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?
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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?

Feschia, The Messenger

Background

Let me tell you the good news.

You’re afraid, I can tell. You’ve heard the rumors? It’s all right. It’s a scary time. But there is hope, and I am her messenger. I, who grew up here with you. You remember me from before, yes? How I would run messages to Meteth Township, and from there to Tuva? What if I told you I came from all the way from Shirakh — today! — in just a few hours.

I was changed the night of the Shirakh fireball. And things are going to change for us, too.

When I was carrying messages I had to look like a trader, or a herder, in case the Shirakhi stopped me. They would ask me my business, and I had to have a story ready about my lost cattle. I would think about my little girls. My husband lives in Meteth. We have two. Two little angels. It scared me to death to think what would happen to them if I was caught.

I carried some silver, too, just in case. How many of us carry silver in our daily lives? In case a soldier can be bought? We just think of it as the cost of living. Not even doing business. Just living.

We are going to change that. Kala is going to change that. Come on! Stop looking for soldiers every time someone says that name! I’ve seen her. She’s amazing. And she and I aren’t the only Chosen on our side. We can win this. We can win back the land that was taken from our ancestors, and stop carrying silver so we can bribe soldiers just to live our lives.

I’m afraid of war, too. I can die, just like you can. But I can’t let my fear stop me. This is our freedom. Our children need this.

Appearance

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Feschia’s broad smile is unforgettable and unmistakable. It wins the hearts of children and elders alike. She is laden with beaded armbands and necklaces that clack softly when she moves. She shaves her head. Her eyes are dark brown; her skin even darker. She typically wears a grey skirt and a shoulder-wrap in natural colors (greens and browns). She used to carry a leather messenger bag, but no longer requires it.

Demeanor

Happy. Feschia can be fierce, she can be kind, and she can be inspiring, but her most common emotion in these dark times is a joy that spreads to all around her. When she’s carrying messages she loves putting children on her shoulders and giving them a ride around the village. She’ll take the time to help an elder reach something off a high shelf or cross a busy street.

This isn’t to say that Feschia can’t be serious. In Kala’s war councils she’s studious and respectful. However, she’s also the first person to break out a huge grin when it looks like a plan will succeed. She enjoys some of Tamosh’s jokes, but does sort of worry that he’s going to go too far some day.

Intimacies: The people of the Wathia-land (defining), My family (defining), Bring hope (defining), Trust my companions (major), The Shirakhi have already lost.

Capabilities

Feschia always enjoyed running, and built up a marathoner’s stamina. She would carry messages twenty miles a day. When she was younger she would climb trees and swim in the rivers too, and to be honest she still enjoys those things. Her exuberance and smile make it hard not to open up to her. She has a great sense of humor. Her memory isn’t the best, though – her mother jokes that she became a messenger because she always had to carry a scroll for herself.

Since the night of the meteor, Feschia has felt the power of the sun flowing through her. She’s a Night caste solar, with Athletics as her supernal ability. For short periods of time she can lift wagons, wrestle wild animals, or tear armor from an opponent’s body. She can leap over walls, grab birds from the air, and catch arrows. However, where she really shines (pardon the pun) is in her beloved run. At her normal pace she never needs to stop – not that she runs at that pace much any more. She can out-sprint a cheetah, and cross more distance in a day than a crane in flight. The fatigue does eventually catch up with her.

In her travels Feschia also learned to hunt, with a small bow and blunted arrows knocking birds from the sky. When she reached back to ready that bow last week, she instead drew forth a longbow of solid gold and five red-fletched golden arrows that always return to her quiver. She can put these into Elsewhere when she chooses. Her agility, her precision at range, and her ability to take aim in the blink of an eye make it very difficult to close with her in combat.

Supporting Characters

  • Shelali, her mother. Warm-hearted, perseverant, focused.
  • Ahadath, another messenger with whom she used to trade stories. Polite, alert, wishy-washy.
  • Jurit, a ghost who is tracking her movements for Laughter in Chains. Grouchy, hardy, grieving.
  • Blows Five Ways, a god of the wind who is becoming jealous of her speed. Argumentative, resourceful, rash.

Questions

  • Has Feschia thought to hide her family yet?
  • Feschia is very optimistic; how does she feel working with more cynical sorts like Tamosh and Zirana

Katavi, High-Class Assassin

Background

Don’t worry, don’t be scared. I’m not a soldier. I’m not here to hurt you.

