No changeling escapes Faerie entirely whole. Most are scarred, physically and emotionally, from their struggles to return to the lands of their birth through the hungry passages of the Hedge. All have lost something during their abduction and return: treasured belongings, precious friends, their pride and in some cases, their sanity. Many factors can combine to shave away at a changeling’s reason. The longer changelings spend in Faerie, the less likely they are to be able to successfully transition back into human society.
Likewise, those who were taken at a young age or who had pre-existing mental instability have less connecting them to the mortal world and are more prone to suffering debilitating madness, should they manage to return. While the jarring return to the human world is never easy for those who have spent time in Faerie, for some the touch of the madlands never fades completely. They find themselves seeing, hearing and experiencing things that “normal” humans cannot, in a world with no sympathy for such perceptions. Other changelings are likely to empathize with these delusions, and most freeholds attempt to provide aid, as long as the afflicted individual is not blatantly homicidal and is willing to accept their assistance. In this way, some madmen are able to team up with other changelings and eventually regain enough Clarity to make their way in the mortal world. Others, however, are not that lucky.
Madness is not always a direct and immediate result of one’s time in Faerie. For some, especially those who had adapted to the mutable reality of life in Arcadia, it may be the human world that slowly erodes away at their sanity. Changelings are just as susceptible to the biological, psychological and social causes of mental illness as their human counterparts. Dealing with the duality of their changeling nature only adds to these influences, making changelings more, rather than less, likely to succumb to mental illnesses as they return to the mortal world and attempt to juggle their dual lives.
Not all madmen are raging beasts. Madness can creep up subtly, sneaking into the cracks and crevices of the mind and blurring the demarcations between reality and fantasy so gradually that it is impossible to say where exactly insanity begins and sanity is left behind. Even for those who are able to keep their lack of Clarity hidden for a time, however, madness is confusing, frightening and debilitating. Most chilling, however, is the fact that madness is very often progressive, with the gap between sanity and madness deepening exponentially as time passes. Eventually, others will notice the discrepancy between the madman’s reality and that of those around him, and if it goes unchecked, eventually he will no longer be able to function in society, either human or changeling.
- Changeling: The Lost Rulebook, p. 260