The Black Regalia

You are what you wear...

Norma stared at an unremarkable steel door with a metal sign that read "Staff Only" hanging above it.  Beatrice stood on the right side of the door with her arms crossed, patient and calm.    How could she be so calm? Norma wondered to herself. She knew full well what lay beyond the door, the pain and horror lying in wait with ravenous hunger.    Norma shuddered, the memories flowing in from somewhere outside her mind; memories that were never hers to have. She had no right to claim them.    A loud whirring echoed from behind and bounced off the walls and high ceiling. Norma turned on instinct and saw Lucy kneeling beside the Honda on the other side of the garage.   Norma watched her as she removed the tire and replaced it with another. When she turned back to the door, she noticed Beatrice staring at her with the kindest smile. "Sorry."   Beatrice shook her head as she replied,  "You take all the time you need." She spoke in a lull, her words drawn out. She took her time as if to show they had all the time in the world. "This will be the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. Don't rush it."   "What will I take?" Norma asked.    Beatrice shrugged. "No idea. It's not up to me."   "Then why are you here?"    Beatrice's smile faded, revealing just how tired she had become over the years. She tried in vain to pin it back, to force the mask back on, but it was far too late. The smile appeared only to fall and rise again. "Moral support," she said. "Norma Jean had a hard life. I want to be there for you in whatever way I can."   Norma blinked in reply. If moral support was the goal, perhaps this was not the way to go. Then again, it did make her feel better. At least Beatrice was being honest. "Will I still be me?"   Beatrice nodded, "Yeah, but... It's hard to explain."   Norma nodded and took a deep breath. She was ready, staring at the door without fear as she reached and turned the handle. The door opened in silence save for a rush of air forcing its way into the room beyond.   Norma took a trembling step forward. She knew she wouldn't come out unscathed. She'd lose a piece of herself in this room. The Reliquary does that.    When Norma leaves she'll take something in return, a piece of the legend. She'll lose who she was and leave more like… well, more like her.
   
Some call it an armory. Others call it a reliquary. Some even say The Black Regalia is merely a uniform. It is all these things and more. The Black Regalia refers to particular articles of clothing and accessories worn by members of The Black Betties. It is the list of requirements and limitations every member must abide by.   Each member has her regalia. Should another member attempt to use it, it would have no effect. These items empower those who are meant to wield them, The Gift of Tall Tales bestowing power buried in the organization's complicated and contradictory lore.   Before one can fully understand the regalia, one must know about those who use it. There is more at work here than raw power. These trinkets and strips of cloth are more than a tool. The Black Regalia is a Betty's identity.

The Black Betties

They are more than mere hunters of horrors. Killing monsters is nothing compared to their skills in storytelling. The Black Betties are an organization of women who build legends around themselves. The more people who believe them, the more real they become. It doesn't matter how impossible it seems. If enough people believe you can hit like a truck or dodge a bullet, then maybe you can. This is The Gift of Tall Tales at work.   Since the 1950s, when the organization began, The Black Betties learned how to use this gift. Upon joining, each member adopts a new name, a persona. They become someone else. They adopt the legend left behind by those who retire or fall, despite their gifts. This change is quite literal. If Daisy is known for being left-handed, you will soon find yourself a southpaw after accepting her name. If Lucy is known for being heavyset, you will gain weight regardless of your metabolism and workout routine.   Once you fully adopt the persona, and learn its legend, the black regalia is at your disposal. After all, personas are technically just another accessory in The Black Regalia. It's the first you learn to wield. This mask you wear is just another bit of fashion for those unaware of the truth. They know nothing about the price you pay, nor the benefits of paying it.
 

