Dreams of a Fallen Crown:Characters:Oath-Graven Diamond
Cathak Suraga was firstborn of a powerful clan within House Cathak. He was raised on the family estate near Nishimo, where tutors taught him of the world and his place in it. He was part of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the world; and, Dragons willing, would Exalt and continue the family traditions. Growing up, his brother Kiru--barely a year younger than he--was a constant companion, while his sister Susuki did her best to make their lives difficult. At first she simply tagged along with the brothers, but later used her wide-eyed, innocent face to cause trouble for her siblings and silently laughed at the results.
When Kiru Exalted at the age of ten, he became the pride of the family. His training intensified such that Suraga rarely saw him any more, leaving Suraga as the sole target for Susuki's pranking. The brothers gradually grew distant as Kiru was trained to control his new powers. Suraga more and more immersed himeslf in studies and training, first to stay away from Susuki, and later in an attempt to prove himself the equal of his Exalted sibling. When he graduated from Primary School, he immediately joined the House of Bells to study warcraft.
Then, at thirteen, Susuki manifested the power as well. Suraga's parents were ecstatic, but Suraga felt bitter disappointment growing in his heart. He resented his siblings, promoted above him, and feared he would never Exalt and make his parents equally proud. Now fifteen, he threw himself into his training, daily submitting requests for the Immaculate Order to pray for his Exaltation. Kiru joined the Wyld Hunt, and Suraga heard little from him besides secondhand tales of his valor. He wished he could see his once-beloved brother as a hero of the Realm, but he could feel little but resentment. The seasons came and went, each one taking with it more of his hope. His relationship with his parents degraded steadily, and it became clear in his seventeenth year that his mother could hardly stand the sight of the only disappointment among her children. Romance evaded him despite his increasingly good looks; the only women who wished his company were interested in him for his family's rank or the possibility of Dragonblooded children. It was almost a relief when he was assigned as Subaltern to a major in The Lap after graduating from the House of Bells while his family arranged a suitable marriage.
Leaving behind the politics of the houses, Suraga discovered that his high cheekbones and fine skin earned him more success with the ladies than he could have imagined. He filled his time with carousing and romance, though no woman truly touched his heart. Even the woman chosen to marry him, the plain-faced Radiant Crane, failed to catch his love. He didn't bother to keep secret his several mistresses throughout The Lap. He performed his duties adequately, but no more than that, unable and unwilling to bring more to the task than obligatory effort.
That spring, however, the armies deployed to fend off Dune People raiders from the small settlements south of the Lap and Suraga was placed in charge of a Scale. Still a young and inexperienced commander, he allowed his troops to be drawn off by a feint, pursuing raiders who seemed to melt into the sand once they were away from the settlement. When they returned, Suraga found carnage. The settlement had been brutally raided and set aflame, every inhabitant put to the sword who wasn't kidnapped. Suraga realized then that he wasn't here merely for family or obligation, but for these people who relied on him to protect them and their way of life. With new resolve to lead his men as best he could for the sake of those under his protection, he trailed the escaping raiders and exhorted his troops to bring righteous justice to these barbarians. The battle was bloody, but the survivors were finally rescued, and his Scale made an excellent showing. It was a bittersweet victory, however. Suraga helped to cremate the dead of the village with his own hands.
In time, Radiant Crane bore him a daughter, Jade Singing Sand, and grew large with a child he would never meet. He hardly saw his wife longer than necessary to perform his duty anymore.
In his twentieth year, Suraga volunteered his scale, by now an outstanding force, for the pursuit of a criminal into the wastes. The captain leading the composite talon was directed by a monk of the Immaculate Order to find a man accused of using blasphemous necromantic magics. They finally caught up to him at a large structure, half-buried in the sand. As the force stormed into the great building, the monk realized this was a Manse, and a tomb. None dared touch the enormous sarcophagus as tall as any two men which lay in the middle, carved with the features of a muscular dark-skinned man, a great orichalcum glaive laid atop his carved hands with a heartstone socketed in its base. "Anathema," the monk spat.
