Nakotch Tala, Pelagial Castoff

Background

The blood of the Elemental Dragons runs through nearly every human being in Creation. In most people, it is dilute, and the dragons sleep. Sometimes, though, a coincidence of parentage can exalt even the lowest-born citizen.

Nakotch Tala was born in a tiny village in the deep East, nestled in the borderlands of the Wyld. The stress of childbirth activated the power in her blood. Her daughter Detla was miraculously spared while the hut where Tala gave birth burned to ash. Tala’s lover was terrified. He wouldn’t approach her, and ran off into the woods. A few weeks later the Fair Folk arrived. They had heard the rumors that he spread: their ancient foe, here and vulnerable. They offered Tala a chance: let them kill her, and they would raise her daughter as a queen. She refused, and the chase began. They followed her through the jungle. She carried her child on her back, guided by instinct and the power of the dragons. Five long years she raised her child on fear and adrenaline and love.

She eventually found solace in the kingdom of Rhadaster. The king there saw the potential of a dragon-blooded advisor, even one so uncultured… and perhaps he dreamed of dragon-blooded grandchildren as well. Tala was just glad to finally have a chance to rest, and to have friends and guardians for her daughter.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. She was still pursued. Detla, now nearly grown, paid the price, exalting in a flare of sorcerous power but falling in the process. Tala picked up her child once again and took her toward the Pearl of the Realm, where V’neef Kharavi‘s skill at medicine was legendary. Along the way there was an ambush. Kharavi defended herself and Detla as best she could, but she fell in the battle. She never drew breath again.

An uncertain time later, her body fell through the bottom a burning funeral barge and drifted toward the bottom of Tchatlop Lake. There, the Pelagials, ancient sea-dwelling enemies of the Solar Realm, had come seeking opportunity against a world in upheaval. They collected her body and reanimated it through ancient rituals of dark power. Her fiery blood was inverted, replaced with their dark ichor. Her memories were hidden away. When she was ready, she was sent to spy upon V’neef Kharavi and work towards the destruction of the Pearl.

The Pelagials, born from eggs in the thousands, would not have understood what it meant that Tala’s child was still the Pearl. (Not that they knew.) They didn’t realize that Tala’s memories would return, in painful fits and starts, when she saw Detla. Their cold hearts had no empathy when she told them of how she would do anything to meet with her child again – but they knew that they had lost a servant. They stripped her of the artifacts they had given her and turned her out on the other side of the lake.

Since then she has walked back to the Pearl step by step. She waits and watches V’neef Kharavi. She sees the person her daughter has become. She fears that she will be seen as a monster and a traitor to Creation. She may be right.

Appearance

Nakotch Tala 500

Tala has light brown skin, both darkened by life in the sun and made paler by her death and burial. She wears brown robes with a hood that covers her forehead. Her eyes are dark. Her voice is hoarse and strained. When Tala’s essence flows freely her skin displays a pattern of cracks and burns, like a strange and delicate mandala. Red veins pulse behind her skin, but blue light bleeds into the world around her. The effect is somewhat garish.

Detla’s father was much taller and darker than Tala – her daughter doesn’t look much like her, except in their eyes and their rare smiles.

Demeanor

Hesitant, secretive, and independent. Tala despairs over her present form, and keeps to the shadows because of it. She speaks quietly, and may run if she is forced into the light. At the same time, she craves contact with her daughter, and has effectively been stalking her for the past few weeks. She’s desperate to fill the hole in her life. On the other hand, her fears of others’ reaction and of her own strange nature are holding her back. She’ll almost act, and then pull back, risking discovery and accomplishing nothing. She sometimes retreats to the lake to weep beneath the waves, but her resolve cannot be broken, and she always returns with renewed intent.

Intimacies: “Nothing will keep me from my daughter” (Defining), “The Fair Folk” (Defining, Negative), “I am done serving others” (Major), “The Pelagials and their cause” (Major, Negative), “The royal family of Rhadaster” (Positive), “I am a monster”

Capabilities

Tala was once a fire-aspected Dragon-Blood. After her resurrection, she has retained her immunity to fire, but her bodily fluids were drained and replaced. The power of the dragons no longer flows through her. Now she is one of the Liminal Exalted, blood-aspected – and that blood is not human.

