- Name: Flowing Sands
- Setting: White Wolf's Exalted
- Character Type: Heroic Mortal
- Concept: Pre-Exaltation Zenith caste, wandering "priest" preaching socialism.
“There are some who call me Priest or Monk, but my teachings are not those of the Imperial religion. It is not of Gods or Dragons that I preach, but of the self and the power that lies within.
“I have seen too many people fall by the wayside of life, through disbelief and lack of confidence in what they themselves can do. I do not teach people to rely on Gods. I teach people to rely on themselves.”
On the very borders of the great Southern deserts there abounded communities of farmers and herders, descendents of those tribes who centuries ago had discovered fertile lands and settled there. They had long since forgotten the ways of their nomadic ancestors, and only fragments of the old knowledge remained in stories and songs. But oh, how they needed that old knowledge again now.
The desert was advancing, and a series of drier and drier summers had all but decimated their crops. Their animals were starving and dying, and the people themselves fared no better. The approaching summer was to be even worse than those that had come before it; so the omens said. Mad from hunger and heat, the people of the village tended their arid farms listlessly, as if they had already given in to the death that would surely come to them soon.
One day, a woman gave birth to a son. There was not the celebration that in years gone by would have been attended by the whole community. Instead, while their words were congratulatory, their eyes told their true feelings.
“That stupid woman,” the villagers said in whispers between themselves, “all she has done is created another mouth to feed.”
As time wore on and their hunger deepened, their whispers got louder. With her husband dead, the villagers grew to resent her and her son, who only consumed food and gave little back to the community, more and more.
Eventually, the woman could not take the pressure any more. Wrapping her son in a blanket and holding him close to her chest, she left her crumbling home behind her and set out into the desert. The futility, the certain death, meant nothing to her. At least here she was free – free from the staring eyes of the village, free from condemnation, free to die in peace.
And, three days into her directionless journey as the sun beat down strongly onto the uncaring desert, she died in peace.
The hunters who had been tracking her quickly caught up. At first they only noticed the woman, and they quickly gathered around to take anything useful that they could find in her travelling pack.
It was only as they rolled her body over to take her clothes as well that they found the boy lying beneath her – his eyes closed, too exhausted even to cry, but still alive.
Taking all the metal and fabric that they had found, and carrying the boy, the hunters headed home.
The woman's body, they left for the vultures.
The tribe were called the Ikzharoi-sa, which in their tongue meant “Children of the Wild Sky”, and they accepted the child as one of their own. He was named by the elder as Ka-kalra, or Flowing Sands, after the wind-rippled dune on which they found him.
Unlike his former village, the Ikzharoi-sa were not hungry or driven mad by their desert life. They used what food they hunted or scavenged efficiently, and although their lives were not by any stretch of the imagination luxurious, it became all that Flowing Sands knew.
For sixteen long years he lived with the tribe, learning to hunt and to scavenge and to weave and to endure the harshness of the desert conditions. Believing himself to be fully a member of the Ikzharoi-sa, Flowing Sands did not realise the true nature of his origins until late in his adolescence.
Their travels had brought them once more to the eastern fringes of the desert, and it was decided amongst the men of the tribe that now was the time to show Flowing Sands the truth.
They took him to the remains of what had once been his village, now only a snad-blasted ruin. They told him of the farms and herds of the people who had lived there, and of the advancing desert, and of the hot, dry fate that was to befall those who did not know the desert way of life.
But Flowing Sands did not feel himself and the tribe to be superior to these other people who had fallen victim to the desert. Instead, he felt pity.
From that moment, Sands did not travel with his tribe. Instead, he set out on his own. What use, he felt, were the Ikzharoi-sa and their ways if they only ensured the survival of themselves? Out here on the borders of the desert, people were dying from a lack of that knowledge.
He travelled east, from desert to savannah, from village to village, passing on as much of what he knew to the local people as he could. In this way, he hoped to save as many as possible to falling victim to their own ignorance.
As months and years passed, Sands travelled further east and north. Whilst every day he learned about his surroundings and passed on that information to those to whom the information might save their lives, his teachings gained more and more of a psychological and even a mystical edge.
Often when he found individuals and communities struggling with their situation, he discovered that what they needed was not practical information about their environment, but something else that he could teach instead. A way of life, a way of looking at the world, a way of building strong communities from strong individuals. So it was this that he began to teach instead, for a while.
The further north he travelled, the more he encountered religions, which were at first somewhat of a confusing thing to him. Whilst their benefits were clear, he worried about their tendency to instruct communities to place their trust in something far outside of their everyday experience.
Another problem of being further north and thus closer to the Empire was that of better transport. Although Sands himself still preferred to walk and to sleep wild, his reputation preceded him from village to town, and town to city, exaggerating itself as it went.
From a simple advisor on bushcraft and desert survival, he had become first a guidance counsellor, then a wandering wise man, and eventually he had become a travelling priest in the minds of those who had not yet met him.
This became most apparent to him the first time he approached a walled city. He had never seen a dwelling so big, and as he strode towards it thinking of all the problems within it that he could solve, he was oblivious of the manner of greeting they would give him.
Rather than being welcomed as in most places he had visited, he was branded a heretic and shot at from the battlements.
Though he returned to the villages and the small towns for a while, the city and the presumably religious delusions of its rulers continued to haunt him. He resolved to return to that place, and before very long he got his chance.
When he befriended the owners of a struggling trade caravan, and taught them a route through the local woods that was less popular with bandits, they asked how they could repay him.
Whilst it was uncommon of Flowing Sands to ask for anything besides bare essentials from those who offered, this time he had a desire that he was surprised to find that the traders agreed to fulfil.
“Smuggle me into the city.”