We are the daughters and sons
of the moon. Once, the spirits say, we lived upon the moon and ran like
rushing water through her silvery forests and across her luminous fields. But
that was long ago. We still dream oflx Chel, for we above all others are her
favored children. The jaguar is the mother of shamans, just as she is the mother
of the jaguar changers — we have many mothers. A shaman knows nothing without
the aid of the jaguar. The jaguar is the jungle; there is no part that she
does not command. To anger the jaguar is to turn the jungle against you.
No one will protect you then; not the trees, not the streams, not the
snakes, the birds or the monkeys. The jaguar will most often kill he who
offends her. But other times she will take the offender's hunting powers.
Woe to such a man and his family, for they will slowly starve. Under such
a taboo, no animal will dare walk into a hunter's trap, or allow itself to
be seen by him when he has bow or spear in hand. Revenge is reserved for
Some say that the father of the Balam was Tezcatlipoca, the Smoky Mirror, god of night. Perhaps this is so, for his nagual, or spirit aspect, was the jaguar. But we owe allegiance only to Ix Chel, the Moon. Long ago, in another reality called the First Sun, the Balam killed a race of giants and claimed the jungles from them. They have ruled jungles ever since.
The jaguars sometimes lived among humans, aiding them in their hunts, teaching them the powers of the plants. They introduced the ways of ayahuasca, sabo and nu nu, so that humans could speak to their prey in dreams, and if the prey was willing, gain visions of when and how to kill their meat. he hunting tribes of the jungle still remember these secrets, even though the children of the Olmec and Maya have long since forgotten. When the whites came, they brought their evil with them. Vile spirits of disease and mania plagued the humans. Their masters feared the power of the jaguars, and sent men into the jungles to tame them. The jaguars fought back, using their allies in the jungle to attack the foul spirits and their human puppets.
But the evil was too great, and the jaguar* mother chose to make a supreme sacrifice. She appeared in the jungle's a black jaguar, the most dangerous and powerful of cats, and attacked the conquistadors. They hunted her down and cornered her, prepared to kill her and bring her skin to their captain. But she turned and growled, calling upon all her power of night. She grew and grew, squashing the men with her great bulk, flattening trees and damming them with her massive limbs. She grew until she reached into the sky, aid opened her mouth wide and swallowed the sun. The world went dark. Night descended on all, and the celestial magics of the humans failed. The only light which shone in all the land was that of the moon. Ix Chel spoke to her children, not just animals but some humans also, and told them of the coming dangers. The sun would rise again, as it must, but their power would be diminished. She gave them the chance to leave the drying world of humans and return to the moon. She offered her reflection in the mirrors of a thousand lakes and rivers. All her children had to do was leap into them and swim deep down, leaving this world for hers. Many animals ran to the rivers and dove in, seeking the moon. Some humans also went, and their tribes disappeared from the world.
But the jaguars hesitated. Their anger was too great. Many wanted revenge. Blood must be paid with blood. The black jaguar could no longer hold the sun. It burnt her insides and she spat it out. Light flooded the jungle, overcoming the light of the moon, wiping her reflection away. The moment of true night was gone, and the offer of escape was forever denied those who remained. After this, it is said by the Balam that the Fifth Sun, the present age, began to die. To this day, the reflection of the moon causes deep yearning in the hearts of our tribe.
But it is just a reflection, nothing more.
These Central American cats favor their ancient heritage, though some Amazon warriors adopt modern weapons to wipe their foes off the earth. The emhodiments of wrath, Balam are temperamental, hardy and xenophobic. What they don't like, they attack, and they don't like much. Khan may be the chosen warriors of Seline, but the Balam are by far the most aggressive of the Nine Tribes. Among the region's native people, the Balam hold an ancient place in folklore and religion. Legends claim the single tribe extends from two ancestral families. The Olioiuqui were spiritual travelers, winged werecats who stepped into the spirit worlds and granted visions to those who obeyed the gods. These jaguars taught Olmecs, Aztecs and Maya the ways of war, and accepted bloody sacrifices in return. Their stealthy cousins the Hovitl Qua cultivated the ways of invisibility and purification. Patrons of the jungle night, these mystical cats could dim the sun and awaken the forest with their arts. To the people of the rain forest tribes,
they offered hunting lore and trips into the spirit world.
