Dirge for Ammad
Circus Performer, Slave, Assassin
Theme Song: Fell on Black Days by Soundgarden
- Name: Cahya
- Age: 20
- Height: 4’2’‘
- Weight: 80 lbs
- Race: Vanra
- Occupation: Circus performer, Assassin
Capture and Transport
Cahya was seven years old when she was kidnapped from her rain forest home. It had been a normal day, just like any other. Her best friend, Pieter, had suggested that they go to the garden grove, since he had a few seeds to plant, and they could see if the blood-fruit had ripened. The garden grove was not very far from the home-trees, and the vegetable and fruit vines hung heavy with their burdens of blood-fruit, air gourds, and those strange little nectar flowers Pieter loved so much.
She had begun climbing up the trunk of the largest of the trees where the blood-fruit grew when Pieter screamed. Startled, Cahya had looked away from the tree just in time to see him falling to the ground, trapped in a net. Four creatures, larger than any she had ever seen, approached her friend, and another aimed a strange weapon at her. In a gruff voice, the pale-skinned creature demanded in broke Sserashi that she come down from the tree, or she would be killed. Not wishing to meet the makers just yet, Cahya carefully picked her way down the tree and cowered among the root stalks. Both she and Pieter were bound and gagged, and tossed into a cage of woven vines, which two of the men suspended between them on a long pole for transport.
Later, as Pieter slept, she heard the creatures talking. There were three different species, which she would later identify as human, Goliath and Tiefling. These people, if they could be called that, were planning to take them to a place called the “Burning Lands”, where they would be sold to slavers. Cahya had heard of slavers, and none of the things said in whispers by the firelight were pleasant. She and Peiter would be expected to do whatever their purchaser asked, regardless of their personal wishes, and while she could think of no way to avoid it, she prayed to the makers that she would be spared.
It was to the eastern coast of the island of Ikat that they were taken, a day’s journey from the home-trees, and the vine cage was put aboard a large masted ship. Pieter cried nearly every moment he was awake, and Cahya was so busy consoling him that she forgot to mourn for herself. A week after they were stowed in the cargo bay of the ship, the goliath and the humans came to take them out. They had arrived in the Burning Lands.
Cahya had never seen a place so devoid of life. There were few trees, and the air was hot and dry, even though they were on the coast. The port town, Ish’aht Nar, was small, but there was a caravan gathering to make for the capitol city of Vress’natar. Mal’tir, the Teifling trapper, continued his duties of caring for them, as he had done for the previous week. He was strange, Cahya thought. Unlike the human and goliath, he did not seem to be very ill-tempered, and treated them with relative kindness.
Peiter developed a fever on the third day of their overland journey, and Cahya watched with bemused fascination as Mal’tir turned his cloak into a sling, carrying Pieter next to his chest to administer medicines and cooling him with damp cloths. On the night of the fourth day, she asked if she might be allowed to help with Pieter’s medicine, and Mal’tir allowed her to come out of the cage to do so. That night, she fell asleep with her head in the Teifling’s lap, drifting off with a strange sense of contentment. In the morning, she woke at his feet, his black eyes watching her intently. He beckoned her closer, and she obeyed. It was then that Cahya learned that her best friend was dead. Mal’tir expressed no condolence, but spoke in soft tones, and reached into his jacket.
Somehow, it was not in her to resist when he buckled the wide leather collar around her neck. Her eyes would not move from the still form that lay nearby, wrapped in a length of canvas. Mal’tir lifted her into the cloak-sling, covering her face so that she did not see the goliath roughly haul the sack onto one shoulder to deposit it into a shallow grave by the roadside. The cage she had inhabited was left behind, and Cahya was allowed to walk, or to ride in one of the wagons. It was not until she made her first attempt at escape that she discovered the purpose of the collar, and why Mal’tir had remained so close to her once he had put it on.
Six days after the caravan began its slow march to the capitol, Cahya slipped away from the camp, running back up the road. Not fifty paces from the firelight, she ran into an invisible wall. It mattered not in what direction she moved, there was no break in the barrier, and no amount of pounding with her small fists made the slightest difference. Exhausted, she collapsed to the ground, and was soon found by Mal’tir. He explained that the collar kept her from running away by not allowing her to be further away from him than he wished. Any attempt to remove the collar resulted in great pain, and finally, Cahya cried.
Her tears did not last long. Mal’tir would not let her die the way Pieter had. He gave her an infusion of herbs, and their effects set in not long thereafter. She was calm, and she did not blame the Tiefling for her friend’s death. It had been Mal’tir, after all, who had exhausted all efforts to make him better.
