They Call It A Dream
I saw a girl with my own eyes
I cried out, I feared for my life
She turned into my mother then
They call it a dream
In the pursuit of happiness
Not asking for perpetual bliss
Some peace and quiet would do fine
They call it a dream
- Man (Idealistic Animals) by Dear Reader
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They took you…
They took you from your life, and took your life from you, dragging through the thorny barrier between the waking world and their realm of madness and nightmares. Some call them the Others, the Fair Folk, the True Fae, the Lords and Ladies. But you, like all those who have been taken, call them the Keepers.
They took you for your beauty, your skill, your character, your insolence, or perhaps simply on a mad whim. In Their realm They are as gods, vastly powerful. They have no need for servants. Yet you had to serve Them. Were you a dog in Their hunt, or the rabbit They hunted? A giant guarding Their palace, or a shadow creeping in its underbelly? A toy for Their desires, or perhaps simply a candle flame, burning impotently and insignificantly for years? Anything is possible, because the Keepers have total control over everything past the Thorns, and that includes you. Whether subtly or violently, They changed you, replacing living flesh and human soul with gossamer and fragments of nightmares. Willingly or not, you became a bit less like you, and a bit more like Them.
You became a Changeling.
And then you escaped.
How does one escape from a god’s prison? Nobody knows. Maybe They got bored with you, maybe letting you go is part of Their mad plan. You’ll never truly know, and that doubt gnaws at you constantly. One of the many jokes They still play on you, even though you’re free.
The other ones are that you can never go home. There’s no home to return to. All those years you were gone, enduring unspeakable horrors, nobody even noticed. In your place is a doppelganger, a twisted simulacrum left by your kidnappers to take your place. But it does a better job than you at being human. It has lived with your loved ones, drank with your friends, and worked at your job all the time you’ve been gone. It has your life now, and even if you murder it, how will you take back what you lost? Your spouse doesn’t love you any more, she loves the copy of you, the thing, the Fetch. It has raised your children. You have its face, but you will never have its memories, or its character. Would you even want to?
Oh, and by the way…
They are watching.
The Keepers took you once, and they can take you again. Every time a mirror breaks, you can hear the baying of the Wyld Hunt, coming for you. Every time you look down an alleyway and see the thorny vines creeping out of the walls, you recognise a portal to Their realm. It’s very close, scarily close. In fact, it’s everywhere. Any door could be a gateway. Any time you go to the bathroom, any time you step onto a train, you could be stepping into a trap.
Fortunately, you have friends.
Other escapees, other survivors, huddled together in a slightly dysfunctional community for companionship and protection. A freehold. They call it the Westminster Free House. It’s not an actual pub, of course, there’s far too many of you in all of London for that. It’s a network of refuges, hidey-holes, venues, and contacts. You swear not to betray it, it swears to help keep you safe. And promises mean a lot to Changelings.
However, you can’t truly trust anyone. Long-standing feuds and petty politics divide the community, and with the sometimes tenuous grip on reality that comes with the changeling condition, nothing is quite off the table to settle these squabbles. What’s worse, anybody could be a loyalist. Working for Them. You’ll never know until it’s too late, until you’re kicking and screaming as you’re dragged back through the Thorns.
You thought you could stay free forever?
Maybe you can, but better stock up on cold iron…
…I hear the hounds coming.