Stock Art Rant

Exalted is a big, multicultural world where matriarchal societies are the norm. I want to represent that in the artwork here on Stranger Creations. Because of that, I spend a lot of time looking for good stock art for this project. I’m not perfect in this respect, but I do try.

I’m not sure you all understand just how much time this takes. How much soul-crushing, depressing, demoralizing time, that makes me want to give up all hope for goodness in humanity.

Most stock art is bad. You can quickly and easily find examples of art where the subject is…

  • Poorly Lit – The image is not merely “dark,” it has “bizarre shading that makes the image unusable.” Using a professional site cuts down on this problem, which is nice.
  • Not Selling The Look – Someone who is marked as “fierce” has a look that says “rawr, I’m sooo angry j/k.”
  • Just Not Tagged Right – The artist uploaded a really broad photoshoot with dozens of different poses and artists, and pasted the same set of tags into all of it.
  • Over-Shopped – I can flip a photo left-right myself. I can darken the edges myself. Don’t try to sell me both versions.

I would make a drinking game out of it, but I’d like to live, you know?

However, the bigger problem (at least for my mental health) is that looking through stock art is like having a lens through which to view all of the various racial, class, and gender biases of humanity. An easy-to-search lens in the format of 100 images per page.

To pick just one of those biases: stock art is packed full with all sorts of racism. It’s already difficult to find images of non-white people (unless you want them in business suits, in which case, no problem). Finding non-white people in any sort of fantasy/sci-fi scenario is much, much harder.

What search terms did I try for this? Well…

  • “Black”, which generally gives you white people in black clothing or with a dark background.
  • “African” or “African American” is more successful, but you only get 3 pages of results instead of 300.
  • Similarly to “Black”, removing the word “White” from the results only removes people with white clothing or people on a white background. Ok, fine, this is just a tagging thing, right? Except…
  • Removing “Caucasian” from the results just tells you that most stock art creators consider being Caucasian to be some kind of default setting.
  • “Indian” gives you some folks from India, which is good. It also gives you a ton of white people dressed as stereotyped native Americans. Ugh. Drink.
  • “Pakistani” gives you mostly the same folks you got when you searched for “Indian”, minus the Halloween-costume rejects. Given the traditional relationship between India and Pakistan, that’s kind of guaranteed to annoy someone.
  • Similarly, “Chinese”, “Japanese”, “Korean”, and “Vietnamese” give you basically the same overlapping set of results. Ugghh. You might as well just search for “Asian”, which is what I ended up doing. Unfortunately, this also gets you white folks who have makeup on to make them “look Asian”. Take a shot.
  • Looking for any sort of islander – “Polynesian”, “Hawaiian”, etc. – gives you men in leis holding ukeleles, and women in leis and bikinis.
  • “Hispanic” gives you about 50% Hispanic people, and 50% white guys dressed up in “Mexican” clothes.
  • Not a single site knows what “person of color” means.
  • “Ethnic”. Yes, I stooped to using “Ethnic” as a search term, because there was nothing else I could think of to find non-white people after all the rest of this failed. This gave me about a 50% success rate, and made me want to drink heavily.

This doesn’t even get into gender problems. When I search for “Strong Man” I get a guy with muscles. When I search for “Strong Woman” on certain sites I find women in business suits with their hands on their hips on mountaintops, and I end up yelling at my screen saying “NO, I NEED ONE WITH MUSCLES, BECAUSE SHE’S A WARRIOR.” And then I search for “Warrior Woman” and oh for the love of god why did I not expect midriffs I know how this dance goes why did I not expect it. Christ. Take a shot.

For every ten of those hundred-image pages, I typically find a single usable piece of stock.

Here are a few conversations I have had with stock art sites. In my mind, of course.

Me: “Hey, this one pose is ok, but it’s not precisely what I want. Do you have other images of this black woman from the same shoot?”
Stock Site: “Sure! Oh, by the way, she’s just photoshopped black in the image you found. She’s actually white.”
Me: “UGGGHHHH”

Me: “I need a man with japanese features and formal-looking clothing, but not modern business clothes. Ooh, I know – show me some samurai.”
Stock Site: “Here are a bunch of white women in skimpy faux-asian clothing with a sword that they clearly don’t know how to use. And some white guys with more clothes and the same issue.”
Me: “Uhhh, no. How about guys in hakamas instead?”
Stock Site: “Here are some white Kendo instructors.”

