"I insist, go home, Lindara.  I have run this shop for as long as you've been alive, I am perfectly capable of closing it for the night," said Car'onna sternly, but not without affection.  She smiled and the fading sunlight coming through rose colored windows played along her face.  Lindara struggled with her response, wanting to impress her employer but thankful for the chance to go home.  Car'onna arched an eyebrow and the Elven woman nodded quickly.

As Car'onna drifted about the room, straightening, organizing, and dusting, Lindara collected her things from the back room and slipped out the door with a breathy farewell.  For another half hour, the day wound down until the sun was almost gone and Car'onna spoke the word to activate the driftglobes scattered around the shop.  Three men filtered through the door.

Car'onna smiled broadly and greeted them, "Welcome to The Joyous Path.  I take it you need travel supplies, gentlemen?"

The Human in the lead grinned and moved towards her as his companions, an Earth Soul Genasi and a Halfling, shared a grin and a chuckle.  The Genasi closed the door heavily and turned the lock.  Car'onna tsked.

Circling the counter, back to where she kept the locked chest of coin, Car'onna began speaking softly, "I have been a successful business woman in this country for twenty years; before that, I was apprenticed to my mother for a further ten years.  In that time, I have led trade caravans to the neighboring countries, organized city-wide festivals, and dealt with any number of opportunistic cads who thought they could rob me because I am a woman.  Is it really your belief that in that time, I never learned to defend myself?"

From beneath the counter she withdrew a long, wickedly curved blade.  Momentarily, she held it in front of her face, then extended it using her right arm, pointing it at the Human thief.  He stopped moving.

"C'mon, boss," said the Genasi, "She's alone, she can't take all of us."

The Halfling, seemingly less convinced, replied, "Just grab the stuff and we'll run!"

Car'onna smiled. "Yes, boss, just grab it.  There's three of you.  I can't strike all of you at once."

She slid back around the counter, slowly closing the gap between her blade and the human.  He stepped back a pace.  Faintly, her szuldar began to glow, fiery red.  The light touched at her green eyes, making them appear to flicker.  Her arm, like iron, kept the blade pointed.

The human dropped back another pace. "Boys..."

Car'onna echoed, mirth in her voice, "Boys..."

All three dropped back now, the Genasi fumbling with the lock on the door.  The Halfling made a nervous keening sound.  Car'onna hissed, "Dur," and the driftglobes snuffed out, leaving her szuldar and the streetlights filtering through rose colored windows as the only light in the room.  She took a purposeful stride forward, sword arm flexing backwards and the three men ran, sprinting into the night.

Car'onna afforded herself a laugh as she crossed to the door.  She threw the bolt and spoke the keyword to relight the driftglobes.  To herself, she whispered, "Ah well, I suppose I shall have to alert the guards.  They'll want to stop those three before they find someone less prepared."

She crossed back to the counter, replaced her father's sword, and drew out a quill and paper, writing descriptions of the three men before she could forget..


Lerna Shenre and Melechae Kerechor

Lerna is a senior officer within the Odess Intelligence Service and Alchos' mentor.  She is a dark skinned Humawoman of athletic build.  She keeps her dark hair fairly short.

Lerna favors loose fitting, light colored clothing.  She will adjust to the mission she is on, but her specialty is in urban infiltration and she often hides herself in plain sight.

Lerna is calm and smart, with eyes that are highly expressive, pinning foes to the wall and welcoming friends to a cozy home.  She carries herself with confidence and a hint of swagger.

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Melechae is Alchos' trainee within the Odess Intelligence Service.  His skin is a dark purple with blue and white marbling in various places.  He is lean and athletic, not unlike Alchos, but has not finished fully developing into his body, as he's still in his mid-to-late-teens.

His hair is tied up and back in dreadlocks, with shaved sides beneath horns that start at his temples and run almost straight backwards while twisting slightly.  He dresses similarly to Alchos, though eschews a cloak and generally wears black where Alchos wears other colors.

