|Name:||Court of the South|
|Nicknames:||The Vermilion Court, the Ink Brush, the Court of Song|
|Heraldry Colors:||Red and Black|
Life is chaos and passion. Life is also art, and art needn't be comfortable. The Lost of the Vermilion Court do not try to connect with humanity, but instead exult in being changelings. They do not deny any emotion, whether it be love or hate, hope or despair. Instead, they endeavor to feel it so keenly that it nearly destroys them. Love is felt so strongly that it might elevate one to the uttermost heights of bliss or the lowest pits of gloom. Anger is just as pure, and a changeling of the Vermilion Court might let his anger burn off swiftly in a sudden conflagration of violence, or he may instead let it simmer for years, even decades, nursing on his fury like a bottomless bottle of rice wine.
The Lost are a part of that emotional world, hewing far closer to it than humans ever could -- changelings experience it, feed from it, and the Court of the South rewards them for doing so.
How does this help them thwart the Fae? Because emotion can give the Lost power. It is tied intimately to Glamour, and a changeling who knows how to emote and orchestrate the emotions of others can be quite powerful, indeed. Each changeling of this Court considers himself an artist. While many embrace various means to express that artistic desire (calligraphy, song, sculpture, theater), all believe that a changeling's innate abilities represent a true art. They all practice it, learning new Contracts, clauses and catches, finding new ways to bond humans with Byzantine pledges, seeking out the rarest and most delectable fruits in the Hedge.
Changelings of other Courts find those of this Vermilion Court to be captivating and frightening. Because the Lost of this Court give into their emotions so fully, it becomes madness. These changelings know they're all at least a little bit mad (and of course, a loss of Clarity is common among them), but they feel it's a necessary price to pay. They try not to manufacture emotions, however -- it seems foolish to try to feel something that isn't obviously felt, to dredge up false emotions just for the hollow experience of having it. But when an emotion does well up naturally within them -- a flash of lust for a pretty thing across the room, a stab of jealousy for the Hunterheart who has already kissed the back of her hand -- they embrace it, act upon it, stoke it like a fire. The courtier might go to that pretty thing and casually push past the Hunterheart. Should his romantic rival react in an adverse way (and why wouldn't we?), the courtier might kick him in the kneecap, break a bottle over his head or simply whisper a jaw-dropping threat in the poor Beast's ear. Then, of course, the courtier will sweep the lady off her feet and charm her like none other (until he's done with her, of course, having found a prettier thing by the door).
All within the Court are artists of some fashion, as well. This allows them some avenue to express their emotions, and it's suggested that this helps them mitigate any Clarity loss. One might be a perfect calligraphist, while another a harpist. But art needn't be so commonly defined: There is an art to seduction, an art to engineering or architecture, even an art to inspiring (and destroying) emotions in others.
The Court of the South is quite stringent in who it lets stand among them. Many expect admittance to be easy ("Oh, you can paint? You're a breaker of hearts? Clearly you must belong to the Court of the South!"), but the masters of the Vermilion Court test their entrants ceaselessly before allowing them to truly join with the Court. The courtiers seek to provoke entrants, sending them on maddening tasks and having them ponder over riddles that have no answers. The masters hope to provoke a kind of lunatic satori, a Zen-like explosion of enlightenment (clarity achieved through a loss of Clarity, in a way). Many are surprised that entrance into the Court is so complex -- and so trying. After such trials, a changeling might sleep for a week, feeling so physically and emotionally spent.
The Court keeps three holidays of note, each meant to allow (or force) its members to exhibit and embrace particular motifs of emotion.
The first holiday coincides with the Chinese New Year, and is known simply as the Time of Folly. For a period of five days after the New Year, the Court members are encouraged to act erratic, to appear insane and strange. It is expected that the courtiers will perform tasks that are odd, even dangerous. This serves two purposes. The first is that it confuses the Gentry. They don't know what to make of the madness, and often stay away during those five days. The second purpose is that chaos allows for a time of upheaval and renewal. Something cannot be mended without it first being broken -- such as the breaking of a bone to reset it for healing purposes. The lunacy can set of a chain of events that creates new conditions, and helps stir new emotion.