Me: “I need a photo of a black guy holding a sword.”
Stock Site: “Here’s the only one we have.”

Me: “Hey, I have an awesome idea for a culture where everyone wears veils. I found a bunch of great photos of women in veils. Give me a few photos of men in veils too.”
Stock Site: “LOLwhut?”

So yeah, it takes a long, long time to find good stock art. I found a site that I like quite a bit (CanStockPhoto) and it still has these issues, constantly. Don’t even get me started on the problem of finding stock drawings or other artwork for fantasy games that aren’t made solely for D&D or Tolkien-inspired games. I tried that and gave up fast, which is why you’re seeing photo-art for Stranger Creations instead of hand-art.

There are stock art sites out there that specialize in photos of people of color. Mosiac Stock, ColorStock, and Blend Images have this as a specific goal. Madame Noire has some good suggestions as well. I’d love to hear some more resources in the comments section, especially some that have fantasy art.

For now, I’ll just leave you with this unending parade of bullshit.

End of Slumber’s Grasp

And that’s it for Slumber’s Grasp!

There will be a slightly longer break before the next setting, thanks to the holidays (happily) taking up some of my design time. I’ll have a few intermittent posts between now and then.

Speaking of the next setting…

On a remote island in the distant West, in an ever-shifting city on an inescapable island, unwilling warriors compete for the ultimate prize. Kill your rivals in this bloody free-for-all, and the deathlord known as Eight Eyes Ending will reward you with immortality and power. Refuse to play the game, and you’ll end up as prey. There’s more going on here than meets the eye, though – not everyone is here to be a deathlord’s entertainment. Some have games of their own in mind. Will you be their pawn, or break free?

Athanor Isle awaits.

Sunset-On-Snow, Fair Folk Noble

Background

So many of those from beyond Creation see it as a terrible machine, an evil construct of law designed to rip the joy and beauty from the Wyld and turn it into dull and lifeless clay. Not so Sunset-on-Snow. In Sunset’s eyes, Creation is a diamond on a velvet cushion, a pearl on a necklace. It is the “I love you” in the rush of confused marriage vows that is the Wyld. Nothing is quite so beautiful or has such meaning to it. Nothing but those who live in Creation can “be” and “become” and “end” quite so definitively.

Sunset-on-Snow was one of the first Fair Folk – those from beyond who came to Creation, forced or not, to try to find a place within it. Sunset has gained fortunes and lost them, been a ruler and a slave, written songs and been the subject of them. Sunset has lived in many places in the North, but chose to settle in Snow’s Hand (now Slumber’s Grasp) for the past few hundred years. In a small pool of the Wyld known as the Glacier of Splendors, a delicate frozen palace impossibly maintains its place as the river of ice slides beneath it.

When King Thenor came to the Glacier of Splendors in in the summer of his fifty-ninth year, Sunset-on-Snow saw an image of a beautiful tragedy extending dozens of years into the future. The slow decline of ruler and kingdom! Wisdom laid low! Children at each other’s throats! The anguish and the ecstasy – such a feast for the soul. How could one refuse such an offer?

The cost to Sunset was great. Immortality, even of Thenor’s flawed sort, is not easily granted. In the intervening years, though, Sunset’s strength has recovered and redoubled. Light returned to the Glacier of Splendors, and the night skies in Slumber’s Grasp are lit by more than just the aurora. Fearing no harm from the citizens of the valley, Sunset often visits the towns and villages in the northern valley.

Sunset-on-snow is fascinated by Turning Wind. His presence is like a tiny symphony, or a looking at the world through a puddle where a stone has been dropped. Other Fair Folk might find it jarring or painful; Sunset finds it pleasantly discordant. So far the sun has only viewed the wind from afar, but who knows what romance might bloom?

Appearance

sunset on snow 500

Skin the color of desert sand. Indistinct eyes behind feather masks. Long and flowing hair somewhere between brown and blonde. A subtle and ever-present smile rests on lips that drip words like honey. A body slim and mid-sized, with neither strong male nor strong female features. The backdrop for Sunset-on-Snow is the very thing itself: a constantly changing display of brilliant colors that cannot be seen from behind.

