Looking Forward

That’s it for Between Fire and Dreams!

The next setting will be a return to the Splinter of the Machine setting. As usual, things on this blog will be fairly quiet here until then.

However, I also have the next few settings planned out. They will be…

  • Beneath the White City, a dungeon crawl in a massive underground manse in the North.
  • Sea, Sand, and Sleep, which follows a Guild caravan floating across the West.
  • No Gods Rule Here, wherein a Realm tributary needs to be brought back in line… or convinced to join Lookshy.
  • All is Part of the Pattern, wherein a team of Sidereals try to right matters along the Cinder Coast.

I might change the order, but I already have the art together for these settings, so the concepts are fairly well set.

After that, I’m going to take a break from creating settings and move on to creating some rules content. I’m actually better at that than I am at setting/NPC writing. Stranger Creations was all part of an effort to challenge myself and improve those skills, and I think that 14 NPCs each in 14 different settings will be a fairly good amount to end with.

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Vashra Tal, The Ancient Advisor

Background

My fellow members of the Gold Faction,

I am delighted to report that the many happy returns among the Chosen of the Most High have been no mere rumor. And yet, I write to you in concern and in fear. Not that we will fail them for a second time, for we will not – but that you will fail to believe me.

In the city-state of Shirakh and the Wathia-land, once known as Yondlan’s Delta, there has been a phenomenal resurgence of Solar essence. At my last count there are seven! Solar Exalted here on the plains, from queen to pauper.

They are about to go to war. I intend to intervene at this most crucial of times, to broker peace amongst these worthy individuals.

At this time I find it important to put you in mind of my actions in this land in the past centuries. How I have slowly worked our wayward allies’ hold from the Delta. How I have shepherded the Illuminated, letting them grow in number to replace the Immaculates in preparation for a day such as this. How I have kept this region free of both the warlords of the Silver Plague and the depredations of the Fair Folk. I call on you to remember my deeds and my rank, and honor the service that I have made here.

If there is anything that you can do to help bring success to this endeavour, I beseech it of you. I ask that you keep the Immaculate Order from these shores as best you can, and that the Wyld Hunt be diverted to other lands until I have the opportunity to enlighten those of these Chosen who will hear. I ask you to send such apprentices as you may spare, in the awful case that war does come.

This is an unheard-of opportunity. Here in the delta, we can show others of our Fellowship the right and shining path. Here in the delta, we can nurture the seed of a new age.

Brothers and sisters, this is our chance.

Appearance

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Vashra Tal shows her years. Her light brown face is deeply lined with wrinkles. She wears neither makeup nor jewelry. Her thin white hair is cut short and hidden beneath her head-wrap. This cloth bears the pattern of an ancient clan of the south, long gone from Creation, who were her descendants. She is prone to chills, and covers herself in warmer clothing than younger people might. She wears red.

Demeanor

Crafty, subtle, and wise. Vashra Tal knows how to talk to people, and approaches each person in the manner she believes will be most effective. This is always seated in her “old and cagey advisor” persona, but she knows that some people will respond well to brutal honesty, others to flattery, others to the gradual posing of mysteries.

Vashra Tal has been a functionary for many centuries. It’s difficult for her to get out of that role. She composes her thoughts and words the way someone might compose a letter, and writes her letters as if they were tiny important novels. She believes that “doing things right” in such a way matters in the long run, and given the length of her run, she may be right.

Intimacies: Defend Creation (defining), The Solar Exalted are our best hope (defining), Loyalty to my comrades (major), Bring peace (major), The Bronze Faction are misled unfortunates.

Capabilities

Vashra Tal passes for several people in Shirakh. To the people of the docks, she is a retired fisher-woman who ties nets and gabs with passers-by. To the people of the markets, she deals in well-made tin trinkets, and sends young would-be thieves running with a swatted backside. To the women who were of the harem, she is a kindly matron who takes them in and asks no questions, even if she does tell strange stories with Anathema heroes. To the people of the palace, she is a scribe, seldom heard and even more rarely seen. She has the skills for each of these trades and more. She is particularly well-versed in the history and languages of the south.

Few would suspect that she was a general once – she is chosen of Mars. She led the ancestors of the Wathia-folk against a demon horde that sprang out of the southern desert. Against creatures from beyond Creation, her soldiers were matchless warriors. Her battle patterns drove the demons back. Her sage advice rallied her troops. When she selected a target, her forces struck it as if their blades and bows were enchanted. Her commanders knew to trust her without fail.

Vashra Tal is a student of the Charcoal March of Spiders Style. She knows it up to its form, letting her shift quickly across a battlefield and attack with great rapidity. She is visible only when she strikes. Fate itself forms a web around her, preventing her from falling or being grabbed. She can use these threads to attack at a distance, including disarming or grappling. They stick to the living, making it difficult for them to move. She can inflict a deadly poison with a touch.

