Noble Beasts, Ignoble Creator
During the second millennia of the period now known as the First Age, one of the more notable Twilights of the time was Jotal Heren. He was a notable scientist and the creator of no less than twenty species of creature due to his skill at the craft Genesis. As the First Age wound down, however, his views on the world grew more morose. He began to turn his interest to the creatures of the Underworld, using his skill at creation to bring new life to that place of stillness.
This story, however, is not about Jotal. It is about his Lunar wife, a Full Moon who claimed a red-tailed hawk as her totem. As her totem, Yume Maraka was a notable hunter, often acting as a tester for the animals that her husband created. The two worked together designing the various creations, and, for a time, the pair were happy. However, as Jotal’s focus turned from the world of the living to the world of the dead, Yume became more and more concerned about her husband’s state of mind. However, her bond to her husband was strong, and she could not bring herself to leave him.
When the Usurpation came, Jotal unleashed his menagerie upon the forces of the Dragon-Blooded that came to end his life. Many died, but more stepped in their place. In time, the pair of Exalts was surrounded. Yume, bloodied by her fight with the Dragonlings, pleaded with her husband to run; she would keep the forces at bay so he could escape. He slapped her for her gall, stating that no Chosen of the Sun would run in such a fashion. He then began casting a dark spell, one Yume had never seen him use before. At the spell’s climax, he shouted to the sky for his sacrifice to be accepted; moments later, a gaping hole opened below Yume’s feet. She shrieked as she was absorbed by the nothingness, watching with horror at her husband, who smiled as the hole closed behind her.
Falling Feathers and Darkened Hearts
For a time unknown to Yume, she fell. The coldness of the place bypassed all of her Charms, leaving her chilled to the marrow. Finally, she landed on a balcony made of a dark rock that pulsed with foul Essence, veins of dark iron ore clearly visible. Yume lied there, broken beyond repair in mind if not in body. How could he do this to me? She thought, her mind reeling. How could he…
wE KNoW wHy. A choir of discordant voices answered. HE pUT hiMseLF AbOVe YoU, aS hE Has For sOMe TImE. Yume sat up slowly, crying out in pain as her bones began to knit themselves back together. hE hAs FoRSaKeN yOU, liTtLe fALcOn.
“He would never! He loves me! He…” Her voice trailed away as images of the past years flashed before her eyes: the coldness he showed her, the abuse, how he ignored their children for his own projects. “…he…”
wE cAn hElp yOU sTRikE bACk at hIM, anD tHe OtHErS tHAt aLlOWeD ThIS tRAvEstY tO HapPEn… A form began to take shape on the balcony, seemingly made of the nothingness that surrounded her. jUsT take oUR HaNd, aNd wE sHaLl hELp yOu mAKe them SUFFER.
Yume stood shakily then grasped the being’s hand. With a shriek that echoed down the halls of the Labyrinth, her soul was torn from her body; the being fused with her higher spirit, sending the po into Oblivion instantly. The newly-dead Yume stood, the necrotic Essence permeating what remained of her soul. “I was once Yume Maraka, but I give that name to you.”
yOU wIlL BE kNOwN aS tHe aRTiSaN oF LitTlE DeaTHs. The Neverborn decreed, giving their new servant their dark blessing. NOw gO, anD maKe tHOsE aBOvE tREmBlE aT tHe nAMe. She bowed then made her way through the Underworld, learning of its many places and hunting the creatures that dwelt there. She did so for decades before emerging once more, her sample collection filled to the brim with the creatures of the dead realm.
She then ventured to her former husband’s manse in the Northeast, which housed his extensive Genesis laboratory. She moved the structure into the Underworld whole cloth, wrenching the dragon lines for miles around. After adding her own personal touches, she began her husband’s work once again, this time in a much more focused fashion. Even as the lands above in Creation were twisted and consumed by the Wyld, she merely boosted the reality engines attached to the manse and continued her work, using creatures warped by the chaos as new breeding stock.
It is thought by some that her creations, an unholy fusion of necrotechnology and the Genesis craft, number in the millions, each with its own purpose. So far, it seems that she has no aspirations to use her forces against the living. So far.
The Artisan’s Domain
The Garden of Unearthly Delights is an oddity, even among the other Deathlords. It is a dual-aspected manse located in the Eastern Underworld, about a month’s travel from the border towns of Halta; the juxtaposition of Wood and Abyssal Essence is a perfect combination to fuel the Artisan’s work. If the manse was still in Creation, this would place it smack dab in the Middlemarches; the occasional burst of Wyld energy does flow into the area around the manse, but is mostly held at bay by the modified reality engines at the center of the manse. The manse itself consists of four buildings, each made of white jade with veins of green jade and soulsteel shot through them.
