– Infuriated by your support of Lord Gamine, King Ironheart promises to give you “special” attention. Cog Soldiers and Cog Dragoons each add 2 to their score in any Waylay against you.
– Your opponent can exhaust this Flaw when you are on any League with a border to force you to skip your next Day.
In our last Arcadia campaign, one of the characters caused some confusion with those new to the world of Changeling and Arcadia. Yvonne, a female greybeard Knocker, was rumoured to be related to King Ironheart (which was how the Advantage card Ties to Middlemarch was interpreted).
The person who was leading the campaign (and who was new to this setting) was confused by this. Are all fae royalty not Sidhe? And, if so, how can a Knocker be related to a Sidhe? Or is Ironheart not a Sidhe?
King Ironheart’s race is never made explicit in Arcadia, but he is obviously a Knocker (or a Nocker, as they used to be called in Changeling: The Dreaming). This is how (K)nockers are described in the Changeling handbook (page 92):
Nockers are master artisans. Their skill and inventiveness are legendary. So are their cynicism and bitterness. They are highly critical of their rulers and eminently sarcastic of the people around them. Most nockers dislike having to deal with “imperfect” things, including people. Most prefer to surround themselves with treasures of mechanical wonder and ingenuity, instead. Things are much more reliable than people, and they’re much easier to fix. Nockers are also known for their great talent for crafting chimerical inventions.
A nocker’s standards of perfection are impossibly high. These Kithain got their name from their habit of rapping on things to inspect their quality. Unfortunately, they treat others the same way. They “knock” others by insulting them, testing their reactions and trying to find their faults. While this is a great way to test machines, it doesn’t work as well with people. As far as nockers are concerned, they’ve elevated ridicule to a high-art form. This hardly improves their popularity.
(K)nockers are craftsmen, tinkerers, inventors. They create toys, weapons, vehicles—anything they can, really. Their creations have a real steampunk quality to them, for very practical reasons. Though they may be versed in our worldly science, not all of this works well in the Dreaming, where different laws of nature operate. Steam is immensely important to (K)nockers, because steam works reliably anywhere. As a (K)nocker explains in the Nockers kithbook (page 29): Steam drives most of our powered inventions. […] The old brick walls of Banality and thermodynamics won’t let most chemical reactions work in the Dreaming. […] Steam, on the other hand, is easy. A little balefire, a little chimerical water, and you’re cooking.
In Arcadia too, Knockers use steam. Althros “The Steam City” is a Knockers town in central Ardenmore, that is fuelled by the Hills of Steam Fields in the north, where Knockers “harvest” the steam needed to keep the city running. But, more importantly, steam is also what powers many of Ironheart’s creations. He has enslaved the Steam Sprites to animate his machines (see the Waylays Cruel Geyser and Sociopathic Steam Sprites, and the Ally Liberated Steam Sprites). The most dreadful instance of this is Steelwing the Steam Drake, a vicious beast of Cold Iron (Quest XX). Steelwing is the result of the Mad King’s ‘repairs’ to a mortally wounded dragon. He is thus a blend of draconian flesh and arcane mechanisms (Steelwing Waylay), who now roams through the darker parts of Mechopolis and the surrounding swamps, constantly hungry for prey.
Ironheart’s Cog armies also point to (K)nockers. These are not just machines, but animated machines—animate chimera. This power to animate chimerical objects is one that is associated particularly with (K)nockers. As detailed in their Kithbook (page 56-58), (K)nockers have an Art that they guard jealously and that is rarely found in other kith: Infusion. This Art is the fundamental Art of nocker craft, and most nockers are conversant with its principles (page 56). It lets them manipulate chimerical objects, and, for someone especially skilled in this Art, create animated objects, like Golems.
In the world of Changeling, Golems are not quite the clay creatures from Jewish literature. Golems are the automated servitors of nockers, and most serve and accompany their creators willingly, the Kithbook explains (page 57). Like all chimera, golems may range wildly in power, size, and appearance. The only constraints on a golem’s features or capabilities are a nocker’s talent, materials, and imagination. Most golems have a mechanical appearance, though a nocker may use Phantom Shadows [the Legerdemain Art/cantrip] to make the golem more natural in appearance.
Golems are exactly what Ironheart’s Cog soldiers are. Indeed, they are called as such in several Waylays from The Wyld Hunt (but strangely never in King Ironheart’s Madness): see Cog Dragoon (These mechanical golems serve as the heavy cavalry for Middlemarch’s armies), or Cog Soldier (Words cannot placate these mindless golems).
As I mentioned, Ironheart is never explicitly identified as a (K)nocker, but the artists clearly depict him as one. Take this image (by Tony Diterlizzi):
Compare this with the description of Nockers that is given in the Changeling handbook (page 92):
Appearance: Although a far cry from the deformed stereotype of legend, nockers are nonetheless grotesque in their own fashion. They tend to have thick reddish skin, pointed ears and knotty digits. Their faces look like masks of overdone stage makeup: pasty-white complexions with red noses and cheeks. Their translucent white hair frames prominent brows that crown their beady, ratlike eyes. A nocker’s rarely seen grin reveals rows of pointed teeth. Their court clothing is typically clean and smart, second only to the sidhe in fashion and complexity. Curls, spirals and swirls are nockers’ favored patterns.
Nobles are traditionally indeed Sidhe. Nobility rule the commoners (or so they like to think), and the noble houses are predominately Sidhe houses. The Sidhe are naturally noble, the other kith have to be raised to that status. It wasn’t always like this, though. The Changeling book (page 104) says: Legends tell that the trolls were actually the first noble kith; when the sidhe appeared, a great war began. The trolls lost, and as a result, swore loyalty to the sidhe. More importantly, though, as mentioned, commoners can become nobles and swear fealty to a particular house.
(K)nockers seem unlikely to become nobility, though. They are infamous for their uncouth speech and lack of manners, and not likely to rule people. As the Changeling book (page 92) says:
Typically, they are highly critical of their rulers and eminently sarcastic of the people around them. Most nockers dislike having to deal with “imperfect” things, including people. Most prefer to surround themselves with treasures of mechanical wonder and ingenuity, instead. Things are much more reliable than people, and they’re much easier to fix. … Nockers are also fiercely individualistic. Once one has selected her tastes in artwork and craftsmanship, she immediately condemns everyone else’s. When she works, she develops a style of craftsmanship that defines the work as hers. Anyone else’s attempt is second best.
Not quite the material Kings are made of! But perhaps all that is irrelevant to the character Ironheart. How he became King of Middlemarch is never made explicit. It is clear that (a large part of) the land he now rules used to be ruled by others: the Ali’i of the Menehune. This is why the Kokua, the Menehune warriors, are those who launch the offensive against Ironheart, since he continues to usurp more of their land.
Also, as the story of King Ironheart’s Madness unfolds–and here is a spoiler warning for those who want to discover this as they play the game–we also come to learn that Ironheart is really just a puppet. There are more obscure forces at work behind him. Aldrich the Mechician–more on him perhaps later–is the mastermind behind Ironheart’s expansion as well as Gamine’s disappearance (which is the story of The Wyld Hunt). In other words, Ironheart is not really a king, but a (K)nocker gone mad who was given the power by others to turn Middlemarch into a giant workshop where he can pursue his craft on a never-before seen scale–a (K)nocker’s greatest dream! In other words, he is King not because of a special birthright, or even by climbing the ranks of the nobility, but rather because he has been pushed into that position by others who saw in him an opportunity to further their own sinister plans.