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

laughter-in-chains-500

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?
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Peacebringer, Chosen of Oblivion

Background

The Exalted are chosen by the gods, or by the Elemental Dragons. Some few of them are chosen by someone who cares too much for them to let them die, or by things from beyond Creation. In every case, it is some higher power that selects the Chosen, or receives them.

There is one category in which this is untrue. Oblivion’s chosen may be appointed to their position by the dark masters of the Underworld, but they choose themselves. Every one of them could have chosen a different path. Yes, it might have been a path to reincarnation, or to emptier fates… but it is a choice freely made.

Peacebringer understands this. She helps other people understand it.

Peacebringer came to the Pearl a few months ago. She went to speak to the people. Just a few at a time, perhaps a dozen at most, in Pech and Sparrow and the city of Redleaf. She doesn’t draw public crowds. She prefers late-night meetings – drinks first, perhaps, then small gatherings in houses, then quiet sessions with a few families together. They’re more like therapy sessions than occult ceremonies. She targets people who have lost friends or relatives: sailors and soldiers, especially, but anyone who is recently bereft is a good target. Parents who outlived their children.

She helps them understand the pain and suffering that comes with life. More, she helps them understand the choice they make. Those who die without attachments are least likely to move into the afterlife. There’s no reason to die early, but neither is there a reason to fight against death. Life ends in death, and death ends the pain of life. And then, reincarnation – ah, but she tells of a secret way to avoid that too.

Suffering in life is inevitable; joy, transient. In the afterlife, things are worse. What’s not inevitable is this cycle of existence.

Those who choose to relent when the Worldbreaker’s Fist arrives will have freedom.

Appearance

Peacebringer 500

A study in white and black. Peacebringer’s irises are black, with long black lashes. Her hair is black; her nails, lacquered the darkest red. She wears jewelry of onyx and dark garnet. Beneath all this, her skin is a pale white. She wears a simple grey robe and hood during her meetings, as well as black dye on her lips. She wears more inconspicuous clothing when out and about.

Demeanor

Peacebringer is a good listener. That’s what stands out to most people when they meet her. She has a smooth, calming voice, and it seems like she’s never hasty. She talks to people, really talks, about the important things that no one ever mentions. Death. Sexuality. The awfulness of the Realm. She seems fearless, and inspires that same fearlessness in others.

This is all a bit of a put-on, of course, but it’s not so far from her true self. The only real difference is that she’s not that great of a listener. Peacebringer really does want to free everyone from the cycle of suffering and pain that is life in Creation. She really does believe in spreading that philosophy. She’s not entirely fearless, but she cares little enough for the people around her to be able to say anything to anyone and not fear for their reactions.

Once in a while she’ll reveal that deeper self to someone. It’s typically for shock value. Whatever true self she has buried even deeper beneath that persona, it’s for her and her alone.

Intimacies: Peacebringer’s true intimacies are cloaked by her power. The ones that she portrays most often are: “Spread the Gospel of Oblivion” (Defining), “End the suffering of others” (Major), “Bring peace” (Major), and “Help people with their sorrow”, but she can display many others depending on the situation. Among her true intimacies are “Worldbreaker’s Fist” (Major, Positive), and “My fellow deathknights” (Positive)

Capabilities

Peacebringer is one of the more experienced and seasoned deathknights in Creation. She was Chosen early and has picked her battles well. She even engineered a trade for herself – she left a deathlord who didn’t need her skills and treated her poorly, and he received the horrific killing machine that he so desired. Now she’s the sharp point for a much blunter instrument. She feels much more comfortable in this role.

As an emissary and provocateur, Peacebringer makes friends easily. Everyone feels like they have something in common with her. People move right past her unusual appearance and feel like they really know the true her underneath. (Her beauty doesn’t hurt.) This makes her able to influence and exploit people well. Those she meets share their own secrets with her, and promise to keep her secrets well.

She uses the oathmaking powers of her Moonshadow caste freely. She never promises anything herself. Instead, she lets people bind themselves to her cause, or indeed to whatever they find most important. Let them learn how hard it is to keep a promise. Let them see that life is pain, that allegiance to any cause brings suffering, and they will give in that much more easily.

Peacebringer’s supernal ability is Socialize. She moves smoothly through any sort of social situation, and understands the connections between people with just a glimpse. She then constructs patchwork personae from dozens of Intimacies, drawn from the ghosts of her homeland. When she needs to connect with someone, she presents them with the person they’d like to see. She has spent so much time with some of these Intimacies that some even have specific Charms attached to them, which can be accessed when she pretends to feel a certain way. She avoids getting too close to people, though. Those who get her to reveal some of her true self can take some of her power from her.

In a fight, Peacebringer is more likely to escape. She knows how to use swords, spears, bows, and scythes, but her primary defense is Black Claw Style, which she knows up to its form. It’s enough to let her disengage and retreat while convincing both her enemies and her allies that she was probably in the right. She tries to avoid situations where she could be cornered, and will attempt to bargain her way out of a fight. When that fails, she’s superhumanly fast on foot, on horseback, or in a ship, and can hide in any shadow or hole large enough to hold her. She’s also capable of taking a surprising amount of punishment, whether physical or mental, shunting some of the damage toward the same ghostly souls that power her personae.

