The realm of Floating Diamonds is a strict society. Lords rule provinces with absolute authority, but no fixed hierarchy exists between Lords. Conflicts between Lords are commonplace, when Lords seeks to exert power or influence over each other.
Caught between the Lords and their feuds, the people of Floating Diamonds live and die in service to their lords. Honor, they are taught, lays in faithful service to one’s Lord. Independence, free thinking, questioning authority, these are not encouraged. Indeed, refusing or questioning the wishes of your superior is considered a source of dishonor, to the individual as well as all those whose responsibility it was to teach the the correct ways of thinking.
This is an untenable society, waiting for the right moment, the right person, the right cause.
This is not the moment, the person, or the cause...
The midwife named the thin and sickly babe as she held her up to her father. “She will become a Hunter.” While midwives in Floating Diamonds are all blessed with The Sight - or rather all those blessed with The Sight are taught to be midwives - they are not infallible. Hunter’s father would always carry that doubt in his heart. The doubt that this small, squishy, pink being - his only daughter - would not die at the end of a blade. He would spend her childhood beating that doubt out of her at the end of a training sword.
By the time she was given to the clan’s soldiers and scholars for training Hunter had learned to cry, and to stop crying. She had grown strong and confident quickly, and demanded as much of her tutors as they did of her. Authority resents challenge. They would spend her adolescence beating fealty into her at the end of a choke-hold.
At the age of thirteen, Hunter was the youngest in ten generations to master two forms of fighting. Thin, her sinuous, agile frame had easily mastered the Style of the Striking Viper. Deceptively strong, her toned arms and legs were more than enough to master the Style of the Silent Constrictor. And so as her father watched proudly as the clan’s headman proclaimed her Two Forms Hunter.
The clan’s young men took exception at the scrawny girl’s honor, and confronted her after the ceremony to put her in her place. As the first attacked Two Forms Hunter responded exactly as a lifetime of training taught her. In the all-too-brief fight she struck the boy a series of seemingly delicate blows to his pressure points, then she wrapped a sinewy leg around his neck and wrenched. The other boys fled to the safety of authority as Two Forms Hunter shoved her first victim’s corpse aside.
When brought before the clan’s headman Two Forms Hunter did not shrink from the charge. There were no apologies to be made. She had done exactly as she had always been taught; she had met her foe in battle and emerged victorious for the honor of herself and her clan. The clan’s headman looked upon the unrepentant child, the killer they had all been complicit in creating, and made the only decree he felt could. Two Forms Hunter was to be taken from her family and delivered to the warrior monks at Shining Temple. Very little is known of the secrets and techniques used at Shining Temple, but those who enter either never return, or return as battle-hardened warriors of the highest caliber. Perhaps they would beat into her an understanding of the value of life.
Five years later, Two Forms Hunter emerged from the chrysalis of Shining Temple as Seven Forms Hunter. To her two unarmed styles she had added mastery of the Ring Sword, Paired Smallswords, Three Part Rod, Staff, and Whip - a favorite of hers when combined with her sinuous snake-like fighting moves. She also became proficient with a bow, though she would never claim mastery of one. Seven Forms Hunter entered the service of her lord as warrior, soldier, and soon as his loyal champion.
In five more years, Seven Forms Hunter earned many honors and gained a great reputation. Her prowess on the field of battle and in the circle of honor were proven time and again. It was she who fought and killed Nine Forms Mastery of Water in the circle, avoiding his swift blows with even swifter moves and striking with deadly precision as he began to flag. It was Seven Forms Hunter who battled a company of the Tenth Lord of Grand Stone's warriors to a standstill in Lone Eagle Pass, holding the pass for three tireless days until reinforcements arrived. It was she who killed the Tyrant Lord of Whistling Sky, her bare hands at his throat, slowly choking the life from him as he flailed and pummeled her uselessly.
With her defeat of the Tyrant Lord of Whistling Sky her lord bestowed on her what would be her last honor and final name: Seven Forms Ascendant Hunter. After bestowing her name, she was instructed to appear in his chambers. It is the duty of those who serve to submit to the desires of their lord. When forced to choose between her honor as a vassal and her honor as a woman Seven Forms Ascendant Hunter refused. Her lord reacted with brutality, attempting to take by force that which fealty dictated she should have given freely. Ten years folded in upon themselves as Hunter became thirteen again, delicately striking pressure points and wrapping her legs around his neck. There, she hesitated. Honor would demand her life for his. Her family would live in disgrace.
As Hunter’s certainty wavered, her lord met her eyes... and smiled. Hunter saw the hubris in his eyes, the unquestioned right of those bred to rule, the certainty that his authority was absolute. Hunter saw his smile, and read the malice there. In that moment, Hunter made her choice. With a mighty wrench, she snapped his neck between her thighs.