Sunset-on-snow can wear many forms in Creation, but primarily appears as a myna bird, a wash of color, a feathered wolf in resplendent colors, or a masked human as described above.

Demeanor

Every person in Creation is a toy to Sunset, a beautiful and cleverly-made marionette with which wonderful games can be played. Part of the game is seeing how far things can be pushed before someone discovers that there is, in fact, a game. And then, after the realization comes, how will they react? Seeing such responses is a joy – after all, they are just another part of a longer and deeper game.

Intimacies: “I will always be free” (Defining), “Don’t break your toys” (Major), “Make drama” (Major), “Gossip” (Positive), “Attachments to others” (Negative)

Capabilities

Let the cataphracts wear their armor and ride their chargers into battle. Sunset-on-Snow is nimble and untouchable, clever and quick-witted, daring and charismatic. Why wave a sword when one can slip away from a battle? Why growl when one can laugh?

Regardless of gender or preference, all observers find Sunset-on-Snow stunningly beautiful. The fluidity of Wyld-born form accommodates any romance that might arise. Sunset’s very presence is addictive, though only lightly at first. Those unaccustomed to the Wyld might not even realize why they follow this strange person around like a puppy after its master.

Sunset-on-Snow can walk in Creation for much longer than most Fair Folk. The Wyld in the mountaintops is still preferable, but the feeling is like coming a home from a tavern, rather than from a war.

Supporting Characters

  • Beam of Truth, groundskeeper of the glacier. Meticulous, slow, irascible.
  • Softly Falling, palace guard. Dour, professional, loves sweets.
  • Fire Among the Stars, who grows flowers from sunlight and ice. Flighty, joyous, naive.
  • Seppo, who waits for Sunset to come to his village. Young, bright-eyed, needy.

Questions

  • How do the other citizens of the Glacier of Splendors react to Sunset’s coming and going? Do they scheme for power, or are they merely phantoms conjured by Sunset’s presence? How many are there here?
  • Sunset is hardly just “Fair Folk” any more. Creation’s influence has wrought change here. When that is pointed out, what is Sunset’s reaction – anger? Sadness? Joy?
  • Who is there in the valley that Sunset-on-snow might consider a threat?

The Iron Queen, Soulsteel-aspect

Background

Past the southern mountains of Slumber’s Grasp, in a valley between kingdoms, lies the Vale of the Clockmakers, a strange little land of carpenters and woodcutters, farmers and tinkers. At the center of this land is a magnificent manse: The Lodge of Locks. Not a castle properly, but what a castle might dream of being in a small, magical, wooden retirement. Ten thousand gears in one hundred and one locks kept the lodge sealed. Every few years some traveler or dynast would come by, seeking to test their intelligence against the locks. Once in a century they might succeed, only to be stymied by the next lock.

At the center of the lodge, beneath the ground, is an unbreakable seal three meters wide, and beyond that seal is nothingness itself. So says the woman who came through it.

Five years ago a woman made her way out of the lodge. The townsfolk were astonished – not only because of her strange features, but also because the lodge had been sealed for all recorded history. She was the first person to ever enter or leave it. She opened the locks as if she had been born to the task.

Even beyond this achievement, it was obvious that she was one of the Chosen. She was strong and keen-eyed. She learned the local language inhumanly fast. People found themselves leaping to her aid without thinking. After an initial period of confusion and equilibration, she helped improve the industry of the valley immensely, drawing new logging plans and introducing crop rotations. Her genius was undeniable. After she had ben in the valley for two years, the people began treating her as their ruler, and she subtly and graciously accepted.

Her land had little contact with Slumber’s Grasp before her arrival. Travelers brought word from time to time, but few people visited the Vale of the Clockmakers. Princess Athela was stunned by reports of her arrival and her appearance, and sent young Prince Jasper to speak with her – with a few older advisors, of course. He returned to the Vale for a few days each year afterward, seemingly eager to know more of this strange queen. What will she think when she hears word of Jasper’s rebellion? Will it be a disappointment? A concern? Or the next step in her plans?

