Monday 29 May 2017

Butterfly People

All right-thinking people of Pretannic Empire know to avoid those harbingers and bringers of Death, the Moths and Butterflies. Within the Savage Lands we have yet to bring to heel, there are tribes who worship them, but these are people who bear their skin to the Sun, allow children to speak freely, drink with their left hands, and do not know the value of a diamond, so we should not be surprised they are so easily misled by pretty colours and do not understand the Full Danger posed by Lepidoptera.

Even among our Hallowed Empire, however, and not just among those Natives we have recently brought into our Power, nor even just among the Poor and Wastrel classes, there are Deviants who break the Taboo and will not fight against this Threat. Worse, we of the True Moral Foundation are restrained from bringing such Deviants to Justice, for there are  those right into the Highest Echelons of our Society who find uses for the Strange Powers that the Deviants acquire.

To explain: there are many who are fascinated by Lepidoptera and wish to study them for their beauty and their relationship with Death. We know they are always found when a person dies, so if we can find a way to keep them out, can we prevent Death? Research into this has so far proved fruitless and some speculate that the act of a person dying is how these Creatures are brought into our World. Such superstition is of course nonsense and unfitting for a student of Science in the modern World. For some, the fascination extends beyond curiosity and the furtherment of science. I have interviewed such an individual, and they tell me they feel physically drawn to the butterflies and their acts of deviancy. I attempted to Correct this young man, chaining him in a locked room away from strong Light such as excites moths, but he slipped his bounds and escaped, I know not to where. It did not surprise me: there are stories of such people being able to evade blows with the lightness of movement that one sees in their Idols, even of them being able to run through Forest branches, leaping from leaf to leaf as though they weighed nothing.

These are not the Qualities that keep them protected, however. 

There are believed to be two types of Butterfly Deviant: the 'Butterfly Dancers' who learn the abilities described above by dancing with butterflies. Indeed, I have seen such Rituals take place, for while it is Impossible to infiltrate their Societies - and they do form groups and seek out new Wanderers, but seem able to sense when one is not truly of their type - it is possible to spy upon them, and I have done this very thing. A large bonfire is lit of an evening, with Herbs thrown upon it to summon the butterflies. A frenzied, leaping dance ensues, and it is here, one presumes, that the techniques are learnt. The ability that the Butterfly Dancers are believed to posess that protects them is that they can learn a dance that will summon butterflies. Why does this keep them protected, you ask? Well, if you have an Elderly Relative whose passing you wish to Hasten that they may expire before their fortune does, simply call a Butterfly Dancer to summon the butterflies who will steal his Soul from his Body. I have even heard of those who, bored of caring for an unwell Child, would summon the butterflies to ease them of their burden, an Atrocious Act that should be stopped but which the Eternal Empress allows simply because it is not politically suitable to force the end of such Practice. She is, no doubt, Prudent and Wise, but in this I do not Understand her Purpose.

Secondly, there are the 'Butterfly Singers', who are believed to be able to communicate with the Lepidoptera, who come at Death, and are able to postpone a Passing. Tolerance of these may therefore sound more understandable, but remember they are still Deviant and Unclean in their Practice, and such communication would also allow them to pick a different Target for Death. Have you ever had a friend or family member die suddenly and unexpectedly? Could it not be that a Butterfly Singer has sung them to Death? These Assassins are more Dangerous than the Dancers, for they do not even need to be in the same room as their victim.

As always, I ask all members of the True Moral Foundation to watch for Immoral Behaviours and Types and to alert us to any New Dangers you may find.
~ Constantin Ebenezer MakePeace, High Master of the True Moral Foundation

'Butterfly People' is the name outside society gives to the small percentage who, instead of fearing the small insects intrinsically associated with death by the society that creates Butterfly People, are drawn to them. The fear is learnt by most small children, but there are a few who never learn it. Parents often spot these children allowing a moth or butterfly to alight upon their fingers - and notice the willingness of the normally wary insects to do so. Not everyone is as censorous as those of the 'True Moral Foundation' (and other such organisations who feel it is their place to police how others act), but fear of moths and butterflies is deeply engrained and all but the most liberal-minded struggle to deal with learning a friend or family member is a Butterfly Person.

