“We can fight or drink tea. Only one of these ends well for both us.”
Terrestrial Exalted Aspect of Air
A dragon of chill, scorching, or monsoon wind depending on which of the Immaculate Dragon Forms Mela is currently using (swirling leaves and cutting sands will follow once he masters Wood and Earth Dragon Styles).
If a Dynast can have a picture-perfect origin, being born to two happily married Air Aspects — each grandchild of a Great House’s founder — comes close. Ledaal Kirol and Tepet Linana had wanted a girl, so they named the baby Mela anyway. Like many Air Aspects, Kirol and Linana believed it best to dedicate themselves entirely to perfecting one endeavor at a time, and so they went all-in on parenthood. Mela grew up in an unusually nurturing family, in a household with devoted servants and no slaves (Linana was a quiet abolitionist.) Fellow Dynasts thought their cousins overly doting, but still sent their children to summer with Mela’s family — he spent much his childhood with the Roseblack and Ledaal Kes.
When Kirol proclaimed, “Mela could kick before he could walk!” Linana would hide a knowing roll of the eyes, though she knew her husband did not mean in utero. The boy shared and then surpassed his mother’s interest in the martial arts, each new technique a puzzle to solve. Mela took his Second Breath while teaching self-defense to Patrician schoolmates being tormented by his fellow Dynasts. Swept up in a swirl of frigid wind, he calmed the gust with an airborne kata, his skin thereafter a perfect sky blue. He was eight.
Linana and Kirol had hoped Mela would follow in their footsteps as a soldier, so his early entry to the Cloister of Wisdom was their ultimate lesson in parenting: two winds may influence a third, but each wind blows where it will. So they bade their son a fond farewell and resumed their own commissions.
Mela exceeded his teachers’ expectations in both Exalted prowess and serene temperament. Even the older students swiftly got over their resentment, making the “Tornado Shrimp” an unofficial school mascot. He remained on after graduation to study under the Air Dragon savant Cynis Mond, until first-year prodigy Deled of House Peleps killed a fellow student of Mond’s in a sparring match over religious semantics. Mond stared hard at the triumphant murderer, then said “Nope,” and flew away.
Deled was sent away to join the Wyld Hunt, but Mela took another blow when his parents were slain by Deathknights in the Siege of Thorns. Troubled by his lack of desire for revenge, Mela took a leave of pilgrimage, and set sail into the West (directly away from Thorns) in his Father’s boat, the Wind Chicken.
It was on this pilgrimage Mela met Warenthal Birch and Sweet Forgotten Nougat. Here a Solar Anathema was courageous and compassionate, and an Abyssal did good works despite himself. At first Mela attached himself to the two Anathema knowing he must end them if they revealed themselves to be the monsters of his catechism. But Nougat and Wart risked their lives to save him from the Dawn Caste fanatic Lyta (the first opponent he could not overcome). When the Wyld Hunt arrived after the Coral-Wavecrest War, Mela realized its leader Deled was just another Lyta, and resolved to protect his new friends from his old schoolmate.
Mela was happiest when the Circle of Unbroken Fate ran by consensus in its earliest days, but felt Durandal did a fine job as leader. Then one day the Zenith displayed his first sign of the Great Curse, becoming vicious and arrogant. When Durandal regained his senses, he and Mela agreed that the Terrestrial should lead be Dinh of the Circle, a position he has held to this day.
When his Circle helped found the Deliberate Stare of Zion, Mela’s name was put forward for its first Fulcrum, an impartial arbitrator and tie-breaking vote for the Deliberative. His cool head and steady hand helped forge Zion into the nation that brought low the Deathlord whose retainers slew Mela’s parents. Mela hopes, when he is one with his namesake, to find the winds who were Lanina and Kirol are proud of him.
Sifu or seeker?
Master or slave?
Rebel or traitor?
Prophet or apostate?
Leader or figurehead?
Mela prefers to think of himself as a connoisseur of tea and martial arts enthusiast.
Due mainly to how fast news travels through the Realm, Tepet Mela might be the most widely known member of his Circle. Sadly, the Realm’s citizens are not inclined to look favorably on an Immaculate monk who threw over his own people and faith to serve the Solar Anathema. Most of his fellow Dynasts assume Mela is Durandal’s mind-blasted bodyguard (and sometime catamite), “presiding” over the False Deliberative to mock the real one in the Imperial City. Even the Seventh Legion of Lookshy, who stood with Zion against the dead, think Mela should slay his Circlemates, for decorum’s sake if nothing else. Mela thwarts roughly one assassination attempt a year.
Three main types of people speak well of Tepet Mela: Zionites, who love their Fulcrum; radical Dynasts or anti-Realm Outcastes, who see a hero and revolutionary; and followers of the Refined or “Melaist” Immaculate Faith.
