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Author Topic: Zoraya/Ifer’hém/Fire Mage  (Read 4997 times)
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Zoraya
Lady of the Flame
New Santharian

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Posts: 3

Elf, Ifer’hém


« on: August 09, 2013, 05:57:03 PM »

[...]


INTRODUCTION

Name: Zoraya Yphever

Gender: Female

Age: 226

Race: Elf

Tribe: Ifer’hém

Occupation: Fire Mage

Title: Lady of the Flame

Character Portrait:


Overview: For being a fire mage, Zoraya can often be a chilling presence. She comes from a world of battle and revenge (and, in fact, her own egress from her home continent and clan is a result of an unfortunate cycle of revenge). She is therefore closed, careful, and untrusting of those around her.


APPEARANCE

Height:  1 Ped, 2 Fores, 1 Palmspan

Weight: 1 Pygge, 3 Hebs

Hair Color: Black with streaks of dark gray

Eye Color: Korwyn gold

Physical Appearance: Zoraya is striking, but not for beauty; in fact, compared to many other elves, whose soft, refulgent countenances and kind, worldly eyes give them a almost surreal loveliness, Zoraya is no radiant sylph. She is not unpleasing to behold, but was never known for her looks, but rather for her power—and it is that power, which seems to emanate from her, that makes her so striking.

Her physical characteristics contribute to this: Her skin is pallid and taut, contrasting her dark, raven-colored hair. The front locks of her hair are white-gray, having turned after the murder of her father by her mother. To this otherwise achromatic appearance, her eyes are a staggering shock of gold—not the faded, rusted gold of autumn leaves, but the glowing, molten gold of dwarven craft.

Zoraya’s form is lissome and slender, like most elves, but still appears strong; it is, of course, in appearance only, for physically, she is swift but not strong. The necessity of avoiding enemies in battle has kept her fit, and therefore contributes to a toned figure, but in terms of physical strength, she is lacking.

Clothing: Zoraya wears the leather typical of Coór’hém society: her tunic hugs her body tight, but does not cover her shoulders and reveals her décolletage; it is held up by straps of leather connected to a piece that girds her neck. The tunic is rather plain, but warm in color—the way in which she represents her tribe. She wears a gold band about her left arm, and leather braces on both wrists.

Her leggings are similarly of leather, and hug her curves tightly. They end just below her knee. She wears comfortable leather shoes. She often wears a black cloak that ends just at her ankles and is equipped with a hood to shadow her face, if she so chooses.

Her long ears are pierced multiple times, and she wears beads and other small embellishments in her hair (which has a slight frizz on account of her frequent encounter with fire). She also wears a few feathers in her hair, a small way of commemorating her first clan, Black Feather.


PERSONALITY AND ABILITIES

Personality: As a child, Zoraya was protected by her father from the more draconian aspects of Coór’hém and Ifer’hém society, and he never dissuaded her from enjoying the peace and beauty of nature—which at times comes to those not originally of drow heritage. This is something she still holds to—love for the serenity of the sylvan wood. But she has learned to hide it.

Through death and betrayal, through battle and murder, she has learned to be fierce and cruel, when necessary. If she feels mercy or sympathy, she is not one to show it, for doing so would be to demonstrate weakness, and Zoraya comes from a society where weakness is punishable by death. She has learned to kill in battle and ignore the cries of enemies.

Zoraya has also learned to manipulate others for political power. She is no leader, but to say she follows would be like saying that a he who holds the reins follows the horse. Through her own power and cunning, she finds ways to influence those who would be apparent leaders, either through words or through magic.

To Zoraya, all others, regardless of race, cannot be trusted. As a member of a society in which betrayal is part of life—and can mean the life or death not only of men but also of entire clans—she tends to question the loyalty of everyone, and keeps her defenses up at all times. This is more a learned tendency than an intended action. She wants to find fidelity in those around her, but undeniably questions it at every step. She has difficulty making ‘friends’—and it would not be incorrect to say that she has never known true, long-lasting amity with anyone aside from her father.

It’s difficult to say if Zoraya is arrogant or confident, but she comes from a clan in which she was often respected for her magical prowess and militaristic cunning, and therefore holds her head rather high. Perhaps it is merely elven nature, but it may put others off.

Strengths

Magic: Zoraya has significant magical skill. In part, this magical ability is innate, inherited from her father who was similarly a great fire mage. Such a talent is not uncommon among the Ifer’hém, though Zoraya may be call exceptional even by Ifer’hém standards.

Intelligent/Cunning: Zoraya is politically cunning, finding ways to leverage power over others and in groups, even though she never takes a leader role. She is skilled in strategic thinking, particularly in regards to battle, and is an adept problem-solver.


Weaknesses

No Worldly Knowledge: Zoraya, until now, has never left the Crystalwoods, and knows nothing of the people, animals, or plants of Santharia. She doesn’t know anything of what foods are good or bad, what tribes should be avoided, what the physical landscape is like. Even if she knew how to ride a horse (which she, alas, does not), she wouldn’t know how to go about procuring one.

Cold sensitivity: Perhaps it is because of a life spent in a semi-tropical wood, or because of her close affiliation with fire, but Zoraya is very sensitive to cold. It distracts her from fighting or spell-casting, makes her mind confused, and generally make her inept in battle or any task requiring concentration.

Light sensitivity: To camp fire light, candle light, or the light of any flame, Zoraya derives no strain—in fact, such things are quite pleasing to her. However, bright sunlight hurts her eyes, perhaps because of her light complexion and eyes or because she spent most of her life in the shade of Crystalwoods. She cannot see well in direct sunlight, and for this reason often keeps her face shaded and avoids travel during midday.


