A seemingly random encounter in Stalwart village leads the Watcher to an encounter with a man hiding in a fish barrel, beneath layers upon layers of fish. Upon inspection he leaps from the barrel, nearly naked save for a loincloth, and drizzled in fish viscera. Covered head-to-toe in scars - tears and punctures and the thorny imprints of lashings, most faded, like old memories, the man's condition is otherwise remarkable, the drooping skin at his flanks and elbows the only evidence of his advanced age. By his own admission, Zahua was resting his eyes and waiting for a revelation... And seems to have dozed off.
Zahua is the greatest living practitioner of Nalpazca beliefs, and even as the watcher meets him, he is in continual pursuit of their ideals, which he believes will transform him into an unbeatable combatant. Above all, he believes in suffering as the path to enlightenment, and nearly every inch of his body is covered in scars - mostly self-inflicted. While some might see that as a grim or depressing viewpoint, from Zahua's perspective, suffering is a thing of beauty, to be admired and revered, and he is often able to appreciate situations that would dishearten most others. (Perhaps with a little too much cheer for some people's taste.)
Zahua comes from an agrarian people known as the Tacan that dwells in the Ixamitl Plains to the north. Most Tacan have two choices. They can grow crops or they can become Nalpazca warriors. Zahua was the youngest of five children, a dreamer eneamored with the Nalpazca. They did not feel the same about him, however. Three times he tried to join their ranks and was refused each time. In his own words, in all that time spent dreaming, he had not thought to prepare. As a result, Zahua was lazy, uncoordinated, overweight. But eventually they were forced to accept him: The Tacan high priestess had a vision after tripping on malcachoa and several other choice drugs.
She saw Zahua as chieftain, leading a host of Nalpazca warriors to victory over the Quechmatl, a rival tribe. As the last chieftain had died over the winter and no other arised from among the Nalpazca yet, he was brought before Ixepillo, the great master of the Nalpazca, and became his pupil. Although Zahua still trained with the other instructors, sparred and meditated with his Nalpazca brothers and sisters, and learned from all of them, he received the chieftain's privilege as well: Learning from Ixepillo the secrets that could grant mastery over reality, invincibility in combat.
However, before Ixepillo taught him the final secrets of the Nalpazca, he died of old age. The Tacan still made Zahua chieftain, but doubt lingered at the back of his mind. As news of Ixepillo's death spread, enemies of the Tacan took notice. The chieftain of Quechmatl arrived bearing gifts soon after he learned of the news, to gauge Zahua's capacity as a leader and warrior. Zahua failed in his attempt to pose as the anitlei, the perfect warrior free of worldly snares. The Quechmatl attacked after three days.
Zahua managed to convince himself and the others that he was the anitlei and for a time, they managed to resist the enemy advance despite numerical inferiority. The clarity conveyed by his belief allowed Zahua to clearly see the path to victory and anticipate his enemies' actions... Until he faced their chieftain. Doubt crept in, sealing the fate of the Tacan. All were enslaved and Zahua taken prisoner, torturing him to death as per the tradition of their tribe. But in his suffering, Zahua became the anitlei and used this opportunity to escape captivity.
He swore to return after learning the lost secrets of his master, swearing to liberate his people. Though he grew stronger in the course of his pursuit, so did the Quechmatl. Despite years spent abusing hard drugs, inflicting pain on himself, and studying the ways of foreign monastic orders, the status of anitlei eludes him - and with it, the perspective of liberating his people. He returned home once, to try and instigate a popular uprising among the Tacan, only to learn that the men were broken by labor and the women Quechmatl wives now. Nahualtia, his wife, enlightened him... But he refused to accept it.
|This character is a party member.|
|This character starts quests.|
- Zahua can be recruited at Stalwart. Simply approach the fishmonger's post near the fishery and interact with the head inside the basket of fish.
Behind the scenes
- Zahua was originally named "Forton" in early Kickstarter info, and was cut from the final version of the base game (although still shown on the cover). He made it into the The White March - Part I expansion, but his name was changed to better reflect his place of origin.
- Zahua was written by Eric Fenstermaker.