One becomes a member of the Freehold by swearing the following oath:
“By this sword I swear my allegiance to the Sun Forge Brotherhood, to its monarch, and to my Court. I will do what I may, within the scope of my ability and within freehold law, to protect the community and its people.”
Type: Corporal (Nemesis: the non-dominant ruling Court Monarch)
Task: Fealty (-3)
Boon: Vassalage (Fortitude) (3)
Each Nemesis has a different ceremonial sword used as the corporal for this Pledge, and each monarch evokes a different penalty to be triggered by violation of the pledge:
A steel cavalry dress saber Minerva’s penalty: Fickle Fate (Contracts of the Hearth 1); used when Spring is in session.
A hedgespun scimitar with a sawbriar edge. Hailey’s Penaty: Brother to the Ague (Contracts of Eternal Autumn 3); used when Winter is in session.
A hedgespun katar made of unmelting ice Lamont’s Penalty: Fallen From the Timbers (Contracts of Eternal Winter 4); used when Autumn is in session.
a Hedgespun rapier with a single long Thorn for a blade and an elaborate basket hilt of woven shoots Mammon’s Penalty: Fickle Fate (Contracts of the Hearth 1); used when Summer is in session.
Because they must use their Nemesis corporal to sustain these pledges, the monarchs typically do not serve as Nemeses for other pledges made by their subjects.
Note that the laws themselves are quite broadly stated; the finer points of the laws are detailed by common law, as noted in a series of precedents set by previous cases.
These laws all proceed from a sort of “Changeling Bill of Rights,” which is then interpreted by the monarch of the ruling Season.
The Right of Ignorance (Do not betray your brethren to the cold gaze of the mortal masses, nor humanity to the merciless gaze of the Gentry.)
The Right of Safe Haven (All fae who seek refuge within the freehold will be sheltered, but they must accept freehold law.)
The Right of Rescue (We must all protect and free our brethren from capture or imprisonment by any and all foes.)
The Right of Demesne (The seasonal monarch is lord of the whole domain. He or she is judge and jury over all crimes, large and small.)
The Right to Life (No freeholder shall take the lifeblood of another. No member shall bring salt tears upon the earth.)
The Right to Dream (People have the right to dream and live unhindered by our needs.)
These laws, while broad, are not absolute. Below are some examples of how these laws are applied:
The Right of Ignorance (Privacy): Do not betray your brethren to the cold gaze of the mortal masses, nor humanity to the merciless gaze of the Gentry.
The changelings believe that speaking too often or freely of the True Fae can attract them, and that common knowledge of fae matters in general tends to draw the Hedge and Arcadia closer to the mortal world. Members of the freehold may not inform mortal society about the Wyrd or faerie magic, and especially not about the Lords and Ladies. Individuals may be taught or ensorcelled, but no institution, organization, or whole community should be informed. However, informing particular high-risk mortals may still be seen as a transgression of this law.
Granting a tell-all interview to a respected mortal journalist (you can say whatever you want to the Weekly World News).
Burning away one’s Mask in full sight of a crowd.
Exposing a fellow changeling to extreme public scrutiny without providing an “out.” That “out” need not be particularly great, but a changeling who is thus trapped and can avoid exposure at a price is obligated to pay that price or face repercussions. A fae who has to choose between exposure and an equally awful alternative, however, is a victim, and freehold law will fall on whoever created that situation.
Cavalierly speaking of the True Fae among other changelings is not typically punishable (that cat is already out of the bag), though it is considered in poor taste to speak a Keeper’s name carelessly.
Selling multiple mortals to a Keeper or Privateer. Betraying even a single mortal is possibly punishable under this law, but the Right of Ignorance is as much about public safety as personal transgressions.
Ensorcelling a mortal is not in itself a violation of this law, but ensorcelling a large number is considered a security risk, and thus could be punished under this tenet.
The Right of Safe Haven: All fae who seek refuge within the freehold will be sheltered, but they must accept freehold law.
Members of the freehold may always come to the Courts for protection from external threats, including protection from the Gentry and from mortal authorities. However, you are accountable for your actions to the Monarch instead.
You can commit any crime among mortals, up to and including murder, and still expect the freehold to shield you from it. However, the freehold may choose to enact its own justice for your misdeeds (see Right of Demesne).
You can typically expect the freehold to shelter you from your Keeper, but bringing the Keeper’s attention down on the freehold is a violation of the laws. For example, if you break an Oath sworn by your Keeper’s Name, then you might be on your own. Likewise, you might face censure if you otherwise bring the wrath of the mortal authorities or the True Fae down on the freehold or its members.
You can even expect the Freehold to protect you to from crimes against another freehold, though “extradition” is a very real possibility.
Even hobgoblins can expect shelter within the freehold, so long as they swear to abide by Freehold laws. This gives hobgoblins an incentive to ally with the changelings against the Others.
It is very difficult to be found in “violation” of this law as it is an affirmation of a citizen’s rights. However, a changeling might be persecuted for directly selling out another freeholder to mortal authorities or the Gentry without allowing them to seek the protection of the freehold. It is also possible that a former monarch might be brought up on charges for violating this right, under a tribunal held by the current monarch.
