In-depth appearance: Shiara is a slender youth with deeply bronzed skin in the way of the Peledan islanders. Her hair is untamably curly, a problem she solves by tying it back most of the time, or occasionally putting it in lots of little braids. She keeps it shorter than most noble girls, but there's really not much she can do with it and dealing with it is time consuming. She has a round face; dark, gently tilted eyes; a wide, flat, and slightly upturned nose; high, thick brows; and full, expressive lips. She's still got the stick-straight figure of a young girl, with long limbs that will eventually match her solidly built frame, but for the moment Shiara looks like she couldn't figure out if she wanted to be gracefully slender or strong and stocky.
Her clothing is as outlandish as her appearance. The child wouldn't be caught dead in the heavy, hot, restrictive swaddling Eskoran nobility calls clothing. She wears a combination of loose tunics, crop tops, lightweight breeches, and knee-length skirts. She often goes barefoot, but she can be convinced to wear sandals or shoes of supple leather. She loves bright colors and patterns, though she does own a number of darker things (great for sneaking about at night) and earth or cream tones (less notable in town). She owns a variety of jewelry, most made of beads or shells. She'll sometimes braid such things into her hair, or add a bright flower behind her ear. One particular necklace she always wears, a simple leather thong with two pendants. One is long and thin, like a claw or a tooth. The other looks more like a large scale or shaped piece of abalone.
She always has one of her knives on her person, sometimes two or three depending on where she's going. While she knows how to fight with her fists, she's not particularly intimidating and a sharp blade does a lot to convince people to leave her alone if they give her too much trouble. Shiara often carries a small satchel either on a shoulder strap or belted at her hip. It's a good place to put a bit of money, and anything else she might need. It's likewise a good place for Ainel, her brown-and-white zombie rat. He's in good condition, for a zombie, but no need to take chances. Unfortunately he doesn't always want to stay in there, and often climbs up to her shoulder. She's taken to wearing drapes or scarves, so he still has somewhere to hide.
Personality: Shiara started as a bright, cheerful girl. She loved watching the stars or playing in the waves. She enjoyed wandering the beach or the woods, and was eager to try new things. She was always rather independent, encouraged to be self-sufficient from a young age. The questionable acceptance of the townsfolk was never an issue in the mostly-Peledan part of the outskirts where she lived, and she never saw any reason to bother with people that didn't want her around. She took to her grandmother's teaching with solemn dedication, eager to prove herself worthy of her gift of magic, and the sort of respect she saw people giving Nisme. She absorbed stories and music with a wide-eyed eagerness, as if they could show her a glimpse of the world beyond her horizon. Shiara wasn't sure she wanted to be a bone woman despite her dedication to the training. She craved adventure, and there was always a driving curiosity in her constant questions on anything and everything.
Following her move to the Academy, she grew resentful and defiant. Forced to deal with those who neither liked nor accepted her, she developed a thick skin and a sharp tongue. She was never good at sitting still, and being forced to sit through pointless lessons made her eager to avoid them altogether. Their attitude towards dark magic left her with little respect for most academy staff, and her impatience soon turned into a barely any tolerance for their foolishness. Shiara is under a lot of pressure just by being at the academy, and as a result she has a short temper. When worked up she hurls insults with a will, and if someone gets in her face she is not above punching them. Those that treat her with casual disrespect may be called out on it, or may be subjected to passive-aggressive baiting until they react or go away. When Shiara gets an idea in her head she can be incredibly stubborn, and she refuses to let others intimidate her, no matter how much bigger or stronger they might be. The way her family encouraged her curiosity is at odds with the school's style, and she's been taken to task many times for questioning teachers or otherwise disrupting classes with tangential discussions and outright challenges to accepted facts.
She is very defensive and prickly, even to sincere efforts to become her friend. Shiara's had too many people act friendly only to cut her deeply to be willing to trust quickly. She is slow to warm up to most strangers, though other islanders have an automatic advantage in this regard. Her respect is hard to earn, and only given to those who show themselves to be intelligent, willing to look at the facts instead of trusting blindly in what "everyone knows", willing to back up their words with actions, and possessing a certain level of integrity. She's a clever girl, and it has been remarked that it's a shame she turns her wits to things like slipping off campus. She's been blamed for a number of unkind pranks, but very few were her doing. She's a convenient scapegoat, and other students take advantage of her generally combative manner, knowing that Shiara's indignation at an unjust accusation will look the same as her normal behavior to most adults.
Despite her conduct during classes, Shiara is a driven individual. She means to show all of them just how wrong they are. If the school won't teach her proper magic, then she'll practice on her own. If they want to twist her into a docile, complacent noble lady who can't even hear a bad word without having a case of nerves, then she will go roaming in town and what wilds she can find, pitting herself against challenges to make herself stronger. she's not quite reckless, but she doesn't stick to approved locations and activities. She has a decent idea of what she can handle, and she's not afraid of commoners, nor is does she look like a gilded sign for thieves as many of her classmates do.
