Domina Cultures – Changelings

Songs are for children and fools. We have more important things to worry about.”

Eccretia of the Never-Known Thieves

When the fey first announced themselves and their Hunts, they had slaves with them. Hideous, mutated beasts that were so changed and tortured that they couldn’t even be called monsters. Fey monsters were powerful and dangerous, but these usually couldn’t even stand up straight. Every single one was different, and no one knew where they came from.

The answer came quickly when one of them escaped the fey and found Isaac Clarke. The creature managed to speak, and Clarke realized that it was a person. He removed all its fey toys, leaving only a teenage boy with blue hair. Two more joined him within the next few days: An older man, and a young girl. All three had lost their memories and even their names. In time, they made up names for themselves, bizarre and fanciful names to spit in the faces of the fey who had tortured and ignored them. They were Feless of the Firstborn, Meldiniktine of the Forgotten Names, and Eccretia of the Never-Known Thieves.

Soon, more changelings were found and rescued. They followed in the footsteps of the first three, taking strange names and dedicating themselves to fighting the fey. While the three had no desire to lead anyone, the other changelings disagreed. A young man who called himself Galgurus was the first to make it official, pledging his life to Eccretia of the Never-Known Thieves. Other changelings quickly followed suit, turning the Firstborn and the Forgotten Names into powerful gangs.

In theory, the changelings are not a culture. They resolutely refuse to use the toy maker except indirectly, and they do not claim domains in the same way as others. They typically insist that they are nothing but an organization of baselines dedicated to fighting the fey.

The truth is, the changelings have a strong claim to being one of the oldest and most powerful cultures. Every time a slave escapes from the fey, the toy maker is used to revert them to human form, and they are named a changeling. They then make up a name and choose a clan. They can even create a new clan if they wish, though these usually end up folded under the existing clans before long. Nine were founded in the first few months, but over the years that number has slowly gone up.

Since the changelings refuse to use the toy maker—except for their initial reversion—they needed another way to fight. Meldiniktine was the one who first decided to try computer hacking against the fey. It worked surprisingly well. The fey had technology, machines and cameras to build their monsters or spy on the city. Since they never left their toy boxes, everything had to be remote operated, which meant it could be hacked. Lil’wan even managed to hack a homunculus and activate its self-destruct, before the fey upgraded their security to be encrypted randomly based on the fey brain patterns. As more and more changeling clans became hackers, they split into three “hats” to describe what type of hacking they preferred. Black Hats attacked, White Hats defended, and Grey Hats did both.

The changelings do their best to stay out of the Culture War, the Twilight War, and all other forms of politics. They prefer to focus all their energies on fighting the fey. However, they are rarely so lucky. Wars cost money, so they often hire themselves out as hackers for the cultures, or even simple data programmers for the companies. When they are truly forced into politics, they usually default to siding with Necessarius, but they are willing to ally with other cultures in the short term.

There are only a few million changelings in Domina, but they are still a strong force. They protect each other like family, and exact harsh vengeance upon anyone who harms one of their own. They actually have the lowest death rate in the city by a large margin.

Changelings who break the clan rules are rare. When they are found out, they are cast out of the clan, stripped of their name, and refused any aid. Such criminals are not considered changelings anymore. They are bruscar, fey-trash. The rules of the clans are simple: Never use the toy maker for personal modifications, never work with the fey, and never kill another changeling.

Despite their reticence, the changelings eventually adopted honorifics and titles, borrowed from the baseline ones. Changeling honored are called paladins, while their deviants are known as bruscar or blackguards. Their warlords are called Paragons. They have no microcultures, but their subcultures are called either clans or Hats.

Black Hats:

The Forgotten Names

One of the first three changeling clans, founded by Meldiniktine. They were the first hackers, a fact that they hold with pride. While they are primarily Black Hats, they rarely hire themselves out to other cultures. They prefer to attack the fey to the exclusion of all else.

Meldiniktine herself appears as a middle-aged woman with long pink hair that she keeps in a braid. She is a proud and driven woman, who has sworn to see the fey destroyed before she dies. She is also the one who decided that the changelings should make up names for themselves, which is where the name of the clan came from.

The Sky-Borne Lords

In addition to being hackers, the Lords have the singular honor of boasting a very large number of pilots and aerospace engineers. They own one of the largest helicopter fleets in the city. While they are not the only air force in Domina, they are the only one among the changelings.