He carries himself with teenage bravado, but has begun to affect a more serious, calm demeanor when on missions.  Off duty, he is friendly with those he knows well, but keeps his distance with new folks.

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Arla Vanthessa

Arla is a Human Druid from Odess who has dedicated herself to balance.  She worships Jaraye as a goddess of transition.  She dresses and portrays herself as a travelling merchant's shopgirl in order to gain access areas and regions she might be held out of.

Arla has shoulder-length red-brown hair, which she keeps pinned back but only braids it loosely in several braids.  She has olive skin and freckles across her nose and cheeks.  Her eyes are brown.  She is fit but not overly large or muscular.

Arla is serious, but not reserved.  She is young for her role and her abilities, which makes her prone to outbursts of emotion at times, though she works towards an archdruid's neutral grace.

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Free Cathia

When Simierlan led their campaign against the government of Cathia, it was actually a rebellion against an occupying government from across the sea.  The capital city that Simierlan sieged and took was the occupying force's regional seat of Qadia's government.  In the time since, Simierlan's followers have been able to take back most of the center country of Cathia, but some of the occupying force remains at the borders.

Free Cathia has no port access, which has limited the country's ability to trade, seek help, or expand their conflict against Qadia controlled Cathia.  The border with Odess is still mostly controlled by the occupying force, but that control thins in the north, near the Everglade.  Some intrepid adventurers have set out to cross in the Everglade and seek help from Odess and other kingdoms.

The stalemate between Cathia and Qadia holds because Qadia struggles to reinforce quickly across the ocean but Cathia cannot protect all of its territory while pushing onto new fronts.  It will take the intervention of another power or a significant build up of Qadian forces to settle the dispute.

A special title has been given to Cathian soldiers who have taken up the task of breaking the Qadian blockade to reach other nations.  They are known as Dawnbringers, and generally operate alone or in small groups in order to slip past Qadian forces.  The vast majority of these Dawnbringers are set to approach Odess, though few have made it that far at the current time.

The average citizen of Cathia is a farmer and lives a rural life.  Qadian forces eliminated a number of roving bands of Goblins, Gnolls, and Orcs, so animals and creatures from the Everglade are more feared than any one race.

There is a sightly higher concentration of Aasimar in Cathia, due to the country's association with Simierlan, Jaryae, and Vayr.  Aasimar are not common, by any means, but a number occupy positions of importance within the Cathian government and military.

The Cathian military leans towards infantry, though they do maintain a small horse cavalry force.  In general, they organize their units into 10, 100, and 1000 person units.  However, they employ a number of smaller guerrilla units which operate in disputed areas and do not tend towards any organized unit size.

The government of Free Cathia is a theocratic democracy.  Elected officials are expected to serve as spiritual guides for their fellow Cathians, reflecting the ideals of Simierlan.  Any citizen of Free Cathia is eligible to vote and towns vote for local councils, local councils vote for district councils, and district councils vote for national councils. No one ruler leads the council, both so that no single figure could be captured or ransomed and so that council actions are as egalitarian as possible.


Dawnbreaker Veyara Eloh

Veyara is a Aasimar Paladin of Simerlan. Her rank within that order is Dawnbreaker and she is driven into the underdark by visions from her deity, who warns that a terrible darkness is rising underground.

As an Aasimar, Veyara has several traits which reflect her divine parentage, including faintly golden skin and hair.  Her eyes are the color of topaz and glow with an intensity equal to the intensity of her mood.  Veyara's hair is cut close to her scalp on the sides and the top is worn in a long braid that reaches between her shoulder blades, though she often wears it forward over her left shoulder.  When her divine heritage shines through, Veyara can summon glowing wings of light of the same color as her eyes.

Her armor is the color of copper and has a golden sun and silver moon chasing each other over the sternum.  The pauldrons of her armor are rounded with a light wing motif etched into them.  Her breastplate is wider at the top than at the waist, but not enough to have a full hourglass shape.  She wears long tassets with joints; these reach her knees.  Her greaves, sabatons, and cuisse are less remarkable, but matches the armor of her upperbody.  She carries a magic sword, coincidentally named Moonrise.  Moonrise's light is similar to moonlight, but when Veyara's wings are visible, it takes on a faintly neon blue tinge.

