White Knights and Dark Days
A peaceful Snake shaman thirsty for knowledge
Alexander Aspera is dressed in tough, white canvas cargo pants and a faded yellow button-down shirt. His pants are dirty to the knees, and muddy brown moccasins cover his feet. A synthetic snakeskin vest is the only color he wears: mottled green, yellow and brown in the pattern of an Eastern Diamondback. At his belt are the accoutrements of the modern era: personal comm unit, credstick, survival knife. A silver DocWagon bracelet adorned with deer-leather tassles and a snake-fang necklace are his only other decoration. He wears expensive glasses in front of ever-shifting, perceptive eyes, and bears himself with the aloof nature of the Awakened, as if he alone is party to a great cosmic secret and is waiting for the rest of the world to catch on.
Alexander Aspera was born on the easy, rural side of life, in the fall of 2041. The son of a superstitious lawyer and a quiet housewife, he was brought up the youngest of three siblings: constantly picked on, wearing hand-me-downs, bullied at school. He was overshadowed and forgotten by family as his elder brother and sister, twins, went on to bigger and better things. When they left for college and career, he was 10 years old.
Home alone with his mother, their relationship quickly soured, as the family house in the woods of Orange County became too quiet, dark and large for the two of them. Driven away, Alex turned inwards and began a series of solitary woodland meditations which would change his life, as he slowly became aware that he, alone amongst his family, had become Awakened.
It was a dark secret that he guarded for years. His tryst with nature eventually grew into a deep, mature emotional bond, and his connection with the etheric plane grew and magnified his power. He was 15 when his totem came to him.
Sitting on his meditation bench at the top of a precarious, rocky bight in Duke Forest, he experienced a vision. A tree, a tall pine old as the forest itself, bent slowly down and warped its trunk, encircling him and opening slitted eyes of bark and sap. A forked pine-needle tongue tested the air, and the Snake spirit, a great cottonmouth, rose up and addressed him with viper’s voice: “I am Asclepius, come to aid you in your quest for knowledge. You have been deemed worthy by the soul of this wood, and for that I offer a place by my side. Join me, and the mysteries of this place will be yours to know, to command and create.”
Alexander did not hesitate in answering: “Yes,” and from that moment on he was Asclepius, seeker of knowledge and protector of the wood. He returned home late, to a disappointed-looking father and stern mother, regarding him warily from the dinner table. They knew not what change had come over their son, but the scaled appearance of his skin, and the way his eyes flashed from their natural green to gold, were enough to set their minds working. They did not have the chance to remonstrate him, as he gathered his meditation supplies, clothes and shelter, and left their lives forever.
Alexander-cum-Asclepius spent the next decade living in the forests surrounding Falls Lake, a peaceful place where his studies of the woodland and commune with Nature could go uninterrupted. He learned quickly under his totem’s guidance, learning at first the survival skills he needed to live off the land, then the magical masks that would enable him to shirk humanity, as a snake sheds its skin. His mentor taught him the value of Life, and the abhorrence of Death, in equal measure; soon he was able to live in harmony with the animals and spirits, harming none in his own path of survival. A natural trickster, Alexander excelled in manipulations and illusion, and delighted in fooling the weak-minded.
Recently, his studies have been confounded. The serpent within him pushes him to learn, but he finds that he has reached the limits of his tether, and requires instruction and directed study. Now in his late twenties, he emerges from the forest a tangled, disheveled mess. Finding a home in Downing Creek, he learns to blend with society easily—as in all things, he remains a quick study. Where he may not be versed in normal social interaction from his limited contact with humans, he supplements with an easy smile and generous attitude, and some magical sleight-of-hand along the way doesn’t hurt, either.
Today he seeks to draw from the considerable sources of local magical knowledge, in the Universities and libraries of his new home. He chaffs, being withheld from the forest he loves so much, and spends as much time there as his studies will allow. The font of knowledge is an addicting beverage, and he finds his desires strained by their mutual exclusion.
His trials and tribulations have not been without consequence, however. Normally a cool-headed, serene person, Alexander was not accustomed to the modern temptations of city life. When he discovered his first underground poker ring, he was hopelessly hooked, as his beguiling nature and ability to fool even the wary eyes of the Awakened dealers quickly led him to a small amount of wealth. He immediately bought himself a small library’s worth of knowledge and, never having been educated on the dangers of a gambling addiction, he continued to “push his luck”. His infamous winning streak at the tables started to attract the wrong sort of attention. Now, unbeknownst to him, he is the equivalent of a wanted man in certain circles of outer Chapel Hill, and the sorts of enemies he has made are not the forgiving type. Not forgiving at all.