The Medieval Paradigm

Faerie society draws heavily on the customs and traditions of 14th century feudalism. While changelings take part in the modern world and live their mortal lives surrounded by the fruits of 600 years of technological and political "progress," when they interact with the Dreaming, they return to a world garbed in the distant past. This persistence of medieval trappings among the fae occurs for a number of reasons.

Despite the fact that commoners have adapted outwardly to changing times, their souls continue to harken back to the era before the Shattering. Because of this, most changelings exist within an eternal time loop. While their mortal flesh undergoes a constant cycle of aging, death and rebirth, their ancient spirits find comfort in the familiarity of medievalism.

In addition, the mortal world continues to exercise its own power over the remnants of the Dreaming. Most fairy tales take place in a medieval setting, and humans who still entertain a belief in faeries imagine them existing in a world full of castles and mythical creatures. Thus, the forms common to the Middle Ages provide the path of least resistance for changelings.

Finally, the sidhe nobles who control faerie society were absent for the rise of democratic government, and many modern political trends make no sense to these traditionalists. Since the Resurgence, these rulers of the fae have structured their power bases along feudal lines, reverting to the framework that existed at the time of the Shattering. The feudal system, based as it is on the protection of the land, presents an ideal model for a society centered around the preservation of freeholds and other places sacred to the Dreaming.

Feudalism arose among humans during the Middle Ages as the culmination of society's slow transformation from a hunter-gatherer nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural, sedentary model. Although older cultures placed great value on the fertility of the land, the rise of towns and the growth of populations made the production of food the single most important concern of most people. Feudal society arose around the need to guarantee the safety of the land for the people who tilled the soil. In return for their protection, the common folk swore fealty to lords and knights, who were occupied solely with readying themselves for their duty as guardians of the land. A hierarchy evolved with the nobles and warriors ruling over the peasantry. Despite this rigid class structure, the system of vassalage created strong ties of loyalty between rulers and ruled. Knights had a solemn duty to protect those who labored to put food on their tables, while peasants had a duty to feed those who put themselves at risk to ensure the peaceful working of the soil.

Although six centuries of change and invention have made the feudal system obsolete in the mortal world, feudalism and vassalage still serve a purpose within fae society. The rarity of freeholds and places where Glamour still concentrates makes these sites vulnerable to greedy usurpers and unconscious bearers of Banality. Under a system of kings and nobles, knights and peasants, the fae on Earth are able to impose a stable superstructure upon their society, one in which freeholds enjoy the protection of those strong enough to defend their precious stores of Glamour and chimeric magic. In addition, the pageantry and stateliness of medieval times appeals strongly to the changelings' natural bent for elaborate ceremonies and rituals.

The Accordance War resulted in a modified form of feudalism as the overriding form of fae government. Not quite so rigid as Earthly feudal systems, fae feudalism still provides a solid framework in which changelings can relate to one another, secure in the knowledge of who they are and the place they occupy in their society. The constant hostility of the mundane world fostered a great need for stability in changelings, and the feudal system provides the Kithain with a necessary anchor.

A complex network of loyalties and oaths bind together the various rungs on the hierarchical ladder of changeling feudal society. The swearing of an oath and the value of a changeling's word are sacred bonds, not taken lightly. Breaking an oath constitutes one of the highest crimes among both Seelie and Unseelie Kithain. All changelings within the society have certain duties and responsibilities delineated by the oaths they have sworn. Nobles and knights swear to protect those under them. Commoners swear to obey those above them. Transgressors meet with swift punishment, not only by the courts of justice but through social ostracism and rejection by their peers.

Even Unseelie lords demand loyalty from their subjects. Despite their promulgation of freedom and license, many of these Kithain are just as insistent on the obedience of their followers as their Seelie counterparts.