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Xiu Tong was born in 1977 as the second child of a pair of Chinese US immigrants, her parents Gang and Huifang Tong.
Gang and Huifang were still children when their families immigrated into the US shortly after 1949, a few years after the Magnuson Act came into effect and allowed her family to move in. Until and a good time after the beginnings of the American Civil Rights Movement, life was harsh and discriminatory. However at the turn of the 1960's, Xiu's parents had found each other, and had managed to establish a steady living, him as a freight forwarding company's foreman in Seattle, and her as a nurse at Overlake Hospital Medical Center.
Xiu's sister Lan Tong was born in 1970, with Xiu born five years later in 1977.
Both received a stern but loving and ambitious upbringing; The Tongs were not going to let a historically unfortunate gender and their somewhat humble financial situation stay in the way of the future of their daughters. This was the Land Of The Free, after all, and that also meant freedom of some older concepts, and the freedom to pursue higher goals.
Giving up on the idea of having a son, Gang and Huifang were content with focusing on Lan and Xiu's growth.
Lan showed an early interest in a higher career path. Not only out of desire for success, but also to show that she, despite the prejudices that immegrant families face, was able to. A thing to prove to herself and the world. Both sisters, just like their parents, found strong ties within the community of Seattle's International District, back then still called Chinatown, and despite the many years that had passed, discrimination and unfair treatment of Chinese was still very much alive in the late 80's. It fueled Lan's fire to strive for a path she thought she could help the very same community with: Become a lawyer and fight for the rights of the Chinese in court cases and lawsuits. Despite the high demands and especially the high financial requirements, Lan endured, working several jobs while pursuing her education.
Xiu, much to her parent's dismay, hadn't shown nearly as much enthusiasm along those lines. No, she seemed quite content with a much more simple dream: Become a gardener. The girl had been fascinated with animal and plant alike from an early age, later citing the rare visits to the Central Park Zoo as some of her best times during her childhood. Her parents, despite unable to resist to measure Xiu's accomplishments and plans to her much more striving sister's, still were somewhat supportive. They'd be lying if they didn't admit to the sheer relief, despite the financial strain it would bring, when Xiu, around her 17th year, developed a much finer and more scientific interest. Not just enthusiastic and admiring of plants and animals biology in its whole, she had begun to develop a high interest in the inner workings. The biology of cells, of bodily workings of plant an animal alike, metabolisms and the chemistry involved. It was a late turn shortly before her graduation, but she decided to become a biochemist.
Xiu's way into university was easier than Lan's. Not only had her sister begun her work life and was able to support Xiu a little on the side, but her parents also had come under a steadily better financial situation with Lan out of the house and supporting herself. Together with pursuing her little dream with shift work at several floristics shops, and sheer determination, Xiu was able to get her Doctor's Degree In Biochemistry in 2004, at the age of 27.
Xiu found work shortly thereafter as a researcher for a pharmaceutical company.
And it was good.
It was about six years later when Xiu's awakening hit. And she was lucky. It wasn't a violent explosion of magic, not a big beacon for the Technocracy to come cracking down. No people were hurt, and no madness enveloped her. But the later was a close call.
Xiu was working late-night at the labs of PalyaTech, stressed out over a project deadline, when it happened. The day had been filled with headaches, jumbled thoughts, and there in the late night...it started with strange appearances in her vision. Not specs of color, but yet something so very like it. In the sample she was examining. On the table. in the air. On her. She at first figured it was simply stress and lack of sleep that was screwing with her, but it grew intense. More and more intense, as her vision became clearer, the moving shapes in the culture samples became more detailed, more bright, hurting not her eyes, but her mind. Her skin, as she looked at it, became translucent. The flesh beneath pulsed, the blood rushed, the bones shined....and suddenly her mind exploded.
She saw everything. For just a moment, Xiu saw the connection of all life. But her mind zigged, when it should have zagged. Despite her scientific work, all the things she learned, the biology, the chemistry...she saw the entire pattern of life forces, the pulsing rhythm of the whole of creation, from the tiniest life, to the whole of the Tellurian. A breathing, living, dying, birthing whole. She saw something wonderful, beyond any mere science and reasoning. And she fainted.
