The Righteous Darkness
LJ is an archivist, scholar, and librarian, taking jobs in whatever of those forms he can manage. He's a serious and intense sort of man, not unfriendly, but not prone to bursts of extroversion or humor either. He enjoys his books, is an occult encyclopedia, and largely keeps to himself, which tends to lend him an aura of quiet mystery.
Lawrence Jasper "LJ" Knight is a man haunted by duality. He is both a scholar and a warrior, a creature of valor, but a liar, a creature of justice, but a thief. He is cultured and eloquent, but also at times savage and terrible. In a bright room, he is that discolored stain, but in an otherwise dark sky, he is that single point of light. He is a man who becomes whatever he must for the greatest good, however terrible, but quietly hopes he doesn't have to.
LJ doesn't consider himself a hero, or even a good guy for that matter, because he understands the dark things of the world even as he does his best to remove them from it. Maybe one day it'll be his turn. Maybe that's just the way these things work. But he isn't one to dwell, and instead focuses on what he can do now, while he has the time.
And so though LJ can seem very intense, driven, and even cold, he is in truth a man of substantial empathy, selflessness, and if not honesty--for his job requires deceit, then at least genuine beneficence. He does not make friends easily, but is loyal to those who can reach and tolerate him, because he is often blunt, forthright, and no-nonsense. Except when he can't afford to be.
Like true antipodes, LJ is possessed of both a great darkness, and great passion for goodness, justice, and empathy. Depending on the need, either of these two poles can be accessed. In the case of the former, only when LJ is in need of great power; and in the case of the latter, only when LJ is surrounded by a great, terrible darkness and is willing to sacrifice himself rather than give in to said darkness. Specifically, if at a critical moment LJ requires great power to survive, for whatever reason, even with the best of intentions, he unlocks the darkness "pole." On the other hand, if a critical moment arises where LJ chooses to knowingly sacrifice himself for others or otherwise resist a great darkness passively, without violence, and without crying out for strength, he unlocks the light "pole." Obviously, it is much more difficult for the latter of these two to occur. In both situations, the empowerment only lasts until the immediate threat is resolved.
The dark pole temporarily unlocks the full potential of LJ's were-strain by empowering his Shadowcasting ability from Basic to Supreme, affording it the ability to drain away nearby life, heat (possibly causing ice/frosting), and light, and allowing it to summon creatures and monsters of pure shadow and darkness. After the fact, LJ will be exhausted and may end up giving in to his "Dark Beast" weakness, depending on the circumstances.
The light pole temporarily cleanses LJ of his darkness and briefly alters his were-strain, allowing him to exist for a time as a white panther. His Shadowcasting becomes Lightcasting (which is its effective opposite, utilizing creatures made of light and supplying life, heat/energy (fire), and manipulating light), and altering the damage of his natural weapons (to burning/cleansing instead of freezing/corrupting). After the fact, LJ returns to his normal black panther status, exhausted, but perhaps with a little more hope that he doesn't have to live as a cursed panther forever.
While he doesn't have a degree proper, LJ is extraordinarily well-educated in subjects related to artifacts and ancient texts (history, archaeology, whatever). This includes reading dead/old languages.
LJ possesses a natural feline athleticism that allows him to get places he really ought not to be. Years of practice have refined this into something truly noteworthy and practically applicable (See: Thievery.)
As a street fighter and underworld thug, LJ learned many means of defending himself, and he's quite adept at using his fists as well as firearms and some melee weapons. Violence is not, however, his preferred means of conflict resolution.
He's been a wheelman. He's good enough to lose a tail.
The Occult and then some. The man had an experienced witch as a teacher who would, for years, not let him leave the house (quite literally) until he had mastered every pertinent bit of information she could think of. Specifically, she educated him on the darker magics and mystical items, the really evil/forbidden/forgotten stuff (hence, esoteric).
Call it a mastery of small manners, memorable style, or a well-cultured upbringing, but LJ knows how to navigate culture and refinement with a personal and unique sense of fashion.
LJ is exceedingly, frustratingly good at secrecy, mystery, and being fantastically obtuse--like a bad (good) fortune cookie. In short: he is an exceptionally well-practiced liar and hider of things.
Short of trying to break into something with corporate-level security, LJ is quite capable of circumventing locks, safes, electronic devices, and a fair level of hacking. He is not a master thief by any stretch, but he was a very successful professional one.
On his own, LJ has had enough practice with meditation and a variety of other methods and tools to summon inner strength enough to prevent himself from doing inappropriate things. (Like fondling dark artifacts for SCIENCE!)
A power drawn from the darkness of his own were-strain, LJ has learned to manipulate the darkness of his inner Beast to control darkness and shadows, themselves. The effects are generally subtle, including snuffing out light, casting shadows/shadowplay at a distance, effective invisibility via misdirected light and obfuscation, affording some material substance to shadows (so they can grab something, for example), and manipulating shadows to bend sound waves (for silence) or interfere with electrical currents (causing electrical devices to temporarily fail).