Their leader, Lil’wan, appears as an old bald man. But that is just a mask; underneath, he is as young and strong as any other changeling. He loves flying, and owns two of the only fighter jets in the city. He rarely gets a chance to use them, but has been called by Butler to fly missions more than once.

The Ever-Deep Waves

The Waves are the only changeling clan to interact with the merfolk on a regular basis. In fact, their primary headquarters is in Plato, the Atlantean capital, and they have notable presences in Critias and Timaeus.

Haranasash makes no secret that he would be a merfolk if not for the fact that it would violate changeling laws. He is known for always wearing scuba gear so as to best simulate his dream. As a leader, he is often seen as ineffective, but no one has suggested trying to replace him. The fey presence underwater is minimal; Haranasash sends his men to track and fight leviathans, but other than that they are largely left to their own devices.

The Level-Born Shadows

In theory, the Shadows are hackers just like the rest of the changelings. In practice, they rarely bother with computers. They are the spies and assassins of the changelings, and are often called upon to plant wifi bugs for other clans.

It has been years since anyone has seen Ilininidar, the founder of the Shadows. No one is sure if this means she is dead, or just having fun hiding from the world. Despite the seriousness of her position, she has always been whimsical at best. It is unclear what she even looks like, since she would occasionally have her subordinates pose as her.

The Remembered Years

The Years are the archivists of the changelings, and have invented some truly astounding data compression algorithms to record the history of every single changeling to ever live. However, they do not neglect their hacking duties, and one of their projects is hacking fey computers trying to find information on changelings that escaped.

Oleandruss is a painfully average-looking man who is best described as just another face in the crowd. He began wearing glasses to make himself stand out more, but it didn’t help. The glasses are fake, of course. Few people in Domina City ever have problems with their eyes that the toy maker cannot fix, and the changelings never have any eye problems at all.

The Viridian Children

The Children are herbalists and gardeners, working to grow food for the changelings and the city as a whole. They are one of the few clans to use the toy maker on a regular basis, skirting the ban by only using it on plants, never on themselves. Regardless, they still make many other changelings uncomfortable, and rumors persist that they have the highest bruscar rate of the clans.

Dawanan is a tall woman with gold hair and eyes. She is dour and suffers no fools, and considers the toy maker ban to be little more than unnecessary moralizing. Still, she makes sure her toys never break the ban, as the resources the rest of the changelings offer her are too enticing to toss aside.

The Great-Born Nights

While many assume that the Nights are spies, the truth is the opposite. They guard changeling holdings from Night fey and vampires, using lamps and flashlights instead of nighteyes or daybreaks. They are not like the angels, however. They have a very good working relationship with vampires who are willing to listen to reason. Those who are not quickly find their computers hacked and their darkest secrets held for blackmail.

Pelenas is a small, fat man who looks like a giant grape. Many people are surprised to find how quick and dangerous he is; despite the fat, he is still a changeling, and a healthy specimen of humanity. Pelenas himself is friendly and jolly, trusting in his political might to handle any threat against him.

The Jovian Killers

The Killers are happy to tell anyone that asks that Jove is the Roman name for Zeus, greatest and most terrible of the gods. Whether the name of the clan is supposed to mean the people who kill Zeus or killers aligned with Zeus, no one can say for sure. Regardless of their name, the Killers are known for remorseless first strikes, both physically and digitally. Their hacking is typically more destructive than other clans, but no one can find fault in their results.

Gan’neeg is a big, booming woman with white and violet hair. She is very friendly, but rarely works with other clans, and almost never with non-changelings. If anyone presses the issue too far, she is not above bodily tossing the offender from her territory.

The Nightly Wanderers

Many outsiders are surprised to find that the Wanderers are explorers, not spies. The “Nightly” part of their name simply refers to the fact that their leader preferred to explore after dark, with less people around. While the advent of the vampires has changed that, the tradition remains. They possess some of the best maps in Domina City, and also help patch up the internet and wifi in abandoned regions of the city. They do still hack, however, and many of the clan find this the most interesting exploration of them all.

The Paragon of the clan, Yian’us’nor-ek, was a child when he was rescued from the fey. While he quickly struck up a rapport with Eccretia of the Never-Known Thieves, he ultimately decided to turn his hat black instead of white. Exploring foreign systems was simply too enticing for him.

The Chapel’s Singers

One of the few explicitly religious groups in Domina City, the Singers credit their escape from the fey to a divine miracle. They are one of the smallest changeling clans, but they make up for it in passion and ferocity.

