The Exaltation of Varik Vin

This is my character biography for a character from Exalted 3rd Edition (made by White Wolf Publishing) that I and some friends will be playing in the near future. Where the inspiration came for this, I do not know. I only know my mind was kind enough to oblige for a few days while I managed to write and refine it. I hope it fits in with the lore of the world enough that I can play with some good ideas in mind. Hope it’s a fun read too!

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There wasn’t much interesting about young Varik Soras Vin, besides his penchant to find trouble. At a young age, he lost his parents to the Plague that shortly swept through the Imperial City, so for much of his life, he scraped by on his own wits and strength. He was naturally and quickly swept up with the wrong crowd, and he spent most of his teenage years running with a gang called the Tunnel Vipers in the lower Imperial City. To young Varik, the Immaculate Order (and its associated rules and martial protectors) were just barriers to real freedom. Here, he learned a thick stick and a sharp tongue was the best way out of a tough spot. His best friend in this gang was a scrappy young girl by the name of Ash Mehzan, whom he protected like a little sister. His rival in the gang was a beefy young man just a bit older than him named Bedar Farohk. If the death-worshipping idiot Bedar hadn’t been in the picture, Varik’s life might not have turned to darkness the way it did. But, then again, it might never have brought Varik to face his true destiny.

Unknown to Varik was the truth that many inner-city gangs were being recruited for a purpose far darker than grafitti and petty theft. At 18 years of age, with 14 year old Ash at his side, Varik and his fellow gang members found himself inside a candle-lit cultic hall beneath the sewers dedicated to some nameless lord of death looking for followers. He’d been promised riches beyond his wildest dreams. But now he was staring at the face of something long dead yet still standing. He’d seen a dead body before, yes, but not an undead one; moaning, lifeless eyes, shuffling step, performing black arts whose meanings, if any, escaped his understanding.

Ash was horrified; Bedar was enthralled.

These mindless minions shuffled Varik and his fellow novices into a dark room deep in the Imperial City sewers, where these students of darkness were given a mission by the high priest who called himself “Heiyan”. Varik’s mission: follow the Face of Death. His test would involve taking the life of an innocent and staring into his eyes as he died. According to Heiyan, Varik was to see that life as transitory and without meaning, and prove it through experience. Afterwards, the dark priest told him, his kill would rise in undeath to serve ‘the Master’. Not that Varik ever saw this mysterious ‘Master’, and neither did his fellow novices.

He took to his task with nervous reluctance, separate from Ash. Directionless at first, he chose to sneak towards a local bunkhouse some distance from his childhood home in the dead of night. Clumsy though he was, he managed to sneak through a window of the relatively empty bunkhouse and stand above a sleeping middle-aged man. With what practice cuts he’d taken beside his fellow novice cult members, he clasped his hand over the man’s mouth and slit the poor man’s throat with a wicked obsidian dagger. The man immediately woke up and tried to scream, but no sound came. Varik thought at first that he had succeeded flawlessly. Behind him, however, a young girl stepped through the door behind Varik with candle in hand. Varik immediately panicked, pulling away from the man, releasing a cry that filled the bunkhouse. Apparently, the knife hadn’t cut hardly as deep as it seemed. The rest of the night was a blur, which included a desperate chase through the streets with the city guards, a dive into the sewers beneath the streets, and finally hiding within the cult chambers.

Somehow Heiyan knew he’d failed. He didn’t even interrogate Varik. In fact, he said nothing. The dark-robed figure simply directed the composing undead to take Varik into a bloody chamber filled with hideous instruments of torture, where they strapped him to an iron chair. They then proceeded to cut into Varik’s skin with obsidian knives similiar to his own in punishment for his mistake. His screams echoed through the sewers. He begged to be freed, over and over again, but Heiyan and the undead had no words for the young man besides their dark chants and foul mumbling. They seemed empowered by every drop of blood that fell from his lacerations, opening wound after wound as merrily as a writer puts quill to parchment.