As with most Siderals, Vashra Tal is adept at bringing about blessings and curses. Hers tend to be longer-lasting and more specific than those of other star-chosen. She is especially known for her ability to bring about “ultimate fates” – great destinies, incredible accomplishments, horrible downfalls – if the person she is talking to will just follow her advice.

Supporting Characters

  • Jenath, who runs the local Cult of the Illuminated for her. Smart, cautious, captivating.
  • Ifala, who knows her in the palace. Dainty, dignified, embarrassed.
  • Fairfax, her invisible wind-snake familiar spirit. Strident, logical, mercurial.
  • Yondlan, guardian god of the Wathia-lands themselves. Taciturn, warm-hearted, vulnerable.

Questions

  • Does Vashra Tal realize there are multiple Night Castes, or are anima effects working to keep her from knowing that Katavi is also Exalted?
  • Will the rest of the Gold Faction listen to Vashra Tal?

Laughter in Chains

Background

Gather round you sallow shades and hear my tale! For the Neverborn speak to me and through me, and make no mistake, they call to you!

I have ever heard the voice of death. I was surrounded by it from the first days, which are in a past that none can retrieve, as lost as my name. I have always been Laughter in Chains; there was no before and it is my solemn oath to death itself that there shall be none after.

I came here on the orders of my lord, who demands the lands of the living in tribute for an eternity of faithful service unrewarded. My path was lit by the sign of the Meteor, a constellation of the world beneath reflected in the sky of Creation. What better auspice could I expect? Under such a potent sign I invaded the royal palace, prepared to strike terror into the young queen, to drive her fairly mad with fear, and thus to begin my overthrow of this land. I would drag it down, down into the service of the dead.

And yet NO! I was defeated! Roundly thrown from my path by the blade of one of the Sun’s deluded Chosen! Oh, the agony! The shame! If I had not protected myself with the ceremonial armor of the guttersnipe who dwell in this kingdom’s pathetic hovels, I might have perished there – for what little worth such perishing has for one such as myself.

In my retreat I was unpursued – safe. I found a cave, and in this cave I found the sleep of the worthy. Some of my kind have said that in sleep they do not dream. I find my dreams full and long. The voices of the Neverborn whisper through them, echoing, cajoling me, speaking to me of what might be and what must.

Oh, what a reward they promised that night.

The Neverborn have told me that, if I am clever and careful, I may gain the ear of these many Chosen that have appeared here, and that if I do, a new Deathlord may rise to shake Creation with their steps. Their voice will echo through the hills, and the gods themselves will shudder and turn from the world. And I – I will be the dark mother who brought such a thing into being. The Neverborn would shower me with rewards, and the long respect of the grave. I would be first among the chosen of Death.

I shudder to imagine the consequences of failure.

Appearance

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Pale skin, almost as on a corpse. A thick black stripe across thin blue eyes. An unknown character drawn in brush strokes on the forehead. Her straight brown hair is tied back with many loops of a thin silver chain.

Laughter’s armor, Flame Turned Black, is overwrought with vein-like working marks, grotesque faces, cruel spikes, and steel chains. It cackles softly at all times. When she speaks she often pauses as if waiting for an audience to react; the armor is typically silent then, and she speaks on, frustrated and annoyed. The armor can take on a myriad of sizes and forms depending on her needs, from a shirt of thin and silent scales to a massive suit of articulated plate.

Demeanor

Laughter speaks as if she were on stage. For those who are likewise dramatically inclined she can be captivating, but many people simply find her odd, or even suspect (correctly) that she is unhinged. She’ll whisper, she’ll make grand gestures, she’ll stare off into the crowd. Passers-by are typically so befuddled that they’ll assume she’s not a threat.

In fact, this is her greatest strength: that others underestimate her. She is fairly open with information, and if it’s clear that she’s not showing her full hand, well, neither do the people she talks with. Everyone assumes that once they dismiss her, she’s gone from the scene forever, when she really just moves on to the next person and spreads her poison there.

Intimacies: I must live forever (defining), Might makes right (major),

Capabilities

Laughter’s voice is bizarrely compelling. Her eyes barely move as she speaks with someone, focusing on their eyes continually as she rants and gesticulates. She is strong and graceful, though Flame Turned Black does weigh her down if she ceases her dramatic narrative. She is smart enough to create backup plans, but not always good ones. She relies on raw power and hidden allies to see her out of difficult situations.

Raw power is something she has in abundance. Laughter in Chains is of the Dusk caste, with Melee as her supernal attribute. She wields a long, thin daiklaive of moonsilver taken from the corpse of a silver-haired barbarian. With it she is fantastically well-defended – faster than the eye, colder than the wind, sharper than a teacher’s glare. She can strike all around her at once, or parry a hundred arrows. She has little raw striking power, but the sharpness of her blade more than makes up for that.

Her armor, Flame Turned Black, will defend her as well, turning blows and absorbing impacts. It is shape-shifting and self-repairing. Most impressively, it can melt or burn mortal weapons that strike it, making them less effective or harming those that strike her barehanded.