Though honor called for her life, Hunter refused to heed it. Once more she had done precisely what she’d been trained to do. She had killed her enemy. She looked at the body of the lord she’d served without question for five years. And she spat upon him before quickly leaving his quarters.
Hunter fled that night, leaving behind her honor, her name, and her clan. Pursued by men she once called friends, peppered with arrows, wounded and in pain of body and spirit, she raced for the Gate, a portal known to the clan, but forbidden to all by unanimous decree: the one thing on which the disparate lords of Floating Diamonds could agree. But Hunter’s lord was dead, by her hand. No higher crime existed in her land. Hunter, now a desperate fugitive, wounded and bleeding, dared the Gate. The Gate welcomed her, engulfing her in blackness.
Hunter woke to find herself in the care of men and women of unusual coloring and odd features. The legends were true: this was another world, with another people living here. They were a few shades darker, taller, with sharp features and eyes she found curiously exotic in their more level appearance. Their faces and other flesh she could see bore strange tattoos, an odd custom to her thinking.
As they nursed Hunter to health, her caretakers explained she had found her way through the Gate to the Desert Realms. She had been found, unconscious, and brought to the Five Orders of the Ivory Tower. In several lifetimes, none had entered the Desert Realms through that gate, nor had any explorer returned from it. Hunter’s caretakers asked for her story. Claiming only her birth name, Hunter explained that she had escaped a losing battle, making her way to the Gate to avoid capture. They accepted her story and continued to care for her.
Nearing the end of her recovery, Hunter grew restless. One day, she left her room and wandered the grounds of the estate, marveling at all the stone buildings. In Hunter's homeland wood is plentiful but buildings of worked stone are reserved for the wealthiest, so Hunter perceived wealth everywhere. As she wandered, Hunter found herself near a training yard. She watched a while as men and women bearing golden marks on their bodies practiced with weapons and unarmed techniques, many of them unfamiliar to Hunter.
Feeling more at ease near the warriors than anywhere else she had seen, Hunter stepped into the training yard and began to practice her own forms. She'd barely begun when one of the golden tattooed men attacked her without warning. Hunter reacted, dodging his axe, before grabbing and breaking his arm. More golden-etched warriors made to charge Hunter, but her host arrived and intervened.
A tall, thin man with green symbols tattooed on his arms and neck, Hunter's host pled her ignorance to the warriors. He explained where she was from, and explained to Hunter that the training yard was forbidden to all save the warriors of Aurous. Hunter apologized for the misunderstanding. The warriors agreed, accepting her apology. Then they began to ask her about her training and techniques. Even the man she bested appeared more impressed by her skill than angry at his defeat.
After this event, Hunter's host deemed her recovered enough to present to the leaders of the order. Five men and women all bearing markings of green met with Hunter, where they asked her many questions and invited many of her own. Hunter maintained her lie of omission, but otherwise spoke honestly, telling her hosts she would seek a new home rather than ever return. She asked many questions about the Desert Realms and the Five Orders, and the people of the land. The society of the Desert Realms was far outside her experience, and she struggled to reconcile what they told her with what she'd grown up knowing.
After a discussion which stretched well into the night, the five masters and mistresses of Viridian offered Hunter a place with them. The marks of gold borne by Order Aurous were forbidden by law to a foreign-born, but Viridian could offer her a place, and a new life. Hunter accepted the offer and the kinship of the Viridian Order.
Over the following year Hunter studied the history of her adopted people while accepting the painful markings. Viridian’s master etcher looked deep into Hunter’s soul before beginning his work. Over the year of work, he came to know her body intimately... but it was never more than the intimacy of the artist and his canvas. When he was done, Hunter's body bore an unbroken length of vine which wound around her arms, legs, torso, neck and even her face. Tendrils wrapped each finger and toe, while leaves held and framed... other places. The markings were not merely decorative. As the artist worked, Hunter felt the vines come alive on her skin, moving along her, almost growing on her. Sometimes the leaves would even blow in the breeze. As the work neared completion, Hunter discovered the vines lived, and could even separate from her body to an extent.
The most important days in Hunter's life were all double-edged, and the day Hunter was to present herself to the elders and begin her new life as a Sister of Viridian was just such a day. The morning dawned deceptively bright, but soon Hunter heard the news: riders had arrived through the Gate which led back to her homeland. Soldiers. Before the ceremony could begin the Soldiers arrived, seeking audience with the elders of the Orders. When they went into the chambers, Hunter felt a cold dread. Despite the kindness she had experienced, despite the solace she had found here, Hunter fled once more, afraid the elders would turn on her the way her Lord had.
In five more years, Hunter has continued to flee. She never remains in one place for long, worried she will be found, worried what she might be forced to face, or what she might do. Hunter practices daily, and earns her way across the spheres as a warrior, mercenary, and sometimes a killer. She is capable of stealth but prefers open combat.
