Born under an omen in 1800 England to a cult of magic-worshippers, Aem spent her childhood struggling to please the fanatics who were desperate for a sign of her prophesied destiny. When her father finally snapped and tried to kill her for her lack of magic, a mysterious woman appeared and cut him down, rescuing Aem. This woman, Shi, had magic by contract, and dismissively accepted guardianship of Aem. Isolated from almost all other contact, Aem rapidly became dependent upon and unhealthily “in love” with her mentor - just as planned. When Shi finally revealed her true intent, to pass on her contract to Aem and die in the process, Aem was too stunned and heartsick to say no.
Since then, Aem has lived an immortal life withdrawn from a humanity she distrusts. Though she sought out magical knowledge to better understand her powers, the lack of progress has frustrated her into giving up hope of finding anything out on her own. Instead, she watches time tick by, enjoying the fruits of innovation with a lazy, resigned attitude, only working towards goals if she is bound by magical contract to do so. She’s mastered various skills of hiding her trail in order to disguise her long lifespan and the many murders she’s committed to preserve her mortal body from the chaos building up inside it.
1800 - Aem born roughly around this time in England to a human cult seeking otherworldly power. Born under an omen, she is raised as a potential inheritor or sacrifice, tested constantly for signs of magic. Not showing any, the cult doles out increasingly bizarre ritualistic punishments until her father finally loses his temper and attempts to sacrifice her impulsively. Shi appears at this time to kill him and “accept” Aem as a sacrifice, taking Aem away with her.
1812-1814 - Shi acts as Aem’s “guardian” as the two travel the world for reasons mostly incomprehensible to Aem. Shi uses her magic to contact other supernatural creatures on occasion, refusing to explain herself to any mortal, including Aem. Though context Aem picks up that power comes by contract, though “contracts” can vary widely, and that there are many more places and creatures than she can see naturally in the world. (So when Aem meets the people in the Smear, her first assumption is “okay these are all magical people who have various contracts”)
1814 - Shi notices Aem’s interest in her magic, particularly healing, since it’s one of the few aspects of Shi’s magic that is (sometimes) visible to the mundane eye. Encouraging her interest, Shi gives her a single, precious illustrated book of human and animal anatomy. Considering the time period it’s very rare and Aem treats it with the reverence it deserves, studying intently to prove herself to Shi.
1815 - During one meeting with a fey-like creature, Aem is given the “gift” of language through a kiss. Shi is furious, killing the creature and blaming Aem. Over the next few months, Shi becomes increasingly petulant about any outside contact she doesn’t command of Aem. This finally comes to an explosive end when Aem wants to save the life of a human girl, reminded of her younger self, and Shi abandons her, claiming Aem has chosen mortals over Shi.
1815-1818 - Aem struggles to reintegrate into human society. She’s welcomed as a skilled nurse, albeit a strange one. Her supernatural understanding of medicines and healing combined with her total lack of social skills and unusual beauty (from like, understanding actual bathing and teeth brushing) eventually breeds rumors of witchcraft. Though she attends church as is expected in that time, her cult upbringing causes numerous missteps that fuel the rumors. When she delivers a stillborn to an influential couple, they blame her and use that as “proof” to burn her at the stake. Aem realizes this too late to flee, but is rescued from a painful death by Shi.
1819-1822 - Foreswearing human involvement, Aem becomes entirely dependent upon Shi, obedient to a fault. Shi also becomes less temperamental, comfortably certain that Aem has learned her lesson. Aem occasionally puts her practical skills to work on supernatural creatures, and learns - usually without help from Shi, who remains a silent or sarcastic presence during these exchanges - about anatomy not covered in her book on humans and standard pet/zoo animals. To her shock, Shi disappears at random, leaving her alone again with no explanation.
