Secrecy and security are the Winter Court’s hallmarks, and nowhere is this more apparent than in their use of Mourning Cant. While often thought of as a single language, the secret words of the Onyx Court are made up of dozens of different languages, cultures, metaphors and dialects that allow them to pass messages to one another while appearing to speak plainly in front of anyone who might be listening… even other members of a changeling’s motley.
For storytellers who want a mechanical option to represent this unique patois, treat mourning cant as a 1-dot merit with a prerequisite of either at least 1 dot of Winter Court Mantle, or 3 dots of Winter Court Goodwill.
The dialects and phrases contained in this supplement are meant to act as inspiration for how Mourning Cant may sound in your particular game, and among particular subsets of the Winter Court. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but merely starting points to help you shape this unique aspect of the game at your own table, and to save players and storytellers alike from coming up with unexpected jargon or meaningful-sounding nonsense on the spur of the moment.
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Here are some sample results:
- Pump: Anyone who’s ever heard a conversation in a weight room knows just how confusing listening to dedicated weightlifters can be for those outside their community. Winter believes in being prepared, and in addition to gyms that train fresh recruits in the skills they’ll need to survive, the court uses this dialect to keep outsiders in the dark. “Pumping,” generally refers to what sort of glamour capacity a courtier has (“What are you pumping?”), while “pumping iron” is specifically a term used for the weapons one is carrying. “Getting shredded” is actually a reference to destroying one’s current identity, while a “spotter” refers to someone on a Winter’s team to help watch their back when a situation becomes dicey.
- Beaching: Typically a summertime activity, Beaching is when Winter uses the language of these sandy vacation destinations as metaphors for their real operations. Sometimes seen as a subculture within the Vacation Plans dialect, Beaching is more common in coastal areas. For example, a “sand castle” tends to refer to a Hollow, while “surfing” refers to going off the trods and into the Thorns. “Sharks” is a term that usually refers to Fae hunting parties and dangerous hobs, while “barracudas” is used to designate mortal threats which may be just as lethal, under the right circumstances. “Soaking” or “soaking in some rays” is a general term used for passive glamour harvesting, while “high tide” and “low tide” tend to be used to refer to the danger associated with particular tasks, or just the warning level of a particular part of town.
- Esquire: Every changeling understands the power of a pact, but this dialect of Mourning Cant swaddles its messages in the near-impenetrable jargon of the legal profession. As an example, a “civil matter” typically means a Winter is referring to something that’s purely mortal in nature. “Alimony” usually refers to how even a pledge was, and what someone has to pay to uphold their end of the agreement. “Eagle” is short for “legal eagle,” and while it’s normally meant for pledgesmiths, it can be used to refer to those who are at the top of their game in a variety of different fields. A “bench trial” often means Winter will decide a matter without the input (or even knowledge) of the other courts, while a “custody battle” often means that one’s Keeper (or their agents) are getting uncomfortably close to recapturing one of the Lost.
- Cat Chat: Cats will do the damndest things, and there’s a whole dialect of Mourning Cant that uses them as the go-to metaphor for what’s happening in the world of the fae. “House cats” tend to refer to Winter Court members, as well as pledged assets, while “strays” usually refers to the courtless. The seemingly redundant “homeless strays” refers to recently escaped changelings who have yet to decide if they have a place among one of the courts. “Cat catchers” is used to refer to the Gentry and their agents, while “nip” typically refers to any source of glamour. “Cat space” is a convenient way to talk about the Hedge, while getting someone “groomed” usually refers to setting up a fake I.D. for their use. “Scratching” somebody means they’re getting taken out, and different types of changelings are often obliquely referred to by different cat breeds. In the same vein, contraband and illicit goods are often discussed as if they were different varieties of cat toys.
- Barking: Circuses and carnivals have long acted as ways to disguise the bizarre, inhuman nature of changelings by playing into the willingness of the crowd to attribute the fantastic and impossible to clever tricks and stage presence. As such, it’s no wonder many Winter Courtiers steal the lexicon of carnival barkers to run a shell game on anyone listening in on their conversations. “Back yard,” for example, referred to the areas of the circus that were off-limits to the public, and in this dialect it refers to Winter-only areas (whether physical locations like safe houses, or information that’s not cleared for those outside court assets). A “candy butcher” was someone who sold sweet concessions, but in the Winter parlance it refers to drug dealers, arms sellers and other merchants of illicit goods. A “circus fan” refers to an ensorcelled mortal, while a “rube” or a “coney” is a regular mortal who’s blissfully unaware of the everyday dangers of the fae all around them. A “kinker” is a field agent, while a “nut” refers to the costs of an agreement or endeavor promised in a pledge.
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