Dawn caste warrior
Iona is 26 years old. She has dark auburn hair, nearly black but with red highlights. Her eyes are lavender the color of lilac petals and far too almond shaped for the standard around Nexus. She is over six feet tall.
Flaws: Black Sheep (2) No one in the family likes me (outside of our party members). Even my mother wishes I’d never been born. If I get into difficulties they will not help me. They may even put resources into making sure it comes out as badly for me as possible.
Enemy (3) My cousin Jilme is the same age as I am. She is classically beautiful and sweetly poisonous. The first time we met we were in the stables with our mothers. We had just arrived to be present to our grandmother for the first time as young women. Our mothers stopped to verbally spar for a short period of time. We studied each other in silence for a few moments, then she made a very sweet, very nasty comment about the odd shape and color of my eyes. I pushed her face down into a pile of manure and hit her until the stable hands waded in and separated us. She has never forgiven me for having to go before our grandmother in a borrowed dress with a split lip and a swelling face. She has devoted a lot of energy to insuring that I am not well respected or well thought of by the rest of the family and is partially behind my black sheep standing.
Because of Jilme, and the fact that I put more into resources than many of my sisters I want to say that the majority of Iona’s money does not come from her family’s silk farms. Instead she has money coming in from blacksmith’s and armorers scattered through Nexus and the surrounding areas. She doesn’t own any of them outright, and couldn’t call on them for favors, but she saved up her “allowance” to by interests in their businesses. Story:
Lavender and lace sheathed me, perfectly tailored to my every curve. Still, it felt more like a costume than clothing. I would have felt more comfortable in trousers and a tunic. The dress wasn’t bad; it simply represented a series of compromises with my mother. I hated bending my desires to her will for any reason, but there were some points where resistance would mean an escalation I was not willing to initiate. The occasional party and the gown necessitated by that social function was one such point.
Instead of fighting about the party we fought about the dress. Mother wanted me draped in fabric. I wanted to move freely. Mother wanted me to be beautiful. I wanted me to be comfortable. Mother wanted an elegant display of our family’s wealth. I wanted to be able to dress and undress by myself, fairly quickly.
Delicately embroidered silk hugged my body while my most admirable assets where emphasized by expensive imported lace, but it hampered my movements not at all. The dress was so short that I had to wear matching underpants beneath it so that watchers only saw more of D’Sirai’s exquisite silk when I sat down. I didn’t even have to remember to cross my legs in a lady like fashion while seated.
The matching jacket was made of thicker, heavier silk. The sort of material only the truly wealthy could afford. I like silk, and not just because it is the source of my family fortune. It is easy to clean. Add some cold water and blood comes right out of it. The same can’t be said for lace. I studied the snowy white, elaborately tatted panels in my gown and hoped there would be no bloodshed tonight. Mother will kill me if I ruin another expensive outfit.
Quick, clever hands pulled my hair out of its usual pony tail and plaited it into a complex knot at the back of my head. I held perfectly still as my mother’s maids slid from that task to layering paint on my face. The make-up was my least favorite part of this charade, and the maids knew it. They rushed to finish before I lost my temper and started throwing things at them.
Dainty slippered feet scampered out of my room and I opened my eyes to study the results of their work. I was beautiful, of course. I always was when they were finished with me. What surprised me was that they had chosen to play up the exoticness of my features. Almond shaped eyes the color of lilac petals and an odd golden tone to my skin were my only legacy from my father. A foreign gladiator, imported to entertain arena goers, he caught my mother’s eye when she was just a teenager. His name was Erynys, but I knew little else about him, though I sometimes wondered why my mother despised in me the very things which had attracted her to him.
I slipped my favorite hair piece into the tightly drawn strands near my ear and smiled into the mirror. Rich amethysts glowed with bloody fire in their hearts and white feathers shone starkly against the red tinted darkness of my hair but my smile looked like a caricature from a mask. I let my face fall back into the cold blankness that usually marked it and headed out to join my family. I understood necessity and would do what I must, but I did not have to like it.
We spilled out of mother’s carriage when we reached the party, more like a menagerie than a family. One hunched like a tortoise and shuffled her way along the wall hunting for an escape. One slithered into the crowd like a serpent searching for a victim. One stepped with precise grace, an egret casually seeking the best companions. I was the cat stalking her prey, forgetful of the lace she must not get bloody.
