Author Topic: Life is what happens, while you are making other plans (the story of Selena)  (Read 2638 times)

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The afternoon sun was hot, as it usually is in Calimport. The desert air was dry, and you could feel the sandy film in your mouth just from breathing in the dusty wind. People filled the streets, wrapped in protective clothing designed to keep the harsh sun off their skin. Some colorful, indicating wealth and others were drab, and worn. Heat, body odor, the stink of camels and the burning sun made this a rather inhospitable place, and Selena was not used to it. Her home was in Waterdeep, much cooler and friendly a place in her opinion. Her and her mother, Kasa, had traveled here on a trading trip with her father Aaron. “It will be fun” he had said, but the tripped had turned sour quickly. The Pashas of Calimport were devils, and Aaron had made a bad investment with one of the Pashas money. He had been conned, and when the ancient relics of platinum turned out to be lead filled fakes, the 500,000 in gold the Pasha had lent him was long gone.

Kasa pushed her way through the street where she would meet the Pasha and negotiate her husband’s life. A deal had been sent to her the night previous, and she cried ever since she opened the letter sealed with the Pasha’s crest. Selena did not now why, and her mother told her nothing. This morning she could see that her mother was sad, but determined. Her tears were all cried out.

Selena was just a girl, 12 years old, and used to the luxuries that a successful trader and merchant father could shower her with. Her mother had servants to take care of the house hold responsibilities, and Selena had tutors in language, art, history and anything her heart desired. Life had been good, but that hot dusty morning would change everything.

The memory was burned into her mind. The fat sweaty man dressed in silken robes of purple and white. A wide long sash of emerald green was wrapped around his considerable midsection. His face was as round as he was, and his pointed goatee and long curled mustache framed greasy thick lips of a man that had just eaten one of the street vendor’s meat on a stick. Selena knew how slick the meat was, and how it was heavily spiced to hide what she thought to be the hint of sourness meat gets when it begins to turn. Her father was bound next to the fat Pasha, and held by two of his thickly muscled guards, dress in breaches that were full in the legs and a lengthy vest with no under shirt so to show off the might of his men.

Her mother sobbed and then swallowed her anguish when she saw Aaron. He had not been treated well, his rich clothing hung in tatters, and deep red scars from a lashing marred his chest and midsection. She could only assume the back of him was no better.

“We have deal, Yes?” Said the Pasha with a deep gurgled voice, obvious that his girth made it hard for him to breath, “Your man is no dead, in exchange for girl, Yes?”.
The words did not make sense to Selena, but her mother nodded silently. Could they mean her?

There was a moment of hesitation, and the Pasha drew a slender curved dagger from the folds of his sash and placed it against the throat of Aaron. With defeated determination, she walked forward with Selena.
“No! Mother you can’t mean this!” The young 12 year old girl tried to hold her ground, and pull against her mothers grip. The 2 Men brought her beaten husband forward and in a breaths time, they dropped him to the ground, and took the screaming girl.
“NO!!! MOMMA!!! PLEASE!!! NO!!!” Her screams echoed in her own ears, but her mother only wept and said “Don’t worry my love, it will not be long. Your father will raise the money to pay the Pasha back and you will be free soon. Please don’t cry.” The fat Pasha smiled a gap toothed grin at Selena.
“NOOOOOOO! Momma! NOOOOO!”

Selena sat up with a start, and ran her hands through her dark long hair. “Damn dreams!” The Pasha had left her chambers after his night of debauchery. 6 years past since that horrible day, but it haunted her still, and fueled her hate for the man that was now her master. She had been groomed to become part of his harem, so life as a slave girl was not so bad for the first 3 years. She was put through a rigorous exercise program to keep her body toned and lithe. Dancing lessons, flexibility training and classes in elegance and obedience made up her days. She did well in all but the last. Her disgust at the Pasha, whom she learn was named Siam, over powered her subservience lessons. She was a pale diamond amongst his dark brown skinned ladies which number 8. Perhaps he liked her fire, and her defiance, like a horse trainer likes a wild stallion that needs broken. It set her apart from his 8 obedient harem girls. Her hair was combed daily, and her skin was washed in lavish oils and flower pedals. While her life had changed 3 years ago when she was sold to Pasha Siam it changed again the night of her 15th birthday.

“He will come for you tonight.” Said Najia, the one Harem girl that Selena had bonded with. “He always does when we turn 15”. That night he did, and that night, her disgust became pure hate. The stinking sour smell of his body, the hot sweaty body on hers, and his backhand across her cheek to silence her protests, were all fuel for her fire.

3 years her exercises and pampered treatment continued, and for 3 years she suffered his unwanted touch. She did his will and pleased him as best as she could. The more she could wear him out, the faster he would fall asleep. “Maybe he would have a heart attack if she made him exert himself enough” she thought during each encounter and it made her work all the harder to make him push himself. To her disappointment, each morning he would leave her chamber alive and well, and extremely satisfied. And each morning after he left she would bathe thoroughly, and try to wash away the memory and the feeling of filth that was deeper than just the skin.

It was not every night, as he did have 8 others to chose from as well as her. She had made some “Friends” with a couple of Pasha Siam’s guards, choosing to share her sexual skills with them and in the after glow of their exertions they would talk about the world and the things the Pasha had them do.

One such evening, a Guard named Yazi, one that Selena could honestly say she liked enough not to wish him dead, told her a secret. Somehow the conversation turned to his family and she spoke aloud her anger and hatred of her parents for never returning to save her. Yazi’s face was one of a man torn with his feelings and his duty. With a little coaxing he spoke his mind to her.
“No No, my little flower, do not hate them” He had named her that due to the soft floral scent that always clung to her body from the oils she bathed in, “They did No abandon you…”
“What do you mean Yazi? Do not toy with my feelings!” Her frown told him that she did not like what he was saying, and he nearly stop, but the sighed and continued.
“No, you need to know truth. They never returned to Waterdeep.” He looked directly into her deep blue eyes, “Pasha paid the Black Riders to hit their caravan, and the Black Riders leave no survivors.”
She gasp, as if his words had stolen the breath from her breast. For 6 years she had hated them for abandoning her, but now she found her hatred had been misplaced. Instead of letting go, she took that fuel and added it to the fire of rage she had for Pasha Siam. She helped her guard lover to dress, and slipped his thin boot dagger into the folds of her own robe.

