Changeling: the Lost
Venice: Broken Masks, Shattered Dreams
Episode 4 - Skin - part 2
Following the events at the casino the motley knew that they were closer to finding the culprit to the deaths in Venice, the victims of the Rib Killer. The next day the one after would soon prove to be even more surreal.
No matter where the members of the motley were they all were met a strange figure, who no mortal recognised the presence of. The person, perhaps a she or he, wore a black tricorn hat, a bauta mask (a full face mask with a jutting chin and no mouth, which allows the wearer to speak more easily) which was ornately adorned with gold embellishments. They also wore an equally impressive cape which concealed their figure. To each of the motley the figure presented an envelope, within which was a well written invitation to the first ball of the Court of Carnival. Each was also assigned a particular time to arrive. Intriguingly they were told to arrive as they were, that there was no need for costume or a mask.
On the evening of the ball the motley made their way to the location of the ball, the Palazzo Zenobio in the Dorsoduro district. There they each were met by two members of the White Guard, the secretive watchers and ghost hunters of the House of Winter. Each was admitted into the Palazzo on production of the invite letter.
Upon entering the motley discovered that they had in fact arrived at the same time, though they had clearly come at different times. Inside they were met with by the opulence of the palace. Before them the hall led to the French garden where the other guests were gathered. Music was playing, and wine was flowing. The motley realized that Stitches was not present, but it was too late to call him. They also realized that they themselves were different. Even though they were in the Hedge they had no mien. Also they now wore grand masquerade masks, and that their attire was lavish and like that worn by the nobles of Venice back during the height of the Republic.
Before them stood a grim figure. In a black cloak, a black tricorn and a black bauta mask was the Volto. Flames and smoke bellowed from beneath their mask. They introduced them self as the official peacekeeper of the city, and that they may well have seen their work but not of it. The Volto then led them into the gardens. The garden was divine and twisted, with statues of alabaster which appeared to be in motion, ever watchful, and hideously beautiful.
First they met those who organise the balls of Carnival and ensure that it blends with the mortal celebrations. Both seemed adrodgynus and wore the Columbino mask, the simple half mask that displayed their enticing lips. Next they met the Larva, the opposite of the Volto. They wore the same attire, just in white, and they were presented as the official ghost hunter of the city. Next they met the Servetta Muta. She wore a revealing gown, covered in rubies shaped like tears. Her mask was a black oval, with no mouth piece. She instead had to bite onto the mask, making her mute, and thus the confessor of the city. Then they met the Medico della Pesta, the Plague Doctor. He wore a wide brimmed hat, and of course the traditional white beaked mask, the nose filled with spices and herbs. He explained that he was the official doctor of the Freehold, and that he was also the on who dealt with the vampires of the Veneto region, in particular those on the coast of the Venetian lagoon. Finally they met the Bauta, the very same changeling who had met them and given them their invites. He now wore no hat, but was in a regal suit and with a large powdered wig, and held an ornate sceptre.
With the introductions done the motley joined the party. It was explained to them that they should not reveal their identity. That was the rules of Carnival. It allowed them to speak openly, and also hide from the Fae, binding them to Carnival. If they did reveal their name on purpose then they would be removed from the gathering by the power of the Wyrd.
As Else and Freki followed the Bauta, seeking to speak with him, the right hand to the Doge, Sonata and Clio engaged with the other changelings present, listening to and joining conversations, enjoying the revelry and atmosphere and the feeling of freedom.
The Bauta led Else and Freki into the heart of the maze in the garden. Here he sat and ate succulent grapes and pieces of stone from the statues. He listened to the two explain what they knew of the Rib Killer, and he explained that he was aware of some of it but it seems that fate has them involved and that they are the only ones who can put a stop to this. However, they would not have to act alone and that the Volto would be waiting in the shadows for them.
Meanwhile the others had learnt of the rivalry going on being the Columbine and Malvolio, the rumours of Privateers in Verona, and of hobgoblins matching those kept by the dread Fae, Commodore Fathom.
The gathering moved into the Palazzo proper, and to the upper floor where the Hall of Mirrors was located. Already some were there, dancing before the Doge who sat upon his throne. His golden mask shifted from smiling, frowning, laughing, crying, sleeping, screaming and growling.
The Bauta called for order, notices were read, and orders were given for preparations for Carnival. Then the motley heard within their mind the words of a pledge, and felt that the Doge was peering into their soul. They were now bound vassals of the Doge.
Meanwhile, in a cage Stitches awoke.
Notes: The Court of Carnival
The Court of Carnival, the Thousand Masks, the Quicksilver Court, the court of revelry and laughter.
Some wish to hide, some wish to loses themselves to their desires, others give into their rage, and others wish to cause fear. But the court of Carnival is something else. It is farewell to the flesh, to let go of themselves and be lost within the festival of Carnival. If they are willing to make the sacrifice the Carnival offers safety, pleasure, mystery, magic, secrecy and power. The ultimate message of Carnival is one of festival, and showing that the Lost can turn the tables on the Gentry. Of course the question is when Carnival will come seeking to collect their debts.
For the above reasons the Court of Carnival is eclectic, maddening, and colourful, attracting changeling from all walks of life. But typically the court attracts those changelings that have a taste for politics, intrigue, revelry and magic, all at once. They are all self styled princes of Faerie. But of course this intense mix is difficult for many changeling to accommodate, and oft
en courtiers can be driven to insanity but the pressures of Carnival. But this is the cost of the power that comes from the court.
Of course the most important rituals of the court focus on the period of Carnival. Starting on the 26th of December the Doge, along with a representative of the House of Winter, lead the celebration of the start of Carnival. Masks are ritually burnt, signifying the start of the period of renewal. But first they must give up their past year and confide to Carnival their sins. The real celebrations do not begin until two weeks before Fat Tuesday, and on the Sunday at the start of this period the Doge elects the Carnival Prince and Princess. These two lead the balls and parties and act as a focus for the Freeholds celebrations, culminating in their ceremonial marriage on Fat Tuesday. This marriage sees a grand ball and Lost from other Freeholds beyond Venice are invited to join in the celebration.
The following day, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of Lent, and so the changelings of the Court of Carnival focus intently on their purpose and duties for the following year.
For the remainder of the year the Court is devoted to secrecy and study, defending, the Freehold and rooting out dangers within the city.
The heraldry of the Court is a strange mix. It is the clear blue skies over the Adriatic in February, the bracing sea breeze, the smell of mulled wine, the sparkle of light of the crests of waves, the taste of hot chocolate, the sound laughter, the ringing of church bells, masks, tricorn hats, cats, lions, violins, gondola, mercury, salt, a sense of disorientation and loss of direction.