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The Hedge, Mages, and the Paths of the Wyck

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The Verbena Tradition is the group amongst the Council that has the best knowledge of Changelings and their ilk, but each Tradition usually has some group, craft or Legacy that deals with either Changelings or the Arcadian Gentry. Even the Technocratic Union and the various technology related Traditions have within them those who deal with the Hedge and Arcadia. All of these groups warn that when supping with anyone or thing from Arcadia, to do so with a long, long spoon.

Well known is the hatred of the Gentry for Mages - Mages, by virtue of being Awake, are like them, except bound by the wisdom of society, mutual respect, and understanding. Mages, as humans who have power comparable to the Gentry, are humans who are more than capable of treating with the Gentry as peers. That normal humans who are not devoured by their dreaming passions and are not the absolute embodiements of their passion makes Gentry seethe with jealousy and anger - because Awakened humans not only have Fae passion, but also subtlety, nuance, all those human things in their souls. Finally, Awakened humans are inherently dynamic, and even Awakened humans whose Avatars are of the Pattern push and strive the Mage they are part of towards creation and change. These are things the Gentry can never take part of - Ascension, mankind's ultimate destiny, is anathema to their natures. If all of mankind were to Awaken, then many Gentry rightfully fear that mankind would no longer dream in the same way they do now. Ascension is anathema to the proud Gentry. Awakened power reminds them that they are not infinitely strong, and this burns in their gut like bile.

Mage society is divided on how exactly to deal with Changelings. One of the luckiest things in the world for a Lost to have happen is to stumble upon a Verbena Mage - on Earth, the Awakened have the advantage over the Gentry and their agents. Verbena Chantries (or those of mixed Traditions who have a strong Verbena component) will happily take in Lost and assist them in contacting the local Changeling court, assisting them with their Fetch, and establishing a new identity, usually in exchange for service as a Custos. Further, the Verbena tradition has a long history of making and enforcing pacts with both the Gentry and Lost lords and ladies - the Verbena tradition has sets of secret rotes that their predecessors, the Wyck, supposedly forged with the very stuff of Arcadia and the Hedge itself. Verbena cabals and Chantries prefer to be located near known gateways into the Hedge, so as to protect humans from Fae predation and assist Lost who escape Arcadia. Such places also are usually strong Nodes, and are aligned Paradigmatically with local folk traditions, making them bastions from the Consensus.

Dreamspeakers are equally as adept in dealing with the Gentry, and understand them as a world wide phenomenom, but view them through a variety of different cultural lenses. Dreamspeakers are usually adept at dealing with Fae who manifest forms and predilections that match their own cultural knowledge. Dreamspeakers see no real difference between the Gentry and the powerful spirit lords of the Umbra, and even point out the similarity between spirit Bans and certain restrictions that Gentry must abide by. While not having the Paths of the Wyck as a Tradition resource, like the Verbena do, Dreamspeakers have another kind of very potent resource - friends. Certain spirits live in various dream realms as their home, and can just as easily cross into Arcadia as they can any other dream realm. Certain Dreamspeaker lineages are protected by very powerful pacts,and certain Gentry will simply let a Dreamspeaker go instead of angering the powers that the Mage has allied themselves to. Finally, any spirit that is a Dreamspeaker's Totem can and will follow them anywhere in the otherworlds, although they will no doubt protest mightily at being in a place as dangerous as the Hedge (known to some cultures as 'the road of sharp stones', 'the ash trail' and other unsavory names) and will attempt to have them and their Mage ally escape as quickly as possible. Unlike the Verbena, who have made pacts with Arcadia and The Hedge as a whole, Dreamspeakers make agreements with Hedge powers on an entity-by-entity basis - some Dreamspeakers of an immoral bent act as Gentry agents in the human world. As loosely organized as it is, the Dreamspeaker tradition usually destroys any of it's members who sell humans to the Gentry or engages in other unsavory practices. The term for these kinds of Mages is 'sorceror' or 'witch'. This is an occasional sore point between some Dreamspeakers and Verbena, as some Dreamspeakers point out that making pacts with all of Arcadia can compromise one's morality. Further, individual Dreamspeakers might work to rescue someone from the Hedge or Arcadia, but usually, such is a mighty task and only done rarely.

One thing that Verbena will not do, however, is assist with rescues from Arcadia. The wise women and clever men of the Tradition explain that the very place leeches away the ability to perform Magick, as Arcadia is ultimately a place of unchanging, if alien, dreams. A place of dreams is a place of sleep and abhors Awakened power. Further, Paradox there universally takes the form of punishment for oathbreakers, since by definition a Mage who uses their powers in Arcadia or the Hedge is not privy to the ancient web of pacts and oaths that even a Changeling is. Verbena and other Mage groups who deal with the Hedge may have secret rotes and legacy powers that can offset the negative effects of being in the Hedge, as their ancient founders have made pacts with Arcadia and the Hedge itself. This also infuriates Gentry. Finally, Mages who are strong enough in the Fate Sphere can undo or modify various Pledges - but no Verbena does so lightly, as tampering with Destiny itself is akin to hubris.

In the Order of Hermes, only House Merinita deals regularly with Changelings and the Gentry, regarding the Hedge and Arcadia as dangerous troves of magical secrets. Unlike the Verbena, the Merinita do not pact - instead, they use force or trickery to beat the Gentry at their own game. The Merinita have secret Legacy powers and rotes that protect a Mage's Quintessence and Avatar while in the Hedge, and often raid the Hedge for Goblin Fruits, Tokens and the like.