She took no more lovers to her chamber, and waited till the Pasha chose her. While she waited she hid the dagger at the head of the bed and kept up with her exercises and stretching. It was not much more than a week before he came to her. He had been the victor in a rather ruthless trade arrangement and had secured himself a large amount of wealth in the Sea Trade with Chult. He had come to celebrate, and in doing so, he wanted his pale diamond.

She waited, swallowing down her disgust and gave him what he so desired. She could not let him know that anything was different. She lay back on the bed, while his girth enfolded around her. She blocked out the odor of old wine on his breath and focused, waiting till he arched and rolled his head back in ecstasy. The moment would only last a few seconds, when his senses would be overwhelmed and his throat totally vulnerable. The daggers hilt was cool in her hand, and when he let out a groan to indicate his peak, he did as he always did, and there and then, her target present itself to her. There was not any hesitation, the thin curved dagger, much like the one the Pasha had put to her father’s throat, punched deep and through the arteries on both sides of his neck. The surprise on his face was a look worth the years of his foul touch. With a sneer and strength bore of pure hatred, she yanked the dagger through, tearing out the front of his throat, and splashing herself with gore. With a heave, the fat round man rolled off the bed on to the floor. The guards thought nothing of the noises, as the nights spent with Selena were always vigorous and loud. She arose, went calmly to her bathing chamber and washed the blood and bits of skin away, as she listen to the Pasha gurgle and try to call for help. There would be no alarm, as the voice box had been sliced cleanly by the daggers exit.

She stood before the dying Pasha, naked, and beautiful, her hair tied back in a long braid. His eyes looked up at her, pleading for help, even as the gushing wound slowed its flow. She stood there, watching with satisfaction as Pasha Siam finally died. There was no remorse, no regret and no fear of retribution. He was dead, and she would never again feel his clammy hands on her body. She would never again smell his stink or feel the sting of his backhand when she spoke out of turn. Even if the guard came in the morning to find her and the dead Pasha, then cut her down as a murderess, she would still be free.

But… It was not enough. She did not want to just be free, she wanted to be feared, she wanted the Pasha’s power, his wealth, his dominance over all who dealt with him. She learned that she could kill without regret, and this was not a skill to be squandered. Selena crouched down, and looked the Pasha in his unseeing dead eyes.
“I will be better than you! I will be what you always wanted to, I will be a goddess of death and I will be feared in these streets.”
The dead man did not respond, and with a laugh, she stood and dressed in the silken deep blue breeches and a loose fitting top that she used when she exercised for they were comfortable and nonbinding. As she walked out to the balcony, the night air had become thick with fog. Selena took this as a blessing, for the fog would hide her. With that thought in mind she slipped over the side and began her climb to the street below.

The humid air, unusual for the Calim desert, made the hand holds slick on the palace walls. The alarm bells sounded as she climbed much to her dismay. A guard must have checked on them to make sure the Pasha had not expired from his exertions. Whistles sounded through the palace, and oil lamps began to light each window. In a panic, Selena climbed faster, and in her carelessness her foot slipped off a moist smooth stone. The sudden movement and violent lurch tore her grip free as well. The cool air rushed past her, as she fell into the fog filled air, like flying through a cloud. The ground was 50 feet below, and she knew the impact would be the end. Death was inevitable, and in away she welcomed it, but yet there was disappointment too, disappointment that she would not live up to her pledge to the dead Pasha. She closed her eyes, and spread out her arms like some sort of bird. The wind was refreshing rushing past her face, as she waited for the predictable sudden stop that was to come.

As with all of her life, it had been full of changes. This night was just another in a series of unexpected events. As she fell to what she thought was her assured death, the Mists had other plans for the murderess. There must have been a period of unconsciousness, for the next thing she knew, she was on her back, laying in the grass. The sounds of lapping water and music met her ears as well as the threatening rumble of thunder in the distance. The air was cool, and humid, a refreshing change from the hot arid desert. For long moments, Selena could only lay there, stunned, wondering if she was in some sort of dream or perhaps the gods took pity on her and had allowed her to pass on to the heavens instead of the hells her actions had damned her too. As rain splashed cold drops upon her face she knew for sure she was not dead, or asleep, so she arose and looked around. This was not Calimsham, or even Waterdeep. Somehow, she had been taken to somewhere she had never been before, some magic in the fog had taken her from death. Perhaps even death itself had heard her pledge to the Pasha, and was giving her the chance to make good on it. Whichever, she took her first steps in this new land, and cautiously approached the caravan in the distance, hoping for some answers.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2009, 06:25:22 PM by LawfulJoe »

LawfulJoe

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The crypt floors were worn from years of metal shod boots walking the halls. The ancient curse of the Morning Lord Catacombs had become more of a training grounds for warriors and novice hunters than a place of shame. The dead that walked arose repeatedly, their rotting corpses reassembling within hours of being hacked down by the weapons of unskilled swordsmen and women trying to gain proficiency in their weapon of choice.

Selena was no different. She faced the horrors of the crypts with grim determination. The un-edged curved blade of her scimitar rolled along her body’s natural shape, creating a “snap out” with the sharpened side for power. The deadly blade sliced off bits of decaying flesh from the mindless zombie that advance on her. It felt no pain, even though she still targeted critical point on its body to aim for. There were no arteries to open, or blood to make run into the eyes. There was no beating heart to pierce, or anything a living target would suffer from, but she still used the animated corpse as an attack dummy to practice her precision.

Eventually the undead body could not support itself any longer and it collapsed, cueing her to move on to the next target. Her pouch was full of snapped off index fingers for trading in and her armor was smeared with dust, black icor and some of her own blood. A skeleton with a deadly aim with hand axes had clipped her repeatedly while she fought the zombies. Once free of the slow moving undead, she easily dispatched the thrower, but the damage had been done. Cuts and nicks, some deep, marked her once perfect skin. The popping sound of the cork being pulled out of the healing draught echoed through the dusty and empty halls. She drank down the bitter liquid, and felt the chill of the healing power flow into her aching wounds. Soon the pain lessened, and the deep wounds stopped bleeding while the shallow ones were nothing but small pink scars.

“Only one left.” She whispered to herself, noting that her potions had run dangerously low. She silently berated herself for letting the thrower so much time to get in its hits. The zombies would have waited, too slow to be a threat while she should have taken out the axe skeleton.
“Lessons learned.” She thought aloud.
With a snarl and a grunt she pushed on into the dark catacombs, her lantern lighting the way through the gloom.