1823 - Aem tries to remain close to the place where Shi left her in a human city, squatting in abandoned homes or hiding on rooftops or simply being homeless. When Shi returns, it is with a foreign human girl at her side; a new acolyte. Despite her jealousy, Aem is fervently obedient and submissive in the hopes that she will not be replaced. Near the end of the year, while Aem is performing an autopsy under Shi’s watch, Shi comments aloud that her contract with the young girl forbids her from harming her, whether she wants to keep her as an acolyte or not. Aem interprets the cue and murders the girl immediately with her surgical instruments. Shi praises her for it with a kiss.
1824 - Slowly and confusingly, Shi deepens their relationship to that of lovers. Aem is madly, obsessively in love with Shi, proving herself at every opportunity Shi presents, whether it be through kind actions or cruel ones. This culminates in Shi’s final demand: that Aem take over her immortal contract so she can finally die. Shi confesses the truth behind her manipulations, having never cared for Aem, seeking only an acolyte who would “love” her enough to let her rest in peace. Aem numbly accepts, and Shi kills them both with the destructive aspect of her power. Aem wakes up from “death” newly immortal and alone.
1825-1830 - Deeply depressed and paranoid, searching obsessively for clues about the truth of Shi’s past and clinging to hope that this is yet another test she must pass, Aem seeks out cults, demanding answers in exchange for her presence. She finds almost nothing, having very little knowledge about how to actually track down anything supernatural. Over this time she also learns how to use her power to heal herself, but cannot figure out how to channel it into other magic. The magic buildup kills her a couple of times before she realizes what’s happening (that the chaos energy must be directed somewhere or it will eat away at her mortal body) and starts purposefully harming and healing others so as to avoid being hurt herself.
1830-1840 - Despairing at her lack of progress, Aem secludes herself from humanity in a small forest near a graveyard. She visits it occasionally at night when the moon is out, pretending that one of the unmarked graves is Shi’s. She stealthily harms and heals anyone who passes through her forest, as well as stealing any of their belongings that she wants for herself. This plus her moonlit sightings at the graveyard earn her a reputation as a wicked fairy or ghost to be avoided.
1840-1880 - Aem finds herself summoned by a wealthy human man seeking an occult cure for his wife’s consumption. Aem heals her and decides to live with the couple, spending most of her time reading the man’s dubious library and trying to puzzle out fact from fiction. She learns a little more about Shi’s contract and how it was passed down to her, particularly with regard to her “role” and how she can be summoned or controlled by contract. She has infrequent on-again-off-again relationships with them both, sometimes fleeing to unreachable parts of the estate for years at a time out of fear they will turn on her. As time passes, she becomes somewhat more trusting, but leaves permanently in 1880 when they beg her to stop their aging, a magic she doesn’t know how to do.
1880-1885 - Aem returns to her forest to find it mostly gone, replaced by the growing village. She pretends to have amnesia and calls on the church for mercy, figuring she can stay close to the graveyard she had grown attached to while learning how to better pretend to be religious.
1885 - The wealthy couple manage to summon Aem again, this time binding her magically to a contract. Aem remains helplessly locked in the library for months, studying theoretical spells to stop the aging process. When she finally tries to use her magic this way, it fails, killing both humans.
1885-1887 - The wealthy couple’s steward convinces Aem to stay and hide the bodies. He asks her to play the part of the wife so he can continue running the estate and forge a will passing it onto his son by claiming the son was their bastard. Aem accepts and enjoys a couple more years of rich life studying the library before she’s politely told to leave. The steward gives her a hefty reward for her cooperation and silence.
1888-1895 - Aem decides to use her money to attend school to study medicine, bored and desperate for something concrete she can learn from. She asks for help from the steward with the application - exceptionally difficult due to women only recently being allowed at some colleges - and he obliges, but tells her to consider it their last exchange. At college, Aem has difficulty hiding her powers, not wanting to reveal herself as inhuman and risk losing her place. When a man tries to force himself on her, she spends an evening hurting and healing him, then finally kills him and slips away before dawn. This leads her to start hunting down predatory men, justifying the need for torture by her own skewed morality. During this time she figures out how to use her magic to briefly hide herself from view like Shi did, though she keys it to the process of murdering someone, so she doesn’t yet know how to use it in other situations. She studies and apprentices as a nurse, dabbling in some other fields as they relate to it, but receives no degree (because woman).