Brave and determined, Veyara often wears a peaceful, confident smile.  She is fit and strong, but not bulky.

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Jaryae's Child: Simerlan

Simerlan is Jaryae's divine child. As Goddess of Transitions and Joy, Jaryae chose to experience the process of pregnancy and childbirth, having an offspring with Vayr.  As both are demigods, their child was born mortal.

Simierlan was born at dawn on the day of Jaryae's festival, the Feast of Joy.  A sign of Simierlan's divine heritage, the child's gender was often in flux.  In moments in which Simierlan was closer to the nature of Jaryae, he appeared as a male Genasi of Radiant para-elemental Soul.  In the moments in which Simierlan was closer to the nature of Vayr, she appeared as a female Aasimar with golden skin and glowing elyes.

This could easily have left Simierlan as an outcast, but the god and goddess left servants with children of their own to watch over their child.  In the countryside of Cathia, the blended followers of Vayr and Jaryae built a commune.  It was mostly self-sufficient so Simierlan rarely needed experience something from the outside.  It was a peaceful existence with people who believed in them and felt no awkwardness over their transitive states.  Simierlan grew up comfortable with their genderfluid state, switching from one set of pronouns to the other depending on manifestation.  As Simierlan grew, they developed an increasing amount of control over these transitions.

In his male state, Simierlan made his first trip to a city at the age of 16.  There, he found new wonders and excitement.  Up until that time, he had never seen to many people of so many types.  On the second night of the trip, he snuck out of the lodgings his protectors had purchased.  He came to a poorer section of the city and discovered a slum for the first time in their experience.  The moment moved him, and involuntarily, they shifted forms.  Simierlan became female, and several of the city folk responded in horror and revulsion.  They lashed out at her, the first time their life that they had been treated so.

She managed to escape them and return to their protectors.  They described to her that this was indeed a part of the world and the occupied kingdom of Cathia.  In that moment, she decided: she would not let that injustice stand.  When they returned to the enclave, they began training.  Two years later, they returned to the city where they had first learned of injustice.  It began with a teen girl, dressed as a boy, defended against assailants by a woman in shining golden armor.  A man in similar golden armor raided a brothel staffed with slaves.  A month later, slavers were chased into the street and left for the guard.

The city pushed back against this vigilante.  First mobs hunted for them, then actual units of the guard.  Still Simierlan persisted.  Others, many of them rescued by the transforming warrior in golden armor, joined the cause and soon the city was in open revolt.  That drew the ire of Cathia's occupiers.  They mobilized a militia and sent it towards the city.

Simierlan met with them.  In her female guise, she listed their grievances and explained that when slavery and the abuse of women and the downtrodden was stopped, they would stand aside.  The government declined.  Faced against a superior force, Simierlan and their followers withdrew.

As Simierlan returned to their enclave, the militia followed.  At dawn, at the very gates of where Simierlan had grown up, innocent of the thing that had driven their life for more than two years, the two forces confronted one another.  At dusk, only Simierlan's forces remained.

Those who had rallied to Simierlan began expanding the compound to accommodate their increased numbers.  Many began training in arms and divine magics, calling themselves the Children of the Dawn, referencing the battle at the gates of Simierlan's home.

Over the next four decades, Simierlan and the Children of the Dawn would strike out again and again against injustice.  Slavers, thieves, and those who taught hatred would find themselves besieged within Cathia.  The government tried time and again to broker peace, but as long as they refused to outlaw and pursue those who preyed upon the weak and marginalized, Simierlan would not negotiate.

In secret, a second order of Simierlan's followers formed.  They called themselves the Children of the Dusk, and they worked to infiltrate and expose perpetrators of injustice wherever they hid.  And after decades of hunting, they found a source of corruption within the capital of occupied Cathia.