Bloodied, tired, and sore, she finally came upon the stairs leading back up into the temple. Every step was an effort, but she knew she had learned much from her fights. She would never be considered weak again, not to any one, especially, any man. Too many years she spent being a harem slave to that disgusting Pasha. Some nights she awakened still, expecting him to come calling only to realize that she slept safely in the Ladies Rest Inn. On those nights she would pull out the curved dagger that ended the Pasha’s life and stare at it, reminding her that he truly was dead. The memory of his spurting neck would calm her, and the sound of his last gurgled breath brought her the peace she needed to fall back to sleep.

(More to come)
« Last Edit: September 03, 2009, 02:25:58 AM by LawfulJoe »

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(Continued from above)
Tonight would not be one of those nights, exhaustion would ensure Selena a solid nights rest. The light of the temple was slightly blinding as she emerged fromt he dimly lit depths. Squinting and moving slowly she made it to Sister Liz, turned in her pack of rotting fingers for a few more potions and turned to make her way toward the door. Every muscle ached, and now with the  adrenaline leaving her body, she new she would definately feel it in the morning.
"Pain, it will fuel the fire within, and forge you into the killer you want to be, so quit your griping!" she silently berated herself as she crossed the road to the Lady's Rest Inn. It was far into the night, so she dare not go further than that. Before she entered the safety of the inn, she paused, looked up and the cloud shrouded moon and took a deep breath. The night was still, only the far off bay of a wolf broke the silence. She liked the night, even though her common sense warned her of the possible danger potentially lurking in the shadows.

In Calimport, the night was peaceful. It would be on one of those nights that the Pasha chose another harem girl to bed down with. Selena would go out onto the balcony that was high above the streets and just listen to the city. The night told a story on the sounds that carried on the wind. A couple fighting over a gambling debt, a baby crying and a mother trying to sooth the restless child, a cry for help, and then silence. Each sound gave the enslaved harem girl a vivid picture of a life that was far from hers. It was as close to freedom she could know until the faitful night that the keen point of a dagger would change her life forever and bring her into the land of the mists.

For just a moment, she did the same in Vallaki, listened to the wind song, but there the stories she heard were disturbing. She could hear the cry of someone, pleading for mercy, and then a screem. She heard the shriek of rats and the sound of something coming through the woods. Something heavy, cracking branches under it's weight.

Without giving it a second thought, Selena ducked into the Inn, not ready or in any shape to face whatever it was in the dark forest to the north. The door banged shut behind her, and Radu looked her over. Satisfied that she was not some monster , he nodded and payed her no more heed. Frankly, she didn't care, she wanted a bath and a bed, past that, the world could pike off. She looked at Biance tiredly and the innkeep knew the look. She had seen it many times in the month and a helf Selena had been staying at the inn. Coins passed hands and a key was taken into the swordswomans hand. She made her way upstaira, and into a common room. Her sword belt clattered to the floor followed by her armor. A path was mapped out from the door to the bed by the pieces of armor that littered the floor. arm grieves, chain shirt, then the boots and finally the chain leggings and thin under armor. The bath would wait, she fell into the bed, not even bothering to pull back the covers. Within minutes she slept, and did so heavily, thankfully without dreams.

LawfulJoe

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Everyday, since joining the Red Vardo, Selena had enjoyed the comforts of the headquarters. The finest in drink served at the bar for a reasonable price, the secure comfort of a private entry but most of all, she loved the training room. Each morning she went into her routine of stretches and limbering exercises followed by scimitar practice. She stood between the two combat dummies as if flanked by two enemies. At first she would go through the flowing motions of guards and strikes in slow motion, measuring the proper angle and placement of the blade for the most effect. Neck, inner thigh, arm pit, groin were all large arterial cuts, deadly if untreated. Then she would go for the more subtle hits, above the brow line, across the nose bridge, behind the knee, and finshed with a low swipe to the achillies tendon. All designed to disable, and make her enemy more vulnerable.

The cresent slices and ever moving series of attacks would pick up speed till her arms ached and sweat glistened on her skin. With each error, she would stop and begin again from the top. Over and over the swordswoman worked her savage dance. The combat dummies spun and shook as she hit them mercilessly. Evey hit was accurate, or she did it again.

The session ended with her dropping down to an knee while thrusting forward with a solid stab into the crotch of the dummy. She could not help but smirk. Selena had come along way from the harem girl she was. Her hands that were once soft now were calloused and tough. Her unmarred body now had thin scars from cuts, claws and arrows. Magic healing helped, but it still left the reminder of the wound. She didn't mind though, and wore each as a lesson learned. Pain was not an enemy, it let her know she still lived, and if used properly, would make a fine weapon in her arsenal. She had made a promise to herself when she killed Pasha Siam, she would be feared, respected and powerful. Perhaps not in the streets of Calimport, but Vallaki, and maybe further.

While stretching and allowing her muscles to cool, she could only contemplate the possible future. Maybe Dragos would move to the boss position, and the Captain to the underboss. What would she need to to to become the captain? Who would she need to kill? The thought was mostly a silent joke to herself, but not entirely. She dismissed it quickly, agreeing that it was best to play by the Vardo's rules until she was more known and respected. She was a grunt, a foot soldier for the family, but with a litte time and effort, that would hopefully change. For now, she needed to get used to the concept of family, something she never knew, not since she was sold to pay off her fathers debt. Perhaps it would be a good and comforting experience. She never had people look out for her, or give a damn. She had learned to depend only on herself. It would be a change, but as she sat and listened to the soft murmer of people, out in the bar, and moving about the Vardo Headquarters, she felt an odd comfort in knowing that they all depended on each other to cover the others back.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 07:01:58 PM by LawfulJoe »

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Dementlieu, a city very unlike the dirty and dark streets of Vallaki. It reminded Selena of a very old painting of people in elegant and bright clothing. The colors of the gowns and frock coats were in perfect harmony with the artistic city landscape, but on the fringe of this perfect scene was a darkened shadow, as if something was hidden behind the pomp and circumstance of it all.

