Caste: Zenith; Concept: Wandering Martial Artist; Anima: Terrible Snow Bear; Motivation: To become the best martial artist in the North; Experience Points: 97
- Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Stamina 4; Charisma 3, Manipulation 2, Appearance 4; Perception 2, Intelligence 2, Wits 3
- Abilities: Martial Arts 5 (Other Martial Artists +2, Punches +2); Performance 2, Presence 2, Resistance 3, Survival 3 (The North +2); Lore 2, Medicine 3; Athletics 3, Awareness 3; Linguistics 2 (Skytongue; Northern Barbarian Languages, Old Realm)
- Backgrounds: Contacts 1 (Icewalkers), Cult 1, Face 3, Mentor 3
- Essence Overwhelming: 1m/die; Instant; Reflexive; adds +1 die to Ability dice pool, to a max. of Attribute + Ability; Applies to: Awareness, Martial Arts, Survival, Medicine
- Infinite Skill Mastery: 2+m; Scene; Simple; Reduces cost of Ability-based Excellencies by 1m/2m invested; Applies to: Martial Arts
- Athletics Charms
- Graceful Crane Stance: 3m; Scene; Reflexive; Gain auto-success on balance rolls.
- Increasing Strength Exercise: 3m/+1 Strength; Scene; Simple; Increase Strength for scene; Maximum bonus = Essence.
- Monkey Leap Technique: 3m; Scene; Reflexive; Double jump distances, may take a Jump action as a Move action.
- Martial Arts: Solar Hero Style
- Fists of Iron Technique: 1m; Instant; Supplemental; Gain +1 Accuracy, +2L Damage on a single Martial Arts attack.
- Thunderclap Rush Attack: 1m; Instant; Simple; Make a single Speed 3, DV -0 Martial Arts attack
- Inevitable Victory Meditation: 3m, 1W; Indefinite; Simple (-2 DV); Meditate for five minutes, and roll Wits + Martial Arts, gaining [Essence] automatic successes (may not add any other Charms to augment or alter roll); gain successes as a pool of successes that may replace a given Martial Arts roll at any point in the future; may only "store up" one such meditation at a time.
- Sledgehammer Fist: 3m; Instant; Supplemental; Double pre-soak damage against inanimate object.
- Dragon Coil Technique: 3m; One Action; Reflexive; Gain +[Essence] to all clinch rolls; Clinches gain +[Essence] Lethal damage.
- Martial Arts: Mantis Style
- Leaping Mantis Technique: 3m; Instant; Reflexive; Add Martial Arts to Join Battle rolls, and to Jump/Move totals.
- Iron Arm Block: 3m; Instant; Reflexive; May parry Lethal attacks, add Martial Arts to Parry DV.
- Mantis Form: 6m; Scene; Simple (Spd 3); Form-Type Charm; Add Martial Arts to Join Battle rolls, to Bashing and Lethal soaks; inflict Lethal damage barehanded; ignore onslaught penalties while active
- Martial Arts: Tiger Style
- Crimson Leaping Cat Technique: 3m; Instant; Supplemental; Add Martial Arts to Dexterity for determining Move, Dash and Jump distances.
- Resistance Charms
- Durability of Oak Meditation: 3m; Instant; Reflexive; Gain Hardness 8 vs. single attack.
- Iron Skin Concentration: 2m; Instant; Reflexive; Ignore damage with a successful Stamina + Resistance roll, diff. [attacker's Essence]; on failed roll, gain +8B/+8L/+4A
- Iron Kettle Body: 4m, 1W; Scene; Simple; Gain +8B/+8L/+4A for scene
- Body Mending Meditation: 10m; until end of day; Supplemental; Heal 10 times faster, or add successes from roll to Charms or other effects that heal damage.
- Ox-Body Technique: Gain +1 (-1 Health Level) and +2 (-2 Health Levels) per Charm purchase; Number of Purchases: 1
- Survival Charms
- Hardship Surviving Mendicant Spirit: 10m; Indefinite; Reflexive; negate environmental penalties to all Survival rolls.
