Changeling Society

Commoners and Nobles

Commoners have lived on Earth since the beginnings of the fae. Trapped here after the Shattering, they survived by placing themselves in mortal forms, undergoing continual reincarnation. By being born and reborn into human families, they have both protected themselves from the worst effects of Banality and have developed close ties with humankind. Nobles, in contrast, are usually sidhe transported from Arcadia during the Resurgence, here for a single incarnation and determined to make the best of their time in the mundane world. Although a few sidhe have entered the world through assuming the bodies of unborn humans, all of them realize that they have only one life to live before their spirits travel to an uncertain fate. This distinction makes most nobles obsessed with gaining and maintaining power and prestige, and differentiates them from the commoners, who know that if they don't succeed this time around, they can always try again.

Nobles consider commoners to be lowly and tainted with the trappings of mortality. Commoners see nobles as arrogant and unfeeling, concerned only with power and status. Although some commoners and nobles may like and respect one another as individuals, in general, the two classes of Kithain share a mutual distrust and dislike. The Treaty of Concord enforced the feudal system on commoners, but most of them still do not fully adhere to all of its strictures, privately rebelling against the more onerous duties relegated to them as "lower" Kithain. Most commoners pay lip service to the local lord while reserving their own private opinions, considering themselves fully the equal of any noble.

Liege and Vassal

Noble society hinges on a hierarchy in which rank and title determine one's position in the greater community. Respect is given to those of higher rank and expected from those of lesser status.

Within a feudal structure, almost every noble owes fealty to a higher noble. Even the kings and queens of Concordia are vassals of High King David, the supreme authority of faerie society in America. In a similar fashion, every noble is someone else's liege. Only squires, who occupy the bottom rung of the noble hierarchy, have no vassals, although they may exercise some limited dominion over the pages beneath them.

Commoners fall outside the strict hierarchy of noble society. Traditionalists regard them as little better than peasants, and therefore consider all commoners to be their subjects. In some cases, in the aftermath of the Accordance War, a few commoners have attained noble rank and have thus integrated themselves into the noble hierarchy. Despite this, nobles consider "titled" commoners to be upstarts and rarely take them seriously.

Although many nobles see the acquisition of power as their primary goal, others hold the bonds between liege and vassal as sacred, seeing in these oaths the symbols of continuity and stability that promote an atmosphere in which Glamour can be harvested and protected and in which the fae can survive. Even these nobles are not exempt from political intrigue and maneuvering, however, for feudal societies encourage just such arcane jockeyings to improve position and garner additional status.

Those at the top of the hierarchy go to great lengths to ensure that they remain there and do everything possible (short of outright theft) to increase their holdings and expand their power bases. Alliances shift and change between nobles as circumstances dictate, with only the laws of the Escheat to temper them. Those at the bottom of the social ladder seek to better themselves and attain higher status through achieving recognition and respect.

Rights and privileges play an important part in the relationship between lord and vassal. Lords exercise certain powers over those they command, but they owe their vassals certain obligations in return, such as protection and sanctuary against outside threats. Likewise, vassals owe their lords loyalty and service. If a lord abuses the rights of his vassals, they, in turn, can lawfully rise up against their lord and overthrow him or else appeal to their lord's liege to correct the situation. This interlocked system of rights and duties holds noble society together.

Noble Obligations

Changeling nobles owe their vassals certain obligations. Nobles cannot abuse their vassals or treat them as thralls, slaves or even servants. Nobles must protect those beneath them from outside harm, whether from rival houses or from the agents of Banality. A noble lord owes her vassals sanctuary in times of need. She must provide fair judgment over all disputes within her domain, and cannot decree punishments without rightful cause. A noble acts as administrator over the property of commoners residing within her fief; her justice is supreme, and no outsiders may usurp her decisions. Nobles also have the duty to provide for holidays and festivals for the celebration of Glamour and the strengthening of ties to the Dreaming.

Judgments deemed unfair or unjust may be appealed to a higher lord. Violation of a noble's rights gives her the power to turn against her liege, who has forfeited his honor by breaking his oaths of loyalty to the violated noble. While noble society does not condone abuse of vassals, despots do occasionally arise, and, unless they are successfully opposed, often continue to tyrannize all those unfortunate enough to owe fealty to them.

Commoners and Noble Justice

Since many commoners do not adhere to the feudal system, conflicts that arise between nobles and common Kithain present problematic situations which only the greatest of tact may solve. Commoners who reside within a lord's domain and who refuse to acknowledge the authority of that lord cause internal strife that must find some resolution. Sometimes differences between lords and commoners can be solved through mediation by an individual who holds the respect of both. On occasion, High King David himself has had to personally negotiate a settlement between unhappy commoners and a disgruntled noble. His willingness to do so has contributed to his popularity among all Kithain.

Rank and Privilege

The bestowal of titles and the attaining of ranks form the core of the feudal society of the fae. From king to squire, each rank has its own rights, responsibilities and treasures that symbolize its power.

King or Queen

Among the fae, the resonance of the Dreaming creates a close relationship between the ruling monarch and the land. In many ways, the king is the land. The actions taken by a monarch, however inconsequential they might seem, affect her domain. Usually, a kingdom reflects the personality of its ruler. If a king becomes brooding or falls prey to despair, darkness and cold become physical manifestations within his realm. If a queen suffers from great depression due to an unrequited love, her land may know constant rains and flooding. An older king's aloofness brings an icy chill to his kingdom, while a young queen's unruly passion results in mayhem and chaos throughout her domain. In times of war, a king or queen acts as warlord over all the armies within the realm.

Kings and queens are addressed as "Your Majesty," or occasionally "Your Royal Highness" (this is more common for a prince or princess).

Royal Treasures: Kings and queens possess crowns that allow them to know the locations of all the pennons (the markers of their territories) in the kingdom, scepters that allow them to draw Glamour from any hearths of balefire in the kingdom, seals that can countermand any ducal signet's imprint, and a weapon that is considered an extension of the royal will.

Retainers

Nobles have a host of underlings, called retainers, who tend to their needs and perform vital services for them. Retainers are similar to vassals but are not part of the noble hierarchy. Many, in fact, are commoners who have given their loyalty and service to their lord in return for a comfortable position in her court. Retainers are usually paid in some fashion, either with small treasures or with promises and favors. Some commoners eagerly seek out positions as retainers in order to reap the benefits of association with noble society. Most motleys look down on these "sellouts," feeling that they have sacrificed their personal freedom for dubious gain.

Heralds

Heralds serve as messengers, diplomats and couriers to their lords. This gives them a certain amount of diplomatic immunity when interacting with the courts of other nobles, so long as they pay the proper respect to their superiors in status. Heralds often serve as spies, since their duties allow them to move about in various circles without arousing too much suspicion. Heralds often possess treasures from their lords that allow them to travel quickly from place to place. They are responsible for summoning up commoner levies when fiefdoms are endangered.