The Mystery of The QueensEdit
One of the more difficult questions for any student of the Light is, quite simply, “What is a Queen?” and “How does one become (or create) a Queen?”
The reason this is such a difficult question is, in part, because none of the Queens are reliable on this, by their own admissions. Officially, the Radiant Queens died, and have spent millennia in the Dreamlands (and thus their memories are unreliable), the Queen of Tears really doesn’t like talking about it (she doesn’t want the competition, and she claims the memories are too painful, even for her), the Queen of Storms has just plain forgotten almost all the details, and the Queen of Mirrors claims to be barred from speaking about it (talking about whom or what is barring it is also forbidden, according to her). Unofficially, Mirrors has something strange going on with her memories anyway, Storms is basically a living natural disaster, and Tears is ancient beyond belief and probably at least half-mad from grief.
Some points are worth mentioning:
- There appears to be no systematic way of becoming a Queen. Just as, other than certain trappings, there is no one way to become a Hopeful, there probably is no one way to become a Queen; the stories of the Radiant Queens’ Second Blossomings all differ (Clubs’ story, in particular, is notable in that she claims she didn’t realize what she had become until is was pointed out to her by one of her followers). As mentioned above, none of the Twilight Queens discuss their Second Blossomings in any detail, but what details are known all differ from each other, and all of the Radiant Queens’ stories.
- It is not entirely clear that all Queens are the same order of being. This is important when comparing any of the Twilight Queens to each other or the Radiant Queens; even if they were once all like the Queen of Tears claims to be, humans with extraordinary power, they may well not be that order of being now.
- A Queen is tied into an Invocation. This is the clearest piece of information known, as there exists only one Queen for each Invocation and one Invocation for each Queen, along with certain other evidence. But this leaves a large number of questions: is a Queen the embodiment of the Invocation, or is she the most powerful user of the Invocation, or "merely" the creator of a new Invocation? And those are just the obvious theories; the Court of Diamonds has a least a dozen others, some of them blends of the above.
- How powerful a Queen is, is an open question. Throughout history, there has been speculation on the strength of the Queens and what it might take to kill one. Much of it has been from young hotheaded Seraphim who would have liked to have seen the head of the Queen of Tears on a stick, but the failure of anything to come of such enthusiastic braggartry sets at least a minimum boundary upon the difficulty of such things. Since the Release, such speculation has only intensified as the Radiant ponder upon how to remove the terrible threat of the Twilight Queens, but information is thin on the ground. The Radiant Queens do not respond well to questions about “So, how powerful are you really?” at best providing an answer so cryptic it might as well be useless, and rather more frequently taking it as a breach of protocol or - in the case of the Queen of Swords - an open challenge for some sparring on the training courts. If any have been so foolish as to ask that of the Queens of Tears or Storms, their bodies have never been found, and getting a straight answer out of Mirrors is about as likely as getting one out of the Cat.
- "A Queen lives her Invocation." A subtle, important bit of lore, found across both all available Radiant and Twilight sources. It means, in essence, that a Queen is constrained to act according to her Invocation; not doing so appears to weaken either the Invocation or the Queen.
- There might exist a possibility to take over the mantle of an existing Queenship. This is mainly important to the Radiant, since one possible goal is to free their Queens from the Dreamlands using such a method.
There are, theoretically, two versions of this possibility; one version holds that it is possible to become one in some way with one of the Queens; the other (usually called the “Usurping Theory”) is that it is possible to replace a Queen. It should be noted that the Usurping Theory does not necessarily require the Hopeful in question to actually usurp the Throne (abdication is covered by it as well); it is only known as such due to the influence of Alhambra, who have a significant degree of scholarship on the idea, mainly in order to dismiss it.
This scholarship exists primarily because of a persistent dark rumor about the Queen of Tears: It is claimed by some of her detractors that once a century (or more), a powerful follower of the Queen vanishes without a trace after being invited to see the Queen; but afterward the Queen looks younger, and her words and gestures sometimes echo the vanished Noble. Needless to say, not only is this rumor Heresy in Alhambra, the people spreading it are making claims well in excess of any actual evidence, and there are several obvious logical problems inherent in the rumors (for one, how would anybody be around long enough to notice?). Even if it were true, the Queen of Tears might be using them for something else (a secret suicide mission, say) and the echoes are merely the Queen’s way of honoring the sacrifice.
Note that these possibilities are largely theoretical, as there exists no reliable evidence that anything of the sort has ever happened. The Radiant Queens in the Dreamlands have never entertained the idea of abdication, chiefly because during the Long Night no member of their courts ever rose to the point where they could plausibly succeed to royal honors. The Queen of Mirrors seeks an heir to the Kingdom’s crown, not to her own. There exists no proof that the rumors about Tears are anything other than just that. And the Seraphic General’s dedicated followers claim to hear the voices of their predecessors crying in the winds of her Storm, or booming in the thunders of her perpetual war; it’s a common belief among the Furies that if they die fighting the Darkness they join the Storm, become the Storm, live forever as the Storm. However, the Seraphic General is a living natural disaster, so any normal rules may not apply to her, and the extent to which she actually absorbs her followers, rather than just echoes of their sacrifices, is ambiguous.
Queens In PlayEdit
So much for what a Princess could be expected to know about Queens in character; this section covers out- of-character considerations.
