The Extraordinary Mundane
Nothing to see here: at a glance, Aletheia is the posterchild for modern day mundanity, determined to remain optimistic in the face of static colored skies and uncaring bottom lines. She works a cooking job, pays rent, and otherwise keeps to herself. Like all humans living through their lives, she appears to have accumulated her share of eccentricities: living with a sentient porcelain doll; stocking her kitchen with a wide variety of exotic herbs, chalk, powdered metals, and stones; a proclivity for odd patterns painted on windows and doorways. A curious mind might stumble across a curious story--or the lack thereof: before the spring of 2020, Aletheia Chaunce did not exist in San Francisco. In fact, she did not exist on Earth. Nothing to see here indeed.
"Who am I? Ooh, I always love being truthful about this one."
Aletheia is rarely if ever not acting, even if it is only subtly. Perhaps she has forgotten how, or never learned not to. Over time, some might come to describe her as generally cheerful and often whimsical , in the oddly intent and sometimes manipulative way of the fae. The changeling appreciates the vague and cryptic as much as any truth bound fae might, with a particular enjoyment for the ominous which she occasionally indulges. The cold hard remains of chronic mistrust and never trusting in turn which may have once been bitterness have since coalesced into a subtle spiteful streak.
Acting is an entirely inadequate description for the truth-weaving of the fae; the nigh-preternatural instinct for wearing, reading, and crafting with emotion that has instructed Aletheia's entire life.
Alchemy is the process of harvesting, rendering, and combining various reagents to accomplish a specific task, such as transmuting elements or brewing potions; it is also the vehicle through which enchanting is worked. It is a highly interpretive process, where recipes take the place of ritual diagrams. As a form of magic, alchemy is most commonly performed by brewing potions, which allow for the preparation of an effect in advance. Stored in the potion, this spell can then be used quickly at a later time.
The knowledge of cooking and preparing food with the proper ingredients, and the skills to use well-known and less well-known kitchen implements. Aletheia's particular specialty lies beyond the mundane, where it blurs the line between cooking and alchemy--the changeling knows recipes and techniques to alter or enhance food and drink for flavor, texture, and more exotic effects.
Even relegated to the unenviable position of utility and entertainment for the Spring Court, it would be difficult to be raised in Faerie without learning the dances and songs of its culture. Some fast, others slow, all the dances Aletheia knows are flavored with the eternity of her fae-home.
Through story and song and bartered secrets, Aletheia has--over time--gained a patchwork understanding of the dangers and places which lie in and between the worlds. Mostly self-taught, this is her knowledge of the greater meta-cosmos and inner workings of things old, mysterious, and esoteric.
This represents knowledge of using and identifying painting tools, surfaces, paints, and interactions between the three. Notably, the experience and skill to work with many different kinds of surfaces; where Aletheia lacks in artistic depth, she makes up for it in practical breadth.
Aletheia has a knack for noticing easily overlooked or very minor details. These are often but not always concerning the physical or magical nature of things.
Aletheia has some talent and familiarity with singing from her time in the Spring Court, but it is mostly untrained potential. Her gift is in voice modulation and control, which would serve her well should she ever decide to pursue the art of song.
Aletheia has a natural sense for the emotion of life around her, being able to synesthetically perceive saturation as warmth and quality as taste or smell. Not overly precise, it works best with a singular entity in close proximity or to establish a sense of atmosphere with crowds, but too much conflicting emotion leads to nothing but headaches and stress. Aletheia has no conscious control over the ability; like sight or touch, it is always passively operating.
The most dangerous of enchantments are those carried out on one's self. This was the result of Aletheia's only attempt. At a glance, the enchantress is able to discern material composition, precise dimensions and quantities, latent or active magical properties, and assess other useful physical and metaphysical information about the world; it includes even internal mechanisms, attached parts, or aspects which would not otherwise be readily discernable. A passive, always-active part of her brain, it is impossible to consciously dim or disable in any way. Visible signs of the enchantment are in Aletheia's eye color. Once ordinary blue, her irises now appear to range the whole spectrum of blues in a gradient of impossibly fine bands, darkest nearest the sclera and brightening as they near the pupil. The result is exotic and perhaps captivating; possibly unsettling.
Enchantment is the alchemical practice of combining various reagents to accomplish a specific task, such as permanently altering objects, people, or places. Where most study alchemy as a ritualistic process of cooking or recipes, replicable by most anyone, Aletheia has learned the secret to spring court enchantment: the proper spells and methods to incorporating the fae affinity for growth and eternity into the spellcraft. Time and preparation remain vitally important; the primary difference between alchemy and enchanting is in the ability to enhance permanently or pervasively as opposed to the prepared spontaneity of potion brewing. Cooking alchemical spells into food or forging them into doors or sewing them into clothes, mixing magically enhanced paints for inscribing runes or sigils or makeup-based glamor's, supernatural solutions to pedestrian struggles like cheap and effective conditioner for curly hair, and generally the ability to marry magic with the mundane--these are the purview of enchantment.
Warding magic allows the user to create barriers or wards, preventing entry or passage into a certain area. This might apply to physical beings or objects, as well as various types of ethereal presences or energies. Warding is also commonly used to protect the user or an given area from unwanted magical effects. In addition to cooking, cleaning, and entertaining the court, Aletheia learned to serve her fae masters and mistresses in another way: wards. While the most basic of these were a matter of survival in Faerie--a simple ward for poison or against basic illusions--Aletheia's instruction was in more permanent, less instantaneous protections. The complicated diagrams and sigils require stable surfaces, preparation, and effort, trading ease of use for persistence.
There is, perhaps ironically, no guile or illusion in the physical resemblance Aletheia shares with the ethereal fae of the world she spent her life in; she is pretty, in the way of a falling snowflake or a night-blooming flower, and that is a kind of presence she has learned to cultivate into proper charisma for use in her masks.
Between a gift for empathy, a learned ability to read others, and her studies into enchantment, Aletheia is preternaturally predisposed to making sense of the world and its people.
The spark, the talent, the gift: the faculty for enacting magic has many names. The truth remains that Aletheia's own is incomplete. Like a cracked vessel or a fireplace, there is infrastructure, but its fuel or contents is ephemeral and finite. Only the excess emotions of others can help replenish what is quick to empty. All of her supernatural abilities, with the exception of her empathic sense, present a drain to her spark, including those which are passive--this is a reservoir which tends toward empty. Magic very literally alters what it means to perceive the world and losing it is like withdrawal: colors are less vivid; details are less detailed; it becomes difficult for Aletheia to focus on a world that feels--by comparison--flat and uninteresting. Feeding only requires a source of emotional output--the more intense, the better. This can be one person in close proximity or many, but it must be actively projecting; lingering emotion is either to faint or too nebulous to sustain her. Under regular circumstances, Aletheia must feed at least once every three days or begin to display symptoms of her affliction. These include anxiousness, grumpiness, and, as a result, a more pronounced lean into her inner fae, emotionally manipulating others to feel strongly about something and act on what they feel. This feeding is not strictly parasitic. People will not suffer any additional side effects other than the results of their actions, but as strong emotion is the most filling, these actions on their own can sometimes have dramatic consequences.
Aletheia is a changeling and an escapee from home--Faerie. She made tenuous pacts and cut corners frighteningly close to arteries, all in the name of saving her only friend, who happens to be an animated porcelain doll. The result was an untenably precarious position in the court where she was raised, having run dry of meager curried favor and harboring some dangerous debts. Running away with what she knows amounts to one of her master's most prized possessions was only adding salt to the stew. If the changeling is not already being hunted, then She would certainly be welcomed home with open arms and closed bars.
Aletheia knows Faerie better than she knows Earth; she has more experience with fae than humanity. Much was sacrificed to weave and read stories, but only now is the loss beginning to make itself known. Only after fleeing home with her best and only friend is the question beginning to take form: is this something she wants returned?
Touched by the Faerie which became her home, contact with forged iron results in welts and hives, much as an allergic reaction. Prolonged contact--upwards of a minute--functions more like acid as the irritation progresses to painful blistering, and eventually progressively more severe burns. Handling steel is itchy and uncomfortable, but otherwise harmless.
As a human, as a fae, and as an enchantress, Aletheia is a social creature, depending on people as much as she wishes for them to depend on her. Unsurprisingly, isolation is one of the changeling's greatest fears: to be stripped of all she dreams and pretends to be.
Aletheia has--in some secret corner of her heart--embraced the Faerie, and it her: promises and oaths bind her to keeping them, as well as ensuring that humans keep up their ends of any bargains made. If she makes a promise thrice, it is as closely bound as she can be.
Between a very real sense for the emotions of those around her and a sight that provides more information than she sometimes cares for, prolonged exposure to places of great turmoil or clutter can result in migraines and general discomfort. Physical clutter can be mitigated by organization and familiarity; emotional clutter can be pacified by hunger or distance.
Aletheia has--in some secret corner of her heart--embraced the Faerie, and it her: like true fae, she is bound to speak only the literal truth. This does not mean she cannot mislead or manipulate, and indeed as is the case with many fae, she is gifted at leading those who would treat with her as one astray while never speaking a false word.
Recently fled from Faerie with her only friend, Aletheia has no legal records, no identification, no believable claims to asylum, and barely a claim to a habitable place. She works off the books and by the charity of others, and short of illicit dealings or supernatural intervention, no path to acquiring legal immigrant status anytime soon--or possibly ever.
Sometimes fae steal children from their cradles for their own inscrutable games.
Once upon a time, Aletheia lived on Earth, born to two parents she cannot remember. She was raised, if there is such a term for fae, as a very tiny helpless curiosity in the realm of Faerie, in the lands of the Spring Court. Efforts were communal and commitments transient, like a dance of ownership. From Faerie she drank and ate and clothed; in Faerie she bathed and grew and shorn; with Faerie did she learn and play and sleep: so of Faerie would she be, from then unto forever. But when the changeling dreamed, she dreamed of an anxious fluttery voice and a heated deeper one, of odd structures and ground of solid stone, trees and a great stone arch over the water. Her first word was picked from this strange sea of foreign dreams: "Kensi."
Over time, the circle of fae who traded the changeling between them dwindled fewer and fewer, until only one remained. He would be her master from the age of four onward, her instructor in court etiquette, the stories of things, and in the strengths of spring. "The role of a changeling is to change. Change yourself, change others." There was much nuance to her story the child would not come to learn until much later, but these are the words that stayed with her.
From the child to the apprentice, from the change in stories to the magic of change, the focus of her studies gradually shifted. Most importantly, with age came greater responsibility in the workings of the court. As she found herself better understanding the meaning of apprentice and the purpose of changeling, the pressure to participate in stories and dances increased.
An apprentice learned. A changeling changed. Stolen away and taught the lore of Faerie and its inhabitants, they presented something new, something different, and something not entirely fae. So it was only natural then, that she would try to learn to be fae. The apprentice served, cooked, danced, and worked to please her betters; the changeling stole, learned, and unearthed secrets with which to bargain. These together would become her name, something that grew and wrapped itself around her: "Aletheia."
The hardest lesson Aletheia would learn was the one about trust. Fae did not, as a general rule, trust outside of those circle and alliances they formed. As a changeling, it seemed the only truly unified front was the one not involving her. From this the bitter girl learned well, not even realizing the humanity she traded to immerse herself in Faerie.
Between the ages of four and sixteen, Aletheia had two other masters. The first knew her for nine springs and nine autumns, by far the longest even if it may have seemed the width of a breath to the wizened enchanter. The second was a painter who--after four springs, three autumns--lost her apprenticeship to a game of chance with an eccentric sculptor.
Sculpting and enchanting, there was one other thing besides the fae noble was known for: metalworking. Despite his high standing in the court, the master was also seen as somewhat of an eccentric at best and corrupt at worse. He was a maker of clockwork creatures; his most ambitious project to animate fully sentient life. This grasp of the master's work led Aletheia to firmly believe in the latter. Not that the opinions of an apprentice and changeling ever held much weight in the courts.
Titleless and nameless, the porcelain construct was the perfect servant. It would be a lie to say the connection was instant--in fact, the fae child knew the place of something without a story and with no claim to one in this world. To Aletheia, the doll was a useful thing; a strange and questionable project, but a project nonetheless. Yet as an apprentice, their roles were not to dissimilar, and if the doll ventured into curiosity or displayed character, who was she to stop her? If the construct asked questions, why should she refrain from answering? In this awkward stilted way, in the stretches of time when their master was not about to supervise, something like companionship sprouted between them.
And at length, In the story of two souls bound together through a lack of belief in freedom, their connection strengthened and flourished into proper trust; trust into an idea so alien as to be unrealized--friendship.
There was one other thing alien to the changeling. Nearly forgotten, shriveled and mostly cut away, what remained of who she could have been stirred in the unexpected nourishment. A year past; a plan brewed to help her friend escape to somewhere she might have a chance of being someone.
Failure was complete and catastrophic. Her master's displeasure bore down upon them both, and punishments were cruel and plenty. There was a particular fondness for having the apprentice enchantress learn at the expense of the enchanted servant, that they might sever their own bonds. For Aletheia, something else was lost: changelings had their place in Faerie, however meager. Changelings who played games against high sidhe and lost much less so.
But apprentices and servants are nothing if not resourceful. In the darkness of a broom closet, in the secrecy of narrative, a promise was forged. Power was offered in the naming of something which did not have one, instilling it with the hope they would need to survive. "Kensington Gardens," Aletheia proposed; "Kensi," Kensi agreed. Against all odds, they remained strong, emotionally latching onto the only thing they could--each other.
In fact, with the exception of her porcelain friend, Aletheia flung herself into the never-ending story with an intense kind of focus that would come to define her. Over the course of a year, Aletheia spent every last drop of favor and fortune she had accumulated--and much she had not, to pay later with fae interest--in the pursuit of a better plan. One that would have to account for both of them escaping. Unlike Kensi, the spring court may have been a place Aletheia could have eventually grown to belong. Such was the case no longer.
At the end of the third year, their second plan was set in motion. The master distracted, his laboratory sabotaged, and possessing only a crude understanding of venturing through the ways, they set about escaping Faerie. With Kensi the torch and Aletheia its shadow, they would have been lost alone. Together, they barely succeeded.
It has been approximatley two months since their bedraggled arrival to not quite Kensington Gardens: San Francisco, appearing disoriented and exhausted somewhere amidst the trees of the Golden Gate Park. The first few weeks were trying. Employment at a local cafe and a place to stay have helped, but the future remains uncertain and precarious. In the wake of a storm, it remains to be seen what--if anything--survived to blossom in a world as alien as Earth.
Logs featuring Aletheia Chaunce: