V’neef Detla, Sorceress

Background

Detla was born in squalor, in the jungles of the East. Her young mother was Chosen by the Dragon of Fire during her very birth, and despite the flames wreathing her, Detla was delivered whole and unharmed.

As an outcaste Dragon-Blood, Detla’s mother was hunted by the Fair Folk of the jungle, who saw her as an invader. Their life was hard. Detla’s home was a cradleboard on her mother’s back. Then, when Detla was five years old, her mother was taken in by the king of Rhadaster, one of the thousand young kingdoms that litter the scavenger lands. Her upbringing was still difficult, but the challenge was now to unlearn fear rather than merely to survive. Eventually her inner strength and the compassion of her new family won out.

Unfortunately, one of the Fair Folk who hated her mother had never really given up. One of them hid within their new allies, flitting from dream to dream, watching Detla until she was old enough to teach. Detla learned within her dreams of the dragon-chains that trapped the world and repressed its full potential. She was taught how to coax that potential out – how to birth wonders from the wildness of the world. She was fourteen when she first hesitatingly tried to do the things that her dreams promised her were possible.

The essence of the wood dragon within her flared that day, hard and yielding at the same time, wild and cultivated all at once. The growing corruption within her was met with an essence that spoke to her through heritage and upbringing, and the two clashed to a standstill.

Detla’s mother found her unconscious in the middle of a field transformed by wyld energies, where crops had become glass and the earth churned with burrowing sandy wasps. She took her quickly, traveling toward a place she had heard of in rumors: a place where madness receded and illness could be cured. Her destination was the Pearl of the Realm and V’neef Kharavi. During this journey, Detla recovered, but her mother was badly injured by the very same raksha who had caused all this trouble. The creature died in the conflict – she thinks – but her mother was still badly hurt.

Now it was Detla’s turn to shoulder her mother. She carried her across the miles, following her whispered and feverish directions, finding food and water by some strange instinct. Eventually she came to Sandpiper in the Pearl, and to V’neef Kharavi.

Sadly, Detla’s mother was too far gone. She passed away peacefully, free from pain, after a final conversation with her daughter. She was placed upon a traditional burial ship, set afire upon the lake. After a mourning period, V’neef Kharavi adopted Detla. Though things have not been easy between them for the past two years, Detla’s heart is slowly healing.

Appearance

Vneef Detla 500

Tall and strong, with flowing dark-brown hair. Detla’s large brown eyes are streaked with kohl. Her skin is a light brown, with a bindi on her forehead. Her clothing is is mostly whites and reds. She wears a large amount of jewelry (not uncommon for this region), especially pearls and gold. Much of this has been given to her by the locals, who see her as Kharavi’s eventual successor and would like to get on her good side early. Her voice is sometimes rough and often wavering.

Demeanor

Unconfident, hesitating, but independent. Detla has difficulty believing that anyone will be in her life for very long. While experience tells her that most people will be kind to her in the moment, she can’t bring herself to rely on them for the long run. She is respectful, but still young and emotional, prone to the occasional outburst. Impostor syndrome runs deep in her. Nevertheless, Detla’s courage is still there inside her. The strength that led her to the Pearl comes out when she needs it, and those who spend long enough with her will not fail to notice it.

Detla has trouble accepting her sorcerous powers. Her mother told her to use make raksha’s gifts her own – to master them, lest she be mastered by them. However, at the same time, she sees them as part of the thing that killed her mother. She prefers to practice where no one else can see – it may be that she feels ashamed. Then again, she may be working some magic that she would prefer others not know about.

She calls Kharavi “grandmother.”

Intimacies: “The Fair Folk” (Major, Negative), “My mother and her memory” (Major, Positive), “V’neef Kharavi” (Positive), “Klatang ‘Emashi” (Positive), “Vatli Butterfly” (Positive). Detla is in a tough place in her life right now, and has no defining intimacy.

Capabilities

In her younger years Detla learned to forage, hide, and run. Her time in Rhadaster expanded her horizons immensely, and she learned several languages, a bit of calligraphy, dancing, riding, and swordplay. Most importantly, she learned how to interact with other people. She never truly became skilled at social politics, but she stopped being the “forest child” that Rhadaster took in and started being a young dynast. She especially enjoyed learning about music and mathematics, and the connections between the two.

When she erupted as a Wood-aspect, Detla gained additional senses for food and water in the wilderness, and a heightened sense of smell that revealed the emotional states of people and animals. She alone in the Pearl is able to tell what Kharavi is really feeling at any given time. She is still young, her talent still blooming, and there are many ways she may learn to direct her essence in the future.

Detla was taught much of the secret ways of Creation and the Wyld in her dreams. She has spent much time puzzling out what of this was the truth, and what was lies. She has great undeveloped power as a sorceress, drawing on both the power of the wyld and the might of the Wood Dragon. She primarily uses this for long-term sorcerous workings. At the moment she knows only two spells. One of them allows her and those nearby to walk up mountainsides, stride through water up to her neck, or pass through thick vegetation as easily as if she were walking across a clean floor. The other spell covers her in impressive gossamer plate armor and gives her a weapon of her desire made of refracted light. She will need more formal instruction before she is truly able to meet her potential.

Supporting Characters

  • Rhadamathala, a princess of Rhadaster who befriended Detla. Kindly, curious, shrewd.
  • Chantak Atla, a servant of Kharavi’s who has been assigned as Detla’s handmaiden. Quick-witted, subservient, brave.
  • Tak’ta Ocha, a local smith who admires Detla. Absent-minded, strong, heartbroken.
  • Vewchat Tratloa, a fortune-teller who fears Detla’s power. Dramatic, blunt, experienced.

Questions

  • Has Detla worked to change the dragon lines here? What act of sorcery might she be attempting if she were the one absorbing their essence?
  • Did Detla or her mother actually kill the raksha that had been hounding her all these years? If not, what happened to it?
  • Does the family who had taken in Detla and her mother wonder what happened to them? Have they sent someone to find them and bring them back safe? How would they react to Kharavi’s adoption of Detla?

V’neef Kharavi, Chosen of Wood

Background

House V’neef is young, as Great Houses go. Kharavi is actually older than the house itself. She descends not from its founder, but from the older House Cynis. Over her hundred and fifty years of life she became utterly disgusted by her own house’s debauchery. When the Empress formally raised the young matriarch V’neef and her descendants to the status of a Great House, Kharavi petitioned for adoption. Kharavi is by far the oldest “child” of this young house – and legally, last in line for inheritance. She doesn’t mind.

Thanks to the wide influence of Kharavi’s birth house, she is no longer welcome across much of the Blessed Isle. No mortal establishment would dare turn her aside; no Great House patrician would dare speak with her. She has been traveling in River Province and the Lakes District for most of the time since then. She prefers the less sophisticated brigandry and strongarming of Nexus and Great Forks to the more elegant and self-absorbed vipers who surrounded her in the Realm. Her matriarch sent her to make deals that solidified the house’s trade agreements, and to diplomatically remove obstacles to their progress.

Despite having many years ahead of her, Kharavi knows that her life is finite. When she was given the opportunity to run the Pearl of the Realm, she accepted, hoping to build a new legacy here. Between her bureaucratic expertise, her medical talents, and the secluded location of the Pearl, she has turned it into a secret safehouse for Dragon-Blooded in need of convalescence. Most people think that there have been few other Dragon-Blooded here for the past twenty years. There have been dozens. Rather than admitting their weakness to their enemies, they turn to House V’neef and spend a few weeks or months with Kharavi, recovering from the most horrible of wounds. The favors they are called on to provide seem small in comparison.

Recently, there was one, an outcaste, whom Kharavi could not save. When she died, she left behind her daughter, Detla. Kharavi could not find it in herself to turn Detla aside. She has adopted the young savant, and the two of them live in Sandpiper Fortress on the Pearl’s western edge.

Kharavi has been married twice, both times to patricians. The first was on the Blessed Isle. The second was in Thorns, before the events that currently make it such an unpleasant place to live. She has six children, twenty-eight grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, and a veritable army of little ones scattered across both the East and the Blessed Isle. Those descendant from her first marriage are still of House Cynis (except the few who deserted with her). Those of the second are officially of House V’neef.

Appearance

Vneef Kharavi 500

Despite her age, Kharavi looks young, perhaps in her mid-twenties. She is very thin, and moves with both grace and poise. Her voice is strong and mature. Her eyes are dark, as is her hair, except where the green-blue betrays the touch of the dragons. She wears spectacles that seem more fashion than corrective lens.

Demeanor

Poised, calm, and in control. Kharavi is used to being obeyed. When she encounters resistance, she is generally reasonable, though she may fume underneath. Her outward emotional state is a bad measure of how she feels beneath. If she sends a visitor out of her house and locks the door behind him, she will be as gracious and calm as when she took him in. When someone threatens one of her patients, she will be calm and reasonable as she tells him that he should expect poison in his every meal if he says another word. She rarely smiles – except on the rare occasion when she sees one of her descendants.

Kharavi is not a nursemaid. She does not coddle her patients. She has servants for that. Kharavi herself performs surgery, applies acupuncture, prescribes foul medicine. Her bedside manner is direct and unyielding.