Both tribes claimed the right of sacrifice from their followers, and both got what they wanted. Warriors among the pre-conquest peoples dedicated the hearts and heads of their enemies to the jaguar gods, who assumed grand places in their pantheons. The Olioiuqui themselves walked as gods in the streets of Tenochtitlan, Xicalango and lost Atloxtlia, calling rain and culling the lawless. The Hovitl Qua wandered alone, calling mystics and hunters to play deadly games in the night. Those who returned were considered touched by divinity; very few did so.
Then the Spaniards came, bringing diseases, new spirits, conquering wizards and worst of all, Garou. Rash Olioiuqui died by the hundreds, and their descendants fled into the jungles. There, they mingled with their Hovitl Qua cousins, who had their own problems. Sickness raced through the forests, poisoning the night cats' people and killing the cat-gods themselves. Wolves came from the north and east—Silver Fangs, Black Furies,
Bone Gnawers and Uktena— and began a new War of Rage in the jungles which had escaped the first. The jaguars, never social to begin with, turned on their siblings, and both tribes were virtually extinct by 1600. The survivors were wiser than their parents had been. Establishing a new tribe, the Balam, they recalled the old Litanies, retreated into the jungles, and created a code called the Flore Ki Wenca — "the Blood of Two Hearts. "This covenant declared an end to the old tribal rivalries, set up new territories, and promised that Balam would always aid each other in need. Two Balam, the war chief Six Birds and the healer Blue Morning Skies,
called on the great totem Night Jaguar to bless the tribe. This partnership of two shattered tribes is remembered in the werejaguar honorific "Two Hearts," a title they alone can claim. To this day, the tribes' descendants resent the white invaders — whom they call "Rot-ted-Hearts" — for forcing two to become one.
Once the Flore was sealed in a blood rite, the Balam scattered and set up new Den-Realms. For several centuries, no one disturbed them. This peace ended as human settlements and firms began cutting through the rain forests. The jaguars have not been amused. Today, the Balam fight a war on two fronts; in the cities of Central America,
they struggle with the corruption that has come with the newcomers' ways.
In the rain forests, they war upon Pentex and other agents of destruction. Despite their impressive magics and war savvy, the jaguars are losing. They're too few, too fractious and too indepen dent to organize as a tribe,
and so they fall. The invaders — human, spirit and Garou alike — are too numerous to be driven away by a single Balam or a small war party. Fierce as they are, the jaguars are outgunned, outnumbered and outclassed.
The saddest thing about this siege mentality is that the Balam have a beautiful culture underneath the sheen of blood. Their rites, often practiced alone, involve melodic songs, devoted prayers to the ancestors and hallucinogenic visionquests. In their Den-Realms, the Balam recall their rich heritage in elaborate artwork that only Umbral travelers can see. Those were jaguars who've established such homes offer sanctuary to other Balam in need, and always wear some bit of jewelry that ties into the designs they have "at home." These tokens represent the tie between the jaguar, his land and his ancestors.
In many ways, they're symbols of the jaguar's soul. The fact that many Garou and Pentex fomori in the Amazon War take Balam jewelry as trophies infuriates surviving jaguars, who make sure to reclaim Two-Heart honor in Rotted-Heart blood.
