Going to post something a little different here. This is a background story for a character I wrote for a roleplaying game. I have not yet gotten to play this character, so this is about as far as the story goes. If you want to know more about the game or are confused in general, just post your questions.

This is for a roleplaying game called Exalted. It’s an epic fantasy game, set in a very detailed and varied world. Here’s some stuff that will help you with my story. Skip it if you want.

  1. Solar Exalted are extraordinary people who are chosen by the Sun god to have special powers.
  2. Dragon Blooded or “Terrestrial Exalted” are people who inherit their power genetically along a bloodline from one of the Elemental Dragons (Air, Water, et cetera).
  3. Solar Exalted are buffer, and used to rule the world, until
  4. the more numerous Dragon Blooded betrayed and overthrew them.
  5. Now the Dragon Blooded have an Empire in the middle of the world (the Realm) and there’s a religion that teaches that Solar Exalted are DEMONS THAT WILL KILL YOUR KITTEN AND EAT YOUR BABIES! and an institution called the Wyld Hunt whereby Dragon Blooded hunt down the Solars and kill ’em before they can convince anybody that babies and kittens are safe with them.
  6. Solar Exalted glow with holy atomic fire when they do magic and when they become Exalted.
  7. The setting is anime-influenced, so deal with blue hair, mmkay?

One further proviso: For roleplaying backstories, I don’t care as much about language as plot and character-building, so this may not be my most beautimous verbiage ever.

Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms

Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms was born into the service
of Ledaal Kebok Omeger, an Air Aspected wizard, courtier, and Power
within the tangled courts of the Realm. The self-contained world of the
servants’ quarters was her playground, and the airy marble halls of the
palace itself, glowing of themselves like ivory skin, were her temple.

Her mother was a fifth generation Palace Servant, Dragonfly’s Shadow
on the Water. She had never dropped a dish, never spoke or stepped too
loudly, never offended the nose of her master or his guests with a breath
that spoke of food, never let them see her sad, tired, or disapproving.
This is not slavery, this is service. It is not shame, it is honour.
Her mother was pretty, with pale ivory skin and hair the same shade.
This was part of her perfection, and part of the reason she was high in
the ranks of the Palace servants. Only those whose color matched the
high walls could wait upon the master in company, or see to the needs
of his most favored guests.

The only thing her mother ever did that caused even a murmur of
disapproval was bind herself to Dato the Silent Hand for children.
Dato the Silent Hand was also a loyal servant of House Ledaal, worthy
of respect and a master of his art, but his art was of the world, and
his place was in it. There was much talk that this binding was not for
children, truly, but for love. The Principal Source of Savory Enjoyments
said that such a binding was above the station of a Palace Servant.
The Master of Coach and Rapid Conveyance muttered that such a fancy was
below the dignity of a Palace Servant. Dragonfly’s Shadow on the Water
heeded neither murmur, and invited the world into her bedchamber in the
person of the Silent Hand.

The Silent Hand was from the Western Isles, though he had learned the
ways of the Realm and was always, outwardly, correct. His hair was a
shocking blue and his skin was swarthy. He was one of the House’s most
trusted assassins. He met Dragonfly’s Shadow in the Palace Kitchens,
when he had an assignment in the Court. Her hands shook under his
gaze, and the other servants were amazed at her lack of self-posession.
They spoke that once, then again, six months later. They were bound
after only two conversations. He continued to be at the disposal of
the House — it was only proper, and Dragonfly’s Shadow would not have
had it any other way. He was often away.

Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms was born in the second year of
her parents’ binding. Her father was away, but her mother stroked her
silky head and saw that the consequences of her rash passion would strike
not her, but the child, who was innocent of it. Among the child’s downy
white hairs there was a stark streak of blue. Small, but unmistakable.
Cupping her hand over the child’s head until the midwife had left, she
carefully twisted each bright hair around her pale finger and pulled.
Then she comforted the child as she cried. Every day of her life,
upon waking, the young girl knelt with her mother and bit her lip as
Dragonfly’s Shadow carefully plucked out the offending hairs, which
threatened to break the line of Palace Servants and cast her family into
dishonour, and out into the world.

Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms learned to be a servant.
In the careful symmetry of her master’s house, she served the children
of important guests from far away. Children, the servants said,
do not notice small imperfections — only large ones. Children,
they also mused, can be cruel — it is well for a servant to learn
tranquillity before she has learned pride. She learned to speak to all
people with respect. To disrespect from superiors, she did not listen
or attend, only reflecting inwardly how shocking such behavior was.
To disrespect from inferiors, she must respond with gentle correction.
If gentle correction proved useless, correction must be administered
more severely — in the case of an inferior servant, correction could
graduate from mild remonstrance right up to a private beating, and from
a private beating up to a public castigation. She learned to listen,
and report only to those in authority. She learned to be a warm and
helpful shadow, moving unseen to perfect.

Her father visited sporadically. He insisted on taking her outside the
palace, to her terror and delight. She experienced the world outside as
a dangerous drug. She rode a wave of confusion and sensation — smells,
sounds, loud and colorful and shocking — until her head ached and her
ears rang and she wished she could go home, or cry.

At 16, she was to take her place as an adult Palace Servant, the sixth
generation so honored. A formal ceremony would be held on the Day of
Long Shadows, when continuity and inheritance was celebrated each year.
She would be presented to Elder Kebok, and he would accept a hand-written
scroll in token of her loyalty. She wore a robe woven of raw silk,
in a fine pearl gray, with the symbols of the house embroidered on it.
She stepped quietly from the coterie and made her way to the foot of
the master’s chair, where she kneeled, offering the scroll. There was a
pause. She had been told that the master would take her scroll at once.
She began to blush, feeling that her few seconds of attention were
rapidly stretching beyond endurance. She had always been told that
silence was perfection, but this silence was flawed. It did not flow,
it stopped, held, froze. She waited for the ritual response to come.
Instead, the master called for Dragonfly’s Shadow on Water. He called
upon her to explain a single blue hair, a sly, ambushing slip of silk,
that mingled with the snowy strands on the girl’s head.

Afterwards, Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms was not sure which
incensed the household more — that she, first in generations in her
family, was not perfect; or that her mother had foisted her off on them
as such. She was not unfit for the service of the House; but certainly
her appearance was a sign that she should follow the trade of her father,
and not her mother. The transgression, she was carefully but coldly told,
was not her own. Her mother, though, had denied her her true path, out
of pride. As correction, she would never be allowed to see Exquisite
Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms again. The last time Exquisite Stillness
of Jasmine Blossoms saw her mother, it was in the morning, before the
ceremony. She knelt at her feet, smelling the soft tang of soap in her
robes, and felt the familiar pain of the ritual of hair-pulling, the pain
which somehow seemed a part of being loved, being cherished, belonging.
She and the secret belonged to her mother. The last time she saw her
mother was the first time she ever knew her to make a mistake.

So Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms left the palace with her
father, who had been at the ceremony to see his daughter come of age.
The other servants helped her pack. They made her leave her livery -
all her clothes – and brought her instead a plain coarse set of clothes
she thought she recognized as stablehand wear. She took a pendant in
the shape of a dragonfly, which her mother had given her on her 10th
birthday, and a volume of poetry she’d received at the Elder’s 200th
birthday festival.

The servants watched her quietly. She knew that officially her mother
was the one who had done wrong — but they blamed her, the product of
the strange union, the temptation that had led Dragonfly’s Shadow into
dishonour. She would not cry. She would never smell the scent of her
mother’s robes again. She must enter the chaos of the world outside,
the world where the Blessed Hierarchy was a theory, not a thing you
could touch, feel, and rely upon.

She walked through the servants’ halls, which echoed in lesser stone
the marble archways of the palace proper. The smell of wisteria crept
from the inner gardens. Her father waited like a shadow by the door.
He smelled like saddle soap, from his leather armor. “You know,” he
said softly as he led her away, “It’s all right to cry.”

The Silent Hand was an assassin on retainer to House Ledaal. Of course,
they could not be so bold as to use a permanently hired assassin on the
Blessed Isle…but he criss-crossed the lands under Realm influence on the
rim of the Inner Sea, furthering the House’s interests. His orders from
the House were simply to make his daughter into an assassin. However,
he realized her life heretofore had not at all prepared her for such work,
and so he decided to ease her into it slowly.

While Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms wished to do her duty,
she was frankly repulsed by fighting. This was not so much from the
violence, which she recognized as sadly necessary, but the chaos of her
father’s multifarious style. At last, her father decided to teach her
ritualized sword-fighting, with katas for her to practice and deploy.
She managed to make sword-practice into a place of stillness within the
world. She used a pair of butterfly swords — she admired their symmetry.

As for the rest, he trained her intensively. He realized that while
he, branded a stranger by his looks and accent, must rely on stealth
and intrusion to ply his trade, his daughter, impeccably trained as a
high-class servant, had a far better manner of disappearing and appearing
where she oughtn’t be. He therefore began her field training by having
her help him on his assignments. She infiltrated palaces to get keys,
let down a cord and bring up a rope, unlock a back doorway. When she had
become used to the dangers of that, he had her begin to poison people —
inject a fruit with poison, or drop a tablet in a bedside cup of wine.
This, he reasoned, would get her used to killing people before she had
to see their eyes as she did it. He was right, in a way. She smoothly
and quietly carried out these duties, serene in the knowledge of a task
well-accomplished. She made arrangements and was gone, in the manner
of an excellent servant.

