The Shadow Network
August Bryant "Freeman"
Quote: “Nobody knows the trouble—What? You don’t appreciate the classics?”
Description: Freeman is a tall, black man with thin, curly hair that’s nearly all white by this point. Despite his old age, he appears quite hearty — thin but tough. He has a ready smile that almost never fails to cheer those who see it. Freeman wears plain, sturdy clothes, if in a somewhat old-fashioned style — a good pair of pants, held up by suspenders over a button-down workman’s shirt, often with the sleeves rolled up. Because he’s often traveling, his clothes are usually dusty.
Casting vulgar magic, Freeman’s nimbus appears free. Anything that binds him struggles to unwind, unlock or shatter; cursory visual comparison to anyone near him (for any quality) makes him appear equal — in strength, in dedication or anything else the observer is trying to judge. Some nearby hear faint strains of a spiritual.
Dedicated Magical Tool: Silver pocket watch
Real Name: August Bryant
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 3
Physical Attributes: Strength 1, Dexterity 1, Stamina 4
Social Attributes: Presence 4, Manipulation 2, Composure 3
Mental Skills: Academics 2 (Civil Rights), Crafts 1, Investigation 3, Politics 1,
Physical Skills: Athletics 1, Brawl, Drive 1, Firearms, Larceny, Stealth, Survival 2 (Shelters), Weaponry
Social Skills: Animal Ken, Empathy 1, Expression 4 (Storytelling), Intimidation, Persuasion 3, Socialize 2, Streetwise 1, Subterfuge
Merits: Allies 3 – Civil Rights groups; Contacts – Civil Rights Activists, Historians, Churches; High Speech; Iron Stamina 2, Skald Cant
Arcana: Fate 4, Mind 4, Prime 2, Space 2, Spirit 3, Time 2
Rotes: Fate – Reading the Outermost Eddies (•), Exceptional Luck (••); Mind – Augment the Mind (•••); Spirit – Coaxing the Spirit (•), Lesser Spirit Summons (••); Time – Perfect Timing (•)
Legacy Attainments: 1st – Soothe the Beast, 2nd – Pride Goeth Before the Fall
Armor: 1/0 + 4 (Fortune’s Protection, Fate ••)
Magic Shield: 2 (Magic Shield, Prime ••)
Merit: Skald Cant (•)
Prerequisites: Skald Legacy, Composure 2, Expression 2
Effect: Your character knows the secret language of the Skalds; he can use it to communicate privately with other Skalds and prove his membership in the Legacy, if necessary. Though an eavesdropper who tries to piece the language together might be able to decipher some of a conversation held in the Skald cant, each word is so laden with meaning that only a prodigious feat by a master linguist could completely translate a phrase or text.
The language also serves as an effective memory aid. By spending a turn to concentrate, the Skald can perfectly remember the events of a single scene or the information (usually a song or epic) that he spends up to a day memorizing. After that, when calm, the character may recall those events perfectly without any dice roll, and the player may ask the Storyteller to fill in details he might have forgotten. This Merit gives no aid during stressful situations, like combat; trying to remember details then requires an Intelligence + Composure roll, just as normal.
Additionally, this language is somewhat pleasing to spirits, whether because of its
rhythm or its origins. At the Storyteller’s discre- tion, using Skald Cant to deal with spirits can offer a +1 dice bonus when applying Social Skills to spirits, including rotes that use those Skills.
1st Attainment – Soothe the Beast
Prerequisites: Gnosis 3, Mind 2, Expression 2
The Skald’s mission is to see the world through unclouded eyes and record it. Yet they also charge themselves with improving a society, a kingdom, or a concilium, by reminding those who live in it of what is right. The Skalds’ airs and epics move and inspire, and it is with this gentle lever that the Legacy tries to move the world.
Though most Skalds are perceptive, as skilled at untangling the webs of influence in a Consilium as they are at recognizing individuals’ moods and desires, natural skill is not always enough. A Skald with the first Attainment has the ability to read the tenor of an audience. This effect is similar to the Mind 1 “Aura Perception” spell, except that Soothe the Beast reveals the general emotional condition of a crowd, rather than individual auras, although intense individual emotions might still be noticeable.
By playing a song or reciting a poem or story for at least a minute, the Skald can project a certain emotion into the minds of those who hear it. It might be sadness, or anger at an injustice, or, if she directs her songs toward a single individual (such as a Hierarch), searing shame. The more people she tries to project to, the less intense the emotion. In general, she can affect a maximum number of people with this Attainment effect equal to her Manipulation + Expression + Mind dice pool.
Although the Skalds are usually liked and trusted among mages, any unknown mage is a potential danger in the Fallen World. Because traveling Skalds must constantly meet new people, the first Attainment also gives them an effect similar to the Mind 2 “First Impressions” spell, providing a dice bonus equal to their Mind dots for the first Social Attribute-based roll they make upon meeting someone new.
2nd: Pride Goeth Before
Prerequisites: Gnosis 5, Mind 3
Many times, it is not enough to make a person feel shame at their actions. The Hierarch may know the feelings to be false, or she may discard the emotion as a mere twinge of the conscience. When a person cannot be made to repent, it is the Skald’s duty to force that person to admit fault and accept punishment, or leave for the better of the Consilium.
