Uliana Novikoff

The Joyful Despair


Age: 68
Race: Tiefling (Kyton)
Height 5’2"
Weight: 126
Nationality: Arcadian


The cold Rova (September) rain drummed against the oiled leather of her hood. A chaotic staccato accompanying her racing heart. Uliana took a deep breath and forced a smile at the youth surrounding her. She should have known better. She knew it was naive to expect acceptance particularly in a land such as Ustalav with its dark history and shadowed lands. A few dead livestock, an unfortunate flood. She was an outsider and an easy scapegoat. She pushed the damp strands of her thistle colored hair from her eyes as she nervously looked about her. Unsurprising but it still hurt that her companions, fellow neophytes of Arcadia, had ghosted into the heavy rain and left her alone.

It was her sixth month since first arriving in Ustalav. A hands on practicum to see how law and mercy were applied and upheld in a country where centralized authority had begun to recently assert itself. She had jumped at the chance to go to the land her fabled father had grew up in and to try and make it better place no matter how small the difference. Maybe she’d be lucky and her father would approve, maybe even enough to visit her. All she had of him was small illusory image of him that Aunty had made enchanted to a glass bauble the size of robin’s egg.

The dead smacking sound of wood on palm snapped her from her reverie. She thought about reaching for her dagger but there were a dozen of them and she was alone, all that would probably do would be to provoke them to further violence.

They rushed in. Shouts of “Beast!” “Devil!” and “Demon bitch!” mixed in with the background shouts of fear and rage.

There was a sharp crack as an intense wave of pain exploded from the back of her head. All the colors she had ever seen exploded into her vision before fading to grey. Memories and disjointed thoughts sparked in her brain as it tried to reassert order on itself.

One such memory lingered longer than the others. She was still very young only in her 20s far before the age of maturity. Aunty was taking Uliana on one of her frequent outings about larger Golarion and sometimes other planes. She didn’t get to talk to Amaya much. Amaya was too busy cataloguing environments and their various flora and fauna so she could better replicate them in illusions as part of the displays in the massive Arcadian Museums so that all citizens could experience the wonder in the creation they were a part of. Uliana couldn’t remember why Amaya told her what she did. Perhaps she had asked about her father or why she was the way she was but this is what she heard:

Ilya had gone back to Ustalav to clear out the Norgorber worshippers from the Monastery of the Silent Veil. The Anaphexia as the assassins were called had cleared out the Pharasmin monks centuries before and Ilya sought to return the place to the service of Pharasma, to wipe clean the lies of his teachers. The Anaphexia hoarded secrets and deep in the mountain fastness in a heavily warded vault Ilya found your mother. The creature may have been a elf once. Clad in black leather, pale skin glistening in the cavernous damp, the bloody holes where the eyes should have been regarding him with open hostility and curiosity. It was an Apostle Kyton once a mortal that has been twisted by the ministrations of that dark kind into one of their own. Recalling the teachings of the Empyreal Korada he released her and they fought. It was apparent she had been well trained in the esoteric discipline of the monk. Through their fists their hearts were made known to each other. For many days they fought. One to corrupt the other to redeem. On the tenth day the despair left the Kyton. On the twelfth self returned. On the fifteenth Ilya and the Kyton left for parts unknown. Two years later you were presented to the Redemptionists to foster. I do not know what happened to your mother but there is some joy in Illya’s eyes when he spoke of this to me.

The roar of the rain came back in a crescendo as her reverie ended. The shouts sounded muffled and distant to her ears. Uliana coughed tasting blood and brackish water her hands deep in the cold mud of the village road. Another blow and she was sure a rib had cracked. Her tail curled reflexively about her. She tried to get up, to run away but the blows seemed to come now in a torrent with the storm above.

It wasn’t fair. She was going to die. None of this was her fault. She couldn’t move.
“Not like this. Please not like this.”
In her pain something heard. In her despair something answered.

She awoke cold and bruised lying in the roadway mire. Her “friends” had returned and were trying to help her up. Her attackers were scattered about nearby. Some kneeling in the muck others curled up on their sides all weeping softly into damp autumn air.

Uliana Novikoff

War of the Worldwound esric