Overall House Alignment: Neutral Good, with chaotic leanings
Common Classes: Expert, Adept, Cleric (Desna or Shelyn)
Rarer, but not unheard of: Bard, Rogue
Rare: Sorcerer, Oracle
Extremely uncommon: All others
Favoured Deity: Desna is the house's most commonly worshiped deity (a bit of a given, one must admit,) though most members also pay respects to Shelyn and a few take her as their primary goddess instead. With no temples to Desna in Oppara and the House being headed by one of the Song’s clerics, House Avarae’s estate has been built with the ideals of a Desnan temple in mind and often plays host to traveling priests, priestesses and pilgrims.
House Blazon: A silver moth on a field of dark cerulean, surrounded by five silver stars
House Motto: A steady gaze
Overview: Just over two years ago a series of dreams led itinerant young Desnan cleric Esta Avarae far from the lands her previous wanderings and into Taldor, eventually following the increasingly frightful portents to Oppara. Having traveled through vast swaths of Taldorean countryside she was surprised to find the capital replete with such splendor, instead expecting a crumbling relic of long-lost glories like most of the faltering towns and cities she’d passed through on her way to the heart of the country. Modern politics had never been of particular interest to the young Seer, and this was her first hint that something was rotten in the land of the crown and lion.
The state of Taldan society appalled her, but while she didn’t trust most people as far as she could throw them, she never questioned her goddess. It took weeks, but eventually she uncovered a plot to assassinate the Grand Prince, and brought her evidence to him (after a lengthy and infuriating struggle to arrange a meeting at all) only for her concerns to be dismissed.
It wasn’t that they didn’t believe her - the evidence she’d gathered was impressive and attempts on the Grand Prince’s life were common enough - they just didn’t think it was a threat. Many members of the famed Ulfen Guard took their positions specifically because assassination attempts were so common, and the burly blond warriors surrounding the prince laughed at the young cleric’s concern. She left in frustration, but that night the dreams returned in force and she knew her work wasn’t done yet.
When the day of the assassination finally arrived she forced her way into the castle, going so far as to enchant the mind of one of the Ulfen Guards to escort her to the throne room. Though the guards were mighty, when the assassins struck their blades did more harm than good; made of up arcane mages rather than warriors, the assassins stole the minds of over half the guards, turning them on their brothers and sisters in arms as they advanced on the Prince.
Esta’s starknife cut down one of the wizards, his dagger missing Stavian’s throat by inche as he fell at the Grand Prince’s. The Seer stood before the prince, just barely fending off the would-be assassins as one by one she broke the enchantments on the Ulfen Guard, the battle turning quicker and quicker in their favor.
When the dust had settled and the bodies were cleared away scant few of the guard had fallen, all to each other’s blades, and the Prince was unharmed. The House that had funded the strike was stripped of their rank, titles, lands, and in a few cases their lives. As a reward, the young cleric was granted the lands that had been theirs and given the title Kephale, establishing House Avarae.
She was a wanderer though and had no intention to stay in Taldor, until she slept for the night. No visions came to her. No dreams at all, a frightening experience for one dedicated to the service of the goddess of dreams. She prayed and meditated, eventually gleaning that her work in Oppara was not done.
Notable Historical Avarae
None, though the grounds on which their manor in Oppara is built has a bit of history behind it. Located in the Seven Towers, the grounds on which House Avarae’s manor sits are not overly large, but the view is quite nice. Years and years ago the site had been home to a small but growing noble house that local legend tells eventually went on to occupy the then-colony of Cheliax. Though it’s little more than rumor, locals like to whisper that House Thrune once sat upon the picturesque little hill, and that their diabolic dealings first started in the maze of tunnels and strange rooms beneath the earth there.