She remembers growing up in the wilderness; she can still hunt and forage. She remembers raising her child; she knows how to soothe people or make them angry. She needed to hide from predators; she can hide from those who are keeping a watch for interlopers. She was surrounded by the Wyld and the Fair Folk; she recognizes the signs of their approach and knows what kinds of dangers they bring with them. The Pelagials encouraged her quiet hunting skills and enhanced them with sorcery. They gave her certain gifts, to make her better able to live in their world – she can breathe water as easily as air – but her primary power comes from her status as a Liminal.

As a blood-aspect, Tala can detect living beings and their emotional state. She can push and pull on their blood in a figurative manner. This can enhance their existing emotions, calm them, or transform them by altering their target or imagined cause. For instance, a merchant angry with her husband for his extravagant spending might be made more or less angry, to be angry at her business partner rather than her husband, or to shift her anger to her husband’s attitude rather than his spending habits. On a different front, creatures who are attracted or repelled by supernatural purity can easily be fooled by her talents. She can walk amongst hungry ghosts without being noticed, or pass the guardians of Yu-Shan as if her soul were perfect. This allows her to slough mental influence as well, enhancing or repressing her spiritual purity until the influence seems but a drop against the ocean. There can be consequences to such actions: emotional resonances and backlashes that last for weeks.

Should Tala be assaulted, she can call her own blood/ichor to her defense. She can slick her skin to squirm out of grapples, or create tough scabs that absorb impacts and deflect blades. She can encapsulate poisons and diseases, expelling them her body or saving them for later use. If she has enough essence, she can heal herself, but the resulting display is both highly visible and exhausting, so she reserves it for times when she can be alone and hidden. She can retaliate by hurling her ichor at her foes in hardened shards. Those who have poisoned her will find the venom returning to them this way. She can also simply shove against her foes, throwing them back – or flinging herself, if she is not so well-braced.

Supporting Characters

  • Eighteen Fathoms Deep, the Pelagial who directed her when she was a spy. Rational, austere, piercing.
  • V’neef Tenar, a groundskeeper at The Manor, who has seen Tala’s shadowy form lurking in the gardens. Glum, honest, respectful.
  • Fifty-three Jaws Open, the deposed Pelagial who had selected her as a test subject. Restless, rebellious, hedonistic.
  • Wondrous News, the Raksha who threatened Tala’s life in the first place. Glorious, assertive, resentful.

Questions

  • Tala knows she was replaced. How much does she know about Sapphire Light?
  • The botched Pelagial ritual that turned Tala from Dragon-Blood to Liminal – would it be repeatable? What dread price did it exact on its caster?
  • Would the power from the dragon lines restore Tala to full life? If so, how might she be stealing it?
  • Many Liminals end up with a soul that was not theirs. How did Tala keep hers? Did she even keep it? Is there yet another set of memories waiting within her?
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Sapadi Am’beta, Chosen of Soil

Background

Sapadi grew up in the lands east of Kirighast, known informally as the “Lakes Province.” She was trained as a sage, as was her mother before her, and they lived in a lakeside city that sprawled over twenty miles of coastland. As a loyal, peaceful, and productive tributary to the Realm, they saw the Dragon-Blooded only rarely.

When a sorcerer from the Realm came to her city, seeking inks from a creature that dwelt in the lake, she made the mistake of treating him as an equal. He, astonished by this hubris but captivated by her intelligence, brought her along with him. The two became traveling partners, and shared several adventures as they traveled the inland sea. Unfortunately, this was her perception rather than reality. In truth, he had paid her family a hefty sum to effectively purchase her, and they had acquiesced. She found this out only once he had been made an instructor at the Heptagram, and she was stuck there with him. He was not unkind to her, but neither would he let her leave.

When she met V’neef Ethaa, she saw someone who would help her escape. It didn’t work out exactly as she hoped. Ethaa fell in love with Sapadi, but rather than freeing her from the teacher’s bindings, purchased her again. The instructor actually lowered the price as a sort of graduation present – Sapadi suspects the exchange of other favors as well. Sapadi played the role, pretending to be Ethaa’s shy and quiet lover, hoping that one day she could speak with Ethaa as an equal – or perhaps just leave.

