Unearthly Beauty: +4 dice to social rolls against those who find her attractive. No social penalties for those who do not.
Phobia (Rats, 3): Valor roll difficulty 5 to prevent panic. Remaining near or interacting with the trigger -3 dice to all relevant rolls.
Oathbound: Pray to the Unconquered Sun daily.
The Valencia family to all normal appearances is that of a rich trading and shipping family business. They have a respectable success rate and to all outside appearances are above reproach. The family motto was “Trade and Profit”. Needless to say, that same motto encouraged the family to expand their legitimate trade and shipping business to incorporate more illegitimate methods of growth. Headquarters for the Valencia shipping and trade business rested in Fair Isle, the main hub for Haslanti trade. Though a small city, the Valencia family owned a moderate sized home for mainlanders and a palace to those living on the Isle. On the first floor, the entire offices were housed with large open windows set to catch the sun from dual directions on the corner of a main thorough fair. The offices were plush with foreign artifacts and furniture often brokered for small amounts of space aboard one of the flying ships used in the Valencia employ.
While her family seemed to have been bred into various positions in the trading franchise, Ioni chose to walk down a different path. She grew up, trying to do what was right and speaking straight. Duplicity was not one of her strong suits. However, she could still give silver tongue speeches, and even talk many situations into profitable deals. To top it all off, Ioni had the lucky presence to be the only daughter of the matriarchal seers of her family. The Haslanti worshipped dreams, encouraging a small class of shamans to become Dreamseers. While Ioni’s family held much faith by the Dreamseers and their predictions, those with the aptitude were made into the families resident Dreamseer, trained and raised to put family loyalties before all others.
Ioni began at an early age to worship the Haslanti god of Dream. Whispering prayers and meditating on each nights visions. She became the most reliable source of prediction for trade negotiations, often picturing the city and even potential cargo and where it would be best deliver shipments. Even warning of potential hostilities should a certain cargo not be what it was said to be. What was worse, Ioni felt caged because of her dreams. From a young age, she was questioned about every dream, even her own day dreams. While reasonable, Ioni still wanted her own dreams and desire for adventure.
As the third eldest in a family of eight and the eldest female, she was shoved into the shamanistic role of her family, to take over from her aging grandmother. At each moment, she would escape to the ships to join in the adventures that her eldest brother would tell her late at night. Adventures of finding treasure, fighting beasts that you could only see in nightmare and even the camaraderie of the rest of her family.
Ioni’s first experience allowed into the deeper waters that her father sailed, was when she was twelve. Her twelfth birthday gift finally brought her out onto the waters, hands clinging to the helm as the ship broke waves. Her father, Trianichus, laughed as her young glee in the sheer joy in the amazing revelation of the world beyond the shore grew. It was a short adventure of potentially twenty days, in which the peak of excitement was a squall blowing in from the northern direction.
Waves lashed at the ship, Trianichus shouting orders over the sound of rigging snapping in the wind. Ioni swung from a rope extending from the bow of the ship and up into the masts. The sodden rope burned her hands as a snap in the rigging sent her swinging down a few feet before her perseverance kicked in and sent her scampering up the line to the sails.
“Midget! Glad you could join us!” One of the ships many sailors laughed at her as she finally reached the top and began hauling in the sails.
“Even short people can do something!” Ioni shouted back. It wasn’t that she was short compared to the rest of the crew. Her name evolved from the sole fact that she was not as big as the rest of her family. Her father’s figure cut a dark mark against the deck, even from her perch in the rigging. Ioni glanced down to see her father, smile briefly, then returned to hauling in sail, tying it tight.
“There we go. Now get back to deck before your father finds out you were up here.” Betwin shouted to her, flipping the last knot into place.
“Hah! He’s too busy to notice!” Ioni laughed, but tightened her hands on the rope and used it to swing back to the rocking deck.
Her adventure lasted through the storm, though she was upbraided the next day and put on rations for the rest of the trip in punishment. Trianichus was angry with her, and she was not allowed out onto the see for almost a year afterwards.
The almost entire year of her punishment consisted of her grandmother guiding her in all the rituals necessary for being the pirate shaman that her family was renowned for having. The jobs were not arduous, mostly consisting of mind numbing physical work in the mornings with reading by lamp light at night. When the ships were in, she helped with the rigging and restocking of stores while she yearned for the adventures.
It became a ritual for her, going to her father before each new adventure a ship went out on, to ask if she could join. The first few times, she tried tears, cajoling, promises and the whole wheedling approach. It never succeeded. Her brothers kept telling her stories, firing up her imagination and setting her on a quest to see the world.
One month before her thirteenth birthday she stowed away, hidden in a crate behind the stores of food for the next voyage. The scheduled captain of the ship was Oniro, her older brother on his first maiden voyage without Trianichus’ watchful eye. Ioni was able to escape notice for several days until she turned a corner and rammed into the senior pirate, a good friend of her fathers who dragged her before her brother.