1895-1910 - Aem continues this pattern of killing for over a decade. It quickly spirals out of any moral justification and into a sport. She comes to an abrupt stop after being caught by a victim’s young daughter, reminded sickly of the first murder she committed on Shi’s prompting.
1910-1915 - Aem retreats into the wild again, ashamed of herself. She resolves not to use her magic again. Her resolve crumbles after a few painful deaths and she begrudgingly uses it on animals only. She practices her cloaking spell during this time to escape from human sight.
1915-1920 - Bombs interrupt Aem’s plan to hide from the world. Horrified by their destructive wake, she sets aside her distrust of humans and becomes a field nurse, volunteering for the riskiest spots on the front lines. It doesn’t take long for her to cast aside the pretense of following orders or picking sides, and simply uses her magic to move secretly and swiftly between the wounded people that she heals. When she becomes too disgusted with the battlefield, she shifts her focus instead to refugee camps, still doing her best to remain hidden. Prettied-up stories spread of the red-haired angel or spirit who visits the fatally injured and blesses them with a miracle. Aem is uncomfortable with this version of her but plays into it for fear of being named a witch again if she doesn’t. She’s pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by the injured despite her obvious magic, though there are some exceptions.
1920-1925 - With the war over, Aem fears her ability to masquerade as an angel will end. She starts looking into travel to other countries, where wars are ongoing, traveling to Ireland for a time. However, she returns to England with a magician who recognizes her power and promises to help her find answers.
1925-1928 - Proving true to his word, the magician actually divines information for Aem through lengthy and complex rituals. In exchange, he asks for Aem to heal clients he selects for her, and Aem dubiously agrees. Finally Aem learns the nature of the power she is contracted to. Primordial chaos itself is her benefactor, the power of creation and destruction, from which all things spring and shall one day return. In its infinity, there is some sentience, and within that infinite sentience, there is some desire to understand its creations. Shi’s contract was made by one small fragment of this power reaching out and connecting with a mortal life, existing within it to observe from a living perspective. The cyclical creative/destructive magic that chaotic energy gives off is more of a side effect than an intended part of the contract. The magician reasons that is why she can use it to create certain spell effects like healing and hiding, but has no instruction nor intuitive way to discover these uses.
1929-1939 - Their mutually-beneficial relationship comes to an abrupt end when the magician dies suddenly during one of his divinations. Aem has no idea how to manage the magician’s secret contacts who seek her out for healing - at a costly price, she discovers - and ends up simply taking what she can of his and fleeing to a new city. Curiosity draws her to new technologies and she quickly spends all she has, then resorts to stealing whatever she wants. When WW2 breaks out, and the horrors of war grow even greater, she leaves it behind for the battlefield again.
1939-1945 - Aem’s fear for humanity grows as she rapidly becomes numb to their suffering. She stops hiding herself and pretending to be something spiritual, despairing at the sheer, overwhelming number of people she cannot help. When the first atomic bomb drops, Aem decides that Shi was right to ignore humans. Aem withdraws once again into the wild.
1945-1970 - Aem lives a mostly-peaceful life of isolation within deep forests, moving to a new location whenever she is spotted or the locals tear down enough of her forest that she is forced to find another. There are enough abandoned castles that she spends some years living within the ruins. She visits the old graveyard under moonlight on rare occasion to mourn, wondering if she should follow Shi’s example and find an acolyte to trick into taking her contract. Guilt and a stubborn wistfulness for her guardian prevent her from doing so.