Simierlan rallied their forces.  The battle took almost two weeks, with both gender identities of Simierlan appearing many times and in many places on the battlefield.  In the end, the Child of the Heavens and the Children of the Dawn and Dusk stood triumphant but worn.  It was nearly midsummer and though Simierlan still looked young, they felt old.

So it was that at the Feast of Midsummer, at dusk, Simierlan passed from the mortal world without dying.  Simierlan is not a fully ascended Demigod, but is rather a heroic immortal residing beyond the Prime Material.  Paladins and Cerics of Simierlan actually gain their divine spells from power that Simierlan borrows from their divine parents.

Simierlan has two main orders of followers.  The Children of the Dawn are protectors, healers, and vocal leaders.  The Children of the Dusk are spies, hunters, and manipulators.  Both work towards the same goals: the protection of those who find themselves unjustly outcast. The Dawnborn work through the law and in the open, shining the light on injustice and setting an example for others.  The Duskborn are the other side of the coin, serving in the shadows to find those who profit from injustice and plot attacks on the downtrodden and marginalized.  These orders are mostly active in Cathia, though they have intentions of taking Simierlan's work beyond those borders.  Similarly, worship of Simierlan is mostly contained to Cathia.  Outside of Cathia, stories are told of Jaryae's pregnancy and child, but the stories trail off after the birth and the divine child is mostly unknown.

Simierlan's symbol is a circle divided side to side; one half is gold and the other black, but both sides have golden rays radiating from them.  Simierlan is Neutral Good, but Children of the Dawn are often Lawful Good and Children of the Dusk are often Chaotic Neutral.  It is important to note that Simierlan identifies with both genders; to this end, Simierlan uses the pronoun of whatever gender they are presenting as in the moment. When referring to the entire body of their life, the they pronoun is used for Simierlan.

The tenants of the Children of the Dawn are:
1. Carry the hope of the dawn with you.
2. Help the downtrodden and outcast wherever you find them.
3. Serve justice, even in the face of societal opposition.

The tenants of the Children of the Dusk are:
1. Find those who oppress, torment, and diminish others.
2. Drag those who use the dark to commit evil into the light.
3. Help those he need deliverance to find it.


Alchos: The Little Maelstrom

As the Feast of Joy was celebrated throughout the Little Maelstrom, a great number of street shows played out on the corners and in storefronts.  Children, especially young Genasi, gathered in front of them watching and laughing.  In front of a textiles shop owned by Car’onna Dawntracker, Alchos sat atop an upturned crate.  Car'onna had paid for a popular puppetry group to tell tales, but for this Alchos had asked, virtually begged, to play the role of storyteller.

His eyes flashed as he spoke, "The Little Maelstrom has become a key feature of Glasswyn, capitol of Odess.  And for many Genasi, it has become the de facto capital of Genasi culture on Eodria, if not the whole world.  But it was not always so.  Would you like to know of what came before?"

Several of the children nodded.  One girl, a Magma Soul Genasi, only just old enough to have lost a tooth, giggled as Alchos started the story once more.

"Myths tell of a time when Genasi could not settle, constantly pulled by their nature, or by Nature, from place to place.  Some Genasi, particularly taken with our oral history, still remark on the wanderlust of Nature's Soul.  Several centuries ago, however, a small troupe of travelling Genasi came to Glasswyn."

Alchos gestured widely as the puppeteers portrayed the troupe.  One of each of the Elemental Souls was represented, as well as children who might have been of Para or Quasi-Elemental Soul.

"Now, there was no Little Maelstrom then.  The Royal Palace, the Cathedral of the Sun, the Royal Library, the Grove of Melora, and the Stonehaven District had already taken form.  But where the Little Maelstrom would one day stand, there was a large manor with sprawling grounds.  It was owned by a man named Nhurein Dhishi."

A large manor unfolded beyond the puppets, sprawling and draped in black.

