WE ARE THE WASTEFULS
It was the Wastefuls who warmed your seat before you stepped into your role. Yes, there was someone here before you, trying their best to be what June Darling demanded of them. And they failed. Cast out to The Yard, discarded and mostly, but not entirely forgotten. They live on, without the light of East Haven to warm their backs as they struggle to survive. It was after they were discarded that they lost their Perfect faces and their humanly visage. Instead, they became something else. Without her manicured grip around their souls, they twisted or molded or grew into something new. They became Changelings.
The Yard lies beneath East Haven. While there are some direct doors, June doesn't like it when it's even mentioned, let alone referenced. The easiest ways in and out are through the sewers. It's here, a vast city of garbage, filth, and somehow hope that perseverance struggles on. For every person in a Perfect role, there have been 100 in it previously. And all of them had to find means of survival in The Yard. It's because of this vast collection of Changelings that The Yard has become so diverse and functional. There are districts such as Market Square, The Hallows, Riverside, and Intercity. There are shops and taverns and a dozen homes stacked and smushed together in the dirt and grime.
MEANS AND WAYS
Coming and going from The Yard is difficult, but also necessary and common. Perhaps you're coming back to the surface of East Haven to visit an old friend. Perhaps you're coming back to steal food and supplies. Many Changelings are happy to pay for such a service rather than risk going themselves. While it's not at all physically hard to get out of The Yard, not getting caught in East Haven is much trickier. There is no going back up without a plan, without a route that has considered the police patrols, or without allies ready and willing to risk their lives harboring you.
For Perfects, coming down to The Yard is just as easy (when you have a moment to sneak away), but just as dangerous. Those are might nice shoes, if you get my meaning. The likelihood of entering into The Yard without protection, and remaining safe are slim. Because of this, many come escorted, or sneak in, if only to get a break from the shiny happy lives above that are anything but.
Rumor has it, sometimes, the grime doesn't wash off. Too many visits, or treading too deep into The Yard begins the transformation. You certainly can't continue to be a Perfect with scales or a tail. Some refuse to risk it. Some head down to The Yard willingly, only to realize what new challenges they must face.
A.k.a "The Redys" or "The Reds" are changelings that live in The Yard, outcast like the rest, but who volunteer for the dirtiest of missions: Retrieval. When June Darling needs a fresh cast, it's The Redys she turns to, and they oblige, hoping to win her favor in an effort to become a Perfect again. Many people in The Yard find it despicable behavior, but when you're no sort of survivalist, the opportunity for a second chance begins to look better and better. On top of this, leaving The Yard and East Haven, even if just into The Murk itself, is the only way to gain Glamour.
Some say if you bring back a big haul, your chances of going back to East Haven are pretty good. Sometimes it takes a few trips. Others, who fail to bring back ideal candidates for Perfects are just never heard of again. Another risk that those who refuse to participate don't have to face.
Once upon a time, The Yard was said to be run among the Seasonal Courts. When above the surface of The Yard, the days actually moved forward and seasons mattered. But words and icons have meaning, and when those are lost, so too goes the power that they held. How can there be a Spring Court if there is only metal and dirt? How does the Summer Courtier burn hot when he feels only the chill of the wasteland he lives in? While the ideas of the courts remained, slowly, their names began to change to something more fitting.
Once the Court of Spring, while the new life and awakening of light and beauty has fled, the dark nature of desire has not. Once they held places among the Perfects and either through mistake or a drive for control in their own lives once again, they were cast out. Either desperate for the same sort of comforts, or determined to find pleasure and worth in new ways, these are the Changelings who will not be taken again, who will not sacrifice their happiness and comfort for anyone else. They have served their time, however long or short, and now they will come first in all things.
The Golden Crown are the drivers of inspiration, of art, and of what's left of their lives as Wastefuls. "We may be below the surface, but we are not below any Perfect." It is among these Changelings that people turn to for comfort, warmth, and hope to continue on and to provide means of value in their new positions. And the Raptured Courtier finds it among her duties to provide that. It's easy to see how in a place like The Yard, that a court such as this would die away. Unlike the Courts of Dire and Dolor that thrive in the darkness, it is Rapture that refuses to be snuffed out. Because of this, they hold themselves at higher standards than most. Known as the Golden Court, because they collect, and demand fineries. It's not uncommon to see many among rags and the Rapture Courtier among riches. They collect, steal, search, and bargain for what bits of beauty fall through the cracks. Jewelry, fine clothes, diamonds, and supplies that would be sinful to indulge in, they do and with abandon.
