It took HOURS to find a ref I was happy with. No pink in his skin because loldead, no blood, but I couldn't help putting a tiny tinge in the scar and his lips. He just looked too monochrome without it. After all the hassles, though, that's Yan. The bit I've been looking forward to and anxious over at the same time, what does he look like now in my developed style? LIKE THAT. HELL YES. I've been so proud of all the top eight so far. They look like them!
NAME King Yan of Yraekin
WHO IS THIS PERSON Raykin's first king who ruled around a thousand years ago. He's dead now.
AGE Technically 1100 but he appears 43 because that's how old he was when he died.
BRIEF BIO *cracks fingers* In Yan's time of life, civilisation hadn't been invented yet. Raykinians, though they didn't call themselves that yet, lived pretty much as the modern day desert groups do now, in family groups of around 20 people wandering the desert, hunting and gathering and generally just trying to survive. Yan's group was far upstream on the Ra-Lin at the time of his birth. He was taught early on the value of life, a teaching that has goverened his life and his existence ever since.
When he was three, lions attacked his family group. Yan's parents dove in front of him to save their son, and both died for their efforts. Yan was too young to have really gotten to know them, but he believes they were stupid to throw away their lives so recklessly. They were strong and healthy, much better suited to hunting than dying. He had always been a quiet boy, but the other members of his family group sort of forgot about that and blamed his desire for solitude on the loss of his parents, but really they had very little to do with it. They were just a catalyst, the beginning of his questioning why leaders would tell him one thing, that life is precious, then do the complete opposite by throwing their own lives away. He spent much of his teenage years studying the group's elders and figuring out ways of getting them to do what he wanted without actively asking them to do it. Eventually he wanted to lead from the front, but knew that as a scrawny teenager he didn't have a chance at it just yet.
History, of course, remembers something completely different. Yan was 17 when he found the yrae, a magical blue bird bigger than an eagle with a long, graceful neck and vicious predator's beak and, most importantly, a long blue ribbon of a tail with a magic feather at its tip. Even then there were legends about the yrae, but they were all completely fantastic and, most people thought, made up as stories. After watching it in fascination for a few moments, Yan picked up his hunting bow and shot the bird down, whereupon it disappeared in a flash of white light, leaving only the magic feather behind in the sand.
The yrae feather gave him wings, massive black bat-like wings that he folds against his back something like a cloak. It also gave him untold magical power, 'untold' because he wasn't about to let the secrets of it slip. Many later on attributed his manipulative powers to the yrae feather, believing it must have had some sort of mind control, but as we've established, he started manipulating people long before he got his fingers on the yrae feather.
The next year, as per tradition at the time, Yan married his bride arranged since they were both young children, Aliah, who not only shared his ambition but encouraged it. With the feather and Aliah's support, Yan took unchallenged control of the family group. He moved them to the river, founding what would become Ni-Yana. All the ideas he'd been brewing over the past decade and a half came to fruition, building houses out of rock and mud bricks, using water from the river to start farming crops and trapping animals to breed and farm. He flew up and down the length of the Ra-Lin, bringing the news of this new civilisation to any people he could find. Many came to settle in his growing city, while others started building their own along the river. By the time he was 24, the people had started calling their civilisation Yraekin, of which Yan crowned himself king, with Aliah at his side as queen.
They had three children together, twin daughters, Mina and Aké and a son, Noku, but Mina was clearly Yan's favourite. He taught her the value of life the same as he had learned himself, only with greater emphasis because of their new living conditions. Just because it seemed easier to live in the city (not much more than a town by modern Raykinian standards) it didn't mean she could lose sight of where they had come from.
As a ruler, though, Yan was a tyrant. Whether the power of ruling got to his head, or the power of the yrae feather, or simply because he was already a bit batshit, Yan ruled with a cast-iron fist. He continued to manipulate everyone around him, forced orders on people who'd chosen to follow him and banished anyone who disobeyed to the desert. Perhaps not as bad as tyrants yet to come, but compared to the family elders they had all previously been led by, he was a monster. When he was 43, almost 20 years into his reign, his advisor Qewir had had enough of the brutality. While he was asleep, Qewir snuck into his bedroom and stabbed him through the eye with a sword. He banished Aliah and Yan's children to the desert, along with any who supported him, and threw the yrae feather into the Ra-Lin where nobody would be tempted by its evil ever again.
