Player Name: James
Character Name: Abagha
Abagha is getting on in years. His face is lined with wrinkles, his hair is greying, and each new winter is just that little bit more uncomfortable for his joints. He wears a thick quilted tunic dyed a dark blue, and furs to ward against the cold.
He's still fit to ride, but it's been a few years since he could match strength against strength in a brawl or melee. Still, he's survived to a ripe old age, and has dedicated his final years to helping share his wisdom with his nephew Bataar. Whether the youngster likes it or not.
=Golden Eagle - Ganchalgyn=
Having outlived his beloved wife, Abagha is perhaps closer to his eagle companion than he is to any other entity in the world.
One of the long-lived Xiongnu Golden Eagles, Ganchalgyn has grown up with Abagha, the two paired since Abagha was a youth and Ganchalgyn was a fledgeling. They share an understanding of each other, and the empathic bond the eagle formed with Abagha has grown strong over the years.
Abagha's hunting bow does not have quite the pull of the younger Bataar's war-ready bow, but unarmoured flesh on a man has no more resistance to an arrow's bite than that of a wolf's pelt.
Abagha's horse is as tough, stubborn, and feisty as his wife used to be, though aging about as well as Abagha. The old nomad stubbornly refuses to ride younger or faster horses while his 'wifelike horse' is still capable. The sturdy old mare has perhaps three more years of usefulness in her before Abagha will be forced by necessity to ride a new horse, something the old nomad does not look forward to. He and his horse have had a long history as partners on the steppes.
Abagha dresses for winter weather, with thick quilted tunics and furs. Even when it isn't that cold. The aging nomad also has both a traditional Xiongnu deel and a Tian Xian changshan embroidered with Xiongnu designs for appropriate occasions, though he has had less need to wear either of them recently.
===Powers or Strengths===
Abagha is one of his tribes Eagle Hunters, men who are raised side-by-side with a golden eagle companion to act as both the tribe's scouts and hunters. The Xiongnu Golden Eagles, altered over the centuries by ambient astral energies, live as long as an average tribesman and can form empathic bonds. Communication of a sort becomes possible the longer the two are partnered, as the eagle shares semi-surreal imagery and sensations in a stream-of-consciousness fashion with their partner. Only time, experience, and mutual understanding allows the Eagle and Eagle Hunter to be able to make the most of that connection. Abagha, and his eagle Ganchalgyn, have become as closeknit as blood-brothers over the years.
Where Bataar enjoys the Topshur, Abagha has learnt the art of Xiongnu throat-singing, and will often accompany Bataar's topshur to pass the time by the campfires of a night time.
=Emissary and Diplomat=
For many years, Abagha served his tribe as the designated intermediary between his tribe and Tian Xia. Abagha's easy-going and placid nature, his adequate knowledge of the imperial language, and his knack for haggling and negotiation made him an ideal replacement for when his predecessor was killed on a visit to the Tian Xian outpost city of Bei-An.
As a result of his many visits, along with his friendly and generous nature, Abagha has many friends and contacts in Bei-An.
Abagha has lived on horseback with eagle and bow for over three decades. His accuracy when stationary is on par with the best of his tribe despite his advancing years and the slow onset of arthritis. His aim is still decent when on horseback, though the younger tribesmen will generally win those contests.
Riding is now more natural for Abagha than walking. He and his horse share a history of years together, and it responds to his slightest prompts instantly. Which is fortunate, because Abagha would not enjoy walking for any length or distance these days.
=Not getting any younger, damn it=
He really isn't. The average lifespan of a Xiongnu tribesman ranges from fifty to seventy years of age, with the women generally living the longest. Arthritis has started to affect his joints, and spending time out of the saddle becomes less appealing with each passing day as his joints resist the usage that regular walking demands of them.
=Never too old for a pretty face=
Abagha is easily swayed by a beautiful woman, and rarely looks for deceit in their words or actions. An unrepentant flirt, within an hour of entering a city like Bei-An, Abagha will generally find some excuse to visit a 'Tea House' where pretty young girls will play the 2-stringed topshur or 3-stringed shudraga for him. It was not always this way but then, once upon a time, Abagha had a beautiful wife whose fiery temperament captured his attentions completely. Her passing affected the nomad deeply, and his flirtations help him deal with the pain of her loss.
=Love, loss, and life thereafter=
Her name was Chuluunsetseg. She was as wild as a steppes storm, and her eyes flashed like lightning when she laughed. She was everything to Abagha in his youth, and he spent years leading up to his formal adulthood making a fool of himself with outrageously risky and daring behaviour to win her affections. Their families deemed it a good match, and the formal gifts were given at the appropriate time. On the day of the wedding, Abagha won the traditional race to the wedding yurt, and close to a decade of happiness followed their union.