Shiara cannot wait to be free of her restrictive cage and allowed to stretch herself for real. She wants to travel, to visit the islands where her father and grandparents were born, to see other countries and have real adventures. She wants to find somewhere where her dark skin doesn't make people look down their nose. She wants to learn about other peoples, too, and about things where the answers her teachers give her aren't ones she trusts. They have so much wrong about the Peledan people, after all. Who knows what they've screwed up beyond that? Above all, she wants to show all of Eskora that they are as backwards about dark magic as they accuse the islanders of being in general. She'll be a hero like in the stories, maybe, or she'll find some brilliant use for dark magic that helps everyone in the same obvious, undeniable way life magic does. Or maybe she'll just write songs and tell stories like her grandfather. But she's sure there's an adventure waiting for her just beyond the horizon, if only she can leave the Academy behind.
History: Shiara's father came to mainland Eskora as a teenager with his parents and elder sister in the wake of a volcano eruption (tsunami?) that devastated their island home. His mother, Nisme, is a bone woman -- a spiritual leader among the Peledan tribes native to the eastern archipelago. The Peledan see dark magic not as a curse but as a highly-regarded skill, and it approaches divine blessing. The bone men and women work with the healers as medicine men; they work with the rare speakers of souls to placate restless ghosts; they are the ones sought for blessings and guidance, and to ease the passage of the dying. Nisme's husband Yuriah is a musician and a keeper of stories, and though their daughter returned to the islands they decided to stay with Caston following his marriage. The Peledan are a highly communal group, and if their son and his wife would not join them on the islands, they would bring the community to the young couple.
Shiara's mother Rosalie lived in the coastal town where most of the Peledan refugees settled. She was studying to be an herbalist like her own mother, and her father worked as an assistant to the harbormaster. She and Zelais met during the worst of the difficult times that faced town and refugees, and married several years later. Shiara was born within a couple years into a warm and happy household that didn't care what the townsfolk thought of the mixed family.
As a toddler the child was much like any other. She was extremely curious, and loved stories and the sea. If other children gave her a hard time she shrugged it off, and played instead with the children of refugees-turned-citizens and her pet rat Ainel. Nisme recognized the girl's magic as soon as it started to manifest, and began lessons the moment they would be retained. Shiara learned of her rich island heritage from her father's side of the family, and while she didn't disdain the more structured life her mother encouraged, she was never very good at sitting still. There was always something to do, somewhere to explore or an adventure to find. Skirts and "proper" clothes were restrictive and got dirty or ripped. She did pick up bits of herbcraft from the instruction of mother and both grandmothers, but she heeded it only because it was her duty to learn in order to fulfill the responsibilities of her magic. She greatly preferred "playing" her grandfather's various flutes and whistles.
Ainel became sick when Shiara was six, and the rat passed away soon after. Shiara was distraught, and tied his spirit to his body, creating a zombie that retained all of its former intelligence and personality. She was severely scolded by her family for it, for while she had asked the rat's permission there were finer subtleties to the creation of intelligent zombies and she was too young to understand most of them. Additionally, dark magic was taboo in the town proper and her parents worried what would happen if hers became common knowledge.
Unfortunately Rosalie's mother, who'd always been less than pleased about her daughter's choice of husband, was less than tolerant of someone exhibiting evil magic. She reported Shiara to the authorities, and at age six the girl was taken to the Academy. She and her family tried to resist, but there was really nothing they could do, and so her official schooling began.
Compared to what her grandmother was teaching her, Shiara found the Academy's magic instruction sadly lacking. They wouldn't teach her anything useful, instead emphasizing how her magic had to be hidden. The students were little better, most of them looking down on her if not outright disliking her for one reason or another. Some were afraid, some were prejudiced, some just didn't care to get to know her before judging her by her appearance, her heritage, or her magic. The rules made little sense, the structure chaffed, they wanted her to wear ridiculous clothing and do nothing. The child quickly gained a reputation as a rebellious and unruly student. Her first room assignment ended in an outright fight, and she wore her half-shorn hair proudly until it grew out enough after to be cut even. Her second roommate was much better, and Shiara became friends with Loren.
With one friend on her side, the misery of academy life was greatly lessened. She still skipped lessons and showed a cavalier disregard for the rules, but at least she was not so alone. Shiara is only a reluctant student, though her inattentiveness and disruptive questions stem from a general boredom and her low tolerance for things she sees as ridiculous. She often challenges teachers when they present things that contradict what has either been taught previously, or what her family has taught her -- especially on the topics of islanders and dark magic. All in all, Shiara can't wait to graduate, though in her heart she knows she probably won't be permitted to go home but instead made to attend the Institute.
Research Project: Muffled shouting including some words Shiara really shouldn't know at her age preceed her furious exit from the advisor's office. She slams the door behind her, hard enough that it bounces open again, giving her an excuse to slam it again (though slightly less forcefully). She shouts a last frustrated insult and stomps off down the hall, fists clenched.
In short, Shiara's got a few ideas, and the advisors have their own ideas, but the two are /very/ different, and they really don't like hers.
Shiara can play flute, ocarina, and lute. She's got a good singing voice, too, though most of the songs she knows are either Peledan or the sort of thing one might hear in a tavern.
She swims like a fish, and she loves the ocean. The river's okay, but it's not at all the same.
Ainel, zombie rat
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