Appearance

the iron queen 500

Half of the Queen of Iron’s face is pale white; the other half is forged of soulsteel. Other pieces of her body are made of this terrible metal as well. The locals, unfamiliar with the magical materials, believe it to be iron. She is fond of crystal, saying that it reminds her of her home, and wears gaudy jewelry to show it off. Her eyes are a dark grey. Her hair is golden blonde.

Demeanor

The townsfolk say that the Iron Queen was bewildered and confused when she arrived. She is not so any more. She considers her words carefully, and speaks distinctly, but there is an air of confidence about her. She treats her citizens with authority, but with respect. She rarely meets with visitors, preferring to send a servant in her place. They are told that only citizens of the Vale meet with the Queen – not entirely true, but not far from it.

Intimacies: “My safety is of the utmost importance” (Defining), “I must rebuild myself” (Major), “Prince Jasper” (Positive), “I will return home” (Positive), “Those who would threaten my valley” (Negative)

Capabilities

The Iron Queen has two disparate skill sets. The first is managing people. She naturally puts them at ease, finds their most productive qualities, organizes them, and puts them to work. She spots liars and slackers easily, though the Vale of the Clockmakers has few of either. She can read ambition on a face as if it were drawn there. Her second area of skill is with architecture and metalwork. In this she makes excellent and clever use of machines, including pulleys, levers, and cogs. She knows the strengths and properties of all manner of materials, letting her choose the right one for the right task. She also has some familiarity with alchemy, especially as regards the magical materials. There are many blind spots in her knowledge of the world beyond the Vale, but she learns exceptionally quickly.

Her Majesty’s essence works to enhances these abilities. Pheremones shape emotions and build trust. Her voice is perfectly pitched and modulated to issue commands that sound like requests. Her soulsteel eye sees weak points in structures and materials. Her fingers let her feel the intricate structure of mechanical devices from the outside. Her limbs support more weight than they look like they should. All of this might is carefully put to use by a mind that itself respires essence and voraciously takes in all before it.

The Iron Queen does not heal easily. She knows how to create soulsteel from “raw materials” – that is, from the souls of the dead – but repairing the metallic portion of her body is difficult and time-consuming. For that reason, she avoids combat at all costs, something that has been easy to do in this peaceful valley.

Supporting Characters

  • von Heikkila, her majordomo. Mature, succinct, dazzling.
  • Torvald Ekks, occasional visitor from farther south. Cultured, sociable, deceitful.
  • von Saulison, who wants to overthrow her. Jealous, concerned, calculating.
  • da’ Sinikka, who meets most of her visitors for her. Bold, reasonable, loyal.

Questions

  • What artifacts did the Iron Queen find within the Lodge of Locks – or bring with her from places beyond? What strange powers might they bestow?
  • How large is the Iron Queen’s stock of soulsteel? Is she running low, or has she been stockpiling it? What does this say about her relationship with the folk of the Vale, and of her needs?

The Raiton Queen, Goddess of Sorcery

Background

During this fallen age, sorcery is not what it once was.

Oh, certainly, the Dragon-Blooded teach certain of their children to shape the essence of the world. The Chosen of the Moon and the Maidens have their own magi, fewer but more powerful. And yet the greatest masters of sorcery have disappeared, gone as if they had been locked away, for over fifteen hundred years. The Raiton Queen, once-mighty goddess of magic and power, suffered greatly from this. She was not the goddess of meager magics or the everyday elemental powers of the dragons’ children. No, the Raiton Queen was the goddess of the most powerful magics. The day the Old Realm fell, her grace ran from her like rats in the night.

Her life in the intervening time has not been pleasant. In the old days she lorded her might over other gods, and in her weakness they stripped her of everything she cared about. Her mantle, her land holdings, her palace in Yu-Shan, her myriad of servants, even her own sorcerous workings all across the North. She wandered, weak and pitiful, from village to village, seeking charity. The curses of her enemies gave her no rest. Eventually she found a cave to hide in, and the wings of her namesakes covered her like blankets as she slept the Long Sleep.

All of that changed five years ago. Slowly, in bits and scraps, her power began to return. She felt her old places of power calling to her, pulsing with essence. One of these is an ancient, crumbling castle on the edge of Slumbering Grasp’s eastern glacier, overlooking the valley. This is her present home while she waits for the remainder of her might to return.