It seemed to go on for hours. There was no Ash to comfort him. There was no Bedar to taunt him. A day passed. Heiyan’s sorcery wouldn’t allow him death. But perhaps by happenstance, he lost consciousness, falling to darkness…

Then something miraculous happened. Although his eyes were blinded with sweat and blood, he saw a bright orange, blue, and purple light fill his view. A vision filled his mind of twin serpents filling the twilight sky, curing together in a spiral, and finally facing him, their tongues curling and their eyes shining like bright amethyst gemstones. They spoke no words, but filled his soul with an odd sense of determination and power — his first experience with Godly essence. The serpents then both turned, still encoiled, towards the East, giving him a strange drive towards an unknown destination. In this instance, the near-infinite power of his exaltation burst his bands and drove his tormentors into shock. Varik didn’t see the undead continue to attack him with knives; they no longer had any effect on his hardened skin. Varik didn’t see Heiyan cower in the corner of the room, gasping at the power before him. Enraptured with the experience, Varik didn’t even realize that his body had departed the dark sanctum and emerged onto the city streets until he felt himself heading towards the Eastern docks of the city. He then felt himself fall into the sea, and swim towards… something. The vision and the light didn’t fade for hours and hours… But his strength did, and he drifted on the waves…

“No sir, no Solars here,” said a strangely assuring male voice.

Varik awakened to find himself in a strangely cozy bed, in a strangely cozy wagon, with strangely scant clothing on. He sat up immediately to find what remained of his tunic and pants filled with knife holes and soaked in blood and seawater laying beside him.

He noticed a few things about himself he hadn’t before: first, what wounds the dark priests had given him had not only healed, they’d left no scars or marks of any kind.

Second, if he held his hands up to his face close enough, he could see a dim purple light as if his eyes had become bright purple torches.

Third, a strange sound was coming from behind his head. It said, “Caw-lee! Caw-lee!” in a quiet friendly tone. A raven. Before Varik knew it, the curious bird waddled up to him, pecked at his arm a few times, and fluttered onto his shoulder as if he’d belonged there the entire time.

Varik had found himself in the traveling ‘home’ of Quentin Lush, a well-known roaming doctor by trade. Varik had heard of this old man by reputation — apparently, he had no love for the bureaucracy of the Imperial City, and had gotten himself into trouble many times with the local authorities, despite his fame and abilities as a healer.

The old man’s first admittance was that he knew Varik was a Solar (much to Varik’s surprise — was that what the vision and his ability to escape the cult had meant?)

His second admittance was that Imperial City guards had come looking for a suspected Solar and murderer, but that he had turned them away.

“My sister is a Solar,” he admitted. “Zenith caste, I believe. Iona is her name, Iona Lush. Don’t know if you’ve heard of her exploits. I saw her Exaltation. I saw some of yours too. Found you on the beach hardly breathing. What in Creation tossed you in the sea like that, boy?”

“I…I have to go.”

“Go? Go where?”

“There… I have to go… A map… Do you have a map?”

Quentin quickly produced a geography book from a trunk near the driver’s seat of the wagon and offered a map of the Imperial City to Varik.

“No. No, bigger. Further away.”

Quentin flipped to a page of an illustrated map of the Blessed Isle.

“No, not… no, further.”

He next landed on a map of the entirety of the lands of Creation. He saw it instantly.

“There,” Varik said, pointing to the East beyond Great Forks, where the great forests begin.

“What’s there?”

“I… I don’t… don’t know. But I have to go there.”

“That’s quite a journey from here,” Quentin said. “Not one for the weary, anyway. You don’t plan on going alone, do you?”

Varik said nothing. His vision of the forest edge was plain as day in his mind.

“It was… real. So real, I… I have to go there. I have to know what’s there.”

“Well,” sighed Quentin, lightly slapping his knee. “I guess we have a destination.”

