|Also known as||Ash Witch (Aschehexe)|
|Affiliation|| Capellan Confederation|
Ash Witch Cult figurehead
As of 3028, Dr. Ju Tang was a bright young scientist working at the planetary observatory of Bram-Ze, the capital cavern city on the planet Niomede-4. Described as very attractive, she had green eyes, and used to color her eyebrows to match her dress. Her duties included touring and lecturing school children.
At the time, she was in a relationship with Tiun Kuan who, unbeknownst to her, was (albeit unwillingly) working for SAFE. On 18 August 3028, he forced her at gunpoint to provide navigational data for pirate jump points into the Niomede system. When they were interrupted by another scientist, he fled the scene with the printouts and went to ground. She identified him in a bar five days later, leading to his arrest. However, during his interrogation inbound DropShips carrying a battalion from the 3rd Defenders of Andurien in an unauthorized attack against Niomede-4, implicitly delivered to the Niomede system using the jump data Ju Tang had been forced to provide, announced their presence and demanded the world's surrender. Kuan managed to escape and destroy the targeting computer for the planetary defense system in the control room below the observatory.
In this situation Dr. Ju Tang came up with a plan to jury-rig an aerospace defense system by linking asteroid spotting systems from local corporations. When the attackers made planetfall the following day, her idea allowed the defenders to destroy four out of six escorting aerospace fighters and damage one of the DropShips plus the other two fighters. Though tactically worthless given that the actual fighting would take place mostly underground, this was touted as a major victory by the Capellan defenders to boost morale.
When the ground assault against the entrance to Bram-Ze began, the understrength local militia lance and defending Warrior House Kamata company managed to fight off the initial attack. Militia MechWarrior Jen Xiao performed particularly well, while his commander Niu Doun panicked and left his station, leading to the death of the third militia MechWarrior, Kato Dschi. Following Kato Dschi's funeral, Ju Tang and Jen Xiao were guests at a talk show where they were hyped as war heroes. Afterwards, they spontaneously made love in the cloak room.
Attacking BattleMechs entered the cavern city on the next day, pushing back the outnumbered defenders. On the second day of fighting, Ju Tang and Niu Doun met by coincidence. The military-trained Doun explained the grim tactical situation to her as the battle unfolded. After they briefly discussed their respective roles–she craved to act but had no function besides hollow representation, while he failed to act when he had the chance–, a bitter remark from Doun that all Capellan citizens should fight inspired her to spring to action in her bright yellow dress to rally the militia and civilians alike, brandishing a Liao flag and leading them against the 'Mechs. Suddenly an earthquake hit the city, not an unusual occurrence yet a morale boost for the defenders under the circumstances as it briefly halted the attackers. In her hysterical frenzy Ju Tang declared this to be a sign of support by the Niomede Worms (as per the local Worm Cult religion) and led the hopeless charge on in religious fervor. Lacking any military training, she tried to attack a BattleMech with what she believed to be a missile launcher but in truth was a fire extinguisher, and was in turn shot by a 'Mech laser that set her body aflame. Although gravely injured, Ju Tang mysteriously survived.
After the Capellan defenders had secured the key scientist from their secret laboratory on Niomede-4, they negotiated a cease-fire with the attackers who, upon realizing their prize was beyond reach, would pack up and leave within a few days.
Ash Witch CultEdit
On 3 October 3028, Niu Doun–now a crazed pariah driven by self-loathing following his disgraceful conduct in the battle–preached to the masses on a public place in Bram-Ze. He declared Ju Tang an avatar of Niomede's Worm Cult religion, cleansed in laser fire. Although his preachings were rooted in the Worm Cult, Doun denounced the original Worm Cult, its temples and buddhistic-inspired rituals as "dead", creating a separate, independent movement. His words caught on and sparked religious worship of Ju Tang's charred and comatose body, now commonly referred to as the Ash Witch ("Aschehexe").
The Ash Witch cult quickly spread beyond Niomede-4, with the gray-clad Niu Doun as its increasingly powerful prophet. Its followers became also known as the Grays, for donning gray robes and using gray makeup (apparently mimicking the gray color of Niomede rocks or Niomede Worms); it also became fashionable to inject silicates from Niomede Worms despite the sometimes serious adverse health effects. The Grays believe that the strange meandering scars on Ju Tang's body hold messages from the Niomede Worms and attempt to divine their meaning.
Immediately after the fighting on Niomede and the inception of the cult, Ju Tang's body was transferred from Niomede-4 to the ducal seat on Principia for medical care. Dr. Yol Song, the expert tasked with looking after her, also received secret orders from Duke Pao Tell to prepare a body double, so that the Duke could retain some leverage over the increasingly powerful sect in case Ju Tang should awaken or die.
Around the same time, Richard Humphreys found that the mother of his child had become a member of the Grays, and joined the sect himself to be with her. However, upon learning who he was, the staunchly pro-Capellan sect attempted to abduct him; Emma Centrella led his bodyguards in a rescue mission that saved the drugged and indifferent Richard from the sect's clutches.
The cult was an economic boon for Niomede-4, as it brought pilgrims and tourists to the formerly unimportant and forgotten world.