In the meantime, she has carefully scried this valley, seeking out those with sorcerous potential. Such a place, quiet in its politics but rich in supernatural potential, seems ideal to her. In such a place one could build power – over centuries if need be. Revenge will be sweet.

Appearance

The Raiton Queen 500

The Raiton Queen drapes herself in a robe of feathers, black with green iridescent green highlights. Some of these feathers come from the flock that surrounds her; others came from her own hair. Her skin is the color of the moon overhead, and she paints her eyelids and lips black to accent this. Her eyes are dark green.

Demeanor

In a word, arrogant. She is not demanding of those who are not sworn to her, but neither does she bow or show respect. She always speaks as if to an audience. She paces and laughs, chewing scenery like a cheap actress.

The Raiton Queen has nothing but contempt for Yu-Shan and its representatives. Her requests to heavenly authority went ignored for the past fifteen hundred years; she expects nothing from them now. Her one ally (real or would-be) is the Goddess of Snows, around whom she is deferential, almost needy.

Intimacies: “If sorcery doesn’t solve your problems, you’re not using enough of it” (Defining), “I protect the ancient knowledge” (Major), “The world must be stable enough that I might change it”, “Those who hunt my flocks” (Negative), “The Goddess of Snows” (Positive)

Capabilities

The Raiton Queen is a sorceress capable of the Solar Circle. At this time her workings are still weak and slow, her essence sluggish to respond. As time goes on and the highest circle of sorcery is employed more often across the North, she will gain more power. Her knowledge of sorcery is still crystal-clear, but her ability to implement it still lags. Casting spells of any circle can leave her breathless, and sorcerous workings weaken her.

She has few skills beyond sorcery. She speaks only Old Realm. She knows nothing of politics or history for the past thousand years. She cannot build, sail, ride, or hunt anything that is not related to magic. She is phenomenally durable, but needs to prepare for specific contingencies if she is to be effective in combat.

The Raiton Queen is trapped in physical form and banned from Yu-Shan by the curses of her ancient foes, many of whom have forgotten she exists.

Supporting Characters

  • Ilari, a ritual assistant recruited from Slumber’s Grasp. Unfriendly, meek, exacting.
  • Vattru, who feeds the birds. Quiet, pensive, wary.
  • Yrjo, a traveler from farther north ensnared by the Queen’s majesty. Feisty, vain, amorous.
  • Toivo, an elk-hunter from Slumber’s Grasp who has seen the Queen in his travels across the mountains. Pleasant, intelligent, foul-mouthed.

Questions

  • Has the Raiton Queen been changed by the emergence and influence of necromancy?
  • In her scrying, the Raiton Queen must have noticed Dead Galor. Whom else might she have spotted? How much does she know of the events transpiring in the valley, and how much of it is correct?

Dead Galor the Never-King

Background

Prince Galor would never be king, and it rankled him.

He was regent, but this power alone wasn’t enough. Knowing that his distant ancestor could gainsay him on any matter was an affront to his pride. Galor wanted to be king, in name and in truth, and nothing would stand in his way.

He was reasonable at first, at least outwardly. He sought all manner of legal recourse – the courts denied him. He appealed to his family – they clung to tradition. He wasted money on alchemists who swore he would outlive Thenor – grey hairs filled his beard still. Eventually the matter consumed his every waking thought.

Galor gathered a few individuals, young, angry, and poor. He promised them silver and titles if they did as he said. Fortunately for ancient Thenor, one of them sold Galor out to his cousins. The regent and his conspirators were marched forcibly to the Glacier of Exile, where they died of exposure – and shame, as the story goes. The story of the “Never-King” was spread to remind people of the importance of tradition and humility.

The story is correct, but incomplete. Galor’s ghost returned fifty years later. This is no mere story with which to frighten children. The angry souls of Galor and his conspirators haunt the lands between the towns of Slumber’s Grasp. Since few people travel at night, they claimed few victims in the first years, and the story was slow to spread. Now the truth is coming out. The dead Never-King seeks to claim in death the throne he could never have in life.

Appearance

galor the never-king 500

Galor’s pale skin, once ruddy, is now darkened by death. His beard has just a touch of grey upon it. His black, ragged hair is tucked up into a war-helmet. He wears thick furs.