Magic: Zoraya is an adept fire mage. She did not study at the Ximaxian school of magic, but rather in the style of her tribe through the exacting gaze of her father. If a Ximax mage were to judge her abilities, they would likely peg her as a level 7 fire mage.

Because of the nature of elven magic, is it somewhat deceiving to talk of spells, as Zoraya does not ‘cast’ in the Ximaxian sense. However, in Ximaxian terminology, there are a number of ‘spells’ Zoraya commonly uses:

Warm (Sphere I, physical): Zoraya can turn on the properties of heat in the fire ounia in her body or the body of others to increase the feeling of warmth. Generally, she uses this spell only to keep herself warm, but could, theoretically, use it on others. Naturally, an unwilling car’all would be a more difficult target than a willing one.

 Flame (Sphere II, physical): Zoraya can produce a simple flame, useful for starting campfires or, more insidiously, light a home or establishment on fire. This merely involves focusing fire ounia in one location and igniting them all at once with the quality of heat. A flame will break out and grow without her needing to fan the fire.

Zap Ambition (Sphere I, II, spiritual): A nefarious spell used for the purpose of manipulation, zap ambition steals the motivation from the target by decreasing the influence of fire within a car’all. Zoraya may use this to affect influence over a target. Usually this spell is done slowly, perniciously, over a long period of time so that it’s influence is barely felt. In sphere one, this involves ‘turning off’ fire ounia already active; in sphere two, it additionally includes ‘moving’ the fire ounia to decrease the overall influence that all the ounia have to affect the car’all.

Fireball (Sphere III, physical): A powerful spell requiring a great deal of concentration and energy—but one she is adept at producing—the fireball merely involves gathering and linking fire ounia from the surrounding air and igniting the qualities of heat until the ounia burst into flame. She then propels it toward her target through the quality of animation.

The fireball can be small or large, depending on Zoraya’s energy level, the amount of ounia in the air, and the time she has to cast. Accustomed to using this move in clan skirmishes, she is more adept at producing smaller fire balls, but with enough time, energy, and fire ounia, would be able to produce one large one—though such would probably wipe her out.



HISTORY

Part One: The Journey to Embertree

Twilight darkened. The day’s sounds stilled into the silent song of spies. The month of the Burning Heavens had just taken root in the Crystalwoods, weaving its hot and humid tendrils into the fabric of the air, pressing its heat against every tree and creature the way an assassin presses poison to his victim’s lips. But tonight, a breeze came—like a windy waif of spring scattering through the branches, dispelling the oppressive torridity. The trees shifted. Two figures walked quietly through the woods, heading toward where the sun fell.

The larger figure stopped near a large, hollowed-out tree, and the smaller stopped obediently in his wake. The first drew back the hood of his cloak, revealing an elf with pallid grey-white skin and golden eyes. His Norsidian-black hair was pulled back from his thin face. “We’ll stop here for the night and continue the journey in the morning,” he said in a soft voice.

His companion pulled back her hood, revealing an elven woman whose blood-relation to the man was without doubt: she shared his gray-white skin and deep black hair and eyes of gold. She nodded and ducked into the hollow tree.

The space inside was capacious, enough room for at least ten others. The elven woman ran her delicate fingers over the interior of the tree, where black scorch-marks scarred the surface.

“This was once a hide-out,” came the voice of the male elf. The woman turned to look at him. “Likely for a band of assassins.” He kicked up a bone from the dirt—a tibia. “And it looks like it was also the grave for a few.”

“Who where they?” the woman asked.

The male settled down his bags and threw down a blanket upon which to sleep. “Impossible to tell. Perhaps Bone Tree or Shift Blade.”

“Shift Blade?” she asked, kneeling to roll out her own blanket across the sooty ground.

“You wouldn’t have heard of them. Bloodletter destroyed them over two centuries ago.”

The woman sat back on her legs a moment, looking absently at the blackened marks on the wall, but with thoughts fluttering about her like flitter-twitch butterflies. The man noticed. “What is it you are thinking of, Zoraya?”

She glanced at him, but took a moment to speak. “Father, why are we always at war? Clans come and clans go, struggling for power and prestige, but what is the point of it all? What are we really trying to gain?”

Lerace smiled impishly at his overly inquisitive daughter. “Both Coór’hém and Ifer’hém will tell you that power and prestige is the reason for battle.”

“What do you say?”

“I am Ifer’hém. I will say it is for power and prestige. But I will also say that it is a part of who we are. It is the way we live and the way we pray.”

“The way we pray? To Coór?”

“To Ava.”

“But is not Coór a part of Avá?”

“Yes, but remember, my daughter, that Avá came first. We worship Avá through Coór, but Avá is the mother and creator of all elves.”

“The Coór’hém say we follow Coór.”

“That is true. We follow Coór because we worship Ava. All the true desires of Avá are manifested within Coór, for He is Her reflection, Her consciousness, Herself—We follow Coór because we love Ava.”

“And that is why we fight?”

Lerace smiled at his daughter. She was always like this, ever since she was a little girl: curious of everything. It was one of the many ways he knew that she was his blood. But though she was 85, she still occasionally had difficulty keeping her curiosity contained.

“No Coór’hém or even Ifer’hém would be likely to say it, but we kill each other for love.”

“For love?”

“In Coór’hém society—a society that we as Ifer’hém are now a part of—there are only two roles: the ruler and the ruled. It is the responsibility of the ruler to choose the strongest warrior and kill the weaker. Killing the weak is an act of mercy, a sacred act that returns these souls to the Dream of Avá the Beautiful. We do not kill for hate, but for love and compassion.”

“The warriors I have seen do not seem compassionate when they kill.”

Most of the warriors you have seen, my daughter, are wild and without wisdom. It is wisdom our leaders have.”

“Ruhn Orol and Ruhn Jeraya?”

“Yes. They see these battles as all good leaders do: holy battles for Ava.”

“But then why—”

“My dear Zoraya, you will ask questions all night and then we shall never sleep. Keep your questions for tomorrow.”

“Yes, father.”
 
***

In the late morning sunlight, a small critter sniffed about the base of a tree. Its long, slender ears moved to and fro, sensing the surrounding soughs and rustles of the forest. Its large black eyes peered about the brush obliviously, and with each step its for-paws took, its little back legs hopped forward.

Then, without even a squeak to respond, it was engulfed in a fireball and perished instantly.

Lerace clapped, a smile on his face. “Nice work, Zoraya. Your aim and accuracy is phenomenal.”

The elven woman smiled back at her father as she went to retrieve the burnt corpse of the terap. “I learned from the best, father. You are the best fire mage in all of the Crystalwoods.”

“Haha! That’s quite debatable, Zoraya. Particularly with you coming into your own. Soon you will exceed even me in skill and ability.”

“It wouldn’t be so if you hadn’t spent so much time training me, father.”

“Ah, perhaps. I think daily practice is best—and it has paid off! You had natural ability—I saw that from the time you were a little girl and accidentally caught your sister’s dress on fire!” Here he chuckled a bit. “It would have been a waste to ignore all that potential. I know I was, at times, hard on you, though.”

“You taught me perseverance and discipline.”

He smiled. “I hope you become a great mage—a better mage than even me.”

Zoraya smiled and tucked the terap into a sack where a number of other burnt critters had been collected for future meals. Then, with some hesitation, she asked the question: “Was my mother an adept fire mage, as well?”

Lerace’s expression suddenly turned quiet and megrim, and his eyes darkened just a shade. “No. She was good, but not as good as you. Let’s go, Zoraya. We still have a lot of ground to cover before the 16th day.”

The two walked in relative silence until nightfall.

***

The early evening wound about the abandoned house where Lerace and Zoraya had taken shelter for the night. The windows were broken and the outer walls were partially destroyed from fire and time. Within, the plush furniture was rotted and ruined, the ground scattered with pieces of broken pots and torn clothing. In the center, the two Ifer’hém had built a fire and were finishing their meal.

A lull in the conversation gave Zoraya’s eyes time to glance around in more detail at her surroundings. Her eyes rested on a candelabrum attached to the wall—meant, no doubt, to fill the room with comfortable light. Something about it seemed familiar, and Lerace, following her gaze, smiled when he saw it.

“Ah, it is much like the candelabrum we once had hanging in our house,” he said.

“I remember it. That was when we were still with the Black Feather clan?”

“Yes, before we joined the Fire Thorn clan. You were still quite young then.”

“Why did we join them?”

“For a few reasons. The Fire Thorn clan has recently lost their female Ruhn in battle, just at the Hook Claw clan killed our male Ruhn. It seemed propitious timing for both clans. Also, the Hook Claw clan had killed so many of us that we wouldn’t have survived much longer on our own. It was a difficult decision, but ultimately, we had no other choice.”

“Is that why we give birth?”

Lerace looked at his daughter quizzically.

“I mean,” she elucidated, “is continuing the clan why we have children? Why we continue to procreate? The other night, you said that we killed out of love, to return the weak to the dream. So why do we have children? Why do we steal back souls from the dream?”

Lerace smiled, understanding. “You ask good questions, my daughter. We have children in order to hopefully create better, stronger warriors to continue the worship when we are gone. Eventually, when the strong remain, it will be their duty to return all of Caelereth’s creatures to the Dream, in order to propitiate Her waking from this nightmare in which She is trapped.”

“But many of the children birthed may not be warriors, may not be strong.”

“They will be killed. It is the destiny of the weak to be returned to the Dream by the strong.”

Zoraya was quiet a moment, then spoke again: “Father, was the Black Feather clan weak?”

Lerace looked at his daughter. His eyes were kind, hiding a quiet sorrow, it seemed, but his voice was stern and steady: “No, Zoraya. The Black Feather clan was not weak. It was strong. But I was, temporarily, weak.”

The shadow of gloom began to settle in the room, but with gentleness, a kind of compassion for the occupants within. It was a moment before Zoraya spoke again: “Father, will you tell me about my mother?”

Lerace sighed. “Not tonight, Zoraya. Maybe tomorrow.”

Zoraya nodded, knowing it was best not to push the matter. With a wave of her hand, she put out the fire, giving up the room to darkness and the promise of sleep.

***

The afternoon sun shone overhead, but under the canopies of the Crystalwood, precious shade fostered coolness on the path the two Ifer’hém walked. Zoraya watched the dappled sunlight shift over the ground and took peace in that beauty. She raised her youthful face to better hear a bird, whose delicate melody wove into the harmony of the wood. Stray breezes pressed her delicate skin and caresses the black tresses of hair against her face.

Lerace watched her out of the corner of his eye, the way his daughter smiled at the hues of summer-green on the branches and the smells of growth and the peaceful fecundity of nature. In part, it delighted him, for while these things brought joy to him as well, he had suppressed the feelings that he might be a respected warrior within the clan. He should, he knew, enjoy battle, not peace.

But this delight of peace was something he had never discouraged in his daughter, for it reminded him of what delight it could be. But he worried for her, too: if others saw this in her, they would no doubt think her weak—and the perception of weakness was a dangerous thing in a culture where only the strong survive.

