Exalted: In A Mirror Darkly
Aldeus, The Tiger in the Dark
In the last session Aldeus received two gifts from Lily:
1. A scroll depicting how preform learn Infernal Martial Arts
2. The time and location that the Lover is giving over control of his Monstranse (sp).
Aldeus was born in the town of Arroyo, he was the son of a poor blacksmith and he didn’t have much to be positive about, but despite his poor social standing the boy was always optimistic. His ambitious nature was probably due to his friends, Spear of the East, Ghost of the Forest, Kiara, Ku pulu, and Liao Tsien. The group of children had always had wild imaginations. They would play games and fantasize about being heroes and nobles, and always kept themselves quite entertained in their fantasies.
Aldeus’ Mother always told him he could be whatever he wanted, that he was special, and with a natural aptitude for almost everything he did, it seemed she was right. Although the boy didn’t excel at everything, Aldeus failed at nothing. Aldeus’ Mother always embraced his dreams of greatness she always encouraged him, but his father, Durzen, was much more practical about the world, at an early age Aldeus learned not to mention his dreams to his father unless he wanted to invoke the blacksmith’s temper. Aldeus did not hate his father, but there relationship was never a strong one. Danilis, his older brother, was the apprentice and would eventually inherit the family business; thus, their father spent most of his time with the oldest boy teaching him the tools of the trade. Danilis tried to teach Aldeus the more advanced techniques, but Aldeus’ interests were not the same as his brothers, Aldeus was a warrior at heart, and learning a few tricks at the forge wasn’t his desire.
Aldeus was barely out of adolescence when his world seemed to start being torn apart, his childhood friends seemed to be disappearing one by one some in worse ways then others. Ghost whom was one of the closet to Aldeus, was the first to leave. This was not unexpected because Ghost was the eldest of the group and, like Aldeus, was obviously destined for greater things, but the loss of a friend was new to Aldeus, since few people ever came and went in the small town of Arroyo.
Two years later Aldeus was at home trying to sleep, living next to his fathers shop was not something he always enjoyed, especially when it came to sleep, but there was some other reason he couldn’t sleep that night. After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, he heard raised voices from outside his home, at the town center. While debating whether or not to leave his precious bed and perhaps get in trouble he heard his mother arouse to see what the commotion was about. Desperately straining to hear what was the matter he awoke his brother Danilis, and after a few minutes of arguing they were interrupted by the shouts of the men outside. They found there way to the doorway of there house. They watched the cruel scene of Kiara telling her story, the brothers had never seen her so terrified, the story she told was truly horrific, but what effected the children worse was the treatment the townsfolk gave hear after they suspected her of being an Eidolon. At first no one knew how to react, the whole town had known Kiara, but some of the more cold-hearted insisted they couldn’t trust the girl or she’d kill them all in their sleep. The yelling soon turned to violence, they started throwing stones and chasing her out of town. After the townsfolk became violent Kiara ran from the town. Aldues ran after her, but his father stopped him. Durzen feared for his families safety with a mob running the streets, and wasn’t going to let his son get hurt. Misha was one of the strongest voices against the banishment, but Durzen insisted that they leave and head home before the mob turns its attention to them.
A few years later when Aldeus was 17, he had started to teach himself the layout of the woods surrounding woods and had even started venturing at night, protecting himself from the simple creatures with a dagger his brother made for him. The young man had grown more courageous since the departure of Ghost who would always take the position of the leader and protector whenever they entered the Darkwood. The Circle of friends however had grown more distant in later years, after Kiara’s banishment it was almost to hard to see each other without remembering that horrible night. Spear of the East began to become more and more involved with trading and was working more and more each day; Ku pulu had become a more active member in his tribe after he became a man; Liao became more involved with his parents Inn, among other things; and no one had heard word of Ghost or Kiara since their disappearances. Without the securtiy of a more numbers Aldeus learned how to defend himself and how to face all challenges alone, even when he needed a helping hand.
One day, when Aldeus was heading through town he saw a merchant at the general store boasting about how he was going to make a special delivery to a nearby Immaculate Temple. Aldeus had heard stories about how the Immaculates were enlightened and had insight and power beyond that of regular mortals, and he was even more excited when he learned that some of there order were dragon-blooded, which he had never seen before, but was told they posses greater power then any mortal could dream of having. After Kiara’s banishment Aldeus had never let go of the thought that he wasn’t strong enough to stop the mob, or after Ghost left he wasn’t good enough to join him to find his destiny as a soldier. Now was his chance to shine as brightly as his mother knew he could. Aldeus set off for his house and packed some possessions and he wrote a note for his mother. At daybreak, Aldeus snuck into the merchants cart and set off for the Immaculate temple.