The Order of Reason and it's successor entity, the Technocratic Union, regards Changelings and Gentry as alien invaders who must be destroyed at all costs. The New World Order has made the most extensive study of Arcadia and the Hedge, and after them, the Void Engineers. Technocrats use the Hedge and Arcadia as evidence that the Tradition's paradigms would lead the world to madness. "Look at this - this is the kind of world that the Traditions want." While this is blatantly untrue, the Union uses the rhetorical wedge that free will that is not under reasoned control leads to madness and nightmares. Further, as the ultimate source of Arcadia and the Gentry are the dreams of Sleepers, even unconscious belief in the supernatural is dangerous. The Technocracy, if it can help it, never ventures into the Hedge except in the case of specially trained and equipped Void Engineer strike teams. Instead, the Technocracy uses special sterilization Procedures to shut doorways into the Hedge and even destroys Nodes associated with them.

Magick In The Hedge

Magick in Ascension Nova functions somewhat differently than magic as described in Mage: The Awakening, since instead of drawing down the laws of the Supernal to the Fallen world, a human with an Awakened Avatar literally reweaves reality to confirm to their will. The Hedge does not tolerate this lightly, and nearly all Magick in the Hedge is vulgar, since the laws of reality here are those of the Hedge and of dreams, not the laws that are ensconced in Sleeper belief. However, wise Mages can make use of this.

Dreamspeakers and Verbena are the best at this, due to millenia of contact and travel within the Hedge and very occasionally Arcadia. Next are the Akashic Brotherhood, who understand the Hedge's language of metaphor, archetype and simile, and, strangely, agents of the New World Order, who's fundamental understanding of human psychology lets them look past culural trappings to primal human processes of emotion and motivation.

If a Mage can manage to use their Foci and magickal techniques in such a way that matches the inherent dream logic of the Hedge, a spell can be considered Covert. A Verbena would make use of faerie tale logic and nursery rhymes, while Dreamspeakers would re-enact how a culture hero was able to perform a miraculous feat. An Ivory Tower psychologist would use dream interpretation and 'movie logic'.

Most Magick works normally. However, attempting to use Space 4 to leave the Hedge is always considered Vulgar, as that breaks the pact between those in the Hedge and the Hedge and the Hedge itself, unless used conjunctionally with Fate 3 (Alter Oath.) However, Fae creatures (including Hobgoblins, Changelings and Gentry) know that the very powers of destiny are being tampered with by right of the original creators of the universe. The Verbena cite this as the mandate of the Wyck, and it is never used lightly. Dreamspeakers instead use Road Master (Spirit 4) combined with Mind 3, although this is a Tradition spirit walking secret - for Dreamspeakers this is Covert, while for other Mages who somehow learn of the Technique it is Vulgar. The Hermetic Merinita also use Space 4 conjunctional with Prime 3, as according to the Emerald Tablets men and women are the masters of all worlds - this is a Vulgar spell. Merinita usually use this as a last ditch method of escape, as they are wont to bargain with Changeling courts or Gentry for Keys and location of Trods before hand. The Void Engineers use a version of the Space 4, Prime 3 Technique when leading in Border Corps commando teams. All of these groups have techniques to protect their sanity before entering the hedge, usually involving religious observance, sacrifice, meditation and purification. These are specialty rotes that protect a Mage or his or her companions from Morality loss while in the Hedge. Only the Dreamspeakers and Verbena can protect themselves from Avatar degradation while physically present, and the Akashic Brotherhood usually travels to the Hedge or Arcadia in Astral form. An Akashic Brother may retreat to the Akashic Record at any time, but may only enter the Hedge through a normal Hedge portal, some of which can be found in Astral Space in the Tenemos. Astral Travellers may not effect the Hedge physically, but are immune to Avatar degradation, and must use appropriate conjunctional magick to effect the Hedge's physical reality.

Awakened in the Hedge without protection lose one dot of Avatar Merit rating per hour spent in the Hedge. Mages also lose Quintessence (Mana) as described in Changeling: The Lost, and suffer the usual Morality effects listed for humans.

The Verbena use secret rotes such as Paths of the Wyck (Mind 3, Spirit 3) to protect their souls, so long as they keep on the Path - this is actually the name of a set of rotes that the Verbena use for safe hedge travel. Dream Speakers are protected from Avatar degradation by the presence of their Totem familiars. Akashic Brothers do not suffer Avatar degradation if they are in the Hedge astrally, and Jnani sect brothers may take advantage of Totem Familiars for soul protection. Void Engineer commandoes have none of these protections, but usual archetypal probability mappers (Fate 1, Space 2) to make their way through the Hedge and have Emergency Quantum Relocators (Space 4, Prime 3, Mind 4) to rip a hole in reality to teleport an entire team back to a safe area, usually with massive Union backup present to destroy any Fae monstrositoes that may follow through the ragged gate. The NWO provides such teams with Social Conditioning Reinforcement (Mind 4, Fate 1) to keep operatives sane until they come back. All Technocracy methods are considered Vulgar if used in the Hedge.

Verbena, due to the ancient pacts struck between the Wyck and the Tuaatha De Danaan, can use Space spells in the Hedge as covert magick - by far, the Verbena make the best Awakened guides through the Hedge. Verbena Trod Runners are well educated in regards to the dangers and routes through the local Hedge, and often use the Hedge as a resource in much the same way that Dreamspeakers use the local Shadow. Some Verbena cabals even work with Changelings to set up Hollows, and the Verbena are wise in the lore of Goblin Fruits, Tokens, and Goblin Markets. However, Verbena make it plainly clear - the Hedge is exceedingly dangerous for anyone who is not a Hobgoblin or Gentry. The first words of advice that Verbena lend anyone in regards to the Hedge, especially other Awakened, is, "get out."

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