The Right of Rescue: We must all protect and free our brethren from capture or imprisonment by any and all foes.
Members of the freehold are obligated to free fellow members from imprisonment or durance, be it by True Fae, privateers, or mortal captors. All members of the freehold are expected to contribute to the safety and security of the freehold, at least by participating in the seasonal rituals.
Every member of the Freehold is expected to join a Court and to participate in the rituals of that Court. This need not happen immediately, but no one is allowed to remain above and apart from the Courts without a crucial alternative contribution to the freehold’s safety, or frequent participation in and contribution to the public rites of all of the Courts.
You are not expected to dive right in if a member of the freehold is apprehended, unless you have a very good chance of success. However, when an organized rescue mission is mounted, the freehold’s members are expected to pitch in.
Completely abandoning a fellow member to her fate might be seen as a violation, but only in the most extreme and outrageous of cases, such as covering it up to ensure that rescue is prevented or delayed.
A freeholder who coasts on the protection of the freehold might eventually be taken to task, but in most cases, a member who contributes nothing and belongs to no Court will not be disciplined or exiled. Instead, the Monarchs will simply cease accepting the miscreant’s Oath of Vassalage. This is rare, however. Though this rule exists in theory, no changeling in the history of the Freehold has been actually brought up on charges ocf shirking or malingering. Such uninvolved fae tend to let their Fealty Pledges lapse on their own, and go their separate ways with only a little rancor.
The Right of Demesne: The seasonal monarch is lord of the whole domain. He or she is judge and jury over all crimes, large and small.
For any transgression that is not taken to mortal authorities, members of the freehold must instead accept the authority of the reigning monarchs as a substitute, to handle such issues as they will. Monarchs make all final rulings involving fae law. This includes the ultimate decision of when to rescind the Freehold’s protection.
The freehold holds all rights of mediation and enforcement of disputes and policies that cannot be handled personally or through mortal channels. For the most part the Wyrd manages its own contracts, but not every agreement is a Pledge. A contract not backed by the Wyrd is still a contract, and for those agreements, legal rather than cosmic enforcement is called for.
While the freehold will always shelter changelings from mortal investigation (in order to protect itself), its rulers are unlikely to turn a blind eye to serious crimes, such as the murder of mortals, for example. Likewise, constant cover-ups for misdemeanors such as vandalism and petty larceny are still a potential violation of the Right to Ignorance, not to mention the matter of moral and ethical standards.
Though it is rarely invoked, the ruling monarchs may issue additional edicts and commands, particularly with regards to freehold policy and security. Typically, members of the freehold defer to the monarchs and do as they say without the need for formal edicts, rather than test the limits of this “Right.”
The recent addition of the Sun and Moon Courts has complicated this. An addendum has been included, naming the Day and Night Courts as “advocates” for prosecution (Sun) and Defense (Moon). These Monarchs, like the Seasonal Monarchs, can delegate some of this authority to others. Exactly what power an latitude this permits these two Courts has yet to be determined, but the idea is to make the process more than arbitration by a single person.
Right to Life: No freeholder shall take the lifeblood of another. No member shall bring salt tears upon the earth.
Members of the freehold are not to take violent action against one another. In a group of volatile personalities like your typical band of fae, the occasional punch-up — even a duel or two — is to be expected, but lethal force is never to be used; anyone putting other members of the freehold at risk of life and limb are to be dealt with. Mortals and changelings who are not part of the freehold are protected to a lesser extent by this policy, but less so than freehold members, particularly when the member can claim self-defense.
A typical shouting match or slap-fight is more cause for mediation than punishment. The freehold has a relatively low tolerance for violence, but any community that makes a place for Summer fae and Ogres has to flex a little for the occasional hothead.
Duels are a matter of mutual consent and typically not the purview of freehold law. They’re permitted, though frowned upon outside the Summer Court (and, to a lesser extent, some of the Spring fae who enjoy the pageantry of it). This is not so much something that the Freehold actively encourages as it is something that it cannot wholly prevent. The Sanctity of the Duel Boon (see Swords at Dawn) creates a circumstance wherein the laws imposed by the Freehold Pledge cannot apply. Attempting to enforce the Freehold’s sanctions in spite of this “loophole” might count as a violation of the Freehold Pledge by the monarch, and might even result in dissolving the Freehold Pledge altogether. Thus, the monarchs must tolerate formal dueling among their citizens, with the following considerations:
- Not every grudge match is a formal duel. Though, as noted, a simple fist-fight is usually not grounds for severe censure, only a duel formalized by a Dueling Oath is wholly exempt from such judgment.
- Inciting a duel is often still cause for censure, however. This is particularly true when the changeling inciting the conflict is not one of the duelists.
- Though the freehold cannot totally punish violence that occurs within a duel directly, it can regulate when and how dueling oaths are made, it can thus set the terms. Freehold law includes several limitations on how duels can be arranged.
