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Emerald: Purity of Jade
The body of Gaia — that is, the land of Creation — produces and exudes the magical material Jade. Oadenal's Codex records six varieties of Jade; five found naturally, the sixth only ever produced by accident. Each color of Jade has special properties, so of course, many smiths and savants in the First Age and the Shogunate tried everything they could think of to bind all five (or, when they had Yellow Jade available, all six) together into one artifact, that could glean the benefits of all five (or six) special properties. Sadly, none were ever successful. They finally came to the conclusion that the different colors of Jade, harmonious as they were, would not work together in a single item. (Historical evidence would seem to suggest that the same could be said of Dragon-Blooded.)
But there is a secret. Two secrets, in fact.
The first is Yellow Jade. Its existence is not a secret, but its purpose is. There have been many theories as to what it is, and what it is for. It has been thought to be "pure" Jade, undifferentiated and without element; it has been thought to represent a sixth element, equal to or even greater than the other five (what element that is supposed to be was also subject to many hypotheses); it has been thought to be an artificial construct, purely synthetic, with no properties inherent to itself that could not be altered in the forging process... that is, if anyone could figure out how to reliably forge it. Of all these, the first comes closest to the truth, but even then it is not quite there. Yellow Jade represents the harmony of the elements, the space between them and the connection among them. If the five elements are the bricks of Creation, Yellow Jade represents the mortar that holds them together. Artifact weapons and armor made of Yellow Jade can be attuned to by any Aspect, and confer the standard jade bonuses (+1 Damage, -1 Speed; no fatigue value), as well as subtracting 1 from the difficulty of all cooperative actions and Charms.
The second secret is the Synergy Chakra, reservoir of Chi unique to the Dragon-Blooded.
If a Dragon-Blooded of sufficient Permanent Essence rating has access to equal amounts of 100% pure Jade (not alloyed with steel or anything else) of the five elemental types, and an amount of 100% pure Yellow Jade equal to the total amounts of the other five, she is in a position to forge Emerald. To forge an Emerald Artifact requires an amount of each elemental Jade equal to the amount required to make the equivalent artifact out of that Jade (i.e. it takes a total of ten times as much Jade [1*(each element) + 5*Yellow] to make an equivalent Artifact out of Emerald). The Dragon-Blooded must be at Essence level equal to or greater than the rating of the Artifact she wishes to forge (an Emerald Artifact is always one dot higher than the equivalent Artifact made of Jade; this means that even a simple lump of Emerald is a one dot Artifact), and she must spend Temporary Synergy equal to twice the rating of the Artifact during the forging process, in order to harmonize and successfully meld the six types of Jade together. Emerald cannot be alloyed with any other material, it cannot be Verdigrised or Moonfaced or otherwise altered from its original state. In order to function, it must be absolutely pure.
When forged successfully, Emerald is unspeakably beautiful. It has a gold-green hue like sunlight dancing among summer leaves coated in the late-morning dew. It is translucent like colored glass, and touched with iridescence, reflecting pools and shapes of every color of jade that went into its forging. It is also among the hardest and strongest materials known to Creation, comparable to or perhaps even surpassing Orichalcum. When wielded or used by a Terrestrial, it grants benefits as though made purely of Yellow Jade and as though made purely of Jade of her own elemental aspect, conferring both benefits. When wielded by a Gaian, however, it does much more than that.
Ascended Terrestrials: The Gaian Exalted
Emerald is the purest expression of Jade and the Elements, which in turn are expressions of the body and nature of Gaia. Terrestrials are the Exalted of the Elemental Dragons, together representing the body of Gaia but each alone representing only one aspect of the whole. The Gaian Exalted then, like Emerald, are pure expressions of all the elemental aspects, embodying in one individual that which the Dragon-Blooded Host embodies as a community. The Synergy that Dragon-Blooded express with one another, the Gaian expresses with the elements themselves, and with Gaia directly. Rather than being a weak part of a strong community, she is a strong part of a mighty world. The Gaians are Ascended Terrestrials, equal in power to the Celestial Exalts, expressing the Synergy of Creation not through their community but through their internal harmony with nature, and their power and abilities reflect this separation from the Dragon-Blooded Host to become one with Gaia Herself.
