Exalted: Great Forks
Demon-Hunting Zenith Performer and Dramaturge
Zhao Shen is by any measure an extremely handsome man, and he has a gleam in his eye and a wry smile that can cause people to flush wantonly. When relaxing in his apartments or spending time with his circle of followers, he dresses in the multi-colored silken large-sleeved robes of a sybarite, and he always carries an intricately-carved fan as an affectation. His angular face is clean-shaven, and his long hair is alternately hanging loosely, or tightly wrapped in the bun favored by martial artists. He walks with a graceful assurance, and his movement seems careful and deliberate.
Anyone who looks Zhao Shen in the eyes gets the impression that he is a formidable personality. Men and women alike often mistake his whimsical expression as flirtation, rather than what is more likely amusement at their wonder.
Zhao Shen was born in Changying Village, a prodigal son of an extended clan of artisans, martial artists, and poets. Raised in the ancient traditions of the Wang Fan, Zhao Shen was a natural presence, excelling in both performance and his ancestral martial art form.
When he was of age, Zhao Shen and some of his family members began traveling with a troupe of performers, from whom he learned the more subtle arts of showmanship and spectacle. He traveled with the troupe for many years and saw many wonderful things up, down, and across the Scavenger Lands.
It was several years later that his life changed. It was Descending Air of RY 768 when he and his whole troupe were beset by demons hell-bent on its complete obliteration. The demons were slaughtering their way across the caravan, and when they fell upon Zhao Shen, he exploded with the majesty of the Unconquered Sun. He had been Exalted. In a blaze of sunfire and a maelstrom of vengeful fury, he repelled the remaining demons, but not before his family and friends were burned to the ground.
Zhao Shen after demons killed his friends and family
Since that carnage, the remains of his troupe’s wagons and tents have continued to burn, an everlasting infernal pyre marking its desecration. Unlike a shadowland, which connects Creation with the Underworld, this region seems to emanate the Yozi-drenched presence of Malfeas, a phenomenon known as a blight.
After that living nightmare, Zhao Shen thought about returning to his village and to the more peaceful life there. However, after his Exaltation the mighty voice of the Unconquered Sun spoke to him and instilled him with new goals, a new thirst for spreading the word of the mightiest of the Celestial Incarna. He also devoted himself to ridding the world of the infernal influence of the Yozis, and vowed to send all demons packing back to Malfeas whence they came.
He discovered through his Exaltation that his family tradition of praying to the elements and seasons created strong ties with the gods of the elements. An emissary from the Wind Masters approached Zhao Shen shortly after his Exaltation and offered to teach him in the ways of the First Age. Green Frowning Bear himself taught Zhao Shen Old Realm and sorcery, and also showed him how to unlock the magic inherent in all true martial arts.
Bursting with his new mandate in Creation, Zhao Shen headed for Great Forks, where he settled in and established a troupe of entertainers that took up residence in a smaller theatre in the Center of Great Forks. He soon began staging grander and greater shows with obvious themes that spoke of the old Celestial Hierarchy and the prominence of the Solars in the First Age. His plays about the might and glory of the Unconquered Sun and his Exalted soon began to gain crowds of adoring fans. Zhao Shen’s name began to be known by the wealthy and influential people who fancied themselves patrons of the arts, and he attracted followers who orbited around him, eager to be part of his inner circle. Among them was a rare jewel, an Air-Aspected Dragon Blooded names Fenfang. Together, he and Fenfang founded the troupe known as The Wind’s Breath.
Zhao Shen during a performance
Along his way, he met up with another Exalted of the Unconquered Sun, Kage (a.k.a. Skygee, a.k.a. the Shadow’s Light) and formed an alliance and friendship with him. The two of them try to bring their own forms of justice to the world, and assist each other in their chosen paths.