In the Sidar town of Camlica, Eri Ayumu was born to simple parents, who bore neither great skill nor great courage, but lived their lives simply and with happiness. Simplicity, however, seemed not to be in the child’s future – From a young age, she constantly sought adventure, exploring with an abandon that neared defiance to the wishes of her parents. As she aged, she had a notable talent for adventure, often climbing over rocks and trees, and exercising her stealth, to great effect. As with all of her people, she has an unerring sense of direction, and, despite repeated forays from the town proper, never got lost, and never failed to find her way home. In her early teen years, she became less and less feminine, and, despite her birth, began to satisfy her parent’s hopes for a son. She cropped her hair short, and bound her loose clothes with strips of woven plant fibers, often pelting the other kids with sticks and small stones, from the safety of total concealment, in the upper boughs of the sparse trees. One tendency she kept, however, through all her years, was a love for the flute, which she would exercise often, in the gray mornings, when the sun just barely began to light the mist which always covered the land. Finally, recognizing her distaste with the constance and simplicity of village life, her parents began to save up their few spare coins, to prepare to send her to a greater city.
Her opportunity came when, during mid-summer, a Merchant came out of the fog west of the village, on his usual route, to sell his wares. Over the years, he had witnessed the growing prowess of the young Ayumu, and her ever-greater dissatisfaction with her home. He offered to take her on, with him, as he made his rounds toward the city, and even pay her for her time. Her duties, on the trip, would be simply to keep watch, and to entertain him with her flute. The Merchant was well-known throughout the villages, as he made a circuit of every one, beginning and ending at the city of Aldir, which would take him most of a year. Eri accompanied him along his trip, and learned a great deal about the roads, and the ways around the land. Her instinctive feel for the land served them well, with unusually thick patches of the Mist hardly slowing them, as her sure reckoning carried them through arcane eddies, where compasses went mad, and the road seemed to twist and vanish. He taught her mercantile sense, the relative values of various items and currencies, which they found as they travelled through the Sidar lands. After nearly six months of travel, he finally began to teach her the use of various weapons. As any child, she knew the basics of blade and bow, but little more than was necessary to drive off hostile animals which occasionally wandered out of the mist. She learned the value of a weapon worn openly, and the value of a weapon concealed; She learned the value of silence, and in time, she learned the value of a good deck of cards. By the age of sixteen, she was proficient with thrown darts, small blades, the Katana she wore at her hip, and a lovely set of cards she carried with her wherever she went. She could identify any of more than a hundred different herbs that would be encountered along the edge of the road, or the depths of the forest. She could brew a cure to any of a dozen minor diseases and poisons, and create nearly twice that many poisons of her own. She could milk a spider or a snake with equal ease, and, through accidental exposures, began to acquire a resistance to the various poisons available throughout the world. She travelled with him over the course of another four years, finally taking her leave of him on her twentieth name day, with a small fortune to her name. *Over the next year, she spent most of it gambling and drinking, and, in that time, made a great number of connections throughout the city, finally coming into her own as somewhat of an information dealer, with a quiet, but occasional knowledge of poisons. Her varied services slowly began to rebuild her fortune, until, finally, after a year, the merchant returned with a gift – An offer from the secretive Cult of Esus.
After joining, she travelled with him, once more, but took her leave at a **small town with a very active Cult presence, where she honed her knowledge with various tools and weapons into focused skill. She learned to kill, by blade or poison, to persuade, to lie, to disguise herself from sight and from recognition. She honed her instinctive sense of direction in the deep forests, where she harvested poisons and herbs from the lairs of dangerous creatures.
Upon her return to the city, nearly a year later, the Merchant was to give her one last gift – A pair of masterworked Wakizashi, their hilts worked and gilt in gold and obsidian to represent twin serpents, with eyes of onyx; To other Cultists, a recognizable symbol of her affiliation, but to all others, merely a beautiful piece of art.