Ascension: The Road to Gaian Exaltation
The line between a Terrestrial and a Gaian is not quite as solid as the line between, for example, a Solar and an Abyssal. One does not simply become a Gaian. It is a process, a path, and it takes near half of the Dragon-Blooded's life to complete. There are five steps along this path, as the Dragon-Blooded transitions from Terrestrial to Gaian Exaltation.
Step 0: Terrestrial
At this stage she is simply Dragon-Blooded, slow growing, monoaspected, bound to the Dragon-Blooded Host. However, if she attunes herself to an Emerald Artifact, something inside her begins to change. Most Artifacts bind themselves to an Exalt's First Chakra (Glory, Shift, Mystery, Synergy, or Logic), while those of the Yozis, Neverborn, and Fae bind themselves to their respective Exalted's Second Chakra (Penitence, Jhor, or Plot), but Emerald works differently. Emerald binds itself to the Third Chakra. It will only do so in the presence of a Synergy Chakra (i.e. only Dragon-Blooded and their other templates can attune to it), but it binds instead to her Apotheos. Because of this, the Dragon-Blooded is able to increase her Permanent Essence more quickly. As long as she remains attuned to the Emerald Artifact, the minimum age for increasing Permanent Essence is halved.
Additionally, since a good deal of Synergy was folded into the Emerald during its forging, it attracts Synergy Chi to itself. Any Synergy that she earns while she is attuned to the Emerald Artifact is channeled through the Artifact before it reaches her Chakra, and is altered slightly by it, as iron scraped by a magnet, receiving the "Gaian" trait. Any Temporary Synergy she has stored also feels the pull of the Emerald, and at the end of each session one of her Temporary "Pure" Synergy gains the "Gaian" trait as well. (Permanent Synergy is unaffected.) If her Temporary Synergy is a mix of pure and Gaian, she cannot convert it to Permanent. Once she has ten Temporary "Gaian" Synergy, however, she may convert them to one Permanent "Gaian" Synergy. And this is when things start to get interesting...
Step 1: Enlightened
If a Dragon-Blooded with one or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy increases her Permanent Essence rating, she immediately becomes Enlightened. Her eyes are opened, and she realizes how disconnected the Dragon-Blooded are, how disconnected she is. She feels a distance from her fellows that she never felt before, but more than that she feels a distance from Creation that she never noticed before. She is overcome with the astounding notion that all things are connected, all things are one, but that Creation is broken, it has become separated, divided. The factional infighting between Houses suddenly seems pointless and self-destructive, the hunting of Anathema feels disjointed and counterproductive, and most of all the division of the Elements into five Aspects seems arbitrary and unnecessary.
And then the vision is gone. Her old feelings and opinions, whatever they were before this moment, come rushing back over her. What will she do with this vision? Such is the power of it that she cannot remain unchanged by it. Will she be repulsed by it, rejecting its message and diving even more strongly into traditional Dragon-Blooded philosophy? Will she embrace it, rejecting her old life and beliefs in pursuit of holistic interconnectedness? Or will it be somewhere in between? This is, in the end, up to her to decide. If she chooses to reject it entirely, feeling repulsed by the vision and its message, that feeling of revulsion will extend to the Emerald Artifact as well, as she instinctively realizes that its very substance is the embodiment of that message and the source of that vision. She will most likely choose to discard or destroy it, or otherwise de-attune herself from it, at which point she may again begin to gain "Pure" Synergy. But the one thing she cannot do is go back to the way she was. She is now, and will forevermore be, Enlightened.
An Enlightened Terrestrial has one Permanent "Gaian" Synergy locked into her Exaltation by her Permanent Essence, and she can never quite shake the memory of the vision it brought with it. As such, she receives a -1 Internal Penalty on all cooperative rolls, and must spend a point of Willpower to convert Temporary Synergy to Permanent. This tends to be the most difficult time for her, as she has had her eyes opened to the brokenness around and within her but has not yet begun the process of healing. In all other ways, she remains simply a Terrestrial.
Step 2: Awakened
If an Enlightened Dragon-Blooded with two or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy increases her Permanent Essence, she is immediately Awakened. She receives a vision of two of the five elements, and how in truth they are but one. One of these two Elements is her Aspect. A Wood Aspect might receive a vision of roots sinking deep into the Earth, drinking its nutrients and transforming them into bark and branches, while leaves fall to the ground and decay, becoming the soil. A Water Aspect might receive a vision of rising steam and pouring clouds, sky and sea filling and creating one another. When the vision is complete, she has a second Aspect.
