Changelings, Children of the Veil
|A few examples of changelings. If they are lucky enough to survive into late adulthood, they can become quite powerful mages and may be welcome into the human world again. After the Sage of Dimensions' time, they have an easier time making a subculture of magedom for themselves.|
|Lifespan||Varies based on what being adopted them, and how they choose to live.|
|Homeland/Main Continent/Home Country||Mostly in Tovera-however, where there are neighbors, there are changelings.|
|Skin Tone||Ranges from pale to dark shades, as they were once one of the mortal species-though some would argue they were never mortal at all.|
|Size||Usually Medium, but can be small or even large if adopted by certain neighbors.|
|Is a Magedom Culture Present?||Yes.|
|Can Have Offspring With Humanoids?||Yes|
|Can Have Offspring with Neighbors?||Yes|
In ancient Tovera and beyond, many folktales tell of men, women, and children gaining the traits of neighbors. The Thaumaturge, a now renowned ancient sage among their followers and humanoids/oddfolk, wrote the above passage (translated from ancient Ichorian) about these people, as they dedicated their life to understanding wild magic and those that wield it. Considered the forefather/mother of all Thaumaturge mage disciplines, the Thaumaturge made a link between these stories and a few people they have met in their lifetime, thus piquing interest in changelings in their adventures through the hidden side of magedom.
Upon the disappearance of the Thaumaturge, mages in both factions have attempted to find these fabled people and perhaps understand them better. However, due to the rarity of these folk and their high rates of death, it hasn't been easy to record them, and thus, they are the hardest humanoids to gather information on. Mages in both factions, however, managed to gather some information in them thanks to examining their bodies after death and comparing them to the few neighbor specimens they have on hand.
Changelings are a rare species of people considered a "mage species" by Torchbearer mages. As a whole, Torchbearers seem to agree that changelings, though it seems that they have changed from a mortal species to a new one, were born predisposed to the change, thus making them humanoids and not humans from birth. Torchbearers have concluded that these people have a similar history to that of Thaumaturges, being the targets of witch hunts and being called inhuman at birth due to their affinity for wild magic. However, Torchbearers believe that changelings are where the origin of "witches" as a type of neighbor originated in old times, as many changelings are born with traits that distinguish them from Thaumaturge babies, such as elfin ears or beast-like eyes, something not even Thaumaturge children have as heirs to wild magic.
As all beings in the world of Eostella have innate magic, this is now considered an inaccurate label-that, and now, witch refers to a mage discipline. Torchbearer mages still believe in the "born as a neighbor, not created upon crossing planes" part of this label, however. It is suspected by Torchbearers that due to a neighbor and human eloping in the bloodline, by a woman having the favor of gods, spirits, or fairies, or by typical neighbor trickery, the baby from two mortal parents is "lost" or "switched" at birth, meaning the magic all beings are born with goes haywire in the child from non-human intereference as the child develops. In the mind of Torchbearers, this then predisposes the developing child to transforming into a new form entirely, jumping planes, and associating with neighbors around the age of puberty, often doing all three in an attempt to meet their benefactors, or "real" family that helped sire them in the womb. For this reason, changelings are classified as neighbor type people, and babies born with abnormaly high magic potential outside of Thaumaturge circles are subjected to DNA tests and close examinations by mages to ensure they are human to their core before joining magedom or society.
Thaumaturges believe in a more uplifting theory, one of blessings and the true embodiment of magic as chaos. Thaumaturges believe that, within the womb, the child is heir to a deep, chaotic well of magic, well beyond that of even Thaumaturges. Unlike Thaumaturge children's deep well of magic, which is gained from generations of people in their families using magic to maintain the balance between the spirit world and human world, it is believed that for changelings, it can be caused by divine favor, neighbor ancestry, or, in their eyes, the most likely explaination, by chance, as magic can be unpredictable. As this child grows into an adult, the well of magic within, which rivals most mortal's magic well, makes it impossible to live with mortals, who fear their power or want to abuse it. Thus, they go to the other side, submitting to the only beings that can tolerate their appearance or power. This is widely accepted by Thaumaturges due to the fact that Thaumaturges often encounter wild magic in their work, understand that neighbor-like qualities can easily lead to alienation from peers, and Thaumaturges have similar origins (personally and historically) to changelings, thus they are better able to understand how they are made (recall the old definition of witch).
