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When characters defy Fate, they often find that problems and bad luck are in their futures. If they are particularly unlucky, that bad luck might include the attentions of a Nemesis. The Nemeses consider themselves to be the arbiters and avengers of Fate. Their purpose in life is to track down those who stand against Fate and punish them for their arrogance in believing that they know the course of destiny better than destiny itself. They don’t take orders, however; rather, they have an instinctive sense for when Fate has been violated. Discovering such a violation tends to send them into a frothing rage, as they hunt down and try their best to murder whichever poor soul they’ve discovered.
On top of that, defeating a Nemesis and destroying it buys only a brief pause. Nemeses can be killed, but their deaths “count” as a violation of Fate, one strong enough to attract another Nemesis. As time goes on, an ever-growing number of the creatures will appear to have revenge for their fallen kin, leading to a situation that no changeling can win forever. Every season or so, a new Nemesis will arrive to avenge her fallen kin, and roughly every year, the number of Nemeses that arrive at once will increase by one. Stories tell of one warrior of the Lost who battled the Nemeses for thirty-six years, until entire squads of them were being dispatched against him, but even he eventually fell to their blades. There are only three known ways to escape death at the hands of a Nemesis, and none are easy.
The first is to trick the Nemesis into killing a friend or loved one in place of the changeling who she seeks. Nemeses never kill bystanders deliberately, but the accidental death of one is considered equivalent trade for an initial violation, and will cause a Nemesis to leave. The second method is to trick someone else into killing the Nemesis; in such a case, the character is free of future disasters, although whoever actually killed the Nemesis will soon find another one standing on his doorstep. The final method is for a changeling to defeat a Nemesis in a fight, not kill her, and convince her that he is repentant for his deeds and wishes to atone. In such cases, a persuaded Nemesis might level three difficult tasks on the changeling in exchange for her departure. Such tasks will be strange and random, and potentially dangerous, but not guaranteed to lead to death.
Of course, a changeling who is being sought by many Nemeses must deal with each individually, which can lead to a burdensome number of tasks leveled on him at once. No one knows where the Nemeses live when they are not hunting, or even if they have lives. A popular theory states that twisted Fate actually gives birth to Nemeses, and that after her task is complete, a Nemesis dissolves back into nothingness. There seems to be some support for this belief, as no one has ever seen a Nemesis who was not currently engaged in a hunt, nor is anyone known to have seen the same Nemesis twice. However, as they do not keep names, it is difficult to say for certain.
Nemeses aren’t stupid, but they are direct, angry, and prone to mild rants as they attack. They react badly to being humiliated, and can easily be goaded into attacking wildly. On the flip side, however, they are absolutely dedicated to their tasks, and trying to persuade an active Nemesis to stop swinging her sword around long enough to listen to an attempted excuse or explanation is almost impossible. If actually beaten, a Nemesis will pause long enough to listen, and might be persuaded to calm down. Usually, though, this doesn’t happen, and each generation of Nemeses to attack someone will be angrier, quicker to judge, and faster to attack than the generation before.
- Dancers in the Dusk, p. 62-63