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Naukati Lake

A small town located in northern Washington, some hundred miles short of the Canadian border. Nestled between the thick evergreen forests and its namesake, Naukati Lake is a town of roughly eleven thousand. The town had its humble beginnings as a trading post over a hundred years ago. Today the town has a successful timber trade, local quarry and booming hunting community. Naukati, however, is a strange isolated town with odd customs and a dark history.

The large forest to the north of Naukati Lake is a place of local legend. Before the western expansion local tribes worshiped the spirits and “gods” that lived within the woods, and kept away from it as sacred ground. Today the woods are the subject of numerous urban legends, old and new, which include strange sightings and other oddities, even the occasional missing hiker. Though the townspeople gossip, they know little of the terrifying truth.

The Freehold of Naukati lake has existed for as long as the town itself, perhaps even longer. It was founded upon a series of oaths and contracts known as “The Ancient Pacts,” sworn between the Freehold's Sovereigns and the ever looming “Keepers of the Woods.” Alien creatures of the Hedge, possessed of terrible power and uncertain motives, which have made their home in the Wyrd-tangled forest of the north. At a steep price, the Ancient Pacts keep the Keepers of the Woods appeased, but also provide the members of the Freehold powers of their own. The modern Naukati Freehold serves as the town's dark protector, preforming ancient rituals, enforcing secret laws, and through their strange customs protecting themselves and their neighbors from the dangers of the Hedge. Throughout their history, the Freehold's secrets have surfaced in Naukati Lake as urban legends and folklore, no different from any other story that comes out of the forest.

The foundation of the Freehold's culture is in it's history, it's traditions, and the fear of the Gentry. The Autumn Court holds strong sway over the ideals and practices of the Freehold, and at its root the Ancient Pacts. The Pacts themselves are now all but forgotten, lost to the years, secrets kept by only the highest ranking members of the Freehold. However the ideas and duties of the Pacts still permeate into all aspects of the freeholds daily life.

It is the duty of the Freehold and its Courts to keep the Keepers of the Woods at bay, through their traditions, laws, and seasonal rituals. However this task is no small feat and requires the Changelings of the Freehold to embrace the ways of the Wyrd, becoming much like the monsters they fight even as they attempt to hide their existence from the town and live out their normal lives. This duality is at the very heart of the Freehold.

Being Taken, Given, and Returned to Naukati

The Changelings of the Freehold are creatures of tradition and fear, wary of outsiders. The Freehold itself is disconnected from most of the Changeling world at large and has no contact with outside Freeholds. In fact almost all the members of the Freehold were born and raised in the town of Naukati Lake.

There are three ways Changelings come to exist in the Freehold Nauktai:
First is the traditional way, they were stolen by the True Fae, they happened to go too deep in the woods, or were unlucky to be out one night or another, however it happened they were taken and later they escaped or released back to the town they were born in.
Secondly, they were taken by the freehold to appease the Keepers of the Woods, a dark fate indeed, offered by their own town community to satisfy the dark desires of the Fae. Only to return to find themselves caught up in the same acts that turned them into this in the first place.
Thirdly, they were unlucky enough the escape the hedge in Naukati and after careful consideration and preparation were allowed to stay as a member of the Freehold, and in turn a member of the mortal community.


Among the many strange, unique, and traumatizing customs of the Naukati Lake Freehold is their relationship with Fetches. Whenever a member of the mortal community is stolen by the Keepers of the Woods, or given as tribute and sacrifice by the Freehold themselves, a Fetch is provided without fail, with no memory of the event. The Freehold plants the Fetch in the abductee's old life, and monitors it closely. The Winter Court establishes regular surveillance, and maneuvers agents close to the Fetch, where they observe and keep studious notes on it's interactions and relationships. This goes on until the Fetch's original returns, or it dies of natural causes. Should the taken mortal return a Changeling, the Freehold steps in to swiftly bring it's newest member up to speed on the events of it's mortal life, as lived out by the Fetch, preparing them to recover their place in the community. When they are confident that the new Changeling is ready, and never before, the Freehold quietly murders and disposes of the Fetch, replacing it with the original. Causing the death of a Fetch before this time is a major violation of Freehold law, and can cause undesirable complications.

In addition, the Keepers of the Woods can be relied upon to provide Fetches for... other purposes. Should the Freehold find themselves in need of removing a troublesome mortal (or even another Changeling), they may dispose of the corpse deep in the woods. In short order, a Fetch will appear, which can be introduced into the community to avert any suspicion of foul play. These particular creatures often expire of "natural" causes within the year, lasting just long enough for common burial traditions.

As such the control, management, and surveillance of Fetches is a vital if disturbing part of the Freehold's duties. This is understandably stressful, and so many members of the Freehold are not privy to who in the town is actually a Fetch and who isn't. The information is kept on a need-to-know basis, managed by the Winter Court. It's often better to not even think about it.

Outsiders and the Courtless

Given their traditions, duties, and experiences, the Naukati Lake Freehold is wary of outsiders. Much of their resources are dedicated to ensuring that members of the Freehold will fit well into their community, and have the tools to adapt to their new double-life. Trust and willingness to serve the Freehold, even at great cost, is essential for it's survival. In such a tightly-knit and interdependent community, strangers are met with suspicion.

Every so often a non-local Changeling will crawl from the Hedge looking for a safe haven, or find Naukati Lake in the course of their travels and seek the community's hospitality. However they come to Naukati Lake, outsiders are in for an ordeal. The law of hospitality that the Freehold honors means that most outsiders are welcomed and given a room in the local boarding house, a personal space kept outside of town and run by the Freehold. They are asked to swear a seasonal oath of secrecy, and even after this are watched, weighed and measured for their value and trustworthiness. Those who have something to offer the community might be offered a place in the Freehold, who will ease their transition into the mortal community as well. If this offer is rejected however, a far less generous fate awaits. They might be kept prisoner, intended for one of the darker seasonal rituals such as the Ash Run. Why go through the trouble of sacrificing a member of the local community when a perfectly good stranger will do? Others are asked to leave shortly after the offer is refused, but are required to do so through the Path of Whispers, as per tradition. The Path is a trod that leads through the thick forest Hedge, most never make it to the other side. Those who do have earned the right to live, and are not pursued.

The Courtless are also greeted with distrust, but less intense than that reserved for outsiders. It's natural for most Changelings fresh from the Hedge to be unable to make heads or tails of the world. A level of patience is afforded to these new members of the community, while they settle and explore their options after finding their world so dramatically altered. During their transition period, before being reintegrated into their mortal lives and replacing their Fetch, each Court assesses the new Changeling to see if they could be of any value to their respective Court. Most either find their Court or are pressed into one at this time. Those that remain Courtless for too long risk falling into the same category of outsiders, to ensure that the Freehold continues to run smoothly.