"To be free! That is the true face of beauty!"
An ancient kith, the Swan Maids are legend throughout much of the world, inhabiting much of Europe (especially Germany and Russia), Java, Indonesia and even Australia. Spread across the range of their blood animal, they have strong reputations for beauty, elegance, and powers of divination.
Sought in times of legend for their powers, much like the Selkie, their feather coats were sometimes held to ransom, in exchange for marriage or other favours, for just like the Selkie, the Swan Maids are skinchangers.
The black swan maids of Australian aboriginal myth were said to have lost their white feathers in a battle with eagles, and stood naked until the ravens took pity on them, giving them the black feathers from their own backs).
Sensual and seductive, this kith is strongly matriarchal, and the powers of the blood and feathers are never present in the male line. Love is known of course, but the most extreme regard males of any species as little better than breeding partners. Sadly, their mistreatment in the times of legend has done little to ease this attitude, and the Swan Women (the grumps of this kith) can be vengeful indeed to those who offend them. Just like real swans, they may be pictures of grace and beauty but they can be exceedingly temperamental or spiteful. Other kiths have learned to remain alert.
As skinchangers, the Swan Maids must physically put aside her feather coat in order to take human shape, and this coat has a mortal seeming itself, also containing her very fae essence and Glamour. If lost, stolen or destroyed it proves a terrible tragedy. A Swan Maid can use no magics if it is lost or stolen until it is recovered, and if destroyed her fae nature dies also. Small wonder that they were often held to ransom by greedy mortals who stole their coats.
The feathers themselves are surprisingly resilient, and may only be destroyed by cold iron or fire. In fact, cold iron does no damage to the fae aspect of the Swan Maid unless it damages the feather coat, although it can still cause real physical damage to the mortal body.
When a Swan Maid approaches death, her feather coat (and the Glamour it contains) are passed on to another female of Swan Maid blood, with favour being shown to close kinain. The new Swan Maid quickly learns the craft of skinshifting and passing on her Glamour to a skin of her own choosing. Very rarely a swan descendant may learn to remove the feather coat and take human form, and such wild sisters are greeted with much joy for their rarity and the continuity of the Swan Maid lineage.
They have an affinity with the Nature realm.
Appearance and Lifestyles
Swan Maids are stately, graceful and idealistically beautiful females of their native culture, with slender necks and long soft hair (black or white).
Their fae Seeming exaggerates these traits further, and closer inspection shows that their hair is actually composed of a blanket of tiny feathers, and they have a slight webbing between their toes (usually concealed). Their feather coat often takes other forms, with feather boas, fans and cloaks proving especially popular.
Their swan Seeming is that of a normal black or white swan (depending on their heritage), although this may be seen through with a roll of Wits + Kenning (diff. 6).
Childling Swan Maids are commonly regarded as 'adorable little moppets,' and certainly fit this description with their appearance, but they often throw tantrums and can be quite clumsy and uncoordinated (a fact that doesn't really change until they reach 6-7 years of age). However they are exceedingly fond of play (especially swimming) as long as things go their way. Precocious is the best description for many Swan Maid childlings.
Wilder Swan Maids are the beautiful maidens of legend, and like nothing better than flying with their sisters or frolicking in a secluded pool or lake. They are extremely wary of men, although impulse sometimes gets the better of them. Unlike the young childlings they have achieved the sensual grace of adulthood and drive many other kithain to distraction.
Grump Swan Maids (respectfully called Swan Women if you value your life) are the respected elders of their folk. Stately and aloof, they are also the most vengeful of the kith, and most powerful in the arts of magic.
Swan Maids greatly prefer the company of their own kind, although some small number have joined the Courts of the Seelie. Preferring the rural lifestyle, they often live in small cottages or dwellings near bodies of water, or travel with their sisters experiencing all life has to offer.
Birthrights and Frailties
As with any Kith, Swan Maids have a few traits exclusive to them.
Gift of the Seer: Swan Maids are especially adept at foretelling the future, and therefore reduce the difficulty of any Soothsay cantrip by 2. In addition they may learn Soothsay at half the normal experience cost (round up).
Grace and Beauty: Swan Maids add 1 dot to their Appearance (even above 5).
Feather Coat: If their feather coat is destroyed, their fae nature is destroyed forever. In addition, the mortal that remains must make a Stamina roll (diff. 8). If they fail the roll they enter a coma, and if they botch the roll they die.
As skinchangers they change from their human Seeming to that of a swam whenever they put their feather coat on. The change is automatic and requires no roll or expenditure of Glamour. If the Swan Maid wishes to return to human form she must loosen the edge of her coat (undo a button etc.). Without their skin they cannot shapechange nor can they perform any magic except for Kenning and their Grace and Beauty Birthright. However, their life-bond with the coat is powerful indeed and they can sense its location with a Wits + Kenning roll (diff. 7), or tell whenever it is touched or damaged.
Views on Other Kith
Boggans: We rarely meet these busybodies, but when we appear they seem over eager to gossip.
Clurichauns: They have fun, but their joy is uncontrolled. Humour them.
Eshu: They enjoy freedom as do we, and their females make fun companions while travelling.
Ghille Dhu: They live life swiftly, in harmony with season and nature. How could we not like them?
Nockers: Foul of temper and foul of face. The tinkers are far removed from we.
Pooka: Yes, they too can change form but that is where the similarity ends.
Redcaps: Ugly brutes that should would be safely locked in cages were there any they could not eat their way out of.
Satyrs: They have incurred our vengeance on several occasions, but the most subtle among them can be 'interesting'.
Selkies: Our fellow skinchangers are closest to our hearts. Few others understand us.
Sidhe: We have much in common with these nobles, but not for us are all the petty trappings and mores of courtly life.
Sluagh: The pale worms slither through the mud. They are disgusting.
Trolls: The only men worthy of any trust are the Seelie of this kith. Forthright and honourable they are true fae and would make better rulers than the Sidhe.