Shadows of Esteren: The Gaes of Tulg
Minodora "Mina" Donnikova
Outgoing Hunter from the Tarish people
Domains & Disciplines
|Flora & Fauna||7|
|Shooting & Throwing||5|
|Keen Sense of Smell|
|Fighting Arts: Archery|
|Fighting Arts: Sneak Attack|
|Setback||Violence – encounter with a Feond|
|Primary||Natural Env. (5)|
|Minor 1||Perception (2)|
|Minor 2||Relation (2)|
|Lesser 1||Erudition (1)|
|Lesser 2||Stealth (1)|
|Marital Training||Close Combat (1)|
|Rural Childhood||Natural Env. (1)|
|Commoner 1||Feats (1)|
|Commoner 2||Travel (1)|
|Setback||Perception (1) – learn to look harder|
|XP Buy||Shooting (2)|
|XP Buy||Feats (1)|
|XP Buy||Close Combat (2)|
|XP Buy||Stealth (1)|
|XP Buy||Travel (1)|
|Herbs for Headaches||3|
If you were in a pub anywhere in Tri-Kazel and said something along the lines of, “Tarish are nothing but thieves and conmen”, you’d probably get a round of nods and a few approving grunts. The truth may lie closer to, “some number of any people will try to get something for nothing”, but their insular nature, nomadic existence, and especially foreign language don’t help the Tarish cause for acceptance. And so, some time ago, the Tarish elders decided it’d be wise to have some of their people eschew the wandering lifestyle and live in small towns along the caravan routes. The idea, which proved to work well, inured the people of the town to the strangers, such that caravans are now more often than not welcomed instead of feared.
Generally, those Tarish living away from a caravan were older – volunteers who’d seen their fill of the three kingdoms, and who were happy to put a warm face to the vague notions others may have about their people. Generally. Take the case of Viorel Saushkin. Middle child of three brothers, he and his siblings served on the Tarish council of elders. Culture is important to their people – maintaining it moreso. The elders tend to be wary of new ideas, and only allow them when they can be integrated into the culture, rather than changing it. It should be no surprise that Magience fell afoul of this sentiment. As small, wagon-sized flux refineries became available, the Tarish elders were forced for the first time to really consider the discipline’s place, if any, among their people. Most of the time, individual caravans have some leeway, acting as sounding boards for new ways to do things. With Magience, no such latitude was permitted.
Some caravans, Viorel’s among them, flouted the mandate, albeit discreetly. Two more Elder Councils passed before Viorel decided the Tarish needed to embrace this change more readily. He spoke eloquently and passionately, and his words fell on deaf ears. The council voted, almost unanimously, to exile him. Fearing reprisals against his caravan, he accepted the judgement, but not without some choice words, especially for his brothers, who spoke the loudest against his ideas.
Settling in Melwan, Viorel stayed true to his duty of paving the way for his people. His skills were varied, allowing him to aid the town as a hunter, mediator, and apothecary when necessary. After a time, most residents at least accepted the old man. A few even called him friend.
But this isn’t a story about Viroel. Still, it’s important for an outsider to understand the history of things.
Viorel’s caravan had two Magientists before he left – Elena Donnikova and her husband Sorin. Between them they had four daughters. Silvia and Luminita, the elder two, seemed to have inherited their parents’ rational proclivity. For Doina the youngest it was too early to say. Which leaves us with Minodora – “Mina” to her siblings. The intricacies of Magience never fascinated her. She was more enraptured by the flowers themselves than the result of putting them through her parents’ flux refinery.
So it happened that what was once known as Viorel’s Caravan made its way to Melwan several years after its namesake’s exile. The old man was getting on in years, but could still make his way through the forest without aid. Still, Sorin and Elena thought it good for him to have some help, and suggested Mina as the obvious choice. This kind of arrangement wasn’t unheard of – the elder Tarish gains a companion, and in turn the younger is taught their trade. The now nine year old Mina’s interests seemed to match Viorel’s more than her parents’, and this was further confirmed when the elder took her, accompanied by Sir Quentin Erward and Alsandir North, on a short trip through the nearby woods.
More such trips followed, in the days and months after Mina’s family departed. The girl could be flighty, but she was intensely curious and attentive when being shown some new aspect of nature. On one, the adults had managed to snare a feondas the size of a large toad. The children were allowed to observe from a distance as the adults described the beast, how it could harm, and where it can be found. After this, one of the hunters drew a short sword to slay the creature. Mina put her hands to her mouth saying, “You’re just going to kill it?” Viorel, standing nearby, kneeled beside the girl and replied, “We have to. If we’ve found one this close to town, there are certainly others. It’s one thing when they’re miles from our home. This close, even for such a small beast, is too close.” “That’s not fair!” the girl yelled, and turned to run back to camp. Viorel caught her gently, and turned her back to the feondas. “Watch,” he said in a firm but warm tone. The hunter holding the blade plunged it behind the animal’s head, and it went limp. The girl sobbed, and Viorel whispered, “There is no malice in this act, and the beast is not made to suffer. We only do what we need to keep ourselves safe."
The girl got along well in the village, making friends and performing what little she could remember of Tarish dances. Other caravans came and went, and it often seemed to Mina that while they were happy to see new Tarish faces, her permanent home and especially her association with Viorel colored their interactions with her. She wasn’t overly bothered by this, but it did make her long to see her family.