Lerace was rescued from his worrisome cogitations by the pleasant voice of his daughter—asking yet another question.

“What will we do at this revival, father?”

Lerace smiled. “Ah, yes. You have never been to one before. Sometimes I forget. This will be my third, as we only have it every 150 years. It is a gathering, and we will talk of times past—about life before the fall.”

“The fall of Embertree?”

“Yes.”

“Were you there?”

Lerace glanced at his daughter briefly, and then shook his head. “No. It was before my time, but I carry the stories my father told me, just as you will one day carry the stories I’ve told you. These are the stories that bind our people together. Coor will release the souls of those long dead to help bind us together.”

“And there is no fighting?”

“No, for while we all may now hail from different clans, we are united by our being of the Ifer’hém. It binds us all,” Lerace slowed to a stop, turning to his daughter. He put his hand on her shoulder. “Remember, Zoraya: your clan may change through war and battle and marriage—but you will always be Ifer’hém. And I will always be your father.”

Zoraya nodded solemnly, a slight smile blossoming on her lips. Inside, she felt as warm and full of light as the day around them. They turned to continue walking through the forest.

After a moment, Zoraya spoke: “Do all Ifer’hém come to the Embertree Revival?”

Lerace nodded. “Almost all—both the living and the dead. It is a celebration that unites us all.”

Zoraya bit her lip, than asked hesitantly: “Will my mother be there?”

Lerace paused a moment. “I don’t think so.”

***

Zoraya climbed to a slightly higher bough. She liked to feel like she was close to the stars and the sky. She tied up her hammock between two sturdy tree branches, then looked down to her father, who was already swinging comfortably in his.

“There is a light breeze from the south, and clouds there. Perhaps tomorrow will be overcast; it will make the final leg of our journey cool,” Lerace said. “We should reach Embertree just after Day Wane, if we rise early. We should get some sleep.”

“Father…” Zoraya looked down at him. He looked up into the eyes of his daughter and knew that this was a conversation he could no longer put off.

“You want to hear about your mother.”

She nodded. “You said you would tell me.”

“I did,” Lerace confessed. “What do you remember of her?”

“Bits and pieces. She was so... absent in my childhood. I have a vague memory of what she looked like. She was quite beautiful, wasn’t she?”

“Astoundingly beautiful,” Lerace began, without hesitation. “Beautiful beyond compare. When I knew her, her hair was platinum blond and fell down her back in lush tresses. Her eyes were the color of blood. Her skin was pale and lovely.”

Lerace passed into silent recollection. Sensing her father drifting into reticence, she asked quietly, “Where did you meet her?”

“She… came to our encampment one night. The night she came to Black Feather, she looked like she had just come from battle—her hair was wild and her lip was bleeding. She told us that she wanted to join our clan.”

“Why?”

“She was of the Hook Claw clan, our greatest rival, but revealed to us that she had been in a vicious argument with the leaders—had berated them for their incompetency in battle and their inept military strategy. She had declared that our clan, Black Feather, was superior—and for this, she almost lost her life.

“Ruhn Herfero and Ruhn Jeraya accepted her entrance into the clan with great caution; if she was indeed loyal, she would be a great asset, for she was a skilled assassin, conniving and cold, with a bloodthirsty kind of brutality. In order to join the clan, though, she had to be married. I, ensorcelled by her beauty, accepted her as my wife, and we were married.

“Within the first year of our marriage, your sister Enyva was born. A few years later, you came into the world, and a few years after that, she bore your brother Rayvol. Even when pregnant, she proved herself in battle; she murdered many of our foes in cold blood, as was her way. She wasn’t an adept mage, but rather a truculent assassin.

“She… often directed me. It is the way of our people, the Ifer’hém: men often follow the direction of the women. She was a master manipulator, fierce and political. It is because of her that I reached so high a rank in the Black Feather clan—second only to the Ruhns. I… had thought… I had thought that it was for us, for both of us, that she desired me to have greater power in the clan. But it was not.

“Soon after I was promoted, she absconded with secret military strategies we had planned to execute the next day against our rivals, the Hook Claw clan—the same clan from which she had come. She stole our battle plans and returned to them. Before dawn broke, the Hook Claws were upon us, and in a single night, nearly wiped us out.”

Lerace quieted from the memory, and Zoraya glanced down to make sure her father was all right. He took a sigh and then continued.

“I saw her in battle. She came after me, but vanished as I was charging a fireball to defend myself. Though cold and clever, she knew she couldn’t match my skill.”

Lerace glanced to the side, as though he could somehow see the memory in the distant horizon: “They came again the next night, and the next, killing us off one by one. I saw her most every night. On the third night, I watched as she set fire to the house she knew had once been ours… and I know she heard the cry of Rayvol inside. She killed him, killed her own son, without a second thought.

“Black Feather never recovered. We went into hiding. For nearly two years we moved from place to place, all the while the Hook Claw clan seeking extirpation. We heard that the Fire Thorn clan had also lost sizeable numbers, including their female Ruhn. We contacted them, and they agreed to join forced through the marriage of our Ruhn Jeraya to their Ruhn Orol. As we were the smaller clan, we agreed to take their name. Together, we have made a strong clan.”

“What happened to her?”

Lerace looked up at his daughter. “I do not know. I assume she is still alive, thriving in the Hook Claw clan with your sister. I was… disappointed when Enyva left, but she had been brooding and quite since your mother felt Black Feather, and after we joined Fire Thorn, I think she arrived at the conclusion that your mother and Hook Claw were more powerful. She was more like your mother than me.”