They are guided by Ul, who gives heart-pumping sermons on a weekly basis, driving his clan into further frenzy. He looks mostly normal, but his eyes are just too bright blue to be entirely natural. They glow slightly in the dark, and it is said that Ul blames Isaac Clarke for improperly removing the fey toys.

The Murdered Summers

Summer, as the changelings of this clan will tell you, is a time of happiness and freedom. This is what the fey took from them, murdered and left in the dark to rot. The Summers are known for causing enemy computers to overheat by remotely hacking them to overclock unnecessary processes. While this rarely causes actual fires, it does ruin many expensive components. One of the clan’s most well-guarded tricks is making sure that the replacement parts are bugged.

The one behind this odd form of attack is Kish-Kish, a small woman who is estimated to be of Native American ethnicity. Many theorize that she was a pyrovamp before she was captured by the fey, and she does have a strong alliance with Mephistopheles.

The Hereafter Notes

The general consensus is that the Notes’ name refers to habit of playing battle music while hacking. However, they insist that the name simply refers to their meticulous note-taking skills. When you hire a Note, not only do they get the job done, they send you a fifty-page step-by-step report of exactly how it was done.

Nihan is what is called a “meddy” changeling. Medium height, medium build, medium features. He has no problem pretending to be a normal baseline when the need arises. The man himself is as patient and meticulous as you would expect, given his clan. He rarely does jobs himself, instead preferring to keep his people organized.

The Terror-Riding Soldiers

Few changelings enjoy having any association with fey monsters, but the Soldiers revel in it. Their claim to fame is the fact that they have actually been able to tame some of the fey creations, an exceptionally rare feat. While the rest of the changelings treat this as borderline blasphemy, they never take any action against the Soldiers, if only because they are so dangerous in straight combat. Despite their boasts, however, it takes time and patience to tame monsters, and at best they tame one out of every ten.

It is said that Bilganasd rides a gargant stolen right from under a fey’s nose, but this is untrue. His favored pet is a normal day-caste dumpster dog, boosted to unnatural size by a Sibriex contractor. This skirts the edges of the changeling ban, but the others allowed it. Bilganasd himself is small, as are most of his fellows. His most striking feature is his long red topknot on an otherwise bald head.

White Hats:

The Never-Known Thieves

One of the first three changeling clans, founded by Eccretia. Their name references the fact that they are unknown to the fey, and they stole themselves. They are the first of the White Hat clans, and they hack purely defensively, wrapping themselves in firewalls and hacktraps clever enough to beat even a Black Hat. They have little to fear from the fey on the digital front, and so mostly concern themselves with the physical one. The Thieves are proud to say that while they are not always the ones to rescue new changelings, they are very good at protecting them long enough to get to Clarke.

People are always surprised to meet Eccretia. Not only is she a meddy, but when she was first reverted she had the physical appearance of a young child. Her razor-sharp mind survived, albeit sans memories, as well as a very cynical view of the world. She mostly stays out of sight, but those few who meet her often comment that it seems odd that the first White Hat would be so acerbic.

The Blood-Doused Hunters

As their name implies, the Hunters fight monsters. They claim they do this to the exclusion of all else, but that is not strictly true. They work closely with a number of the Black Hat clans, keeping their defenses running smoothly. They work with outsiders to a point, but not much. In fact, they are much likely to meet with non-changelings during their duties as monster slayers than their duties as hackers. They have a cordial relationship with Obould and many of his orcs.

Nemeni (occasionally known as Nemini) is a bit of a recluse. She prefers staying behind and studying monsters to actually fighting them. Part of this is due to her physical appearance; when she was reverted, she found herself with an ugly and misshapen face, as if she had some sort of congenital birth defect. She didn’t, as all changelings are perfectly healthy, and the flaw was purely cosmetic. Clarke offered to fix it, but Nemeni put her foot down. If her DNA said she had an ugly face, she would have an ugly face.

The Many-Faced Strangers

Consisting almost entirely of meddy changelings, the Strangers are adept at slipping into a crowd and going unseen. This makes them excellent spies, especially with the addition of a number of disguises allowing them to pass themselves as members of other cultures. Digitally, the clan is nothing special, though they did patent a file-masking technique that quickly spread to the other changelings.

