Welcome to the Four Wards of Melbourne, The Freehold of Devotion
It is said that Melbourne has four devotions that consume it, these being sport, fashion, food and festivals. The Freehold of Melbourne has taken on these devotions as part of their own character, taking after the mortals that provide the emotions that fuel them.
Melbourne’s Changeling history is almost as old as Melbourne itself. In 1835 a settlement was founded on the banks of Port Phillip Bay by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner.
The original settlement was made up of free men from Tasmania who were seeking more land as the available land had been all taken. Included in this group was one Charles Collins, a former convict turned business man.
The settlement went through numerous name changes until it was officially named Melbourne in March of 1837 after Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister of Britain. In that same month, Robert Hoddle, Assistant Surveyor-General, laid out the town. On the 1st of June that year the first of the land sales were held by Hoddle on behalf of the Crown. Charles Collins bought a number of blocks in the area now bordered by King St, Collins St, Williams St and Flinders St.
Collins quickly started erecting buildings on his new property, however he disappeared not long after, being last seen on the 25th of June on the spot that is now the Melbourne observation deck.
With his apparent death, his business interests took over his property, and continued the building, creating a modest financial empire in short order.
10 years later to the day, Queen Victoria declares Melbourne a city, and Charles Collins is found again in the exact same spot he was last seen, delirious, suffering from extreme hypothermia and covered in scratches and cuts. He was nursed back to health and eventually took over the control of his financial empire, but was never able to explain his disappearance, claiming to have no memory of time he was absent.
On the 31st of July, 1858, the first game of Australian Rules Football is held between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College. One of the players in the game, a Simon Tranton, was taken by the Fae later that afternoon and replaced with a Fetch.
In 1861 Melbourne’s population reached 125,000, and the Victorian Exhibition was held. During the course of the Exhibition large numbers of Lost returned from across the Hedge. 1861 also saw the first running of “the race that stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup. Charles Collins is in the stands as a spectator on that day.
Melbourne’s population continued to rise, and with it its Changeling population. Collins became the de facto ruler of the Lost as his organisational abilities and absolute fairness made him someone that everyone was able to trust.
1865 saw the return of Sir Tranton who quickly removed his Fetch. However the years had changed Sir Tranton quite considerably and as a result he chose not to replace it and return to the mortal realm.
In 1870, Charles Collins died from mortal society at the age of 72, and he became Lord Ice to the Lost.
1877 sees the First Test Cricket match between Australia and the Melbourne Cricket club at the MCG, and also first season of the Victorian Football Association. Lord Ice attends every match, becoming a major benefactor.
The population of Melbourne was 210,000 in 1880. The Melbourne International Exhibition is held from October 1st 1880 till April 30th 1881, and signalled the start of a property boom for Melbourne. It also heralded an influx of Changeling, both those returning from the other side of the Hedge, and arriving from more mundane destinations. Lord Ice has difficulty coping with the influx, and as a result forms the Freehold of Melbourne with three others.
On the 25th of June, 1881, Lord Ice, an Elemental Snowskin becomes the Winter King, with Mistress Maker (Wizened Smith) as the Spring Queen, Lady Matré (Wizened Oracle) as Summer Queen and Sir Tranton (Elemental Manikin) as Autumn King.
In 1888 the Centennial International Exhibition was held in Melbourne, and Melbourne again saw an influx of new Changelings. This time however the Freehold of Melbourne had no difficulties adjusting to the new residents.
Melbourne’s boom times looked to go one forever, however in 1891 the inevitable happened. Colonial speculators had amassed a huge amount of debt when the crash happened banks and businesses went out of business in droves, leading to an unemployment rate of approximately 20%.
The 20th Century
The cities growth stalled, but Melbourne’s status as Australia’s largest city lasted long enough to see it become the seat of government when 1901 saw the Federation of Australia, until 1927 when the Federal Parliament in Canberra was opened.
It wasn’t until about 1910 that Melbourne recovered from the 1891 crash, and even then things never returned to the earlier boom.
As a result the first half of the 20th century was relatively quiet for Melbourne and for the Freehold. Mistress Maker returned to her native France in 1940 to help against the German occupation, and was replaced as the Spring Princess by Princess Alice (Beast Hunterheart). Sir Tranton died due to mischance in 1947 and was replaced as Prince of the Autumn court by Prince Sha’a (Darkling Mirrorskin).
1956 saw Melbourne host the largest sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere, the Games of the 16th Olympiad, running from November 22 till December 8. During those 17 days in summer, the Freehold saw the greatest influx of returns it had ever seen, swelling its numbers considerably.
The closing of the games also saw the passing of the Summer Queen, Lady Matré. The Summer Court seemed exceptionally well prepared for her death with her replacement, Lady Katherine (Fairest Bright One) stepping in to the role the moment she had passed.
On the night of Saturday, August 8th, 1987, Lord Ice issued a warning to the Changeling’s of Melbourne. The warning stated simply: “Until further notice, no Changeling of this Freehold is to travel alone at any time. All Changelings are to ensure that someone they trust knows of their whereabouts every moment of every day, and that all Changelings are to check on the safety of those they value with great frequency.” No explanation was given for the warning. While the older members of the Freehold trusted Lord Ice enough to follow his warning blindly, the vast majority of the Freehold ignored the warning as the senile ramblings of an old man.