Intimacies: “My legacy will be untainted” (Defining), “My descendants” (Defining), “House V’neef” (Major, Positive), “House Cynis” (Major, Negative), “Heal the needy”, “Detla” (Positive)

Capabilities

Trained at the Spiral Academy, Kharavi is an expert in managing people and moving supplies to the right place at the right time. She knows how much tax will be accepted by the people, and where it can be spent to keep the populace healthy while delivering the Realm its due. She realizes that there is a criminal underground in the Pearl, and has heard the King of Kindness‘ name. Like most dynastic children, she was also trained in a dozen different areas: archery, horsemanship, calligraphy, poetry, dance, manners, command, tactics, and more. Her citizens are constantly amazed by the talent she shows for every noble activity. If she cooks terribly, becomes ill on even a rowboat, and cannot hold her liquor, no one mentions it.

Kharavi has learned many ways to use her essence in her hundred and fifty years of life. Most of the things she does are helped along in subtle ways by the world and by the living, growing things upon it. However, her greatest gift turned out to be seeing the flows of life essence within living creatures and plants. She is an excellent doctor and pharmacist. If there is something snarling her patient’s essence, her careful hands can cut it out and sew up the wound. If her patient’s meridians are blocked, resulting in lethargy or paralysis, she can relieve them with teas or needles. If humors are imbalanced, she knows what will restore them. While she cannot instantly cure the injured, she can ensure that their wounds are merely painful rather than fatal. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, her direct manner seems to act as a bulwark of sanity for those whose minds have been damaged. Those who suffer from mental illness recover much more swiftly with her words and ministrations urging them onward.

Unlike many physicians, she can as easily operate on herself as on others. This has kept her spry and young-looking well into middle age.

She is a master Gateway player and despairs of finding anyone in the Pearl who can play at her level. She often uses the game to gauge how well her patients are recovering – the worse they lose, the more work she has left to do.

When she travels or expects trouble, Kharavi brings along an ornate green jade powerbow named Moonpiercer. Her grandfather was a member of the Wyld Hunt, and she wields his bow proudly and expertly. Anyone who closes on her will find himself vomiting up a week’s worth of meals as she releases the poison of the wood dragon. She relies on an honor guard to keep people at bay while she picks them off. She knows a bit of martial arts, but only for chi-health and meditation.

Supporting Characters

  • V’neef Ethaa, a young sorceress who changed her body and face to look like Kharavi. Powerful, obsessed, perfectionist.
  • Tlatok Rato, a servant who acts as nursemaid to Kharavi’s patients. Patient, loving, slow.
  • Atlach Okka, the leader of her personal guard. Sharp-eyed, suspicious, demonstrative.
  • V’neef Vwatli, her personal butler and medicine bag carrier. Unflappable, wry, Immaculate-trained.
  • V’neef Utor, the eldest patrician on the Pearl’s ruling council. No blood relation to Kharavi. Impatient, irritated, charismatic.

Questions

  • How much has Kharavi done to investigate the missing tribute? Has she taken a personal hand in this, or has she delegated it?
  • How does Kharavi feel about the potential civil war in the Realm? How far might she go to protect her children from it?
  • Who knows about Kharavi’s visiting patients? Does she keep them secret from Detla? Does the King of Kindness know? Are there any here right now?

 

V’neef Ethaa, Chosen of the Water Dragon

Background

House V’neef is the youngest of the Great Houses, and in many ways it still has much to prove. When Ethaa was growing up, she was told, “Measure your life in the changes you make in the world,” – by which her parents meant, “You have accomplished nothing until you have power.” She was continuously compared to children from other families, especially Peleps Rithra. When Ethaa was outspoken, her parents pointed to Rithra’s quiet focus. When Ethaa was beaming at her accomplishments, her parents pointed to Rithra’s humility. Ethaa worked hard to please her family, but nothing she did was good enough.

When Ethaa was Chosen, her parents informed her that the family needed sorcerers, and she would be attending the Heptagram. This suited Ethaa just fine – it got her out of the Imperial City, and if the teachers at the Heptagram were difficult, at least they were fair. She expected long hours of obsessive work. What she didn’t expect was to fall in love.

Sapadi Am’beta was a servant at the Heptagram, brought by one of the instructors from the lakes region east of Kirighast. Ethaa found her irresistible. Sapadi slowly and shyly reciprocated – which, to Ethaa, was all part of an exhilarating conquest. When she graduated from the Heptagram, Ethaa bought Sapadi’s freedom, and took her away to her assignment in the distant Southeast, where Ethaa’s sorcery was to improve the islands near Lathe.

Sadly, Creation is a dangerous place, and the mountains of the Cinder Isles doubly so. Ethaa denies that her sorcerous workings disturbed the balance of the elements. Regardless of the cause, a sudden volcanic eruption capsized Ethaa’s ship and set fire to the wreckage. All hands on board drowned, including Sapadi. Ethaa, thanks to her gifts, survived.

