His father was a career naval officer in the Coral Archipelago, but the sailor’s life was not for Swan. Instead, he chose to join the diplomatic corps. It offered all the glory and civil service with none of the bloodshed. While his elder brothers became sailors and marines, and his sister cemented a political alliance through marriage, Swan learned history, culture, geography, politics, outdoor survival and martial arts. When his adult life dawned, he left home as a junior diplomat to work his nation’s will in the world at large. He traveled, he bargained, he maneuvered, he mingled. He was every bit the Coral Archipelago’s romantic ideal of the heroic traveling diplomat.
One can’t train for everything, though, which Swan learned one evening by a roadside through a Northern forest. As he rounded a bend, a proud, graceful rider on a glittering horse of pure Essence came fleeing his way from a pack of armed and armored Dragon-Bloods. She was Anathema; they constituted a Wyld Hunt. Yet, something happened in Swan’s mind, and the utter temerity of Terrestrials daring to take up arms against their betters outraged him as it had once before in a time he couldn’t remember. Rather than stand aside or flee, he interposed himself between the Dragon-Bloods and their prey before they could land a killing blow. His courage must have impressed the Unconquered Sun, for that great god’s power suddenly flooded into him and gave him the ability to make his stand matter. He and the once-fleeing Solar—whose name was Arianna—turned the tables on the Wyld Hunt and killed them side by side.
Much has happened since then, and Swan’s worldview has expanded with each new day. His bravery and diplomatic training serve him well in his new role as one of the Quills of Heaven. Traveling from nation to nation, from shadowland to Underworld, from freehold to unshaped raksha, from Heaven to Hell, he strives with his circle to ease conflicts and spread peace for the betterment of Creation. He has some inkling now of why the Dragon-Blooded did what they did to bring about the end of the First Age, and he’s glad of that knowledge. Perhaps he can use it to keep the same thing from happening all over again. Perhaps, if he and others like him work hard enough, the Third Age can outshine the previous two and last forever.
Swan has an intense desire to make his family back in the Coral Archipelago proud of him. That feeling drove him to join the Coral diplomatic corps originally, as he didn’t want his distaste for the military lifestyle to seem like a disappointing weakness in his father’s eyes. (He could still be a well-traveled man of action as a junior diplomat, but he wouldn’t have to kill people to make a point.) His aims are grander now that he’s Exalted, but his feelings still hark back to his family on the rare occasions when he isn’t sure what to do. Would he still be able to look his brothers in the eye? Would his sister be inclined to brag about him to her friends? Would his father sadly shake his head and walk away? Would his mother cry? A large part of the reason he works so hard to use his new power for the good of Creation is that he wants his family to be able to look upon his Exaltation as an enviable honor rather than a mark of shame.
His circlemate Arianna fascinates him. He feels both devoted to and responsible for her. If she had never come along or hadn’t needed his help when she did, Swan believes, he might never have Exalted. She’s the most intelligent, passionate, striking woman he’s ever met, and her fate seems to be inextricably bound with his (judging by how often destiny throws them together). This is not to say that he necessarily likes her or the things she does, though. Arianna is awfully intense and usually more condescending than considerate. She treats him like he’s an annoying little brother sometimes, although he’s a year older and much more widely traveled than her. He might love her, but if he does, he isn’t sure. He’s never felt the same way about anyone else.
Making matters even more complicated is the First Age Lunar huntress Lilith. She swooped down to him in the form of a snowy white owl one night as he camped by the roadside and informed him that she and he had been married some 3,000 years ago. She was referring, of course, to the Solar whose Exaltation Swan had come to possess, but it made an impression nonetheless. The moment he saw her face, he remembered her as a nervous teenager and himself as an anxious young man with a terrible war looming over them both. He remembered holding her, rescuing her, fighting beside her and bidding her fly to him before his heart broke with longing. It felt like he, personally, had loved her once and that he could again. Only now, she terrifies him. She seems to want something from him but won’t tell him what that is. She’s even hinted that Swan’s life hangs in the balance, though he can’t imagine why that should be. It most likely has to do with whomever she was actually married to in the First Age, but that will prove cold comfort to Swan if she tears his head off in the present.
And, as if all that weren’t enough, Arianna doesn’t like her.