Their leader is Fereseg’na, a man of many moods. As a meddy, he would normally be completely forgettable, but his constant personality shifts are quite memorable. He can go from laughing boisterously one minute to fighting like a gargant the next, to shy and demure the next.

The Old-Born Knives

Following in the footsteps of the Thieves, the Knives have an impeccable digital defense and a violent physical offense. They are sought after as mercenaries and bodyguards, both by other changeling clans and the cultures. They have cultivated a reputation for professionalism—partly because they refuse any contracts against the fey. Historically, the Knives have never been able to keep themselves constrained when facing them.

Beryan Nata is a tall, dark-skinned woman with long purple hair. While she is an accomplished combatant, she has a temper on her, so she tries to avoid going on contracts unless absolutely necessary.

The Hate-Forged Flames

Despite their name, the Flames have nothing to do with fire, not even symbolically. No one is quite sure where that part of their name comes from. The other part is obvious; their hate of the fey constantly drives them to greater extremes and risks. They are the clan that most often needs to be rescued by someone else, simply because they got too far in over their head.

A small, unassuming man with blue hair, Weli Faran is not what anyone expects from the founder of the Hate-Forged Flames. He is calm at all times and always acts deliberately, never letting his rage blind him. However, that does not change the fact that he is willing to go to disturbing lengths to hurt the fey in any way possible.

The Quarreling Lovers

The Lovers are named after a theory their founder had: She believed that the fey were all simply lovers playing games with each other using people and monsters as pawns. Legend says that the Queen of Darkest Life laughed herself to death when confronted with this theory. Regardless, the Lovers themselves are defensive to a fault, based on the belief that they can’t be a part of the fey games if they never leave their base.

Perek is not the founder of the Quarreling Lovers. She inherited it from Qa-nin, who was killed while trying to protect a group of new changelings in the first year. Perek is of medium size, but she is not a meddy. She has no hair anywhere on her body, bright silver eyes, and red stripes on her otherwise white skin.

The Gilded Swords

The Swords are one of the few groups in the city that uses melee combat as a first resort. Some of the best swordsmen come from this clan, and they are known for competing in recreational sword fights in their spare time.

Zirus has been called the greatest swordsman in Domina City more than once, but he rarely competes in public. Part of this is due to his grotesque face, but he mostly prefers to remain at his base, training the new generation of changeling swordfighters. He never trains non-changelings.

The High-Tide Slaves

The Slaves are often confused for the Ever-Deep Waves, who work with the merfolk. The Slaves, instead, work with Necessarius either on the Fusion Islands or on the fleet. Their meddies are usually the ones piloting the boats that bring new arrivals to Domina City.

Xarak is unique in that she was once a member of Necessarius. When she first had all her toys reverted, she found that her oddities—violet eyes and green hair—were easily hidden, and chose to remain apart from the rest of the changelings. When she eventually decided to enter the fold after all, she brought with her many connections from Necessarius.

The Orange-Day Assassins

The Assassins are not, in fact, assassins, which confuses outsiders to no end. The name is mostly meaningless, and is simply a symptom of their strategic style. They prefer tricks and confusion above all else, leaving their opponents off-balance and ready for a finishing blow. Their firewalls and other programming defenses sell well outside the changelings, as certain people enjoy their whimsical nature and taunting style.

The founder of the Assassins, Cetherinan, spends most of his time in a full clown outfit. This makes him invisible should he choose to go without it. No one knows what he actually looks like; whispers consistently describe him as “clown-like,” but that is almost certainly nothing but a baseless rumor.

The Time-Lost Shadows

The Shadows will never forget the years and decades they lost to the fey, the memories and lives that they will never get back. While they are nominally a White Hat clan, they spend much of their time scouring the internet and any fey servers they can get their hands on, searching for any mention of their lives before the fey captured them. While they find hints and oblique mentions here and there, it is never enough to satisfy them.

The first Shadow is Lkarif, a girl who appeared barely eight years old after her reversion. She is the first to admit that the fey might have actually given her more years than they took, but she never ceases in her quest to discover her origins, as well as those of every other changeling that she can. There are even rumors that she made a deal with the fey for information, but this is completely baseless. If there was any truth to it, she would have been declared bruscar and exiled.

The Jilted Farmers

The Farmers are, as the name implies, a chem clan. They grow, refine, and manufacture drugs of all types, but focusing primarily on combat enhancements or anything with a medical use. They are careful not to use the toy-maker to enhance their plants. This puts them behind chem cultures like the hags or the Belians, but the fact that they are not addicted to their own product gives them an edge.