Losing Sapadi drove Ethaa into an obsessive madness. She recovered her body from the seafloor, and stretched her magic to the utmost to call Sapadi’s soul back from its next life. The process was… imperfect. The thing that might have been Sapadi fled, and V’neef Ethaa abandoned her post to pursue her.

Ethaa has tracked Sapadi across the West, sustaining herself with sorcery, relentlessly pursuing her lost love. That pursuit led her to Athanor. Ethaa knows that Sapadi is here somewhere. She will be reunited with her lover, and woe to anyone who stands between them.

Appearance

V'neef Ethaa 500

Ethaa is thin – thin eyes, thin eyebrows, and a long thin frame. She wears greens and blues that harmonize visually with her anima. Her robes have long sleeves and flowing skirts, and they blow around her impressively when she calls to the elements. Her branch of the family is from the East originally, and it shows in her green hair. She wears small accents of body jewelry.

When she was young, her face was plain and her body ordinary. One of her first acts with sorcery was to make herself beautiful. She is the spitting image of an elder in her house whom she considered breathtaking.

Demeanor

Ethaa never quite managed the trick of humility. Her parents’ attempts to instil this virtue were overwritten when she went to the Heptagram, where she was taught to be commanding and mysterious. This suited her much better.

Intimacies: “Peleps Rithra is a waste of the Dragons’ blessing.” (Defining, Negative), “Sapadi is the love of my life” (Defining, Positive), “My teachers at the Heptagram” (Major, Positive), “The Realm” (Positive), “The Sidereals” (Positive), “I will bend nature to my will”

Capabilities

Sorcery is Ethaa’s primary focus. Many of the skills she learned in childhood have atrophied in favor of geomancy, alchemy, and elementalism. Her tongue is still as quick as ever, her wit as clever, but she hasn’t picked up a war axe in years, and she’d probably fall off any horse that she didn’t conjure herself. She’s at home in a library, though. Her calligraphy is impeccable. She knows more of the secret history of the Realm than even her teachers taught her. She speaks High Realm, Watertongue, and (of course) Old Realm. She can plan and organize well, but is particularly good at improvising when those plans fail. She still wonders what more she might have done to restore Sapadi properly.

As a sorceress, Ethaa knows how to call demons and elementals, clear a battlefield with a rain of poisonous darts, send messages across the breadth of Creation, call a sleep-inducing mist, and call a small ship made of cherry blossoms and spun copper that can bear her across the sea. Beyond that, she uses her essence to uncover the truth about people and places, to hold her steady against waves and wind, and to notice those who might try to harm her before they come close.

Ethaa has multiple demons already summoned. She wears one as paper-thin armor beneath her robes, and another as a feather in her hair that lets her see the true nature of those with whom she converses. The rest wait nearby, immaterial, until she calls on them to defend her.

Supporting Characters

  • V’neef Kharavi, the elder that Ethaa idolized. Glamorous, enterprising, worldly.
  • Cathak Ledash, instructor at the Heptagram. Snooty, brilliant, entitled.
  • Jul, the demon that Ethaa wears as armor. Finicky, patient, vague.

Questions

  • What kind of demons does Ethaa have with her, and how many?
  • Would Ethaa continue to partake in this contest if she were reunited with Sapadi?
  • How would Ethaa react if Sapadi rejected her?

Nikau of Wu Jian, Chosen of the Earth Dragon

Background

The islands of Wu Jian have many compounds that house the Great Houses of the Realm. Well-defended, high-walled compounds, to keep thieves out and provide a sense of luxury to those inside. However, not all the Dragon-Blooded in Wu Jian are members of a Great House. Some, in fact, are exiles.

Born to house Tepet, Nikau was secretly terrified that he would never be Chosen. He covered this with bluster, and intimidating other students. He learned to fight and to fit in with other bullies. When exaltation finally came, it was in the middle of a scuffle – someone had finally decided to fight back, and they nearly paid with their lives. He attended the House of Bells, but was dismissed for brawling with the other students. His house sent him to the Vermilion Legion, where his rising bloodlust resulted in constant discipline issues. After two seasons of polishing armor and peeling potatoes, he deserted with a dozen other like-minded soldiers. His waning fortune bought them passage to Wu Jian, where their names were unknown. There, the lot of them hired out to anyone who could turn a blind eye to their brutality. They called themselves the Red Teeth.

Over the past twenty years, the Red Teeth have made a name for themselves as mercenaries and bounty hunters. Nikau recruits skilled and brutal warriors as they come through the port to replace those who die in the line of duty. They are a hundred and twenty strong, with their own docks, barracks, and brig. Most recruits settle in under his leadership when they realize they can break the rules they want to break. Some of them end up rebelling against him, thinking that they can lead better than he. Those he either breaks or throws overboard. It’s an in-joke with his lieutenants to egg new recruits on and see how far they’ll push things before they come to an end, one way or another.