He was there. I’d known he would be. He smiled to see me, then frowned, recognizing my demeanor as odd. It chilled me a little that he knew me so well. It made me regret what I come here to do and confirmed my certainty of its necessity. It wasn’t like I loved him, though I had certainly enjoyed his broad shoulders, narrow hips, and fiery personality. I‘d never had half as much fun fighting and making up with anyone else. He’d started as one of the series of minor rebellions that I used to distract mother from my real secrets, then turned into something I actually valued.
I can remember the exact moment when I decided that I would never be the good little girl that mother wanted. I can’t tell you how old I was, but I was still enough of a child to be confined to the mulberry fields. The leaves of those trees fed the worms whose deaths created my mother’s wealth, and laborers moved slowly around them. The tending of roots and trimming of branches was a constant monotonous dance. I was old enough to find that dance, and the stumpy trees, not even as tall as the laborers which tended them, quite dull. I slipped free of my too attentive nanny and darted into the forest which surrounded the estate.
Once free I jumped over logs and slid down rocks with cheerful abandon, but a few hours of that made me quite hungry. I clambered up a tree to share a meal with a very startled robin and was startled in turn by the sweetness of the dark purple berries I was eating. I glanced around to identify the type of tree I was in and found myself confronting the dilemma that would shape my life.
The leaves were unmistakably those of a mulberry, yet this tall slender tree full of sweet berries and birds was unlike anything I had ever encountered in our fields. For the very first time I realized how warped a thing could become by the expectations of another. I returned home to my frantic nanny and looked around the estate with new eyes. It wasn’t just the mulberries; every person, plant and thing I encountered had either warped itself to serve my mother’s desires or been broken and discarded.
I determined then that I would neither bend nor break, but quickly learned that such a goal would not be easy to achieve. The forest became my refuge, and my salvation. It was with a sense of wonder that I watched the forest open before my eyes and reveal a hidden sanctuary.
Even as young as I was I quickly realized that my hidden playground was an ancient ruined fortress. I spent my childhood fantasizing about the battles that might have been fought there and my teen years struggling to clear and rebuild it. Thick branches and vines prevented entry into carved rooms while leaves and dirt chocked the natural spring in the center of my secret garden to a muddy trickle.
I spent many long afternoons chopping wood and burning vines, but it was creating the central pond which took me years. The plants that I didn’t want could be burned, but dirt had to be shoveled out and hauled away one slow sledge full at a time.
Moving all that dirt made me strong, and my strength eventually attracted the attention of my grandmother’s guards. Their lessons ignited a passion that I’d never felt for my mother’s silks or my tutor’s dry lectures. I milked every lesson I could out of them, then went hunting more. It was this hunt which led me to Braedeen and my affair with him quickly became the main source of contention between my mother and myself.
She still doesn’t know about my secret castle, though my sisters certainly do. Laynleen was the first to learn my secret. Had I been wiser I would have taken her there myself rather than giving her the satisfaction of following me all that way in secret and startling me while I labored like the lowest farm worker. I avoided that mistake with Vesper and even helped her turn one of the solider seeming granite rooms into a place where she could perform her experiments away from our mother’s worried eyes.
Laynleen was with me when I discovered the strange deep room in which the crystals grow. She and I both took one away. It was a warm thing, and it made my hands tingle as I cupped it gently and exposed it to the sun’s rays. Blood red lines trickled through rich green, like the darkest jade. Occasional splashes of red dotted that green, pure and luminescent like some child of light and blood.
Mother believes that I should compete with my sisters, strive to become mistress of our village when mother herself ascends to her rightful place as matron of our clan. She believes that I would loose, ad she would enjoy watching that. I also believe that I would loose, but not for the reasons mother would give. I could win, but only by causing immense harm to at least two of my sisters, and that is not a path I am willing to take. I love them too much to do what I would have to in order to win, so I do not compete at all. I planned to join the guard, or perhaps the army instead.
