As explained in The nature of spirits and the fey, the fey are collective entities comprised of many (dozens to millions) of kami, all bound together by a common obsession with some aspect of mortal life. The sages of the Western Empire divided them into four groupings named after the seasons; if this distinction has meaning for the fey themselves, they're not saying. But they acknowledge the distinctions and do not take offense when such terms are used. Which, I guess, is good enough for this poor student of such beings.
This document attempts to elucidate some of the distinctions between the types of fey, as well as noting some of the social structuring that seems to exist among them. Your guide, the humble Walker, bids you welcome to the strange world of the fey.
The Winter Fey
Although the name suggests hostility and a cold reception, I've found that the Winter fey are some of the most...human...fey (for a lack of a better word). Their obsessions tend to be about things like music, memories, stories, dances, art, and other such things. You can usually get a Winter fey to stop in its tracks and listen to you just by starting with "Once upon a time,..." or "In a place,neither near nor far, and a time, neither now nor then..."Unlike the shifting social patterns of the Autumn fey or the hidden sub-currents of the Spring fey, or the violent outbursts of the Summer fey, the Winter fey tend to be exactly what they appear. Individual, proud, and reserved. They drive hard bargains, but keep their word. They can be reasoned with, as long as you understand their motivations. --The Immortal Bard, "Reflections on my time among the fey."
Obviously the Immortal Bard never met Maeve while she was doing her Ice Queen impression. --Walker, margin notes
The Winter fey are associated with the Plane of Water in all its forms, from the eternal preservation and solidified memory of Ice to the singing libraries of Ocean, to the relaxation and ennui of Mud. Their primary aspects include memory, loss, rest, ennui, knowledge, and grief. Their associated humor is melancholia. Individualistic and introspective, they often hide away in small groupings or alone. Introverted to an extreme, many of them seem indifferent to the woes of mortals. This is not always true, however, as many are fascinated by mortal developments (especially in the arts and in storytelling).
In general, the Winter fey get along best with the Spring fey, appreciating their mediating nature but confused by all the sub-texts and sub-currents of the Spring society. They get along worst with those of Autumn, whose flighty and unreliable nature, along with their inability to take anything seriously (except social exile) and obsessive sociality drive the quiet, inward-looking Winter fey to dissolution. The Summer Court and the various Winter courts actually work reasonably well together--Summer looks to Winter to think and find flaws in Summer's plans, while Winter without Summer can become indolent and ineffective.
The Winter fey do not acknowledge a single ruler--instead there are many Queens (and Kings) who each preside over small courts of a dozen or so major fey and their hangers-on. These rulers have little direct authority, although the rest of the court will generally obey them if persuaded. These courts are somewhat unstable (but not nearly to the same degree as Autumn courts), with most only lasting a few mortal generations before splitting up to their own devices. The vast majority of Winter fey are independent actors.
Morrigan's Court is a well-known (to scholars) court that has remained mostly stable since the Cataclysm. Queen Morrigan (AKA the Raven Queen) is one of the most ancient fey of which we have records (after King Oberon of the Summer Court and Wayland Smith). Her primary aspect is Memory, with death and martial glory as secondary ones. She sends her raven servants to watch the doings of heroes and villains alike, taking in their stories and capturing their likenesses. Visitors to her court can walk among the shades of famous warriors, mages, and nobles from throughout the world's history and ask them questions...for a price. Her Palace of Whispering Waters lies in Beasthome; every room and every locale features water in some form. Crystalline tombs of ice (that are neither hot nor cold), glass-like reflecting ponds that peer across time and space, burbling brooks; it's all there. The palace adjoins the Shimmering Sea.
Notable fey associated with Morrigan's Court include
- Lord Orphea, Morrigan's on-again, off-again lover and consort. Musician, composer, impresario. Always searching for new musical inspirations and experiences. His primary aspect seems to be knowledge.
