In the realm of Floating Diamonds, parents give a newborn babe a simple name which speaks of the hopes its parents hold for its future. This was the case for the parents of the girl named Hunter. At her birth, Hunter's father cursed, for Hunter was born thin and sickly. But the midwife stilled his tongue with a glare.

'Care for this child,' she told the father. 'For she will become a Hunter.'

Midwives in Floating Diamonds are all blessed with The Sight - or rather all those blessed with The Sight are taught to be midwives. So Hunter's father held his tongue, though he doubted her words in his heart - those with The Sight are not infallible.

From almost the time her legs could bear her weight and her hands grasp a weapon, Hunter learned to fight. Hunter's father was a harsh, unforgiving tutor. Hunter learned early to cry, and then to stop crying. From her father, and later the clan's soldier/scholars, Hunter learned to be strong, and she learned duty. Hunter lived, ate, drank, slept, and dreamt nothing but the art of war and duty to her clan and her Lord.

On the day of her coming of age, Hunter took her second name... and her first life. Only thirteen, Hunter was the youngest in ten generations to master two forms of fighting. Always thin, her sinuous, agile frame had easily mastered the Style of the Striking Viper. But she was also deceptively strong, the strength in her arms and legs more than enough to master the Style of the Silent Constrictor. And so as her father watched proudly, the clan's headman proclaimed her Two Forms Hunter.

Some boys from the village took exception to her name, thinking it ridiculous such a scrawny girl could master two forms. Confronting her on a wooded path after her ceremony, one boy sought to test her. While his friends egged him on, he struck Two Forms Hunter brutally, intent on doing her harm. Two Forms Hunter responded exactly as a lifetime of training taught her. In the all-too-brief fight, Two Forms Hunter struck the boy a series of seemingly delicate blows, stunning him at select pressure points. Then she wrapped a thin, sinewy leg around his neck and wrenched, snapping his neck. The other boys ran off as Two Forms Hunter shoved her first victim's corpse away from her.

Two Forms Hunter was brought before the clan's headman for her deed. Two Forms Hunter did not shrink from the charge. She stood defiantly against his accusations and the accusations of the boys who bore witness against her. She had done exactly as she had always been taught; she had met her foe in battle and emerged victorious. She resolutely refused to apologize or even acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead demanding she be honored for her first victory in battle.

The headman looked down upon the unrepentant child and made the only decree he possibly could. Two Forms Hunter was taken from her family and delivered to the tender care of the warrior monks at Shining Temple, where she would study for five years in utmost secrecy with the revered masters. 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.

Five years later, Seven Forms Hunter emerged from the chrysalis of Shining Temple, prepared to enter service to her Lord. To her two unarmed styles, she had added mastery of the Ring Sword, The Paired Smallswords, the Three Part Rod, The Staff, and the Whip, this latter a favorite of hers when combined with her sinuous snake-like fighting moves. She had also shown some talent with a bow, though she claimed no mastery of it. Seven Forms Hunter entered the service of her lord as warrior, soldier, and soon as 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.

For this last act, the Lord's champion earned the honor of her final name. But on the very night of the ritual of naming, Seven Forms Ascendant Hunter betrayed and murdered her lord. After bestowing her name, he instructed her to accompany him to his chambers. There, he set upon her. It is the duty of those who serve to submit, but Seven Forms Ascendant Hunter did not.

Her lord reacted with anger and brutality, cruelly attempting to take by force that which she should have given freely, all the while promising punishment for her refusal would be equally cruel. Hunter reacted to his attack just as she'd been taught, just as she had in her Lord's service these five years. She struck with ferocity and precision. Just as she has done to that boy ten years ago, she stunned and paralyzed him with blows to select pressure points, then she wrapped her legs around his neck. He watched her face as she hesitated a single moment, and had a moment where he thought she would spare him. Then she snapped his neck.

Honor dictated her life was forfeit for this deed. By all rights, Seven Forms Ascendant Hunter should have fallen to her knees and taken her own life. But she looked at the body of the Lord she'd served without question for five years. And she spat upon him.

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 the Lord's decree. But the Lord was dead, and Hunter, now a desperate fugitive, dared. 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 paler, taller, with sharp features and eyes she found curiously exotic in their more level appearance. Their faces bore strange tattoos, an odd custom to her thinking.