The next day was the Hoddle Street massacre, the bloodiest massacre in recent history with 7 deaths and 19 serious injuries. It was also the start of a very painful time for the Changeling of the Freehold of Melbourne, the time of The Retaking.
Almost 300 Changeling of the city were abducted by the True Fae over the course of the next four months, at least one every day. Within a week of its start, every member of the Freehold was living in fear, and the Winter Court issued an official warning to other Freeholds that Melbourne and it’s near by Trods were to be avoided at all costs.
During this time Prince Sha’a felt that it was his duty to improve the moral of the Freehold as he was the King of Fear, not the Fae. As a result he took to visiting members of the Freehold, with his full retinue, in an attempt to bolster their emotions in the dark times.
On November 22nd, 1987, Lord Sha’a and his entire retinue were retaken by the True Fae, in the full sight of the motley they had been visiting.
Chaos descended on the Freehold as everyone gave in to their fear.
On Tuesday December 8, 1987, the Queen Street massacre resulted in the death of 8 people and the injury of 5 more. That night Lord Ice issued a simple statement: “The Retaking is over. Please return to your normal lives.”
The Changelings of Melbourne had survived, but at great cost. Nearly two thirds of its members were gone, retaken by the Others, and the Autumn Court was in turmoil. Just before the start of Autumn the next year Prince Sha’a’s second in command, The Majordomo, another Darkling, this time of the Antiquarian Kith, stepped forward to lead the Autumn Court. However, the Majordomo refused to take the title of Prince, and instead insisted as serving as nothing more than a Regent, awaiting the return of the true Autumn Prince.
The city was coloured with dark and disturbing emotions and feelings that carried for over a decade.
Many Changeling were quite surprised when Lord Ice actively fought against Melbourne’s bid for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and his reactions on hearing of the success of the bid was passed off as a sign of his obvious advanced age.
However, the games went ahead despite his feelings and again the numbers of Lost returning through the Hedge for those 12 days in March were extraordinarily high.
At the end of the closing ceremony, on March 26 2006, two important events occurred to the Freehold.
Firstly, Lord Ice died of a heart attack, aged 204. Clutched in his hand was a piece of paper, marked with age, with two lines neatly inscribed:
At the passing of the first of Autumn’s Devotion to Winter’s Passion, Sight will be lost.
At the passing of the second of Autumn’s Devotion to Winter’s Passion, Strength will be lost, and the Briars will take back what is theirs.
Secondly, all the Trods connecting Melbourne disappeared.
Little Joe, an Ogre Stonebone took over the leadership of the Winter Court and the Majordomo, leader of the Autumn Court who had just taken over as Season Ruler on that day, immediately asked for any and all assistance in determining the fate of the Trods.
After many weeks of exploration and searching, not a single working Trod was found. The Hedge had closed around Melbourne.
The Freehold Now
The Freehold of Melbourne has taken on much from the passions that drive Melbourne.
During winter, Melbourne is caught up in AFL Football, with it becoming more than a religion especially in the lead up to the last Saturday in September.
The Frozen Kingdom, the Winter Court of Melbourne, rules from noon on the day of the winter solstice, until the end of the last Saturday in September and is currently lead by Little Joe, an Ogre Stonebone who returned to Melbourne during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Each year the Winter Court holds a competition to find the Winter Champion. The physical feats that make up the test will challenge any Changeling, and the winner hold the title for a full year after being selected on Grand Final day.
After the Grand Final the minds of Melbourne stays with sports, but this time with the appearance and not the actual. The spring Racing Carnival and the return of warmer weather brings fashion to the fore.
The Court of Breezes, the Spring Court of Melbourne, rules from the day after the last Saturday in September, until noon on the Summer solstice. Princess Alice, Beast Hunterheart, has led the court since 1940.
Each year the Spring Court holds a party for Melbourne Cup Day, and the titles of Best and Worst Dressed Changeling are decided then.
As Spring turns into Summer, and the heat hits the city like a sledgehammer, the city stops being concerned with the closes a person wears, and instead is more concerned with lazing away on a hot Summers evening, with a drink, fine friend and fabulous food.
The Kingdom of the Sun has been led by the Summer Queen, Lady Katherine (Fairest Bright One) since 1956, and reigns in Melbourne from noon on the Summer Solstice till the end of the last Saturday in March.
Whilst having no set occasion like the other courts, the feasts of Christmas and New Years, the traditional Australia Day Barbeque, the chocolate of Valentines Day and the candy lead up to Easter are all occasions of Summer.
After the heat of Summer, when the cooling temperatures of Autumn allow the people of Melbourne to once again be active, the hearts of the city seem drawn to celebrating. The energy that was absent during the heat of Summer makes itself known again in Autumn, the season of Festivals.
From the day after the last Saturday in March until noon on the Winter Solstice, Prince Sha’a, Darkling Mirrorskin rules the Festive Court, with The Majordomo, Darkling Antiquarian standing in as his Regent until his return.