It was Xiu's luck that she woke up before the next morning broke. Staggering to her feet, confused and her enlightening vision a mere blurred memory, she found that her sight had cleared again. The culture samples she had been working with however..had grown. Twisted, mutated, some having burst into plant-life, others into unidentifiable, moving, wiggling..things. Still in shock, Xiu collected it all and made the incinerator do its work as she numbly watched, before finally staggering home.
And out there, in the dark streets, she saw those strange spots and shapes in her vision again, as her skin crawled with countless tiny shapes....
Lost And Found
During the next days, Xiu's mental condition worsened. Still shaken by the events at the lab, unable to make sense of them, she got tortured by more flashes in her eyes, periodic visions of strange....things all over. In her. On everything.
She tried sleep. She tried weed. She tried medication. Finally, during a regular Ta'i Chi class she was attending, she broke down again, a panic attack. Her instructor, a fellow Chinese named Fei Hu, took her aside, calmed her down with the simplest of words and some good tea....and explained. That he belongs to a group named the Akashic Brotherhood. And that he was very aware of what Xiu was going through, that it was going to be okay. That she was embracing something wonderful. His words were confusing, but they strangely kept Xiu calm and cleared her vision again. He did not want to go into details at the time, but promised to help her...and arranged a private meeting with her the very next day, when the school was closed. Over some tea, he explained more to her..patiently, slowly, over the day. That her avatar and mind had awakened. That she was able to embrace the great karmic wheel now. And as he explained, with Xiu being sceptic..but just unable to shake the lingering visions and senses of her awakening, he prepared to welcome her to the Brotherhood and teach her the ways.
However, despite his intentions, and the familiar teachings of the Asia-influenced Tradition, Xiu did not come to be an Akashic Sister. No, when Fei introduced Xiu to others 'like us', it was a certain woman's words that caught Xiu's attention, mesmerized and captivated her. The woman, Elizabeth Carrington, spoke of nature. Of how they all are part of the Goddess' creation. Of her gifts, of Xiu being part in the natural cycle of life and death. Of the aspects of the Goddess, of the Maid, the Mother, the Crone and the Horned God. Of birth, creation, blood, suffering and death. And the feeding of new life. Of how Xiu was seeing the pulse of life everywhere. She talked about the failings of human society. the rejection of nature. The lies and senseless twisted morals and hypocrisy. And a tale of the Goddess' name. Earth Mother. And Xiu realized that it was the Goddess that touched her, that night in the lab, awoke her, opened her mind. And she knew that Earth Mother was angry.
And as the woman kept on explaining, Xiu more and more realized the truth of all things. She was a blessed animal, gifted by the Goddess. She was to be a tender of the natural cycle. A worshipper of the Goddess' aspects, and a caretaker and weaver of the mythic threads.
She was to be a witch. A Verbena.
Life with Elizabeth Carrington as her mentor was good..and different. Elizabeth Carrington's teachings, being a lifeweaver of the primal sort, were easy to like in theory, but harder to put into action. Carrington was a strict but loving teacher, and under her guidance Xiu quickly embraced early epiphanies, and was able to complete her first seeking. But Elizabeth knew better than try to force Xiu out of her comfort zone complete, nudging and urging her on to drop the restraints of civilization, but happy enough if Xiu only did so temporarily. She saw that Xiu had the right heart, but simply way afraid of letting go.
It was during the night of May 23rd 2012 that Xiu got a call by Elizabeth, urging her to join her in the Cougar Mountain Wildpark. Supposedly Elizabeth had been watching a couple bring people into the park..and kill them. A couple that, in Elizabeth's words, were 'Vampires'. Xiu, overworked and on an all-nighter at the time, told her where to stick it. Vampires? Preposterous. She had no time for Elizabeth's game, she had a project to finish, she was tired, she had to shove several more hours into this and there were easier ways than that to drag her out into the woods at night.