- Terpsichore, the Dancer at Dusk. This enigmatic being never says a word. Instead, she is always dancing. Her form shrouded by veils that shift like shadows, she drifts through the Palace like a ghost. Her primary aspect seems to be grief; being in her presence can bring the strongest mortal to tears of sorrow.
- Sorrow's Thorn. Said to be Terpsichore's daughter (how such a thing is possible is not quite known). She serves Morrigan loyally as the captain of her Raven Guard. Her primary aspect is duty (a strange aspect for a Winter fey, but...)
- The Hunter. Leader of the Wild Hunt that courses through Beasthome and (thankfully rarely) into the Mortal Plane, the Hunter is a stag-horned man of immense size and presence. He calls the spirits of the lost to join his hunt, transforming them into his houds and the steeds for the Riders who serve him. His aspect is rest, inverted. Why he associates with Morrigan is uncertain.
- The Dolorous Ladies. These four sisters (?) are all reflections of each other. Their aspects are ennui and loss. They've gathered a large following of naiads, neriads, and nymphs, all of whom lounge around the Palace (and their homes in the Mortal plane) sighing in boredom. They give great gifts to the rare mortals who can relieve their ennui for a moment; they can be dangerous to those that outstay their welcome, however. Gifts, parties, stories, and music all appeal to them, as do more carnal pleasures.
Of the lesser fey, the most commonly encountered at the Palace of Whispering Waters are selkies, darklings, and death's-head butterflies.
The Spring Fey
Like a flower blooming in a swamp, the Spring fey are both beauty and ugliness, balm and poison. They mediate between the other fey, but beneath their words lies bogs and quicksands awaiting the unwary. Conversations have sub-text upon sub-text; often the sub-text is more important than the surface text. Beware the Spring. --Note inserted into a copy of Reflections, found in Adron's Folly.
The Spring fey are associated with Earth in all its forms. From the mutable loss of identity of Clay to the bargaining and mercantile madness of Coal, all are represented here. Their primary aspects are growth, beauty, lies, deals, betrayal, and love (as well as lust). Their associated humor is phlegm.
The Summer Fey
The only way to come out ahead in an interaction with the Summer Court is to remember two things. First, it's always a contest and there will be a winner and a loser. Second, the only rule is that the rules cannot make any sense to a mortal mind. Scratch that. The only way to come out ahead in an interaction with the Summer Court is to not play the game at all. --The Immortal Bard, Reflections on my time among the Fey
Now, now, we're not so bad as all that. Sure, we're grasping, greedy, and often violent. So are mortals. And it's not our fault your mortal minds are so limited that you can't hold multiple contradictory ideas as true at once. --Attributed to King Oberon on hearing the previous passage quoted.
The Summer Court is notable in that all Summer fey belong to a singular court, ruled over by King Oberon. Associated with Fire, they are ruled by burning passions and desire for status. Their associated humor is cholera, and their aspects include violence, anger, greed, generosity, hierarchy, loyalty, competitiveness, and initiative.
The Autumn Fey
The Autumn fey are my personal favorites. Like me, they drift, rootless and free. And, like me, they're utterly unreliable in a pinch. Nice folks, but don't expect them to have your back. --The Immortal Bard (while drunk), as reported by Brightsong Dovara.
Yup. The resemblance is uncanny. --Brightsong Dovara, the Bard's daughter and ranking bard at the Graniteflame Academy, Kaelthia.
The Autumn fey, children of Air that they are, partake of the free-flowing nature of that Plane. Their guiding humor is blood, making them sanguine. Their primary aspects include freedom, wanderlust, unreliability, inconsistency, extroversion, dreams, and curiosity.
The Autumn fey are the most volatile of the fey--they rarely last more than a few seasons in one shape. And their society is just as fleeting--Kings and Queens come and go according to arcane rules that some believe are made up on the fly. That's ok, because they don't have any power. Being a King or Queen really just means that you're temporarily popular with the other fey.