From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
The Occult Explorer is the "new" version of a character previously known as Magic's Shadow; the storyline for the character brought his Kheldian arc to a conclusion, but I felt the character behind it still had a lot of mileage to work with. While I had considered having the character become a new Warshade again, the idea of using him as a "treasure hunter/tomb raider" sort of character felt like a good fit for where I want to go with him.
In many ways, Aaron Richardson is influenced by the DC Comics character John Constantine, Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files, and the Marvel Comics character Pete Wisdom-and now has a sprinkle of Indiana Jones along with him.
Aaron tends to exude snark. He tends to toss offhand witticisms with little provocation, and has a sarcastic streak as wide as a planet. In moments when deadly seriousness would seem to be called for, Aaron will almost invariably find a way to throw in a flip comment. This is not one of his more endearing traits, but he doesn't seem likely to change at any point in the near future.
In spite of this, Aaron is a good man; he hates what black magic has done to family and friends, to the city at large. Criminals having their way with the innocent can make him angry; worse still was the feeling that there was nothing that he could do about it, as an ordinary man-albeit a very, very, smart and cunning man. This feeling has lessened since striking out as a hero, as he now has the power to act on his beliefs.
Richardson reserves his greatest antipathy towards the Circle of Thorns-given his background, not surprising-and the Nictus (and their human allies)-left over from his time Joined with the Warshade Ar'Kadell.
Aaron does have streaks of melancholy that strike him sometimes; most of those close to him are dead, and the remainder pushed him away a long time ago. This has also had the side effect of giving him a loner streak a mile wide; he works with others only occasionally, and even then for very limited times. It's made him self reliant, but it also makes him hesitant to call for help.
All of the powers Richardson possesses derives from his use of magical artifacts he has unearthed.
The first talisman Aaron procured for himself was obtained in a cave in Minnesota: a small relic carved in the shape of a thunderbird. This Sioux talisman had been the possession of a tribal medicine man; with it, he was able to imbue the messengers of his tribe with great speed. With some experimentation, Aaron discovered that the talisman actually held power over all motion, including at the atomic level. Thus, he has been able to siphon off the kinetic energy of his enemies to enhance his own abilities-or those of others. Aaron believes the medicine man had used his own kinetic energy to imbue to others when there were no enemies to be found-which was the case until the tribe was wiped out during the Dakota War of 1862.
Aaron keeps the relic in a pocket; mere possession of the talisman allows him to draw on its power.
The second set of talismans Aaron acquired was on a lost battlefield of the Revolutionary War. Once upon a time, there were two brothers who went to war for independence. Their sister, however, was a secret witch, who gazed into the future and saw one where her brothers died fighting that war. In an effort to help their chances of survival, she imbued spells on their flintlock pistols, making them among the deadliest weapons of that era. Unfortunately, while the brothers fought valiantly and well, they died in the woodlands of New York, both having been separated from their unit and having the bad luck to come upon a British patrol. The bodies were left to rot-along with their magical pistols.
Using a number of minor divination charms, Aaron located both pistols and found that their magic was still strong even after more than two hundred years. The guns do not require reloading, and by means of magic they can either fire bullets (crude by today's standards, but capable of delivering greater force than modern weapons), or they can fire out compressed elemental energies, such as fire and ice. One bullet type seems to have toxic properties as well, although Aaron has been unable to identify what kind of substance it is.
In addition to the tools above, Richardson has access to other mystical accessories.
Aaron located a magical axe in a series of tunnels under a graveyard in Sharkhead Island; the weapon is called "Koshak Etarr"-loosely translating to "Ghost-Slaying Axe". A minor charm allows him to keep it shrunken down to the size of a pencil, and he keeps it in his shirt pocket until needed. In spite of its name, it has proven to be dangerous to all true undead. It isn't bad against robots, either, as the edge never dulls.
Another object he keeps shrunken down is a replica of the Archmage Tarixus's Blackwand; when a villain learned how to create the Blackwand, a number of other minor mages attempted to duplicate the feat, with limited success. One of those mages was a member of the Circle of Thorns who had the misfortune of being the first Thorn to cross paths with Aaron after he returned to Paragon City. Now his Blackwand is Aaron's, who uses it at need. The mage also had a pouch of Mu Sand, a prize from an earlier battle; Aaron recognized it and took it for himself.