Whatever the case may be, the changeling, born with wild magic similar to that of a neighbor, and usuually born with some neighbor-like features, jumps planes for their own reasons, usually due to alienation from peers and inability to control their magic. After the jump, the plane changes them and they are no longer human after being influenced by the realms beyond the mortal one. Most changelings have access to a pseudo-neighbor form that acts as a less powerful version of their adopted kinfolk, and like werefolk, their transformation is physical through and through. Magic allows them to change the shape of their bodies as if it were clay, and so both forms taken are their "true" form.
Their neighbor-like qualities and transformations makes them shunned by Torchbearers at worst, and fascinating to them from a mage biologist standpoint at best. On the flip side, Changelings are often beloved by werefolk, vampires, Thaumaturges, humanoid clans, and of course, the neighbors themselves. They can easily find support and accomodation among those who are close to the veil, but life on the mortal side tends to be one of secrecy and isolation or of hiding in plain sight, with little in between. Therefore, changelings, being born in this world yet adopting another as a home for a while, just to come back changed forever, have some of the most complex relationships to humans, mages, and the societies they occupy out of all neighbors in the world.
Lurk (Behind the Veil), Zip Your Lips (Outside of it), Find Your "Pack" (Between the Veil) - The Pillars of Changeling (Sub)Culture
Changelings have one saying in their communities, which they pass on to changelings not in the know:
All peoples born anew by the power of the veil and shunned by the light of the Torch, heed these words:
Lurk behind the veil for as long as possible, so that you may live to see another day.
Keep your mouth closed and your newly blessed ears open, for the world of man is safe for you no longer.
Lastly, keep your eyes unclouded, your ears and heart open, and your head held up high-find us-seek out your people, and let us watch over one another.
Let us love and be loved, unholy bodies in one another's unholy arms.
It is unknown who made this warning, but it has been translated and passed around changeling communities, of which there are very few, for a long, long time. Changelings are rarely free from scrutiny until they find one another and are given guidance to navigate the world they left or were snatched away from. As such, it is better to stay in the plane one was adopted into or stay behind the veil and survive until you find an opportunity in mortal realm that will allow you to kickstart your mortal life. Then, when one have the means, find other changelings so that they can be a support system for the changeling. This being said, the advice has been tweaked, as changelings find that sometimes this advice puts their kinfolk in bad situations. The quote, while well meaning, encourages living among humans as best as one can while searching for other changelings, which can be dangerous for changelings in the long run.
This is because changelings, especially newly returned ones, are usually out of the loop on how the magic underground works in the mortal realm, having been so even as children, and so they often can't find others of their kind. Combine this with the overbearing eyes of Torchbearer mages, the lack of resources for the homeless in the mortal realm, the way changelings are masters of hiding in plain sight (which means they accidentally hide from each other) and we have a recipe for disaster. As such, changelings often stay in the plane they were adopted into to avoid this problem altogether, though some live like a neighbor on the mortal plane does-behind the veil, acting as mischievous or benevolent neighbors for people they like or dislike.
If they are lucky enough to have found their footing in the mortal realm, they often live in isolation, in countrysides, or if bold, in cities, and find themselves battling addictions or mental health issues, as the isolation of being a changeling can be stressful, on top of preexisting social issues such as sexuality, gender, disability, or race. It isn't uncommon for changelings to be found dead by mages in both factions. The spotted graves left nameless in the countrysides, in miscellaneous graveyards in towns and cities, and deep in biomes remind all changelings to not return to the mortal side of the veil without a solid plan.