Shall I tell you a story? Very well. Not long ago, there lived the quietest young woman in the kingdom. She was a scribe in the halls of royalty. She was unappreciated; so used to being unseen and unheard that she almost vanished from the world forever. But underneath her silence, she knew she was smart and beautiful and strong. She was growing, you see. Once she was big enough – on the inside – she could become what she was meant to be, and everyone would see what she saw inside herself. It all grew from a little seed… called confidence.

Here, have some water. There you go. Come on out; don’t be afraid. If I were here to kill you you’d already be dead.

Hahahaha! Oh, the look on your face right now. Come out from that bed, you foolish woman. I don’t give a damn if you’re sleeping with my prince. He does so love his “royal prerogative”, especially since Xerith took it away from him.

He and I have a little game, you see. Oh, not like that, and who are you to be a prude. The game is this: I help him anger his scandalously young stepmother, and he helps me free of the Silent Knives. I’m sure someone told you that we Knives have a pecking order? Well, it’s a lie. Every one of us is at the bottom. If I don’t get out now, my entire life will be “Yes, Grandfather” and “As you command” until the green sun comes to burn us all to ash.

But he – oh, my Visho is a man of ambition, I can tell you that. If I hitch my star to his, if I help fix a few problems here and there, he’ll be emperor and I’ll be anything I damn well please. And in the meantime, I get to enjoy what you just enjoyed. He does have plenty of energy, doesn’t he.

Now put on your damn clothes and go away. You’ll start feeling cold once you get outside. If you’re lucky you’ll make it back to your family before the poison really kicks in. Be glad you get to say goodbye.

Appearance

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Long, strong arms. Red lips. Brown skin with reddish undertones. Hair pulled in tight on the sides and left wild above her head. A look of danger in eyes the color of dark steel. Katavi is beautiful and striking.

Katavi typically wears simple but elegant clothing in black or white. She often wears jewelry that she took from her previous targets. The Silent Knives are powerful enough in Shirakh that they can operate openly, and she does little to hide what she is.

Demeanor

Haughty and mercurial. Katavi takes on different personas as her whims suit her, and those whims shift every few minutes. Sometimes she will pretend to be innocent or childlike. Other times she’ll be harsh and sarcastic. This keeps her opponents and detractors off-balance.

Her years of work as an assassin have somewhat unbalanced her. Nevertheless, Katavi is fully in control of her apparent mood swings. She’s calculating, but not cold. Instead, she funnels the heat of her anger toward her one-time masters and dreams of what she will do once she defeats them.

Intimacies: I will destroy those who controlled me (defining), Prince Visho is a means to an end (major), Keep them off balance (major), Love for Prince Visho

Capabilities

Katavi spent most of her early life washing clothing and houses. She became a scribe when one of the nobles noticed that she had learned to read on her own and purchased her inborn indenture. She learned penmanship, diligence, and how to stay quiet and avoid bruises. Eventually she came into the employ of a quiet benefactor of the Silent Knives, who recommended her to them. They trained her in the knife and the garotte, the veil and the slipper. She knows poisons and their counter-agents well. She often has a bit of firesand on her in case a distraction is needed.

As an assassin she already fought more with stealth than with force of arms. With her Night-caste essence flowing through her, she is capable of unbelievable feats of secrecy. She cannot vanish from observation, but if her opponent turns around, or even blinks, she will be gone. Even alert guards will mistake her for a pot or a pillar. Her foe’s gaze sweeps the room; she drops from above and buries her knife in his back. She can even draw in her anima, turn it inside-out, and wrap the dark inner covering around herself. Stealth is her supernal ability.

Her mastery of the thrown knife aids her greatly here. She can impart the subtlest of spins that sends a blade slinging around walls or pillars. She knows how to aim for the throat, to silence, or the eyes, to blind, or the knee, to cripple. When attacked, she leaps out of the fray and behind cover, never to be seen again… save by her victim’s ghost.

Supporting Characters

  • Khedit, “grandmother” of the Silent Knives. Mysterious, domineering, intolerant.
  • Velas, sister to the woman whom she killed in the story above. Nimble, artistic, dreamer.
  • Orwith, an investigator chosen by the Queen to remove the Silent Knives from the city. Eccentric, noble, unforgiving.
  • Soewif, a blind servant in the palace who will recognize her by her perfume. Efficient, outgoing, patriotic.

Questions

  • At what point will Katavi’s ambition outweigh her affection for Visho?
  • Has Katavi told anyone in her organization what she has become?

Zirana, The Trader

Background

So. You want me to supply your army. Let me speak to you of trust.