Those plans are moot now, like my pleasure in Braedeen. I have a secret far greater than a castle in the woods, something no one can be allowed close enough to me to discover. That secret led me here, to one last dance, a few more moments pressed against the powerful form that I had so enjoyed sparring with and caressing. I curled against him, cradled in his arms for the final time, then looked into his eyes and told him we were through.
I accepted his rage and his pain, ignored his questions, and walked calmly away. He was still watching me, hands fisted at his sides, when I stopped to grab a snack and a drink. If this were not such a public place he would certainly have struck me, violence had always been a big part of our relationship. We fought, then fucked, I chosen this venue specifically so that we could do neither. I could not allow him the chance to get me worked up, when I was emotional it was harder to control…
The sharp taste of imported lemons was as bitter as my thoughts and a welcome distraction from them. I mingled with the crowd and tried to make polite small talk. I was good at neither. Both were activities that I usually tried to avoid. So was going home with my mother, but I climbed willingly into her carriage for the overly long ride and endured her biting comments in icy silence. All of these were things that kept me away from Braedeen, and so I endured. I could not allow him another moment alone with me, not ever.
He could never learn that I was one of the Anathema.
The sign for my foundry is a crossed sword and shield hanging from a two by four. Standing on top of the wood is a Crowing rooster made from bright brass so that on those rare occasions that sunlight penetrates the Nexus smog it shines like gold.
Its name is the Golden Cock.
A delicate chime above the door rang as I pushed it open. Anwer looked up from his position behind the counter with a salesman’s fake cheer stamped on his face. The sculpted smile relaxed into a real grin when he saw me. “Dad’s in the back,” he told me cheerfully, jerking a thumb towards his father’s work room. I smiled in return and thanked him as I eeled my way past displays of armor and weapons. Alvo had no such cheer for me. His demeanor was servile, his bow submissive. To him I was a “Lady” to be feared and honored without any hope of camaraderie. He’d been a slave too long to think any other way. Olivia has never understood that about slaves. Once a person has given up their free will, allowed another to mold and shape their lives, they can become incapable of making decisions for themselves. Alvo’s children, raised free in Nexus, do not have that problem, but Alvo and his wife Nadeen were slaves from birth. I can still remember their terror, and Olivia’s confusion at it, when they realized that the “Grand Lady” they had followed away from everything they knew intended to abandon them in the name of “freedom”. I’d moved in quickly, rescuing my younger sister before she even realized she needed it. A few orders got the slaves thinking about something other than the change in their lives while a short claim of responsible charge sent my sister sailing off believing she had done something wonderful. Olivia has matured a lot since then, but she still seems so young to me. She is older than Layn’leen, old enough to understand the consequences of her actions, but often Vesper, still a teenager, seems more competent at taking care of herself. As they worked I talked to the slaves, trying to figure out what I was going to do with them. It wasn’t till I started talking to Alvo, huge, powerful, scarred and reserved, that I began to get a glimmer of an idea. He spoke quietly. I had to lean in to listen as he explained the functioning of a foundry and the skills his previous owner, a drunkard of a blacksmith, had taught him. Alvo could have been a Master Blacksmith in his own right, were he capable of making decisions or running a business. He was not. He needed to be owned by another, told what to do, or perhaps…he simply needed his foundry to be owned by another. It was Layn’leen that I turned to for help with my plan, despite her relative youth. I never asked her how the abandoned foundry she found me had become the fire-gutted ruin that I purchased. It didn’t matter to me. Enough of the building was stone that it was still salvageable, and many of the tools Alvo needed were still inside, hidden beneath charred lumber and ash. He had the place running again in short order and once it was financially stable I charged Alvo with a special task, something just for me. It was time to see if he were as good as I thought.
It was finally time to heft the results of his labor in my hands. Pleased by its balance I took it out back to play in the sand; a graceful twist, designed to bring a mounted or flying opponent down to the ground, followed by a quick, vicious chop. Through it all my new weapon performed flawlessly, lighter and sharper than any I had ever used before. The warm slow smile that lit his face at my nod of approval made his pleasure in servitude obvious. Alvo would never attempt to betray me, neither would Anwer. Despite his more charming demeanor, he’d been a slave until he was 12. It had left its mark on him. Anwer’s daughters might be a different story, as might his sisters, but that would be my children’s problem…if I ever decided to have any.