These people, members of the Five Orders of the Ivory Tower, nursed Hunter to health and asked her her story. She lied, claiming the name Hunter, claiming to have escaped a losing battle and making her way to the gate to avoid capture. They accepted her story and cared for her, treating her wounds from the arrows.

As she recovered, Hunter grew restless. One day, she left her room and wandered the grounds of the estate. When she found herself near a training yard, she watched as men and women bearing golden marks on their bodies practiced with weapons and unarmed techniques. Feeling more at home here than anywhere, Hunter stepped into the yard and began to practice her own forms, not knowing the taboo she was breaking by doing so.

When one of the golden tattooed men attacked her without warning, Hunter quickly dodged his attack and broke his arm. More would have attacked her but her host intervened, pleading her ignorance. Later, once all was explained, Hunter apologized for the misunderstanding. All was forgiven and even the man she bested praised her prowess, more impressed by her skill than angry at his defeat.

After fully recovering, Hunter's hosts presented her to the leaders of the order. After speaking with her, they offered Hunter her own tattoos, and a place among them if she wished it. Being a foreigner she could not by law bear the golden tattoos of the Order of Aurous, warriors all, and so was offered the green markings of the Viridian Order. Hunter accepted the offer and the kinship of the Viridian Order. Over the following year she studied the history of her adopted people while accepting the painful markings.

Viridian's master artist looked deep into Hunter's soul, and etched an intricate series of supple green, leafy vines on every inch of Hunter's flesh. Over the year of work, he came to know her body intimately... but it was the intimacy of the artist and his canvas. When he was done the unbroken length of vine wound around Hunter's arms, legs, torso, neck and even her face. Tendrils wrapped each finger and toe, while leaves held and frames... 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. Soon, Hunter learned to allow the vines to roam from her, to use as a tool to climb, to grab.

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. Before the ceremony could begin men arrived, soldiers from Hunter's land searching for a murderer and traitor. They sought out the elders, demanding an audience. Despite the kindness shown her, despite the solace she had found there, Hunter fled once more, afraid the elders would turn on her the way her Lord had.

This was five years ago, and Hunter has continued to flee, never remaining in one place for very long for fear of being found, and made to face her past. She still practices each morning, but has found little need among the spheres for a warrior of her caliber. Needing coin, and needing someone to serve to feel complete, Hunter discovered a new use for her skills, and for the camouflage her tattoos afford.

Hunter has become an assassin.

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 not decorative. It 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.

Appearance

Hunter usually travels completely covered in a heavy, hooded traveling cloak to hide her distinctive appearance. Shrouded in her hood, only her voice and size hint at her gender. Removing her cloak reveals a an attractive, trim woman (played by actress Bai Ling). She is very slight of build, though fit and toned, and relatively tall for her people, making her about average in height among females from other lands. Under her cloak her clothes are brief, and designed to allow maximum freedom of movement.

Attitude

Hunter believes she abandoned her honor in her Lord's chamber all those years ago. She believes herself to be a wretched thing, too much a coward to do what a lifetime of training and tradition have demanded. She still believes she should die for her crime, but even now, she refuses to do so. Because of this, Hunter is difficult to get close to. If someone learned of her past, she believes, they would surely 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.

Hunter avoids interacting with others wherever possible, but 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. She also shows little outward sign that she regrets any part of her life.

Inwardly, some part of Hunter prays she will one day meet the warrior who will finally bring an end to her existence.

Possible Hooks

Hunter is an NPC in Everway, a game characterized by multiple worlds connected by mystical gates, however this could easily be tweaked to part of a single world.

Hunter may be an assassin sent after a PC. She possesses more honor than she believes, however, and if it can be demonstrated the PC does not deserve the fate she brings, Hunter could be turned aside from her task without a fight, even taught that she deserves life.

Hunter may 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 may 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.

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? Quest

This time of year often brings the summer doldrums to the Citadel. A time of slow updates and intermittent submissions. We may have passed the worst but until the summer ends, the weather changes and school starts again we may not have the action we sometimes have.

Because of that, we are holding the Doldrum Quest. I wanted it to be pretty open to most anything so we will attach it to the Guild quests again to allow people to branch out how they want. This also adds some incentive to join and progress in the Guilds. So go join a Guild now and if your submission goes towards your Guild accomplishments, it can go towards this quest as well.

Get us clear of the Summer Doldrums by joining the quest!

(As usual, no old submissions can be used. This is also for standard submissions. 100 word, Oekaki, Stubs and others in that vein will not count.)