Except, of course, Yan's story doesn't end there. Forty years later, he 'woke up'. Two women were lying beside him, both dead and looking to be in their sixties, but he recognised them as his beautiful twin daughters. More of his family had thrown their lives away to keep him going. He wasn't even alive; he knew that almost instantly, but the full realisation was terrifying. He couldn't bring himself to hold a hand over his heart, knowing he wouldn't feel any heartbeat there.
He left his daughters and the grave of his wife behind and made for Ni-Yana. His city had been deserted and left an empty ruin of crumbling mudbrick, but he guessed that Qewir had led the people downstream. It had always been their plan, to move to where the land was more fertile near the ocean, so Yan began the long walk to Ni-Qewira. For the long weeks, he didn't sleep. He almost felt sometimes like he could fall asleep, but then the paranoia would jolt him awake. Sleep was what had killed him before, and besides, his body didn't know anymore when it had eaten enough food or drunk enough water, how would it know if he'd had enough sleep? He might never wake up again. Whatever magic it was that was keeping him less-dead also kept him awake, but didn't keep him sane.
By the time he found Qewir, in a grander palace than what Yan had built for himself and his family, all he wanted was revenge. Qewir, as he'd suspected, had kept the yrae feather hidden under one of the flagstones in his office. Yan used it to kill his former advisor, then spread his wings and left the city behind.
Here's where some massive gaps will come in because I haven't got the foggiest idea what he did for a good chunk of the intervening thousand years between then and now. For the first hundred or so he spent wondering whether or not he felt for killing Qewir, because now more than ever he values life, but in his eyes Qewir was irredeemable. He's pretty much gotten over it now.
Over the years Yan has sat the throne of all four kingdoms, including Kazin, but what he did while he was there I'm not entirely certain. My guess is that he started out with noble intentions of stopping them from killing each other, then the power-lust crept up on him again and he had the sense to get out before he made it worse. Death sucks, man. Wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Around the year 200, which is all measured from when Yan found the yrae, just so you know, was when the First Great Drought happened. Raykinians measure it as 23 days, but the thing about droughts is that they creep up on you. For years, no rain fell throughout most of Raykin. Even Kazin was dry, so that the mighty Ra-Lin shrank over the course of those years to a creek, a trickle, and finally little more than a strategically placed line of puddles in an otherwise dry bed. Those are the 23 days that Raykin counts as being the Great Drought. Yan's part in all this was relatively minimal. He certainly had no part in causing it, but he could see it happening. He saw the waterholes in the desert drying up and tried to get the desert people, his descendants, to the river and the cities where they could live. By the time the rain came and the river started flowing again, though, Raykin had been decimated. Yan took over ruling to try and build it back up again, and show them where they went wrong to prepare for the next one. He reminded them all of where they had all come from, but at the suggestion of letting the desert people back into the cities Yan was banished back to 'where he came from' in the desert.
In between spouts of ruling the known world, Yan spent a lot of time trying to figure out what on earth it was keeping him from keeling over like most dead people, because this was no magic he had ever taught his daughters. He wanted to live again, and whenever he heard any rumours linking magic and life, he chased them down. The Great Eastern Desert, for example, is rumoured to be where Aeia lives, so he spent a hundred years searching it as only an inexhaustible, magcally powered dead man could. He found nothing. Literally nothing but sand and sky. For that hundred years it didn't rain, there wasn't any life so much as a fly or a blade of tough brown grass. If Aeia was out there, which he certainly wasn't about to deny having seen the place, she wasn't going to let him find her. He'd started his search when he'd been kicking around for about four hundred years.
When he left the desert a hundred years later, two stories had emerged, the first of Rutherford and the dragons and, more importantly, his eternal life. After gleaning as much about this story as he could, Yan sought Rutherford out about five hundred years ago. He told Yan that if he earned the great dragon Oak's trust, then she may tell him the secret to eternal life. Oak scared Yan a bit in the early days, and knowing that she could see his past and how much he ached to have it back he figured he'd never earn her trust, so he headed back home for a bit before getting onto her, where he found a second, more promising story.
Among the desert people there were rumours that someone had found an yrae feather, though they didn't know whether she had found Yan's old feather or an entirely new one. Obviously Yan did, so before he started doing anything about Oak, he flew off to search out this second yrae feather, hoping maybe he could use it to give him life. He found Haela after she'd had the feather for 21 years herself, and was only too happy to give it up to him.
