Anima Banner: A scarab made of lavender fire rises into the air and spreads its wings.
Many heroic stories are told throughout the South of a certain folk legend and culture hero. According to the stories, this figure carries two fire-breathing pistols and keeps a third weapon in reserve that is either a red jade short spear, a fire lance or a firewand fitted with a bayonet. Some details remain the same in most stories, including the hero’s sex, his general description and his merciless, righteous demeanor.
Beyond those similarities, the events of the stories vary from region to region. Some say the hero once rode an enormous golden scarab beetle, or possibly an agata he captured and tamed. Some say he lives in a mansion in the heart of a dormant volcano, emerging only when “his people” need him.
One tale depicts him sailing the desert in a boat made of ice, which he won in a card game from a raksha noble. The farther it went, the more it melted—from the size of a four-masted bark to that of a galleon, a caravel, a felucca and finally a raft. Another account has him living for a time in the ear of an island-sized tortoasis, whispering to it directions that it mistook for its own thoughts.
Naturally, many of these stories are made up, but folklorists are occasionally able to trace certain legends back to fantastical real-world events—some going all the way back to the dawn of the Second Age. Such is the way of folklore when historical records fail, they declare, but playwrights, junk theorists and hack authors have popularized another idea. They speculate that most of the stories that seem to be about that same hero actually are about that same hero. That man, they claim, would have to be either an Anathema, a rogue demon or some other manifest spirit who’s been around since the end of the First Age.
This idea remained inoffensive popular nonsense for years, until recently, when all-new stories about the hero began to circulate. In one cycle of tales, he and “the Silver Preacher” face off time and again, alternately getting the better of one another.
The most recent tale has the hero descending into “the Screaming City” to pursue the Preacher after some unforgivable wrong. Another has him battling Lintha pirates in their secret lair in order to steal “the ocean’s most valuable pearl.” One legend in the Martial Arts World has him descending into the Underworld to find and challenge the soul of one Master Manoco Salamander—the long-dead founder of the South’s foremost Golden Exhalation Style martial arts school.
The cause of the sudden explosion of these stories across the South is the emergence (reemergence?) of a Solar Exalt who matches the superficial description of the hero of the older stories. He wanders the South, settling in its major cities long enough to expose and eradicate rampant corruption or to help defend them against dire threats from beyond their walls. When the threat ends, he leaves again, having laid down no roots in the community.
He rarely so much as gives his name. Some Exalted who claim to have met him have reliable First Age memories of the martial arts style he uses, and use its modern name as a sobriquet to refer to him. They do so obliquely, however, rather than calling him by that name directly. He apparently finds that rude. When people talk about him, they usually do so with a subtle, unique inflection on pronouns that refer to him. It doesn’t translate very well outside the original Flametongue, but native Flametongue speakers understand it perfectly well when they hear it.
As to whether the Solar who’s active today is the same person from verified historical accounts or has simply adopted that persona for the acclaim and anonymity it provides him… It’s anyone’s guess. And he isn’t saying.