Using this Attainment requires the Skald to perform a critical song or poem, or to plan and put on a satirical mummery or a play. In some way, he must communicate to the intended target and to those around her the failings and flaws they should see. At the Attainment’s shortest, this is an instant action based around a short couplet. Used with longer forms of art, the action takes place several times throughout the performance. As an example, consider Hamlet’s uncle as the target of this effect.
The Skald’s player rolls Manipulation + Expression – victim’s Composure. Each success subtracts one point of Willpower from the target as the satire affects her, making her acutely aware of her failings, their effects and the right thing to do. If this effect reduces the target’s Willpower to zero, she cannot contain or deny her shame any longer. She must either flee the scrutiny of her peers (nearly always diminishing her in their eyes) or admit her faults and submit herself to their judgments.
A Skald can use this Attainment on a single target once per dot of his own Intelligence per scene. If the scene ends without
bringing the target to zero, the target regains any Willpower lost to this effect. Clever Skalds may be able to fool a target into expecting another such cutting remark, even when the Skald cannot use the power again, and confess to lesser crimes to stave off the final blow.
Optional Arcanum: Spirit 3
By whistling a melody, singing an aria or (most commonly) reciting verse composed for the purpose, the Skald impresses a nearby spirit and sways it to assist her. While the Lore-singer need not necessarily be able to see the spirit, the spirit must be able to hear her as she acts. She must also craft the performance to a specific entity; the performance cannot affect “the nearest spirit” or “a tree spirit” unless she knows specifically which spirit that is – usually by first observing it.
This Attainment resembles the Spirit 3 “Control Spirit” spell. By performing for at least one minute per Rank of the target spirit, the Skald may command that spirit with a Presence + Expression + Spirit roll, contested by the spirit’s Resistance. One potent benefit of this Attainment is that the spirit generally does not feel put-upon. The skill and meaning of the Skald’s performance makes the spirit want to perform the set tasks. When the effect’s duration ends, the spirit returns to its old habits, but it does not feel anger at being compelled. The spirit was moved by the poetry, not by the mage’s will.
This does not necessarily appear as magic to those who watch the Skald use it. To onlookers, the performance appears to be particularly poignant and meaningful. Some connect it to the subsequent movement of the earth or strike of lightning. Only those with some understanding of Spirit recognize the spiritual influence that leads the words or music, and often only another Skald can decipher exactly what commands the performance contains.
Lore-singers generally use this Attainment not to use spirits as spies or servants, but to utilize the spirits’ particular Influences. One tune calms the storm-spirit and thus calms the storm; a well-worded sonnet causes an earthquake that slows a region’s invaders. Skald use spirit’s Influences to make forests more verdant, fields more bountiful or political infighters more susceptible to reason. The Skalds’ influence over and relationships with the spirits of a region are the mainstay of their power.
Background: As a boy, Freeman would spend hours at his grandfather’s knee, listening to the stories that that venerable old man had to share. Most of them had been passed on by the elder’s grandfather, who had been a slave in South Carolina before the Civil War. Many of the stories Freeman loved best were those about the corn-shucking celebration and the few other revels the slaves were allowed; young Freeman relished every word of every song and chant that his grandfather shared with him.
During the civil rights demonstrations of the ‘50s and ’60s, Freeman found his purpose. He traveled the South, participat- ing in sit-in campaigns and the freedom rides that were going on at the time, keeping spirits up and celebrating unique Negro culture by leading the songs and chants he had learned from his grandfather. During one illegal police action, he Awakened: when the local authorities savagely beat and arrested many of the riders on Freeman’s bus, the knock to his head introduced him to Arcadia. He walked the Path of Thistle and saw the Fae, freer than any mortal could be, and resolved to bring that freedom and joy to his people. Returning to consciousness, Freeman found that he had scratched his name on the wall of a jail cell. The way he tells it, it was the same cell from which Dr. King later wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” but Freeman’s probably just spinning a good yarn.
Freeman’s grandfather introduced his grandson, unknowingly, to the tutor who would make Freeman one of the Skalds. After his period as an apprentice, Freeman began to wander the Deep South, bringing pride in the African Americans’ way of life and their heritage with him. Where he could, he fought the hatred and fear and worked to improve African Americans’ way of life, supporting them through memory and song. Though he’s in his 70s now, he hasn’t stopped wandering, and he’s still in good shape. Freeman’s children have grown up — two became notable musicians in their own rights. As far as Freeman expects, he won’t stop following his calling until he meets Stygia.
Storytelling Hints: Freeman is almost universally friendly and easy to get along with. He’s an excellent storyteller and enjoys entertaining. When in a new area, he almost always takes the opportunity to visit and sing along with any churches that would appreciate the spirituals he is so skilled at singing. He has little patience for any sort of prejudice, and has a number of favored anecdotes he uses to chastise such people.
Freeman is fiercely protective of his apprentice, B-Boy who is a member of the Rust Walkers cabal. If anyone were to harm or seriously threaten his pupil, he would quickly and harshly intervene.