Concept: Righteous Crusader
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
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
Brangan the Tamer
Concept: The Ultimate Huntsman
Motivation: To conquer the Lunar Nation
Anima: A Chained Chimera
Brangan's life story is all to familiar to many: Growing up in a prosperous little frontier community in the near North, hard work but loving family to make it worthwhile, an early marriage and more mouths to feed...and then all of it stolen away one early morning, in a pre-dawn raid that saw his home and family destroyed by barbarians, his wife and children sacrificed to their unreasoning appetites. He Exalted then, although in his rage he barely knew it; but by the time he had fought off the invaders, it was too late. Having lost everything that meant anything to him, Brangan the rancher became Brangan the hunter...
It has been years since then. Brangan has grown much more powerful and learned from his mistakes, which have left many scars to remind him. He has become Creation's most reknown non-Immaculate Anathema hunter, and, although he specializes in Lunars and their bestial spawn, he'll hunt anyone if the price is right. But his real passion is hunting Lunars, which he'd happily do for free. He has learned to recognize their presence in the wilderness before they spot his, how to hide himself from their enhanced senses and what to bait his traps with to lure them unawares. He has become aware that they have some form of loose community among them, and dedicates himself to its destruction or enslavement, much as he has enslaved the few Lunars he found who had just Exalted and did not yet know what they were, and even some rogue Beastmen.
He does not know that the Silver Pact is also aware of him, and is debating what to do about him. They would simply kill him outright, where it not for the persuasive arguments of Felicitous Mink, who recognizes in the grim hunter he former First Age mate. Although the Silver Elders decry her lunacy, they are willing to allow her to attempt to open his eyes to the glory of the Silver Way, mindful of the powerful ally they could gain that way. But should she fail, then they will not risk more of their precious brethern falling to the madman's whip...Either way, a reckoning is soon at hand...
Image: Brangan is a large, stout man whose massive frame and unceasing drive belie the emptiness and pain that drives him. Often as shaggy and unkempt as the animal furs he wraps himself in, he is often mistaken for a barbarian himself. In his hunts in the North, he uses a team of Omen Dogs that he has enhanced with the Bestial Traits Technique to harry his prey into cunningly set hidden traps, and finishes them off himself, often with his Jade Direlance and Exceptional hunting knife and whips.
Relevant Traits: Str 4, Sta 5, Cha 4, Per 4, Survival 5, Resistance 5, Melee 4, Awareness 5, Conviction 5, Willpower 8, Essence 4, Followers 2,
Concept: King of Beggars
Motivation: To gain revenge on the Guild.
The man now called Noxious Beggar began life as a pampered prince of the Eastern Threshold, who received as his due course only the finest that life had to offer. So lost in his hedonistic lifestyle was he, that he failed to heed the warnings of his advisors when the Guild set up their drug operations nearby. Doing what they do only too well, soon the minor fiefdom that had belonged to his family had fallen apart in addiction, crime and strife. It wasn't until he no longer had any servants to feed, dress or bathe him, that the prince ventured forth from his palace to see what had become of them. The shock of seeing his people reduced to the dregs that they had become almost snapped his mind, and, for nearly the first time in his entire life feeling something for someone else, he singlehandly attacked the nearest Guild representatives. Their laughter at the comic scene of the ridiculously over-dressed, painted and scented aristocrat attacking them without even a weapon soon turned to terror as they recognized the burning light that began pouring out of him...
The pampered prince truly died that day, although he slew all before him and didn't take a single injury. He walked away from the town he had badly ruled, stripping off his rich vestments and leaving them in the mud behind him without a second glance. And that day, the Noxious Beggar was born. It took some time, but eventually he mastered the means of living without need or want, feeding himself from the land, sleeping where ever he can find shelter from the elements, even living like the animals whose simplicity and straightforwardness he admires. He has also learned the ways of the homeless community, their gathering spots, the subtle signs and warnings that they leave for one another, and the best way to finesse food and change from the wealthy. Through patience, wisdom and power, he has earned their loyalty, and now commands an ever-growing network of informants and followers who can provide him with a wealth of information with none the wiser; after all, beggars are everywhere, and no one pays any attention to one or two of them about...