An Awakened Terrestrial has two Permanent "Gaian" Synergy locked into her Exaltation, and is, in all ways, a Terrestrial of two Aspects. She is not half and half, she is wholly one and wholly the other. This means she is able to learn and use Charms and Forms and any other actions and effects from both Aspects at no penalty. (Her Abilities are unaffected.) Emerald artifacts now confer the benefits of both her Aspect's colors, as well as the benefits of Yellow Jade. Identical benefits do not stack, rather the highest available takes effect (e.g. an Earth and Fire Aspect's Emerald Daiklave would have the standard Jade benefit of -1 Speed, Yellow Jade's benefit of -1 to difficulty of cooperative actions, White Jade's benefit of "+1 to the difficulty of rolls to resist knockdown and stunning caused by the weapon", and Red Jade's benefit of "+3 to damage due to intense heat". Standard Jade's +1 and White Jade's +2 damage bonuses are supplanted by Red Jade's +3). However, all cooperative actions involving her and other Terrestrials suffer a -2 Penalty, Internal if she is the active party, External if she is not.
Step 3: Opened
If an Awakened Dragon-Blooded with three or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy increases her Permanent Essence, she is immediately Opened. She receives a vision mimicking her Awakening, but this time a third element is added in. The Wood Aspect might see the wind blowing through her rooted tree and over the soil, aerating the latter and respired by the former. The Water Aspect might see fiery bolts of lightning shooting back and forth between sky and sea. When the vision is complete, she has a third Aspect.
As an Awakened is to her two Aspects, so an Opened is to her three. She has three Permanent "Gaian" Synergy locked into her Exaltation. All cooperative actions involving her and other Terrestrials suffer a -3 Penalty, Internal if she is the active party, External if she is not. She may now spend EXP with the Solar Price Chart.
Step 4: Unsealed
If an Opened Dragon-Blooded with four or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy increases her Permanent Essence, she is immediately Unsealed. She receives a vision mimicking her Opening, but this time a fourth element is added in. When the vision is complete, she has a fourth Aspect.
As an Opened is to her three Aspects, so an Unsealed is to her four. She has four Permanent "Gaian" Synergy locked into her Exaltation. All cooperative actions involving her and other Terrestrials suffer a -4 Penalty, Internal if she is the active party, External if she is not. Charms or other effects that specifically target Gaians are now able to target her, but any Gaian-specific effects are halved, rounded down. She may also begin purchasing Gaian Charms, but following Eclipse rules (double EXP and mote cost).
Step 5: Ascended
If an Unsealed Dragon-Blooded with five or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy increases her Permanent Essence, she immediately Ascends to Celestial status. She receives a vision of the great body of Gaia, teeming with life, wrought from the elements, but all one organism, the living body of the Great Mother. When her vision is complete, she has become a True Gaian.
A true Gaian is all Aspects, and none of them. She has transcended the Elemental Dragons and her own Dragon blood, and become an Exalted of Gaia. For her own Charms and actions and effects, she is considered to be all Aspects. For others' Charms and actions and effects, she is considered to be no Aspect, nor even Terrestrial. Charms that assume cooperation between Terrestrials can no longer involve her, whether she is the active party or not (unless all parties involved are Gaians; then the charm treats all of them like Terrestrials). However, she may participate in cooperative actions with Terrestrials as though she were any other Celestial Exalt, with no special penalty. Charms and other effects that specifically target Gaians now affect her in full. She may also buy Gaian Charms at normal price, and any she already has may now be used at base mote cost.
As she is now a full Celestial Exalt, her Emerald Artifact no longer halves the minimum age for increasing Permanent Essence; its purpose in doing so was to ensure the Gaian Exaltation reached full maturity before the death of the Exalt. However, the minimum ages for Essencing up are now lowered by the number of years she spent on the Path (her age upon Ascension minus her age upon Enlightenment). She now has a lifespan nearly equivalent to that of any other Celestial Exalt, minus the years the spent on the Path. She may attune to any color of Jade, and to any Terrestrial Hearthstones, and any Emerald Artifact she is attuned to now acts as a Gaian Hearthstone, drawing essence not from any one demesne but from the very patterns of crossing ley lines all across Creation. She may convert any Terrestrial Manse into an "Emerald Manse", which will produce Emerald spheres of Artifact rating equal to the Manse rating the way other Manses create Hearthstones. Such a feat is an equivalent task to building an entire new Manse, and follows the rules for doing so as laid out on page 133 of the Exalted Core Book. Such a Manse and Emerald Artifact may be attuned to by any Terrestrial as though they were a Manse and Hearthstone of her own Aspect, as well as by any Gaian. Emerald Manses cannot be built from scratch; to put an Emerald Manse on a Terrestrial demesne requires first building the equivalent Terrestrial Manse, then converting it to Emerald.