When I was young I never felt at home in my own skin. The things that were expected of me felt strange. My fellows must have sensed my worry, for I had few friends and was considered strange. Without a home in my heart, I felt little connection to house and family. Perhaps that was why I became a trader.

I traveled the south, from the Lap to Kirighast. In the lands of the Tri-Khan I saw a glass city, with wealth and beauty that put Shirakh to shame. In Urim I found a caste system that would make ours look fluid in comparison. Amongst the Delzahn, I found a people who may be our distant cousins, from a time long ago. I also found the Dereth – but that is a story for another time.

I have seen wealth and poverty more extreme than any here. I have seen tyrants who make this new queen look like a benevolent mother. You think we Wathia have hit rock bottom; we haven’t. You think the Shirakhi wield ultimate power; they do not.

So I trust your words. I know that you believe them. But I do not trust your gnosis – your understanding of the world – for I know it to be false. I see your confusion. You may have heard that I was meek, easily cowed by physical might. The night of the meteor gave me confidence. I will not take back what I have said.

I will not take your silver. I will not bring you swords of iron as the Shirakhi have. No, instead I will bring you spear-heads of good, sharp steel, and I will do it for free. But you must make me your advisor, and your teacher. You are headed down a path where even victory can lead to tyranny.

For you to gain my trust, you must give me yours.

Appearance

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Zirana is tall, nearly six feet. She has narrow brown eyes and a cleft chin. She keeps her long black hair braided under a head-scarf. She eschews typical makeup in favor of simple face-painting from distant lands. Her sepia-brown skin is darkened by her many travels. Her eyes are just beginning to show wrinkle lines.

When about her duties, Zirana wears multicolored robes, and drapes herself with extensive jewelry. All of these are signifiers of her status as a merchant. At home, she tends to wear less jewelry, but still enjoys the bright robes.

Demeanor

Bold and direct, but canny. Zirana knows her place, but deliberately sets her foot outside the boundaries that others would draw for her. She’s not rude, but she refuses to be silent when there are important things to say. She code-shifts easily when dealing with different organizations. She’s commanding with her own people, and deferential with harsh rulers like the Shirakhi. (She’s still finding the proper footing on which to speak with Kala.)

Zirana has seen violence and its effects on both those who fight and those who suffer by association. She would rather bankroll the war than fight in it, and would rather write political tracts than see a war. She will do her best to help Kala’s army win through intimidation and show-of-force rather than battle. If it comes to open warfare, Zirana would work to bolster her side or undermine the enemy rather than being on the front lines.

Capabilities

Zirana is an experienced trader. She has social ties in every city along the Southern coast. With a strong will, clear mind, and clever wit, she runs a highly profitable organization free from in-fighting. With her constant travelling, most of this happens via letter.

All this was before she became an Eclipse-caste Solar. Zirana’s supernal ability is Bureaucracy. She can navigate state officials just fine, but her real expertise is in commercial matters. Red tape evaporates under her gently guiding hand. She can predict booms and busts for distant ports. On a personal level, she’s a wicked negotiator. She can bend the greed of others toward her wares, and drive the hardest of bargains. Her honor makes her hesitate in this, however. She has no desire to leave broken households and bankrupt cities behind her.

In addition to Zirana’s mercantile skills, she’s a phenomenal writer. Different audiences will each feel that they she is writing to their secret heart with a different message. She can write secrets in such a way that no reader could give them away. She can also copy the writing of others flawlessly. All of these are skills that she expects to put to good use during the coming war.

Zirana would prefer to be a non-combatant. She knows enough to defend herself with a scimitar and has worn lamellar on a few occasions, but has no desire to test her newfound demigod status in battle. Instead, she’ll leap from a ship’s deck up to its riggings, or jump backward past her bodyguards, and avoid her assailants instead.

Supporting Characters

  • Wixesh, who keeps her books. Stately, curious, decisive.
  • Hevalith, who arranges her schedule. Likeable, macho, succinct.
  • Siusetah, her caravan leader. Demanding, melodramatic, thankful.
  • Foriath, a smuggler she knows in the area. Disillusioned, narrow-minded, inquisitive.

Questions

  • What range of businesses is Zirana comfortable with? What would she refuse to trade in?
  • What will Zirana do if Kala goes off the rails? Would she organize against her?

Ruan, The Prince’s Bodyguard

Background

My Beloved Padathera,

I am amazed to hear your story. There is so much that I did not know. How can I say no to your request?

My childhood was very different from yours. I was the sixth son of a merchant family. My parents were prosperous, but it was clear that I would never inherit. I had, I am sad to say, no head for money, nor patience for it, but I could dance well, and do calligraphy. One of the familial viziers suggested that I might have a talent for swordsmanship. As it turned out, he was right.

