Zmey is a huge snake, with the body of a saw-scaled viper and… the head of a ball python. While the last part might make him slightly less frightening, the fact that he also has a full set of claws, and that both those and his fangs are made of steel are… less comforting. Feathers poke out from under the scales on his back in some odd form of ragged proto-wing nubbins. If the lack of actual wings gets to him he hasn’t said it, so it probably doesn’t. Plus he’s huge: two feet wide and a good fifty feet long or so, it doesn’t take him much time to get places.
Zmey is about as direct as you can get, and that directness generally translates to some variant of “I hate you” or “let’s fight”. This isn’t to say that Zmey is a dumb little snake- in fact he’s neither of those things- but his needs are generally simple. He wants to eat something, or fight something, or just “play” with something that usually ends with it being in about eight pieces. So in a lot of ways he’s basically like a scaly cat.
The people he tends to choose (or choose him) tend to share his pessimistic, antagonistic, almost self-destructive worldview. They may not necessarily be fighters, but they tend to think something is wrong with the world and want to change it. Zmey prefers just tearing the whole mess down, but he can see the value in people who want to try and change things for the better. Even if Zmey thinks it’s futile.
Zmeys quests tend to revolve around combat or the quester pushing his own boundaries. Zmey is very fond of asking for a trophy from someone or something. While he expects physical force to occur, if the quester solves it another way he’ll still be impressed. As for bribing the snake, bringing him a trophy, something to fight, or even a few creature comforts like something warm will help. In return he can offer advice on how to defeat something, or grant aids for combat or ignoring pain.
Influence Effect: Sharpened Whispers
While all of the emblems can seem to be devils on the shoulder, Zmey’s influence can go deeper than all that. People who find themselves close to the edge can often hear their subconscious urging them to do terrible, violent things, amplified and twisted versions of their own impulses. If they give in it’s harder to stop on their own, and sometimes the character will come to their senses with blood on their hands and memories of what happened too fresh in their mind.
Smargl is a large, earthy-colored wolf, with a set of eagle wings on his back and a pair of bronzeish eagle talons on his front paws. He’s also a big fella, about the size of your average minivan. He tends to forgo major adornment, save what people give him or anything that’s useful in the situation. Even then, after a few days generally he’ll take the gifts off and place them respectfully somewhere in his shrine.
Smargl seems like one of the more grounded of the emblems, and for the most part, that’s correct. He doesn’t move too quickly to anger, he protects and cares for those in his charge, and he knows a good “teaching moment” when he sees one. He even has a bit of a sense of humor when it comes to his servants. Sadly however, he’s also a die-hard survivalist.
To him, the world is harsh and cruel, and he intends to give the people under his care the tools to survive- whatever the cost. This can mean a harsh regimen and imposing a sense of discipline, even if he rarely raises his voice. It’s not that he’s a drill sergeant, he simply speaks with the calm intent of someone who will do what he says. He doesn’t threat, he only makes promises that he fully intends to keep, for good or ill. He’s a well-intentioned extremist who believes that, for the most part, the ends justify the means.
Influence Effect: Wolf in Shepherds’ Clothing
Sometimes, mercy isn’t an option, and sometimes defending what you have is the only option- or so Simargl appears to believe. Unfortunately when one of his marked hits their breaking point, they may start to share his views. This comes in two ways: those that need defending will have the characters’ aid until they drop. However if anyone under their watch becomes wounded then they feel obligated to do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing.
Cikavac is a decently large shoebill, adorned with subtle hints of brass on the wings and talons, almost like rings. He seems to prefer metal ornaments only, but he’ll also accept embroidered cloth and fur to wear as well. This can make him appear a bit bulky, but his feathers do that anyway.