Attributes and Skills
Hunter is far stronger than her thin frame would suggest, exceptionally agile, and remarkably skilled in several forms of combat. She prefers to fight unarmed but recognizes the usefulness of her other weapons in certain situations. In a fight, she can easily best a squad of trained, well-equipped soldiers.
Hunter is not a great thinker, though she’s no dullard. She is reasonably perceptive and her eye is well trained in sizing up potential opponents.
The Viridian Vine covering Hunter offers natural camouflage. She is very hard to detect when she is in shadow or darkness, or especially among vegetation, provided she is mostly unclothed.
The vine etched on Hunter's flesh is a single, living, growing vine winding its way all over her body. Hunter controls it, and it moves with a speed and strength that equals her own. It has two ends, and its total length reaches nearly the height of 20 men. Some part of it must always remain anchored to Hunter. Though tough, the vine can be severed. It will regrow however, usually in a few weeks, though healing magics used upon Hunter seem to affect the vines as well.
The vine was bestowed as a tool and an aid, and Hunter prefers to use it in this way. However, when pressed, when fighting for her life, Hunter will use every advantage, including this one.
A first look at Hunter will almost always be when she's covered. She wears a long, hooded cloak to hide her distinctive appearance. At these times, only her size and voice will even suggest her gender. A person might glimpse a flash of green as she reaches for her mug, or spy odd shadows playing in the depths of her hood. She usually won't remove the cloak in public unless she's about to fight.
When she does remove the cloak, Hunter (played by actress Bai Ling) is an attractive, trim woman, with caramel skin and pleasing features. She is very slender, but fit and toned. She is tall for a woman of her people, which lets her stand eye to eye with most women from other lands. Her typical garb is brief, designed for ease of movement and to allow easier use of her vine. With her cloak removed, her vines are highly visible and very memorable.
Cloaked or not, Hunter always has her weapons close at hand. She carries a bundle of treated cloth, carefully rolled and tied at the ends. It's water resistant, and holds all or her weapons easily, each held in place in its own specially prepared slot. She wears it across her back or sometimes carries it in her hand. It looks like a bedroll, but as she moves the weapons inside will make metallic noises as they bump together.
Attitude & Outlook
Hunter is a woman conflicted. Years ago she chose life and sovereignty over her own body. She has chosen life several times since, never hesitating to do what she must to survive. She desires life, and freedom. However, Hunter still believes she traded away her honor that night. No matter how honorably she tries to act now, some part of her believes it is a sham. While she chooses life, some part of her still believes she deserves death.
Because of this, Hunter is difficult to get close to. Believing she has no honor, she thinks if someone learns her past, they would see as she does, that she must die. Hunter would as surely be forced to kill them to remain alive too. Such is the totality of Hunter's upbringing.
The irony is, Hunter possesses a great deal of honor. She kills, but only in open combat. She accepts money for killing, but only for those who have done something to deserve such punishment. She will not kill an innocent. She avoids lying when it doesn't conflict with her survival.
Hunter avoids interaction as much as possible. When she must, she is reserved and polite. She has a penchant for speaking very specifically and literally. It's not evasiveness, at least not usually. She sees the world in these terms. She is precise and exacting in her words because she is precise and exacting.
While outwardly she regrets nothing, inwardly, Hunter regrets many things. Hers is a lonely existence. Because of her past, she does not feel she can trust anyone. She cannot share the important parts of herself with anyone. She cannot let herself become too attached to any place or person. So she no longer looks forward, no longer hopes. She just exists.
Inwardly, some part of Hunter prays she will one day meet the warrior who will finally remedy that.
- Hunter was originally an NPC in Everway, a game characterized by multiple worlds connected by mystical gates, however she could easily be tweaked to be part of a single world.
- Hunter might be a killer sent after a PC. She possesses more honor than she believes, however, and might be turned aside without a fight if the PCs can show her she has been tricked.
- Hunter might be found fleeing from a recent job, or from soldiers of her old home. Hunter does not wish to harm anyone more than she has to, and so she flees rather than killing her pursuers.
- Earlier in her life, Hunter may be an enemy soldier, or even met during her time with the Ivory Tower. Perhaps the course of her life may change if PCs can learn of her past and convince her that only false honor demands her life for defending her virtue.
- The PCs might be hired to pursue Hunter by the new Lord of Floating Diamond. Or perhaps the Aurous Warrior she bested, searching for answers and the woman he called friend for a year before she fled.
- In actual play, one version of Hunter remained in service to the Ivory Tower, trying to replace the honor she lost in killing one Lord by faithfully serving another. But when that new Lord commanded her to do a dishonorable thing by betraying the PCs, she helped them instead.
- In another version, Hunter bought passage on a ship owned by the Heroes, and during the voyage crewmen began dying, strangled in the night by something closely resembling her vine. It turned out her last victim was a powerful sorcerer whose spirit possessed her vine, and was killing men to frame her while she slept.