It took her quite a bit of effort to talk her brother out of locking her in the brig for the rest of the journey. Oniro even threatened to drop her off at the next port and send her packing home as a prisoner of a family friend. Using her skills, Ioni positioned herself as an asset for the mission, saying she knew the latest prices of goods, the routes for merchant ships and she could help with keeping the spirits on their side during a raid. She was not quite sure how, but some way, she got her brothers grudging approval to stay, as long as he could watch her day in and day out. Their arrangement worked until a privateer ship somehow got the drop on them, and Ioni had the opportunity to see an adventure up close and personal.
A boot slammed into her face. She felt and heard the crunch of bone, pain blossoming in her head. Shrieking, Ioni recoiled back, pressing into the arms that had pinned her down to the mast. A moan escaped her bloodied lips as the owner of the boot chuckled.
“Pirate scum. We’re gonna ship you off and see how much money you can get us.” The leering face dropped down into her line of vision, causing her head to swim as her eyes refocused. “Chain her below, we need the money for our next stop in port.”
The boots thudded away, while the set of hands on her, hauled her to her feet and dragged her below decks on the privateers ship. Ioni was chained up with several of the other sailors from her brothers crew, and she had presence of mind enough to look for her brother. Not finding him, she sulked against the chains and just listened to the ship noise. At some point, she drifted off waking up to the crashing sound of a person being thrown to the floor and kicked once causing laughter from the privateers.
“Alright you maggots, just so you know, we’re gonna tell and show you exactly what happens to you riffraff when you make trouble.” The same voice from before caused her to shudder as her eyes opened.
Ioni’s eyes fell on the figure at the privateers feet, and they widened, recognizing Oniro. He had his hands tied behind his back, and blood covering his torn clothing. There was a pause as the privateer checked he had everyone’s attention before he yanked Oniro up by the hair and slit his throat. Another laugh and the head was dropped, leaving Ioni to stare in horror.
The voyage to an unknown port for Ioni seemed to take forever. The only thing she could count were the feedings, and they were sparse and few between. What she learned told her that somehow, a family connection for the captain got him the papers and he fully planned on selling each and every one he caught into slavery. He was known as Lefty because his right hand was so scarred and withered beyond use. The only other thing that burned into her brain was the patch most of the men wore, a small blue and silver scythe on a brown circle of fabric. Any question or interest that she showed, earned her a smack upside the head, boot to the face or whatever else the crew member on duty felt like doling out.
All except one. A younger member of the crew, still with that puppy dog air of desperation to get everyone in the world to like him. His watch was one of the few where the prisoners could get some shut eye without being brutally awakened. Ioni took the time to try and chat him up during the voyage. To all appearances, he never replied to her questions, but she caught him watching her closely after a story. Food began appearing more regularly when he was around, and more water. It wasn’t much, but Ioni felt a little hope grow.
As soon as she heard the ship call into port, her hopes were crushed. The ship had come in during the last vestiges of light, so the ship stayed out in the water before docking. She was shaken awake with the clicking of the manacles as they slipped off.
“Wake up, c’mon….” The younger privateer was shaking her awake. “You gotta get out of here.”
Ioni shifted pushing away. The youngster kept at it, forcing her to her feet and up the stairs. “Can you swim? All the rest of the crew went ashore except drunken Mac and he’s passed out.”
They made the top of the stairs and her rescuer shoved her against one wall before checking out the path to shore.
With the help of a relation of a family friend, Ioni limped back home after making it out of the port which she found out was Gethamane. A quick delivery for a friend on the White Sea had turned into Ioni’s personal nightmare, especially when she arrived back in Fair Isle and had to explain to her father what happened.
The years passed, and her sense of adventure settled for exploring and meeting new peoples. She took up archery to better protect herself, seeking to stay as far from physical combat, while using her words to avoid brawls and other bone crushing situations. The sea and river trade was not quite for her until her exaltation on her thirtieth year. At that time, the full intricacies of her family and even the ties of her grandmothers position as one of the few Ears of the North.
It’s not like he could have known. Ioni was obsessed on the thought. Rolling it around in her mind, as she stood there, bearing silent witness. He knew, he had to. That’s why he went. He didn’t want to. Dad didn’t want to see this. How could he?
She was standing there, at the foot of her mother’s bed, only sixteen, with no idea of what was happening. Ioni knew her mother had been failing, suffering from debilitating headaches, crippled in bed with pain almost night and day. Thick incense shifted through the air, trying to push back the demons that the local physician had bullied her family into using. Her grandmother was sitting in a chair in the corner, hands slowly polishing a coin with the families crest on it. She had been praying since early that morning, barely moving from the chair as she kept watch over her daughters slow demise.
