The Raksha of Creation’s Wyld Pockets are not the terrifying horde of the Balorean Crusade – or even a significant threat, at least on Earth. Their territory is small, their population limited, and the Earth is entangled in a net of iron. Modern communications, automatic weaponry with steel-jacketed slugs, iron tanks, grenades with iron shrapnel, countless platoons of well-trained and well-coordinated troops using those weapons, attack helicopters, and planes can really ruin a Raksha’s day.
They could deploy the magics of dream of course – but Behemoths are as vulnerable to modern military force as their masters, shaping weapons are of little use in Creation, Adjurations might lend some strength to their owners, but hardly enough – and, while Oneiromancy could affect great swathes of the mortal world, deploying such powers was one of the few guaranteed ways to draw gods, thaumaturges, and even the occasional remaining Exalt into open battle in support of the iron hordes.
There was no profit in that. The remaining wyld pockets and freeholds, the last refuges of the Raksha, were far too small to resist major assaults. They might survive – the Raksha were good at hiding and vanishing – but that was, at best, undignified.
Besides… after twenty-five thousand years, save for a few of the most clever and cautious, the elder Raksha were long gone. The younger Raksha were throughly used to living upon scattered islands of wyld energies – never of more than Middlemarch intensity – surrounded by reefs and seas of barren order. Certainly some Raksha ventured forth to live among the humans – but such venturesome sorts often perished, leaving the isles of chaos where Raksha might come into being to the cautious and stealthy, well used to being surrounded by mortals. The glories of pure chaos, and the terrors of the Unshaped, belonged to an elder age of legend.
The Raksha faded from the terrible army of chaos, bright with the glorious banners of dream, to the People of the Hills, occasional predators upon the stray and forgotten.
Today the Raksha inspire artists, interact with those lost in the wilderness as whim strikes them, inflict bizarre fates upon those foolish or unlucky mortals who accidentally intrude upon their fastnesses, bargain with those few thaumturges who know of their existence – and draw the occasional runaway, sickly, or unwanted child to them. When resources are scarce, one cannot be too picky – and Raksha have many tools to beguile mortals and for remolding them into what they wish.
One of their strongest is Mutation.
Raksha have several ways of mutating things, including Thaumaturgy, manipulating creatures exposure to the Wyld, using Behemoth Forging Meditation or Subversion and Transformation Artifice (sometimes with an upgrade to affect mortals instead of just animals), and so on. In these days of scarce resources, the vast majority of Raksha will grant their servants some mutations – a reward, a fulfillment of fantasies, a wedge driven between them and the rest of the mortal world, a barrier to escape, and a way to make them last a LOT longer…
The most popular package – at least around the Atlanta Pocket – includes Exalted Healing (4), Longevity (2), Wyld Tolerance (2), Fur (1), and a Tail (1). Fortunately, Wyld Tolerance, Fur, and Tails don’t count towards being “Too Wyld to Live” (since Wyld Tolerance explicitly doesn’t and Fur and Tails are normal mammalian features) – which means that most Feybound are quite capable of venturing forth on long-term missions for their masters even if they ARE far too mutated to successfully rejoin human society.
- Exalted Healing (2): The user heals as an Exalt. This is important to Raksha servants because the Errata classifies draining virtues, willpower, and so on as a Crippling effect – and Exalts heal from those, albeit slowly. This mutation thus means that a Raksha’s servants become indefinitely reusable – and is generally quite useful as a bribe as well. Given that this is Exalted, those who want to focus on this can build it up; At (4) it prevents scarring, stops bleeding almost instantly, grants +2 versus disease, poison, and infection, and heals disabling and crippling effects after a week of rest or two weeks of activity. At (6) the user heals 1B/Minute and 1L/Hour regardless of activity level, is immune to infection and mundane diseases, gains +4d versus supernatural diseased, and ignores the Crippling keyword; such effects go away as soon as the damage levels are healed (a few minutes if the effect does not inflict damage levels).
The old tales of “Changelings” – of a sickly fake left in the place of a healthy infant – are a modern distortion of an ancient bargain; trade a sickly child to the Raksha in exchange for a few thaumaturgic or dream-magic blessings of health and productivity and protection for the rest of the family. The Raksha get a new servant, you and your other children will be blessed – and your sickly child will get to live.
- Longevity (1): Combined with a little life-extension Thaumaturgy – easily within the reach of any Raksha who wants to take a few minutes every decade or so given their dice pools – this can readily raise the lifespan of a Raksha’s Servants to five or six hundred years, and possibly more. This cuts down on the need to replace servants, makes older ones reluctant to leave – since losing their life-extension effects may well be fatal – and is another great big bribe. Upgrading to (2) makes the user even longer-lived – while (4) grants complete immunity to aging, whether natural or supernatural.