1970-1980 - A friendly young man finds her in one of the castles and asks to share the space with her. He brings with him a bunch of technology that intrigues Aem enough to stay. He’s an amateur ghost hunter who believes his ancestors lived in the castle. Amused, Aem attempts to mess with his radio to spook him, but finds herself charmed by his wholehearted belief. She volunteers to travel with him and he’s delighted, joking that she can be the pretty face of the team. It doesn’t take long before Aem doubts herself and, in a panicked fit of temper, stab herself and heal the wound in front of him. His first reaction is shock, then enthusiasm, thinking she must be the ghost he was meant to find. Annoyed, Aem leaves him, then comes back and trails him in secret before rejoining him. Fear and interest cause her to flit between the two so often that he gets used to it, not blinking an eye at her constant comings and goings, no matter how long the absence. They wander around haunted sightings together, recording video to sell to producers. Aem refuses to be on tape, worried that someone will see her in the future and notice she hasn’t aged. She thinks things are going well - that she might have found an actual friend - when he asks her to marry him. Aem flees and doesn’t come back.
1980-2010 - Interest in the dizzyingly fast evolution of technology pulls Aem back to city life. She also finds herself spoiled by modern conveniences like hot showers and ready-made food. With the fast-paced life of bustling cities, Aem finds it easier to blend in and job hop to keep a steady income without attracting attention. Lacking a safe way to use her magic without being noticed, she makes it a regular habit to go on “hunting trips” where she can kill animals. This isn’t usually frequent enough, so Aem falls back on old habits and wanders the streets at night looking for homeless people to heal or harassers to kill. In the 2000s, when street camera technology becomes increasingly common, she becomes frustrated with how hard it is to just kill people in secret these days! hmph
2010-present modern day - Aem recognizes an old man on television - her old ghost-hunting companion. She tracks him down and spends the last years of his life visiting his bedside, watching him die of old age. The internet provides her with more resources for occult research, but it’s also so full of nonsense that she has yet to find anything useful.
- Aem has some limited knowledge about her power, which comes from a “contract” with a supernatural source. Primordial chaos itself is her benefactor, the power of creation and destruction, from which all things spring and shall one day return. In its infinity, there is some sentience, and within that infinite sentience, there is some desire to understand its creations. Shi’s contract was made by one small fragment of this power reaching out and connecting with a mortal life, existing within it to observe from a living perspective. The cyclical creative/destructive magic that chaotic energy gives off is more of a side effect than an intended part of the contract.
- She knows how to channel this power into healing of all sorts, as well as a limited cloaking spell to hide her from “nonmagical sight.” Feel free to interpret that however you want for your character!
- NOT using this energy results in a buildup that kills her very painfully.
- She received the “kiss of language” from an unknown supernatural creature.
- Aem is rather certain that humans are a terrible species that she doesn’t want to interact with, but begrudgingly likes modern convenience too much to remain a hermit.
don't quote me
The sensation of being stabbed was new. She clutched at her belly, hot blood pouring past her small hands, eyes going unfocused.
“Gross,” said a disinterested female voice, sharp enough to cut off Aem’s father. “I never asked for a child sacrifice.”
Aem stared, uncomprehending, as her father staggered forward and slumped to the ground off the newcomer’s sword. Standing behind him was a woman in a nightmarish black-and-gold outfit, her black hair cut unusually, with spiky bangs and a long, high ponytail. Her feet were elevated by a kind of shoe Aem had never seen before, with tall spikes for heels that clicked ominously as she stepped over the dead body. Her sword was dripping fresh blood - her father’s blood - as the mysterious woman knelt before Aem, her dark eyes thoughtful.
“But I accept,” she decided finally, setting the sword down gently to place both her hands over Aem’s. “Do you want to live?”
Time crawled by as Aem tried to process what was happening, what she had been asked. Too stunned and disoriented to speak, she nodded dumbly. A black glow came from the stranger’s hands and Aem cried out as pain deepened past any numbness she had. The woman seemed not to care, letting her writhe and shriek as the wound slowly knitted back together by magic. After what felt like an eternity, the pain finally subsided. Aem turned her face back up toward the woman, who picked up her sword and began to leave. Without looking back, she said, “Come on, then.”
Aem followed obediently.