"Of course, in most stories, the travelling troupe would be good and pure and Dhishi would be corrupt, ugly, and mean.  But it wasn't so.  The troupe was tired and broke the law by camping on the grounds of Dhishi's manor.  Dhishi was well respected in the community, but wanted to protect what he owned.  So he called for the guard.  The troupe was driven away."

The puppets boarded a caravan wagon, which left the stage, only to reappear on the other side as Alchos swung his gaze from one end of the stage to the other.

"They wandered once more, but a year to the day later, they settled in the same spot again.  Once more Dhishi called for the guard and they were scattered. But the next year there was another troupe. And another. For ten years, the Genasi returned, troupe upon troupe."

More and more puppets crowded the stage, threatening to overflow the space. The pushed and jostled against one another and the cut out of the great estate.  Suddenly, the figure of an androgynous Earth Soul Genasi appeared, adorned in flowing robes of green, brown, and gold.

"It could have come to a riot, and it nearly did, but for the efforts of a Genasi named Volaris Aevus.  They coordinated the troupes.  Kept them calm.  When the guards pushed the troupes off of the land of Dhishi's manor, Volaris kept the troupes in Glasswyn."

The puppets retreated to the sides of the stage, looking on as the Volaris puppet approached the Dhishi puppet.  Alchos mimed joining them in their wonder.

"Volaris met with Dhishi, explaining to the wealthy man that the Genasi were called to the land. That they would return again and again, in ever greater numbers.  That despite Nature's Soul, they had found a place to settle.  Dhishi, as was his right, was not pleased with this."

Some of the younger members of the crowd grumbled, but their elders hushed them, nodding at the truth of the statement.

"But he was a businessman and decided that there was an opportunity to be had in this.  For their part, Volaris latched onto the same opportunity.  Between the two of them, they came to an arrangement.  All business done on the lands of the manor would pay into a fund to maintain the grounds and manor.  Dhishi, and his line, would also be given first right to invest in any business opened on the grounds."

On stage, the beginnings of smaller buildings began to rise around the mansion.

"Volaris secured free right of development for the grounds and convinced Dhishi to allow the land to be free of price of title.  They shook on the deal and, together, spoke to the assembled troupes of Genasi.  Because Dhishi's land was privately owned, the kingdom allowed the arrangement."

The buildings pushed further upwards.  None was as tall as the mansion, but they were distinct now.  Small streamers of color began to unfurl, mimicking the stalls and tents that lined the real streets of the Little Maeltrom.

"The first buildings in the Little Maelstrom were caravan wagons staked into the grounds.  The first businesses were those of Genasi artisans who brought styles from their broad travels to Glasswyn, helping the city to grow more cosmopolitan."

Now puppets of all shapes and sizes bustled back and forth across the stage, with Dhishi and Volaris holding to the center.  Alchos smiled theatrically at the scene and let it play out for a time before speaking again.

"After decades of cooperation, Dhishi bequeathed the land to the city on the condition that the Genasi not be moved.  As he had no heirs, Dhishi left his manor to Volaris Aevus, who had guided the growth of the Little Maelstrom dutifully.  Aevus, in turn, left the manor to the people of the Maelstrom.  It still stands at the center of the Little Maelstrom, a place of festival and gathering."

Alchos gestured to the actual manor, standing several streets over.  He smiled once more and clapped his hands.

"The tale is a link to our history and a reminder that if we look for ways to compromise, to help all parties find their joy, we can often avoid violence and strife.  The Lady of Joy blessed Volaris for their willingness to find common ground.  It is something we can all aspire to."

As the viewers dispersed, some clapping, some talking, Alchos stood watching.  The little Magma Souled girl smiled at him, waved, then scampered off.  Alchos laughed and waved after her.

A hand came to rest lightly on Alchos' shoulder.  Without looking, he said, "Thank you, Car'onna.  This is always one of my favorite activities."

"Thank you, Alchos.  Now, come help me get ready for the dinner tonight."

They turned and began walking towards the Dhishi Mansion, where preparations for the night's feast were already underway.