Unfortunately, having your life-extension fail when you’re several centuries old tends to be bad for a mortal. Thus the tales of those rescued from the Fey occasionally crumbling to dust…
- “Fur” (1*): Regardless of the exact nature of the covering, this provides +1d Survival, means that your servants do not require clothing, and adds +1L/+1B Soak – enough to avoid many minor accidental injuries. More importantly, this lets the Raksha show off their personal styles and very clearly marks their servants – making it nigh-impossible for them to return to normal society. Not having to bother recruiting a tailor is a minor benefit. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is “Too wyld to live”.
As usual, this mutation can also represent feathers, scales, or various other dermal protections. The Raksha often throw in a few cosmetic touches – patterns, colors, animal-styled ears or minor features, and so on. Yes, there are indeed plenty of anime cat girls out there. Please don’t make Malfeas incinerate them with radioactive fire.
- Tail (1*): These too serve to clearly mark Raksha servants. As a bonus, while in Creation, they can often pass as cosplayers. They also gain +2 to Athletics checks, which is sometimes useful. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is “Too wyld to live”.
And yes, this being Exalted, the +2d for Athletics includes bedroom athletics as well.
- Wyld Tolerance: (1/2/4/6): Each level of Wyld Tolerance reduces the effective level of the Wyld to which the user is currently exposed by one as far as Mutation and Addiction checks are concerned. Thus a character with Wyld Tolerance 2 could tolerate living in the Middlemarches indefinitely. This mutation does not count when determining if a creature is too wyld to live.
Plenty of tribes and species are supposed to live within the fringes of the wyld – and yet that requires periodic checks for random mutations and possible wyld addiction. They fey are also noted as being able to protect their mortal pets from the ravages of the wyld – but have no apparent method of doing so. Ergo, here’s a quick mutation for them to bestow to allow that.
The older, and more powerful, Feybound often develop the following Wyld variation on one of the infernal mutations…
- Wyld Essence (6): The user gains an Essence pool equal to (Essence x 5) + (Willpower x 2) + (sum of all Virtues). If tutored the user may can learn first circle sorcery, Terrestrial martial arts, and spirit charms. If given Graces, the character may learn Raksha Charms. Once a character has developed this mutation, his or her prayers are no longer effective for supplying Quintessence or Ambrosia, and no longer support the Games of Divinity. (The gods will not approve). If his or her Essence goes above three, he or she will transcend, becoming either a quasi-Raksha or a god as usual – the primordial chains upon his or her soul shattered utterly.
Wyld Essence may be taken again at Essence II – in which case a heroic mortal character can be rebuilt as a free-willed Heroic Commoner Raksha. Non-heroic mortals will need help with the transition to a normal Commoner Raksha – which will mean leaving their new Heart Grace in the possession of the “assisting” Noble Raksha.
Perhaps fortunately, most of those have MUCH easier ways to get commoner servants.
A few other mutation packages are popular. Pets/Bodyguards/Errand-Runners are often given Cheetah’s Pace (4), Claws (1), and Night Eyes (1). In the occasional wyld pocket located under the sea, or in a volcano, or some such, appropriate adaptive mutations – life support and special movement options – are (naturally enough) quite popular. There’s generally no point in turning servants into seriously animalistic creatures though; for those it’s easier to just start off with an animal in the first place.
In any case, by this time, quite a lot of the Raksha servants are entirely voluntary – for example, people who were dying of things like AIDS, youngsters with wyld dreams and/or wyld-addicts, children born to older feybound, and so on. Dragging kicking and screaming mortals into the refuges of the fey is quite out of style; it attracts dangerous attention far too often. It’s MUCH easier to have most of your pets stay with you voluntarily.
Of course, none of this applies to the worlds at the far end of Creation, in the Empirical Galaxy, at Creations true boundary with the Wyld. There, at least in limited areas, the Raksha so dominate that they have to carefully manage their human resources – and establishing reserves and protected areas. Creation remains a favored spot for deposed Raksha freeholders to flee and lick their wounds – at least if they have some of the way grace charms that allowed interstellar travel.
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- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice XXXVI – Titanic Misperceptions (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LVI – The Exultant Avalanche (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXIX – Gates of the Third Circle (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Exalted – Resplendent Butlers Accouterment (Artifact **) (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session LV – Wraiths, Wyldjumps, and Wanderers (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LII – Lytek’s Inspection (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles Of Heavenly Artifice LIX – Explanations and Confusions (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice Session XXXVIII – Out of the Umbra (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LVII – Aikiko’s Quest (ruscumag.wordpress.com)