“And I? Am I more like you?”

“More than you possible know, Zoraya.”

This exchanged seemed to bring a degree of comfort to both father and daughter.

“Did you love her, father?”

After a pause: “Yes. But, though she was beautiful and strong, she had no loyalty in her heart—not to her husband, not to her tribe; only to her clan.”

“’Your clan may change through war and battle and marriage—but you will always be Ifer’hém’”, quoted Zoraya.

Lerace smiled, despite himself: “Yes. Your mother never realized this, not really. She loved battle and war and deception, and there was no place left in her heart for loyalty. When at last you choose a mate—or when you choose any ally, any friend—, Zoraya, remember that it is better to choose someone faithful than fair.”

“I will remember, father.” Zoraya paused a moment then: “What was her name? The name of my mother?”

“Her name,” her father said in a voice that hid heartbreak, “was Miraya.”

***

Lerace and Zoraya came upon the clearing that once was Embertree the next day. There were warm greetings and new introductions. Older Ifer’hém embraced one another like brothers and sisters—which, in some ways, they were: the last of their kind, gathered here where their ancestors fell when the Embertree burned. They were the few heirs to this: a scorched clearing where powerful elves once stood.

The younger among them were quite, thinly hiding their bewilderment at the spectacle: for those who had never before come to the Embertree Revival, this was their first time seeing so many Ifer’hém in one place: a virtual sea of milky-yellow to blazing red eyes, and pallid skin. Many of the elders dressed in the warm hues and traditional styles of their ancestors. All about were tents of various sizes, and pits and spits for cooking.

In the seven days and six nights of their sojourn, Zoraya was assaulted by hundreds of names and faces. The days were filled with games and good food and drink. Bands of hunters were coming and going from the surrounding wood, bringing in deers, teraps, fowl—anything they could catch. These quickly became competitions, chances to show off skill, and Zoraya found received a great deal of attention for her gifts in the realm of fire magic.

At night, hundreds of bonfires lit the encampment, and sitting beside it, Zoraya saw that the flames and smoke formed strange shapes. Were these the ancestors of the dead? As the flames burned, the elders told stories about the fall and before. The Ifer’hém had once been a powerful tribe. Could it, Zoraya wondered, ever be again? Or was this all that was left: these yarns of days gone by? Was this a tribe that now looked back instead of forward?

Zoraya left the clearing with a heavy heart and promises to return, that she might see these new friends—this newly-discovered family—again.

***

Lerace sighed and confessed: “I am a weak old fool.”

Zoraya looked at her father from across the campfire, which cast a orange-red glow across his face. The way it shone made him look old and worn. Zoraya’s eyes echoed concern: “Father?”

Lerace sighed. “We come from a very old line, Zoraya.”

“From the Ifer’hém.”

“Yes, but even farther, from the Royal Elves. See, Zoraya, we are not drow like the Coór’hém, not in the true sense. The Coór’hém have always been the children of Coor, ever since the Fall. But we, we were once wood elves who sought to foster the Dream rather than end it. We loved life and peace. And despite our attempts to stamp out those traces of our heritage, it will be with us.”

“Does it make us weak, father?”

“In our culture, yes. It makes us weak. And it is a weakness in me—and, I know, a weakness in you. You cannot overcome it—Coor knows I have tried—but you can hide it. Allow the darker parts of your heart reign. It is the only way you will survive.”

“Why do you…”

“I want you to live, Zoraya!” His voice almost seemed angry, but at who or what, Zoraya could not tell.  He quieted and motioned his daughter to him. She came and knelt beside him. He looked into the eyes of his daughter and voice was like a whisper, his words a secret between them: “Live, and find a way to be happy in this life, for it is the gift Avá has given you.”

Zoraya nodded solemnly, quietly, and Lerace took in a breath, then said: “Good. Now let us never speak of this matter again. Promise me.”

“I promise, father.”

“Good.”

Zoraya sat beside her father for a long time in silence. When, sleep from the journey, she retired to bed at last, Lerace was still sitting there, staring into the fire.


***

Part Two: Crimes of the Blood

The light filtered into the cell dimly; it toppled into the room through thick steely bars like a creature starved and wasted, and fell in the dirt and slime on the floor. It made no sound, but the particles floating in its wake gave the impression that something precious and good was effervescing into the shadows.

In the corner of the cell, a young woman sat with her head down, looking limp—almost lifeless—in the shadows. Her hair shone in faded raven tones, and the strands about her face were dark gray. Her hands were tied behind her in rusted metal.

From somewhere outside, she heard a bird call, and as she raised her weary head, her eyes shone gold. The look on her face was thoughtful, as though a memory had taken her—a memory when she had heard this bird song before, on the way to Embertree.

Somewhere, the clang of doors opening roused her from the reminiscence, and she turned to see a tall Coór’hém approaching. His hair was long and beaded, and his dark eyes were ringed with dark paint. His leather clothing hugged his body tightly. He opened the door to her cell and stepped in with quiet, certain steps. Looking down at her, he spoke in a soft, deadly kind of way: “Are you a fool?”

Zoraya glared up at him. “If I am, I am less of a fool than you, Kivar.”

“For your insolence, I should kill you now!” Kivar exclaimed, drawing his dagger and pressing it to the delicate skin of her neck. His eyes stared into hers, but hers looked back in quiet defiance. He paused a moment, then pulled away, sheathing the dagger: “But you are too useful. You have killed too many of our enemies, won us too many battles. Your strength saves you, Zoraya.”

“Is that all?” she quipped back.