Aaron wears a wrist charm that can summon a minor Unseelie faerie to assist him; the faerie was one he had met in the Pocket D, who attempted to lure him into a trap by her masters. Aaron managed to turn the trap around on the faerie, so that she was the one trapped into the charm. Aaron calls her "Blist" (for reasons only he knows), and keeps her prisoner as justice for the many victims lured to similar traps over the decades. Blist thus helps Aaron only grudgingly, assisting him with minor effects to his arsenal.
As the former head librarian of MAGI in Paragon City, Aaron may be the most knowledgable non-magus in the city when it comes to the occult. Aaron has claimed to have read every single book-both occult texts and truly magical ones-in the Vault, although it is unlikely that he has photographic memory.
Aaron also has at his disposal the knowledge of a few minor charms; this magic is very limited, such as being able to unlock locked doors. Aaron does not have the aptitude-or, honestly, the patience-for the greater power magic offers those with the Mu bloodline. It's quite possible, however, that this bloodline is what allows him to utilize his equipment so swiftly.
Weaknesses and Limitations
Aaron is just a man, for all his tricks. He possesses no superhuman endurance, no super strength, and no special protection. Disease and poisons are just as dangerous to him as any other man.
A greater weakness tends to be Aaron's confidence. He tends to err on the side of overconfidence-he believes that there isn't anything he can't do if he has the right tools. His problem is that he sometimes blows the call as to what kind of tools he needs. In that case, he tends to try to bluff it out rather than do the smart thing-like, for example, running like hell.
Aaron Richardson is never without a pack of bubble-gum. Chewing the gum helps him relax and reduce his stress; it was a habit he picked up when he quit smoking.
Before the War(shade)
Aaron was affected by the dark truths of magic fairly early. At the age of fourteen, he and his family had been kidnapped by a cult inspired by the then-vanished Circle of Thorns. Aaron saw both his parents and his older sister sacrificed to the demon-things they served for more power, and only the intervention of members of the Midnight Squad had kept him from the same fate.
Orphaned, with no other known relatives, he was made a ward of the state, and spent the rest of his youth in an orphanage. In spite of his own personal pain, he cultivated a sarcastic front to face the world. As he grew older, he learned everything he could about magic-both black and white, as well as other forms of "grayer" magic. He was irritated to learn that while he shared the Mu bloodline, it was extremely weak in himself: he could only perform minor charms and divinations. He would not have the ability to channel the awesome forces that mightier mages were capable of wielding.
Aaron attended University at Paragon City, and made the occult his major field of study. If he could not use magic, he reasoned, he'd at least know everything he could about it.
Aaron spent several years after he graduated as a "tomb-raider" of sorts, exploring any ruins in the world to learn more about magic and its practicioners. He was out of the country when the Rikti War hit; he was largely unaffected by the War, not seeing the full picture until his return to Paragon City. The War had revealed a resurgent Circle of Thorns, and Aaron vowed to fight them in the best way he knew how. He applied for a position at the Modern Arcane Guild of Investigation, and was one of their foremost investigators. For a time, he was involved with Azuria, but their relationship eventually ended amicably.
Aaron's knack for reading and understanding various arcane texts would lead to his appointment as the head librarian of MAGI in Paragon City. He would continue to hold that position until February 18, 2008. That was the day his life changed forever.
Rise and Fall of Magic's Shadow
On February 18, 2008, Aaron Richardson-in the midst of an investigation for one of the heroes of Paragon City-was kidnapped by a cell of Circle cultists. He quickly learned that his capture was no accident-Aaron had caused them enough problems over time that they had decided to use him as a sacrifice to fuel an experimental spell.
This spell would involve a Kheldian Warshade, hosted by a man named Rick Masters-who had underestimated the Circle, and overestimated the abilities he had gained as a Warshade. The Circle's goal was to see if a demonic spirit could possess an energy being-in essence, possessing Masters's Nictus half, Ar'Kadell. To get to Ar'Kadell, however, Rick Masters had to die.
Which is exactly what happened.