She did however feel very out of place in her armor amoungst the formally dressed patrons on the street, so she got a room at a local inn, and changed into something that would blend more into the crowd. The gown and waist coat was made in the Vardo colors of Red and Black, but they had the look and feel of a person who liked fine things but also meant business. It did not focus on her femine assets, but at the same time accentuated her curves. As she slipped out of the mail and leather into the soft formal clothing, Selena felt naked and vulnerable.

She admired her look in the mirror and was pleased with the fit, but it was not the security of her armor that she had grown accustom to. She had to swallow down a feeling of dread before she could leave the room. A feeling that without the heavy armor, she was in danger. It was foolish, this she knew, but after so many months and so many near deaths and battles with monsters of all shapes and sizes, the idea that she could walk the streets in reasonable safety was one that did not seem believeable. With a deep breath, she left the tools of her trade behind, the black armor with red accents and the silvered scimitar that had been her closest friend, and stepped out the door. She did take comfort though in the dagger tucked into her boot. The very dagger that had killed the Pasha and made her freedom possible.

The streets were not like Calimport, more so like Waterdeep, but still not as crowded. Those who wore the bright colored finery obviously held themselves in a superior light. The wealthy and the nobility of Dementlieu, taking in the arts and the sights. Calimport taught Selena a valueable lesson. People of power and means got that way on the broken backs of common folk. Part of her hated the snobs, talking about last nights play or the fine meal they had. She imagined for a moment her dagger cutting cleanly across one of the many points of death taught to her by Dragos. She smiled at that, and the people smiled back, not understanding the source of her mirth.

The day wore on, and her search finally bared fruit. The temple of Ezra was what she had been seeking, and the crumbling structure was a bit of a surprise, considering the appearance of the Temple in Vallaki. With a shrug and a deep breath, she pushed open the door, thinking to herself,
"Well, This is it."


LawfulJoe

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The Books of Ezra were confusing to Selena. She read through the first, and then cross referenced it with the second, and then the Thrid. When she got to the forth, she let out a huge sigh of frustration.
"They contradict each other!" She said aloud in the huge empt church. Her voice echoed off the tall gothic ceilings and made her aware of her outburst.
"One book says help and save others, even the Fallen, then this book says help only the flock and kill the Fallen with a sympathetic heart and hold no malice against them. How can you save the lost if you cannot help them? How can you kill without malice or hatred?This is rediiculous!" Her mumbling was kept to herself, as she opened the Fifth book. "One more, then I hope I can find Marle and maybe she can makle more sence of all of this."

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The many hours past into days, and the study of the tomes of Ezra made her head hurt. Selena needed some fresh air a change from the damp and stale air in the church. The sun shined brightly in Dementlieu, making the raven tress woman squint, used to the overcast and foul weather of Barovia. She cuaght movement out of the corner of her eye and reflexively dropped her hand to where her sword belt normally rested. It of course was not their, left with her armor in her inn, fortunately it was only a young boy, of maybe 11 years old. He ran up to her and handed her a letter, sealed with a uncrested red wax seal. He smiled, and turned and ran obviously pleased with whatever payment that he had officially earned with the transfer of the letter.

She took a deep breath and broke the seal, reading the words writen upon the parchment. The letter put a sinister feel to the air, and Selena looked about with her eyes, as if expecting an attack to come. The letter was carefully tucked into her pouch and she move with a delibrateness to her inn. The fine clothes came off in a hurry, left in a heep on the bed. Within minutes, Selena was back in her armor and felt a sensation of security just from it's familiar feel and smell. The sword belt fell into it's place on her shapely hip, completing her in spirit and appearance.

Now that she felt more at ease, she turned her attention to the discarded clothing. Each item was folded and placed carefully into her pack. An hour passed and it was time to leave. If the sun fell before she was at the Vistani caravan, the streets would become dangerous. She paid her tab with the inn keep, and stepped into Dementlieu's maze of cobble stone roads and alleyways. Every shadow seemed to hold danger. Perhaps it was her imagination or perhaps there were truely things or bandits lurking in wait for the sun to drop below the horizon.

The race against time began, but if they marked Selena as an easy target, they would be in for a painful surpirse.

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The streets of Port-au-Lucine welcomed Selena again as she stepped into the night. The blade at her side was not the confortable Scimitar she was used to, but a light and cruelly wave bladed rapier. She would need to get used to this weapon as a guard for Suzannah, so no better than to test it in the field.

The shadows were her friend, hiding her from the view of the roving bands of thugs and caliban. She moved as silent as a cat and her sences were alert. She did not want to challenge a gang, so she let them pass. She was looking for the lone hunter, the single killer waiting in the dark for their prey. It was not long till she found him.

He was dressed in black, and held a shortsword blackened with soot to keep the blade from catching the light. He was patient, and no stranger to his hiding spot, comfortable that he could see and noone could see him. He was wrong and paid for his overconfidence. Selena was behind him, not a foot away, and he never saw her coming. The rapier dug into his spine at just the right spot to render him helpless. He twitched, trying to scream, breath or fight, but he was at her mercy, of which she had none.

The murder was clean, quick and without notice, just one predator taking out another. Selena shivered with excitement and the thrill of the kill. Her skills had been put to the test, and she had proven herself able. Back into the shadows she disappeared, stepping from one to the other with barely a sound. Once back in the "safe" parts of town, she found a dark alley and put on her dress over her working suit. Once back in her room, Selena looked down at the slender sword and thought to herself,

"Maybe this is not such a useless weapon afterall."

A hot bath followed by a restful night followed, the fear and hopelessness of her prey's face filled her dreams and brought unconciously to her full lips a satisfied smile.

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2 drop went into her coffee. The thick clear liquid was a giant spider's venom, diluted with milk and honey. It made her lips tingle with each swallow. A few months ago when she began introducing small amounts of poison into her diet, Selena would be often sick to her stomach, the poison, even in it's diluted state had it's effects. At present though, she got a bit of heart burn and a little light headed at it's worst. Her tolerance to the venom was growing nicely. Once she had grown used to the spider poison, she planned to add less and less honey and milk to the dilution.The idea of strengthening her immunities to poison came from a book she read, but with the murders at the Vardo event, she took a much more active interesting in obtaining it.

The numbing effect the poison usually had on her lips did little to take the sting from the swollen lip she received in the attack from the other night. The minor cuts and bruises had all but healed over with a night of sleep, but her split lip and blackened eye would take at least a week. This was unexceptable, and she planned to visit the hospice to get some priestly care as soon as she finished her coffee.

"Where was Captain Murphy?" she wondered, "hopefully nothing happened to her." So many reports of threats and dangers, she hoped she had not lingered in Vallaki too long. She liked the darker and dirtier city. In Vallaki, she knew who her enemies were, and they usually came with claw and fang. Her sword was the answer to the threats of Barovia, but in Port-Au-Lucine, the battle field was more political and subtle. It was a war of wits, and false smiles, each person manuvering each other like a game of chess. It was slow and focused, but in the end, no less deadly. The assassin who poisoned the Vardo guard had made a bold move and did more damage than just the lives of a few.The Vardo had to win the hearts of the people here as the outside Merchants. If they wanted to be a public entity, the people would seal the deal.

With that fatal evening, the assassin had made association with the Vardo linked to death. It would be a stigma on future trades with the RVT here in the port. The set back would be time consuming and costly. The best course of action to right the wrong would be for the Red Vardo to capture the assassin. This in itself would grow the confidence in the people that the Vardo were not a company to let things go idle.

But the steps that could be done, had been. They had hired Alanik to investigate the crime and from his record, that was no small thing. Perhaps she would swing by to see if the Skulls had any insight. Ratface owe them some information and it was time to collect.

But first, she would finish her coffee.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2010, 07:07:11 PM by LawfulJoe »

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The whiskey went down easy but did little to calm her thoughts. Selena drank alone in the Blood on the Vines bar, her companions had retired upstairs for the evening. The wounds she had recieved ached, through the injuries had been healed, both of them had been enough to send her to the afterlife. Her head throbbed from the crushing blow from the massive Ogre, much bigger than the ones she usually encountered on the road to the Village of Barovia. That was the first killing blow of the night, the second came from an assassins blade, slipped between the banded steel of her armor and between two ribs to pierce the vital organs below. Death was swift, but not painless. The healing had mended the gash and the damaged internal organs, but it had done little  to ease the mental trama of dying. When it was death that she dealt to her enemies, it was a thrill, the power was hers to command. But when the tables were turned and the spectre's cold hand took her life, it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Death was an enemy she could not defeat with blade or bow. Her failings that night reminded of her how mortal she realy was, and she hated it. She had made a promise to herself to the dead Pasha slain by her hand that she would be a goddess of death, a force to be feared, and she still intended to do so. She had to grow stronger, deadlier and a mightier force to reckon with.

She drew another long pull from her flask of whiskey, staring into the fire warming the inn's barroom. The flames reflected the burning anger with herself. All her skill and proess with a blade was nothing against the Darklings and Ogres. She got in her hits, but the damage she did was miniscule compared to the wounds she received. Selena unconsciously ran her ringers along the ridge of the gash in her armor, the cut leather still damp with her blood. The strike had been perfect, she knew because she was trained in that same tactic. Her block came to slow and the assassin's blade did it's work. The fight played over and over in her mind, all the way to the pain and the shock realization that she was going to die.

Then she moved her hand to the top of her head. The bump of where the Ogre had crushed her skull still there as a trophey of the nights events. Her blade had cut deep into its thigh, but not enough to get through the dense muscle. What would have dropped a man, was a annoyance to the Ogre. The first hit dazed her, and the second she did not remember. All she knew was she was on the ground and being helped up by Dante. Her hair was still crusty with dried blood, but as she downed another full swallow of whiskey, her appearance just was not a priority on her mind. The words of the Pasha's guard, Yazi, who had tried to show her how to use a scimitar. "You're better on your back than with a sword" echoed in her memories. It had been a joke at the time, one of her first lessons from the guard lover, but now it was a slap to her pride and added more fuel to her disgust with herself.

With some effort she stood, her head dizzy from the drink and the Ogre's hit. Selena decided to seek out her friends and maybe their company would sooth her dour mood. Denisa played her violin, and Dante and Schala spoke pleasantly enough in the large room upstairs. The mood was much lighter, but did little to raise Selena's. The final kicker was when she went to drink more from her flask, only to find it empty. That was her que to find the common room and sleep. She excused herself, and stumbled out into the hall, the whiskey taking hold of her. She went through a door to find yet another hall, with bards playing and barmaids rushing about. Selena had no idea where the common rooms were, so she found a bench and curled up there. Sleep came quickly, but her dreams were filled with cruel faces of killers in the shadows and the blows of the Ogre, came over and over again, knocking her about, helpless and weak, like a rag doll. The bardic tunes only added a twisted light hearted soundtrak to her dark dreams.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2010, 06:29:04 PM by LawfulJoe »

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The outskirts of Vallaki were the social grounds of many of the people who called the city and surrounding areas their home. All kinds of people of many different races wandered about, Dwarves, Hin, Elves and of course Humans. A Hin merchant displayed her wares, while an elven archer watched warily for thieves. An elven woman spoke with a human, who was commenting on some item or another and two other humans, dressed in black spoke to a strangely helmed elven woman by one of the pillars near the Morning Lord church.

It was a day like any, but to Selena, it only served to add fuel to her anger. You see the Hin and Elven Archer were part of a rival merchant company known as the Gokodu, a direct competition to the Red Vardo Traders whom Selena belonged to. As she looked around and recognized that the two humans speaking to the goggle like helmed elf were also Vardo but not merchants, she noticed that there were no Vardo Merchants to compete with the Hin. Just the Gokodu was making profit this day and again, there was a flare to her anger. She itched to sell, but she had little to offer in items compared to the impressive display put on by the Hin. Frustration just built up in her mind, the outskirts had always belonged to the Red Vardo, but now the Gokodu trespassed on their turf, and there was not a damn thing she could do about it.

She walked on only to pass the leader of the Gokudo, who nodded to her as she walked by. Just his acknowledgement made her mad, as if he knew, there was nothing she would do to him nor would the Vardo. It was an insult for the known caliban to stand so openly without fear of the Guarda or anyone else. She quickened her step in need to kill something and do it slowly and painfully. To her dismay, nothing volunteered, so her next stop was into the sullen woods. There she faced ancient rotting skeletons, that nearly shattered upon her first strike. They did not scream, nor beg for mercy, but they took the edge off her rage. She moved from cave to cave, finding more skeletons but still nothing to really give her the satisfaction she so desired. The Shadows that called the woods their home attacked her, and more fell before her scimitar. But they did not cry out, just chose to run when things grew desparate. The cowardly fleeing shadows did not satisfy her, but before the 5th shadow could run away, it was struck down with 3 arrows.