- Terrible Iron Bear Stance: Martial Arts Overwhelming, Fists of Iron, Iron Arm Block, Iron Skin Concentration
- Virtues: Compassion 1, Conviction 2, Temperance 3, Valor 3; Virtue Flaw: Foolhardy Contempt
- Willpower: 6; Essence: 3; Personal Essence: 15; Anima Essence: 36; Anima Power: Add +[Essence] to Bashing/Lethal Soaks vs creatures of darkness, and +[Essence] to minimum damage vs. creatures of darkness.
- DVs: Evade 4, Parry 6 (7 vs other martial artists), Mental 5; Soak: 4B/2L/0A, 12B/10L/4A (Iron Kettle Body), 9B/7L/0A (Mantis Form), 17B/15L/4A (Iron Kettle Body + Mantis Form); Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Inc.
- Punch: Speed 5, Rate 3, Accuracy +2 (13/15 vs. martial artists), Damage 3B, Parry DV 7
- Kick: Speed 5, Rate 2, Accuracy +0 (9/11 vs. martial artists), Damage 6B, Parry DV 4
- Clinch: Speed 6, Rate 1, Accuracy +0 (9/11 vs. martial artists), Damage 3B + hold, Parry DV N/A
- Thunderclap Rush Attack: Makes any above attack Speed 3 (Charm)
- Fist of Iron: Adds +1 Accuracy, +2 Damage and turns Damage Lethal on any above attack. (Charm)
- Possessions: Good traveling leathers, a couple of nice outfits (purchased for him by Luminous Star), the Healing Boots of Ardent Lily (Wood-Imbued Leather Boots), length of cold iron chain (fist-load for attacking Fair Folk)
- Intimacies: Master Wind 8, Luminous Star 2
- Athletic Measurements
- Horizontal Jump: 12 yds
- Vertical Jump: 6 yds
- Move: 4 yds
- Dash: 10 yds
- Lift: 550 lbs.
The North is a terrible and difficult place to grow up in. It is savage, and its people reflect this. Sometimes, we are given the chance to forget this – or in my case, to grow up not knowing it.
I don't remember much about my father. I only know that he was a powerful man, and we lived in a rich home, and he often entertained other rich men. He had many soldiers who wore his symbol that served to protect us, and I grew up in the lap of luxury. My mother had the freedom to dote on me, and I was an only child. I never realized how difficult life was then. Not truly.
That understanding came when I was perhaps six years old. Armored men attacked our home, and our soldiers fought them. I saw my first man die that night. I saw my first twelve men die in that hour. I remember being terrified and screaming at the top of my lungs, running to find my mother. I tried to hide in her skirts, but she pulled me down into the basements and we hid. Within the hour, three men came to us – my father's man Dihan and two of his subordinate soldiers. One of the soldiers was half-carrying, half-dragging my father, whose surcoat gleamed bright red with his blood. Father's face looked a little grey around the edges.
Dihan led us out through a series of tunnels, and we escaped into the night. There was a town nearby, but we couldn't go into the town. There were men looking for us there, too. Mother and I stayed with father and one of the soldiers while Dihan and the other soldier dressed in plain clothing and went into town to try and secure horses and a cart.
They came back with two mules – anyone who could have sold them horses was being watched, they said. They tried to load father onto the back of one of the mules. I can remember mother's low sobs and being terrified, wishing father would hurry up and wake up, wishing he would put his arm around her and reach out to muss my hair, even though I pretended I hated that. Those things always made everything seem better, and I was desperate for things to seem better.
We traveled through the autumn chill for two days. I remember waking up one night to hear mother sobbing, crying hysterically. I just laid there as she cradled father in her arms. I thought that looked really uncomfortable, the way she was holding him.
The idea that he might be dead was the furthest thing from my mind.
I heard Dihan whispering, then, with the others, and they quickly got mother up. They hastily covered father up with fallen leaves and branches – concealing him, rather than actually burying him. They pulled us away from there, though mother screamed and wept and tried to fight them. I was too numb to do anything but watch her, and keep looking back, expecting to find father following us, looking a little confused and dizzy and wondering where we were going and why we were leaving him behind.