The Regalia

The Regalia begins with the general aesthetic of The Black Betties, their "uniform." Tapping into their heritage, The Betties chose a vintage style. They dress in button down shirts, heels, high-waist jean's, pencil dresses, and poodle skirts. They dress in all colors, though black is always prominent. The Black Regalia highlights their rockabilly style. It includes jewelry, bandanas, and even their tattoos.   The style is more than a preference. It has many uses. They use it as a cover, an easy way to elude those who refuse to look away. A quick Google search will take care of the rest. The style was also chosen to call back to their origins, a way to keep the first legends alive. Without them, the new legends would lack foundation. More importantly, especially concerning The Black Regalia, it is a reminder of stories that were lost   Sometimes a legend dies. Sometimes no one is left alive to retell the story. It takes decades to get results when using The Gift of Tall Tales. When a legend dies, the gift dies with it. These legends can still exist in the unconscious mind of those who bear the right persona. The legend becomes instinctive, a form of primal knowledge. This is why The Regalia exists. Some things shouldn't be forgotten.


Adopting Regalia


Every member feels deeply connected to their regalia. The stories hidden inside these relics are anecdotes from someone else's life, but now, they are the stories of your life. Whether it be a tattoo commemorating a life event, a wedding band, or a deceased father's jacket. Each relic has weight and each item will bring the same emotions.   Due to the emotional strain, each item in a member's regalia is adopted individually. Adopting a persona is the easy part. Coming to terms with the rest of your regalia is significantly more taxing. It can be a traumatizing affair and one that sometimes requires multiple attempts to be successful.   While The Betties are known for their optimistic attitude and high energy, the road they walk to get there is long and tragic. There are exceptions, however. Some personas are considerably newer than others. In recent years, the betties included male names to accommodate members of the organization during gender transition. These members are still steadily building their regalia.

Sad Fact: Retirement

Leaving The Betties is often as traumatic as joining Them. Retired members leave behind treasured memories, unable to take the regalia with them. Tattoos must be removed and the jewelry returned to the armory.   Like entering the organization, leaving it is a process. It's filled with heartache, and every member dreads the day they must live through it. They watch older members fade away. Those who were legends disappear, and another takes their place. It's a sad reality of life for them.   Few members live past their 50s. This is the age where retirement is needed. This emotional commitment is why retirement is so rare, however. Most betties are members for life. Those who retire usually die within a year from a broken heart.
 

Evolution

The regalia isn't just defined by tangible items locked away until someone can use them, it also takes the form of limitations and requirements. Once upon a time, high heels were required for every member. A new generation born from the punk rock scene of the 80s entered the organization and quickly put a stop to that. Various forms of footwear are now able to be used, though a select few personas require the use of heels to this day.   Few realize that regalia requirements also extend to undergarments and cosmetics. The 80s saw another dramatic change when braziers were removed entirely from the list of requirements in favor of bras, which modern members are currently trying to make optional. In more recent years, older and less healthy cosmetics were changed in favor of modern brands with modern ingredients.   The color palette of the organization changed as well. Color was never a limitation until the 90s. Black steadily became more favorable, and now at least one article of clothing must be black. This likely occurred because of the organization's name, which over time needed to match the color scheme of each member's regalia.
   

Examples of The Black Regalia

 



Cash's blindfold

Perhaps unfortunately for those who bear the mantle in later generations, the latest addition to Cash's regalia is a blindfold used to cover the damage to his eyes. Cash lost his eyes during The Helheim Incident.   The experience was traumatic enough for the legend to require it for The Gift of Tall Tales to take effect. It's also made such an impact on his life that likely his blindness will also appear in those who later accept the persona. When worn, it enhances latent psionic abilities in the wearer. Cash wears it at all times so that he can "see."   Cash offers a unique opportunity for the current generation of The Black Betties. None that are currently in the organization have seen The Gift of Tall Tales work and evolve in real-time and Cash himself has taken to experimenting with it to see just how far it can be pushed.
 
 


Lucy's Hairpin

An ornate hairpin featuring a fabric rose, every member who chooses Lucy as their persona must wear it for the legend to take effect. This hairpin belongs to the first Lucy's mother, a constant reminder of the woman she aspired to become.   Wearing the hairpin makes one appear significantly more radiant and attractive to others. It has a soothing effect on those who wish the wearer harm and drives allies to defend them if attacked.
 