Demeanor

As one might imagine, Galor has a monomaniacal focus on his goal. Most conversations with him eventually come around to the kingdom, and then the throne, and then anger.

He’s not stupid, however. Galor has no intent of storming the castle directly. He’s not scared of the castle’s defenders (not even the automata), but he knows that the kingdom’s allies would never stand for a ghost on the throne. First he’ll need to either ruin those alliances, or find a suitable pawn.

Intimacies: “I was robbed of my chance to rule” (Defining), “I will have revenge” (Defining), “My daughter Athela” (Major, Positive)

Capabilities

Galor was a man of powerful personality when he was alive. Death has taken this from him. He may be frightening and compelling, but few would choose to listen to him. He remembers everything about the kingdom that he knew in life – which is a great deal – and has learned even more about the wilderness between the towns.

Galor has not been idle in the time between his exile and his return. He has gathered power from fell bargains and deathly manses. He can project a magical aura of terror and pull darkness from the ground to confuse and divide his enemies. He can read the flow of essence and see the boundaries of Creation.

His collaborators wield jagged weapons of unmelting ice. They are clothed in shadows and starlight, and weapons pass through them even as they kill. He himself has shaped a massive sword, Truth-Teller, from the night sky of the underworld. Its strange and shifting constellations slowly devour those it touches and cast them into the void.

Perhaps most frightening, Galor is capable of possessing the living, even those of strong will. He can hide himself within their bodies with little to no indication, save that his victim’s eyes reflect the moon strangely. All of his deathly powers remain accessible to him in this form.

Supporting Characters

  • Kitra, collaborator and ghostly advisor. Stern, tenacious, cowardly.
  • Pokka, collaborator and ghostly warrior. Taciturn, picky, disillusioned.
  • Varn, collaborator and ghostly scout. Opinionated, focused, weary.
  • Iqqo, witness to Galor’s recent movements. Elderly, conversational, addle-minded.

Questions

  • Where did Galor get all this power? With whom did he bargain?
  • Will Iko and Fia allow Galor back into the castle? Can they detect him if he’s possessing someone?
  • Where is Galor’s stronghold? Is he in the kingdom’s one shadowlands, or has he merely set traps there?

(The stars on Galor’s sword are from Globular Cluster M10. Cluster photo courtesy of NASA.)

Silent Feather, Chosen of Endings

Background

The Bureau of Destiny sometimes finds that certain things stand in the way of fate. Sometimes those obstructions are creatures from beyond Creation, or their corrupt allies. More often, though, they’re powerful individuals who simply have goals that conflict with the Bureau’s. It’s not their fault that their goals would lead to the collapse of the Tapestry. It’s not their fault that the Bureau can’t simply explain to the situation without revealing themselves and compromising their operations. But just because something isn’t your fault doesn’t mean you can’t die for it.

Enter Silent Feather, assassin for the Fivescore Fellowship. As the servant of Endings, Silent Feather has removed obstacles to fate in the North for more than four decades. She has evaded both Lunar barbarians and the spymasters of the Realm. Her work has helped to keep Wyld incursions to a minimum and eliminate several demon cults. Her ability to remain unknown is thanks in no small part to the Arcane Fate that hides all Sidereals.

Currently, Silent Feather has been told that the fate of Slumber’s Grasp is imperiled – her superiors had scant other information with which to proceed. Silent Feather therefore cast a prophecy and considered the results. Hear them now:

If Thenor rules in perpetuity, Slumber’s Grasp will slowly fall into ruin and revolt. This valley will be a slowly-widening crack through which the enemies of creation may enter.

If Jasper becomes king, he will rule poorly, and Slumber’s Grasp will itself become a pawn of darkness.

If Ralia becomes queen, she will rule well for dozens of years – but in time, the Silver Pact will gain a stronger hold in the North.

Athela is fated to die within the next ten years. If she becomes queen, Slumber’s Grasp will become divided amongst her grandchildren, and the kingdom will be the weaker for it. Here, too, the crack will grow.

If the ruling family dies, the Realm will take control of Slumber’s Grasp within five years, and rule it in their typical manner.