Despite his effectiveness, House Tepet (who must know by now where their son is) has never officially acknowledged him. He claims not to care.

Not long ago Jalam Bedai came to Wu Jian, and left his boat at the Teeth’s docks. The soldiers hauled it out of the water to inspect it and conduct a little idle vandalism. Jalam was easy prey for Nikau and his veterans, but he had an unexpected secret – that he was Anathema. Nikau threw him into the brig to consider what he might do with him and how he might use this new weapon. He should have expected the Solar scum to break out.

Word had spread quickly of the fight with an Anathema – of lights and the sound of avalanches. Many people came asking. He told most of them that he had slain the creature. Only one visitor knew the truth already. Kiri of Denzik, with her nose for hunts and escapes, confronted him publicly about his lies. He lashed out at her; drew his sword in rage. She calmly put a javelin through his leg.

His body healed, but he could feel that the respect of his men had been broken. Soon the Red Teeth would reject him as leader. The first assassination attempt convinced him, and he vanished in the night.

Nikau’s mind was fixated on the source of his problem: Jalam Bedai. If that little shit had never shown up at his dock, he’d still be in charge. He paid for “shadow passage” on a ship headed West, determined to hunt Jalam down. Would catching Jalam restore his position? No. Would it give him the sweet satisfaction of revenge?

He will have the chance to find out. After weeks of hunting, Nikau has come to Athanor Isle, his vessel wrecked on the shore. He will become the master here, or die trying.

Appearance

Nikau of Wu Jian 500

Nikau has dark brown skin, black hair, and grey eyes that hint at his Tepet parentage. A massive scar runs down the right-hand side of his face. He typically wears dark leathers over chain, and wields an ornate but finely-crafted sword that he took from a bounty years ago. Without the scar he would seem about twenty-five. In reality he is closer to twice that.

Demeanor

Nikau comes across as angry most of the time. That perception is not entirely incorrect. While his temper is under control – mostly – he does like to make a weapon of it. He intentionally gives off the perception that he’s close to the breaking point. When people do what he wants, he backs off. He’s a very canny leader, as long as he has people who will bow down to him to some extent. Without that he becomes a bit paranoid.

He could have been a great commander and mentor. He could have been… well, none of us are what we might have been.

Intimacies: “Fear is power” (Defining), “Jalam Bedai is lawbreaking scum” (Major, Negative), “Kiri took what matters most from me” (Major, Negative), “Fellow bullies” (Positive)

Capabilities

For all his discipline problems, Nikau is a career soldier. When he was growing up he never cared much for all the “playtime” things he had to learn. What he focused on was war – commanding troops, wielding a sword, planning battles, trampling his enemies into the ground. He was good at it, and he enjoyed it. The rest of his education could go hang – he’d be using his caligraphy time to practice writing orders, or rehearse sword katas instead of dancing. He also has a phenomenal force of personality. He’s incredibly intense, and knows exactly how and when to push someone’s buttons. He may not be a courtly Dragon-Blood, but he can stand up against them verbally just fine.

When Nikau was first chosen, his essence flowed from him grudgingly – and so he wrestled his very exaltation into submission and forced it to do his bidding. (Figuratively, of course.) The Earth Dragon roots him when he strikes, bringing extra impact to his blade and knocking his opponents to the ground. His sword is likewise heavy when others try to batter it away and strike him. He can feel the steps of his opponents behind him, and sense the deployment of enemy troops before he sees them. His soldiers can feel this too, and his urges for them, and those who obey his commands are the deadlier for it. It empowers his cruelty as well. The Earth Dragon is at the center of all things, and Nikau can see to the center of his victims – the things that motivate them – while hiding his own center, burying his conscience, and holding fast to his convictions.

Supporting Characters

  • Tobok Maran, his lieutenant in the Red Teeth, who may have set the assassin against him. Deceitful, caustic, brutal.
  • Peleps Fera, who hired him some years ago and regretted it. Busy, contemplative, ambitious.

Questions

  • Where did Nikau get his scar?
  • If Nikau were offered the opportunity to leave, would he take it, or would he stay to finish the contest?

Nellens Badu, Chosen of the Air Dragon

Background

House Nellens is not known for its network of connections. It is not known for its internal unity, nor for its ability to manage a hundred disparate enterprises and weld them into an economically powerful whole. These things form the strength of this House, but it is known for one thing only: being the only Great House not founded by a Dragon-Blood.