 


Judith's Zippo

The first Judith joined The Black Betties in 1959, after her home was assaulted by a feral creature she refused to speak of. She killed the creature, beating it over the head with a hot iron until the body stopped twitching. It wasn't till after that she realized the creature was her husband, who also killed their 19-year-old son.   Her son's Zippo lighter will never run out of fuel. It lights and stays lit no matter the conditions, even underwater. Any fire started with this light will burn for hours, even if there is nothing left to burn.
 
 

A Curious Conclusion

There is something odd involving the regalia. The Black Betties have 8 chapters worldwide. Each chapter may have 24 members, one for each persona available to new members. This begs the question: what happens when two of the same personas exist in two different chapters?   Strangely enough, both members will be able to operate in full regalia. Every Judith will possess their lighter. Every Lucy will wear the same hairpin. Do the items clone themselves? Could it be that these women all had the same name and same experience? No. The Black Betties tell stories, and some of these stories are lies. They've told these lies so often, and with such unwavering dedication to detail, that the universe itself believed them to be true.   A member's regalia may, or may not, be the original relic. It wouldn't matter either way. Any hairpin would do. Any lighter would do. So long as it looks the part, the persona will make it work. This reveals the beating heart of the organization. They are not mere hunters of horrors. They are storytellers. Their choice in fashion tells a story, their story. The Black Betties are built on their stories, and these stories move mountains.
     
The Reliquary was a dark room, the air constantly monitored through moisture and temperature control. The items within were the stuff of legends. They held power but only for a single soul.   Norma took a moment before heading further in, her thoughts racing so fast she forgot how to breathe. Before long, she felt compelled to move whether she wanted to or not.   Something pulled her forward like a siren's call. She passed numerous pedestals, and displays in glass boxes featuring items her sisters had yet to claim.   Finally, she stopped. She turned to face what called her. She saw a display with the name "Norma Jean" etched into the pedestal's black wood with gold letters.   It's strange. Norma wasn't always what she called herself, but now it's the only name she remembers having. It's a name she borrowed in exchange for the name she owned.   Norma looks up and sees a rose gold locket hanging around a mannequin's neck. She can't help but reach out. She opens a small door in the glass case, passing over other items and retrieving the locket without hesitation.   She considered how it felt… the feeling of losing herself, to know this locket was never hers and yet to own it all the same. She felt her real self panic and suddenly grow still and silent.   The memories again... Norma felt the blood on her hands as she pressed against an open wound, only these weren't her hands. These hands were older, soft but worn; a mother's hands.   Her hands quaked with fear as she opened the locket, the memories growing clearer. She heard the gunshot, she screamed and rushed for the body of a young man in her living room.   No… not hers. Wait, yes. It was hers, wasn't it? How could it not be? The more she thought about it the more she felt like it was always hers. This made the memory hurt even worse.   The locket opened revealing the picture of a young man with dark brown skin, her son. Yes, her son. He died that day. He bled out on a cheap rug clutching to my waist. He took his final breath as he did his first, nestled in his momma's arms… Norma's arms.   Norma's face twisted in pain, the tears flowing like rivers, like snakes in what once was a peaceful garden. She sobbed, and convulsed as she relieved that moment, and all that came before. She gave birth to him, raised him…   God… why?


Cover image: by Pro Church Media

Comments

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24 Jun, 2022 16:02

Such a crazy, cool concept! Oh, and I'm totally stealing those artifacts for my TTRPG sessions :-)

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
24 Jun, 2022 17:39

Thanks for the kind words! Doooo it! I really want to dig into each persona and their regalia. May do that soon.

1 Aug, 2022 23:36

What a unique and interesting concept. I love how the legends live on, along with their powers. The story at the beginning really drew me into this article.

Choose your poison:   Phasmatum: An Afro-Solar-Fantasy world created for my epic novels.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
9 Aug, 2022 14:43

Thanks so much! I appreciate it. I'm glad you enjoyed the story, as well.

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