Kivar looked at her, but ignored the question. “I do not know your story or why you did what you did. I know you were of the Fire Thorn clan before it joined Night Blade. I know your father was a powerful fire mage. But I cannot imagine what could have possibly compelled you to murder a member of your own clan, after more than a century of fighting with us.”

“That tramp was no member of this clan.”

“She was! She joined us! She defected! And she could have given us valuable secrets!”

“She was a traitor and a murderer! I’m glad she’s dead.”

Kivar wanted to upbraid her again, but something about the confidence in her voice and the certainty in her eye stopped him, and he looked at her with a narrowed, curious gaze: “How do you know this?”

Zoraya looked up at him straight into his eyes, her own smoldering like liquid gold: “Because she did the same thing to my father. She single-handedly brought the end of my clan, the Black Feathers, over a hundred years ago.”

The Coór’hém stood silently for a moment. “She joined the Black Feathers?”

“Yes. And she married my father.”

“Then she is your…” Kivar was about to finish, but the bladed look in Zoraya’s eyes told him that he should not. He paused a moment, then asked, “And she killed him?”

“Not then, no.”

Confused, Kivar couldn’t help but to ask: “How did your father die?”

Zoraya was silent. Kivar sighed slightly—somewhere between resignation and frustration. “I am second-in-command in Night Blade, Zoraya. You have killed another clan member—albeit a new member, one whose loyalty hadn’t yet been tested—but you did kill her. And the Ruhns may have you killed.”

“Empty threats.”

Kivar growled. She was probably right. Her skills as a fighter and a mage were too valuable. She was strong and fierce, and had proved her worth again and again in battle. He had never seen anyone fight the way she could. Threats of execution wouldn’t work, not for killing a new member. Instead he asked, “How did you do it?”

Zoraya gave him a sidelong glance. “You want to know how I killed her?”

“Yes.”

“I waited until nightfall and tapped on the residence she’d been given. There were guards about, but no one thought anything of my visit—I was merely ‘welcoming’ her to the clan. She opened the door and smiled in that superficial manner. She hadn’t seen me since I was a little girl, and though I’m sure I looked familiar, she didn’t seem to suspect me. I gave her a false name, and she let me in.

“We talked a bit about ourselves, where we’d come from and who we knew. We were both lying; the difference is, I knew she was lying. She told me she was 100 years younger than I knew her to be, said that she valued strength and had always dreamed of joining the clan, and appreciated the men here, interested as she was in a mate. She mentioned you by name.”

Kivar raised his eyebrows a little, but said nothing. Zoraya went on: “I asked her what qualities she looked for in a mate. She mentioned strength, intelligence, cunning, battle skill… then I asked her if she valued loyalty.”

Zoraya smiled with grim satisfaction. “She must have sensed the change in my voice, because she gave me a peculiar look. She drew her dagger and asked me who I was. I told her and she lunged at me. I grabbed her arm and used my skill to burn her flesh. That was the first scream your guards heard.

“I grabbed her blade and asked her if she remembered how she had killed my father—how she had come to him in battle and told him that she missed him, that she had made a grave mistake in betraying him and wanted to return to him so that they could live their lives together and fight beside one another. About how she had told him that they still had two children together, that they would make more. About how she had lied to him to lower his defenses—and in the moment she embraced him, she had dug her blade into his back, into his heart.”

Zoraya’s eyes had become molten with tense, controlled fury from the memory. It was as though she could see it before her right then, the whole atrocious betrayal playing out in front of her eyes.

“She tried to get away; that’s when the guards began to knock on the door, and I lit it on fire. She shrieked in acrimonious terror that I would end up killing us both. I told her I didn’t care whether I lived or died; I wanted her life. She fought me, but in wild anger and fear, like some dumb, wretched beast. I plunged her own blade into her chest. But that you know; by then, the door had fallen in, and the guards could descry it all.”

Kivar nodded. “You’re lucky you got out alive.”

“I don’t care,” Zoraya said quietly.

“You should!” Kivar protested, with ruthless concern. “I do!” The Coór’hém stopped, feeling as though he’d perhaps revealed too much. He shook the volume from his voice, opting to take this opportunity once again to persuade her: “You should reconsider. Between my strength and your magic, we could defeat the Ruhns of this clan and take power.”

“No, Kivar.”

“But why?”

She glanced up at him, but was silent. Kivar knew in his heart that the Ruhns were weak; sure, they were strong of body, swift of speed, and brutal by nature, but they lacked the acuity required to be a firm leader. And yet, no one would suppose this by the decisions they’d made, their battle strategy—because they always deferred to Zoraya. “Your power and perspicacity would make you a fitting ruhn, Zoraya. Why don’t you take the role?”

“If you were a true assassin, Kivar, you would know,” Zoraya said softly, her lips echoing what might have been called a smile. Kivar looked at her with confusion—mixed with admiration and disquietude. Even in the dim light of the cell, she seemed to glow—not with the brilliance and grandeur of the sun or moon, but with the subtle and almost nefarious glow of the stars that make the darkness of the night seem all the blacker, and the chill of winter feel all the colder. Her eyes shone like gold disks.

“There is benefit to the shadows.”

***

A cloaked figure raced through the streets of the port town of Kosth. Night had fallen, and a corpulent moon soaked the town in light, feeding the darkness of shadows. The figure was lithe and agile, with the movements of a cat, and leapt to a higher vantage point to scout the surrounding area. He lifted his head, and the moon revealed the figure to be a young Coór’hém with a tattoo curling about his left eye and cheekbone. He had been following someone, but now that target had vanished.

He scrutinized the streets and shadows from his perch, but saw nothing. After a moment, he sighed and leapt back to the street below, looking into shadowy alleyways. Where had she gone?