The second holiday is the Lantern Harvest. In the midst of Autumn is when all enjoy the fruits of their labors, as the Summer harvest is complete. This is therefore also the time when the courtiers seek to invoke their most positive emotions -- love, hope, light. They use this light to stave off the darkness of the coming Winter, and to thumb their noses at the Fair Folk who might be watching from distant Arcadia.
The final holiday is known as the Lament for Qu Yuan (and coincides with the date of the Dragon Boat Festival). Qu Yuan was a minister within the Chu state more than 2,000 years ago, a loyal servant to the king until the king became corrupt and slandered Qu Yuan. He then left government life, wandering the countryside and learning of many legends and folktales, writing poetry great and small about his experiences. Along the way he reflected (literally in some cases, staring into the waters of a well on a hill) upon his darker feelings. When he learned that his beloved capital of Ying had been captured by the Qin state, he lamented, then wandered into the river with a great rock bound to his back. The Court celebrates his drowning suicide by negotiating their own darker emotions and urges, and giving into them fully for a single night. The courtiers don't repress much, but what little they do repress comes out on this night in a vast outpouring of negative emotion. This shows the Fae the potential of their anger and pain, and acts as a warning not to come toying with the Court of the South.
The colors and images of the Court of the South are that of the phoenix (known in China as zhu que, in Japan as suzaku and in Korea as ju-jak). The phoenix's plumage is bright, a spray of vermilion, a chaotic explosion of blood-red feathers. Many courtiers dress in bright colors, and always feature at least a single red feather to make their allegiances and passions clear.
The ruler of the Court of the South possesses the symbolic Ink Brush, a brush said to be made from the softest under-feathers of the phoenix's down. The handle is of dark cherry, and rumor has it that the Ink Brush is a powerful token that can be swept across any surface to open a gateway between this world and the tangled Hedge.
The Mantle of the Court of the South is one of passion and chaos. Those with Mantle 1 to 3 give off a kind of heat, a faint warmth radiating outward that excites the pulse. Those with Mantle 4+ often possess faintly red eyes, and those in their wake often find themselves giving into their Virtues and Vices more plainly. Sometimes, those of high Mantle leave behind an occasional bird-like footprint that smolders with smoke and steam.
A Vermilion courtier with Mantle 1+ gains a Specialty to her Empathy Skill. A character with Mantle 3+ finds that she can purchase the Empathy and Expression Skills at half the normal experience point cost. A courtier with Mantle 5 finds that her emotions affect others around her and may even shift her own flesh. She can take either the Inspiring Merit or the four-dot Striking Looks Merit. If both are already possessed, she gains +3 dice to the roll made to use the Inspiring Merit.
Unlike the Spring Court, the Vermilion Court isn't about desire -- at least, not exclusively. Desire is just one emotion among many, and the goal is to experience all emotions as profoundly as one can manage. This, to them, creates a kind of ecstasy, a nearly indescribable Zen-like satori.
Every Vermilion courtier finds this ecstasy in different ways. One might be caught smoking opium on a rusty junk boat, while another may endeavor to sit still for weeks amid a grove of cherry trees (and in the process honing in on a single emotion to experience utterly). Another might fall in love every ten seconds, while one of his motley might engage in such supreme outbursts of gleeful violence that it must be seen to be believed. In grasping at emotions, the Court claims one will feel ecstasy, and through this ecstasy, enlightenment.
Of course, this helps ensure that members of the Court of the South are not necessarily the most productive members of society. Giving wholly into their emotions is curious at the least, and outright dangerous at the worst. Most of these courtiers are unable to hold jobs (though they see themselves above such human nonsense), often ending up as wanderers, transients, criminals, rogues. Some make it as artists, but the rest are often too unstable to find any kind of reasonable balance.
- Winter Masques, p. 128-130