Once the Court of Summer, their ideals have changed very little. Those Changelings that held places of high regard and were tossed out with the trash. Those that were ripped from their true lives and still considered unworthy for their new position. Those that were treated more cruelly than many can imagine and have turned their complacency into raging fire. It is among the Iron Court that Changelings do not seek art or peace, but war. Though despite their intentions, with a crowd of brethren who are constantly swelling and shrinking in numbers, the idea of a true revolt flickered out long ago.
Now, they take their fury out in other ways. While a large portion among them are within the dangerous gangs that roam The Yard, bullying and threatening the weak, the are even more that have dedicated themselves to the protection of those below the surface. They have become the body guards, the watchmen, the beasts of burden for those they will not stand to see harmed ever again. Sure, the idea of going back and paying The Loyalists and even June Darling herself a visit rests in all of their hearts, but somehow, whenever a plan begins to form, there is fallout among the ranks. Some say that despite their anger, many are too afraid. Others scream sabotage. For the faction that refuses to let others be harmed, they find themselves escorting Perfects below the surface, leading parties into the Murk to harvest Glamour, or even breaking the surface to save those out after curfew from a horrible fate.
It was once among the bare branches and dark shadows that the Autumn Court found their Mantles thriving. After all, it's usually the absence of light that makes people wonder where the line of safety has faded to. But in East Haven, the real threats never physically showed themselves. They rarely made it to the end of Summer, and everything was pastel perfect. It was in the repetition, the threat of falsehood, the cracks that slowly began to show that real fear swelled in their hearts. They began to understand the threats of those smiles, and the way their fathers cut into their steaks. The dogs that barked as you passed that really seemed to be a call to the beasts within The Murk. As the beautiful days and nights ticked on, the reality that this life would never, ever, ever end. Until for most, it did.
While many scream 'freedom' among the Wastefuls, it's the Dire court that understands the nightmare might have changed, but it is not over. Above the surface, the manicured lives in East Haven are continuing on. They know those tools to get under the skins of Perfects are still being used. Uncertainty, paranoia, anxiety. And yet, how could they ever hope to change this? Why it's these tools they are so familiar with, they know that now, they can serve another purpose. They just need to change their victim. While the Court of Choler seeks rage and war, it's the Dire Court that intends to ease the powerful right out of their seats through fear. They return to the surface to enact small terrors either among the Perfects to assure they make a mistake (and thus lessoning June Darling's precious cast ranks) or going right for the Loyalists themselves, in hopes of putting enough pressure on them it amounts to control. These are the Changelings that have understood the game and have gotten better than our Darling realized.
Despite the plastic and pastels, or the new urgency of survival within The Yard, it's the Dolor Court who remembers what came before. Their lives, their loved ones, and their freedom. It's the Court of Sorrow that understands with each reset, the beauty of perfection that went unnoticed for some trivial mistake was all washed away. It's the tenderness in the guilt that trembling fingers betray as a note is missed on the piano and efforts are lost over the entirety of East Haven. Take a look around you. Yes, the court of Rapture wishes to drown away the truth with glitter, the raging Choler Courtiers are ready to lynch their oppressors and the Dire Court is becoming something just as dark as their master, but it's the Dolor court who refuses to look away from the tiny impressions their experiences leave on them. As Sorrow feels their hearts, it comes with reverence. For in that loss, and pain, and misery, their is beauty that is being overlooked.
While some may consider them to be depressed and focused on obtuse matters, the Dolor court would argue differently. It's these small instances, these fleeting moments, that while filled with pain, bring them what's left of their humanity. Lest they become like June Darling herself who discards whatever is imperfect, and resets her life on a whim of anger. To feel pain is still to feel something. They will not burn it away with rage, or cover it in gold, or bargain their souls away with the very same disregard as their Keepers. They will cherish it and help others do the same. It is because of their vigilance that they have become the watchers. While they do not often take action as the Court of Choler, they are the ones who report to the powers that be, pointing out changes above and below the surface, and what they might mean for the future of everyone involved. It is the Dolor Court who notices that the has been an uptick in Wendy replacements lately, the very last one only managing to make it a few days. It is them that notice the beasts that edge from the Murk have markings strangely like the ones their friends once held.
There is no easing of time to suggest a passage of power among the courts, and even if their was, June Darling would never let another power, no matter how small and insignificant, show any sort of importance. Yes, the Wastefuls are discarded, but not forgotten. While there have been attempts in the past to have a ruling faction, all efforts quickly fell apart. One of the heaviest reasons the Choler Courtiers believe there are traitors among the ranks. There are a few Changelings who hold sway within The Yard and are considered, if anyone were to be, 'the leaders' of their Courts, but they make no such claims themselves as it would mean putting a target right on their backs.