He thought her ready. The task was hard for him — a Dynast sleeping
in the far inner reaches of a Palace on the outskirts of the Imperial
City, far from any window. The nearest roof access was an open courtyard
several busy corridors away. Worst of all, the door was guarded by two
Dragon-Blooded officers. Peleps Elessan knew his life was threatened.
Dato decided to send Exquisite Stillness to kill him.

Dato picked the locks of the watergate on the banks of a great river,
and they waded into the Palace Grounds in the waste flow, still scented
with hibiscus, of the garden fountains. Dato concealed himself near
the stables, and Exquisite Stillness rock-chimneyed two stories up to
the roof. She walked quietly among the roof tiles to the small garden
courtyard. She crouched in the bole of a fruit tree until no one stood
or walked in the corridors all around. She shed her gloves and her
hood, and checked that her short sword lay still among the silk folds
of her new livery. She slipped into the corridor and walked with the
confident diffidence of a palace servant to the guarded door of Peleps
Elessan’s room. The two officers crossed their weapons across the door
in ritual token of their office.

“Yours to guard, mine to serve.” she said, surprised to hear her voice
so clear.

“We guard his sleep.”

“I tend his fire.”

The weapons withdrew, and Exquisite Stillness of Jasmine Blossoms softly
turned the handle of the inlaid door. It close behind her without a
sound. The fire was, indeed, smouldering low. For a moment, she almost
went to tend it. But that was not why she was here. She drew her sword,
quietly, from her robes. The Dragon-Blooded was a lump beneath a rich
indigo blanket. The walls were hung in silk and velvet, and a tapestry
showed the Water Dragon coiled around the emblem of his House. She could
not breathe. What she was here to do was the ultimate disrespect.
To wake unbidden was rude — how much ruder to wake to death, to shatter
the sanctified privacy of the bedchamber and introduce the void? Kill,
she could, but here? She stood. “By duty to my father, this deed
I do,” she repeated silently, “By duty to the Elder, this deed I do.
By duty to my mother, this deed I do.” She walked to the bed, and all
breath left her.

He was beautiful. Even in sleep, he was graceful, a dangerous grace
like a tiger in a nap. His skin was the color of an aquamarine she
had admired once in the Master’s study. His hair flowed in short
blue-black waves on his silk pillow. His arm and shoulder flowed
like a line of ink, they hurt her with their beauty, and though she
was filled with urges and promptings, not one of them said, “Kill.”
This was it, the dangerous feeling that pulled from duty into disgrace.
This was the fall of her mother, and now she knew it to be hers as well.
She could not kill this man, and certainly not as he lay in sleep like
a gift for her unworthy eyes. Perhaps she would wait here til morning,
beg his forgiveness for her intrusion. Perhaps she would leave, and face
disgrace blythely knowing breath still passed between his sea-blue lips.
She slowly sheathed her sword.

His eyes flew open. They were the deep blue of the sea her father had
told her of, the deep sea where the spirits gathered like whispers in a
temple. They flickered to her, to her sword. He flowed from his covers.
He wore silk trousers, but his chest was bare and the muscles danced
across it as he lifted his black jade sword. “Guards!” he bellowed,
and the harsh music of his voice broke her trance.

“No!” she pleaded, even as she drew her sword. “I don’t want —” She
blocked his first cut with a sob and quivering arms, and with confused
grace launched into an attack that should slash his lovely throat.
She sobbed again, and the cut went high. Her ugly steel drew quickly
across his nose and cheeks, and blood flowed out across his skin.
“I’m sorry!” she said out loud, loud as a lord, a servant’s shout.
The guards were in the room, the door stood open. She threw herself
like a ball between their greaves, and rolled into a run out in the
corridor. She threw her sword aside, and ran from her shame, from the
cut on the young god’s face, from pain, death, misfortune and disgrace.
The corridors of the palace shook with the armored pursuit, and her
weavings did not lose the Dragon-Blooded. She could not look behind
her, could not see if he was with them. A great window loomed ahead,
set with colors to catch the light each morning. She leapt and threw
her sorry self against it, she would fall, perhaps she would die, but
she would be free.

The glass gave, kissed her hands with blood, kissed her gratefully for
freeing it from its frame. The cold air slapped her face, and she saw
below, not the two-story fall to the ground, but a hundred feet to the
wrathful river. She did not want to die. Perhaps it was the face
of the hungry waters that frightened her. She did not want to die.
There was a ripping sound within her. The Dragon-Blooded watching her
slender form fall from the shattered window were blinded by a blast of
light, a coruscating golden fog that exploded from her and grew against
the boundaries of the night. Wrapped in the light she dove, and slipped
like a kingfisher into the water below.

“Call out the Wyld Hunt,” Elessan said, with a tone almost like regret.

“Sir, you’re injured,” one of the guards said urgently, “Permission to
seek a healer.”