Once mother calmed down – or rather, once her situation set in, and she sort of collapsed in on herself in grief and pain – I started acting up. I demanded to see my father. I was hysterical, now screaming in anger, now sobbing deep hiccoughs of grief. My mother tried to comfort me, to no avail. She tried explaining to me that everything was going to be okay, and that I must be strong. I must be brave and not cry. I must be cold, like the snow. I must be like father was – disciplined.
I didn't want to be any of those things. I would exhaust myself through acts of rage, rebellion and shrieking grief, and then fall asleep, still struggling, in my mother's arms. Her face was scratched and somewhat bruised from my tantrums, and she was doing her best to console me. It's funny – I was so concerned with her reaction, and so used to ignoring the soldiers, that it never once occurred to me to wonder or see what the others thought.
Finally, at the end of the second day, I was screaming. Again. She was trying to soothe me, holding my hands away from striking her face when movement caught her eye. Her pretty blue eyes widened and she said “No, wait...”
I remember glancing up to see what had dared to pull my mother's attention from me, only to find Dihan crossing toward me. His face was raw with lines of anger, and he was clearly fed up. When I saw him, his fist was up near his ear, and remember hearing a slight whistling sound as his swung that fist.
Then, all was black.
When I woke up next, it was to a sharp pain. My world was suddenly black feathers and terrible beady eyes. A spot of blood stood out on my shoulder where the raiton had torn a chunk from it, thinking I was carrion. I screamed and cried and scrambled away, scaring it as badly as it had scared me.
I whimpered for my mother and looked around for her. I called for her, and began running around, sure that she was just beyond that set of trees, or that the hill ahead was obscuring her, or that I'd heard her call my name (which, strangely, I don't even remember anymore).
Panic grew and rattled around in my chest like a beast trying to get out of a cage. I don't remember much about that time. Only a sense of desperation, and of ice-cold tears staining my cheek. I sobbed and sobbed, calling for my mother until my voice was hoarse, until I couldn't talk any more. And then I cried myself to sleep beneath a low bush, trying to huddle into its density for any warmth.
I awoke to snow the next day. I looked around, wishing desperately that I might see my mother's blue eyes once more. I roamed some more, trying to find her.
Eventually, I sat down in the snow and remembered what she'd tried to tell me. I must be like ice. Like the snow. I must be cold, and disciplined. Perhaps this was a test, I thought. Perhaps she and Dihan were watching me from somewhere hidden, trying to make be understand that I must be silent and disciplined. Like father was. I had to be quiet, and composed and strong, like father was. I had to be brave, like father.
So I sat down, under a tree, and I waited. I waited and waited, until night came again, and the sounds of monsters – or maybe just animals – kept me awake all night. I was so hungry, and eating the snow didn't seem to help at all, though it helped the thirst some.
I fell asleep as the sun rose. By this time, I remember thinking dimly that I was so cold, but you had to be cold. You had to be like snow. I was so cold that my breath didn't cloud the air anymore. And then I closed my eyes.
I would have died. I know this now. But I didn't. I survived, somehow, long enough for Wind to find me. Wind was a hunter, and he went everywhere with a big dog at his side. I woke up to that big black dog licking my face. I was so exhausted and hungry and cold that it didn't frighten me – I just reached up and petted him.
“There you are,” Wind's voice said and I tried to tilt my head up to look at him, but I couldn't. The sun was high overhead, and it shined off the ice in the trees and blinded me. So I just closed my eyes again.
“Here, here,” he said gently. “I didn't track you all this way just so you could curl up and die the minute Fang finds you. Wake up, now.”
He lifted me and carried me to his horse. I can only half-remember the trip, though I remember strange songs in a weird tongue, the taste of warm wine in my mouth and being wrapped in a set of furs as I rode in front of him on the horse. I think I was in shock, then. I could remember a strange, yellowish light to the world, as though viewed through a dream or memory, and I faded in and out of consciousness.