The caravan arrived in Vress’natar after two weeks, and the slave cages were immediately taken to the slavers’ market. When she asked if she was to go with the other slaves, Mal’tir said that she would not. He intended a different fate for her. Through the winding streets of the great city, he led her until they came to a small, run-down shop. A faded wooden shingle hung on an often-repaired bracket, bearing a single open eye, colored red. Mal’tir went inside, and Cahya had no choice but to follow.
An old Tiefling apothecary shuffled out from the rear of the shop, where the walls were lined with glass jars, greeting Mal’tir with a great deal of bowing. The two began conversing in an odd, growling language and after several moments the old man waved a hand at Cahya, speaking more quickly. Mal’tir set her standing on a stool, and interpreted between them as the apothecary asked questions and she gave answers. He poked and prodded her, and waved a couple of strangely-shaped sticks at her, and then spoke to Mal’tir once again. Her captor seemed satisfied with the old man’s pronouncement, but would not answer her questions.
They went to an inn, where they stayed for a few days, until a messenger arrived with a note. Mal’tir then took her to the northern edge of the city, and after an hour’s walk, Cahya found herself confronted with one of the strangest sights possible. There, at the crest of a hill, was the largest tent she had ever beheld, striped in scarlet, gold and white. Many smaller tents were erected nearby, and people of many races milled about. Upon approaching, Cahya was ever more fascinated by what those people were doing. One man was juggling geese, while another rode a one-wheeled steam-powered vehicle around at a speed that she was certain must not be safe. Large men carried heavy loads, and led fantastical beasts. Some of the people looked at her with curiosity, but most ignored her. They were all too busy showing Mal’tir overt amounts of respect.
One tent was larger than most of the others, and it was into this that he led her. Richly furnished, the interior of the tent seemed more like a room in the headman’s home-tree. Exotic skins covered the ground, and carved wooden chairs sat around a long table that bore neat stacks of scrolls, as well as a few books. In one corner, a low couch sat, and Mal’tir dropped onto it. Not knowing what else to do, Cahya did as she had with her father. She sat next to his feet, and rested her cheek on his knee. His hand fell to her head, and sharp nails scratched gently at her scalp.
“Welcome home, little one…” he said, “Welcome to the Velani Traveling Circus.”
A Different Kind of Big Top
The Velani Traveling Circus, which was to be Cahya’s new home, was not only what it seemed on the surface. Most of the performers had hidden talents that were not part of the nightly shows. Eldira, a human woman who assisted the juggler, had a gift for creating alchemical poisons and explosives. There were acrobats that could also scale buildings and disable traps to steal just about anything, and the illusionist was adept at interrogation.
Mal’tir Eri’xa, she discovered, was formerly a member of one of the mercenary companies that hired themselves out to various governments throughout the continent. The White Lotus deemed him a valuable “external contractor” when it suited their purpose, and even the current Spymaster General counted him among the best assassins around. Upon leaving the White Lotus eight years earlier, Mal’tir had been pursued by several of the assassins he helped to train, but when none returned, the Spymaster General sent a letter of truce. A very dangerous man, he runs the Velani Traveling Circus as a doubly profitable business.
Up front, it is a successful circus known for great showmanship. Beneath this legitimate face, there is a group of spies, thieves, assassins and thugs that cannot rival the White Lotus in size, but in quality of work, they are very nearly on par.
Cahya was taken in by Mal’tir, who raised her as his own. He never gave any reasons for his actions, nor did he offer apologies for taking her from her home. Their relationship is complex. Cahya understands that she should hate him, and that he is slowly making her something that her people would not recognize. Though this knowledge is always in the back her her mind, she cannot forget the kindness he has always shown her. She feels gratitude for his refusal to sell her to several people that have offered vast sums of money for her.
After learning to read and write in a few languages from Mal’tir and his assistant, Tigan, Cahya was taught how to perform with the acrobats. Her natural agility proved useful in this regard, but she did not enjoy it. Juggling came next, which by the age of ten, she mastered. But it was Yixx’ani, the knife-thrower, that taught her the most. She could, by the age of fifteen, hurl knives with pinpoint accuracy, splitting a blade of grass in half from nearly thirty feet away. Through all of this, Mal’tir taught her to harness her internal energy, to channel it and control it. When she turned seventeen, she found out why she had learned all of the things she had.
They were in Okhrad, and Mal’tir called her to his tent. There, he revealed that she had undergone training in acrobatics, stealth, and throwing knives so that she could assist in the Circus’s more illegitimate activities. It did not really surprise her very much, but she did not know how she felt about the prospect of becoming an assassin.