“Kivar sent you?” came a voice from behind him.

The Coór’hém spun around to find himself looking into the golden eyes of the one he’d been following. With lightning reflexes, he grabbed the dagger from his belt and pointed it at her, regaining his composure while trying to assess the situation. The woman seemed unconcerned by the dagger or the one wielding it: “Kivar sent you?”

The Coór’hém nodded. The woman looked him over and spoke again: “He intended you to fail.”

The Coór’hém narrowed his eyes. “Why do you say that? Ruhn Kivar--”

“Kivar intended you to fail because he knew you couldn’t win against me. You are young and inexperienced. He sees you as weak, and so he sent you on this mission intending for you to die at my hand.” The Coór’hém looked taken aback, as the woman looked him up and down; she muttered, more to herself than to him: “I won’t give him the satisfaction.”

“But you… He wouldn’t. He wants you to die. Ruhn Syvera wants you to die for—“

“That is NOT her name!” she snarled, glaring at him.

The Coór’hém was again thrown off-guard, but though quickly recovered, he was beginning to get the feeling there was a great deal about this mission and situation he didn’t know. “It isn’t?”

The woman sighed. “I have seen your face, but I don’t know your name. There is no point in knowing it. You know mine, don’t you?”

“You are Zoraya, the lady of the flame.”

“What do you know of me?”

“You are the most powerful mage in our clan. You have fought victoriously in hundreds of battles and serve as an advisor to the current and previous Ruhns.” The Coór’hém was beginning to see Zoraya’s point: in recollecting her experience and skills, he realized that she was a great deal more powerful than he. “And now the Ruhns have tasked me with killing you for your crime against Ruhn Syvera, for trying to kill her.”

Zoraya felt anger moving into her like a tide, but she suppressed it. “Do you believe her?”

The Coór’hém didn’t reply, but stared at her with narrowed eyes, his dagger still drawn. Zoraya read his silence: “Good. You shouldn’t. She is a liar.”

“You were found with a dagger at her throat in her quarters.” The Coór’hém never took his eyes off the woman. “It sounds like pretty damning evidence,” he said accusatorily.

“She lured me into her room and tried to kill me. I was too quick for her, but I wouldn’t have killed her.”

“Why would she want to kill you?”

“Many reasons. My influence over Kivar. The fact I killed our mother.”

“You…”

“Yes. Ruhn Syvera, as you call her, is my elder sister,” Zoraya explained, “And I suspect that she agreed to marry Kivar to not only consolidate power, but to get closer to me and attempt revenge.”

“You killed your own—”

“A long time ago. That is a story too long to tell you. Soon my boat will leave for the distant kingdom of Santharia, and I will be done with this place.”

“You wish to escape!” This thought seemed to reinvigorate the young assassin and he readied his blade.

“In a manner of speaking,” said Zoraya insouciantly. “We both know you cannot stop me, so please, don’t compel me to take your life.” There was a note in her last few words that sounded like tenderness. She turned and began walking out of the ally.

The Coór’hém looked after her, slightly bewildered, and assaulted by a dozen questions. Most of them, he knew, she wouldn’t answer, but at she was just about to exit the ally, he ventured one: “Why didn’t you kill her?” Zoraya stopped. “Why didn’t you kill Ruhn Syvera?”

Zoraya glanced back. “Because I am weary of needless death. Because life is the greatest gift Avá has given us, and I intend to use mine to try to be… happy.”

The Coór’hém watched her vanish into the dark city streets. He was puzzled by this response, never considering death of the weak to be needless, and deriving happiness from war and battle, as was the way of his people. Was Zoraya weak? He couldn’t tell, but he knew that she was smarter, more experienced, and a better fighter than he was, and so he sheathed his dagger and turned homewards.


BELONGINGS
Zoraya carries little more than the clothes she wears. She was able to collect a great deal of wealth through her high position in her clan and her own manipulation of the clan leaders. She also carries a few items that assist her in defense, including a few reagents (most abundantly, sulpher) and a dagger, which she handles without much skill and more as a supplement to her own magical ability. The dagger also serves for preparing animals she kills for food.

In addition, she carries a number of food items for snacking, including traveler’s bread, doch nuts, and a variety of berries. She carries only salt and pfeffer as spices, and they do her well. She carries an extra change of clothes—a light shirt and skirt appropriate for sleep or wearing while washing. A hammock accompies her other belongings as a means of sleeping. She also, uncharacteristically sentimentally, carries a few things belonging to her father: a worn cloth satchel, a broken watch, a necklace with a red gem set in gold.

As a note, there are many things she doesn’t carry—a warm coat, good boots, a warm blanket—for she has not yet known a Santharian winter.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2013, 04:12:09 PM by Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin » Logged
Roy Tmofl
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2013, 02:49:08 AM »

Hello Zoraya! Welcome to Santharia world. So far this is a wonderfully written CD and very enjoyable to read. Although I do see one small detail which may need to be clarified. You have listed you magical abilities as roughly around seventh level. Now while this is allowed one needs the approval of an administrator before they are allowed to place their magic level as suchl. I am unsure if you have permission to do this. Could you please tell us if you do have this approval? 
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Stupidity is also a gift from God, but one musn't misuse it.

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Alýr (Rayne)
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2013, 09:11:42 PM »

I give my approval. But then, this is also my character, and therefore there may be a conflict of interest.

Again, my obliviousness with regards to protocol: Do I need to secure permission from another moderator?
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Wanderer~
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2013, 09:25:19 PM »

I had my suspicions! I'll read through it again to see if I can spot Rayne at work. :D

(This is Coren pretending to be a monk, btw.)
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Alýr (Rayne)
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2013, 10:03:41 PM »

I know it's you, Coren.  heart You have a familiar rhetorical style.