Aldeus slept during the day and would only sneak out of the cart while the merchant was asleep, luckily he traveled alone so it was easy to avoid him at night. One Month passed and the merchant finally made his way to the Immaculate Temple, alas Aldeus had no idea when they arrived because he was asleep on top of the chest that contained the relic being delivered to the temple. A Dragonblooded monk came out to greet the merchant, and thanked him for making his journey, but his kindness soon turned to bitter rage when he found a filthy farm boy sprawled over the chest containing the relic. The Monk threw the merchant to the ground and demanded he beg for forgiveness, the boy however looked up at him with curiosity in his eyes. The Dragonblood Monk demanded an explanation for the boys disrespect to a dragonblood. Aldeus’ heart had never pumped so hard in his life, this was what he came to find, the man in front of him had to be a Dragonblood. When Aldeus explained his intention the Monk almost laughed, but instead threw him aside and called him filth, not fit for the Order. Aldeus never one to give up, asked again and even pleaded the man, but the longer he asked the more furious the man got until he struck Aldeus across the face burning him with his fiery essence. The monk told him to leave before he was punished more severely. Aldeus was shattered, he had traveled so far only to learn that he wasn’t good enough to do anything, it took eternity it seemed for Aldeus to return home.
Aldeus had become a hunter since he came home from the Immaculate Temple, he told his mother they weren’t taking anymore students at the time, and that it didn’t seem like his style after all. Aldeus was a man now by anyones standard’s he was tall, strong, and fast, more then most mortals could ask for, but despite that he still seemed to dwell on the past. Aldeus had built a small cabin on the Western Edge of the wood that surrounded Arroyo and made a living selling skins and meat to the traders, and assisting his father or brother at the smith. Aldeus didn’t often stay with his family after he finished his cabin, but he would visit his mother everyday. Though the world had seemed to darken around him, his mother was always there to be a beacon of hope. She still told him to hang on to what others would think as his impossible dreams. Life seemed like it was finally going to settle down for him until the riders attacked.
It was a normal day for the most part, Aldeus had collected his skins and was walking home, barely after sunset, when he first heard the screaming. His feet took off before he knew it, his hands instinctively drawing his bow as if he were chasing some doe. Being on the outside of town had its benefits, but that night it just gave him the view of the chaos. The riders were pouring into Arroyo with more numbers then Aldeus could count. Bodies littered the streets, houses were burning, women and children screaming in the night. He ran faster then he knew he could, he had to find his family, he had to protect them.
He was relieved to see his brother, and it didn’t take a tracker to find him, time had been good to him as well. The massive Blacksmith fought along side other townsfolk dwarfing them, his giant hammer smashing any riders that got close enough. Aldeus fought with his brother slashing out with his dagger, and shooting any rider that pulled a bow or sling, between them and the other men they held a part of the village until the riders were pushed back. After the carnage the brothers walked to the town square, only to find there father leaned against the smith covered in blood. Durzen mumbled about them taking her from him, the brothers realized after inspecting there father, that he had only barely been wounded and the blood on him was that of their mothers. They never found their mother’s body, but with the amount of blood that was on there fathers clothing it wasn’t possible for her to have lived, they put a tombstone behind Aldeus’ cabin hopefully putting her to rest.
The loss of his mother was the most tragic event that had ever happened to the boy. The huntsman rarely was found in town anymore, his brother still greeted him with a smile and a hug, but his father had fallen into a deep state of depression. The blacksmith spent all of the money Danilis made at the forge on booze, and when the boy finally started hiding funds from him, he would just rant and rage while he was sober. Danilis had just started setting enough money aside for his father to remain in a constant drunken stupor, and hid the rest so the forge could survive.
A few months later, Aldeus was hunting in the forest near his cabin one day, when he came across a healthy looking doe, caught up in a fallen tree. Aldeus drew his bow and sighted on the trapped animal. But as he looked down the shaft of his arrow, his gaze met that of the deer. Seeing the animals pain, he lowered his bow. Hunting was one thing, at least the deer had a chance. This was different, it would be no better then what those riders did. He freed the deer, and it bounded away into the forest. It was only then did he notice the man sitting in the tree above him. The man introduced himself as Fei Wong and said he saw some interesting qualities in Aldeus. The pair stood in the woods talking for hours, and finally the conversation turned to Aldeus’ attempt to get into the Immaculate Order. Fei Wong took particular interest in this story, and finally said “It is decided then, I will be your master.”
Fei Wong’s shack was a couple miles into the Woods from Arroyo. No one in town really knows about Fei Wong, and he keeps it that way. Only very rarely does he come to town, to trade for supplies he can’t get in the forest. He visits Arroyo so rarely, that to this day most assume he’s just a traveler when he comes in to town to trade. Aldeus began his training with Fei Wong the next day, a year his training never consisted of anything physical, it was all designed to open up his essence, and finally it did…
Aldeus had become an exceptional martial artist, by mortal standards. He defeated many foes, constantly driven by the goal to never be too weak to fight for himself and those he cared to protect. After overcoming many challenges Aldeus finally considered his training to be paying off. He was finally accomplishing more than most mortals could even dream of, his mother would be proud. Then out of nowhere Danilus recieved the Solar Exaltation. Aldeus was happy for his brother, he knew Danilus had the kindest soul he could have, but in one day Danilus had not only surpassed his brother’s years of training, but made it seem insignificant compared to the feats he could suddenly accomplish. The young martial artist was once again in the shadow of a power that he could not overcome as a mortal.