Nellens Badu grew up with mortal parents and grandparents. He never expected to be Chosen. When his power erupted at school, his family was overjoyed. (His bullies, less so.) He was rushed through training at the Spiral Academy, and given land and servants early in his life. He was adored inside his House, and scorned by other Dynasts. Remembering how he survived bullying earlier in life, he sought out alliances, and was very successful at maintaining and exploiting them.

Eventually Badu proved his worth to the other Chosen of his House. He was promoted to the West: given several islands to watch over, and a set of lucrative trade routes. His presence there also acted as a deterrent against younger Anathema and the machinations of the Fair Folk.

Badu watched over this island for decades. The trade of sugarcane, rum, and slaves ran smoothly under his watch. The savage Anathema focused their attention on the Caul, and he was left to while away his days in relative luxury.

One day emissaries from farther north visited: ghoulish folk from the Skullstone Archipelago. They asked him to turn his back on their actions as they crossed his shipping routes. Badu refused to turn traitor, generous though their offers were. They came back, each time with greater wealth – and more troops. The discussion turned violent. Badu was forced to enter the fray himself to repel the invaders.

Then, one night, one of the Solar Anathema burst through his window. The beast nearly killed him before soldiers arrived to drive the evil thing away. With so many dead in the conflict, and more “emissaries” coming soon, Nellens Badu could no longer mount a defense against Skullstone’s soldiers. He ordered his household and servants onto ships, and they fled the island at dawn.

Thanks to tight rationing, his fleet arrived in Wu Jian. There, an elder of the House formally stripped him of his holdings and his prestige, calling him a disgrace to his lineage. Badu was given a pittance, a small vessel, and five sailors, and told that he could return home once he earned the fortune he had lost. Ashamed and infuriated, Nellens Badu ordered the ship to return to the West.

A dark storm. A hidden reef. The ship, wrecked on the shore. Sailors, missing or dead. Chests, sunken or strewn about the shoreline. Nellens Badu is on Athanor Isle.

Appearance

Nellens Badu 500

Nellens Badu is light-skinned, with thin eyes. He accentuates these with dramatic makeup and dark false eyebrows, which he mixed from local muds and plants. Atop his head is a black hat with gold trim and long gem-encrusted loops. He carries a fan, with a few spares in his belt in case someone snatches one away. He wears soft pink robes with multicolored embroidery. These will become more tattered and ridiculous as events proceed.

Demeanor

Calm, smooth, and commanding. Badu is like a swan – poised and graceful above, paddling like mad underneath. He’s not afraid to throw around his dynastic importance, but he’s also not looking to make enemies. In the face of this inescapable danger, Badu sees opportunity, and he’ll do anything he needs to in order to achieve it – make alliances with the Anathema, cede power to others, even apologize for “presuming” that his way is best.

Years of island living softened Badu (not that he was ever all that tough to begin with). He enjoys relaxation, soft beds, clean clothing, nice drinks, and a few concubines – preferably all at once. He’ll gladly and subtly play this up if he thinks it will help people underestimate him.

Intimacies: “My life above all” (Defining), “Jalam Bedai robbed me of my land” (Major, Negative), “The Life I Lost” (Major, Positive), “Survival over Dignity”, “I will return to my family one day”

Capabilities

Nellens Badu has the encyclopedic education that is typical of Dynasts – riding, calligraphy, gymnastics, music, dance, arithmetic, manners, command, the arts of war, and more. Most of the past few decades has been spent honing his administrative and mercantile skills. His social skills are as sharp as any of his kin, but he has devoted little time to martial readiness. His mind, once grown lazy in a life of luxury, is showing unexpected reserves of strength now that he has been chased across half the world and back. His essence augments his skills, letting him read motivations, organize people, calm outbursts, and plan trade routes or military assaults, all with supernatural skill.

One of his more unusual talents is as a chemist. He studied the chemical arts from a tome left behind by his predecessor on his island home, and built his own laboratory outside of his manse. With the proper reactants, he can make poultices, analyze artifacts, brew poisons, even create explosives. If nothing else, he is the most likely to build a still on the island. His essence augments this as it does his other skills, letting him work quickly, purify elements, see into the makeup of a material, and successfully replace ingredients with those that a lesser chemist might consider a flimsy excuse.

In battle he devotes himself to defense, using Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style and his natural Air-driven evasion and agility. He darts back and forth, parrying with his fan, leaping up and away, throwing darts hand-crafted from the local trees (many of which are poisonous).

Supporting Characters

  • Nellens Ekala, his wife, who is was sent to the Blessed Isle to serve as ransom for his good behavior. Proper, intelligent, hard.
  • Nellens Teiras, his beloved cousin, a commander in the legions. Flamboyant, short-tempered, well-connected.
  • Wehaukala, Badu’s “native” contact on the island, who knew his habits best. Gregarious, helpful, addicted.