What causes the affinity with butterflies isn't clear. No aspect of society has an greater or lesser chance of producing a Butterfly Person, and there doesn't seem to be any action that can be taken or avoided to increase or decrease the chances. It seems to be innate, and there are some families where it seems to run in the bloodline, but more often there is no known relative or remembered ancestor who could have passed along a gene, and Butterfly People parents rarely produce offspring with the affinity. Without affinity, it isn't possible to learn any of the supernatural abilities (though greater dexterity and empathy is likely to follow from the training regardless).

The Butterfly People don't necessarily use the name themselves. Many do, simply for ease, but others - especially those who found themselves particularly shunned - may call themselves simply "Moths". "Death Walker", "Death's Daughter" and similar are also common. The distinction between "Dancer" and "Singer" is false, or at least as confused as the distinction between moths and butterflies. It is more a question of focus and experience, as anyone born with the affinity can learn any of the abilities.

Supernatural Abilities: I'm providing a few suggestions on abilities that fit my concept, and suggestions on what they might do in a game, but I haven't picked a particular system for this so am not giving explicit examples of how it would be implemented (maybe in the future, when I have more confidence in game design).

Wing's Breadth Dodge
Rocks fell down towards us. She was ahead of me and sure to be struck - but with a strange, fluid twist she evaded them.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Increases character's dodge/reflex.

Dodge Between Raindrops
The downpour was sudden and torrential, yet when we reached the house I saw he wasn't even damp.
Pre-req: Wing's Breadth Dodge
Game affect: Character can evade small environmental missiles such as rain, cigarette smoke and mosquitoes with no effort. This is a minor, always-active affect that could give a boost to endurance in relevant environments or reduce risk of disease carried by insects or water droplets. 

Flying Leap
As her dance became more frenzied, so her leaps became higher and higher, until she was reaching heights no human should be able.
Pre-req: none
Game affect: Doubles jump distance (horizontal or vertical)

Light as a Breath
I saw him run and hurried to give chase, but as I reached the snow-covered field I saw he'd left no footprints.
Pre-req: Flying Leap
Game affect: When active, character leaves no footprints and can run or leap across surfaces that should not be able to take their weight - such as water or leaves still on the tree (these will only take the weight for a moment, though: attempting to stand or walk on such a surface will not work).

Butterfly's Wing Dodge
I sliced at her flank, a clear, decisive blow. Yet when I should have felt the resistance of her flesh against my blade there was nothing but air, and I heard her behind me, laughing
Pre-req: Wing's Breadth Dodge, Flying Leap
Game affect: A perfect dodge - character is not hit by the incoming blow, but instead flits impossibly fast to a clear location with a few paces.

Butterfly's Dirge
I called him in when I saw my daughter would not get better. He took my hand so gently, rested his other on her forehead and sang a sad and gentle song. A blue butterfly landed gentle on her chest: she relaxed, smiled, and died.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Character can (through song, dance, or other means) summon butterflies who will ease the passing of a severely ill or injured character (An enhanced version could do the same for a number of characters.)

Spirit Moth
She settled herself on his grave, then her eyes rolled back in her head and when she spoke it was in his voice, and white butterflies crawled from her mouth.
Pre-req: None
Game affect: Character can act as a medium to speak with dead. (An enhanced version would allow this to happen against the dead person's will.) 

Death's Intervention
It was a difficult birth, and I was sure both my wife and child would die, especially when I saw the swarm of moths cover them. Yet somehow, both survived.
Pre-req: Butterfly's Dirge, Spirit Moth
Game affect: Character can summon butterflies and attempt to intercede with Death for the life of an individual (or individuals). This can bring someone back from the brink of death (or even after...), but should be difficult and involve some form of bargain. The character may have to trade part of their own life, or offer (or have offered) people collected by Butterfly's Dirge - or maybe there's an individual who's been evading Death for too long and Death wants them to learn they cannot win forever...

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