She may no longer use "Pure" Synergy; the two (or more) Permanent "Pure" Synergy she has leftover from before her Ascension no longer count towards her Chakra, except for determining her maximum Permanent Essence rating. She must always be attuned to at least one Emerald Artifact, thus gaining Temporary "Gaian" Synergy, if she wishes to continue to grow in Chi, Chakra, and Permanent Essence rating. Fortunately, any Terrestrial with one or more Permanent "Gaian" Synergy may, while smelting or experimenting with Jade, roll Permanent "Gaian" Synergy, with difficulty of the Artifact or Resource rating of the Jade she is producing or working with, to determine if Yellow Jade is produced instead. She may also choose not to do this, if she wishes to keep the Jade the way it is. (The Storyteller can still decide that Yellow Jade appears anyway, just as with any other instance of working with Jade.)
As perfect expressions of unity, Gaians are not divided into Castes. Depending on how long she spent as a Terrestrial, how much she learned during that time and during each step along the Path, and how long it has been since her Ascension, she may show any number of personal bents toward or away from any number of elements to varying degrees. Her Favored Abilities will also continue to reflect her original Aspect. Other than these differentiations, Gaians are not divided, and have no Caste.
It is up to the Storyteller how to decide which new Aspect she gains at each step; he could choose, he could let the player choose, he could randomize it somehow, etc. For Charms and other effects that only affect — or do not affect — a certain Aspect, she is considered to be wholly each of her multiple Aspects. In cases where two (or more) effects would affect her, roll a d10 for each one. On a success, that effect happens; on a failure, it does not. (This could mean all of them take effect, or none of them, or any combination in between. Also note that chances are tilted slightly towards her being unaffected. This is intentional.) In cases where two contradictory effects roll successes, the higher die result wins. If the die results are equal, roll a d10 for each one, and the higher result succeeds.
It may happen that she chooses (or is forced) to de-attune from her Emerald Artifact. If this happens before Ascension, Synergy she gains no longer has the "Gaian" trait (if after Ascension, she may no longer gain Synergy at all), and any Temporary "Gaian" Chi she has stored starts going back to "pure" at the same rate it became "Gaian" during Stage 0. She may convert pure Synergy to Permanent as normal, and may increase her Permanent Essence rating as normal, however the steps to Ascension only count Permanent "Gaian" Synergy, so she may progress only as many steps down the path total as total Permanent "Gaian" Synergy she has stored. Of course, if she later attunes to another (or the same) Emerald Artifact, she begins gaining and shifting to "Gaian" Synergy again, exactly as she did in Step 0, and may thus continue along the Path again. However, each Step only occurs at the moment of Essencing up; under no circumstances may she gain a Step retroactively.
In case something somehow lowers her Permanent Essence or her Permanent Chi, it is important to keep track of which Permanent Synergy are "Gaian" and which are "Pure". Anytime Permanent Chi is lost for any reason (most likely due to her splitting it into Temporary Chi for use in Charms or other effects), it is always the most recent Chi that is used. (I will be providing on the Chakras page a secondary Character Sheet for keeping track of Chakras and Chi. On the Synergy Chakra will be a way to denote which Chi are "Gaian" and which are "Pure".) An especially desperate Dragon-Blooded, if revolted by Enlightening, may seek drastic measures. She may try to find a way to damage her newly-gained Permanent Essence rating, to lower it by a dot, thus unlocking her most recent Permanent Synergy (which would almost certainly be the Gaian one). If she succeeds, she may then convert the Permanent "Gaian" Synergy into ten Temporary "Gaian" Synergy and spend or vent them as she wishes. This requires an act of quite literal self-destruction, maiming her own Permanent Essence, not to mention the release of ten Temporary Chi at once could go off like a Tactical Essence Nuke. (If she has the patience for it, she can simply wait ten sessions; as long as she is not attuned to any Emerald, the "Gaian" Synergy will revert to "Pure" in that time.) If she succeeds, and survives, then she will have successfully returned to Step 0, and be simply a Terrestrial again, and so long as she never again attunes to Emerald, she can gain "Pure" Synergy and Essence up like a normal Dragon-Blooded. It is difficult to imagine the type of personality that would be driven to such desperate action merely to remove the "taint" of harmony from her soul. Maybe she simply cherishes the Dragon-Blooded Host and is more perceptive than her peers...
