Desert Roads, Desert Choices
A feral female halfling shaman with wild hair, sharpened teeth, and a strong bond to the Athasian spirit world.
Growing up in the Forest Ridge, Zeethra was a typical halfling child in many ways, wild and free, and she was taught those things normally taught to the young, their place in the history of the world and their uncommon connection to the land’s spirits. She learned to revere the land, and how to reap the limited bounty it was able to provide.
Unlike others her age, though, Zeethra experienced an almost everpresent anxiety mixed at times, and in varying degree, with an inexplicable rage. Seeing this quality in the girl, and in the distress this produced even in halfling society, one of the older tribe members befriended Zeethra, and told her how certain, rare individuals naturally seemed to have a deeper connection to the spirits of the land than others, and that the anger she felt may be due to the spirits’ reaction to the blasted and despoiled condition of the world. Zeethra learned of the causes for the plight of the land, while at the same time learning to view the land and all of its inhabitants as a single entity. She was dismayed to learn that not only was the land providing for those willing to tend it, but arcane magic was forcing the land to fuel the workings of those who had no right to make such demands.
Contemplative and exhibiting the fearlessness for which halflings are known, Zeethra left the relative safety of her forest home to see more of the world and hopefully discover her role in it. Alone and with only those provisions she could carry, the halfling girl traversed the mountains eastward, and began her trek into the perilous desert.
Knowing that survival on her own was doubtful, Zeethra took full advantage of a large group travelling one of the trade roads. Although her suspicions kept her from initially approaching any of the group’s members, she did maintain a comfortable following distance to benefit from any deterrent value the caravan might provide. When danger approached, she would draw near to the gathering, who by now had grown accustomed to, and even somewhat protective of, their diminutive shadow.
At other times, when something of interest caught her notice, Zeethra would range fairly far from the caravan, to learn more of the natural world and the creatures which occupied it. Whenever possible, she would catch and eat some of the less-threatening animals, being certain to waste little, in recognition of the delicate balance between the land and all its inhabitants.
Infrequently, small parcels would be tossed from the caravan in her direction. These held scraps of food, leftovers from a meal which were meant to be a thoughtful offering, or just as likely an amusing attempt to feed the little scavenger. When she had been successful in her attempts to survive off the land, Zeethra would approach close enough to throw the package back. Other times, she would dine with enthusiasm.
On one occasion, a large band of gith forced Zeethra to seek shelter among the caravan. With impressive skill, the travellers managed to drive off the gith, while all the young halfling could do was take shelter beneath a wagon. Following the battle, a few caravan members tried to engage the halfling, but her wariness remained, and she said nothing. Zeethra did, however, feel comfortable enough to walk alongside the others at times, and it was nearly a week later that she first spoke to the travellers, though never at length.
She still frequently disappeared from the sight of the caravan, continuing her attempt to learn of the land and from the land. On one of these excursions, sometime in the early morning hours, she came across the carcass of a creature with a bag-like body and what appeared to be several tendrils protruding from it. The beast had obviously died the previous evening, since it was still emanating an unpleasant odor before being dessicated by the hot winds.
Frightening off several scavenger birds which had just begun to gather, Zeethra examined the body of the thing, intending, ultimately, to sample of the creature. Identifying what organs she could, the halfling came across something she believed to be a poison gland. Not truly understanding her reasoning, and with only a moment’s hesitation, she produced her knife and began to cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Within a short time of consuming what she had correctly identified as the source for the creature’s poison, delirium set in and the hallucinations began. All about her, the barren land rose up and gave voice to cries which had the sound of the wind in its full fury. The primordial creatures flailed about wildly, gnashing with teeth of stone and slamming the ground with fists of sand in acts of uncontrolled rage. Phantom animals snarled and spasmed in pain, and plants grew into twisted mockeries of their natural forms only to be reduced to ash and blown away. Yet in the middle of this maelstrom of fury and agony, Zeethra did not once feel threatened. In fact, it seemed almost as if the spirits of the land expected something of her, that they wanted her to join with them, giving voice to their pain and anger and to bring a reckoning to those who would destroy the land.
When the halfling girl regained her senses, the last vestiges of light were soon to disappear beneath the horizon. Not far from where she ate of the poison gland of the creature, she returned to the corpse, which by now had been largely consumed by the scavengers of the desert. Amid what was left, she found a small amount of the creature’s blood and other fluids. These she used to decorate her face and exposed flesh, an indication that she had heard the message of the land’s spirits and vowed to do what she could on their behalf.
