Hello, fellow changelings! Meghan here, to preview for you an excerpt from Oak, Ash, and Thorn, the Changeling 2e companion book.
I wanted to make entitlements the first thing you saw from this book, for a few reasons. One is that we just didn’t have room for entitlements in the core, and I know a lot of fans were eager to see how they would be updated for the new edition. Another is that those updates are pretty significant! And I’d like to talk a little about why that is.
Most changelings belong to a motley, a court, and a freehold. That’s three levels of community, which is a good thing — changelings need community. But for 2e, I felt that an entitlement should be something a little different. Here’s an excerpt from my outline for this project to unpack that idea a bit:
“In 2e, we’re reimagining entitlements somewhat. They’re still noble titles, but they’re also roles you inhabit, and they’re mostly unique. There’s just one Queen of Hearts, and just a few Knights of the Round Table (enough for, say, a single motley to take up all those titles). The Queen of Hearts is expected to chop off people’s heads, so don’t wear the crown if you aren’t fond of decapitation.
Becoming entitled is no longer a matter of joining a group, but rather one of bequeathal, or taking up the loose threads of an abandoned quest or waiting prophecy. Essentially, an entitlement is when you accept the ring of the Green Lantern, take up the mask of the Dread Pirate Roberts, wake up as the next Slayer, pull a sword from a stone, or regenerate as the next Doctor — or stab someone with the magical dagger and become the next Dark One.
‘Nobility’ to a changeling means more than being an elite or lording your title over others (though that’s not to say they don’t). It’s about dignity, self-actualization, and self-reliance — all things Arcadia took from them. It’s about finding meaning in a fae existence that can sometimes seem chaotic and senseless, a sense of glorious purpose that’s yours alone.”
So, with all that said, please enjoy the preview! Keep in mind that this is an undeveloped, unedited final draft, and thus subject to change.
Chapter Three: Entitlements
“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”
— William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
The Black King holds the gleaming sword, red blood dripping from the blade. Now he controls the Huntsman, at the small price of eternally betraying the only man he loves.
The Queen of Hearts sits on her throne, face an ivory mask as she regards the prisoner before her. “Let him go,” she commands, and the court is in uproar. Behind her, goblins draw knives — if not the man kneeling in chains, they will have someone’s head.
The Prince of Beasts longs to be free of his entitlement, the skin he picked up so long ago. Back then he found it a fair trade to be with his love, but she abandoned him. Now he rules over an enchanted castle, and waits for the next fool to fall in love and take the burden from him.
Any entitlement goes back to a simple pact. The first Queen of Hearts, at the sharp end of a group of goblins’ weapons, offered them other people’s heads in exchange for their fealty. Sending heads is the title’s duty, and the servitude of goblins its privilege. If the Queen of Hearts were Gentry, she would continue like that in perpetuity. Changelings, however, are not so weighted down by the trappings they claim. The current Queen of Hearts claimed the title to end the flow of heads. The goblins are in uproar, bewildered and enraged that she can simply ignore her duty. But, that is exactly what she’s choosing to do. Nothing inherent to the title forces her to decapitate people, though she soon needs to deal with an uprising among her goblin vassals — if she ignores her duty, she risks losing the privileges.
Every entitlement is unique, and a changeling must decide if this entitlement’s privileges and duties are worth it. A changeling who claims a title is driven to become more of who she is. She is not content to keep her head down and simply survive. She wants purpose, an affirmation of dignity and self after everything she’s lost, a legend to eclipse the history her Keeper wrote into her. By becoming entitled, she grasps the reins of her own future.
Entitlements usually exist independently of court and freehold, and are especially coveted by changelings who crave self-sovereignty. This desire is affirmed once she claims the title, as winning it comes at the end of a long quest and she proves herself capable on her own. If she sticks with a court or freehold then, it’s on her own terms.
Claiming an Oath
Noble deeds spawn legends, as do the title’s crest and heraldry. A changeling finds the Gem of Paititi and delves into Lost tales to discover its origin as the diadem of the Forever Queen. She hears stories of the Black King who controls the Huntsman, and tracks down the current noble to petition to be his heir. He, weary of duty, might relinquish the title to her on the spot. More likely, he accepts her as an apprentice, or, if the title is especially coveted, as part of a group of apprentices. The apprentice swears an oath to help uphold the title’s duties, even if she does not enjoy its privileges yet. This is a time of grand achievements and even grander failures. One noble encourages unity among his apprentices, leading to friendships that last beyond the new noble swearing her oath. Another sets apprentices against each other until only one remains. Breaking this oath incurs consequences, though this need not necessarily preclude her from winning the title in the end anyway.