The largest, located at the center of the complex, is the Genesis lab itself, filled with blood and tissue samples of nearly any animal you can think of and all of the equipment needed to make new life. The second is a holding area, where the creations are allowed to make their own way for a time to test their viability. The third holds the labs, workstations and living quarters for the Artisan’s necrotechnicians: well-trained ghosts, mortals, and Hamsa the Bonepicker, a rather odd Raksha who became enamored with the Artisan during one of her hunting trips into the Wyld. The fourth acts as the living quarters for the Artisan and her deathknights.
The Artisan claims the land around her manse for miles, and holds them well thanks to diligent patrols done by her creations and ghostly servants. Few ghosts in the area wish to see their villages decimated by an attack from the Artisan, so they offer prayers to her in return for relative peace. Her reach stretches beyond the East as well, mainly through sale or trade of some of her creations; one breed of horse that she has created is quite popular with the nobles of Stygia and Chiaroscuro.
The Artisan’s Panoply
The fact that the Artisan was once a Full Moon is clearly evident when she goes on the offensive. Her battle form is a death-tainted mockery of her Deadly Beastman Transformation: a falcon woman with a beak and talons of sharpened soulsteel and pyrefire and feathers of bone and blood. She carries Song of a Thousand Souls, a soulsteel powerbow that was forged in such a manner that the ghosts inside the metal seem to sing when the bow is drawn. Along with allowing her to use the bow as a form weapon for Silver Nightingale Style, this singing worms into the cracks of the target’s mind and temporarily paralyzes the areas of the brain that control higher function. The wielder of the bow rolls Manipulation + Presence versus the target’s MDV; if the target fails, they are reduced to an animal mindset and will either throw themselves at the attacker (as per the Berserk Anger Valor Flaw) or run for the hills (as per the Heart of Tears Compassion Flaw). The target can spend three Willpower to resist this urge; however, if struck again during the same scene, their MDV is considered one less against the attack.
The Artisan studied a number of martial art styles before her unfortunate end, and acquired a few more after. She is a master of Silver Nightingale, Tiger, Lunar Hero, Dark Messiah and Hungry Ghost styles.
Servants of the Artisan
Dusks under the Artisans are hunters one and all; their prey may differ, of course, but all are trained in the art of pursuit and capture. They roam Creation and the Underworld, bringing back new samples for their liege’s collection. Some of these samples are dead; most aren’t.
Some of the more animal-friendly Midnights act as the game wardens at the Garden, working with the various creatures of the manse. One in particular, called the Huntsman of Spoiled Prey, has a pack of nemissary-ridden timber wolves that wanders Creation with him, chasing down ‘lesser’ hunters and turning them into the prey they once hunted.
Most of the Daybreaks under the Artisan are skilled necrotechnicians, using the bountiful supplies that the creatures of the manse offer for their creations. They construct fusions of undead Essence and living creatures, delighting in their results. A Daybreak who goes by Chiurgeon of Exquisite Malice specializes in combining living mortals – or ghosts, he’s not picky – with parts of animals, creating a foul homage to his liege’s Lunar heritage.
Day Castes under the Artisan serve a role similar to that of the Dusks; they act as the hunters of the day, using the scant shadows of that too-bright time to stalk those who think themselves safe under the light of the sun. When a Haltan nobleman is found dead by an arrow made from a bone unknown to modern savants, it was probably a Day that put it there.
As is their wont, Moonshadows act as emissaries between the Artisan and the various kingdoms and lands near her manse. The three Raksha that have claimed the ground under the Haltan treetops know well the Dweller in Death-Twisted Glades, the Fae-blooded Moonshadow that calls the Artisan liege. Some serve as ambassadors to the ghostly kingdoms in the East, while others have made in-roads with the Haltans and the Linowan, encouraging their war as to create more shadowlands in the verdant East.
Notes about the Artisan
- Since the release of the Solar shards from the Jade Prison, The Artisan has tried to locate the shard of her former husband. Unlike the idiot who punishes his Abyssal servants for slights that occurred an Age ago, however, she merely wishes to have him under her control rather than that of another Deathlord. Or, Chorus forbid, his own control.
- The Artisan’s relationship with the Pact is, as one would expect, frosty at best. One of the local Swords of Gaia, though, has found her ‘Solar’ mate in the Archer of Shattered Promises, a Dusk under the Artisan. The two often make incursions against the Wyld together, and have actually been growing quite close since their meeting. The Artisan finds this amusing, and has given the Archer an artifact that ‘stores’ his Resonance; at her command however, the Resonance stored within will hit all at once, causing the Archer no small amount of grief.
- Recently, the Artisan has been eyeing Fallen Lapis, the city slaughtered during the war that cost House Tepet their legions. She is moving in slowly, not wanting to push her hand too quickly and end up like the Mask of Winters.