Varik blinked.

“‘We’? You’d… take me there? Without knowing who I am? Without…pay?”

“Unless you have something more valuable than bloody rags. No, it’s nothing so trivial as gold. My sister had a vision, sounded much like yours. Strange destination, no explanation. Listen, I’ll make you a deal. You help me with my business, I’ll steer this wagon in that direction. I’d be more than grateful to get away from this Gods-blasted city. When we get to Great Forks, I’ll let you see to this mysterious destination for yourself while I, eh… connect with a contact or two for work. But who knows, young man, you might make for a good wetnurse! Ha!”

For two months, he and Quentin traveled the roads, bandaging up weary travelers and mercenaries, curing ill children, mothers, and fathers of the plague, and selling tonics and potions to any and all. No one questioned the White Doctor’s new ‘assistant’, or the blackbird that perched on the young man’s shoulder at nearly all times. Nor did Kalee (as he decided to call her) bother Varik, truth be told; the raven became a strange comfort. All along the journey to Great Forks Varik would hear of the terrors that necromancers and demons would cause the common folk, and felt great shame for nearly having given himself to such darkness… but for the first time in his life, he felt very assured by someone’s (namely Quentin’s) company. If anyone were to deduce his existence as a Solar — he knew of the Wyld Hunt. Everyone knew of the Wyld Hunt.

Varik found Quentin Lush fascinating. His reputation as “the White Doctor” preceded almost every appointment. Almost immediately, Quentin began to teach him the ways of a healer, which, to Varik’s surprise, he mastered very quickly. Too quickly. Within a month, Varik went from washing suturing needles and scalpels to actually using them. He hardly needed tonic to heal the plague-ridden or to calm the feverish. Varik would quickly discover his true calling in life: medicine. He tore through Quentin’s anatomy and medicine books like they were sweets, and his desire for more knowledge filled his mind like never before. He caught himself more than a few nights wondering to himself, “Since when am I a bookworm?”

At long last, the two arrived in the town of Great Forks; the vision of a strange manse given to him by the two serpents engulfed his very being. He hardly said farewell to Quentin before setting off into the outskirts of the city and then into the plains beyond; the old man hastily handed him a satchel of edibles, a hunting knife, and a hearty slap on the back for the journey. For two days Varik traveled East, crossing the endless plains and passing through quiet woods towards his destination. Songbirds followed his steps. Somehow, the howl of wolves in the nighttime was a comfort instead of a fear. For all his days as a peace-deprived street urchin, he felt peace on the trail like he’d never felt before.

Then, during the twilight hours of the third day, he saw it: a peculiar copse of trees just beyond a bubbling stream. He entered the dense thicket to find a hidden clearing, in the center of which stood a small wood-and-marble alcove. Through the sun was setting behind him, the place seemed to glow and bask in the waning sunlight. The wind streaming through oak and birch branches seemed to dance, and Varik felt a warm sensation fill his body. This was clearly a place of essence, although… There was something wrong. Footsteps and hoofprints from travelers unknown covered the clearing floor, and part of the alcove shrine had been forcibly toppled over. Though still a wonderful place, from the evidence it was clear that there was little of value to be gained there.

Varik gasped, the quickness of his journey catching up to him. Had his vision been wrong? He stepped towards the alcove, seeing it now more of a geometrically-organized shrine with an octagonal pillar sat firmly in the center. He was unsure of what god it might have stood for. Ironwood and white marble. Rare for such a place so far off the beaten path. Varik bent over, placing a hand on the surface of the rough surface of the central pillar…

Something moved in the half-light. The creaking of wood. Varik peeked behind the pillar to discover a small hidden trap doorway in the earth pop open, perhaps the size of one of Quentin’s anatomy books. Varik knelt down and peeled the doorway free of the earth and grass that covered it. Inside was a stone box that contained two items. The first he produced was the most obvious, and the heaviest by far: a staff, two or three inches in width and some six feet long, crafted of ironwood and spiraled with circles of gold and cerulean adorning its bottom and top lengths. He stood with the staff and swung it around a bit; it felt perfectly balanced and graceful with every swing.