When I woke up again, I was in a warm bed. I looked up to see a thatched-roof above me. I quickly looked around, in a panic, and found myself in a loft. I pulled back the warm blankets and furs and glanced over the edge of the loft. Below me sat three adults, all gathered around a table – two men, one of whom I recognized as the man who saved me, and a woman.
We were in the home of Larik and Sparrow, two friends of Wind. Wind had to keep traveling, but he had arranged for his friends – who had no children of their own – to watch over me. I didn't want him to leave, of course, because I was terrified. But Larik and Sparrow treated me well, and I stayed with them for four years, until I was ten. Wind showed up every winter, and we spent weeks together. He began teaching me the martial arts. He understood what I'd been through almost without asking, and helped me to become what I wanted to become.
I was a different child. I expected nothing from anyone, and rarely spoke. I longed for a disciplined existence, and there was plenty to be had in a skinner's hut out in the middle of the forest. There were plenty of chores to be done, and I did them responsibly and without complaint. I soon was helping Larik prepare his traps and go hunting, and helped Sparrow keep our home when I wasn't out with him. She taught me how to tend wounds, while Larik taught me how to survive in the forests, how to take everything I needed from them, and live off the land. When Wind was there, they let him monopolize my time, and I loved the times with him. He would show up and we'd wander off into the cold wilderness.
He's the one who named me Snow, in fact, because that is what I was becoming. What I wanted to become.
When I was ten, he came for me and took me wandering with him. At the end of the summer, we were hosted by a clan of Icewalkers, and he asked them if they were willing to take me in until I was ready for my rites of adulthood. They did so, and found me a strange child.
I eventually found out why he left me there. I didn't play much with the other children, which made them dislike me. Among the Icewalkers, however, such differences are handled through a very simple mechanism – childhood violence. I already knew some of the martial arts that Wind had taught me, and so the calm lessons he'd given me were suddenly replaced with sudden violence, all kicking and biting and clawing and wrestling with Icewalker youths. They taught me to love a good fight, to respect those who beat me, and to relish winning above all.
I stayed with the White Leopard clans until I was fifteen, and Wind visited me every summer. He wanted to know more about what I'd learned of fighting and discipline since the last time he'd taught me. My first year there, I neglected to practice the forms he'd taught me the year before, and he scolded me terribly. I quickly relearned them, and then learned many more, and never neglected to practice them again. Some of the other White Leopard youth would come out to tease me as I practiced the dance-like motions, but once they understood what I was doing – courtesy of a beating using the precise form they'd mocked me for – several of them even started to practice with me.
I was fifteen when it all came to an end. The White Leopard clan considered their youth to be full adults at sixteen years of age, once they'd proven themselves in combat with another clan and demonstrated the ability to hunt down meat for the family stew-pots. I'd long since proven the rest of that, so we were literally just waiting for my sixteenth year to be upon us.
I wish it had ended because I'd turned sixteen. I knew that once that happened, Wind would be back to find me, and we'd leave together.
The Winter Has Teeth
I never got that chance. They came first, with their haunting songs in the middle of a blizzard, with the gleams of moonlight on moving shards of ice, with the howls of their horned snow hunters. The Winter People came, astride midnight black stallions, white omen dogs as their hunting hounds, wielding spears forged of ice and nightmares. The terrible faerie of the winter stretches came, in terrible force.
I panicked, just as everyone else did. My friends died around me, torn to shreds by omen dogs, or speared to the ground with terrible spears. I tried to get away, but they seemed to be everywhere. The air stank of blood and the crisp cold that hands in the air just before a terrible frost. A horned snow hunter saw me and charged, running past me and tearing open my side with its horn.
I lay on the ground, fearful. There was something familiar about this situation. I glanced up and there, standing on a hill overlooking the campground, was Wind. He wasn't doing anything but standing there. Watching. I cried out to him, glancing behind me to see that the horned snow hunter was coming around for another pass – taking a moment to gore one of the village hounds to death – and I called out to him again. He simply watched.