Supporting Characters

  • Xatla Chota, who organizes Peacebringer’s meetings for her. Loyal, organized, disaffected.
  • Tatko Ixotchaka, one of Peacebringer’s cult who also (coincidentally) works for the King of Kindness. Dishonest, touchy, neurotic.
  • Million-Razor Tornado, the aforementioned horrific killing machine who was traded to her old deathlord. Gleeful, sadistic, needy.
  • Worldbreaker’s Fist, her deathlord. Noble, nihilistic, focused.

Questions

  • Does the ritual that Peacebringer teaches her cult actually keep people from reincarnating? Or does it do something else to their higher soul?
  • Where is Peacebringer’s homeland? Are the ghosts she draws on for intimacies with her in some way, or are they back home and connected in some other manner?

Pain, Chosen of Oblivion

Background

Vengeance is a powerful draw. The deathknight known as Pain surrendered herself to it three years ago. This is the story of what happened after she achieved it.

Pain went to her master, the Bodhisattva. He commended her on achieving her goals, despite her loss at the Nellens plantation. She asked to be released, and he laughed. He refused to even explain. She left immediately. She knew that she had been a servant, but refused to be a slave. She defeated a few meager opponents that he sent after her, and then she was free.

Except, of course, that oblivion does not give up its servants so easily. Pain had no direction in her life after exacting her revenge. Without it she found herself doing the will of the Neverborn unconsciously. Murders occurred in her wake, and she was blamed, drawing attention from the true killers. The symbols of the gods were defaced and burned, and innocents in dark clothing were blamed because Pain had been there. Guards found Pain suspicious – tried to imprison her – well, perhaps some of the deaths were her fault after all. She tried to avoid the cities of the living, but found isolation unbearable as well. She still exists in this uncertain state, not sure of how she might break free.

There are pieces of Pain’s servitude that still come to mind from time to time. These flashes of memory serve primarily to remind her of how much better things are now. Her interactions with the Bodhisattva’s other deathknights, most of whom she found repugnant. The day she humiliated Ghula M’shala when they fought in Onyx. The long week when Claws Lock Deep defeated her in some nameless island south of Skullstone. The constant paranoia of being in the Bodhisattva’s service, never knowing whether his next words would be praise or punishment. Pain considered returning, once or twice. Then she laughed, threw away her drink, and kept moving.

Pain was aware of Athanor’s presence. It was a navigational hazard on the Bodhisattva’s maps; something best avoided for its reefs and the dangerous automata there. She once saw its towers from afar. Now, she sees them all too closely. A week ago she had booked passage on a ship passing south from Skullstone. When the dark clouds and red lightning filled the sky, the sailors looked at her in fear. They threw her overboard in the middle of the night, and she struggled to the beach.

Appearance

Pain 500

Pain is a heavyset woman with red lips and skin the color of pale marble. Her hair shades from brown to red. She wears a filigree mask that looks like tarnished silver, and a reversible cape with red on one side and black on the other. Her clothing involves black fabric, black lace, and black leather.

Demeanor

Pain has no earthly idea why she is here. Ordinarily she would hide her emotions behind false amusement, but the idea of being a deathknight offered (in vague terms) the chance to become a deathknight strikes her as incomprehensible at best. She finds it more likely that this is a bitter irony forced upon her by her old masters.

Intimacies: “I will not serve” (Defining), “Ghula has no honor and deserves no mercy” (Major, Negative), “I will not lose to Claws Lock Deep a second time” (Major, Negative), “Freedom” (Positive)

Capabilities

As a member of the Midnight caste, Pain’s duties included preaching the word of her master and instilling fear and respect in his underlings, a job at which she excelled. She can back down confident warriors with a stare. She deflates egos with a single dismissive sniff. She reads social situations well, and her memory for names and faces helps her puzzle out secret alliances. She is also trained at resisting hazards both physical and spiritual. Her essence enhances all of these, flowing through her natural abilities rather than providing any explicit supernatural enhancement. She is particularly effective against those who are touched by death in some way, either by their nature or with an Intimacy.

Pain learned the majority of Ebon Shadow Style from a fellow deathknight, and is puzzling out the final technique herself. She can strike through armor, fade into shadows and move through them, and slow her foes with hesitation and fear. A strike may seem to connect with her, only to have her body revealed as a mere shadow. Her ambushes are deadly. She gladly uses her social prowess while locked in close with an opponent, forcing her foes back with terror, or demoralizing them with a wink or a sneer.

Supporting Characters

  • Star of Despair, a deathknight still loyal to the Bodhisattva. Tenacious, clever, obedient.
  • Unearned Deception, another deathknight who encouraged Pain to leave her master. Wary, stealthy, loyal.
  • Porte Valitha, who knew Pain before she turned to the Bodhisattva. Shrewd, classy, upset.

Questions

  • For what revenge did Pain sell her name?
  • Does the Bodhisattva know about Pain’s presence on Athanor? How does he feel about Eight Eyes Ending?