from Scavenger Sons,
a sourcebook for Exalted
(White Wolf Games)
In the heart of old Chiaroscuro’s most ruined district lies the Plaza—a thriving neighborhood of six intact, spotlessly maintained blocks of low-rise apartments and shops amid a sea of shattered glass and vast stretches of ruins. A powerful spirit has ruled here since the days of the First Age, and controls the neighborhood even today.
Known only as Grandmother Bright, this spirit protects the Plaza and ensures the prosperity of its inhabitants. Although even Grandmother Bright lacks the power to restore the potent magics once possessed by the area ’s dwellings and shops, she has managed to keep all of the modest, five-story apartments whole. They even possess unbroken windows, as well as magics that keep the buildings comfortable and well-lit.
Grandmother Bright normally stays in a covered pavilion located in the center of the Plaza. While she sometimes walks the streets of her neighborhood and talks happily with the residents, she only leaves its boundaries in times of great danger to the entire city. Grandmother is a tall, slender elderly woman with long gray hair. She always wears brilliant robes of gold and vermilion, and at night her face and hands glow softly.
After dark, the streets of the Plaza are transformed. Once the sun sets, the living give way to throngs of ghosts. The spirits of former Plaza residents remain here, walking the streets as translucent, insubstantial shades. Ordinary folk who venture outdoors at night are often greeted by these once-living shadows, who seek everything from help avenging their deaths to a chance to converse with the living. However, most ghosts are content to interact with their fellow spirits. The ghosts cannot enter any of the buildings unless the owner invites them. Although no one but Grandmother Bright knows this, the Plaza ’s spectral population is limited to 1,001—precisely matching the number of its living inhabitants. Whenever someone dies there and rises as a ghost, that person ’s spirit or another ghostly resident must depart for other realms. Women who live in the Plaza are barren—if they wish to have children, they must either move out or pay Grandmother Bright for the privilege of having a child. Those who choose the latter become pregnant once another resident leaves or dies.
Despite the difficulties of childbearing and the night-time hauntings, many of Chiaroscuro ’s inhabitants would pay vast sums to live in the Plaza—a willingness that does them no good, as only those favored by Grandmother Bright may settle in the neighborhood. The few who tried to move in without her permission speak in hushed voices of shops and apartments haunted by horrifying apparitions, and ill luck that refused to abate until they left. If an approved resident wishes to move, he must find a replacement willing to move in on the same day that he leaves. In addition, all prospective residents must perform a valuable service for Grandmother Bright, and swear never to harm the Plaza or any of their neighbors. Activities outside the Plaza are not Grandmother Bright ’s concern. One current resident is a highly paid assassin who never takes contracts on other Plaza residents. There are always individuals eager to move into the Plaza, and so replacing residents who have died poses no difficulty.
Though all visitors are welcome, anyone who attempts to seriously harm any of the dwellings or inhabitants meets a terrible fate. Those who commit violence in the Plaza are instantly transformed into blank-faced, mindless servants. These gold-skinned thralls carry loads, sweep streets and perform a wide variety of other helpful services. If removed from the Plaza, these walking husks will try to return. If restrained, they will sit down and wait to be freed. Although they no longer require sustenance, in time they will age and die. No known magics can restore someone in this state. Only Grandmother Bright can do that, at the price of several difficult services. Inhabitants of the Plaza are protected from harm only within the boundaries of the neighborhood, and so few willingly leave it.
In addition to providing safety and comfortable housing, Grandmother Bright can also offer all manner of information. Treasure hunters, spies, and those seeking prophecies all come to her door. All who seek anything from Grandmother, whether a place to live or the location of buried treasure, must bring her a single beautiful object. She prefers old or natural objects to new-made ones. For minor services, this payment may be sufficient. For more significant favors, the gift serves merely as payment for the request. The actual service rendered frequently carries another price.
When Grandmother Bright requires additional payment, she always asks for a specific valuable item, or else commands the petitioner to convince a specific person to perform a specific action. In most cases, the price is high, but commensurate with the favor asked and the ability of the petitioner. Someone coming to her seeking a lost child might merely need to convince a minor noble to set a toy boat containing five lotus blossoms on the ocean. By contrast, someone seeking the location of a First Age artifact might be asked to bring Grandmother Bright an enchanted jade dagger belonging to a Dragon-Blooded general or to convince a famous duelist to slay a specific wizard in single combat. Exalted, Fair Folk and other powerful beings receive correspondingly difficult tasks. The actions that petitioners to perform are never random. Many observers correctly believe that Grandmother Bright works to ensure the safety of the entire city, and makes her requests as part of a plan to manipulate fate and history on a larger scale.