The first time she killed anyone, she did not have time to feel bad about it. She had gone into a wealthy merchant’s home with two of the acrobats, Mar and Denn, and they were supposed to break into a hidden room and steal one specific item. The guards, who were supposed to be having dinner, walked in at precisely the wrong moment. Before they could draw their weapons, and almost before she even thought about it, the men lay dead on the floor, each with a slender steel knife buried in his neck. Mar and Denn had gotten the item and they were on their way out of the house when the merchant’s daughter, no more than three years old, stepped out in front of Denn. He kicked the child out of the way, and she hit her head against the wall. Cahya could not stop to see if the little girl was all right. Later, she learned that the child survived, but it took Mar and three grown human men to keep her from skinning Denn alive for kicking a toddler.
Arrival In Ammad
Nearly four months ago, the Velani Traveling Circus was on its way to Sarset from Golden Bay. Following the coastline, it stopped in various smaller communities, performing for the people there, and carrying out three or four small jobs that Tigan had gotten for them to supplement the admissions fees. They arrived in Ammad for re-supplying and a larger show, and Mal’tir made contact with a few of his old information brokers. Cahya stayed close to the large airship that the circus used for transport, not wanting to draw attention to herself. After two days, the circus departed.
Not long after they had cleared the delta of the Zergis, and under cover of darkness, the circus came under attack. Dozens of wyverns swarmed the ship, harrying the performers and slaughtering the animals. Fire bloomed as the fire-breathers and the alchemist began a counter-attack, and to Cahya’s surprise, she saw that the beasts had mechanical limbs. Larger creatures began to attack the ship itself; what appeared to be largely mechanical griffins, and an immense dragon with a glowing furnace in its chest. The griffins landed on the deck, and riders dismounted. There were humans and elves, and one or two Deva, but they all seemed unnaturally swift.
These riders began to hack and shoot their way to the hatch that led below decks; they seemed to know what they were after. A few moments later, Mal’tir came to the deck from below. He began ordering the other performers to various positions around the ship and he took out his pistol. Cahya was then attacked by one of the griffin riders, and she had to use all of her stealth and speed to clamber up the mizzen mast. The rider did not seem discouraged, however. He followed, climbing with great skill and had nearly caught hold of her foot when she pushed off of the wooden beam and dove toward the deck. The soles of her feet felt the shock of her landing, and it was clear that she would pay for that stunt later if the stinging sensation was any indcation. The rider did fall dead the deck, though it took several more of her knives than it normally would to do the job.
In her attempt to make her way over to where Mal’tir stood defending the hatch, Cahya was knocked off of her feet by one of the wyverns. They wrestled across the deck, bumping into the legs of both man and beast, until Cahya felt her body slam against the wood and metal of the guardrail around the edge of the deck. She managed to kick the wyvern away just long enough to get to her feet, only to take the full weight of the foul creature to the chest. Cahya had no chance to try grabbing onto the ship. She tumbled with the wyvern toward the earth, still grappling with one another. With only heartbeats to spare, she managed to kill the wyvern and lay atop its body, allowing the creature to take the impact as they hit the surging waters of the Zergis.
Down river she floated, tangled in the branches of a fallen tree, and just before she lost consciousness, she saw a small, flickering light break away from the larger grouping of lights, traveling swiftly away. In the fuzzy, fading thoughts just before passing out, she knew that Mal’tir had escaped.
Some time after noon the following day, Cahya woke up, caught in a patch of reeds. Sore and still slightly bleeding, she dragged herself out of the river. The circus ship was nowhere in sight. Unsure of where her friends and companions might be, she began walking west, back toward Ammad. If nothing else, she could possibly hitch a ride on a barge or some other ship that was bound for Sarset, and catch up to the circus.
Upon reaching the city a few days later, she found no transports bound for Sarset, and a suspicious lack of information on the attack on the Velani airship. On the afternoon of her arrival, after several hours of unsuccessful searching, she decided that it would be best to go and see one of Mal’tir’s contacts. Kahdir Kragmaul lived near the Gilded Square in the Brick Ward, a couple of levels up and around the corner from Elbert’s Marmalade Factory, a house that had been converted into one massive kitchen. The entire area smelled like oranges on production days.
The dwarf had been a cleric some time ago, but he was now a rather crotchety old doctor that seemed only willing to help if one had enough coin to spare, or if it was worth his while in some other way. He allowed her to stay with him, however, for a short time to wait for Mal’tir. That is, until he got a message from Tigan. Cahya was not allowed to read it, but Kahdir said that Mal’tir had gone into hiding, because he “knew something” that the Clockwork Host also wanted to know. He ordered her to stay where she was until he came to get her, and to stay well away from any of the Clockwork Host that lived in the Chantry Ward. She got the feeling that if she went near them, they might try to use her against Mal’tir, and that made them very unsafe to be around.
Of course, Kahdir was not about to let her freeload for long, so he told her to “Get off yer bum and get a job, ye scaly whelp.” And so, here she is…