LJ is fast. Almost impossibly fast. This level of feline grace and reflex is a step beyond that of werewolves and approaches the level of dodging bullets, climbing and bounding with gymnastic ease almost anywhere. (This is Enhanced in human form; Supreme in all of his shifted forms.)
These allow LJ to temporarily cloak (but not remove) his supernatural essence, allowing him to bypass things like Mountain Ash, or hide from Divination/scrying effects. The tattoos manage this by actually draining LJ of his shifter mojo (and thus dulling all of those abilities down to normal levels) to power themselves, however, so he is essentially a slightly witchy mortal for the period(s) of time that he is hidden. (But not actually, since silver still sucks.) This is important, because while the tattoos are active, LJ is temporarily freed from his burden of darkness (although all of his powers derived from that are suppressed). There is no limit to how long the tattoos can be active, but they are absolutely not subtle, moving over his skin and glowing when in use.
LJ just tends to find himself in places where a dark presence or item is at work, and gets visions or dreams that obtusely inform him of its location, purpose, or intent. Generally speaking, he has a sixth sense with regards to detecting darkness and evil. Sense Evil!
Like werewolves, LJ is possessed of a of an enhanced ability to heal himself at an alarming rate (in all forms).
Like werewolves, LJ's shifted forms have sharp fangs and claws. Notably, LJ can summon these claws in his human form (like a retractable cat's claws; but not the fangs). Additionally, LJ's Man-beast and Smilodon forms sport claws that are touched by their respective kinds of darkness, and leave freezing wounds of silver ice that weep a noxious smoke and do not heal without supernatural aid of some kind. Leaving them untreated will ultimately induce a state of lunacy matching the form LJ was in at the time.
Like werewolves, LJ is possessed of an enhanced strength and toughness (in any shifted form; this is Basic in human form.).
Even without being in a beast form, LJ's senses are potent and sharp, to the point where strong scents, smells, and sounds can be incredibly distracting or painful (Enhanced in human form). When in a shifted form, LJ can even suss out mystical and magical auras, see through illusions, and generally discern the truth so long as really exceptional magic isn't at work (Supreme in shifted forms).
While similar to werewolf shifting, the panther mutation of the werewolf strain comes with its own set of quirks (namely greater power at the expense of self-control). With little difficulty, LJ can shift to a near-man and normal panther form at will.The touch of darkness on these forms is greater than on his human form, however, and so his "Pull" weakness comes into its fullest effect. To utilize his other two forms (the man-beast and smilodon), however, LJ must actively reach inside himself and draw out the darkness, allowing it to suffuse his being. He can still maintain control while doing this, but summoning this power comes at great risk, as any loss of will could result in the Beast's personality taking control. When in either of these powerful forms, LJ becomes an engine of fear or destruction (respectively), an avatar of sorts for that aspect of the Beast's nature. When in his Man-beast form, LJ exudes an aura of fear and terror; when in his Smilodon form, he exudes an aura of rage and savagery.
FRIEND OF DARKNESS
For all the difficulties his were-strain causes him, his affinity for darkness allows him to be seen as a creature of darkness for those sensitive to such things. This is both a good thing (he can move amongst darker/more evil circles), and a bad thing (as discussed in the Weakness "Pull of Darkness" -- creatures of Light may be disgusted by his presence or otherwise disinclined from speaking with him.
MYSTICAL INFORMATION NETWORK
Something of a burgeoning mystical spymaster, for years now, LJ has tended to a growing collection of favors, debts, and contacts through which he can locate magical artifacts or glean information of a supernatural caliber. Sometimes he has to perform favors in return, but the man can normally tease out the information he needs, provided there's information to be found.
The remnants of LJ's thieving days exists largely in the form of material wealth: artifacts, art, jewelry, and the like that he has stored in The Archive and that can be sold as needed for cash.
As a final blessing from his mentor Lady Grey, she created an extradimensional pocket for LJ to store his accumulated knowledge, wealth, and artifacts. Transporting to the The Archive is a simple ritual (but still a ritual, and takes a minute). With another ritual, access to The Archive may be enchanted to a particular door, so that it may be accessed physically and more mundanely. Presently, there are no artifacts of great power stored here, as they were previously sent to Lady Grey herself for safekeeping. Think of the present accumulation of things like a pantry or spice rack of magical utility: No individual item, book, or resource is substantial on its own, but it is rather a vast collection of magical ingredients and literature--enough to satisfy all of his ritual and intellectual needs. It is also where he lives.