Spinning quickly to face the surprise archer, she turned to the long mustached face of Horatiu, one of her Vardo brothers. Even as angry as she was, Selena could not help but welcome the company. Together they slaughtered several more shadows and her mood lightened. After a few hours of mayhem, they went their separate ways. Her mood was better, and it was after dark, so as she returned to Vallaki, the Hin Gokodu Merchant had packed up her wares so Selena did not have to walk by it again.

A whiskey back at the Vardo Headquarters finshed off her night, but still, like the embers of a forest fire, the anger simmered. She did not like fighting an enemy with her hands tied, but until the orders read differently, the anger would just have to simmer. Maybe she should participate in the Vardo sponsored fight night, but to do so would look like the fights might be fixed. She wanted to hear someone gurgle out the life's breath on the end of her sword, since she could not use it on those she wanted to. Perhaps it was time to return to the port. The evening streets were full of thugs and bullys ready to volunteer to grant Selena her wish.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2010, 09:22:39 PM by LawfulJoe »

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Her head still hurt, a week since the brutal mugging in the Streets of Port-au-Lucine and the throbbing was still there. It had been bad, three thugs with studded large clubs had brutalized Selena in the Quartier Ouvier. She knew she could sneak past the unobservant common crooks, and had many times, but this time fate had other plans. They must have lept down from a second story window or deck, for they had surprised her as much as she had surprised them. Club swings came in from every direction it seems, batting aside the much lighter rapier. One took her knee the second across her midsection and the third dropped her to the cobblestone road. The beating continued mercilessly till the pain was gone and only blackness remain. When Selena came to, she was a bloody mess, her knee splinted, her head wrapped in bandaged and her ribs tightly wrapped. She could remember little, the memory of the moment and how she ended up in the Vistani camp a complete mystery. Just the ever present throbbing pain in her head reminded her of the beating, but details were foggy.

She had been robbed of her weapon, her shield and her coin and left for dead. At the moment death would be merciful, as she struggled to her feet, her good leg supporting her as well as a heavy branch cut into a staff. Every hobbled step to the church was a new chorus of agony. But Selena was a fighter, and refused to give in to her suffering. She focused on the church door, and swalowed down the urge to vomit from the intense sharp pain in her ribs, knee and head.

The warm healing power of the Morning Lord Priestess was welcome and soothing. Her knee worked as it was inteneded, her breathing was no longer had the taste of blood, but her head still ached. She was disturbed to find that she could not recall some lessons in stealth that she had learned from Horatiu as well as a few new and more efficient fighting techniques. The hit on the head had truely damaged her memory and she berated herself for it. Again she found that she cursed her weakness and mortality. So fragile was the human body and easily broken. She knew this but she had always projected it up her enemies. Having been brutally beaten just a few weeks earlier by Ogers and Darklings this recent defeat was just salt on an old wound.

She opened an old tome, one she learned many important things about Vrolocks and their strength ansd weaknesses. This Tome had been writen by a man name Von Richten, and till this night it had been instructional and informative. These creatures were powerful and deadly but most of all, they were immortal. It was a crazy thought, and she was unsure with even thinking of them as superior instead of Cursed. They had transcended death and became something greater than life. So what if they fed on human blood, there were plenty of humans and other people who deserved to die.

Perhaps it was just the pain talking, she closed the book and made her way to Munru's to hock some lesser items and cash in some gems so to be able to make the trip back to Port-Au-Lucine. Suzzanah should nto be kept waiting, it was her duty to be at her side and to keep her safe. Rumor had it, Denisa knew about Vrolocks, perhaps it was time to pay the musician a visit.

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The Bath was warm and relaxed her muscles. It was not the lavish marble bath like the Pasha she once served had, but it was good enough. As per tradition, after sex, Selena always soaked in a bath. In the old days when she was a harem girl it was more to try to clean her soul and purge herself of the sick feeling from being touched by the fat disgusting Pasha Siam. This was different, for the first time in her life, it had be by her choice, by her desire, and she smirked at how good it had felt. She closed her eyes and remembered the night, passionate, violent and fulfilling. She also remembered the events that had fueled her lust and lead to the encounter.

There was so much blood from the wound the Vampire had torn in Denisa’s neck. She could only watch in amazement as tingles shot up her spine. Sweat beaded on her upper lip and it was so exhilarating and yet frightening to see the monster feed upon the helpless Barovian woman. It was all Selena could do to control the surging lust within her, the desire to be a part of the scene of debauchery. The Vampiress was Stunningly beautiful, even drenched in crimson gore. Women were not Selena’s style or preference, but in the moment she could not deny the desire that welled up within.

It took her by surprise, while acts of violence had always been a turn on, this had been more than ever before. Once the Vampire had left and taken her new toy with her, Selena excused herself from the meeting and went down to the Blood on the Vine’s bar to try to find calm in a bottle of whiskey. The crowd contained the local regulars, and it was busy as usual. The first swallow of the burning liquid sent a shudder through her body, the memory of what she had just seen played back before her closed eyes. When she opened them, her mentor and friend sat in the seat across from her. She could only smirk, for she knew long before she had the key to a private room in her hand, his fate was sealed for the night.

The water was cooling faster than Selena liked, but a hot bath is not forever. She dried off her body with a thick towel and dressed in her armor feeling good, and relaxed. Come daybreak, she would make the trip back to Vallaki and resume her training. Part of her looked forward to the runs along the mountain paths, but part of her dreaded the cold of winter that blew stronger in the higher regions.
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger” she thought to herself, and then wondered if her lover felt the same, for he would most likely feel the aftermath of their night together for a few days. The thought brought an amused smirk to her lips.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 04:39:07 PM by LawfulJoe »

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The scars in the mirror were pink and jagged, marring her back where the cane had lashed her. Ten lines of shame to remind Selena to never test a member of the family or doubt the judgment of the Vadims again. Isal’wyn was a new recruit, accepted in because of her relations with Kalamah. She frowned at the mesh of slashes and flushed in anger.
“Seems if you can sleep with a Vardo you are instant family, who cares if you are strong or week or broken, just so you keep your Vardo mate happy!” She hissed under her breath looking at the once torn flesh, now only scars after the potent healing potion she had drank.

After dressing in her heavy mail, she penned some in her report, trying to focus on work, but she kept drifting back to her punishment, and how Anya seemed to enjoy it, watching her squirm under her husbands brutal administrations. She saw the smirk and the playful smack on Dragos’s hind end as she left the room. So alike the two women were in Selena’s mind. Acts of cruelty excited them both, though being on the receiving end did little to get a rise out of her. She poured another whiskey, whiskey always helped her to endure. She would have to get past this if she was to continue her success in the Vardo. Power was what she truly desired, and she would die to achieve it. The Vardo were the most influential merchant company, so as long as they thrived, so would she, as long as she toed the line and kept Dragos and Anya happy.

“Play nice Selena, you can’t let that bard ruin you.” She calmed herself, trying not to imagine flaying the flesh off the young artist, or bathing in a tub of her blood. The evil thoughts were hard to suppress, but eventually she prevailed and let her anger go for Isal’wyn. Her own personal success was what was priority, and if that meant playing nice with Kalamah’s woman, then she would play nice.

With her report done, she threw on her heavy cloak and head out to the mountains. The run would do her good. Her foul mood would soon fade with the burning in her lungs from the icy thin air. It was not an easy task, but she knew in the end, the training from Horatiu would pay off.


« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 05:07:25 PM by LawfulJoe »

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After days of recovery, the sickness had finally released it's hold upon Selena. There were risks in building up your immunity to poisons, and sometimes too much too fast could be a hard lesson learned. It was her first run through the mountains in a week and her body, weakened from the diluted poison in her tea did nto wish to endure it. Every step was an effort, but she gritted her teeth and pressed on. She would not be weak, she would not be defeated by her own error in judgement.

It took twice as long as usual, but she completed her run, the sheen of sweat on her body expelling the last of the poisonous effects. Now she was famished, having not eaten more than some thin broth and bread in many days, some real food was definately in order. The Ladies Rest was the closest, and while it was not the best fare in Vallaki, it was close and the chili was better than edible. It was just what Selena needed to clear her head and get back on track. It was time to see what had transpired in the Vardo while she was down, it was time to get back into the swing of things, and she looked forward to it.

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She poured over the log books, taking in report after report till her head hurt. War was coming, prime opportunity for a mercenary, yet Selena sat behind a desk. Her merchants did not show up for meetings, sales tactics had changed drasticly into some sort of subtle approach, and her descisions were constantly countered by Captain Vasile. Why was she here? Why was she wasting her talents in a position ment for a clerk? She took off her Vardo ring and spun it between her fingers, watching how the light caught in the red rubies adorning the gold band.

"This is not the life I expected or wanted. I am not a merchant, and only a Captain in title. There has to be more..." She let the word linger in her thoughts as she looked at the ring, the symbol of her station. It meant little to her, a position of power without any true power. She missed the feel of a dagger sliding against and enemies throat, or the gasping pleas from a puntured lung. She slid the ring back onto her finger and opened the next log book, pinching the bridge of her nose as she did, mumbling to herself, "Selena Rosegrave, Mercantile Clerk".

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The Candles burn low as Selena pens a letter in her office of the Services Building. Her brow is knit and the Red Vardo Ring rests on the desk, catching the dimming light in it's rubies. Her eyes show an uncharacteristic misting of emotion, and then it is gone, replaced again with her cold mask. She seals the letter, slides the ring back on her finger, smoothes her uniform and makes her journey into the streets of Vallaki.

It is delivered to the back office of the Red Vardo Headquarters by her own hand.

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4 teeth, 3 molars and one of her eyeteeth were gone. She could run her tongue along the rough edge of where they had broken or been shattered. Selena looked in the mirror at the battered and bruised face looking back. Her eyes had blackened, her once perfect nose was split on the bridge and swollen. It had been quite crooked, but she used her knowledge of the human anatomy and healing skill to set it. It would be fine in a few weeks, but never perfect again. Cuts and bruises covered her forehead where the cobblestones had bit in when Vasile repeatedly smashed her face into it. Worst of all was a deep scar in her right cheek. Her own dagger had been driven home through the side of her face by Strydel, "Why do they always go after the face?" she wondered to herself. The potions she drank healed her injuries, but they did not take away their mark.

All of her stone-faced strength faded before her now that she was alone in her room. She wept openly, something she had not done since the first night the Pasha came calling back in the harem. Every betrayal stung her, the people she called family, Lailia, Tredow, Loaf, Strydel, Rowan, all traitors, loyal to Vasile, the Gokudo master. Was Alexias in on it too? How many of the new initiates were Gokudo moles? She slammed her fist onto the dresser in rage! Various jars of powders and make-ups bounced from its force.

She hated to cry, it only made her angrier. She took out her scimitar, drawing it slowly from its scabbard, and took a whetstone from her pack. The act of sharpening its deadly edge always calmed her. With each pass of the stone, she imagined their faces, covered in blood. She could picture the blade doing its work upon their bodies, cutting them open, to spill their intestines to the ground. After about a half hour, her right arm began to ache. The same dagger that had pierced her face had also been driven into her upper arm to the bone. The wound was healed, but the muscle would take some time to gain strength. Vasile had brought war to their doorstep, and the first battle was his. She would bath in his blood yet, and soak in his strength into her. For now, the hunt was on, a hunt in the city of Port-au-Lucine.

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Selena took out the vials of dark thick liquid and turned each in the light. Both represented an oath of loyalty, an oath of blood. A tribute to her to ease her mind of suspected deception. She did not know if in this realm of nightmares if such an oath held any true power, but she knew that there were entities that could do terrible things to the owners of that blood. Demons and Devils or cultist to those infernal beings could use that blood in their horrific rituals and the owners of that blood would suffer. It was security, and should they never turn against her, such actions would never be necessary. In time perhaps she would even destroy the vials, but for now, the two bottles eased her mind.

She looked on her desk to the file of letters received since the attack, some from Strydel, read and troubling, others giving glimmers of the future, to a hopeful rise again of the Red Vardo. She read the sales ledgers and wrote down some figures and numbers, debts and potential profits. She looked over some of her notes on plans she would like to see come to fruit. In her mind she knew and understood that the failings of the past were based on the Vardo withdrawing too much within itself. Intel had grown spotty and unreliable, much of it misinformation spread by the Gokudo to confuse and divide the Vardo. She saw that the Vardo depended too much only on it's own, in the mean time Vasile got a hold on the Guarda and used his connection to close a net around them. Now was the right time to mend the rifts and align the goals of the Vardo with those of the Guarda. Now was the time to establish positive relationships with Suzannah Murphy's Company before they became just another Gokudo.