Noticing Yukira’s sparkling hair first, Aem felt heat rise to her cheeks as she stared at the tall knight with scandalously bare, muscular legs. When their eyes met her heart skipped a beat and her stomach dropped as realization hit her harder than any blow in over a century. With sudden, horrifying clarity, Aem somehow knew in that instant that Yukira was capable of inheriting her contract. How she knew this was beyond her, a terrifying revelation.
Is this what Shi had felt? Is THIS why she had been spared? Not out of love or mercy, but a ruthless understanding of what it took to die?
And worse, how was she to know whether or not this was her only chance at a successor? Had Shi passed over others before her? If she had, how long had it taken to find one after she had become sick of immortal life? When Aem had taken the contract from her, Shi had specifically told her the love between them was all a lie, a manipulation, but Aem had never truly believed her.
To think back on all the precious memories she held of Shi guarding her, caring for her, holding her, trusting her - Aem had clung to that warmth all her long life, certain that the goodness in Shi lived on in their shared power, that the chaos that could heal her as easily as destroy her was the mark of Shi’s singular love for her. Now knowing that Shi, from the very first moment of their meeting, had recognized her as - as - as a weapon that could finally destroy her, if only it were sharpened.
Involuntarily Aem clutched at herself and stumbled to her knees, head swimming with desperate guilt. Her gaze dropped to the ground in shock and denial, and she forgot about the rest of the world as she lost herself in thought.
relationships - wip please ignore for now
Art and Character by
Yukira met Aem in the Smear and immediately felt that she was the end all, though maybe that was due to their initial meeting having a knife through her gut. Yukira believes this feeling is True Love, no matter what Aem says, and as such has been...persistent with these affections. There are....other factors on Aem's side that may suggest these feelings are not only the pure love that Yukira believes them to be, and the fact that Yukira currently believes she has killed her love adds some complications to this relationship.
relationship: mutually beneficial annoyance
Art and Character by
relationship: suspicious trust
Art and Character by Steph
she who shines like gold
upon a sea of chaos
immortal by contract
with the eternal powers of
creation and destruction
Aem comes from a modern-day England with magic hidden deep beneath the surface. Power comes at the cost of a contract, and dealing with supernatural beings is rarely safe or comprehensible. This lack of understanding has bred myths and omens over the years, many of them built upon a grain of truth. Ghosts, demons, fairies, monsters - they’re all human misinterpretations of magical encounters.
In the Smear, fragments of Aem’s long life in this world have shattered into haunted castles, twisted crime scenes, abandoned rituals, witch’s pyres, and the like. Echoes of the people who once lived or died there appear like shadow puppets against the walls, unable to speak or appear in darkness. They can only interact with other shadows, and whether or not they’re the helpful or the harmful sort isn’t always clear…
Since her mentor passed on her contract suddenly and forcefully in death, Aem doesn’t really know the extent of her powers or how to use them. She can sense chaos - the erratic energy which creates and destroys everything in the universe - particularly when it is affecting her. Over time, this “chaos” naturally builds up within her body, a mortal vessel that can only barely contain her connection to the force of magic she’s bound to serve. If she doesn’t discharge this buildup by using a “spell,” as she calls it, the creative power cycles to a destructive power and rapidly destroys her body from the inside out. Once destroyed, the power cycles back to creation, and painfully rebuilds her body exactly as it was at the initial contract.
Aem names her spells for what they appear to do rather than their true ability. She currently has only learned two spells: healing and cloaking. Her “healing” is not a natural restoration of organic tissue, but rather the chaos forcibly creating new matter to replace the old. This feels like having the wound rapidly repeated to the nervous system, an agonizing process. Her “cloaking” spell is similarly deceptive, in that it does not hide or make invisible, but instead briefly jumbles reality with chaos such that others cannot accurately perceive whatever she is cloaking.
Any chaotic or similarly erratic powers used by others is considered chaos magic by Aem, who will often react violently if she senses it, out of fear of losing control of the cycle and dying once again.
Though she has not shared this secret with anyone, Aem knows that the only way for her immortality to end is by passing on her contract to another willing and compatible mortal.