When LJ was "infected" by his mutated were-strain, his consciousness was effectively fractured. The "Beast" is the result of the fracture and maintains two distinct personalities that are associated with two of his shifted forms. When LJ loses a contest of wills, he succumbs to one of them (that best fits the situation). The Man-beast is an intelligence motivated by tyranny and pride, and will lie and pretend to be a "good guy" or at least a "not as bad guy" to get what he needs in order to enact some plan to gain power. The Smilodon is a simpler creature, motivated by instinct and rage, with a primary desire to carve out territory and destroy everything not in that territory. Once LJ succumbs to one of these two personalities, he will require outside assistance to regain control of himself.
Even in his human form, LJ's senses are incredibly sharp, moreso than that of werewolves. It often gets to the point where strong scents, smells, and sounds can be incredibly distracting or painful, but they can usually be mitigated by dulling the senses with earplugs, cigar smoke, sunglasses, etc.
NO MATTER THE COST
LJ has a mission to find those things that Should Not Be and put them to rest forever. This includes evil living things as well. Whatever the cost, including going full-on vigilante assassin if necessary, LJ will do whatever he must to ensure that the threat is contained or extinguished.
Unlike werewolves, darkness is a natural state for the panther, so Lunar eclipses do not cause their powers to wane. However, the longer LJ exists without the guiding light of the moon, the stronger his inherent darkness grows, and it becomes more likely he succumb to one of his other personalities.
PULL OF DARKNESS
A simple truth of being a werepanther is the constant creep of darkness and the potential of a downward spiral. In a mundane sense, this manifests as LJ's tendency to want to fade into the shadows both literally and figuratively. He typically tries to avoid limelight in general. Supernaturally, this is the song of fell powers, which makes it easier for LJ to find said powers, but also makes it more difficult for him to resist them (be they a person, mystical item, whatever). It also makes him recognizable as a creature of darkness, for better or worse.
Rowan and Mountain Ash affect LJ in the same was as it would any other supernatural creature.
Silver has a peculiar effect on LJ in that it wards the panther's darkness, and can be used to contain or seriously damage him while he is in any beast-form. If enough of it is present, it can effectively dampen LJ's were-strain and force him to either shift back to a human (or prevent shifting entirely).
Son of a widowed American father, LJ's formative years were split between the darker elements of Edinburgh's underworld and the campus of its famous university. As a professor of history, said father granted his son access to the library's considerable stacks, often leaving him there for hours at a time in order to consume as much knowledge as possible. He also exposed LJ to culture and finesse, expanded his mind to not reject the unobservable, and instilled in him a powerful desire to always seek, know, and find the truth.
That ended when his father became ill, and LJ was forced into the hands of his father's brother-in-law, a scrappy Scotsman who refused to allow a boy of his blood to become a complete dandy. A lifestyle of academic knowledge became a lifestyle of a different kind of knowledge, as his uncle was a fighter, a thief, and a master of subterfuge (or LJ's father would have written him off years prior). He forced adolescent LJ to participate in street fighting, more heists than LJ would ever admit, and together they lived upon a plush bed stuffed full of skullduggery and lies.
At some point after his father passed away, LJ's resistance and integrity faded, and he soon came to love this life. It was exciting; he felt powerful. But it, too, came to an end after the theft of an old manuscript from a private collection--a Latin tome of collected esoterica. LJ's studies had never stopped--he was a criminal, not an idiot--and so instead of divesting himself of it, he chose to read. Not unlike Pandora's box, it contained tell of terrible things that are still hazy in LJ's mind, but with one final line that has always stayed with him, like a ray of hope in a dim night sky: "Yet I am not silenced by the darkness."
Unfortunately, LJ's opening of the book began of a chain of events that resulted in the book's guardian, a werewolf, finding, catching, and (mostly) killing him. Maybe it had something to do with the book itself, maybe it was a metaphor for the turn towards darkness LJ had taken, but when he woke up as a werepanther many days later, he was given a simple choice. His body had been collected by the werewolf, who had delivered it to the Lady Witch of the house, whose cool voice sang like crystal: "You can stay and learn to use your darkness as a tool for good, or I will kill you myself to ensure it does not leave this house."
What the Lady had failed to mention was that becoming her student meant accepting a heavy burden. As far as she was concerned, the fact that the magical wards protecting the manuscript had not stopped him from taking it inferred some kind of universal design, a destiny--a werewolf was odd enough, but the werewolf blood mutating in these circumstances was downright fateful. And so from her, he learned--magic, eloquence, supernatural lore--to a point where she was satisfied his power and knowledge was self-sufficient, and then she sent him away. "Your heritage is darkness. Use it. Find everything in this world that is terrible, and hide it away forever." And so he left.
In the intervening years, LJ gathered resources and contacts, hunting down dark artifacts and sending them to Lady Grey for her protection. Eventually, she found this partnership to have exceeded her expectations, and was comfortable with the idea of cutting the leash, so to speak, and allowing him to continue on his own. And so, they essentially parted ways, an extradimensional archive Archive her final gift to him with the understanding he would never bother her again unless extraordinary circumstances required it.
Logs featuring LJ Knight: