with a spirit that is deeply religious.
– Jean Cocteau
Xas looks like a young man in his fresh-faced prime, with black hair and blue eyes. He has an unremarkably pretty face, pleasant but easily forgotten, without any unusual features to draw attention. He's just under six feet tall and slender, looking like he'd weigh around 150 pounds. In reality he weighs closer to 70.
The muscles and bones in his back aren't quite human, designed to support wings. But the differences are hidden by a pelt of white feathers, smooth except where they're growing around and inside a pair of symmetrical, J-shaped scars. He has a gnarled knot of scar tissue on his side, with bits of the red and green marking that used to be in its place still visible at one edge of it. There's another, smaller scar on his chest; a few on his scalp, invisible under his hair; and a last one, barely a fleck, on his cheek. Otherwise his skin is pale - not bloodless, just European - and completely unmarked.
He used to have a faint, unsettled glow, like he was perpetually lit by a moon behind clouds. It made him both more difficult to get a good look at and, once someone managed, more unnaturally pretty. But it was God's presence on him, nothing innate. It's gone now, and good riddance.
While Xas doesn't suffer the delusion that he's ugly, by human standards, he does feel unnatural: not like he's been crippled, but like he's been forced into an entirely new shape. He prefers not to show people his back or to have it touched, even through clothing, and when he's unhappy it helps to press it against a wall or wind himself in a blanket. Sometimes he still makes odd, full-body gestures that don't quite convey his intended meaning absent the expressive spreading or annoyed twitching of wings.
He's curious, mostly. Almost all of the trouble Xas has ever gotten into has come down to being curious, whether he was following Lucifer to Hell or getting entangled with humans, and he still hasn't learned his lesson. He keeps himself manically busy - not necessarily employed, because with the exception of piloting, Xas has never stuck with anything for long, but he devours books, flits from club to bar and back again, and follows whatever enthusiasm or person has caught his interest until time or circumstance intervenes. He's rarely to never bored. If he's quiet and still, it's intentional, either to enjoy his surroundings or to sulk. Otherwise, faced with spare time, he'll go find something to fix or someone to help. He likes to feel useful, because it helps assuage the feeling that he's static and irrelevant and outside of time, that he just has an existence instead of a life.
Xas also likes people - and even when he doesn't like someone, he's usually interested in what they think about things, and why. He'll endure a great deal of boorish behavior if he finds someone intriguing enough. But while he's habitually amiable and altruistic, he doesn't feel genuinely attached to or responsible for to the majority of people he encounters. He does what he can and moves on. There's a limit to his compassion, one he put in place himself, a stopper to keep himself from draining out.
The limit doesn't always hold. There have been a handful of people he would really call his friends - Niall, Apharah, Sobran - and Xas doesn't regret giving any of them his whole heart, but he's also still mourning them, might be mourning them forever, and is never aiming to add someone new to that list.
Aside from that, nothing about his manner suggests that he's world-weary or wise, because he isn't. His otherworldliness comes more in the form boundless energy and naïvety. Back home, when he'd forget himself and talk about history or Heaven as if he'd been there, no one suspected it was more than an odd young man's whimsy. People still regularly surprise and bewilder him; for all his years watching them, like a child with an ant farm, he's only had that small handful of real friends, most of whom were more his guardians than he was theirs. The only time his age ever really threatens to show through is during his occasional moments of icy, ancient certainty, usually in response to someone trying to tell him about God or lecture him about how he's chosen to use his time.
He doesn't have patience for everyone, or for anyone all the time, no matter how much he loves them. And he's not above quarreling. When he acts like he is, it's usually just to needle whoever is arguing with him. He's good at arrogant loftiness. Sometimes he might lose his temper and shout, but more usually - when he's angry, or wounded, or lost - he falls silent instead, or else resentful and offhandedly cruel if forced to talk.
With physical confrontations, Xas is fittingly more flight than fight. But if a conflict is inescapable, or if someone somehow really pisses him off, he can switch off his empathy and turn all talon and teeth. He's one of a very small number of individuals who can tell you what it's like to bite the Devil.
Xas is pansexual with a preference (cautiously judged using a sample of exactly two relationships) for men. He enjoys sex, but his sex drive only kicks up when he has someone specific in mind, usually. There were a few years when he let anyone who wanted him do whatever they wanted to him. It was what he needed at the time, and he doesn't regret it, but he's also not interested anymore. He's fine going a few decades without getting any.
When he is getting some - for the record - he's enthusiastic, mischievous, grasping, investigative, and open to rough handling.
Although he's monogamous by default, he's accustomed to that not being mutual.