However, there are those who DO flourish in the mortal realm-though they are less common than those who attempt to assimilate, there are some changelings that tend lead double lives as they use their magic in working-class artisan/mage work. It is these changelings that work hard to find and support their own, as well as other peoples that are threatened by Torchbearer mage's gaze, learning about the magic underground and creating communities for their kind to retreat to. Unfortunately, these types are rare, as many changelings are afraid to be caught leading a double life if they choose to use their magic. As a result, the former type is much more common, which leads to the pitied reputation changelings have among Thaumaturges, other humanoids, and neighbors.
Changelings come in a few types, but they all have overlap. Changelings are typically taken in by or spirited away by a clan of mythical beasts, folk, or creatures. Typically, these neighbors, the beastial types included, have humanlike sentience and have a social structure of some kind. Whatever the case may be, jumping to a new plane, or being taken to a new plane fundementally changes the biology of the mortal, taking the (usually already) wild magic within them and using that magic to adapt to the new environment-hence their ability to transform, their ability to harness wild magic beyond what Thaumaturges can wield, and the connection creatures of the night feel to them.
As changelings are very neighbor-like, the magic within them is wild and reactive, begging to be used frequently. As such, repression can cause sickness, fatigue, or flare ups. Similar to kitsune, tanuki, werewolves, and other shapeshifting peoples, changelings are meant to be able to switch between forms on the fly, use magic when needed, and hone their skills in magic and transformation to live healthily-however, on the mortal plane, this must be done in secret, or they risk attracting the gaze of Torchbearers. As a result, changelings that live among mortals and are determined to live without their magic prowess are very sickly since they cannot find a magic outlet like their brethren that were able to find the magic underground.
Despite the many downsides to being a changeling, here are good sides to being one, such as changeling culture, where vibrant nature of the few small communities that do exist shine through the gloom, hidden from Torchbearer sight due to the stealthy nature of changelings, especially in groups. As most of them accept each other's wild natures, their communities are full of people that are creative, kind, and community-oriented. It isn't uncommon to see changelings support guilds made by one, providing food, adventuring gear, and branding help behind the veil so they can spend their mortal realm money on other things. It also isn't uncommon for changelings to try and scout areas for newly arrived changelings on the mortal plane, though this is often unsucessful due to the isolated nature of portals to other planes.
Another positive aspect of changeling culture is the cultural fusion of their communities and their solidarity with other humanoids and Thaumaturges. As people can often be spirited away by foreign gods and spirits, it isn't uncommon to see people of a certain ethnicity adopt another culture as their own, despite not being born in that location exactly. This impacts the food and clothing of changelings, to the point where the world influence gives them a vibrant look that can't be replicated by mortals untouched by the gods and spirits of the world. As for the solidarity they feel with humanoids and Thaumaturges, they often work together with the misc. species of the land to help facilitate the economy of the humanoid communities and support their limited way of life, while for Thaumaturges they help detect disturbances within leylines and dangerous gods and spirits awakening.
So, while changeling life is defined by strife and struggle under the eye of mages and the lack of accomodation in their lives, those who keep their hearts and minds open to love and connection can find a vibrant pocket of comfort in the world if they keep looking-and who knows-maybe, one day, changelings can find love and support outside of the veil, but also from those on the mortal side of it. Post The Little Guild on the Hill, changeling communities behind the veil are greatly expanded, to mortal world business fronts to more towns and cities in general behind the veil, thanks to the hard work of the Sage of Dimensions and the King of Blooms.
Many changelings, despite their magic affinity, do not use it, simply prefering to use their physical prowess instead, or only use magic for minor things. Therefore, despite being neighbors, there are many changelings who are not mages, despite having the skill for it. "Sublunary" changelings can refer to those who have integrated into sublunary mortal society (mostly human society) or those who help their communities without magic (such as humanoid hamlets and human settlements). "Sublunary" is in quotes here because changelings can never really be Sublunary in a true sense of the word-Sublunaries are those who are deaf to the magic world at all, and only see the surface of magedom-changelings are well aware of the gods and spirits of the world, as well as the magic politics of the world, and so they are a part of the magic world, no matter how they choose to live.