Some tongues began to wag when the two failed to produce any offspring, and speculation arose as to which of the pair was responsible. Abagha and Chuluunsetseg, infatuated with each other beyond caring, ignored the strain their childlessness brought between their two families. But that would eventually prove irrelevant in the face of a greater tragedy.
Unknown to all, Chuluunsetseg had been born with a weak heart. But so what if her heart pounded so loudly when she galloped into the wind, so what if a mischievous wrestling match with Abagha left her breathless sooner than he? The symptoms never manifested in a way which caused enough concern to cause her to stop and consider her health.
One day, her heart stopped. Abagha tries not to remember that day. Instead, he remembers her at her best and wildest. His love for her did not end with her passing, and he has adamantly refused all serious matchmaking attempts presented by his tribe. He instead finds comfort in the expectations-free environment of Bei-An teahouses where he can rest his head on a pretty girl's lap, close his eyes as she plays the Shudraga, and dream of Chuluunsetseg.
As a result, there are certain families within the tribe who still hold a small grudge over Abagha's past refusals at a time when his position as an emissary made him a prize candidate for marriage to their daughters.
=The Bürgütsöök Travel Where The Eagles Roam=
"The eagles feast on our dead, that they may hunt food for our living. In death, there is life." ~ Bürgütsöök sky burial rite.
Abagha was adopted into the family of the tribal chief when his parents died to illness, and became an older brother to the chief's son Batbayar. He and Batbayar were children the last time multiple clans gathered together a golden horde to challenge the Tianlong Dynasty's claim over the steppes.
Abagha and Batbayar's favourite uncle Ugaannygat had opposed the war, and attempted to mediate between the tribal alliance and General Tianlong Shun. However, his efforts were in vain, and when the tribes began their assault he was unable to escape from the rain of arrows launched from Tianlong Shun's war machines. His widow, who replaced him as tribal emissary, never lost an opportunity to remind everyone that he had been right and the hotheads wrong. Ugaanygat's sacrifice had the unintended effect of increasing Tian Xia's respect for the Bürgütsöök following his attempt to broker peace.
Abagha and Batbayar still remember Ugaannygat's lifeless body brought home for the sky burial rite. The simple words of the ritual were pronounced as the great golden eagles descended from the sky to the burial platform where the bodies of the dead had been carefully dissected according to the ancient protocols.
The eagle hunters of the tribe watched on solemnly from a separate platform, the bond-siblings on their arms shifting wings restlessly while their wild kin devoured the flesh of the Bürgütsöök dead. The tribe's children were positioned around the platform so that they could witness the ways of their people, and so that the eagles could recognise the members of their tribe. For the time of burials was also a time of choosing, when the intelligent eagles would tentatively push towards the minds of the children with their own strange form of empathic communication. Few children had the right mentality for contact to be successfully made, and many burials could come and go with nothing untoward occurring beyong a stark lesson of life's harsh realities.
But this sky burial would prove a turning point in Abagha's life. As the teary-eyed youth watched the grisly spectacle he felt a strange pressure in his head, similar to a headache, then lights seemed to burst behind his eyes. Images and sensations flickered ins wift sequence, and the young boy keeled over as he tried hopelessly to comprehend what was happening. It was like a waking dream of wings beating in his ears, air rushing through his nostrils, the scent of blood mixed with a sense of exultant joy. Abagha bit his own tongue in confusion, and the pain forced the images out of his head. The very next day, he was brought into the company of the Bürgütsöök eagle hunters.
=Youth and Fledgling: development of an Eagle Hunter=
Many stories can be told about the development of an eagle hunter, and each hunter's story often becomes more grandiose with each new telling. But all start with a climb to the eyries with the offering of a lamb. All feature an eagle selecting one of its fledglings, based on some unfathomable raptor logic, before carrying child and chick back down to the steppes in its claws to where the older eagle hunters and their bond-siblings waited.
What comes after is better known as youth and fledgling learn to understand each other as they live, eat, and sleep as permanent companions. The child learns to acclimatise to the bird's constant presence in their mind, and begins to understand the meanings behind the stream of images and sensations fed to them by their companion. In turn, the eagle fledgeling becomes accustomed to living alongside people and how to recognise individual members of the human convocation. Slowly, guided by the older eagle hunters and their companions, the two juveniles learn the art of the hunt, the three manly virtues expected of Bürgütsöök children, and the curriculum of laws and language expected of all Tian Xian citizens.