Varik knelt down again and saw the second far more curious item sitting on a stone ledge inside the box. It was a mahogany-red stone marked with an eight-armed black spiral that fit neatly in the palm of his hand. The moment he touched it, the twilight sun dipped behind the horizon, but its light did not fade; in fact, it increased. Above Varik the central pillar of the manse began to glow a dim orange light, and the stone echoed its light, as a torch lighting its twin. For a moment, time seemed to slow, and Varik felt the warmth in his chest increase to a slow burn. Then, as quickly as the light appeared, it faded, and both the stone and the pillar fell into darkness. More than that, however, the entire alcove and clearing seemed to lose its essence, and the warm presence Varik had felt was now completely extinguished.

The trip back to Great Forks was a more somber one. He couldn’t help but feel somehow responsible for the destruction of such a beautiful location, even though it was obvious the place had been ransacked and abandoned long before he had come. He returned through the city gates the find Quentin’s cart parked close to the city wall.

“What did you find, boy?”

Varik showed him and Kalee the staff, which Quentin quickly hid beneath some sheets in the back of the wagon — Quentin informed him it was obviously a weapon of great power (despite its walking-stick appearance in the moonlight), and that it wouldn’t be prudent to have such a valuable piece of equipment visible to the local guard… or thieves, for that matter. As for the stone, Varik told him the story of the strange alcove and the auric power it had held. To his surprise, Quentin recognized it immediately.

“A hearthstone. One of health, no doubt. They protect those who wear that spiral mark from poison and plague alike. They even keep food and ale from going bad. I’ve seen them before, but… Now I see there was no coincidence meeting you. No coincidence in your abilities as a healer. This stone is a sign for you.”

“A sign…of what?” Varik asked.

“Now, I’m not what you’d call a faithful follower of the Gods… Ha, they know better than anyone I’ve had more than a spite of trouble with the teachings of the Immaculate Way. But I can see that someone in those High Heavens is trying to say something. And that ‘saying’ is important enough to give you a Solar’s power to preserve and protect life. You’d better follow it, my boy.”

Varik looked down at the stone and clutched it tightly against his chest.

“I suppose I should,” he said.

For the two more years they traveled together, Quentin and Varik rode from Thorns to Fortitude, never staying in one village or town for too long. Even at the insistence of their patients, as effective as they both were at solving all the bodily ills of the common man, they knew the Wyld Hunt was never far behind a Solar. Varik tried to keep his powers a secret, but the sigil of Twilight on his forehead and his bright purple eyes more than gave him away in the darkness. Too many times to count, Varik would ease the pain of an infirm man or calm the travails of a wife in labor, use more essence than was necessary until his sigil and twilight aura would begin to glow… Some village guards would come investigating only to find them miles long gone. In the very least, during his travels, he learned the name of the ‘Master’ he had attempted to serve: Amarant. Whether it was the last name or first, a title perhaps, he didn’t know. Had Ash or Bedar succeeded in their trials for this dark ‘Master’? Or had they failed just as he, tortured and risen in undeath as Heiyan had no doubt intended for him? Either way, according to the gossip travelers enjoyed sharing, the ‘death cult’ had been rooted out and exterminated by the Imperial Guard. His heart broke whenever the memory of Ash filled his mind. How could he have abandoned her to such a fate?

It wasn’t until his 20th birthday, as his travels took him to the Northern town of Icehome, did Varik realize that he wasn’t the only Solar in the world. At long last, he called Kalee to his shoulder, offered a tearful farewell to his mentor Quentin, and offered his God-given service to fellow Solars… Service that would take him to the very ends of the earth in the name of the Unconquerable Sun.

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