I looked away from him, back at the snow hunter, which was just lowering its head, and then down at the snow at my feet.
The pure, white snow. Perfect. Cold. Immutable, though eternally adaptable. I think I understood, then.
I stood, and took the stance he'd taught me. It charged and I waited, measuring the passage of seconds in my breathing. Then, as though it were the most natural thing in the world, I slid my foot sideways, stepping around the horn. With a simple spin, I drove my elbow into the back of the things neck.
Night turned to day, the sounds of the massacre stopped around me. The crunch of its neck and skull was so loud in my ears. The light of the noonday sun shone all around me, and I was surmounted by the image of a terrible white bear, with eyes, claws and talons of sheerest, shimmering white-gold. I roared my challenge to them.
Their lord came among them, a creature of such beauty that I wanted to offer him everything I had, including my life. He was stride a massive horned snow hunter that bore a set of giant wings the color of a snow owl's breast feathers. He smiled at me and drew his thin blade made of ice and silver. I took my stance and narrowed my eyes, and then Wind was next to me.
It was Wind, but it wasn't Wind. Wind's eyes were not pitch-black star-filled voids, marked with only a thin topaz-hued iris. Nor did Wind wear a buff-jacket of tan leather set with some kind of strange metals that gleamed like hematite and sparkled with multi-hued stars. Wind certainly did not wield a pair of hooked daiklaives made from the same strange metal.
“Let this be done,” Not-Wind said. “Your men have had their fill, there is no one else left here to toy with, and the boy didn't harm any of your troops. Only an animal.” The Prince of Ice seemed to ponder.
“Perhaps I liked that beast,” he suggested, in the tone one might use in flirting. I flushed, and my pants were suddenly uncomfortably tight. “Perhaps I like the boy more.”
“You're going to lose much more than that beast if you stay here,” Not-Wind said, his tone all iron and ice.
“Ware your threats, star-child,” the Fair Folk noble sneered. “I find them not-at-all amusing.”
“Perhaps you'll find this a little more so,” Not-Wind said, and smiled. He handed me one of his hooked daiklaives. As he pulled his hand away, he was holding – by some sleight of hand – a trio of arrows. He lifted them and showed them to the Fair Folk Prince, who furrowed his brow in confusion.
“In the House of the Quiver lies fleetness of thought. Controlled, discipline reason defeats whimsy every time, my lord,” Not-Wind said, smiling. “These arrows, plucked from the constellation of the Quiver, which hangs so heavy above us this night, apply reason and cold logic to all I do. You will find things of make-believe and dreams do not exist before their bite. You will also find creatures of caprice and nightmares are made one with Creation.”
At this the Fair Folk blanched, and looked around him, as though calculating his odds.
“I don't need to kill you, my lord,” Not-Wind said, politely. “That would not do. I need only prick your handsome skin with one of these arrows, snatch up the boy and then depart. Your Fate will rest beneath the eyes of the stars. And you know what that means.”
The Fair Folk narrowed his eyes.
“Do you think you could escape?” he said threateningly. Not-Wind simply smiled and a sudden saffron light shone on his brow. I did not know what the symbol there meant, but the prince of the Fair Folk clearly did.
“Do you think you could stop me?” Not-Wind smiled. The deathly seriousness in the face of the Prince of Ice suddenly shattered, like a frozen lake under the noon-day sun, and he laughed.
“What a grand drama,” he exclaimed, as though he were complimenting Not-Wind. “What vigor and passion we have between us, you and I. I look forward to exploring this more again in the future.” He then looked at me, and his eyes twinkled.
“And this boy. What an enigma. A child of the sun, in Creation once more,” he said, and Not-Wind took a quick sideways glance at me. From the reflection in his eyes, I could see him look at the burning, white-hot disc on my brow. “Did you know this was incipient? He clearly knows you, although perhaps not as you are now. Have you been cultivating him for years now? Have I stumbled into some wonderful plot? I truly anticipate the chance to savor this, my friends. I will not forget either of you, and look forward – with tremendous anxiousness – to seeing you again.”