Weeks later after regaining some confidence in himself by defeating some Eidolons, the band encountered their most fearsome opponent yet, Grahf. Aldeus instantly recognized Grahf as a martial artist, and for a while Aldeus could even identify some of the martial arts styles the man used. After barely being able to defend himself from Grahf’s relentless assault, he channeled every bit of the little essence he had into the strongest punch Aldeus could deliver. The sudden burst of power caught Grahf off-guard, and connected with his chest. The blow would have devastated any mortal opponent, but the purple clad martial artist simply laughed at the younger man’s attempt at power and then made an example of him. Grahf countered Aldeus’ blow with a palm to Aldeus’ chest. Aldeus felt the impact of a thousand blows and flew backwards into the forest and through a tree. Despite all his training, Grahf was able to beat him in to a bloody pulp with one solid blow. Grahf laughed at Aldeus’ defeat, and assumed himself further when he asked who had trained the boy. Aldeus discovered that Grahf had known his master Fei Wong. With further investigation, Aldeus discovered that Grahf had been a mortal but, with a forbidden technique, had stolen Fei Wong’s body, with it his terrestrial exaltation, and defeated him. After the discovery of Fei Wong’s fate, and the realization of the crippling effect of simply being a mortal, Aldeus decided that he could never protect those he loved, and he would never gain the power he needed, without the help of an exaltation.
Aldeus was an educated individual. He knew how to read and write, and with Fei Wong’s teaching, he had learned much about Creation, and knew many things that the average farmer of Arroyo wouldn’t know. However, it did not take an education to know that the circus that there was something wrong with the circus marching into the small town, and as it turned out it was almost as bad as it got. The Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears had asked for a meeting with Danilus and Liao Tsien, and it was an invitation that the group knew, for the safety of Arroyo, they could not refuse.
The group was escorted by the Melkin Fool in Red and the Circus Moribund to a dark forest, and soon were transported to the Lover’s Crimson Fortress. Upon entering the lair of the Deathlord, the party was cautious to say the least. Every member grew more and more anxious until eventually the Lover showed herself. She was the most beautiful women any many had ever laid eyes on, but despite her beauty, Aldeus could sense the death that followed her everywhere she went. Her main focus was on Danilus and Liao Tsien, the party had no idea why at first. After a short break in their audience, Liao Tsien revealed that she was looking for potential Death Knights, a type of Dark Exaltation that killed the recipient and made them bond to the Lover, but in return gave them Power comparable to the Solar Exalted themselves. After a conversation with Danilus the Lover knew that the Golden Blacksmith’s will was too much to be swayed, but then she noticed the gaze of the mortal martial artist. She called a private audience with Liao Tsien and Aldeus, and had the rest of the party escorted into a different chamber. The Lover offered the two mortals limitless power, in return for their devotion to her. Liao Tsien refused, saying that he would never be beholden to her, but to his childhood friends surprise, Aldeus answered quickly. “I’ll do it. If it will give me the power of an exalt, I will take your dark gift.” Liao Tsien was quickly ushered away, and Aldeus was taken to a private chamber, where he experienced the last moments of his life.
Aldeus had been broken. His soul was torn and their was way to repair it. Power coursed through his body, but the very blood in his veins made him sick. He had been shown so much darkness, and so much death in a few instants that he did not know what to do. The moment he awoke from his hellish nightmare, he had hoped it was simply a bad dream. When his eyes opened to the chamber of the Lover he screamed. He looked in the Mirror and saw himself as a different man. His hair had gone silver and his skin as pale as the dead. He was taken back to his friend’s and none of them could speak. Aldeus himself didn’t know what he had done, and the abysmal feeling in his stomach told him that their was no correcting it.
Ordered by his Mistress to stay close to Liao Tsien, Aldeus’ accompanied his friends back to Arroyo. The Neverborn, the dead titans that he now served, would punish him for all feelings that he had in remembrance of his past life, and The Lover knew that sending the new death knight to his home would cause destruction. The Resonance built up and finally the Neverborn were able to temporarily control the tortured soul’s body. In acceptance to an offered previously stated by the Lover, Aldues slew his father, Durzen, and turned him in to a Soulsteel artifact weapon.
Enraged by his brothers dark transformation, Danilus faced his brother in combat. Conflicted, Aldeus sought to withdraw from battle, but Danilus persisted, determined to stop the monster he had become. Unfortunately, the Lover’s agents had their own plans, and Melkin Fool in Red and the Pale Swordsman killed Danilus while Aldeus watched, helpless to save his brother’s life.