And so, the next night, Xiu's new world came crashing down on her when she found Elizabeth dead in the Cougar Mountain Wildpark, bloodless, with heavy wounds on her body. And when Xiu's cry of anguish and sobs echoed through the park, a set of hands found her shoulders. And there she was..the Goddess. Xiu had never seen her before, having only been guided by whispers and a voice during her first seeking. And the Goddess was a terrible sight to behold. Naked, bloody, and wrath-filled she aimed her anger at Xiu. This would not have happened if you hadn't clung to civilization. This would not have happened if you had not given more weight to something needless as work than your friend, your mentor. This is what happens if you live your life as society-bound prey.
And Xiu sucked up the guilt like a sponge. She begged for forgiveness, she cried for her mentor. But the Goddess, as angry as she was, also loved Xiu, for Xiu was primal at heart. She just needed a way out. So the Goddess offered to teach Xiu instead. To guide her herself. To give her ways of avenging Elizabeth. But there was a price to pay. Xiu would have to cut most ties to civilization. She would have to live as she was meant to be, in her heart; An animal. And she would need to take care of the Goddess' creation. She would need to quit her job. She would need to leave her home. And everyone would have to forget about Xiu. Everyone.
Xiu accepted, and buried her mentor on Cougar Mountain.
Xiu noticed the first oddities when she quit her job. Some coworkers looking at her as if trying to figure out who she was. Her boss actually having to remember her name. Her landlord not remembering when she even moved in, and Xiu having to show the rental contract before canceling the same.
When Xiu packed a single luggage case with items a few days later..a few clothes, a little jewelry, her ID, papers, diploma, some food an relics of her childhood, she had the urge to give her parents one last call. To tell them that she was going on a trip. To not worry and tell her sister that she loved her.
They told the 'stranger' to stop the prank call immediately.
To say that Xiu was shocked and depressed when she reached Cougar Mountain Park again, with only a set of clothes and that luggage case, is to make an understatement. For the next week she wailed, sobbed and just passively laid about, under the watch of her Goddess. A last trail. A last step to take. But then, after those days passed, Xiu rose. She buried her luggage safely in a spot deep in the Park, wrapped securely in plastic bags. The last relics of her previous life. She drank water from a stream, she ate berries and some nuts..and then faced the Goddess, with determination. She was ready, even though her heart was still in turmoil.
The Daily New Life
Over two years had passed. Xiu had made the Cougar Mountain Park her home. Grooming it and nurturing it with the Goddess as her guide, it had become her place to sleep at, eat at, live in. And with further epiphanies and a seeking brought by her teaching deity, the area had become attuned to her. People had said that the park had become somewhat deeper, more wild. More prospering and healthy, but also more..dangerous. Her primal paradigm ruled there. It was her territory.
She still took to the city itself. To wander about the sleepers, almost unseen. To occasionally partake in a coffee stolen straight off a table, to read a newspaper about the sorry state of the Goddess' creation, or to listen to babbling about problems that only civilized folk could give themselves. Most did not notice her. Those that did forgot about her quickly enough. She was like a predator moving silently among cattle held in a junge of steel and concrete. She liked to prowl it. She likeds to watch them. She liked to teach them. She wanted to bring them on the Goddess' side, to re-embrace nature. Show them their nature. The question was; Were they allow her to free them? Are there any that are willing to step on the same path as her? Does she have to force them? Bring the whole thing down?
Things did last for a few years. Having made ties to local Mages of the Seattle area, Xiu was involved in a fight against a terrible Nephanuds that she and her friends barely made their way out of. She had to deal with a vampire businessman and politician, forcing her to make a truce with the vampires in the city, lest he would have the park...changed. Ultimately though, it was that park that forced her to leave Seattle again - the stories about strange things happening there, the primal, uneasy atmosphere, the strange sights - it got the park closed and reonvated, with a little bit of subtle Technocratic involvement.