She died before she had the chance.

The two of them were on a ship in the Cinder Isles. There was an eruption. Her face and much of her body were covered in fiery debris. She drowned before the burns could kill her.

Then, unexpectedly, painfully, she was alive again, months later, on the final night of Calibration. Ethaa stood above her, her face frozen with pride and terror. She explained that she had repaired Sapadi’s body, and drawn her soul back from its next life. Now they could be together again.

Ethaa was clearly mad. Sapadi left the following night. She called on power that she never had before and didn’t understand, summoning up dead creatures of the sea and forcing them into service. They carried her north to Wavecrest. The next morning she could feel Ethaa pursuing her.

Since then Sapadi has traveled through many islands, seeking the truth about what she is or allies who can help her against Ethaa. She has met many other sages and Chosen in the islands of the West, including Ghula M’shatha. She discovered him in Wavecrest, in a cove where she was sheltering the night. Imagine her surprise at finding a cult chanting not ten meters from where she slept. At the peak of the ceremony, a spear of green and brass fell from the sky. It impaled the central cultist – M’shatha – through the leg and spoke to him in a voice of flame and despair while the rest fled in fear. Eventually it vanished. M’shatha fell into the sand gasping in joy and pain, bleeding slowly from his leg. Sapadi quickly took advantage of his weakness and blackmailed him at knifepoint for his boat. She took it and sailed off to the north.

She was able to stay ahead of Ethaa for an entire month. It was grueling and dangerous, ending when her stolen vessel crashed into the reefs off Athanor. It seemed to her that she was dying, and her last thought was that at least she had escaped… but she woke up on the beach. Sapadi is hiding in the city of Athanor. She knows that Ethaa is here somewhere, and is praying that they will not run into each other.

Appearance

Sapadi Am'beta 500

Sapadi has skin the color of drifting sand – or at least she did before she became what she is now. Now, parts of her body look as if they were taken from other people, some of them badly burned, others battered and bruised. Her eyes are two different colors. She wears purple robes that cover much of her body, including a veil across her mouth. She speaks with a slight accent from her homeland.

Demeanor

Quiet, contemplative, and shy – but with a growing ruthless streak that has helped her survive the last year. Sapadi hides in the shadows and corners of the city. Her plan is to wait out the contest and hope that she’s not part of the Deathlord’s plan – or kill the winner, if necessary.

Intimacies: “My freedom over all” (Defining), “V’neef Ethaa is mad with power” (Major, Negative), “Ghula is a demon-worshipping hypocrite” (Major, Negative), “My homeland” (Positive)

Capabilities

Sapadi was a well-trained young sage in her home city. She can read and write all the major languages of Creation, including Old Realm. Under her mother’s tutelage she gained an extensive knowledge of sea creatures and their uses, from shells to inks to teeth to poisonous spines.

Her time in the Heptagram taught her many things as well. She can recognize many spirits, elementals, and demons. She knows the principles behind sorcery, though she hasn’t had the time to put them into practice since her exaltation. She is also very good at hiding her emotions and motivations, and at having people not realize when she’s observing them. Both her experience and her essence have made her very, very good at remaining hidden and observing from a distance. The face that Ethaa can still tell she’s there, even if she can’t tell exactly where, is infuriating.

In a battle, Sapadi will strike out instinctively and powerfully, hurling dark soil at the eyes of her opponents to blind them, creating rolling waves of rotting earth to drive others away, and diving into shadows or even the ground itself to escape. She has an instinctive sense for the things that might cause harm in her environment and will maneuver others into them. In extreme situations she can reanimate massive dead creatures from the ground or sea to serve her, though she is left wounded and breathless afterward. She doesn’t realize yet that she can survive horrible injuries, nor that she can take body parts from the dead. Both of these realizations will probably come soon.

Supporting Characters

  • Cathak Ledash, instructor at the Heptagram. Snooty, brilliant, entitled.
  • Brev Mokalo, an old man who took Sapadi in for a night. Kindly, orderly, reclusive.

Questions

  • Will Sapadi pretend at submission again if Ethaa appears, if she thinks it will help her escape the island? How long would she be able to act that way?
  • How much does Sapadi know about the Deathlords and their servants? Does she know the truth of what is being offered here – and would she accept it?