The Emerald Virus: Gaia's Design
Gaians are, ultimately, expressions of unity and connectedness. They are meant to represent the ideal interdependence and unification of all that descends from Gaia, all of Creation and its inhabitants. Ideally, she would be able to learn and use all charms, respire and use all forms of essence, and Essence up with any Chi and Chakra. Unfortunately, Creation is not ideal. People are divided, energies are distinct, and so in becoming the embodiment of that which is unified she ironically separates herself from much of what is divided. This is why many of her actions and energies are restricted in how they interact with the rest of Creation, and the Dragon Blooded in particular.
Gaia has not been blind to this tragic fracturing of Creation and among the Chosen of her Dragon offspring. She saw this disunity, and She was displeased. She wished for a way to unify them from within, and from this wish Yellow Jade began to form in random places where Jade was being smelted and experimented on. Yellow Jade is the expression of Her wish that Creation and all Dragon-Blooded be unified, and it is also the method by which this is made possible. Gaian Exaltation can be viewed as a sickness, a disease, and Emerald its contagion. Gaia may have sided with humanity in the Primordial War, but She is still a Primordial. While She could arguably be described as "good", there is no denying that She is what many humans would describe as "creepy". Like many diseases of Gaia's design, Gaian Exaltation is slow to start but exponential to spread, as more hosts carry out its infectious biological imperative. The more Gaians there are, the more Yellow Jade and Emerald Manses there will be. The more Yellow Jade and Emerald Manses there are, the more Emerald there will be. And the more Emerald there is, the more Dragon-Blooded may be infected with Gaian Exaltation. Gaia looked at this infectious design of inevitable mass biomagical unification, and She was pleased.
(It is not known whether Gaian Exaltation may be passed along directly, nor by what method this occurs. Gaia's satisfaction with the design implies that there is some way for it to become permanently ubiquitous, replacing Terrestrial Exaltation entirely. Can it be bred, like Terrestrial Exaltation? If so, do they have to breed with each other, or would they breed true with Terrestrials? What about with mortals? Or does Ascension convert her shard to Celestial, allowing it to pass on through reincarnation like the other Celestial Exaltations? Or both? These questions are for the Storyteller to answer.)
So Who Knows This Stuff?
Whether Emerald has ever been forged before, whether anyone knows whether it has been done before, or whether anyone even knows this is possible (let alone how common any of that knowledge is), is all up to the Storyteller. Since its forging involves the conscious and active use of Synergy (as opposed to the instinctive use for automatic success that Terrestrials are capable of regardless of knowledge), how much is known about Emerald is inherently tied to how much is known about Chakras.
There is, at the very least, a rumor circulating the Blessed Isle, about an old Earth Aspect who exiled himself to the Scavenger Lands. Some say he graduated from the Heptagram before his apostasy, others say he was expelled from the Cloister of Wisdom as a heretic. Accounts vary as to what he looked like, what his name was, which House he hailed from, even how long ago this happened, and especially on how sane he was, but the stories all agree on two things. Firstly, that his heresy was suggesting that there is a being greater than the Elemental Dragons, whose image the Dragon-Blooded could aspire to attain. (The Immaculate Order has no official position on the truth of these rumors but is quick to agree that such a suggestion would be heresy of the highest degree. The fast and firm establishing and espousing of this position is part of what keeps the rumors circulating.) The second thing they all agree on is that, before he left the Blessed Isle, he was infamous for his many failed attempts to synthesize Yellow Jade.
Since Gaians have access to all Charms that any Terrestrial has access to, they do not need many Charms of their own. But some do exist (mostly for using multiple elements at once, which is outside Terrestrial capability), and any Charms a Gaian creates during her lifetime will be organized with this metric. Gaian Charms are sorted by Attribute.