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Without conflict, the Gentry have no purpose. They don’t have the luxury of an objective cosmos that supports their existence. Struggle sustains them, whether it takes the form of a lover’s quest for satisfaction or a gunman’s fear-shaken aim. They play with forms and stories, forging Legends that fuel their lives. When the True Fae have no battles to fight, loves to win or any other conflict, they have no purpose, no tale to tell Arcadia — and no right to exist. With names, they promised to act, to rule. If they immerse themselves in illusions, instead of forging Legends, they’re mere objects. They dwindle.
This fate may not be death, but Gentry fear it. They create Feuds to stave it off: covenants of Gentry who vow to plot against each other. Each faerie in a Feud sends manifestations of itself against others, where they play out tales of genuine peril and difficult victory. Some say that many of Arcadia’s leaderless Realms are the remnants of Dwindled Fae: corpses made of unclaimed Titles and stillborn conflicts.
While being devoured might feel like progressive amputation, dwindling is a kind of starvation. Oaths and energies exhaust themselves. Titles erode away one by one. First, symbols of corruption work their way into every manifestation. Actors look old and tired. Prop swords are rusty. Mountains crumble into battered hills. It takes a clever observer to tell signs of dwindling apart from intentional manifestations, but it can be done. The decrepit Actor acts like a vigorous young man; people in the Realm speak of huge, jagged summits, but point to squat drumlins.
One by one, Titles collapse. On occasion, they reappear as independent entities, tucked in some odd corner of Faerie. A lost manifestation appears as an autonomous region, personage or artifact, beholden to no True Fae. Perhaps this is part of Arcadia’s ecology, and every island in the chaos owes its origin to a long-dead Kindly One, but no one, Fae or mortal, knows for sure.
Few Gentry die by dwindling alone, because there are always opportunities to fight and eat. A faerie without a Feud to challenge is either the survivor of some unthinkable catastrophe or is no starveling, because she’s grown fat in Titles after eating every enemy. But even without the Feud, Gentry can always take up the Hunt to refuel the fires of Legend. The Others only starve to death if they can’t or won’t play the Feud or ride out of Arcadia for nourishment. More commonly, a dwindling faerie will perish because she’s too weak to fend off danger. A Kindly One starves to the point where she has one Title left — or even just her name. She tests herself against an enemy or adventures outside Arcadia, and it goes badly. Alternately, enemies have devoured much of her power, and have plotted to cut her off from further nourishment by imposing certain Contracts or attacking her manifestations. These situations are properly combinations of dwindling and devouring, however.
If dwindling takes her Titles and leaves her with nothing but her name, she suffers the same consequences as a Fae who’s been devoured to the same point. She’s forced into an Actor form shaped by faded forms of lost Titles. She might try her luck on Earth. If she doesn’t, she gradually loses substance until she’s only a ghostly presence. Eventually, that fades into a voice and finally, naught but a shiver passing on the winds of Faerie.
- Equinox Road, p. 87-88