The Wyrd serves as incumbent if no noble currently holds the title, leading the changeling through byzantine quests for succession. It brings her to a witch who entangles the changeling in his prophecies, for example, or places the heraldry token in the hands of an enemy she already knows or has reason to encounter. Actively researching heraldry may become part of her quest, too. The changeling may not be aware she’s fulfilling these quests. Perhaps she defeats the ogre who held her foster sister in an abusive home, and finds a single black lily pinned to his lapel. Picking up the flower, she intuitively senses the duties and privileges that come with it, and can either set it down or keep it. She chooses whether to accept or refuse the title.
Heraldries in the Wild
Goblins scour the Hedge for lost heraldries to sell back to changelings, and they rarely venture into the mundane world. As a result, the mundane world holds more lost entitlements than the Hedge does. These heraldry tokens gravitate to places that mirror their legends — the Scepter of Hearts is always found in or near a rose garden, for instance.
Rarely, a changeling may forge a new title. She petitions the Wyrd to grant her privileges, and it levies duties in return. Changelings aren’t certain whether such an entitlement is truly new, or if all entitlements exist in potentia and the Lost merely discover what already is. The process is similar to restoring a fallow title (p. XX), with the quests tailored to shaping the new entitlement.
Most entitlements are singular, but a few hold multiple titles. Such a legion entitlement is uncommon, and usually contains between two and five roles, but is highly coveted as a motley can claim it together. A legion entitlement remains held until the last noble of its circle has laid down her title, whether through bequeathal or death. The nobles of the circle can allow a new member into their ranks, should the entitlement have an unclaimed role.
Entitlements usually require an oath swearing, or ceremony, to bequeath the entitlement from the current noble to the new. This is more about putting the title down, rather than taking it up. Titles are tied to a changeling’s identity — she is the Queen of Hearts — and letting go requires a little psychological pomp and circumstance. As soon as the oath is laid down, or if it was unclaimed, the new noble can claim it. She immediately inherits the pieces of her predecessor’s life pertaining to the title, such as pledges, allies and enemies, magical curses and blessings, Conditions, and promised tasks still to perform. She may even inherit snippets of his memories, which is confusing, but at least helps her figure out who all these people claiming unfulfilled bargains and sworn enmity are.
The noble feels no supernatural compulsion to make good on her predecessor’s promises, but people (and the Wyrd) have expectations. Other Lost tend to be polite about this — the former Baron of the Lesser Ones promised to solve their goblin problem, so if the new Baron would please get on that…. Gentry see only the title — if the Tooth Faerie always has tea with the Minister of Keys under the full moon, the new Minister had better show for their next appointment and remember what they talked about last time. Hobgoblins sometimes understand the concept of two nobles being different people, but whether or not they allow the new noble to adjust depends entirely on their individual nature.
Most mortals are unaffected by bequeathal. They might end up transferring lingering feelings onto the new bearer, but they are governed by what they know rather than what they feel. The distinction muddies if the noble only interacted with them under her title, never giving a name or never meeting them face-to-face. Then it becomes more likely that the mortal mistakes the noble for her predecessor, despite changes in communication style, voice, or appearance.
Becoming the Role
Titles come with memories, pledges, a Touchstone, expectations from others, and immediate recognition of her stature by Gentry and goblins. Some extend changeling lifespans further than even high Wyrd normally can; the Forever Queen’s title is rumored to make its bearer truly immortal, keeping them alive even through what should be lethal injury, until they name an heir or someone takes the title from them according to its arcane rules of succession.
If a changeling tires of a title, can she put it down? Some entitlements are easy to relinquish, others steadfastly remain until the noble dies or some other condition comes to pass. Even if she can abdicate, the Queen of Hearts is forever a part of her — and she of it, as the title now carries her memories. The changeling made this choice, but did she become something stranger in doing so?
Contrary to what many changelings may believe or dread, Wyrd 10 and normal entitlements possesses no inherent path to actually becoming Gentry. A few entitlements, however, are eldritch titles: those that demand higher Wyrd and more ominous or fantastical duties. These may possess such paths, though knowledge about them is not widely known.