=Wild as an eagle, yet a most virtuous man=
As a young man Abagha took on some of the traits of his eagle-sibling Ganchalgyn. He was reckless, impetuous, and an unrepentant thrill seeker. Of the three manly virtues Abagha was counted among the best of the tribe's horsemen for, no matter how fast he rode, it was never fast enough to compare with what Ganchalgyn shared of an eagle's joy of flight. When he wrestled, he was as an eagle grappling with a wolf, fierce and unrelenting. And in archery his young senses understood the way air affected the flight of his feathered arrows. He was, by all measures, a man in possession of the three manly virtues. Wisdom however, as the saying went, could only be earned with time and Abagha was a youth with more courage than sense.
When Abagha was not hunting food for the tribe, he was showing off for the benefit of Chuluunsetseg, a beautiful and equally reckless young woman. Abagha vied for her attention alongside several other young tribesmen with all the bravado of an eagle enticing a mate. Much as the great eagles would drop stones from on high and catch them mid-flight to impress a mate, Abagha would race full-tilt on horse back in broad circles around Chuuluunsetseg, throwing and catching arrows as he did.
=The young eagle makes his nest=
Abagha succeeded in earning the affection of Chuluunsetseg, and their marriage was a joyous occasion for both their families. Married life suited Abagha well, but their shared joy was cut short when Chuluunsetseg died young and childless. Some said that with his wife's passing, something in Abagha went with her, for afterwards Abagha was not the same impetuous man the tribe had known. Nor did he respond favourably to any promptings over the years thereafter to consider taking another wife.
Instead, the bereaved eagle hunter spent his private time for the next couple of years reading his uncle's collection of Tian Xian books to help endure the lonely night hours.
When the Bürgütsöök emissary to Bei-An died, Batbayar asked Abagha to become the new emissary to Tian Xia, hoping that it would help revitalise the dulled spirits of his once vivacious brother. In a way, Batbayar succeeded, for Abagha initially found some comfort lying his head in the lap of teahouse girls and thinking of Chuluunsetseg while they played the shudraga. It was a busy life, being an emissary, sitting in on trade committees and all other kinds of meetings. All the sitting and talking made him appreciate the joys of the Bürgütsöök way of life, and he found a new appreciation of each day. And as busy as he was, he found himself with much less time to brood.
=The Eyrie of Bei-An=
Abagha and Ganchalgyn became something akin to celebrities in Bei-An over time. Between Abagha's perpetually friendly disposition, and the sight of Ganchalgyn riding on his leather-padded shoulders, there were few in Bei-An who didn't know of the 'Eagle Emissary' of the peaceful Bürgütsöök tribe. As a tribal emissary, Abagha was granted by custom a small residence, but his popularity with city officials led to him being granted a residence with a large garden containing decorative trees that Ganchalgyn could perch on.
Abagha served as an emissary for many years, taking sabbaticals to hunt with Ganchalgyn. Abagha also provided lodgings for the Bürgütsöök youth at the time of the Imperial Examinations. Abagha took quiet pride in that, though he had taken them later in life and had no real need to do so given the nature of his position, he had still passed. It was Abagha's belief that a man who could succeed by the standards of both Bürgütsöök and Tian Xia was a man who could travel anywhere should he so choose. One day Abagha wanted to travel the length of Tian Xia and return to be the first of the Bürgütsöök to have done so.
But he would only do that once he had trained a suitable replacement. However, he did have two promising potential successors: Berke and Lobsang, both young men with a natural curiosity and a knack for the Tian Xian language.
=The Eagle and the Heir=
Abagha had been aware of Batbayar's hopes for aligning the Bürgütsöök with the governor of Bei-An. There had been political interest in creating more firm alliances between Imperial Tian Xia and the Steppes folk, and the tribe would have benefited greatly from a closer relationship with Bei-An.
Abagha, upon meeting the young Bataar, suspected that Batbayar had been optimistic in his plans. Abagha saw in Bataar a bright and passionate young man, nonetheless filled with the folly of youthful pride. Abagha, who was the first to discover what had happened at Bataar's examination, described it to Batbayar as akin to a man firing arrows at a storm for scaring his horse.
Abagha smoothed things over with the provincial governor before Batbayar arrived, and it the affair was largely hand-waved as an example of a hot-headed youth incapable of seeing wisdom. The Bürgütsöök might have lost a chance to strengthen their bonds with Bei-An, but the bonds were not weakened by the event. So when Batbayar asked Abagha to find and accompany Bataar, Abagha agreed, leaving Berke and Lobsang to carry out his duties as emissary.
Abagha prepared the traditional travelling kit of his people, and rode out into the steppes with Ganchalgyn, seeking his hot-headed nephew. In doing so, he could gift his brother with some peace of mind, and possibly guide Bataar on to a path towards wisdom.