Calm and still to the point that people often assume he’s a statue (or asleep), Cikavac takes his time before acting, but this doesn’t mean he’s oblivious to what’s around him. If anything Cikavac makes a point of watching as much as he can, from the events going on, to the complex web of interactions between other people. Once he does act the repercussions are either felt immediately, or ripple out further than anyone expects. This doesn’t mean that he’s unapproachable, if anything he’s quite easy to have a (polite) conversation with. He’s also the most likely to help provide his servants with tangible goods, after all creature comforts and a good working relationship can grease the wheel for future encounters. Cikavac isn’t blind, he knows that the current scenario is going to lead to a lot of hostility. His goal is to ensure that in the case of an uprising he comes off as someone too useful to work against. If that doesn’t work… well he has backup plans.
That being said, while he’s fond of politeness and mutually beneficial arrangements, what he truly values is… the value of people in relation to him. Each individual he knows is broken down into what they can do for him, or do for him in the future. The moment someone stops being useful he’ll find a way to discard them- hopefully in a civil manner, but he’s prepared to get his claws and beak dirty if he has to.
Influence Effect: Stillness and Sensibilities
Knowing someone’s emotions and the reasons for what they do, doesn’t mean you have to have sympathy for them, and when Cikavacs’ marked are under duress… sometimes sympathy is needed, but beyond their range. When they hit their breaking point they tend to think of people more as what they’re good for, rather than the emotional connection they normally have. While it’s helpful in cases where people need an objective view, the lack of empathy or loyalty can quickly turn dangerous. Thank god it only lasts a few hours… generally.
Sirin is a great black eagle owl, whos face has been scoured away to show the skull. She’s generally a kind of scraggly thing, with torn parts on her wings and a few patches of feathers missing on her body, showing only a black void underneath. A few silver rings gleam on her talons, but she doesn’t put much into jewelry.
Done done done, this bird is just fucking done with everything. She’s tired of having to be the mediator between the emblems, of all the dead souls begging her for another chance, of people asking her for things instead of giving her the respect she deserves… she’s just done. She’s like that one sysadmin in a company of people who don’t even know how to check their email. To her servants she’s foul-mouthed and short tempered, being blunt about how much she doesn’t care about the small shit they might ask for. For the larger requests she takes a different approach, asking for something that seems trivial, but has a huge cost down the line. She believes that if they get burned enough times, they’ll stop asking her for things.
All that aside, Sirin does do her job, acting as a voice of common sense. Often she ends up with people who’ve made huge mistakes or died, and is there to punt a little reality into their heads. For those who come to her and really act like they’d listen she softens her tone a bit,
Influence Effect: Fruitless Fires
Unlike Gamayun who’s apathetic about the future because they’ve seen it, Sirin is apathetic about the future because she feels that it’s all quite pointless in the end. The universe will be destroyed somehow, and everything anyone does, every thought, every heartfelt quest will all be worthless. People under her influence get struck with this feeling as well. They can be found wandering aimlessly, far too cold for their own good, and not giving one shit about what happens. This can be a problem in situations like games, or if someone needs help. On top of that, the world starts to lose its color, and the characters find things like eating or sleep rather unimportant. The effect only lasts a day or two, plus a day of rest and care to get their energy back
A large barn owl who doesn’t seem to mind much that someone’s used her as target practice. Broken-off arrows poke in and out of her in places, but she more gets annoyed if one gets in the way of her doing something. Small copper bells adorn the anklets she wears, and they announce her presence… if she wants to be heard.
Alkonost was once said to be the bird of hope, but that’s gone kind of awry. These days she’s more sacrifice, even if that sacrifice comes with a soft tone and soothing words. She’s all too happy to praise people if they care about others or work toward the common good, but she can quickly turn cold and cruel if characters abandon others in their time of need. Even if she were human her standards would be hard to achieve, but she expects people to have the endurance of someone like herself. The characters who end up under her watching eyes tend to be people who’ve gone through some shit, or who are natural caretakers themselves.