Sin Sordoron has jet-black skin and pure white eyes, making him stand out even in a group of changelings. He is a stern and no-nonsense man, who refuses to let his people dip into their own product unless it is absolutely necessary for a combat mission. He also refuses to deal with any chem cultures, despite repeated overtures from Baba Yaga.

The Always-Seen Liars

The Liars see their current faces as lies told by the fey, perversions of their natural forms. Unfortunately, with no ability to know what they looked like before the fey took them, they are forced to make do with masks. Whenever they are on a mission outside the base, they wear masks showing what they believe they looked like before the fey. Every Liar makes their own mask by hand, in a highly personal, almost religious experience that most of the clans reserve for building computers.

It is said that no one has ever seen the face of Il’po’nu’ly, only her mask, but this is both untrue and easily disproven. While she never leaves her base without her mask, she rarely wears it inside. While there are no pictures of her unmasked, interviewers describe her as having pure white skin, burning red eyes, and curly brown hair. She is friendly and open, always willing to answer questions.

The Reborn Winters

The Winters are unique in that they are all escapees from Winter-treo fey, creating a shared bond that outsiders—even other changelings—often describe as unsettling. The Winters move the same, talk the same, and always want the same thing: The complete destruction of the fey. But they are patient, which is why they are a White Hat clan. They believe strongly in the power of defense over offense, and are perfectly willing to simply wait the fey out. Their bases are always at least cold enough to see your breath, making them unpopular destinations for anyone but the Nifs.

Linshiddavro Kihn is a big, hairy man who is always unfailingly referred to as “bear-like.” There is simply no other way to describe him. However, his skin and hair are both gold-colored, giving the impression that he is covered in golden fur. Kihn himself is the exact same as the rest of his clan: Patient, unforgiving, and very, very cold.

Grey Hats:

The Firstborn

The Firstborn are the first changeling clan, founded by the first escaped changeling, and the first Grey Hat clan. While the changelings are not supposed to have any leading clan, the Firstborn fill that role more than most people would admit. They fight almost entirely on the digital front, with their few physical assets dedicated to protecting their bases and outposts.

Feless looks like a cross between Asian and Caucasian, with golden hair that he keeps trimmed short. As for the man himself, he always tries to act in a manner that he feels the leader of the changelings should, but he does not always succeed. He is also the first one to talk to Necessarius when he has a problem with them, rather than trolling their sites. He has a good working relationship with Butler, though few would call them friends.

The Velvet Orchids

The Orchids are known for their beautiful bases, decorated with flowers and plant life. Legend says that when their founder escaped the fey, she brought an orchid made out of velvet. Despite their soft and friendly reputation, the Orchids are an absolutely ruthless clan. They believe in using every tool at their disposal to completely crush any enemy. They keep their defenses strong enough to repel any attack, shock the enemy with digital attacks, and then send in the commandos to take them out for good.

Heresh’ni is a dark-skinned woman who looks somewhat Indian. She has bright red curly hair, but she keeps her head shaved to hide it. She can easily pass for baseline when the need arises. She often uses this ability to infiltrate enemy camps and start tearing them apart from the inside. Despite her ruthlessness, she can be genuinely friendly when the need arises. Talking to her about flowers is a sure way to get on her good side.

The Elder Lights

Many of the Lights appear to be middle-aged or older, which is rare for changelings. They believe in the wisdom of age, or more specifically experience. They obey the first clans without question, and own one of the largest libraries in the city—certainly the largest one under changeling control. They have been known to use their hacking to collect and disseminate information that they feel should be more public. This puts them at odds with quite a few cultures, but they are still mostly left alone as an annoyance instead of a true threat.

The founder of the Lights is Difnaal, a middle-aged man with white skin, matching hair, and bright green eyes. He is not an albino, but he is often mistaken for one. He is a calm and rational man who always prefers to think before he does anything.

The Darkened Signs

Another shadow clan, the Signs are entirely stealth-based, with no assassination on the side. They are the best scouts in the city, and are often hired out to the other clans. While they specialize in information gathering, they are also known for planting wifi bugs to allow access to closed systems.

Jereneg is a meddy, if a few inches shorter than standard. He tries to avoid confrontation if at all possible, but in an emergency he is every bit as lethal as any other changeling. It is rumored that he has personally snuck into every single fey demesne, but if so, he is keeping their secrets to himself.