Questions

  • Badu uses poisoned darts. Did he make that poison himself, or did he kill Peleps Rithra and take her paralytic poison?
  • Badu is an excellent military commander. Did any of his soldiers survive the shipwreck?

Cathak Ophilla, Chosen of the Fire Dragon

Background

When Ophilla was young, she loved to dance. At age three she and her family were traveling across the Blessed Isle to their new home on the southern coast. She saw, from the road along the mountainside, a family of farmers being threatened by bandits some distance away. She was about to cry out to her parents to save them, when her mother shushed her and pointed to a woman standing on the side of the field. “The dragons will provide,” she said. To three-year-old Ophilla, it was the most marvelous and beautiful dance she had ever seen, with fire circling up around the woman as the bandits all fell down or ran away. She clapped when it was over, and her mother smiled.

When she grew up, Ophilla naturally realized what she had seen. When she was chosen by the dragon of fire, she knew her calling. House Cathak had always been oriented toward the martial pursuits. Her parents agreed that she could serve the family well in the Immaculate Order. She trained hard, passed the entrance exams, and earned the shaved head of an Immaculate acolyte.

The next few years were a blur of training, both physical and spiritual. Before it ended, about a year ago Ophilla met a pair of well-respected Immaculates. Their behavior turned her stomach. It paid lip service to the Order while doing exactly the opposite. Worse than their own behavior, though, was the fact that they were respected – that everyone else in the monastery considered these heartless ghouls to be beyond reproach. She could not even bring herself to complain. She knew where such complaints would lead, and her fear got the better of her.

Ophilla kept a sharp eye out for the remainder of the year, and saw much that she had missed before. Masters drinking behind closed doors or frequenting prostitutes. Traveling monks speaking of the deals they had cut with spirits. Theft from the donation bowls that were intended to feed the poor. Such things didn’t happen every day, but when they did, they were simply ignored. It was shameful. Ophilla, herself, was ashamed.

When she graduated to full monk, Ophilla was glad to find out that her first assignment would be in the distant south, with Mnemon Bidra, a legend of the Wyld Hunt – and moreover, with her brother, Yento! She has spent the last few weeks of travel catching up with him, telling him about her training, trying to get him to open up about his work. Secretly, she wants to bring Yento back to the Realm, to root out the corruption among the Immaculate order and make it into the pure thing of grace that she had always imagined. She just wishes she knew what was bothering him.

Appearance

Cathak Ophilla 500

Ophilla is pale-skinned and small-nosed, with eyes just a little too far apart for beauty. Her black hair betrays her fire-touched blood with red highlights. When not dressed for battle, she wears robes with intricate flower-and-dragon designs.

Demeanor

Smiling, helpful, compassionate, and yet disciplined, Ophilla is the picture of what a young monk should be. If her eyes are sharp and attentive where another monk’s might glaze past an event, that is only an indication of her inner fire.

She does not yet have the poise that one develops over the course of a hundred years. If confronted with evidence of corruption among the Order or her fellow Dragon-Blooded, Ophilla is likely to falter briefly or change her mind about her course of action rather than raging through or simply ignoring someone.

Intimacies: “My family” (Defining), “The Immaculate Philosophy” (Major), “Lawbreakers and corrupt individuals” (Negative), “Those who do right in the world” (Positive)

Abilities

Ophilla is a phenomenal martial artist and a highly trained dancer. She is also excellent at calligraphy and painting, and plays several instruments. She speaks a half-dozen languages and knows how to ride and sail. She was trained by the Immaculates in the art of resisting the elements, poison, disease, and torture, as well as keeping her mind safe from unwanted influences.

Ophilla’s parents gave her a graduation present when she became a full monk: a pair of red jade daiklaives passed down from a distant uncle. She uses these when she practices the style of the fire dragon. She evades arrows and sheds blows like a phantom, and spends her essence freely as she ignites both her swords and her opponents. When her strikes connect – which they do with terrifying accuracy – her targets are crippled with burning pain that can drive them to their knees. She is also capable of seeing and interacting with dematerialized spirits, including being able to strike them and catch them in searing joint locks.

Supporting Characters

  • Cathak Vorman, who carries Ophilla’s bags and prepares her food. Industrious, strong, mute.
  • Cathak Enna, Ophilla’s maid and assistant. Clever, observant, polite.
  • Kalatti, a young woman in the canyon who looks up to Ophilla immediately. Smart, fast, exuberant.

Questions

  • Will Ophilla realize what’s going on with her brother in time to help him?
  • What will Ophilla think of Mnemon Bidra’s approach to the events here?
  • Will Ophilla try to follow the mandates of the Immaculate Order and bring Ieska to heel?