Silent Feather’s superiors in the Bureau of Destiny, on hearing this prophecy, have informed her that they lean toward killing the royal family and letting the Realm sort out the kingdom afterward. Silent Feather is uncertain. Given the impending civil war, she isn’t sure the Realm is capable of taking power, nor how well they will hold it. The fate of the Realm is often obscure. She has enough leeway and respect from her superiors to make the decision herself, but she cannot wait long.

Until she is certain of the proper path, Silent Feather is staying with Anvil Loves the Forge, a fellow Sidereal, and waits to learn more about the people she has been sent to kill.

Appearance

Silent Feather 500

Silent Feather wears leathers over padded chain to keep out the northern cold. Her face is obscured by a dark hood. Beneath it, she has pale skin with olive undertones, and dark purple eyes indicative of her caste. She carries a bow in the style of the local people, and a ceremonial sword that is her only artifact.

Demeanor

Getting Silent Feather to talk is fairly difficult. For the most part she keeps to herself, and only opens up with those she thinks will forget her existence – or those who will die soon. When she does open up, she comes across as highly intelligent and philosophical. She gladly debates matters of metaphysics and morality. The only person who can easily make her angry is Anvil Loves the Forge, whom Silent Feather secretly resents. It’s unfortunate that she must rely on Anvil as her local contact. The two are outwardly cordial to one another, at least for now.

Silent Feather is a staunch member of the Bronze Faction. She generally reports back only once her task is completed, to report her success and acquire new objectives.

Intimacies: “The Maiden of Endings” (Defining), “Peace brings strength, strength brings peace” (Major), “The Fivescore Fellowship” (Positive), “Those without honor” (Negative), “Death is a part of life”, “Learn their stories before you kill them”

Capabilities

As an assassin and tracker, Silent Feather is capable of moving silently, finding people across great expanses of tundra and forest, and killing swiftly from concealment. She is an excellent archer, and uses her agility to stay mobile. She is a reasonable strategist. She arranges never to be in a fair fight: if a target proves sturdier than anticipated, she’ll return a few minutes or an hour later for a second shot rather than risking her life in combat. Like most Sidereals, she speaks multiple languages and has excellent calligraphy. She knows the stories of the first age well, and is well-read, but mostly as a hobby. She has few social skills.

There are several ways in which Silent Feather’s essence moves through and empowers her. She can cast auguries, leap and run great distances, and substitute nearly anything as ammunition in her bow. She can arrange to have been elsewhere when events turn sour, and knows when danger is coming her way. She can send those who have tired of life to a quiet, eternal rest. She knows instinctively where she will be needed next. However, her true calling is in the martial arts.

Silent Feather has studied the martial arts style of the Wood Dragon, mastering it from root to flowers. Beyond being able to see and strike at spirits, Silent Feather can pin them in place with her arrows. She strikes directly at her target’s lifeforce, bypassing a portion of their armor. She can heal herself with remarkable speed. She can mark her targets and follow them through winding streets or secret passages. She can move her hands in a complex mudra to distract her foes. Her most devastating and costly technique is to she can fire an arrow that literally severs the soul of her target, causing immense spiritual damage that bleeds over into the physical world.

Her sword, Abandonment, looks and acts like an ordinary blade. It has but one costly evocation: it can remove an incapacitated target from the tapestry of Creation, destroying its soul forever. She uses this power only against creatures of darkness, or when her mission absolutely requires it – her superiors know well the risks of oblivion.

Silent Feather leans heavily on the fact that Creation will forget her existence. She can move without being heard or seen, but is actually fairly poor at keeping cover identities and disguising herself.

Supporting Characters

  • Jeweled Bird, her superior in the Bronze Faction. Precise, thoughtful, merciless.
  • Ranvo the Unheard, the ghost of one of her previous victims, who haunts her still. Angry, callous, repulsive
  • Cloud-climber, a servator spirit who takes messages from Feather to Yu-Shan. Refined, cooperative, discrete.
  • Hilja, the servant who thinks she’s somehow a family cousin. Modest, busy, scatterbrained.

Questions

  • How long does Silent Feather have to make her decision? When will fate call her away to her next mission?
  • Where did Silent Feather come from originally? What made her into the Bronze faction’s assassin?