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Shining Shepherd

Concept: Righteous Crusader
Nature: Visionary
Caste: Zenith
Anima: Phoenix

The man who would become Shining Shepherd was born and raised in an Immaculate Temple in the West. He accepted the Immaculate doctrines as a matter of fierce faith for all his life, and mastered as much of the Order's Arts, martial and thaumaturgical, that would allow him to be as much aid as possible to his Dragon-Blooded superiors. They threw him some little praise, especially as he proved to have an uncanny knack for leading the Wyld Hunt to nascent Solars, and often struck the first blow himself, somehow surviving the Anathema's responses. It was on the conclusion of such a battle that he Exalted, not as a Terrestrial as he fervently hoped, but as something else. The wind grew still, there was a break in the thunderheads above, and a beam of sunlight struck him, carrying to him the words: "My child, why do you slay your brethren so? Behold, so that you and others may truly know yourselves, I Exalt you."

Whirling about in a temporary madness, as all he knew and loved was ripped away from him, he slew the weakened Wyld Hunt and ran as fast and as far as he could. Finding himself on a remote, deserted isle far to the West, he went into deep seclusion for years, meditating, remembrancing and practicing, all beneath one of the largest waterfalls in Creation. Finally, his mission came to him and he left for the world. The man that had been was no more; the Shining Shepherd now walked the Circuit of Creation, which would strip the blinders from the world one direction at a time, circulating like a giant prayer wheel, until finally coming home to the Blessed Isle. By the time the Shepherd climbs the Imperial Mountain's summit and makes his offering to the Unconquered Sun, the Terrestrials will have accepted the true shape of things or been swept aside.

The Shepherd has decided to begin his pilgrimage in the South, both because it is in greater danger than the West, and because the West still holds too many painful memories for him. Spreading his sermons among the poor and disinfranchised, he has gained a great many followers already, most of which can be divided into three groupings: The Laity, who are those merchants and craftsmen who have been touched by his message and converted to the Hundred Gods Heresy, but continue living much as before, quietly doing what they can to aid him against the Immaculate Orders' patrols; The Beggar Mob, a growing network of information traders that is quickly shaping into an organized spy ring the likes of which Creation has never seen before; and The Harlot's Crusade, a small but growing band of former prostitutes who repay the improved health and faith the Shepherd has given them with lifelong service to him as bodyguards and commandos; personally trained by the Shepherd, these Superior Troops are the most aggresive of his followers and are just spoiling for a fight with Ahlat's Brides (which the Shepherd has directly forbidden).

Thus far, the Shepherd's forces have exposed or destroyed several Yozi cults, Fair Folk Ravagers, and Beastmen marauders. As word of his exploits grows, the Scarlet Dynasty is considering increasing his threat level to that of the Bull of the North (who also wishes to meet him), while the Gold Faction of Sidereals is worried about controlling his jihad. They would be a lot more worried if they knew that he remembers almost everything about the Usurpation and has a solid idea who was behind it (he has not yet shared or acted on this information, however) and that he has a knack for sensing Sidereals, regardless of Resplendant Destinies. The Court of Orderly Flame sees him as a godsend (literally) and has cordial relations with Shining Shepherd (who does not realize that he has, in fact, met Swan Dragon twice already), who often has Fire Elementals discreetly guarding him. The unnatural servitude that the Perfect inflicts upon his people is an abomination in the eyes of the Shepherd, who has dedicated himself to ending that blasphemous reign; the Perfect, in response, spares no expense to discredit the preacher. Perhaps his most ambiguous contact in the South is S'missra, the Lunar Cobra Queen of the Deep South and her army of Serpent People; his ex-wife from the 1st Age, she is unpredictable in the extreme, as likely to hinder his cause as help it...

Shining Shepherd has no illusions about completely cleansing the South, as such is impossible even for the Chosen of the Sun. But once he has left his mark upon it deeply enough, then he will move on to the East. The Scavenger Lands, beset as they are by both the Bull of the North and the Mask of Winters, may find in him a great ally or a great enemy. Time will tell...