At that moment, the criminal's voice rung out from the far end of the chamber, echoing off the high ceiling. "You think to take me within the very seat of my power?" he laughed madly. "You shall join the ranks of MY legion!" Suddenly, a veritable army of jackal-headed zombies stepped from the shadows! The soldiers drew steel and engaged them in the enormous hall, but no blow struck against the creatures caused them any harm. The talon was surrounded, the screams of men a terrifying counterpoint to the zombies' silent attacks. Suraga ordered his men to sheathe their swords and concentrate on defending themselves. Within minutes, a glance showed that few remained alive, barely more than a fang left of his own troops--and that more than the any of the other four scales. Though the foe turned his bowels to water, he managed to keep the fear from his voice as he spoke to his troops over the din. He reminded them of their skill and their duty to the empire, and planned to make their way out by pushing back the zombies with their shields. It was a desperate plan, and Suraga hoped aloud that he would, in his death, bring to his family some measure of the honor he had failed to bring in life.
His plan never went into action, however. As he spoke, he felt a new heat swelling in his chest, burning away uncertainty and fear. The onslaught of the zombies seemed to slow to a crawl, and a great voice like the clash of a thousand swords spoke to him. "Child of fire, you lead men bravely against the enemies of your people despite the wrongs done to you by them. I once turned my face from the world's injustice, but no longer. I Exalt you above all others. Know that I am the Unconquered Sun, and lead the world into a new age in my name!" The searing heat flowed through his body and lanced out through his brow, burning bright as the sun. White-gold fire blazed around Suraga, and the zombie assault finally halted; the creatures quailed at the sight of him, of the tall robed figure of golden fire who stood above him. Every eye turned on Suraga. The word "Anathema" rippled through the handful of remaining men, but many were yet entranced by his words and his appearance. In another moment, the spell was broken. The scale shattered, men fleeing heedless into the zombies to be cut to ribbons, or cowering on the floor until the same fate overtook them.
Four soldiers rallied around him, shields ready as they guarded their commander. Around Suraga, dead flesh burst into flame at his glance, but he was still overmatched. As he backed against the sarcophagus, he felt his hand reach--almost without thinking--for the great glaive. A strange urge pulled him to grasp it, to use it. Suraga vaulted the sarcophagus in a single leap and grasped the haft as he passed. He felt power flow into the impossibly heavy weapon, and it lurched up off the stone cradle, light as a feather in his hands! His anima blazed again as he shouted to the necromancer. "I am Cathak Suraga, and I will see justice done this day!" The glaive clove zombies in twain at a singles stroke, hacking through dead flesh and moldy bone as he approached the dais where fear finally touched the necromancer's eyes. The remaining mortals were struck down one by one as zombies crowded close. The sorcerer gathered himself to call down some foul magics upon Suraga, but he never got the chance; the glaive rose and flew. It flashed through the air and pierced his chest to the base of the blade, hurling him against the wall and pinning him there. The necromancer died on the orichalcum blade, words of power still half-formed on his lips. The zombies fell where they stood.
Suraga retrieved his weapon, letting the corpse slump to the floor. White fire slowly consumed it under Suraga's gaze. He wandered the floor, zombies burning in his wake until nothing remained but a dusting of ash.
In following days Suraga returned to The Lap incognito, plagued by the burning question... was everything he'd learned of Anathema false, or were the vision and these new memories the seductive touch of demons? He knew he'd made no deals with dark powers; he'd been faithful to the Dragons and to the Empress his whole life. He remained only long enough to collect his belongings--particularly his favorite horses and his personal funds. As he left the moneychanger, alone and unarmed, a gang of thieves attacked him for the jade he carried. It was during this fight that Suraga discovered that using his new power reignited the anima banner that had faded since his fight with the zombies. Word spread like wildfire: Cathak Suraga has dealt with demons, has become Anathema, slew six men with hellfire from his bare hands.
He galloped from the city, his Caste Mark burning on his brow for all to see, and fled back to the desert sepulchur to meditate on what he had become. Seizing on the command of the Unconquered Sun and his new memories to keep himself from simply surrendering to the Wyld Hunt, he wandered the edges of the desert, first making his way to Chiaroscuro to invest his jade under an assumed name.
Finally, he found his thoughts on being Anathema -- no; Exalted. He would not think that way. He firmly decided to believe that the Immaculate Order was farce, and that he himself was destined to rule the world by the divine command of the Unconquered Sun! Remembering his treatment at the hands of his family and the lessons of rulership taught as a child, so frequently disregarded by those in power, he swore a solemn vow to the Unconquered Sun that he would, indeed, return righteousness and justice to the world. He chose the alias "Oath-Graven Diamond" to replace the birth name he had come to despise and strode forth with new purpose. And if, perchance, the source of these powers lay with demons after all, he would use them for righteousness and justice as best he knew.