It was then that she noticed a figure at the corner of her vision, and she turned to better see that which had taken her unawares. Though humanoid in shape, it was like no other creature she had ever laid eyes upon before. The majority of the entity was composed of a pale, transparent substance, with bits of sand, rock, bone, and whatever other natural detritus which happened to be nearby floating amongst the ebbing and flowing form. Although the apparition did not speak, nor did it have any features with which to do so, Zeethra instinctively knew that this was a manifestation of the land’s spirit, and was destined to become her constant companion.
She then resumed her journey in the direction the caravan had been travelling, and became aware, for the first time, of ghostly shapes frequently moving about her. Some were clearly plants or animals, but most were amorphous forms which were not readily identifiable, and she knew that these, too, were spirits of the land, or of the flora and fauna of the land. If she listened closely, she could almost hear them speak, and they seemed as real to her as the ground upon which she trod or the equipment she carried.
At first, Zeethra thought that their presence, or the ability to sense their presence, might be a residual effect of consuming the poison, but as time passed and the toxins passed from her body, the visions remained. The young halfling was pleased with her connection to the spirit world, and the possibility that the spirits might have chosen her, but she also felt the burden of their presence. They would costantly be watching, weighing her actions against the solemn pledge she had taken.
She arrived in the city-state of Balic two days later, and was immediately disgusted by the place. The stench of filth, sweat, and fear. The air of oppression. As she wandered the streets among templars and nobles, slaves and freemen, she felt the same thing for each of them. Contempt. Either they directly aided in the destruction of the land, or they were complicit by their silent, unquestioning acceptance of the ways of the world. Then she heard whispers of an organization called the Veiled Alliance, a collective of individuals determined to reject and possibly even turn back the despoiling nature of arcane magic. She then knew that there were like-minded people to be found in this world, and that not everyone was worthy of her derision.
Among the chaos and confusion of the city streets, Zeethra realized that she did not belong in the city, and had little patience for the self-importance of man and the struggle to exist under the yoke of tyranny. Although she had only just arrived, she made arrangements to leave immediately. Her inexperience still a liability, leaving on her own was unwise, so she signed on with an outbound caravan which seemed eager to take on additional help. The caravan was headed to the free city of Tyr, but this mattered little to Zeethra, who knew virtually nothing of the world outside of her home forest. For now, at least, it was an opportunity to once again return to the simple, if sometimes brutal, wilds. Perhaps one day she would return to Balic and bring all defilers to account, but that day was well in the future. For now, she would trust the spirits to guide her.
MANNERISMS – Zeethra is energetic and inquisitive, often emitting animalstic grunts when excited or agitated. She is illiterate and does not have a broad knowledge base. When questioned or pressed about issues for which she has no answer, she will often grunt and thrust her head forward, smiling broadly to reveal her sharpened teeth. This is not uncommon among halflings, who react thusly to any perceived violation of their personal comfort zone. Persons familiar with halfling behavior can interpret this to mean, at the very least, the conversation is over.
The shaman is noticably uncomfortable in cities, preferring instead the freedom of open spaces. She would rather sleep in a bedroll under the stars than indoors in a bed. Her tastes are simple, and while not naive, she doesn’t understand the duplicity and complicated schemes of others.
Zeethra often bases her decisions on what she believes to be best for the natural world. This makes her appear cruel concerning some matters, ambivalent about other. She is pragmatic, and does not hesitate to “sample” of the creatures of the land when the opportunity presents itself, regardless of species. She particularly has a fondness for fresh eyes, which she regards as a cool, moist treat. The halfling also constantly decrorates her face and exposed flesh with the blood of other creatures, using her hands and fingers as applicators.
Zeethra is strongly influenced by her connection to the spirit world, believing that their two destinies are intertwined. She often seems distracted, sometimes carrying on conversations with beings no one else can see. At other times, she will stand with her head cocked, as if listening to voices only she is able to hear. Some of the messages the halfling receives from the spirit world must be terrible indeed, for she sometimes reacts for no apparent reason, or wakes from a sound sleep, snarling and brandishing her weapon.
While she realizes that others might have their own calling, she is constantly mindful of her own, and will not forsake her own cause to support another’s goals.
ZEETHRA AND DEFILERS – Knowing that the effects of defiling magic are responsible for the state of the world, the young halfling has no tolerance whatsoever for those who would take such action. If possible, she will attack, with the intent of killing, defilers as soon as their presence is known, even if such an action is detrimental to the goals of her contemporaries. Should the defiler prove too powerful, she will bide her time, gathering information and amassing the resources necessary to combat the scourge of the land.
In combat, Zeethra will focus almost exclusively on defilers, giving little thought to other enemies unless the situation is dire. Once the defilers have been felled, she will savage their corpses with weapon, hands, and teeth in animalistic fury, until little remains which is recognizable. She believes that the land itself calls for the blood of these individuals, and that carrying out this end is a function of her vow. Zeethra will never knowingly consume the flesh of a despised defiler.