Ioni’s mother, Aleriana, just lay there, breathing slowed and labored. Aleriana’s skin had faded to an alabaster white, barely distinguishable in shade from the white sheets that were tucked around her frail body. The disease had taken Aleriana slowly, first causing pain, almost full body pain that would last for hours. Then the headaches, followed by bouts of being fully bed-ridden.
Ioni had been there, watching vigil for quite a large portion of the illness. She had helped to move the bed so that her mother could look out from the third story window and watch the bay for her father to come in. The window overlooked the bay and in one edge, the docks in Fair Isle where her families ships were. Each time the sails of the Mirror of Aler were sighted, Ioni’s mother would push herself slowly and painfully to the padded chair on the balcony to watch it sail in. Her father would then ride up immediately from the docks on a horse bearing a gift of sorts, hoping to cheer his wife out of her illness. Momentos were scattered around the room from such actions, a large painting hand made from the southernmost countries, a wooden box lifted from a shipment to the Blessed Isle and more.
On this day though, her family stood vigil at her mother’s bed. Ioni stood next to her aunts Hiyiri and Lorinia. Hiyiri had one hand on Ioni’s shoulder, lending support while Lorinia stood straight as a pole, her face pinched and hard, almost in denial.
There was a soft knock on the door, and her brother Edvir stepped in cautiously. His eyes shifted from their mother to Ioni before he shook his head sadly. A courier ship had come in from the Coral Archipelago. Ioni had hoped that her father would swoop in at the last moment, even hitching a ride on a faster courier ship. Edvir had gone to look and had come back with the news that once again, in a pinch, her father had taken to the seas when times were tough on land.
Aleriana shuddered a few times, reaching a hand out to Ioni and Edvir, fighting to speak. Ioni stepped forward, tears clouding her eyes. She took her mother’s hand and knelt, close to the bed. Edvir came up behind Ioni and reached out to touch their mothers hand.
“Mom, it’s ok. We know.” Ioni choked on a sob. “I love you. I understand.”
Aleriana shuddered and closed her eyes, her body not moving as the last breath left her body. Ioni clung to the hand, feeling the cool skin, a few tears starting to slide down her face.
Edvir knelt down and gave Ioni a hug, holding her close as the few tears dropped off, eyes going dry. The next few hours were a blur as the servants came in to take care of things and get ready for the funeral pyre. Ioni was taken to the hall, Edvir never leaving her side. She couldn’t watch as the room was emptied of life and her mother’s body. A few hours after, raised voices were heard.
Lorinia was yelling at the top of her lungs. “She had an out. She got out. She is not here and doesn’t have to put up with this anymore. Why Aleri?! She had it easy and she failed us.”
There was a murmur as the matriarch of the family, Ioni’s Grandmother spoke up. “You have no right. Aleriana did what she could for this family. You will not disgrace us or our name by cursing her death.”
Before Ioni could storm back into the room, yelling and screaming her pain at her aunts, Edvir had hustled her down the hall and to the kitchens to ply her with food and something to mellow her out.
Edvir had her sat at a table and put a glass of mulled wine in her hands. “Drink. You need it.”
He sat down across from her and watched until she took the first sip. “You know she doesn’t mean it. Right?”
Edvir paused and watched her take a few sips. “Lorinia is angry. You know grandfather wanted boys before he died. He only got son in laws. That’s why your father got placed as the head in this family when we’re on water. Lorinia tried her best to be that son. She worked for years to get grandfather to love her, and all she has to show is a dead beat husband who sits in the taverns drinking swill and two sons. Mom was the only one who married the son that grandfather never had and took care of the family as the older generations got weak.”
“I know, ‘Vir. But mom gave her all. We’ve bargained with the spirits… I want father…” Ioni sunk her head to the table, sobbing.
It took nearly two months for Trianichus to finally return. In that time, Aleriana had been mourned and burned on a funeral pyre with full family traditions. Ioni’s grandmother Cheska oversaw the preparations, talking to the high priest of her faith in Lockshy to say the blessings over the fire and body. The ashes were scooped up and placed in a wooden box with an ornate tree carved on the front. Trianichus returned, Cheska meeting him at the door. Ioni had seen the horse riding up and ran down to the foyer of the house and saw her father almost weep as he hugged her grandmother. They spoke a few words, and Ioni just stood there.
Trianichus stayed at the family’s large manor for a few weeks. He left after yet another fight with Lorinia. It seemed almost constant. Lorinia would come up to the house every other day to supposedly help Cheska and Hiyiri. Within an hour the fights would start, Lorinia blaming everyone for failing the family, and that Aleriana did nothing of note. Trianichus was furious, nearly expelling Lorinia from the grounds before Cheska told her youngest daughter to get out. Cheska was able to keep the peace in the family for two years until her failing health forced Hiyiri tried to step up and take the guiding role of the matriarch.