Notable Members of House Avarae
Kephale Esta Avarae, breaker of chains (Cleric of Desna ##/Bard ##) (PC)
Esta’s early life was an inauspicious one. Her mother, a half Vudrani, half Varisian woman of unparalleled beauty was a pleasure slave to an extraordinarily wealthy Tian trader residing in the city of Absalom, the favored “wife” above all the other women in his harem. She bore him two daughters; Esta, the first, was conceived not long after her mother’s purchase, and her younger sister Sita was born five years later. The two were raised with the slaves, but kept relatively comfortable and well cared for, at least at first. No trader who rises to such levels of wealth and power does so without making enemies though, and assassination attempts were not uncommon in the household. For the most part the merchant prince’s guards handled things capably, but during a particularly brutal attempt on their father’s life, sprung while he was with his wives, the girls’ mother was stuck by a stray arrow and dead on the ground while the battle raged on around her. As the tide turned against the assassins several gathered the dead wife’s body and retreated, an act that would do far more harm to the merchant prince than any of the actual wounds he sustained during the fight.
With his favored bride slain and her body stolen, unable to be raised from the dead, the merchant fell into a grief-fueled madness for many months. During this time he came to loathe the sight of his daughters, who looked so much like their deceased mother, and in a fit of rage had them shipped off to Misery Row to be sold into slavery themselves, so he would never have to look upon them again.
Esta had taken to singing at a young age and had quite the knack for it, a talent that saw her purchased by a noblewoman for a hefty price despite the desperate ferocity with which she fought any and everyone who came near her or her sister. A ten-year-old girl is no match for the sort of people who sell living souls however, no matter how fierce her spirit. She was pacified with magic, only allowed to return to the waking world when she was thousands of miles away from the only home she’d ever known, in diabolic Cheliax.
The woman who’d purchased her, a scheming socialite of House Thrune, hoped to mold the young musical prodigy into a leashed Diva, a little pet songbird to boost her standing in various social circles. Esta fought fiercely for months on end, enduring tortures physical, mental and magical before her spirit finally seemed to shatter. In the span of a single night all the fight seemed to go out of her, and for two years she was meek and quiet, the perfect student.
They never saw it coming when she Charmed her instructor and had him casually escort her out of the manor.
She disappeared immediately after; it wasn’t difficult to blend into crowds in the city, but a young girl alone on the open roads was harder to miss, and before long she was forced to head off into the countryside. North was her only destination for weeks, traveling by the light of the stars, hiding by day, terrified that the hunters on her tail would find her. In Absalom she’d heard stories of a goddess of the stars who protected travelers. She couldn’t even remember the benevolent deity’s name, but she prayed desperately each night under the pale silver light of the moon. Whether through sheer luck or divine guidance (though with Desna there’s no saying luck isn’t divine guidance) she managed to cross the border into Molthune.
Few details of the next seven year of her life are known for sure. Inspired by her miraculous escape, Esta continued north, eventually finding her way to Varisa and one of the rare temples dedicated to Desna. She joined the Song of Spheres’ clergy, immediately departing on a pilgrimage with a senior priestess. She learned much, but before long it was clear that her path would take her far further than her aging mentor could lead. The priestess bid Esta farewell, but not before giving her two significant gifts; a beautifully crafted silver holy symbol, the same one she’d been given by her own mentor years and years ago, and her last name, replacing that of the girl’s father, which she’d forsaken long ago.
She traveled far and wide, following vague portents seen in her dreams like a leaf drifting aimlessly on the wind. Leaving founders marks in strange, exotic locals, aiding those in need, and bringing the sting of the righteous down upon the heads of any evildoers she encountered, she slowly became a powerful force for good. Ever on the move, the theatrical, charismatic young woman is a well-known figure in many of the areas her wanderings have taken her, both revered and reviled, depending on which side of her starknife you found yourself on. Slavers in particular seemed to bring out a terrible wrath in the normally unseen in the normally kind, merciful girl.
Eventually she found her way to distant Thuvia, where her younger sister had been taken, and secured her freedom. Not long after that her visions led her to Taldor, and after the events that led to the formation of her House she did the unprecedented and decided to halt her travels, at least for the time being.
Lady Sita Avarae (Druid/Expert 3, Expert/Aristocrat 3) NPC
The younger sister of the Kephale, Sita is the only true blood relative of the head of House Avarae. Born into slavery just as Esta was, the pair were split apart at a young age (Sita 5 and Esta 10) when the elder sibling was purchased first. Too young to be of much use to most buyers, Sita spent a full year on Misery Row before being purchased by a trader from distant Thuvia and delivered to one of his associates, a scholarly woman attempting to find a way to cultivate sun orchids artificially. She was trained to revere nature, eventually making pacts with the local nature spirits to gain the magic of the druids. As long as she diligently did her work, she was treated kindly. While it wasn’t a particularly happy life it could have been far worse, and when five years later a strange young woman appeared, claiming to be Sita’s sister, the young gardener was more baffled with anything.
Esta’s uncanny way with words secured her sister’s freedom, and a hesitant Sita soon followed her after some daft dream sent them off to Taldor. Though Esta clearly loved her, Sita could remember little from their childhood since the pair had been split apart at such a young age, and struggled to reconcile her lackluster feelings towards her “rescuer”. The older girl was clearly trying so hard to make things safe and comfortable for her though, Sita held her tongue and tried to go along with her sister’s plans.
When it turned out they would be settling down in Oppara, at least for a while, Sita was thrilled. Travel had never sat well with her; boats made her nauseous and overland travel bored here terribly. The fact that she suddenly found herself a noblewoman was pretty nice too. She now attends the Planudes Academy for the Enlightened Arts and Sciences, taking to high society like a fish to water. Though she still struggles with conflicted feelings for her sister she is, for the moment, content with her life.
[There will be a handful of adopted Avarae's here, but they are currently off managing the little province Esta inherited with her title and thus aren't of much relevance to anyone else's characters at the start of the game]
Strengths of House Avarae
Pick of the litter - Created from nothing via a boon from Grand Prince Stavian III two years ago, House Avarae is quite small (currently coming in at a grand total of 11 members) but what they lack in size they make up for in skill. Aside from her younger sister, Esta has hand-picked the 9 young woman who now bear her surname, seeking out individuals with the skill and drive to do good in the world but who lack the social status that would grant them access to the means required to rise above Taldor’s misogynistic, class-dependant glass ceiling
Deceptively competent - Made up of foreigners and peasants, almost no members of Oppara’s ruling class pay much heed to the fledgeling house beyond their famous leader - at least until they meet one of them. Over the past two years the Avaraes have gotten much practice in using this to their own ends and make no attempts to bolster their social standing
Weaknesses of House Avarae
Who are you again...? - Though most nobles know who Esta and those of her house are perfectly well, it wouldn’t do to be seen giving too much respect to the upstarts.
Uppity peasants - Though those from the lower class are granted titles on occasion, Esta and her House have the gall to actually act as if they are just as good as the real nobility, a fact that rubs many of the more traditionally-minded houses the wrong way.
Too good for their own good - Moral nobility and unwavering principles serve one well in the church, but they are much more of a hinderance than a boon when dealing with labyrinthine high society social networks.
Martially lacking - Though magic, both divine and arcane, is common in the house no members are similarly skilled with blade or bow.
Small coffers - The reward that came along with Esta's title and the income from her fortunetelling and spellcasting services are more than enough to keep the small House comfortable, but they lack the wealth and resources that longer-established Houses have built up over the generations.
Vulnerable to Absorption - There is an underlying assumption that Esta will soon produce a son to inherit her rewards, something in which she has absolutely no interest. Similarly a line of suitors, from down on their luck royals angling to grab a bit more wealth and power for their lines to senators looking to "marry up" look at Esta as a prime opportunity to leverage into marriage somehow, more an object than a person.
Foreign Relations Worth Noting
With little political clout, House Avarae has almost no direct influence on things in Oppara let alone beyond Taldor’s borders, but Esta has a number of foreign ties from the years she spent adventuring
Cheliax - Even ten years later, Esta’s escape has not been forgotten by her former mistress. While she’s unlikely to be assaulted by diabolical lackeys, she knows her Mistress keeps tabs on her and is in no hurries to cross into Cheliax’s borders again. There’s also her whole crusade against slavery, which they probably don’t appreciate.
Varisia - Most of Esta’s ties to the Desnan church lead back to Varisia, where she got her start and where her former mentor walks her constant circuit around the country, tending to Desna’s roadside shrines and rare temples
Absalom - The city of Esta and Sita’s birth, and the home still of their merchant prince father. Though generally hesitant to return, Esta has made several trips to Absalom over the years and has on many occasions tried to pressure the first Spelllord to abolish slavery once more, to no avail