Two or three years after her arrival, another large teaching excursion into the woods took a darker turn for the girl. She’d been soaking up natural knowledge like a sponge, and her enthusiasm got the better of her. Rising one day before anyone else, she crept out of camp just prior to dawn, intending to check the feondas lures. These were pig or other animal intestines, stuffed with offal and a few special herbs. They stank horribly, and the herbs made them irresistible to smaller feondas. Hunters and Demorthen used them to know when feondas were encroaching, as not even carrion feeders would touch the lures. Nearing the second such trap, Mina kept her eyes open for anything out of the ordinary. But inexperience coupled with the pre-dawn light caused her to miss something. Funny – she was sure that was just a rock with some moss, until it moved. As big as a medium-size dog, the creature lashed out at her bare leg with a prehensile, sickly-gray tongue. It wrapped around her ankle, and Mina fell on her back, screaming and kicking. The feondas started to drag her toward itself, and Mina realized she could no longer feel her leg. To this day, she can’t say what scared her more – the paralysis or the creature’s black, featureless eyes.
She continued to scream, never breaking eye contact with the thing that would certainly kill her. There were no trees or rocks nearby to grab onto, and the lack of feeling continued to spread further up her body. Her vision narrowed, until her world was just those two black eyes. Her foot was right in front of the creature’s maw now, and it recoiled its tongue. With no malice that Mina could see – just a predator surveying its prey – the feondas sniffer her ankle, then opened its jaws to start gnawing on her.
Mina’s tunnel vision broke with a yell, a flash, and a wet thud. Sir Erward’s sword had cleaved the beast in two, catching the dawn as it came down. Moments later Viorel and Wailen were beside her, tending to her wound. Not long after, she passed out.
She woke in her bed, and was surprised to find Luminitia sitting in Viorel’s rocking chair next to her, reading. “Lumia?” The older girl jumped up to embrace her sister, “Mina! We were so worried!”
“What are you doing here?” was all that made it past the fog in the younger girl’s mind.
“The caravan rolled in last night. You’ve been asleep for two days, Viorel says.”
“Where are mama and papa?”
“They’re in Reizh, studying Magience. Doina stayed with them, but Silvia and I are here. She’ll be relieved to see you awake.”
Viorel’s silhouette appeared in the door frame. “You’re awake little one – good. How is your leg?”
“It doesn’t hurt,” the girl lifted the blanket, “but it’s all red.”
“It will be for a while. You may end up with a scar, but it should heal fully in time. I am going to make lunch. Try and walk to the kitchen – it’ll be good for you to start using it.” He smiled, then left.
“Come on, sleepyhead,” Luminitia threw back the blanket, “I’ll help you.”
A week later, Viorel stood with her as Mina watched the caravan roll away, her sisters waving.
“I’m sorry you couldn’t go with them. I think you should spend more time with our people. But you need more time to recover. There will be other caravans. And your sisters will be back in a month or so, before they head up to Reizh to meet up with your parents.”
“I want to know how to stop them.”
“What?” The old man was still waving, distracted.
“Feondas. I want to know how to kill them.”
“Well first, you need to learn to look harder.”
Mina shot him a glare.
“Relax, child,” Viorel started to lead her back to the house, “I will not teach you to murder feondas.” Before she could retort, he continued, “I will show you how to deal with them.”
“There is a Tarish caravan a few days out from here. I think you should join them as they round the south of Taol-Kaer. It would do you good to spend more time around our people, and you’d only be gone for a couple months.”
“I think it’s more that you’d rather I not be anywhere near Liam.”
Viorel sighed. “Child, at the end of the day our culture is all that separates us from Tri-Kazelians and Continentals. You’ll not be immersed in it here.”
“What if I like it here, and don’t want to leave? My friends are here! You’re here, but sometimes that’s not as much of a reason to stay.”
“I’m sorry. I know you consider Melwan home. I just don’t want you to end up an exile like me, for no good reason.”
“Friends aren’t a good enough reason?”
“Many of our people don’t look kindly on those who spend too much time in one place. But…your point is a good one.”
“No I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I know what our people mean to you. I just despise the way you’re treated by some of them.”
“How was the trip?”
“Unexpectedly fun! I met so many new people. Oh and I learned – well I tried to learn – a new dance.” Mina moves quickly through some steps, watching her feet. “Wait or was it this way. Oh that was the part I could never remember.”
Viorel smiled as he lit his pipe, “I’m sure you’ll remember it eventually.”
“There was something else – what’s ‘tradador’ mean? I’m pretty sure I heard one of the elders refer to me using it.”
The old man tossed his match on the fire. “It means,” he said as he settled in his chair, “that some among our people already see you as an outsider.” “It’s an old curse, meaning ‘one who turns against their people’.”
“Hmph. Well if I see him again, I’ll let him know what I think of him. If he’s going to call me names, he can do it to my face.”
“I have no doubt you’ll let him know where he stands with you.”
“So you’re heading up to Gwidre then, Minodora?” Viorel was preparing herbs for what looked like a potion of dreamless sleep.
“Yes! Silvia tells me it’s very different country. And she talks nonstop about the wonders of architecture in the capital! She’s promised to take me on a tour when we get there.”
“I think you’ll enjoy it. And it is very nice country, if, well, flat for miles from the coast."
“Will you be okay while I’m gone? I know it’s just a few months, but…” The tremors in the old man’s hands were minor, but obvious.
A smile. “I’ll manage.”