Image: Shining Shepherd is actually not as tall or imposing as people remember him, but he is an impressive sight, nonetheless. His iron-gray hair grows long and unfettered in direct defiance of the Immaculate code. He dresses in a simple wool robe and goes barefoot. He wears a necklace of massive prayer beads, and carries a seven-section staff of Iron Wood.

Notes: Shining Shepherd has mastered the Medicine, Presence and Performance Charm trees, which aids his superhuman persuasion; much of the Survival, Endurance and Resistance trees, which allows him to endure the walks across the blistering deserts and all the dangers there; and he has also mastered many Melee Charms (with emphasis on the Blocking branch)and Snake-style Martial Arts, but has no talent for Sorcery, and wishes to ally himself with a Solar sorcerer soon. The Court of Orderly Flame has gifted him with a Level 4 Manse, which he rarely visits, although he does wear its Hearthstone. Although he carries nothing of value himself, his ever-present followers give him the equivalent of Resources 5 (treat as the Cache Merit).

Desh the Penitent

Concept: Tormented Swordsman
Nature: Caregiver & Bravo
Caste: Dawn
Anima: Dog

In the 1st Age, the Dawn warrior called Gren often lamented that if only he'd been born sooner, he may have had worthy opponents to fight in the Primordials. But born as he was to this age of relative peace, his great talents were wasted. There were the occasional Behemoths, Fair Folk incursions and small rebellions to put down, but the slaughter was never enough to sate his appetite for destruction. As time went on, he was censured more and more by the Solar Deliberative, both for "testing" increasingly lethal Charms and Combos on hapless mortal villages, as well as for grieviously wounded in fellow Exalts in an increasing number of "duels". Unlike most of the Solars, Gren didn't need the excuse of the Great Curse to explain his actions; he was simply a sadistic, callous individual.

When the Usurpation came, even the Dragon-Blooded were shocked at how hard and long the debilitated Dawn fought, and he took down a full score of them with him. Then came the deep darkness...

In the 2nd Age, there was a prince named Desh belonging to a small kingdom in the far North. When his kingdom was besieged by Wyld-mutated barbarians, he watched his father and brothers cut down in battle, and his sister abducted. Swearing vengence, pleading for the power to save his people, he recklessly charged the next wave of incoming monsters, letting loose a howl that never seemed to end as the night grew brighter around him and his legs carried him faster than they ever had before...

When Desh came to, he was surrounded by the mangled remains of the horde that had been massacred by what he could only assume was a Behemoth. He could scarcely believe it when his few surviving people told him that 'he' had done all that. Leading them to Whitewall was hazardous, but relatively uneventful, for they knew well the lore of that place. Though they begged him to stay, Desh could not, feeling that only abroad could he learn about what he had become...

He made it as far as the Cherek territories without incident, until the Wyld Hunt come down upon him. This time, he actively fought for his life, though he felt alien glee as the blood of his opponents splattered upon him. Managing to escape via ship, he headed for the Scavenger Lands. Along the way, he familiarized himself with the Immaculate Texts that his enemies had been screaming about, and believed that he recognized the monster he had become within them...

Desh now is a devout Immaculate and fully believes what Immaculate dogma teaches about the Anathema; after all, he has the evidence of his own rent soul. He makes constant offerings at every Immaculate temple and shrine he stops at and unceasingly prays to the Dragons to redeem him. He has renounced his Solar nature, but still seeks to redeem himself by using it to help others, if possible (recently, he has discovered that he is becoming quite good at healing people). Despite his best efforts, the violent nature of life in the Threshold means that he is inevitably tempted to release the full fury of his power on those who would prey on him and others, frustrating his efforts to put down roots in any one place for long, as well as his dedication to non-violence.

Relevant Traits: Dex: 5, Wits: 4, Melee: 5 (+2 Swords), Dodge: 4, Medicine: 3, Valor: 3 (Berserk Anger), Merits: Driving Passion (Enable people to live in peace), Signature Style (Devastating), Flaws: Pacifist (3pts), Throwback (4pts); Exceptional Ironwood practice sword