“No,” Elessan said, staring at the black river. “I will wear it.”


Fun! You would make a great storyteller for Masquerade. Do you make it up as you go, or do you base on outlines, or what? Always interesting and fun to find out how other people write their material…

Thanks! Actually, I cut my Storytelling teeth on Mage: the Ascension. I’ve also GMed D&D (3rd edition), maybe one Changeling one-shot, and I’m currently running Buffy RPG game. Eventually I’ll probably run Exalted, because Matt wobbles his lower lip about the fact that he runs it all the time and never gets to play. As to Vampire: the Masquerade…well, I suffer from a condition.

My name is Felicity, and I’m an Undead Hater. Even Angel on Buffy makes me reach for a stake occasionally. Angel, Spike, and Drusilla are actually the first occasions of ANY undead tolerance on my part—so maybe there’s hope for me yet. So I’ve never played Vampire, and I’ve never Storytold Vampire. Although I could see my way clear to playing Drusilla as a Malkavian. I love her so.

For background stories: Usually I know where I’m starting, and then I go from there. For instance, I knew the general gist right up until Exquisite Stillness walked out the door with her dad to become an assassin. After that I figured out as I went. Usually interesting little nuggets occur to me as I go.

For Storytelling, I have various M.O.s, but I’ve been most successful coming up with overarching plot and then improvising the heck out of the day-to-day. That answer your questions? :)

You bet!

I’ll always be a lover of the night myself. I have a hard time sleeping until dawn is practically on me, then I crash with a vengeance. I actually have honest to gosh fangs, not caps, nobody can seem to explain it, it’s just one of those things. As a kid I always thought they were really cool, and started getting into vampire culture as a teen. Now it’s something I like to entertain in my head, just for fun, but typically I only bite when I’m really playful.

Hopefully you’ll have no propensity to kill me.

Well, while you’re in North Dakota, you’re pretty much safe from my undead-hatin’. Have not yet developed an Intracontinental Ballistic Stake. (Note to self…) :)

While doing so may prove to be my bane, I’d love to work on a project like that! An undertaking that diabolically massive is just way too cool to be ignored.

Curiosity killed the nosferatu.

Really, it sounds like a job for Riff, who shares my feelings on the undead. Although I admit hating undead might just be an excuse for making and using cool weapons on his part. I mostly just play nethack and chuckle over killing Z’s.

I forgot to ask in the main body of this article—are you guys interested by this stuff? Because I have several more Exalted character backstories in the works (doing this one sadly addicted me) that could eventually make their way up here. With character portraits, even! Any interest? I know it’s my site, but I do want people to read it.

I’m cirtainly interrested in reading more of your stuff! Are you wanting interrested parties to make their own characters to post? Assuming you’re planning on running one, that is…

I’m glad to hear you’re interested!—as to “interested parties”, Matt and I are still discussing when/if another game could start in our lives. Currently, Matt wants to be the Provider of Summer Games, as he has a strong hankering to run a Shadowrun campaign.

I have some ideas for an Exalted campaign, but not too many. Ironically, the rich, detailed setting, which Matthew loves, makes me feel stifled. Yeah, I know, I know, they put lots of blank space on the map for you to put your own stuff in - but the metaphysics is so detailed that every time I try to think something up, I run up against practical issues - “Magic doesn’t work that way”, “If you kill that many people a Shadowland forms”, “Dragon Bloodeds can’t cast that spell”...it’s kinda frustrating. At the same time, I find some of the stuff mondo-inspiring - thinking about really iconic characters in other settings and how they’d exist and interact in the Creation of Exalted… so the answer on me and Exalted is, “Not yet.” Think of it this way - maybe I’ll start it after you gradumalate from school!

And as to making Exalted characters, I have this to say: DON’T! It eats your brain! You can’t stop! I’m making a full freakin’ circle, and I can’t play any of ‘em! It’s a horrible addiction! RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

I’m feeling more stuck by the day. I honestly wish more people here were into these games. As it stands, it’s either play on your own or don’t play at all. You’re fortunate!

As for the character stories and whatnot…way cool. By all means, write on!

I don’t have a problem with that, I suppose. Cool weapons are novelties, though there’s just something about tearing kine apart with your bare hands and teeth. But if you like I can send plenty of ghouls your way. Being rather alone and bored in my neck of the woods, I make more than I need.

I frequent the forums at RPG.net, and it seems a lot of people have that trouble. If you search for threads, you might find either good advice on finding people, or people in your area bemoaning the lack :)

shiver Here we get into the badly-hidden subcurrent of my hatred of undead; fear :P

Oh, that wasn’t to scare you, I merely meant to send them to you as a gesture of goodwill, for you to dispatch at your whim!

Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll check it out!

Well, all right then. Just as long as I can deploy my imaginary powers to combat them.

Deploy away. I’m a thousand miles out of harm’s way.

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