Influence Effect: Martyr Birds
Sacrificing yourself to save another is a noble thing, but there’s sacrifice and then there’s martyring yourself for no good reason, and that’s what can happen to characters marked by Alkonost. When they snap, they’ll feel the need to do something that they feel helps everyone, often at the cost of their health or even their life. Giving all their food to someone (when both of them could survive if they split it), standing in the way of danger (when there’s another way to escape), it can be a real problem. It only lasts a few moments, but it only takes a few moments for disaster to strike.
A beautiful peacock in fiery tones, Firebird almost seems to glow with a soft, flickering light under her feathers. She’s one of the more flashy emblems, with claws and part of her feathers seemingly dipped in gold, and jewelry around her elegant neck. Somehow despite this she’s fully capable of dashing around like a maniac and not getting anything caught on the local surroundings.
Manic. If there’s one word to describe this bird, it’s mania. Always looking for knowledge, always interested in answers, always wanting to poke around at the universe and see where it pokes back. She needs help in these efforts, naturally, just her “assistants” tend not to survive the longest.. She has this bad habit of punting them into danger or rifling around in their heads, you see.
That being said, she does treat her poor chosen like equals…. Okay almost equals. A step or two below equals. That’s still better than a lot of the emblems. She talks to them like they understand what she’s talking about and have an equal love for knowledge. this is great if a character has a good grip on theoretical physics and astronomy, not so much if they’re a few centuries behind. In either case she’s bright and friendly, right up to and including the part where someone needs to see if that hole in the fabric of time is stable or not.
Influence Effect: Passionate intensity
In a place like the city, sometimes the feeling crops up that there’s so much more to be found about something, if only the character kept looking for an answer. For people marked by firebird, this can become an obsession. Something, be it an answer, an object, or a creature escapes them and they’ll get it, no matter what it takes. They’ll disregard their own safety and the safety of others in order to get what the answers or the object they need. This can be a creeping mania, or come as a moment of “clarity” when the character finally hits their breaking point. Either way, the feeling peters out in a day, or when they get ahold of what they’re seeking.
Gamayun are a set of ravens, and damn if you can tell them apart. Both are iron-beaked and iron-clawed, with eyes that seem to stare through just about everything. Their voices are the same, and they have a habit of switching of or setting aside any other ornamentation… or other ways to distinguish the two. Most people’ve given up on the idea, which frankly the birds think is wise. Please do continue to give them gifts though, they appreciate the thought.
Gamayun have seen everything, everything, and are glad to inform people about that fact. The problem is when you can see every possible outcome, existence starts to feel old hat. There’s not much that can excite them these days, but there is a certain difference between seeing a vision of the future and having it occur. That difference just makes it worth sticking around and watching how things unfold. Besides, while they each find the other lovely company, the emblems and the characters do make for nice entertainment.
The good news about being chosen by Gamayun is that they’re happy to have a conversation about pretty much anything, (often building off each other as well, but never finishing each others sentences). The downside is that while they don’t often directly lie, they know how to leave out the full truth and make it look like it was the other persons fault for not asking properly. They also have a dry and morbid sense of humor at times, but then again they tend to take on those kind of people as their own. It’s okay for a character to admit the birds are giving them a headache- they already knew anyway.
Influence Effect: All lines Converge
For all that people marked by Gamayun may think they’ve got things handled, when stress fractures their composure, it also fractures their timeline. In cases of extreme stress, trauma, or the like, other views may flood the characters’ senses and they see other timelines laying over their own. The events may split and fuse and serve as a distracting overlay to how they view the world, or block out the current reality entirely. Sometimes just having a moment to calm down stops the visions, but other times sufferers have to try and continue on through a strange echoed current time, and a future that doesn’t quite match up right.
For all intents and purposes, these eight creatures are the key to making the best of the city, however there’s other beings out there. Strange entities could make themselves known with enough time, and there may even be lesser Emblems out there, licking their wounds and waiting for their chance as well. However any new appearances by these creatures won’t go well with the current emblems, and who knows what the new ones will ask for in return for their aid...