- Flight (former): Until 1836, Xas had a twenty-foot wingspan and spent the majority of his time in the air. Now he just has the leftover physiology - feathers, hollow bones, foamy blood, a few extra muscles in his back, a few unnecessary human organs altogether absent.
- Strength: Stronger than he looks but not as strong as you might think. Given his light weight, he can leap straight up about twenty feet and make the landing look graceful - but, given the same, a determined human could pin him down.
- Resilience: In his world, the only thing that could permanently harm or alter Xas was another angel. In Baedal, he's vulnerable to the things his God didn't take into account when designing him, namely magic. But he still won't age or be harmed by anything "normal," like microbial illnesses or falling anvils.
- Re: Pain: He feels it. He ignores it.
- Re: Sustenance: He only sleeps when he wants to and only eats out of manners - and then eats as little as he can get away with, because what goes in has to come back out. He doesn't need to drink, either, but he likes the taste of alcohol.
- Leeching: In the event that he is seriously injured, his body sucks the life out of nearby things to try to repair itself. He might look dead for a while but not quite actually be dead, while everything around him slowly dies. So if you are going to kill him, leave his body somewhere out of the way.
- Commands (former): Xas formerly possessed angelic dominion over nature and life and all of that, albeit not very much of it: even ordering about small things would make him start to bleed. It also wasn't so much his power as God's, used with permission, so in Baedal it's altogether useless.
Arid gardening, flying and building various contraptions from the 1920s or earlier, wing walking and free falling, some carnival tricks. He used to be considered well read and well traveled, before the printing press and the loss of his wings limited his ability to keep up with the world. Now most of his knowledge is now archaic, and it stops entirely with what was available to be learned in America in 1930.
He speaks a lot of languages - at the very least, French, Burgundian, German, Spanish (Peruvian Coastal), Sinti-Manouche, Arabic, and his own native tongue. But they're all learned, not supernaturally acquired, and with varying degrees of fluency. He can also read and write in a lot of languages that he wouldn't have the first idea how to actually speak, due to spending a lot more time reading books in Hell than talking to humans.
In Xas's world, angels are animals - uniquely durable ones, but still flesh and blood. They access Hell through a salt dome in Turkey and Heaven through a volcanic lake in Antarctica. Hell is perpetually uncomfortable, its main feature being God's absence and its secondary feature being unhappy, aggressive demons, but people aren't tortured so much as they're left to their own miserable devices. The resident fallen angels live in a palace that's full to brimming with books: per one of Lucifer's deals with God, Hell receives one of every copied piece of writing.
Heaven, meanwhile, receives only destroyed originals. Its inhabitants are blissfully happy.
The war between God and the Devil occurred 300 years before the birth of Christ. Before that point, Lucifer was God's messenger. He happened upon Hell, already populated by demons, while running his errands. It was the first time he'd been out of God's presence, and the first time he was able to think without God's oversight or answers. That thinking led him to suspect that God didn't create the world; he created angels, of course, but only in an imperfect attempt to replicate humans, and Earth itself was something he found and appointed himself lord over, the same way Lucifer had stumbled upon Hell.
When Lucifer tried to share his ideas, it ended in a war. Lucifer and his supporters were exiled and colonized Hell, with all of the subjugation of the demon population that colonization implies. (Xas has some feelings about that.) Since then, Lucifer has struck a variety of bargains with God and corrals the souls that God deems unworthy of entering Heaven, but he isn't the malicious trickster from folk stories.
Xas believes Lucifer's heresy, most of the time, and in the meantime has developed his own problem with God. He believes that by separating souls from bodies, and filtering out the imperfections and pain, God destroys the essential parts of people. Having gotten attached to a few humans, he's pretty hacked off about it.
Xas didn't fight in the war in Heaven, but he followed Lucifer when he was banished, curious to hear the rest of what he had to say. When he later left Hell, he was caught by both Lucifer and God. God, it turned out, considered Xas more misplaced than exiled and wanted him back. Lucifer refused. After quarreling for a while they came to an agreement that stipulated, among other things, that Xas could travel where he liked, and that Lucifer would only be able to speak to God when he was with Xas. They signed his side and let him go.
For a while after that Xas watched human wars from the air, stole interesting trinkets (like guns) to take back to his siblings in Hell, and collected plants to grow a garden there. He didn't befriend any humans until the 1600s, when a bee-keeping Irish monk caught Xas trying to take one of his hives. They remained friends until Niall inevitably died. Xas went to Heaven to visit him once, but the version of Niall he found there was perfect, happy, and disturbingly alien. Xas never tried to visit anyone he knew there again. And whenever Lucifer periodically offered to return Xas permanently to God and to Heaven, he always said no.