He turned, then, his white cloak cutting an artful swirl in the bloody snow at his feet and whistled. The screams around us eventually died out as the Fair Folk left.
I looked up, and I was looking at Wind. Good old Wind.
“We have a lot to talk about. Let's see to the survivors, first, though – they are in greater need than your curiosity.”
About Midday Snow
Motivations: “To become the foremost martial artist in the North.” In truth, Midday Snow doesn't really know what he wants. His childhood obsession with discipline, bravery and skill – borne out of being abandoned as a child in the wilderness – has grown into a need to become the best martial artist. His goals are frankly childish and without true meaning, though he doesn't know it.
Appearance: Midday Snow is an attractive young man, with white hair that hangs down in front of his face. He seems to be quite thin, and looks like a bedraggled orphan, but he is actually quite strongly built. He dresses in undyed leathers and canvas travelers clothing, and a big set of black boots.
Dealings with Strangers: Midday Snow is not generally suspicious of strangers. He is quick to see the best in people around him, right up until he's given a reason not to. Rather than being immediately antagonistic towards other martial artists, he is quite friendly, though with a competitive air to him. He believes that other people in the martial arts world are his brethren, and he is utterly uninterested in killing anyone to prove his superiority. Instead, he simply wishes for a friendly fight to better understand this stranger; he genuinely believes that the best way to truly understand someone is to fight – either with them, or against them. He has never killed with his martial arts at this point.
Dealings with Companions: When Midday Snow gives his friendship, he does so wholly and without hesitation. He is frankly somewhat naïve in that regard, and easily manipulated. He has never really encountered someone who has manipulated him to the fullest possible extent – everyone he's gotten close to has been honest and tough, from his adoptive parents to the icewalkers to Wind.
Dealings with Supernaturals: Midday Snow's immediate response upon encountering a supernatural entity is a fighting stance. He generally assumes that spirits and Fair Folk mean violence to mortals, that Exalts are only interested in battle to test one another, and that most other things are interested in him dying. Peaceful interaction with a supernatural entity is a difficult concept for him, and one he won't entirely trust when he encounters it.
Quirks/Habits: Midday Snow is incredibly disciplined, and it shows. He wakes early every morning to work through the techniques he knows. Then, he continues refining the maneuvers Wind has taught him, attempting to force his Essence into the new techniques. In reality, Snow seems quite child-like, always looking for something to do – he has learned to put his high energy to useful purposes. He is a ravenous eater, like many young men and highly excitable.
Likes: Midday Snow likes a good fight with someone, especially one that challenges him. He genuinely believes that only through fighting can you truly come to know someone – he believes that words are usually deceptions and bits of fakery. Only in action can you really judge someone. Midday Snow loves to travel, seeing new and interesting things and people. Finally, Midday Snow likes to help people; not out of any sense of compassion, mind, but because that is what a hero does, and it makes him feel as though all the difficulties and challenges he's had in his life have some purpose.
Hates: Midday Snow hates killing people; he believes that a truly skilled warrior has no need of killing his opponent in order to prove his ability. He doesn't even buy into the idea that truly dangerous people need to be killed, or they will threaten others – he feels that such people should be defeated and tried properly, with death being the result of a just trial, rather than something any one man has the right to deal out. Midday Snow hates the Fair Folk, blaming them for the deaths of so many of his icewalker friends. He also hates being humiliated or demeaned in social situations – he considers such events to be challenges, and he answers challenges with fists.
Fears: Midday Snow is afraid that there was no reason behind his abandonment – he believes that he was abandoned in the wilderness for a purpose. Though he has long since stopped believing that his mother was testing him, he does believe that he was being tested; he has transferred that belief to the Unconquered Sun since his Exaltation. Midday Snow fears the Fair Folk as much as he hates them – they are alien and otherworldly, beyond his understanding. Finally, Midday Snow fears making friends, because he is terrified that everytime he gets close to someone, they will either abandon him as his mother did, or be snatched away from him.