Forced to wander, Xiu made her way through the states. South. Always south. An old set of luggage containing traces of her past and trinkets from her old Sanctum with her, she traveled off-road, stuck to the wilderness, haunting the small towns and villages she passed through, observing the civilized sheep around her and making temporary territory - with the occasional meet of other Mages and Shifters, friendly and hostile alike.
Finally, years later, she is now arriving in Prospect - over a thousand miles from her old home - to observe. To pershaps settle down again. And to try her plans anew.
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"The human animals have so much to learn still..and yet ruin so much. Their time is running out. They need to learn, they need to embrace. They need to evolve. Or die.
"I used to utterly hate them - especially after what happened to my mentor. And in Seattle. Perhaps they are different in Prospect, but I do not count on it.
"Some of us are *so* arrogant. *So* utterly aloof. Fools. It is the Goddess who allows us to weave the mystic threads. We are her children. Animals that got blessed by feeling the flow of Quintessence through the Tapestry. Animals that she closely observes as we act on what was given to us. We mustn't forget that it's her motherly hand that punishes us if we dare too much."
"The old wounds still bleed. Their arrogance and viciousness of old days is still in the memories of the Verbena. The Witch Hunts will never be forgotten. These days? I doubt most of them are still that insane. Some have good teachings, but the stink and prejudice of extreme Christianity or Islam fundamentalism still reeks."
Cult Of Ecstasy:
"I really like this lot. Strain, wreck yourself, push the envelope, feel. Music, pain, trances, fucking without regret. Just be prepared for the harsh side of life. This isn't a party. You're only half the animal you should be."
"The Verbena's cousins. Wonderful people, from what I've heard. While we Verbena tend to life, to nature and the body, they tend to the spirits, the soul and what lies beyond normal eyes. Our mindsets do not match, but they are similiar, and we complete each other."
Order Of Hermes:
"The arrogance of the Choristers, without the religion, but with a god complex. If I had to choose between them and the Choristers, I would probably wager that the choristers at least care about the planet more."
"We've not forgotten our connection to creation. Our place in the circle of life. We get born. We live. We eat, sleep, teach our offspring, frolic and fuck. We bleed and die. Some of us teach ancient rites, others seek new ways. Some serve the Goddess directly, others worship her minor aspects. Some of us are close to humans, others go wild and savage. But no matter how different the groups of Verbena are..we all share our love for life. The love for creation. And our sense of duty to protect it, as Verbena taught Verbena since the first days of the Wyck, and as Lilith taught them."
"I have very good experiences with this lot. Back in Seattle, my best friend was an Euthanatos, and here in Prospect those that have crossed my path seem to be competent, friendly, humble and filled with a feeling of duty. It's strange how the percieved group of 'Death Mages' always seem to have their life so well under control. If you wish to find somebody to depend on, go to them."
"Welllll now. This lot is as chaotic as it can get. I met the whole range of hotshot yahoo brats, to introverted geniuses, to rebels with the weirdest causes. Give each a chance, cherry-pick, and don't suffer the fools."
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- Usually can be found on the streets of Prospect - where else would you find a "bum"?
- Does not tend to hang inside random establishments, unless a lack of money isn't a problem. Charity places, restaurants that offer free food to certain clientele, and such things.
- At times hangs at Roaster's, though her presence is spotty.
- Can be encountered in the woods south of Prospect - if you're lucky. Or unlucky.
- As a matter of fact, don't be surprised to see her wandering the desert either.
- A nude naturist of a more savage disposition - this witch lives and breathes nature, and not the safe and clean kind.
- Eager to find people interested in going 'off the grid' or living a more natural life
- Despite this, she often peoplespots in the urban jungle that are the towns and city of Prospect.
- Not shy of the messy parts of town. The bum life is a hard life.
- A follower of the Old Faith and old ways. Her gods are ancient, and her ways bloody and raw.
- A Dark Flower of Lilith, the first of the Wyck. Read: Xiu's a Bahari.
- Not opposed to hanging with willworkers and sorcerers of opposite dispositions - still, she only really warms up if the person is question has a more naturalistic view of things.
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