I learned the style known as the Single Point. (I remember more of it now than they ever taught me was possible.) And because my parents’ money was not to be ill-spent, when my training was complete I became a bodyguard myself. My charge was as precious to me as yours is to our kingdom: it was my eldest brother. Therefore, my shame is as deep as you can imagine.

I failed to protect him. An assassin’s dart found him, and he died as the poison coursed through his veins. Though I killed the swine responsible, and our family lost no coin, I lost the man I had looked up to since my eyes could see. My heart was broken.

When the palace offered to hire me at half the usual rate, my parents assented. They knew they would receive no better offer for one in such disgrace as myself. That I was then assigned to the prince was a great surprise to me, though I suppose the men-at-arms could not assign a noble’s son like myself to the harem as you had been.

I have spent many a day with the prince, and my opinion of him rose and fell much as yours did. He is petulant, and unkind, and imagines that he should have been king. Nor is he quiet with these insistences. (I hope you will remember to burn this letter.) Still, he is my ward. My skill will be his safety, and my life and honor will protect his, as the oaths say. Now, more than ever, I have the skill to do what I once could not.

There my tale ends, coming to the present day. If it please you, tell me next – where would you travel, if our queen did release you?

Your love,

Ruan

Appearance

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Ruan wears a black gi with white and silver trim. It’s not what he trained in, but it’s the look that Prince Visho ordered for him. He has short-crimped black hair, cut short, and a short-trimmed beard. Ruan’s brown eyes have just a touch of orange from his southern heritage. His voice is deep and even.

Demeanor

Humble, watchful, and eloquent. Ruan was much changed by the death of his brother. In some ways he hasn’t quite recovered yet. He used to be more confident, perhaps even a little boastful. Now he tries to live up to what he should have been.

This is made difficult by his relationship with his charge. Ruan knows that Prince Visho is an awful man. He’s seen what the prince does, how he treats others. Ruan hopes that his example will change the prince’s mind. His fear (entirely justified) is that the prince is too haughty and full of himself to notice others, even those who are right next to him. Visho considers Ruan horribly naive; Ruan knows it.

Intimacies: I will not fail my charge again (defining), My family’s honor (major), I love Padathera (major), Carry yourself with dignity.

Capabilities

Ruan embodies all the best things that Prince Visho thinks about himself. He’s strong, graceful, suave, and composed. He’s disciplined. He’s not quick-thinking or cunning the way Visho is, but he’s intelligent. Most importantly, he gained his skills through of hard work.

Ruan knows a little about the merchant business because of his family, but most of his time has been spent on more physical pursuits. The swordsman who trained Ruan taught him Single Point Shining Into the Void. Now that he’s a Zenith-caste Solar, Ruan is blindingly fast, cutting deep with his blade. He parries so confidently and speedily that his foes lose their balance. Those who watch him fight will swear that he strikes twice for each strike of his opponents. He’s still uncovering the hidden depths of the style that are in his teacher’s mysterious instructions. He’s also wondering who his teacher really was.

However, Martial Arts is not Ruan’s supernal ability – it’s Resistance. He’s immune to poison and disease. His body can absorb prodigious amounts of punishment. When he has a chance to catch his breath, his wounds literally close in seconds. Bludgeons bounce off his skin; knives are blunted; arrows stick briefly then fall to the ground. He doesn’t yet realize that he could walk out of a firedust explosion with even his gi intact.

Supporting Characters

  • Soweth, Ruan’s mother, a famous and respected merchant. Disciplined, chivalrous, intimidating.
  • Exshelo, Ruan’s elder brother, who wishes Ruan would treat himself better. Relaxed, instinctual, businesslike.
  • Yefthen, who takes over from Ruan to guard Visho as he sleeps. Experienced, irritable, courteous.
  • Ceeasthis, a palace servant with a crush on Padathera. Jealous, sneaky, squeamish.

Questions

  • How far is Ruan’s family from Shirakh?
  • Who besides Padathera knows that Ruan has exalted? Has he told Visho yet?

A’tha, The Explorer

Background

Please. Hear me. You know what it’s like to lose your father. Don’t make me lose mine.

I was born here in the Wathia-lands, like you. I grew up in Fefa, to the south. Despite our people’s oppression, my family was happy. We were farther from Shirakh, and the Shirakhi only came to our village to collect taxes. They were not our constant jailors, as I know they are with you.