- All duels must be formally witnessed, and reported to the monarchs. The rulers must know when an attack on a freehold member has been sanctioned by a pledge and when it is grounds for investigation and action. Traditionally, the duel is cast as a Nemesis Corporal, with the nemesis of the pledge serving as the officiant and referee. However, the type of pledge undertaken is a matter of tradition, not law.
- The duel cannot take place until all participants, including the official witness or witnesses, agree on the wording of the Dueling Pledge. Duelists are allowed to employ advocates to negotiate their side of the pledge for them. Thus, everyone must agree on the rules, the stakes, the sanction, and so forth, as with any other pledge. In this case, the officiant must also agree to the terms of the duel. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the duel cannot happen.
- A duel is acceptable as an alternative to officiation of a personal conflict by the monarchs. However, once a duel is won, then the matter is considered settled. In some cases, monarchs who are frustrated by a grudge between angry changelings will demand that they settle it in a duel, though the duelists must still agree to the duel’s terms. In this case, a failure to participate in the contest without a good-faith effort to forge an equitable pledge is considered a violation of the Right of Demesne.
- Accidentally killing a fellow Freeholder in a violent duel not formalized as “to the death” is considered a tragedy, but not a violation of the Rights.
- Intentionally killing a fellow Freeholder in a nonviolent duel is grounds for the most extreme of sanctions, but intent is hard to define.
- All duels to the death must be overseen by the ruling monarch.
A significant brawl outside of a duel is more serious. However, the freehold does have a “the bastard had it coming” defense; knowing that many fae, either due to their Seeming or their past trauma, are more impetuous than your typical mortal, any outburst is examined for provocation, and can be seen as a mitigating circumstance. In some cases, driving a changeling to a violent outburst through constant persecution is seen as a form of entrapment, and treated as a violation by the persecutor.
Violence against mortals is frowned upon, and any violence rising to the level of grievous bodily arm or death, anything that would typically require the intervention of mortal authorities, is often disciplined under the Rights of Demesne and Ignorance.
Violence against the True Fae is a bit trickier. Technically, it is to be expected and isn’t really discouraged. In practice, however provoking a confrontation with a True Fae can put the Freehold at risk, so one should only attack a Keeper when one has a strong hope of winning.
Violence against changelings outside the freehold, and violence against hobgoblins, is a bit more nebulous. Many hobgoblins are heartless predators or servants of the Others at the end of the day, and unattached changelings turn out to be Privateers or Loyalists often enough that they aren’t categorically protected under the law. At the same time, unrestrained persecution of hobgoblins can attract unwanted attention (not to mention the enmity of the Goblin Markets), and many changelings still have mortal identities, leading to entanglements with mortal authorities. In these cases, what one can “get away with” is a matter of personal finesse, the specifics of the situation, and the moods of the ruling Court.
The Right to Dream: People have the right to dream and live unhindered by our needs.
Members of the freehold are expected to respect the sanctity of others’ feelings and wills. Every exercise of a Contract or Blessing on another’s emotions is not considered a violation, particularly when invoked to defuse a dangerous situation, especially when wielded against an outsider, but abuses that are extremely harmful to the target are still grounds for censure. In particular, a changeling is responsible for anything that someone does as a result of that changeling’s powers.
Here are some powers that are particularly suspect under this law:
- Growth of the Ivy (Fleeting Spring 2) — Turning someone’s desires toward something dangerous or destructive is usually forbidden unless used as retaliation for an even more grievous slight; even then, implanting desires that are destructive to others are frowned upon at best.
- Waking the Inner Faerie (Fleeting Spring 5) — This clause is problematic, as its manifestations are almost universally destructive to its target.
- Creeping Dread (Darkness 1), Friendless Tongue (Fleeting Summer 3), Tale of the Baba Yaga (Fleeting Autumn 2), and Faces in the Water (Fleeting Winter 3) — Anyone invoking this clause is responsible for any action it provokes. Even if all it causes is an argument or a bad mood, the fae using it must be ready to justify the use of this power.
- Sundown Eyes (Fleeting Summer 4), Scent of the Harvest (Fleeting Autumn 4), and Slipknot Dreams (Fleeting Winter 2) — Though rarely enforced, taking away legitimate anger, sorrow, or fear can also be seen as a violation, particularly when it is then used to negotiate consent or participation that those feelings would normally prevent.
- Fallow Fields, Empty Harvest or Every Sorrow a Jewel (Fleeting Winter 4 or 5) — Because of the intense emotional distress these powers cause on their own, the use of these powers without justification are considered a violation.
- Words Memories Never Lived (Vainglory 5) — Anyone invoking this clause is responsible for any action it provokes. Even if all it causes is an argument or a bad mood, the fae using it must be ready to justify the use of this power.
A variety of other practices are also considered suspect under this law, including:
- Dream Riding: Using the “Convince the Dreamer” option (Changeling: the Lost p. 194) can be considered a violation of this law if deployed carelessly.
- Trapping anyone, mortal or changeling, in an unwilling Pledge, can be considered a violation, particularly if the terms of that Pledge are unfair or punitive.
- Physical abduction and enslavement is also almost always a violation.
- There is no precedent as of yet for “Inciting Bedlam,” but it’s probably not permitted.