Most of Laughter’s other charms are related to ghosts: finding them, trapping them, forcing them into service, drawing power from them, making bargains with them. She can draw them into physical form or banish them until the next sunset. She doesn’t pay much attention to the study of this power, but she’s done it so much over the years that what she does know has become second nature.

Supporting Characters

  • Old Shamash, ghostly sommelier. Senile, indolent, stuffy.
  • Henetha, captain of her extensive personal guard. Imperious, cocky, pseudo-intellectual.
  • Mad Xudo, a rage-maddened and mutated ghost that she keeps in a pendant around her neck. Mindless engine of destruction.
  • Lefa, a fisherman who knows where her lair is. Simple, content, afraid.

Questions

  • Did Laughter once work for a Deathlord, or did she always take her orders directly from the Neverborn?
  • Does Laughter remember being a Solar? Who was she during the First Age?

Dotha, The Boxer

Background

Shirakh been my home since I was a baby. I know every street, King’s Road to Dust Alley. My mama, she still live here. My pappy done died in a– a revolution. But my mama hard as nails. She still here. All my brothers and sisters, they here too.

When I was grown up she said she want better for me. Don’t know why. This the best city there ever was. No place bigger, no place better. She say I need to do better, and I say why. This is it, mama. This is it.

When I young I fought. All the time. I fight my pappy before he die, then I fight my brothers. I fight everyone. One day my mama took me to The Ring, where they teach you how to fight. A man there say he bet I could fight real good, I say yes, then I knock him down. I guess he like that cause he give me my own gloves. I get to fight a lot. Made good money off it. I got my own place now, with some my friends. Buy my own bread and wine. Deal my own cards.

I don’t hold with the queen much. I know she the queen, there no king now, but I don’t hold. She got her nose in the air. Never even saw the king, he keep out of our business. She here all the time. That’s ok. Shirakh seen a thousand kings, one queen don’t hurt. I just don’t hold.

My brothers come see me, they tell me some day I can’t fight and I should give them my money so they save it for me. They real smart. Then the star falls, I feel so good, I win every fight. I can give them money just cause I want to.

I hear there gonna be another revolution like the one killed my pappy. My friends all say the Wathia up in arms. They got a– Anatama. I don’t want no trouble. I get enough that in The Ring. But someone bring trouble to my home, I hurt them bad.

Appearance

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Tall and strong. Dotha’s head is shaven and his chest is hairless. His black eyes are often half-closed. He has medium-brown skin with warm undertones and the occasional black-ink tattoo. When in the ring he wears loose silk shorts purchased for him by his manager. Outside, he usually wears simple white robes that go from his shoulders to his knees and leave his impressive chest open.

Dotha’s voice is soft and smooth, with a slight tremor. His hands shake just a little in the evening – unless he’s in the ring.

Demeanor

Tough, tenacious, and wary. Dotha doesn’t “act tough”, he is tough, and everyone who sees him knows it. People often recognize him on the street and call to him by name, or call him “Big Man”, and he smiles and waves, taking it all in stride. While his family watches out for him, he has still been taken advantage of before, so he generally withholds his trust until he’s known someone for a while and they’ve proven themselves to him.

Dotha’s face is highly expressive. When emotion wells up within him, his normally placid face telegraphs his inner self for all to see. Tears of joy or rage, grimaces of pain, and expressions of shock or love all flow openly from him.

Intimacies: My brothers (defining), My city (major), Don’t back down from a fight (major), My lady, No love for royalty, No love for rebels

Capabilities

Dotha is a devastatingly strong boxer. His punches are fast and well-aimed, and they hit like sledgehammers. He’s quick on his feet, dancing out of range and coming back in from a new angle. As a newly-minted Dawn caste with Brawl supernal, he can enhance all that with solar essence. He flows away from punches, countering every blow and raining down punishment on his opponents. He builds momentum faster, holds it longer, and uses it to keep his opponents off their game. The punches that land make him stronger; the ones that miss make him faster. Needless to say, his bouts have become fairly short. If he really cut loose, he could probably knock out an elephant with one punch.

Dotha hasn’t yet shown his anima in the ring, not even in the new two-on-one fights they’ve got him in to try to prove he’s beatable. He doesn’t realize what he’s become. He just knows that he “feels good” – the best he’s ever felt in his life. He’s not overconfident, though. Dotha has lost his share of fights in the past, and still takes every bout seriously.

Other than that, he’s not much changed. He never had a lot of skills other than fighting. He can’t write much (especially with his tremor), but he can sign his name and he can read some. He’s good at sizing people up, both physically and in terms of their temperament.

Supporting Characters

  • Khroth, who was once his chief boxing rival. Cynical, restless, boisterous.
  • Fashli, his manager. Hot-headed, ruthless, calculating.
  • Dovrisho, his brother. Considerate, huffy, indebted.
  • Afisha, his current girlfriend. Charismatic, caring, serious.

Questions

  • How far will Dotha’s promoters go to challenge him in The Ring? Will he end up showing his hand?
  • Will Visho or Xerith try to recruit Dotha? Will they just manipulate him into harm’s way?