Cathak Yento, Chosen of the Water Dragon

Background

Every child of the dragons is expected to fulfill their obligations to the Realm. That means studying hard to make their parents proud, bearing or fathering children to spread their elemental bloodlines, and serving the Realm in an official capacity. Yento, having done the first and finding the second distasteful, focused in his late twenties on the third. Always a perceptive and intelligent young man, he found the introspective pursuits of the All-Seeing Eye to his liking.

Then he was chosen by the water dragon, and his time as an analyst was over. The Eye moved him into field work in the Southern prefectures. For ten years he traveled the coastal South. He uncovered cult after cult, from the Hundred Gods Heresy to the Cult of the Illuminated. His pursuit of the latter put him in regular contact with the Wyld Hunt, where he first met and impressed Mnemon Bidra. The former, however, was what really shook him.

Dozens of cults, thousands of miles apart, all worshipping different gods. There should have been no commonalities. No deeper organizing principles. They should have each claimed something different. Instead, when Yento compiled the stories, there was a consistent and coherent through-line. Reincarnation was not the gateway to a better life. The Dragon-Blooded defeated the Solars not through purity and honor, but treachery and poison. The Immaculate Philosophy was a lie. Eventually the evidence convinced him.

Honor prevented him from leaving his position or derelicting his duties. Yento continued to work with an order he didn’t believe in, catching people he believed were innocent. He told himself that their crimes went beyond mere heresy, which was true often enough. Slowly he hated himself more and spoke to others less. He became vicious and brutal in his work. He lost compassion. His superiors, busy with a potential civil war, didn’t notice.

Now Yento has been called by Mnemon Bidra to investigate a backwater. He assumes that this is a punishment for his “inability” to catch a recent heretic, and he’s not entirely wrong. The surprise for him was that he was to work alongside his beloved little sister, fresh from the Immaculate monastery. She reminds him – sometimes happily, sometime painfully – of the joys of his early life. Cathak Yento has begun to hope for redemption.

Appearance

Cathak Yento 500

Yento is a sharp-faced man with a strong body and dark eyes. His skin is tanned by the southern sun. He wears his hair in the traditional style of the honored Shogunate – swept back with a small topknot. The power of the Water Dragon has yet to appear in his features.

Demeanor

Most people just know that Yento is quiet while he works. Those who work with him for a longer time realize that he’s neck-deep in the same corruption that he fights. Any action can be justified if it leads to the desired result.

Yento is a brooding, thoughtful, cautious individual who is just beginning to truly understand what it means to have a lifespan three times longer than that of his childhood friends. He has thrown himself into his work over the past ten years, and has paid for that in isolation, paranoia, and criminal ties that he would rather forget.

Yento is especially conflicted around his sister. He is pleased to be able to share in her life and hear about her struggles and victories again. On the one hand, he is worried that she is losing faith in the thing that comforts her. On the other hand, he also believes that the Immaculate Faith is a sham. He searches in his heart for a way to make things better, like they were when both of them were young. He also believes this will never truly happen. Time, like a river, moves only forward.

Intimacies: “My soul is tarnished” (Defining), “My little sister Ophilla” (Major, Positive), “House Cathak” (Major), “The Immaculate Philosophy is a fraud” (Negative), “One can fight darkness with darkness” (Major)

Abilities

Yento is intelligent and perceptive, with a quick mind. Human beings and human systems just make sense to him. He is trained in both intelligence analysis and crime scene investigation. He’s also good at reading people. He knows how to keep someone loyal or drive a wedge between people.

Chosen by the water dragon, Yento draws upon his essence to see patterns of human behavior. He can see whether people know each other, how they feel about each other, who they trust and respect. This extends to the connections between people and places as well – where his targets grew up and the places they frequent. He can hear lies like a drop of water into a still pool. When someone holds a secret, it sounds like a stream rushing behind a door.

Yento knows a bit of martial arts, and is especially good at predicting his opponents’ next moves. In battle, Yento prefers wide open spaces where he can take time to consider his opponents and their techniques. To get this space he’ll gladly throw opponents through windows and doors, off roofs, or into rivers or cisterns where he can exploit his aquatic mobility. He has no combat artifacts.

Supporting Characters

  • Cathak Telemon, Yento’s primary assistant and henchman. Devious, charming, violent.
  • Henthafamas, Yento’s first contact here in the canyon. Earnest, cruel, daring.
  • Remishalko, local member of the All-Seeing Eye. Secretive, ambitious, seemingly carefree.
  • Cathak Erito, distant cousin and childhood friend of Yento and Ophilla. Now carries his bags. Optimistic, stubborn, rebellious.

Questions

  • How far will Yento go to fulfill his circle’s mission here in the canyon? What will that do to his relationship with Ophilla?
  • Yento’s nose for crime will probably sniff out the demon cult – but will Bidra be too busy with other things to help stop it?