Lorelei panted as she fell through the gateway between worlds. She stumbled, gasping, looking over her shoulder through the half-rotted doorframe leaning against the alley wall. Through the splintered, rotting frame she saw an overgrown world of vibrant green, the branches and vines doing their best to imitate a cityscape. The illusion fell away the further past the door one went, though, and beyond the skeleton of a bush that looked like an Oldsmobile, and a line of trees with vines stretched between them in imitation of telephone poles, there was only the dark, angry green of the Hedge. The branches waved, and something roared as it came closer.
Lorelei didn't think. She snatched the door, and forced it closed, before straining her shoulders. The crumbling frame fell with a creak and a clatter, smashing to pieces on the cracked asphalt floor of the alley. The sounds of the thing that had been chasing her vanished, as well... the only clue that there had been a gateway to the world next door was the smell of flowers, and the taste of magic in the air, both of which were swept away by a dank, cold breeze.
"Well, well, well, boys, what have we here?" a voice called from behind her.
Lorelei spun on her heel, her eyes widening. Four men were coming toward her down the dark alley. Dressed in a mishmash of styles, their predatory smiles were all the same. They spread out slightly, moving like a pack, their formation telling her they'd done this before. Lorelei reached for her glamour, but all the fairest felt was wisps and smoke. She'd used the last of her power to escape the hunter in the Hedge, and now here she was, back in the real world, face to face with something just as dangerous to her in her weakened state.
She straightened herself, and put a smile on her face. She may not have shone like a star here in the real world, but the radiance beneath her Mask was still enough to draw the men's gazes. She cocked one hip, folding her arms beneath her chest, and tilting her head just so... and that was when she felt it; desire. That sweet nectar that ran like honey on her tongue was radiating off at least three of the men swaggering toward her. Lorelei took a deep breath, and drank in that powerful emotion. From them, it was like a rose growing wild in a dump; somehow sweeter, despite the garbage its roots were planted in.
"My saviors," Lorelei said, her smile growing a little wider as she felt magic trickle into her veins. She was just about to open her mouth to say something else, when one of the men at the rear of the group cried out, falling onto the ground like his strings had been cut.
The others whirled around, and that was when they saw him. He was long and lean, wrapped in a threadbare overcoat, his face cast in shadows from the wide-brimmed hat he wore. The yellow light from the sodium bulb above a fire door glimmered in his eyes like candles in a lamp from hell, and fell across the lower half of his face to reveal a smile that was too wide, and too sharp. He held up one hand, showing blood running down the blade of a wickedly curved knife. A chill wind seemed to follow him, and he smelled like burning leaves, and the last gasps of a dying day. Lorelei could taste the men's desire curdling on the air, replaced with the burnt, panic taste of fear. Her mouth turned down at the sour feel of it, but she drank that in, too. Beggars couldn't be choosers, after all.
"A nice night for a walk, gentlemen," the man said in a voice that felt like old smoke and fresh blood. "I suggest you take one. Before you can't anymore."
The pack hesitated, glancing back at Lorelei. When their friend mewled on the ground, though, they broke, rushing past the gaunt figure toward the street, two of them snatching at cell phones. Maybe to call an ambulance, maybe to call the cops; either way, it didn't really matter. Lorelei walked forward, her heels clicking on the broken ground.
"Rictus," she said. The darkling's smile, if possible, grew wider, and he inclined his head, bending his body in a way that felt wrong to look at.
"Ms. Rivers," he said in that same, harsh voice. "I am glad to see you returned to us."
Lorelei crouched down, muttered something under her breath, and touched the injured man's leg. His sounds of pain cut off all at once, and he clutched at his pant leg. It was still ragged, and stained with blood, but his wound was now an angry welt, rather than the deep slice it had been. He swiveled his gaze to her, and Lorelei was hit was another wave of the acidic fear burning off of his skin.
"Go," she said, flicking her fingers at him. He didn't need to be told twice. He was on his feet and running, arms and legs pumping as he pelted after his friends. Rictus opened his mouth, letting his overly longue tongue lap at the air, as if he were pulling something ephemeral back between his thin lips.
"You didn't need to do that," he said, turning to look at her. "The scar would have been a reminder of his mistake."
"I doubt he'll have trouble remembering what happened tonight," Lorelei said, standing up. "Now, would you walk a girl home? I've been through it."
"Of course," Rictus said, making the knife disappear as he offered his arm. He patted her hand when she looped her arm through his, and chuckled. "I would be remiss in my duties, if I didn't."
The Flavor of Magic
In Changeling: The Lost, you take on the role of a changeling; someone who was once human, but who was kidnapped by god-like beings known as the True Fae. They altered you, changed you, and now magic lives in the hollow place where your soul used to be.
Magic doesn't come for free, though. Like anything that burns brightly, it needs a fuel source... for changelings, that fuel is glamour. And while they can find glamour in dreams, or in the fruits growing in the Hedge (the place between our world and the home of the True Fae called Arcadia), many of them seek out strong emotions. When people (and even other supernatural creatures) feel things strongly, glamour can often be a byproduct of that reaction.
However, too often we relegate harvesting glamour to a roll of the die, and a number on the sheet. This process is intrinsic to the nature of changelings, and how one goes about it can say a lot about your character.
Does your changeling merely seek out naturally-occurring displays of strong emotion, for example, or do they cause that emotion for the express purpose of harvesting it? After all, one could simply take a stroll past road construction to soak in the miasma of road rage pouring off of drivers, but a changeling might loom over someone at a gym to squeeze a little fear out of them, or put on a show at a club to get onlookers' desire focused on them. Additionally, asking which emotions one tends to pursue can also say something about them. Do they pursue those emotions because they enjoy them most, or because they're the easiest to get? Do they have a particular variety of emotion that makes them feel good? Or do they experience the emotion vicariously as they feed off of it? Are there emotions they don't like, but will draw from if circumstances are desperate enough?
These are all questions you should ask yourself when you think about what emotions your character harvests to fuel their magic... but you should also ask what the experience of taking these emotions into themselves is like. Is there a taste? Do they cause a particular smell, or phantom sensation in the body? Does powerful anger cause one's heartrate to increase like a jolt of caffeine? Does sorrow sting the nose and eyes like onions? Is desire more like honey and syrup, or does it make your cheeks and ears burn like a shot of something stronger? Does swallowing someone else's fear give you goosebumps?
This doesn't have a mechanical effect on your character (except for the bonus you get to harvesting the emotion associated with your court, if you've joined one), but it can help add to the story you're all collectively telling. More than that, though, it is one of the strange aspects of changelings that can help you lean into the bizarre, and the inhuman... something that can be tough when you try to slip into the skin of someone who used to be mortal, but is now both more and less in many ways.
It takes a lot to build a Changeling: The Lost chronicle, and to keep it going. I've produced quite a bit of content for this game over the past few years, so consider checking out all of my Changeling: The Lost supplements available on Storyteller's Vault to help give you even more nonsense to add to your game!
And if you're looking for more of my takes on World and Chronicles of Darkness topics, don't forget to check out the show Discussions of Darkness which I host on the Azukail Games YouTube channel!
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That's all for this week's Fluff post!
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