Most Balam retreated to the rain forests of Central and South America long ago. The founders of the tribe established Den-Realms there, and have left them to successors (often, but not always, family) before their deaths. These Realms, called Tona, feature rich vegetation, healthy wildlife, pure streams and a strong spiritual presence (in game terms, the equivalent of a level three to five caern, a five dot Den-Realm or a powerful Node). Naturally, this makes them prime targets for loggers, farmers, Garou and fomori. Many of these ancestral "estates" have fallen to invaders, and this makes the Balam even madder. Some modern jaguars prefer the cities to the wilds, and others range across the mountains and plains. Sooner or later, a Balam sets up his Den-Realm and consecrates it to his forbears. From that point on, he rarely leaves the place for long. The average jaguar will sooner die than leave his Den-Realm to be destroyed; those who do are considered a disgrace to the tribe, and are shunned by their people.
Culture and Kinfolk
Balam place great importance on honor and family. The cultures from which they come stress strength under pressure, personal responsibility and family honor. While the jaguars themselves don't get along with each other, many choose lifetime mates from the local humans and cats. Many tales tell of a jaguar who came in the night to lure a young man or pretty girl away from their village. Such people are never heard from again—the Balam take their mates to the Den-Realms and give them whatever they desire. Despite their ferocious temperament, the Two Hearts are extremely affectionate to their loved ones. A mate, human or animal, is pampered and protected for the rest of her life, and the children are raised with love. The tribe's haunted history breeds a desperate attachment to the family; once bonded, a Balam never strays. Bloodlust aside, most Balam revere the spirit world. Many use natural hallucinogens to bring them vision-trances, and they covet the secret of Walking Between Worlds. Jaguars with territories bond closely with the spirits there, and protect the land from invasion and corruption. In essence, they promise themselves to the land's service, and take that promise seriously.
None, really. In an emergency, a jaguar calls on his allies to deliver a plea
to other Balam in the name of the Pierce Ki Wenca. This cry for help might or might not be answered,depending on the situation and the caller's Rank. Occasional war parties come together under stress, but they rarely last longer than a month. The Balam are notoriously fractious; even the most well-tempered werejaguars fight each other at the slights to provocation.
Like any culture in search of its identity, the jaguars treasure secrets about their ancestors — language, artwork, cultural details, etc. Some gravitate toward their human roots and built collections of Aztec, Mayan, Olmec and Toltec lore; others wheedle secrets out of the spirits who walked beside their people. Some commune with the animal spirits and ignore their human ties completely. All Balam, however, have one common interest: any secret which hurts the invaders.
• Demons feed the wrath of the Balam; send one against him, and he will rage into madness.
• Burn the heart of the jaguar and you destroy its soul forever.
• Jaguar feathers hold great power. If you find one, burn it by the great cat's face. Once it is ashes, the Balam will die.
Like the Bagheera, Balam are born black or yellow. Black jaguars tend to be women, but both colors claim strong birthrights. Black cats command the powers of the Moon, while their brighter siblings carry greater wrath in their hearts. Most Balam come from hardy South American stock. They favor Mayanjewelry, Incan body art and modifications (extended earlobes, body paint, flattened foreheads, pierced tongues, etc..), and archaic clothing. Nearly all of them have sharp-filed teeth, even in Homid form. Few Balam are white—the Rotted Hearts have caused too much damage to forgive. Although many Balam use archaic weapons, modem firearms fascinate them, both for precision and for sheer destructive power.
Str: + 2
Dex: + 2
Art is the expression of a dream. And dreams, my friend, are what we are at heart.
• Bagheera: Oh, yeah, a lot of help they were when we were stuck. Still, they're pretty Folk and good to talk to.
• Balam: Shut up, hothead. At least you've still got your own name.
• Bubasti: Oh, yes it is fun to play in the dark, but you have to come up for air eventually.
• Khan: Brutal and mean. I respect their courage, but lighten up, guys!
• Pumonca: Wise. Very wise. When one speaks, listen up. These are the closest we have to brothers, so make nice to them.
• Qualmi: Hmm. Intriguing balls of fur with just enough guts to make them good company. Don't try to figure em out, though — you'll get lost.
• Simba: Yeah, yeah, I guess they're noble and all, but what an attitude problem! You won't catch me playing toady for a Simba, that's for damned sure!
• Swara: I saw one go by once. Damn thing outran my car. Must be nice.