This being said, changelings of this type prefer simple lives, where they live mostly like a magically empowered mortal. For those who somehow live among humans in specific, it is very common for them to work in fields no one else really wants to, or in fields where they can sneak magic into the service provided to increase sales, such as mixing special spices made from plants from other planes, or using special runes to fortify buildings. For those who live with fellow changelings, humanoids, or with neighbors (in spiritgrounds), they act as magically inclined civilians, facilitating the economy of their communities with their spending activity, traveling between settlments to trade and sell, and sometimes going into bigger human settlements in a human guise to sell and trade goods as well.
Unfortunately, changelings that live among humans often have high rates of death from mental health related issues and drug activity, thanks to the isolation they feel in everyday life, the barriers to improving their life that they face, and the possibility of being caught by Torchbearer mages, who see them as threats, place them in the wilderness out of misguided attempts to help, or see them as a possible scientific venture. And, due to the fact that they are far away from where changelings that are among their kin do live, it is hard for them to find healing and community before these traumas happen, as they usually have no idea communities made for them or communities that welcome them even exist. Sublunary Changelings that live with other changelings, humanoids, Thaumaturges, and neighbors tend to live happy, long lives, but as mentioned, this is rare for this type to find.
Magic is inherent to all beings in Eostella, but for neighbors this is doubly so, as they are heirs to wild magic. While mortals have to struggle to access the wild magic within, for neighbors this wild magic is their default state of being. Changelings are no different-due to the change in biology they go through, on top of the magic whey already wielded as mortals, changelings have access to a well of magic mortals take years to develop from within. This means that many changelings can access elemental magic without calling on a neighbor, take leyline roads to travel, can hide behind the veil, and transform their physical bodies into a whole new form. For this reason, they are seen a "mage species," and are thus always considered a type of mage, no matter the lifestyle they choose. This being said, changeling mages can still be differencianted from their more quiet brethren, as they have a more complicated relationship to the world than those who settle.
Changeling mages have various ways of surviving the human world. Using their magical prowess, they charm Torchbearers and the humans around them with their uniquely deviant magic and skills learned among their adopted kinfolk-magic that is only seen in fairy tales, or magic so powerful it can benefit mortals. As a result, changeling mages are often ringmasters, actors, bards, adventurers, guild makers/headmasters, and other jobs that allow them to hide their wild magic in plain sight. By doing so, they can use their magic without being questioned by mages or sublunary mortals alike, and prevent the magic within from going wild from surpression. In the case of artisan jobs, most people are too focused on the uniqueness of the art that anything defying explaination is simply a part of the art-and for those who use their magic for adventuring and working class mage work in guilds, commissioners do not care how a job is done as long as they get the service they asked for, thus allowing the changelings to complete jobs unsupervised and out of mortal sight. In some cases, changelings that are super powerful may patron communities as minor deities or spirits, and in turn are gifted food and drink, though this route is rare due to the risk of being detected by Torchbearers.
Changeling mages are also active in humanoid and Thaumaturge circles, as they usually live long enough to find these folk, support them with their magic, and be supported in turn. Changeling mages are also more likely to kickstart changeling-based communities to ensure the survival of their friends and chosen families, using their day jobs to pool money and resources for one another behind the veil. By being careful, they can live a double life where they support and be supported by the few peoples that are not hostile to their existence, and help and entertain mortals for money and support in the mortal world, leading to a decent living despite the possibility of being found out by Torchbearers.
Both job types (artisan work and adventuring work) are hard work, and are not always easy on the mind and body-however, for many changelings it beats having no income at all and living in the wilds, or trying to live like a human civillian just to fail consistently and cope with poor mental health. While changeling mages often try to scout for their kind that chose to settle as sublunaries in strictly human settlements, it often ends in failure due to the clever ways changelings hide among people, hiding from one another by accident. In good news, the fact that changeling mages make commmunties at all had lead to at least some changelings finding them and thus, gaining a place in the world.
Relationship to Humans and Other Humanoids
All fairy tales have a seed of truth. Changelings and humans have a strained relationship, as many changelings have died at the hands of humans more than any other mortal species. As a result, changelings tend to have a hard time opening their hearts to man, prefering to commune with humanoids, mages decended from those persecuted for their connection to the veil (Thaumaturges), or neighbors instead.
This bias starts in mortal life, as those born as mortal heirs to wild magic (outside of Thaunaturge circles) have a penchant for running to another plane for protection, and for good reason. It is people born as heirs to wild magic that have been burned at the stake, have traits in their behavior and physical appearance that attract ridicule, or have been deemed demons. As a result, these folk tend to lean on the neighbors for support, which then leads to jumping planes, as they have no mage communities around to help them like Thaumaturge children are born into.
As mentioned in the "Sublunary" Changeling section, a normal life is nigh impossible for changelings because of humans, mostly Torchbearer mages. This is because Torchbearer mages are in charge of regulating magic law and are the last line of defense for when neighbors breach human settlements. Torchbearer mages, even those who are not hostile to neighbors, see it as their duty to make sure that Sublunaries not only find out that many of the beings they no longer fear are real and alive, but also to make sure they do not fall victim to the shenanigans of the neighbors. As a result, Torchbearers often do not tolerate changelings living among humans, not even as mages in their service-they want to keep the line between human and non-human as separate as possible for the comfort of sublunary mortals.
Not all is lost for changelings, however. Also mentioned above, changelings get along quite well with humanoid clans. From Tovera's classic spread of elves, halflings, orcs, and dwarves, to the gorgons, werefolk, and dragon people of distant lands, changelings find that they can thrive in the humanoid society that bustles under human's noses. Though many changelings are out of the loop that these communities exist, those that do find them find them less suffocating and oppressive than life among humans and Torchbearer mages.
Changelings also make their own hamlets behind the veil, made up of other changelings, though they are much harder to find that a humanoid settlement due to the rarity of changelings. These hamlets act similarly to immigrant communities in the sublunary world, where the changelings pool money and resources to support one another.
Furthermore, there is one group of humans that changelings get along with, that being Thaumaturge mages, mortals that are heirs to wild magic and are called to monitor the neighbors of their lands. Thaumaturges, tasked with overseeing the relationship between neighbors and humans in their lands, tend to support changelings, humanoids, and the communities they make, as it also helps them in their own line of work. Thaumaturges are considered honorary changelings to many changelings that do find them, as their histories are very similar.
Relationship to the Neighbors
Changelings are changelings because of their link to the other side. Thanks to being born with wilder magic compared to their peers, it draws them to those who also share this trait: the neighbors.
Neighbors, like people, come in good and bad, even within a species. There are many who whisk mortals away to do horrific acts of violence against them-there are also many who take in mortals to help the mortal escape bad circumstances. Therefore, each individual changeling has their own relationship with the neighbors, with some recalling sweet memories, other recalling fighting for their lives.
As mortals, changelings usually have a talent for communicating with the other side to begin with, or have traits similar to neighbors which signals their deviant magic type. This can range from shapeshifting, to healing wounds with their tears or touch, to seeing future possibilities, or any other kind of deviant wild magic abilities. However, something goes awry; perhaps the magedom of their country is not diligent in their recruiting of new mages; perhaps Thaumaturges cannot reach out in time to support the mage, and so the mage is left confused at their odd powers. Whatever the case may be, the mage now only has one source of support, that being in the neighbors, and thus, the neighbors can become a source of comfort, causing the mage jump planes to find an explaination for their powers, to find support, to not feel alone.
Thus begins the personal connection changelings have to neighbors. Many changelings see the neighbors' species or clan as their adopted clan or ethnicity-it isn't uncommon for changelings to talk about the neighbors that took them in as if they are a part of their society or family, even in the human world. It is for this reason that changelings are considered honorary demi-versions of the species that took them in-someone spirited away to the realm of the fairies will be treated as if they are half-fairy; someone spirited away by a divine beast to their own plane will be considered half divine beast. This being said, not all changelings feel the same-many see themselves as an entirely new being, or feel little to no connection with their adopted kinfolk, especially if their time with the neighbors was unpleasant. What is universal, however, is that changelings have an upper hand in communicating with neighbors and asking for their help because of this connection, and thus, make great Theurgists.