Decadent, sun-drenched Miami, the Gateway to the Americas.
A city that epitomizes both the beauty and the darkness at the core of Changeling.
From the neon-bedecked skyscrapers of downtown to the art-deco finery of South Beach and its endless nightclubs, Miami is one of the most beautiful cities in North America. And yet all that bright colour hides a heart as dark and foetid as any city in the World of Darkness. Drugs flow in from South America and the authorities are powerless to stop them. Poverty and crime are at obscene levels, and in the weird candy-colored light of the neon things alien and antithetical to humankind lurk. In the nearby Everglades paths twist and wind between the mangroves, folding in on themselves and trapping the unwary in a swampy Hedge inhabited by ancient, crocodilian nightmares.
This is not the Miami you may know. This is the Miami of the World of Darkness, where all the problems of the real world are magnified and layered atop an ever-shifting foundation of madness and the occult. The surface details are similar, but like a funhouse mirror, the World of Darkness reflects a distorted reflection of the world we know. This is a city of excess in all respects; the rich are richer, the hard partiers party harder and the desperate full of even more desperation.
Bienvenidos a Miami.
THE HISTORY OF THE FREEHOLD
THE FREEHOLD’S FORMING
On the moonlit night of September 23, 1946, three Changelings met in Miami’s South Beach to forge a pledge that would usher in the creation of the Miami Freehold.
The first of these three was Tom Hood, the Headsman’s Ghost and future King of Autumn. Taken by the Fae during his time serving the United States in World War Two, Hood was a survivor of both the brutalities of modern combat and the Gentry, and returned to his homeland possessing knowledge garnered from the Changelings of Europe. With him was Grandfather Thunder, the future King of Summer. Even by 1946 Thunder was a legend amongst the Lost of Miami; rumours were whispered that he had beaten one of the Gentry to death with his cold-iron hammer, and that he patrolled the waterfronts on stormy nights, roaring the name of his former Keeper. Rounding out the trio was Rose Thorne, the wily and cunning Changeling soon to become the Queen of Spring. No changeling could be found who embodied the ideals of the fourth court, Winter, something that remains a sour note for members of the Silent Arrow to this day.
With the Courts now established in name, the three leaders of the freehold began to spread their teachings, recruiting many of the city’s formerly Courtless changelings and establishing their power bases. Even to this day, the original territories of the Courts hold, more or less. Rose Thorne and her Spring Court claimed South Beach and the nightclub district, Grandfather Thunder and the Iron Spear solidified themselves in Liberty City, and Tom Hood took his Autumn Court and fortified himself in downtown Miami.
THE FOUNDING OF THE WINTER COURT
There was no Winter Court in Miami until the middle of the 1960s. For the first 19 years of the freehold’s history, the year was simply divided three ways instead of four. The precise origin of the Winter Court in Miami is subject to a good deal of hearsay and speculation, but the official story goes that the Silent Arrow was founded when a Courtless changeling called La Llorona managed to steal the original texts Tom Hood brought with him from France. La Llorona learned from them the secrets of the Winter Court and chose to make her own pledge with Winter. She brought her new teachings to several of the disenfranchised Courtless of the city, especially those living in the high-poverty, high-crime areas. In a surprise move, the Winter Court seized much of Liberty City from the Iron Spear and established a presence in the freehold.
The problem with this story is primarily that, by 1965, the Summer Court was already the largest and most powerful Court in the city, and it seems doubtful that an upstart Court could unseat Grandfather Thunder. Many changelings suspect that Grandfather Thunder was even then laying the seeds of his eventual takeover of the freehold, and that he introduced La Llorona to the teachings of Winter himself in order to place a wedge between Spring and Autumn.
THE GOLDEN AGE AND THE FALL
Once the Winter Court established itself and its rightful rule over one-quarter of the year, the freehold settled down for the most part. The Summer Court won back a major victory against Winter in 1980, when the Liberty City Riots erupted in territory controlled by La Llorona and created a tremendous influx of wrath that fueled the Summer offensive. La Llorona herself was killed in the riots (although many Winter Court changelings continue to insist that a Summer Court assassin struck the killing blow) and was succeeded by Jeremiah Sleet, who holds the title of Winter King to this day.
The 1980s are often looked back on as the golden age of the freehold of Miami by many changelings. The decade started off joyously, as the Mariel Boatlift brought 125,000 Cuban refugees into the city. In what the Courts called an incidence of Wyrd creating sympathetic vibrations, concurrent with the Boatlift nearly 100 changelings arrived in the city, freshly escaped from Faerie. Many of these changelings (dubbed Marielitoseven though they were not part of the Mariel Boatlift) chose to settle permanently in Miami and bolstered the freehold ‘s power.
As the decade wore on and Miami became the principal point of entry into the United States for South American cocaine, Jeremiah Sleet and his Winter Court established themselves as major players in the drug trade, feeding off the sorrow it generated. Keeping pace with their rivals, changelings of the Summer Court rode (and at least partially influenced) the violent crime wave that came along with the influx of drugs and money. Meanwhile, the Spring Court increased its hold on the city’s pleasure districts and rode the high that came with Miami’s increasing reputation as America’s decadent tropical paradise. Tom Hood kept his own counsel, as he always had, but even the Leaden Mirror was flush with Glamour as the mortals grew to fear the encroachment of drug addiction, the criminals running rampant and even the immigrants taking their jobs.
If the ’80s were the golden age, the ’90s were the proverbial fall of the Roman Empire. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped through Dade County just south of Miami, sparking panicked rumours of the return of the Great Miami Hurricane and its alleged True Fae masters. The rumour ultimately proved unfounded, but the storm’s earthly damage was no less severe. The city’s economy was devastated, and subsequent financial scandals earned the city the dubious honour of fourth poorest city in America. The drug wars continued to escalate, feeding the Summer Court’s wrath and allowing Grandfather Thunder to make his most audacious move yet.
On June 21, 1999, at the height of Grandfather Thunder’s reign, the King of Endless Summer announced that, by virtue of its climate and the general essence of the city’s character, Miami would henceforth be known as the City of Endless Summer and that the seasonal governance of the Courts was dissolved. He would still allow the other Courts to hold their current territories, and even to recruit new members, so long as all changelings swore an oath acknowledging the primacy of the Summer Court.
The Spring and Autumn Courts did not greet this news with much enthusiasm.
Had there been some co-ordination of efforts between Tom Hood and Rose Thorne, Thunder’s pretensions to the sole rulership of Miami might have been relegated to an embarrassing footnote in the Freehold’s history. Instead they made solitary moves against Summer, and found their forces outmatched in the brutal shadow war that erupted in the alleys and hidden places of Miami. Jeremiah Sleet and his Winter Court meanwhile, ever the outsiders within Freehold politics, accepted Thunder’s terms on the condition that they were allowed to remain impartial to the fighting.
Amidst the carnage Tom Hood was murdered by Grandfather Thunder’s lead enforcer, Deathless Ivan, and Rose Thorne was driven from the city limits, fleeing out into the recesses of the Everglades with her few remaining courtiers. There she has remained to this day, rallying her power base and attempting to re-gain lost ground. Recently, a semi-independent Spring Court has returned to Miami Beach. Derisively called ‘Vichy Spring’ by Rose’s loyalists, this branch of the Court is led by Maria Thorne, Rose’s ‘daughter’. The Autumn Court, meanwhile, has withdrawn to its holdings in and around the University of Miami in an attempt to deal with their grief at the loss of the father of the freehold of Miami. In 2003, the Autumn Court finally chose a new leader in one of Tom Hood’s protégés, the Autumn Queen Naamah.