The next year was to be the most eventful of her life. A message arrived, sealed with a lump of black wax, informing her of her first mission. To the southwest of Aldir, a week’s journey away, lay the border of the Sidar lands. Beyond this border lay the lands of the *Hippus, free-spirited horse-lords which roamed the vast plains which stretched from the Western Sea to the mountains in the north, centered around hilltop fortresses surrounded with low palisades and outward-facing spikes. Their main opponents on these vast planes were one another – Their free-spiritedness led to a divided populace, with each holdfast keeping loyalty first and foremost to itself. However, of late, a Hippus Mercenary Captain, by the name of Renard had begun uniting the local Hippus people beneath his banner, using a mixture of politics, and conquest, persuading vast forces of Mercenary cavalry to his banner. A very successful Captain, he had taken his great fortunes, and stolen his home Holdfast from its’ reigning King, establishing himself as a General over the lands. The Hippus, a militarily powerful people, maintained stability only by their divisiveness – This sudden uniting force had drawn the attention of forces who wished to continue this divisiveness.
Two weeks of travel brought her into the camp of a minor Mercenary captain, Salov Toren, from the distant lands of the Dural, who, due to his distant ancestry, met little success in the highly competitive Hippus lands. Despite this, however, his schooled strategic prowess had won him great merit, his extensive knowledge and training revolutionized Cavalry tactics. As his power increased, other local lords began to be threatened. General Renard solidified his people by pointing to Salov’s unconventional, and thus far untested new tactics, which went against established traditions. Salov and Renard had been waging skirmishes, back and forth, for some months. Upon arrival in his camp, Eri had disguised herself by mixing dirt and makeup paste into a thin layer, with which she darkened her skin, masking the unnatural paleness which marked a Sidar out. Squinting against the unaccustomed sunlight, she rode into their camp atop a small horse, saddled simply, and ingratiated herself with the various people of the camp, posing as a travelling merchant. She displayed her various minor wares, and traded for bits of coin and gossip. Once she had acquired the needed information, she moved on, paying visit next to Renard’s holdfast. That night, in Renard’s holdfast, she slipped the eyes of the guards, and hid herself, out of sight; Less than an hour later, flaming arrows skittered in from the west, bouncing off the stone walls, and drawing a great deal of attention, pulling the Hippus archers to the wall. Salov’s foot archers fired volley after volley of flaming arrows toward his walls, until finally Renard’s cavalry, mounted, armor, and weary, sallied forth from the gate. Once they passed the gates, another volley of flaming arrows struck around them, spooking their horses. The Archers, following this volley, ducked themselves back behind a low berm, tipped with wooden stakes. Renard’s charging cavalry’s front ranks met this hidden barrier, and the screams of horses and riders quickly filled the air, whilst other archers, their arrows invisible in the darkness, struck their flank. As Renard’s cavalry wheeled away gaining space, Salov’s own cavalry came charging in, between them and the gates of the city.
In the sudden, startled confusion this move brought, Eri sped through the city, knocking torches to the ground, igniting the wooden and thatch buildings of the Holdfast. During this upset, while the guards fanned out through the Holdfast to fight the fires and suspected infiltrators, she made her move, slipping into Renard’s war room, garbing herself as one of the many women he kept around him. To him, and his advisors, she poured water, laced lightly with a slow poison, which would cause disorientation, and sickness. Before the hour was gone, she had once more fled the city, escaping just moments before Salov’s infantry forced the gates. Her mission accomplished, she began the long trip home to the Sidar lands.
The Cult used her on a handful more occasions, and her prestige as an infiltrator and assassin rapidly grew, as did her prowess with her weapons of choice. Amply rewarded for each mission, she was fairly well-off within her homeland, though her missions oft took her far and wide.
Her latest mission compelled her to visit the lands of the Grigori, the versatile and adventurous folk of the southern lands, where she was to assassinate a minor nobleman whom had wronged the Cult of Esus, and intended it great harm. After the completion of this mission, and upon retrieving her payment, she was given another missive.
Great things are afoot in these lands, and Esus wills you stay. Adventure calls you, as many in these lands; Do not deny its’ voice. You will know when it speaks, and you will obey, as you have.
The note, unsigned, simply bore the rune of Esus, which, after she had finished the message, began to glow, and slowly consumed the letter in heatless arcane flame, dissolving it into a fine ash. And there, within the Grigory lands, she quietly slipped into her new identity, and waited.