Born to each son and daughter of the blood shall be a son or daughter to whom the blood calls.
The Harlow family had served for many generations, beyond memory. The story goes that when Brevoy was still two lands, the people of the mountains of Issia asked Pharasma for help against the undead that had begun to plague them. At their plea, a child was born who carried an hourglass shape for a birthmark, a sign of Pharasma’s favor. On the tomb of the family that bore this child, an inscription appeared. When the boy was still a youth, he swept away the undead threat from the village and continued throughout the land. His sons and daughters served Issia, and then Brevoy, but always in their own pursuits against the undead. When the government decided they were unnecessary, they continued anyway, for the drive in their hearts had not come from the mandate given them by the state. They scoured Brevoy for signs of the undead and removed the taint. When their service to the Brevoy government ended, many moved beyond its borders, for their mission knew no limits. Many members of the Harlow family settled down in towns, some even became farmers. Others joined the army or the guards. But some knew only their calling: clerics of Pharasma, warriors without equal, bards who inspired others to take up their cause, even barbarians who had intermarried with other Harlows. Each member of the family, whether they felt the pull themselves, still bore a child who would enter the fray, who, regardless of paternity, would carry the name Harlow.
Before Gwen was born, her parents had almost begun to believe their children would be free of the pull of the blood. Her mother, Rosalind Orlovsky-Harlow, dearly loved her family, but their choices had not been hers. Her choice had been to marry for love to the son of a local noble family. Hector Orlovsky had almost been run out of his family for marrying for such a foolish reason as love. However, he was the youngest son, and Rosalind proved a wonderful addition to their family, despite her connection to the Harlow family. The Orlovsky’s grudgingly referred to the Harlow calling noble work, but not the work of the nobility.
Rosalind and Hector dearly loved each other and the six sons and four daughters they brought into the world. Rosalind herself did not feel the same urges as other ill-fated Harlows had. She had a pair of twin brothers who bore that honor. She kept her husband’s house while he served in the government, albeit as a lower functionary. They had a home that overflowed with love and laughter. No expense was spared for the education of their children. After bearing ten children, Rosalind began to believe that none of her brood would be called away from her to pursue the work that consumed her brothers and cousins. Every member of her line had borne at least one hunter, but perhaps the blood had become diluted enough that she would be spared what her mother had gone through with her brothers.
Jada Gwendolyn Sapir Orlovsky-Harlow came into the world quietly, without a scream or a cry. Indeed, the midwife in attendance thought her still born until one of her uncles took Gwen from the midwife. According to the story her uncle told, once in his hands, she’d simply opened her eyes, drawn a breath and begun to live with her fate in the hands of a Harlow. Her tiny wrist bore a red hourglass birthmark.
Blood shall sing to blood, knowledge will flow within and the hunt will begin.
As the eleventh child in the house of a lesser noble, Gwen enjoyed a variety of experiences. Her siblings were all much older than her, requiring specialized tutors. Because of that, Gwen ended up learning a bit of everything rather than following just one path. However, the tutors of her siblings did not provide the greatest source of her learning. Her mother’s brothers, Garen and Kael, visited far more regularly than they ever had. Other far-flung Harlow cousins also made it a point to stop at the door of Hector Orlovsky when they had not seen Rosalind since childhood. They moved on to their own ways, as was their wont, but they shared their stories with Gwen despite her mother’s attempts to keep her from them. Rosalind, a loving mother who wanted nothing but the best for her children, still harbored the hope that Gwen would be able to avoid the fate the other Harlows saw in her.
However, Gwen saw nothing wrong in their fate. It was her father’s brothers that concerned her. They were the great nobles of the Orlovsky family. They went to the Brevoy court and practiced games of strategy to rival that of a great war master. Every time one of them came, a wedding followed for one of her siblings shortly after. Her eldest brother dreamt of a farm, but moved to the capital to marry a rival house’s daughter at the behest of the family. Two of her sisters traveled far from home and married men they had never met. One of her sisters eloped with a local scholar, a man respected in his community. The Orlovsky family shunned her formally, despite Hector’s outrage. One brother dreamt of a farm, only to be married to a powerful merchant family and dragged along their trade routes. After witnessing the wedding of another sister to a pock-marked widower for a political alliance, Gwen decided she would have none of those machinations in her life. Political marriages seemed a fate worse than death. So, she would change her situation so that death was more likely than arranged marriage.
Their strength shall sweep clean the world from perversions against life and death.
Gwen spent years training her body for the wilderness to the south of Brevoy. Pharasma willing, she would see those lands. Lands unclaimed by conniving wills or convoluted lives. There, she could explore the reason why her heart beat faster with a blade in her hand. Her mother never accepted that she wanted to venture into the unknown and leave behind the perfect home Hector and Rosalind created for their family. No amount of choral teachers could convince her to sing like a trained bird for the pleasure of the court and endless hours spent with dance masters only sharpened her interest in her martial studies.
In Brevoy, she was Jada Orlovsky, a daughter of the Orlovsky house. A bargaining chip for a political table no matter how well meaning her father tried to be. Gwen wanted nothing more than to strike out into the world and feed this hunger in her heart. Garen and Kael had looked at her with knowing eyes, but they had been unable to give her any words beyond an inscription that had been in their family for years. The Orlovsky family had accepted her compromise that she participate in this auspicious expedition. They expected her to return home at some point with something of benefit to them. Despite their wishes, from the instant she had walked out the door of her parents’ home with her horse and her bag, she hadn’t been Jada Orlovsky. It was Gwen Harlow that walked into the world.
May the Lady Pharasma guide these hunters on their path.