His second friend, Apharah, was a young widow in Damascus who caught him stealing plants from her garden in 1801. (It was a habit.) She once made him promise to find another person and meet with them once a year, to learn how to measure time properly. In 1808, that person ended up being Sobran, a French peasant who decided Xas was his personal good luck charm and ask for advice about his marriage and vineyards. It took Xas nine years to fall in love with him, then another fifteen years to touch him.
The first time Xas tried to return to Heaven after that was his last. Michael, who wasn't a fan of God's deal with Xas to begin with, maimed him and left him for dead. Lucifer saved him out of brotherly affection, then cut off his wings out of defiance: he wanted God to know he wasn't saving Xas because he wanted to speak to Him. He left without explaining himself.
Xas was devastated over the loss of his wings and over God and Lucifer's perceived abandonment of him: he thought, and still mistakenly thinks, they were punishing him for being unchaste, sentencing him to his own purgatory to make him repent. He barely moved (and was kind of a dick) for months on end. Eventually Sobran couldn't stand it anymore, threw him out of the house - literally, through the window - and told him to go away. Xas did. Once he'd learned to get along on his own and pass for a human, he went back. He was was still creeping into Sobran's bed even when Sobran was too old to do more than talk to him. And after Sobran died in 1863, Xas spent a frankly embarrassing length of time hiding and trying to stop time.
Even after he began moving again, he was cold and aimless until 1909, when he bribed his way into his first airplane. Getting back into the air gave him some purpose. He gave his name as Hans Ritt to join the German military during the first World War, as a navigator for an airship; he deserted before the war's end when Lucifer caught up to him. Then he used Sobran's name to get a pilot's license, since German nationals were viewed with suspicion. He worked as a wingwalker in Europe for a while, then joined the stunt pilots in Hollywood and started sleeping with a wealthy filmmaker/aviator named Conrad Cole and living with two friends, a fellow pilot named Millie Cotton and a film editor named Flora McLeod. He would happily have stayed there, but first Lucifer found him; then Conrad - a germaphobe, among other things - contracted a venereal disease, blamed Xas, and tried to kill him by dumping him out of an open cockpit and into the ocean.
And then suddenly Baedal.
HappeningsXas arrived in Baedal directly from the Pacific Ocean, wearing some very wet flight gear and accompanied by his pilot's license. Since then, he has:
- Begun a new and exciting phase in his ongoing existential crisis.
- Adopted a plant.
- Learned about technologies.
- Made some money doing odd jobs.
- Immediately spent all of that money on unnecessary things.
- Discovered that some things in Baedal can make him bleed.
- Hidden from monsters in a church.
- Befriended dozens of drunk NPCs.
- Hung out on some roofs like a creep.
- Not flown even one thing, not even once, what is this shit.
Points of ReferenceThe stone must by its own nature go downwards, because hardness is weakness. The bird can of its nature go upwards, because fragility is force. In perfect force there is a kind of frivolity, an airiness that can maintain itself in the air... Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.
––G.K. CHESTERSONWe all have one story. But what would you do after that and that and that day after day after dozens hundreds thousands and ten thousands of time?
––F. SCOTT FITZGERALDIf I could I would make you a raging river with angry rapids, supplied with rain,
so you could always meander and forever be able to run away
without contending with myths wrongly interpreted, with pain.
––THE WEAKERTHANSAnd if in trying to soar you've gotten nowhere
Let yourself fall, endlessly fearlessly fall, to the depths of darkness
Unafraid of the mystery of yourself
-–VICENTE HUIDOBROThis is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
––WALT WHITMANA thousand thousand years pass through me
stoned on loneliness and movies.
––ANAÏS MITCHELLBe not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
––HEBREWS 13:2Could a stone escape from the laws of gravity? Impossible. Impossible for evil to form an alliance with good.
––COMTE DE LAUTRÉAMONTWe must devour pleasure
Use up all the life in life
––VICENTE HUIDOBROInstead of forever hovering above I'd like to feel a weight grow in me to end the infinity and to tie me to earth. I'd like, at each step, each gust of wind, to be able to say "Now. Now and now," and no longer "forever" and "for eternity."
--WINGS OF DESIREThe minds eye can nowhere find anything more dazzling or more dark than in man; it can fix itself upon nothing which is more awful, more complex, more mysterious or more infinite. There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.
Xas is from The Vintner's Luck & The Angel's Cut by Elizabeth Knox, which everyone should read.
There is also a film version of The Vintner's Luck, which no one should watch.
I've intentionally altered and/or removed some of the canon to make him more manageable in a game. If you'd like a list, just ask. Because I have one.