Tales of Mela
- Bested the Mask of Winters in single combat, but Durandal stole the credit
- The Immaculate Dragon of Air herself asked Mela to join with her, but he remained behind, a Bodhisattva to teach the masses
- Maintains a friendly correspondence debating theology with the Mouth of Peace
- Drinks tea boiled from his own urine, believing only his own Essence is pure enough to enter his body
- Killed the Linowan forest god Jorst in a single kick
- Is a deep sleeper agent waiting to topple the False Deliberative and destroy his Anathema “Masters”
- Keeps a small Western monkey called the Duke as a pet
“As the Dancing Hammer said, you seem unable to touch this.”
Calm and compassionate, Tepet Mela is everything a man of the cloth should be. When seeking a Fulcrum for the Deliberative, Panther pointed to Mela and said, “That there is the neutralist motherfucker you will ever meet.”
…to which Mela answered, “I object to that part about my mother. Though I am willing to hear evidence.”
Only when practicing his beloved martial arts does he show the true passion of someone swept up in what he loves most. Mela seems to watch himself fighting for his own life like a riveted spectator, amazed at each new wonder his perfectly tuned body and Essence conspire to achieve. He is not above taunting opponents, though always in a “hey, check out what I just did?” tone rather than in malice.
To his own surprise, Mela finds he enjoys government work. So long as he isolates himself from the actual politics, bureaucracy is just another way to make Essence flow efficaciously through a body.
In a social setting Mela is quiet and observant, a disturbingly good listener with a quietly wry sense of humor. He is happy to offer anyone who passes a cup of tea and an open ear.
Mela’s first two Circlemates are his closest companions, but while he loves and respects the Beacon Over Still Waters, his deepest bond is with Durandal. When everyone else took off on their own side-quests, it was Mela and Wart (only Mela still uses that name) leading the charge against the Mask of Winters. Seeing Durandal succumb to the Great Curse was the first time since his parents died that Mela felt true heartbreak. Though today he focuses on and faith and statecraft while Durandal busies himself with the Ordo Invictus, Mela will always love his “kid brother.”
The Tornado Shrimp is small but fierce, below-average in height and lean of frame. Anyone who thinks Mela undersized would choke on their tongue if they saw the tightly coiled muscle beneath his white-and-blue robes, worn in the high-necked style of his home province. He keeps his head neatly tonsured, and his blue skin bespeaks rarefied Terrestrial breeding. Mela has a pleasant, unassuming face and a warm smile. He is thinking of growing a long beard to flick arrogantly at his students. Not because he is arrogant, but because that’s what’s done in his line of work and he’d hate to disappoint anyone.
Mela has never gone in much for famous and storied artifacts, relying primarily on his own wits and prowess. He does own several magical weapons and tools, each of which he has named for the friend or loved one whose memory they evoke. Mela keeps his hearthstones set in his weapons, and wears a golden broach with a white stone rose at the base of his neck.
Mond’s Prayer Beads (••)
Blue Jade Infinite Chakram on a simple silk cord
Durandal Has Half as Many Swords (••) and (••)
A matched set of Red Jade hooked Short Daiklaves
Tears for Deled (•••)
Paired Black Jade Razor Claws, claimed from the body of Peleps Deled
The Blue Spirit (••••)
This head-to-toe blue bodysuit and its featureless mirror mask make the wearer completely invisible until they remove it or attack, so long as it was first donned before a blue backdrop. This enchantment does not extend to weaponry worn over the armor, a caveat Mela discovered to his (and moreso to a Linowan garrison’s) chagrin.
The Air Aspected Immaculate Kasif sought out Mela shortly after the founding of Zion. Born an Outcaste and disillusioned with an increasingly corrupt Faith, Kasif wished to learn from the monk he had idolized as a trainee in the Cloister of Wisdom.
At first Mela was happy to teach self-defense, meditative arts, and tea appreciation in Rathess’s public parks. Then he began answering questions about his own interpretation of the Immaculate Texts. He has drawn the line at leading prayers, and asked his students to refrain as well, at least in his presence.
Since then, a small but growing cadre of mortal, Terrestrial, and even Dragon King students adhere to Mela’s more inclusive personal theology. Some of these have gone to other places where the Immaculate Faith holds sway, and some places where it doesn’t, to quietly spread his ideals. Thus far, only the territories run by Zion or the Bull of the North have proven relatively safe for Refined or “Melaist” Immaculates to preach the doctrine that dutiful devotion and self-improvement are the key to a happy life rather than fortuitous reincarnation. Such notions would be the worst sort of heresy to serious Immaculates, and, if discovered, would lead to redoubled efforts to silence Tepet Mela, or perhaps even a holy war against Zion led by the more zealous Great Houses.
Aside from Kasif, Mela has also taken on Ashira Seastar as a student in Water Dragon Style, and Xi Rin Na in Fire Dragon Style. He refuses to accept more than one student per style at a time.
“Don’t be foolish, Durandal. What you call a ‘ninja’ is far more likely to appear as a rice merchant with a phial of poison up his sleeve than some martial arts commando in his pajamas. Now if you will excuse me, I must cover myself in shadows and infiltrate the enemy stronghold with nothing but my wits and fighting prowess.”