My leg was like this when I was born. I learned to read early – it was the only way I could see the world. My parents knew an inventor in the village, though, and he built these leg-crutches for me when I was growing up, so I could work the fields and walk the cows to market. But I wasn’t a good child. As soon as I could walk, I wanted to run. I went everywhere. I spent hours in the hills to the south, finding things left over from the Shogunate. I sold some for tax money; traded others for stories about what else was in the hills. I tried to earn my keep.

One day when I came home my father was on the floor! He had fallen, and did not wake for three days. Mother explained, when she came back from the field, that he had been in poor health. He was getting worse. He didn’t want to tell me because he was worried I would stay home. Mother couldn’t afford a doctor – and you, of all people, know that even silver does not guarantee a visit from a Shirakhi doctor. I have seen him waste away in just a few weeks.

Then the meteor came. And yes, I was changed. I went to see the crater myself, but it was empty, and I could not stay to learn more.

There are stories of an ancient manse in the southern hills. A place where a brilliant surgeon lived during the Shogunate, a Wood-aspect who poured her magic into the trees there. They say that the dates from these trees can cure any illness. This is my only hope. It may only be rumor, but I must try.

I cannot help you now. I cannot. But help me find this place, help me save my father, and I will stand by you against the Shirakhi. Whatever the cost.

Appearance

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A’tha is surrounded by encouragement from her village. Her hair is caked with incnse and red-pink mud, a treatment promised by local healers to keep away her father’s wasting sickness. She wears dozens of bead necklaces made by her aunts and uncles, to reminder her of their faith in her.

A’tha’s face shows the strain of her current situation. Her dark brown eyes are weary. Her young face is becoming worn by lack of sleep. Her skin, normally a moderate reddish brown, is darkening from all her time spent in the sun. Her clothing is becoming tattered. Her right leg is a prosthesis from the knee down.

Demeanor

Focused, determined, and desperate. A’tha has a sharp mind that soaks in facts. Her snap decisions are better than most people’s careful thinking. It’s impossible to see her as unemotional in this time of need, but she’s decidedly a rational thinker. She’ll weigh the options and choose the path that has the highest chance of success.

Behind all this, A’tha feels incredibly guilty. She is slowly coming apart at the seams under the pressure of finding a cure for her father. She wishes that she had stayed home and worked the farm instead of spending weeks at a time in the southern hills. Perhaps then she would have noticed… but it is too late for that now. She pushes the guilt aside and works to find a cure. At this point she’d even accept help from the Shirakhi.

Intimacies: Family comes first (defining), See the world (major), The city of Shirakh is a poison (major), Only fools rush in.

Capabilities

A’tha’s youth gave her intellect; her adolescence gave her strength and endurance. Walking with a crutch required greater stamina, so she built up to it. She’s a little awkward, both physically and socially. She knows how to find food and shelter in the wilderness, and how to navigate. Her knowledge of the Wathia-lands is encyclopedic – if she hasn’t been somewhere, she’s met someone who has. She’s also learned how to build her own prosthetics, though they’re not quite as good as the ones the inventor makes.

When the meteor fell, Atha’a became one of the Twilight caste. Lore is her supernal ability. She breathes in knowledge and breathes out wisdom. The study of old ruins and tomes replenishes her. (This makes her inability to find a cure all the more frustrating.) She was always interested in languages; now she’s a mathematician to boot. Artifacts open to reveal her their secrets. Buildings practically tell her how they’re laid out. Where other Solars might have their past incarnations whispering the knowledge of ancient times into their minds, A’tha gains knowledge from the world itself.

A’tha isn’t above picking up a few “dirty tricks” to make her exploration easier. She can walk through doors, open locks with a touch, and slip out of both handcuffs and tight spaces. She can feel the click of a trap mechanism and hear the hiss of poison gas entering a room. She’s sort of a jack of all trades when it comes to exploration.

A’tha carries a boomerang for hunting, and a longknife that she can use for self-defense. She parries well. Her skin hardens against assaults. She’s not a trained warrior, but she’d be deadly leading a group of insurgents into the castle.

Supporting Characters

  • Osthes, who smuggled books to her parents when she was young. Bossy, industrious, discrete.
  • Eixafel, the inventor of her prosthesis – imprisoned by the Shirakhi. Austere, hilarious, insightful.
  • Yesesh, a hermit she met in the hills. Hedonistic, boastful, carefree.
  • Ivriash, the village healer. Calm, cautious, incompetent.

Questions

  • Would A’tha trust an outsider to heal her father?
  • How much has A’tha pushed herself? Is she close to falling apart, either mentally or physically?