What does it mean to be a Queen? How powerful is a Queen? These are questions that keep Hopeful philosophers up at night, wondering about the War against the Darkness and if, perhaps, actually getting the Queens to be more than just advisors and figureheads would allow the Nobility to strike a telling blow against the Darkness and start the slow reclamation of this World of Darkness and turn it into a World of Light.
The problem is that getting the level of power of the Queens right is hard, as it needs to be able to fit in all campaigns, which means that we as authors cannot make them too powerful, as that would make players and Storytellers both wonder why they aren't taking a more direct interest; but we can’t make them too weak either, as then the question becomes “why do we even follow them?” And on top of that, we want to make a Royal Coronation at least plausible as a worthy end goal of a campaign, which adds another level to the balancing act of making sure that an active Queen walking upon the Earth does not break the setting, but she should also not be less able to make a difference than a Princess.
As such, one should take what follows with a pinch of salt. Or a truckload.
Ah, the Queens, how great and powerful they are. However, given the rather long time between the Fall of the Kingdom and the Release, what, exactly, is the life expectancy of the Queens themselves? There are a few options.
- Queens are Eternal, that is, after their Coronation they cannot die of natural causes and even severe or fatal injuries won’t bother them long. At worst they need to reincarnate so that they can retake their throne after they Blossom.
- Queens are Ageless, they can die, but it won’t be of old age.
- The Office and the Throne are Eternal, but the Queen is not, and as such all the Queens have been replaced, possibly multiple times throughout the years. Whether replacement happened after the death of the current Queen or she abdicated is left as an exercise for the ST to determine, as is how old a Queen can get.
- Something really weird is going on in this Darkened World and however Queens are supposed to work under normal circumstances does not apply. This is the default assumption of the game, with a sidenote of “and it doesn’t matter really.”
Given that 5 of the current known Queens are Dreamland entities of some kind, Storms is a self aware storm system/thing, Tears has from all appearances been the same woman since the Fall of the Kingdom however long ago and not left her palace and no one has a clue as to what is up with the Queen of Mirrors, this point of view is easy enough to work with. Unless you want to have the Queens take center stage, but that is not really what the game is about; they are there to provide advice or act as mission control, not as fire support.
The Queens: Great, Powerful, Endless and Ageless. Makes you wonder how they remain sane and in touch with (their) humanity under such pressure with the Darkness ever further encroaching upon the world. Well, the answer is different for every Queen really, with the Radiant Queens often leaning upon the Nobility themselves even as the Nobility calls upon their knowledge, their wisdom and their experience in the fight against the Darkness. How the Twilight Queens do it is unknown, although the question is most likely merely academic with the Queen of Storms.
Alhambra, Danann, Wen-Mung, Andarta; all places strongly associated with the Queens, yet, what defines a Queen’s lands, where is it that their authority reaches?
Well, one could say that a Queen is her Lands, certainly, and with the Queen of Storms this is very literal, while the Queen of Tears is very much part of the fabric of Alhambra, or at least Alhambran society. Likewise do the Radiant Queens hold great power over their own realms in the Dreamlands; but when the Queen of Diamonds gestures and a floating palace of clockwork ice rises above her lands, is that her Light-born magic, her mastery over the territory she controls, or the inherent tendency of the Dreamlands to adapt to its residents? Even she doesn’t know for sure.
In the end, one might say that a Queen is her Nation, and that a Nation rises and grows more powerful as the Queen does, and grows more able to attend the Nation properly. In what way this feeds back into more, direct power for the Queen is unknown. Most likely, it’s nothing at all. It just means that she has a lot of people to back her up in her quest to make a better tomorrow.
The Power of a QueenEdit
Well, that is all nicely put, but that still doesn’t answer your question of “how powerful is a Queen?” Honestly, that’s deliberate. Giving direct stats of a Queen turns them from plot points into objectives. Of the “and then we killed the Queen of (*)” kind, which we want to avoid. And yet people want to know how a Queen relates to her Invocation, and what powers she may call upon when defending herself and her subjects, as it becomes kind of important if you want to end the game with one of the PCs having become a Queen, or not have the player of the new Queen have to make a new character as there is no way to play a Queen.
We’re simply not going to give you more than a few guidelines. Even if you decide Queens can die, a Queen is very powerful, and anything short of a highly experienced Nakama is only going to make her laugh, rather than be a credible threat. A Queen’s power is also strongly related to her Invocation, and building her power set to fit the philosophy of the Invocation itself would be a good idea. The setting breaking powers shown in the back stories of some of the Queens are probably best handled as major pieces of the plot instead of Charms. After all, there is nothing that says that all Princess magic needs to be Charms-based, and the Nobility is very young besides, with much knowledge lost.
Finally, there are a few things that the Queens themselves are definitely unable to do. They cannot raise anyone long dead, they cannot reverse the Kingdom’s fall (Tears and Mirrors would’ve done both if they could), and none of them can fight the Darkness on their own. If they want to fight the Darkness and win in a way that will stick, they have to work through others, chiefly their Princesses. Perhaps that’s the greatest tragedy of the Queens, as none of them, not even the Queen of Tears, can any longer make a personal impact upon the world and mend its ills, inspire its people and defend it from that which would harm it.