I have a number of alternate characters here, but tend to be hidden with varying rhetorical and narrative styles. I think there have been suspicions, but no one has asked, and I haven't told.  ;)
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Wanderer~
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2013, 10:12:29 PM »

Busted! In order to go incognito, I suppose the first order of business would be to get rid of the tell-tale dash - now that shouldn't be too difficult, right?  grin
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Zoraya
Lady of the Flame
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Elf, Ifer’hém


« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2013, 10:15:16 PM »

If you're conscientious about your rhetorical style, you can change it; that makes it more difficult to spot you!

This character is done and ready for comments. :)
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Wanderer~
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2013, 10:16:39 PM »

Comments to come tonight! Already printed all 16 pages of it. :)
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Coren
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2013, 12:59:22 AM »

This is a great character - you learn so much from reading CDs! I went through the text again to see if I could identify what gave you away. You hid yourself so well in the CD - it would not have occured to me that this might be Rayne in disguise if I only read the early sections, but then your rhetorical style broke through in the narration of her history. The voice and storytelling I know so well and enjoy so much. :D

I've also done a uri, which I will post later tonight. Just a couple of minor typos.

Just one topic I want to throw out for discussion: Histories seem to be getting longer and longer, and as Tobin pointed out, they seem more like little novellas than a character description. This was the case in Amabella's CD - also a great CD btw.

I am wondering whether telling would not be more appropriate than showing in character histories. So exposition and summary rather than dramatisation through dialogue and direct action. To my mind, the purpose of the section is to suggest how the character's past influences her present - and the roots of her motivation. When they get so long, I doubt very many people read them, which kinda defeats the purpose.

For instance, wouldn't it be more functional to summarise Part 1 along the lines of: "Zoraya's father taught her fire magic and the philosophy of the Iferhem. He taught her that they follow Coor because they worship Ava, that killing the weak is an act of mercy, a sacred act that returns these souls to the Dream of Ava teh Beautfiul, and that they kill not for hate, but for love and compassion. Her mother infliltrated the Black Feather clan by pretending to be cast out from her own clan and by marrying Zoraya's father, only to betray them all by handing the Black Feather clan's battle plans to her own Hook Claw, and killing their son in cold blood by setting fire to their family tent (etc)."

Please don't get me wrong. The current section is written with great skill and I read it with pleasure and would love to see it uploaded on the site since it sheds such light on so many aspects of elven (and dark elven) life I never really understood before. I'm only saying that histories in this format seem to me to be better suited for the Compendium's Library than to a rp character's history section.

Could I perhaps offer a win-win solution? Perhaps going foward, character histories could be summarised and narrated in exposition, with an optional link to a longer "story version"? This would have the added benefit of introducing more material for the main site. There are some great stories here on this board, nestled and hidden within character descriptions. Having these posted as stories would also bring welcome flow of life to the development board.

Just my two sans. :)
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Coren
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2013, 01:00:48 AM »

Oh, I forgot to mention: Rayne, there seems to be some incomplete sections, such as height and weight. (EDIT: I see that belongings were now written into the CD since I printed a hardcopy.)

PS: i love portrait - did you comission it from one of our artists?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 01:39:41 AM by Coren » Logged
Zoraya
Lady of the Flame
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Elf, Ifer’hém


« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2013, 09:17:17 AM »

Thank you for taking a look at this one, Coren!  heart I will work on filling in the missing sections. I just wanted to quickly get back to you apropos history:

You'res right that a summarized history would be shorter and perhaps faster. However, I prefer the current set-up for a few reasons: 1) I'm not so concerned about time (after all, in my situation, I can afford to wait a while. :) ) and 2) the current narrative structure ends up surving two purposes: it explains the history in a demonstrable, narrative way and it serves to give an example of how this character will be played. In a summarized history, you're practicing one type of writing, but this style is quite different from that which you find on the board, when you're actually posting as part of a story; therefore, my history demonstrates ability to write in a style appropriate for roleplaying. Further, while I can tell you about my character--her personality and behaviors--my history as written gives you a better idea of how these character traits will manifest in play.

Does this make sense? I promise there is a method to my madness!  :)

I can provide a summary of my character's history, if you would prefer; it would serve as merely an abridged version of the history with the sole of purpose of increasingly the likelihood this character may be approved with greater celerity. I'm not entirely sure this would be the result, though--our CD Mods are very thorough, and may choose to read the CD in its entirety anyway.  buck
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Coren
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2013, 02:55:29 PM »

Hey rayne thank you for your thoughts. I'msure themods do read the cds in full, i was rathernreferring to other players we rp with. (Sorry ipad)
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Alýr (Rayne)
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« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2013, 01:23:53 PM »

I've added height and weight, so this CD should be complete now. I apologize for the delay.

I think, for now, I will keep the history as it is. From experience, even adding an abstract for the history doesn't dissuade people from reading the full history, and those who might prefer an abstract tend to rather not read the history at all, if given a choice.

I am also a bit busy (or lazy  :P) But it is definitely something I shall consider adding in the future (and is, in fact, something that was added to Alyr's history!). Thank you for the suggestion. That I don't take it is not to say that it isn't a good one; only that it's not feasible for me at the moment.  :)
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Coren
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« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2013, 05:01:40 PM »

No worries rayne. I look forward to rping with zoraya when wanderer gets approved.
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Seh'nara Celebrindal
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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2013, 11:04:37 PM »

I see no problem with the CD. First approval.
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