What the Circle did not expect was the explosion of alien energies released from the ritual sacrifice of Masters, which collapsed the cavern that had been their base of operations. Aaron was trapped; while Ar'Kadell could escape easily as a being of energy, the Kheldian could not permit himself to abandon Aaron.
So Ar'Kadell offered to Join with Aaron-temporarily-to give both the ability to escape. Aaron agreed. Once the Joining had been completed, Aaron simply shadow-stepped out.
After their escape, the two found much in common with each other; the strengths of one offset the weaknesses of the other. The two agreed to make the arrangement permanent, birthing the Warshade known as Magic's Shadow.
Heroism and Treachery
Aaron resigned from MAGI days after registering his powers with Paragon City, but unlike most heroes, he eschewed the obvious heroism and went straight into occult investigations. He opened an office in Kings Row across the street from the Tavern on the Edge, and assisted with a number of cases. He provided advice to heroes, although some viewed him in a better light than others, and sometimes weighed in with his powers as well. An investigation in early 2009 forced him underground to avoid being killed by the elder vampire, Baron Craven. After this experience, Aaron and Ar'Kadell's minds merged fully into one, where before they had been two minds in one body. Shadowstar hypothesized that the two beings had finally come to trust each other enough to let the Joining complete.
In late 2009, the heroes of Hyperion Force learned of his past connection to the Stellar Gems; his rocky association with the team, in addition to the usual weight of dealing with being Joined with a former Nictus, led to him abandoning the team when they took him to save one of their leaders from the Council. The team would later learn that Aaron had renounced his Warshade status, and had joined the Nictus. The truth, however, was that Richardson had joined them to study the tainted Stellar Gems and find a way to destroy them. In 2011, he finally succeeded in that task, wiping out virtually all the Stellar Gems-tainted or not-on the planet-but at the cost of the life of Ar'Kadell. For the first time in over three years, Aaron Richardson was himself again, no longer tied to a Warshade. This event temporarily shattered his mind, and it took a couple of weeks before he could fully recover.
On the Mend
Rediscovery and Rededication
Aaron's post-Warshade period began with his occult investigations business effectively done, a hearing to determine if Aaron could be tried for his actions as a member of the Council (he was acquited, as Aaron was effectively a new being when he was Magic's Shadow), and essentially homeless as everything he owned had been sold off and confiscated by the city. It was not a good time to be Aaron Richardson. He decided to leave the city and wander the country, living hand to mouth while he tried to figure out where to go from here.
In a forest in Pennsylvania, Aaron had an encounter, the full nature of which he still cannot explain entirely, which helped him clarify once and for all what he wanted: to help people, to use his knowledge responsibly, and to stand up against the various "occult bullies" that had their eyes on the world. At the same time, he wanted to go back to the time when he was happiest-when he was a simple tomb raider making arcane discoveries. The one, he decided, could fuel the others: as a normal man, he had significant limits. But using his knowledge and skill at investigation, he could locate and acquire a number of mystic talismans in lost places to, perhaps, make him the equal of any sorcerer or daemon that came along.
The Adventure Continues
After spending a couple of months gaining the tools he felt he would need, Aaron returned to Paragon City. While he had some initial trouble registering as a hero in City Hall (thanks to his past), with the assistance of Azuria (who vouched for him), he was finally able to take the heroic identity of the Occult Explorer-a name that wasn't his first choice, he admitted, but at least it fit as a proper job description.
Now, Aaron offers his services to the people of the city as a treasure hunter, an explorer of lost places, and a defender against dark magic.
- This character was originally introduced in a story of the Old Ranger, Between Scylla and Charybdis. He would later play a significant part in The Future is Now before playing a significant part in Hyperion Force storylines.
|Primals||Heroes||Agent Repulse • Amazing Kane • Armored Battalion • Fighting Wolfman • Gatewarden • Invictar • Old Ranger • Qi'Lar • Skyshade • Spectral Fighter • Stellar Protector • Sunpulse • Timelost • Winter Tornado|
|Vigilantes||Nyctomancer • Occult Explorer|
|Villains||Devil's Chamberlain • Dracofire • Operative Rostov • Stellar Abyss|
|Rogues||Baron Craven • Ebon Thunderbolt • General Retaliation • Professor Dredd|