But Noxious Beggar will need more than a Beggar Army to gain vengence on the Guild. To that end, he keeps his homeless friend's ears tuned to the appearance of any Exalt, especially ones new to their power, that he may be the first to greet them. Then, with a subtlety that a Sidereal would admire, he teaches them about their newfound state, the evils of organized commerce, and guides them into conflict with the Guild. It is his hope that the widely varied Exalted he has cultivated in this manner will eventually destroy the Guild, or at least, make life and profits very, very poor for them indeed...
Image: Much as you'd expect. Noxious Beggar dresses in worn rags and patched together clothing; his sandals are falling apart, when he's not going barefoot; a simple rope serves him for a belt, and a wide-brimmed shapeless mass of cloth for a hat. His sun-dried skin and overgrown hair and beard make him appear much older than he really is. He often fakes various ailments, hunger and laziness, and shamelessly drinks and chases women, more to better see people's reactions to his behavior than anything else. But he is basically a cheerful, laid-back person, taking life not all seriously, and jesting with all he travels and trains with. Except where the Guild is concerned; their presence is the only thing that makes his wild laughter a little strained, and puts a hint of steel into his eyes...
Concept: Queen of Whores
Motivation: To spread her version of worship for the Unconquered Sun
Zefira was born in poverty in the middle of a bankrupt whorehouse in the near-Southern Threshold. She was such a beautiful child, and the owner of the whorehouse so shrewd, that by the time she hit puberty she had singlehandedly saved the place from dissolution. She learned everything she could about business from the madam and about desire and the power it brings from the customers so well that by the time she was 20, she not only owned the place herself, but dominated the small district it was part of. Her Exaltation came upon her when she nearly became the victim of an obsessed fan whose desire she had miscalculated. The Unconquered Sun spoke to her, and his words changed the way she saw the world and herself forever...
Zefira spent a few years wandering the desert, testing herself against all that she came across and expanding upon the limits of her powers...Tales circulated of the half-mad desert witch whose power was only beggared by her beauty. Finally, she was ready to attempt that which she feels her god made her for. Finding a small town near the more populous band of civilized territory in the Threshold, Zefira inserted herself into daily life there, recruited followers from the weary, abused whores of its brothels with which to create her army, and has tacitly ruled the town ever since. Since that place offered her little beyond followers, she has recently left it for a medium-sized city deeper in the Threshold. Successfully taking over the towering Manse that the town surrounds, she uses it as her base from which to swell the ranks of her priestess-hood and to convert those that willingly come to them. She has personally seduced a few mortal Immaculate monks into "conversion", although she looks forward to the challenge of doing so with a Terrestrial one. Barring their mass interference, Zefira feels that it's only a matter of time until her particular brand of worship dominates the entire South...
Relevant Traits: Dex 4, Cha 5, App 4, Wits 4, Performance 5, Presence 4, Survival 3, War 4, Lore 5, Conviction & Temperance 4, Cult 1 (supplemented with Immanent Solar Glory), Manse 2 (Gem of Holiness), Followers 3, Influence 3, Essence 4
Zefira's principal followers are a group she calls her "Houris". Most of the whores who fall under the sway of her charismatic leadership become Sacred Prostitutes and Temple Dancers for the Unconquered Sun, trading their company and services for the influence and wealth they bring to Zefira. Those whose beauty, talent and devotion stand out, however, gain the attention of Zefira herself. Upon them she bestows the divine grace of training with both the Legendary Scholar Curriculum (focusing on Performance, Socialize, Charisma and even Appearance) and Tiger Warrior Training Technique (focusing on Melee, Dexterity and Valor) Charms. Once they prove themselves to lifelong service to the Unconquered Sun, their integrity is also bolstered with the Sun King Radiance Charm. The resulting Sword-Dancers are not only fanatically loyal and unwavering, but they perform their duties with such zealous fervor and skill that their presence, whether loving or killing, is almost addictive. Both men and women, of all sexual preferences, find themselves craving another session in the candle-lit, scented rooms of the Tower of Roses. Those who displease Zefira are temporarily, or even permanently, excommunicated from the Temple and its delights, a state from which they are often insanely desperate to redeem themselves.
The Houris are led by Hepzibah, one of Zefira's first followers and still her favorite. In addition to all of the above, Hepzibah also is treated with Underling Promoting Touch and Power-Awarding Prana.