For a few decades he tried to make the feathers work together, but never really came up with anything satisfactory. Then something started happening around the year 650 to distract him: the Second Great Drought. This time Yan was firmly on the side of the desert people. He got them prepared for war, led them to Ni-Yana (which was once again the capital by this point) and fought for their right to the water. Most of the riverfolk had abandoned Raykin to seek out water in Llayad by this point, but those that remained fought tooth and nail for what little water there was left. This drought war, more than their ancestory, is the major reason now for riverfolks' prejudice against desert people. Yan regrets that a lot.
He made his way back to his old friend Rutherford and spilled his story, to which Rutherford sympathised greatly. Rutherford decided then that there might be more to Yan than what history told, and encouraged him to talk more with Oak and earn her trust. What had taken Rutherford three decades took Yan a few hundred years. He's not particularly trustworthy. I don't know what he actually did in the end, but eventually she did tell him, and with it the truth that would prevent him from ever using that secret for himself: Life is for the living.
The Third Great Drought occurred about 200 years ago, so about the year 850. Remembering what a mess he'd made of the last one, Yan decided to just watch this one play out from the sidelines and see how they handled it without him. Raykin blamed Kazin for using all the water that should have been flowing down the Ra-Lin and went to war over it. Bloody humanity. This kind of thing is why he always wonders why he's the one to be remembered as a tyrant. At least he never started a war.
53 years ago, bang on the year 1000, Yan's two yrae feathers started, well, glowing is a strong word. Yrae magic looks like a heat haze, nothing of actual substance, just wavering air. But both the feathers started shimmering like that heat haze of yrae magic. Just for a few minutes, but because this was exactly a thousand years since he'd seen his yrae, and exactly five hundred since Haela had seen hers, he was pretty certain this meant there was a third yrae in the world. He flew back to Ni-Yana and learned that a boy had come down from the northern borderlands looking for an yrae, and so followed the Ra-Lin north looking for him. He found Raqif not long after he'd left and once again pilfered the yrae feather from him.
By this stage, Yan had learnt enough about magic and life to have a plan forming in his mind. A real one, not just chasing rumours, because I'm deliberately skipping a spoilery bit here. He's done a bit of swordwork in his time, mostly because he felt he should, and signed up once again to the Raykinian army shortly after he got the third yrae feather. He made it to First General pretty quickly, mostly to get in with the royal family as part of his plan. When the queen died in childbirth 23 years ago, First General Yan quietly 'died' the next day of some sudden illness that people mostly ignored because the queen had just died.
A decade later and suddenly plot starts happening! Yan turns up back in Ni-Yana and breaks into the lives of a couple of innocent little twin girls, killing their parents right in front of them (...though frankly I'm dubious about that, to say the least) and taking them both to the desert where they had no choice but to accept his gifts of an yrae feather each. He wiped the memory of one and told the other they weren't allowed to meet again until their 20th birthday, then nicked off up to Kazin to get himself in with the empress and her Bouquet, did some stuff over in Llayad and Tsayth, and that's where we are. THERE the history of the world according to Yan.
CHARACTER Outwardly, Yan gives very little away and simply comes across as stoic, uncaring and cold, however a lot more goes on in his head than that.
Yan values life over everything, and always has. He grew up in a harsh time in the desert, and was brought up to respect the life of every individual, not least of all his own. He's seen first his parents, then his children throw away their lives in an attempt to save his, and he knows them all to be a waste. Wars make him particularly angry.
He believes strongly in the truth, and has never lied. He may bend the truth slightly, or allow people to believe something else, or just not elaborate on an answer unless he's asked to, but he sees no reason to lie outright. He generally hides himself, but if someone asks who he is, he'll answer truthfully. It's up to them whether they believe him or not.
He’s incredibly clever at manipulation. He can plant the faintest whisper of a seed in someone’s mind so that they believe they came up with the idea themselves. So good at it that it could be magic, but for the fact it’s not only those with desert magic who he manipulates.
Yan bears enduring grudges, and over the centuries he’s become quite adept at acting upon them. He’ll slowly work to turn everyone close to the person against them, without them even realising it’s him who’s turning them. It’s more fun manipulating people like that.
He enjoys creating new experiences for himself. The world can only entertain him on its own for so long. Sooner or later he starts stirring things up for his own entertainment.
He doesn’t like being reminded that he’s dead. In the instances where he is, he feels a desperate need to fly to clear his mind of such memories.
POINTS OF INTEREST