She looked over her notes, and she smiled, the 2 inch scar that ran from the right corner of her mouth twisted it into a gruesome smirk. There was a future in these pages, if only she could see it through, if only.

So much depended on the death of a few and the loyalty and trust of her Fellow Vardo. She again looked at the 2 vials of blood and wondered on the strength of such oaths.

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Re: Life is what happens, while you are making other plans (the story of Selena)
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2010, 12:26:36 PM »
Reports lay on her desk, 2 very new and one very old. There were no windows in her office, so she had no idea how long she had there, reading, thinking, berating herself for allowing the Count's "Prencessa" to manipulate the Vardo into again, another set back. Why did she do it? Selena analyzed all the angles for the possible gains and only found more questions. It made no sense, to use the Vardo to bring in an accused Lieutenant to an enemy of Barovia if it was not true. Why sell that lie with the power of her position only to achieve her own destruction by the very Lord she served?

Now the Vardo Captain had made a potential enemy for the family, a wizard with an affinity for twisting the minds of people. Her mind spun with the possible outcomes, but it boiled down to one question. "Why?"

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The peace of sleep would not come to Selena, as she stared at the ceiling of her room in the Vardo Head Quarters. She lay on her back, her mind a whirl and her frown of disappointment resting upon her full ips. She was not disappointed with the Vardo, sales were up and Dimitri had it well under control, she was disappointed in herself. A figure head is what she had become. Somewhere along the line, the Vardo had grown and now while the rank of Captain was hers to claim, it sounded very hollow to her when she came to the realization that she had out lived her usefulness. All her plans died on the vine. All he hopes for the Vardo only manifested through the efforts of others. She had often asked herself what would be remembered of her time as Captain. Thinking back she would be the Captain that Vasile killed repeatedly. She would be the Vardo that did not resign when the merger of the gokudo happened. She would be hardly a memory in the shadow of such leaders such as Julia Colds, or Dimitri Vonquette.

What purpose did she serve now? What was her role except to support Dimitri in his plans? Did it even matter? Reaching under her nightshirt she withdrew the red heart shaped gem, the symbol of the Red Vardo. Even in the dark she admired it's beauty, but it seemed only a symbol of her failure as a Captain now. She curled it into he hand and wondered,

"What do I do now? Where do I go? There is no room for dead wood in the Vardo"

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When the Vardo was broken, decimated by Vasile and torn by distrust, disention and low membership, Selena stood strong. She fought the Gokudo with every asset she had, tried to restore the faith of the Garda by rebuilding bridges and slowly restored the membership, finally finding a motivated Vardo in Dimitri who aided the Vardo to grow in leaps and bounds. She wondered if any would remember the pains she suffered as a Veteran of the Gokudo war, she had been there with the Vadims through it, and stood by Suzzannah, till the only one left, was she, the last tree standing after a forest fire. Now the forest was recovering, and the scarred and blackened tree was being forgotten in the new growth.

Looking in the mirror, Selena felt old. Almost 21, young even by human standards, but the weight of growing obsolete weighed heavy on her shoulders. She was a soldier, a mercenary, preferring the directness of battle, the feel of her blade cutting down her enemy. It seemed that it almost never left her scabbard lately, except to be maintained. She remembered the old veterans Mercs in her company, Their battle stories were tales told of a life lived by the sword. Sales reports, inventory lists and taxes could not compete with that life. The comraderie she once felt within the Vardo, the Family, was fast vanishing. She knew that they worked around her now, and perhaps it was for the best. The Head Quarters felt more like a prison, she longed for the open road and a company of adventuresome Mercenaries who lived life on the edge. She wanted to see more than the outskirts of Vallaki and the Vardo Services Building. She want to go to an inn, and swap tales and sing bawdy songs over bottles of whiskey and wine.

It was time for a change, but her devotion to the Vardo held her. She had weathered through the Gokudo, but now she found peace a restless place indeed. Dimitri had said plainly, he did not need her. She wondered then if the Vardo truely needed her, if she turned in her uniform, would it matter?

Finally with a heavy sigh and a shake of her head she said to noone in particular, "Perhaps it would be for the best."
« Last Edit: December 07, 2010, 11:55:11 AM by LawfulJoe »

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    • Joe Kellerman - Graphic Artist
"You can never come home", she remember her father saying that once while visiting her grandmother in Daggerford, his hometown. Places were not the same, his friends had moved away or had families of their own. While it had been where he grew up, it was no longer home to him. Selena thought about this while walking into the old Headquarters in Vallaki. Same Bar tender, same smells, but different faces. Only her blood sister Alex was there, a reminder of old times, but now Alex was a Captain and Selena was her soldier, a switch in roles that suited her just fine. Whiskey at the bar, a nod and a shared smile with Nelu as she retrieved her log book. So many memories, much of them good, some not so, but it was still home.

The training room brought a smile to her lips as she dropped her pack and traced the familiar marks and scars on the combat dummy where she learned the art of death from Dragos Vadim. Blood, sweat and adrenaline scented these walls, it made something stir within her. The way she walked changed, to the silent step, making barely a whisper. She circled the combat dummy, and moved with lightning speed, a crimson stained rapier and slender scimitar slashing and striking at precise locations, secret places, designed to paralyze and render your target helpless. She followed through, crossing across the throat and whirling past, returning the weapons to their scabbards in one quick synchronized motion. It had been awhile, but everyday she started it with her training, the stretches, the exercises and the physical discipline. She still had her edge.

Selena felt alive when she killed, and the irony pleased her, though she realized it was one of the rare times she felt much of anything. Killing is what she did, and she did it well, but life held little other pleasures. She had coin, not millions like many of the ex-Vardo Captains, but by the standard of the commoner here in Vallaki, she was wealthy, and had little need for anything. All she had was the Family, the Red Vardo Traders, and so that was her purpose. She would keep her Captain and sister safe, even in the darkest of times. She was a Soldier and that would be her place in the great scheme of things, until more was asked of her. It was good NOT to be the queen. That thought made her smile, but the joy never reached her eyes.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2012, 01:07:17 AM by LawfulJoe »