plots to slowly/organically develop but will throw in on the fly stuff if necessary

 

Theme

This green unpleasant land: The life of the Lost is harsh, returning to a world that has moved on the perils of loyalists, privateers and even sections of mortal society can for some seem just too much for the hard won scraps a changeling can collect as a semblance of existence. Even those who have forsaken the real world to live in the ‘Tower’ rarely venture beyond its walls for fear the things that lie within the surrounding hedge. The theme of the game is the souring of that ‘promised land’ that the Lost have strived to reach tinged with a constant hope that they can make a real impact on their situation for the better.

What I want to focus on is characters trying to find a role for themselves and more importantly a ‘home’ whether that is trying to reintegrate into their old life, forging a new one in the mortal world or throwing their lot entirely with the freehold and its ‘hedge utopia’. Furthermore, I want to focus on the morality and ethics of Changeling’s main themes, returning and readjusting to a world that has moved on without you, and have characters questioning the very meaning of returning ‘home’ as much as striving towards those goals.

Freedom is Slavery: If we agree that liberty is an inherent right of man then we condemn his fellows into bondage from the consequences of his own wants. Government is considered a necessary evil at best and a tyrant at worst, and among the Lost this creed is given greater credibility. The constant dilemma thus pervading a Changeling’s existence is that between freedom and security; how far your characters will go to achieve their ends and reaping the whirlwind in another’s wake…

 

Mood

The mood for Norwich lost is an overbearing and quite claustrophobic sense of history. History gives birth to legend and legend gives birth to myth: it is these great myths that the wyrd thrives on. Even in the context of the National setting the NPC elements of the Freehold should feel stuffy at best and part of something completely alien to their experiences at their worst. Changeling is about those whose lives were taken from them and how they try to take them back using the power of the wyrd. But the wyrd, being something of the fae and not of this earth, is equally a millstone around their necks. In the absence of certainty superstition thrives, things are done the way they are because there haven’t been problems before and when dealing with something as capricious as the Wyrd its considered best to err on the side of caution. As the NPC elements of the Freehold warn not to upset the cart because of ‘consequences’, the more bohemian PC’s should be thinking ‘fuck you’ because out there is what brought them back and they’re not ready to let go of that after suffering so much to make it this far…

 

History

The “Watchtower-over-the-water” can trace its history back to the early middle ages as a monastery built by the dawn court. It is said its founders escaped Arcadia in an uprising led by Elijah Morningstar. It was foretold that he would lead his followers to a promised land free from the chains of their keepers which would be marked by the first shower and his death.  Upon his grave the changelings of the dawn court, the city’s first freemen and women, built a tower pointing to the heavens that is said to guide those back from Arcadia to the sanctity of the city walls. The first year killed many of those who had escaped; the rains were harsh and beat any crop that rose back into the ground while the frigid winter winds drained what little warmth exposed from the Lost’s bodies. Those who escaped into the real world were even driven mad by the persecution of mortals as freaks and vagabonds or driven back into the embrace of the fledgling Freehold. Only those who survived did so by the fiery anger of Summer or the bitter pragmatism of the Winter.

The dawn court endured also and with the help of a wandering Blackbird became a spiritual core of the society, building within the cities sheltering walls a cathedral from which to offer salvation.

It was another 100 years before the Great seasonal courts of the west arrived in the city with tales of Arthur and the legendary Avalon, at first treated with suspicion the seasonal courts grew with the city though those still retaining power and influence within its upper echelons remained faithful to their history and ‘the old ways’ that had sustained them. Passing the crown between Summer (Seelie) and Winter  (Unseelie) the freehold has endured all that has beset it though the strength of its arms and the vigilance of its members.

Seelie and Unseelie

As mentioned previously, the ‘Watchtower over the Water’ adheres to its own court structures which developed in isolation to the ‘Great Seasonal Courts of the West’. Whereas the Great Seasonal Courts derive their power from the four seasons of the agricultural cycle, the fact that the citizens of ‘The Tower’ are divorced from the cycles of the mortal realm their court structure takes its cue from the two interchanging seasons of the local hedge. Seelie and Unseelie are two Middle English words, the former meaning ‘blessed’ and the latter ‘unholy’, became common currency to describe the two groups of Changelings which rotated and continue to rotate the monarchy of the City.
The Seelie Fae rule during the swamplands of summer when hedge bounty is plentiful, They were the leaders of St Elijah’s rebellion and were well known for their hot headed and righteous temperament, during the first few months of freedom their can do attitude compelled them to scour the hedge for provisions. It is amongst the Seelie Fae that the beliefs of the ‘Church of Lost Salvation’, and in particular the belief that ‘The Tower’ marks a promised land for the Lost, find most favour.
On the other hand the Unseelie Fae reign during the desolate tundra of winter. Unlike the Seelie Fae they initially tried to reintegrate back into their old lives and faced the bitter sting of rejection. Known for their pragmatic and ‘uncaring’ nature, it was under their ‘brutal’ but effective leadership that the Walls of the City were built and the dwindling supplies of summer were rationed out amongst the starving few most likely to survive the onslaught of the elements. Unseelie Fae are considered such because their ascent means a time of great hardship for the local Lost. Whereas the Seelie Fae become martyrs of the Freehold, it is under the orders of the Unseelie and their cold calculated decisions that martyrdom is sometimes required. As such, it is amongst the Unseelie that respect for the absolute power of the institution of monarchy and its function of arbitration can be found.


With the arrival of the ‘Great Seasonal Courts’ the unity of the Seelie and Unseelie became fragmented over generations as Changelings found more sophisticated emotions for their Wyrd resonate with. The Seelie Fae split and adopted the tenets of the Antler Crown and the Iron Spear whereas the Unseelie divided between the Leaden Mirror and the Silent Arrow. However in terms of leadership it is the Iron Spear and the Silent Arrow, the two courts that most resemble the righteous defiance and bitter pragmatism of tradition, which now rotate the crown. Despite to some Changelings, especially those with ties to the Freeholds of the West, this apparent anachronism it is still through the Seelie and Unseelie courts that political pressure is exerted.

 

The Hedge:

The local hedge is a brutal and desolate place defined by two seasons.

In the summer it is a rank and humid swamp buzzing with life, the area surrounding the freehold becomes a vast lake like bayou rich in hedgefruit but also fraught with danger as the larger aquatic hedge beasts appear from hibernation. In the past, claim the older members of the city, one would stick to the streams that resonate with echoes of technology while avoiding the lights of willow-the-wisps, however with the expansion of street and road lighting many an unfamiliar traveller has drowned mistaking a guiding light for a more sinister illumination. When the fog rolls in many a wise hedge explorer docks their boat on a patch of firm ground (or better yet in the port beside the local goblin market) and waits for clearer waters.

In contrast winter turns the hedge into a bleak tundra come marshland. The local fauna (excluding the thorns) die off and the suicide trees bloom their withered and gangling branches. Those in need of hedge bounty must either stray out into the wilderness battling sub-zero temperatures and razor sharp winds for a sheltered grotto or face the perils of the vast subterranean complex beneath the freehold itself. Many have set off in good spirits never to return, drowning in underground lakes or peat like bogs, freezing due to over exposure or meeting a fate even worse…

 

Inspirations

-Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

-The Gormenghast Trilogy (Melvin Peake)

-Neverwhere TV series (Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry)

-The Village (M. Night Shyamalan)

For more information: please contact me at Norwich.lost.lst@islesofdarkess.com or visit http://iodnorwichlost.blogspot.co.uk/ (this blog is currently being transported over to the isles of darkness blog)

 

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