A Game of Beautiful Madness
The protagonists of this modern fairy tale are the changelings, or as they often call themselves, the Lost. Stolen away from their human lives as children or adults, they spent what seemed like years or even centuries in Faerie, chattel to beautiful but inhuman lords and ladies. Fed on faerie food and drink, they gradually became more fae themselves, their bodies shifting slightly to reflect their roles. Some, however, managed to escape. Holding on to their memories of home, they found their way through the winding thorns of the Hedge, the barrier between the mortal world and time-twisted Faerie.
Their return, however, was all too bittersweet. Some came back twenty years after they'd first vanished, even though it had never seemed that long to them in Faerie. Others who had reached adulthood in Arcadia found that they returned only a few hours after their abduction. And almost all found, horribly enough, that they weren't missed. The Fae had been thorough. Left in the stead of each abducted changeling was a replica, a simulacrum, a thing that looked like him or her - but wasn't. Now, with inhuman strangers living their lives and nowhere to go, the Lost must find their own way in the world that was stolen from them.
Changeling deals with the struggles and dreams of people who are no longer what they were, their mortal flesh interwoven with fae magic. An illusion called the Mask obscures their remade physical bodies, allowing them to pass for humans - a word that doesn't apply to them any more. The contrast between the reality of the mortal world and the unreality of Faerie colors their stories, in ways that often express as beauty, madness or both.
The beauty referred to almost goes without saying. Faerie is beautiful. It isn't kindly, or nurturing, or benevolent, but it is wondrously beautiful. The same is true for its children, both those that were born of its unreal matter and those mortals that were abducted and nursed on its magic. Even a hideous Ogre may have some strangely sketched artistry to its asymmetrical features, and even a Darkling of disturbing mien may have an elegantly hypnotic grace or cold, frank sexuality. But as the Lost move among the mortal world, trying to recover their old lives or draw enough Glamour to sustain themselves, they become aware of the beautiful things that mortals often take for granted. To a changeling, there is beauty in the grief hanging over the funeral of a good man, or in the awkward way a young girl twists her hands at a school dance. They see things nobody else does - not simply because they can, but because they try.
The madness inherent to a changeling's existence is also twofold. Part is external. Changelings too often cross paths with things of Faerie and the Hedge - strange, creeping things that should not be, that defy human rationality. The Others themselves can only be described as "mad," for surely they subscribe to no mortal definition of sanity. But an equally great threat comes from within. The threshold between dream and reality, between Faerie and mortality, is easily crossed - and a changeling doesn't always know which side of the threshold she stands on.