by Max Barry

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The Sanguine Shadows of
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8

Faces of Bloodshade

Rúna Skau
|| Prime Minister of Bloodshade and Bearer of Steel ||


A woman out of her time, 16 year-old Rúna was among the third to last generation that lived on Yvresse. However, that was much a wilder, dangerous and desperate time. Every day was a battle for survival and to escape being mauled by a pride of Revareen Lions, Rúna deposited her mind and soul into the structure of a sword, melding with its material and making herself look like just another piece of worthless loot to the lions simply ignored her new form. Metal isn't food unless you're a lithoid.

Journey of Steel: The Poacher Coterie


Rúna ended up stuck in the hunting grounds of the pride. Every day, she'd try to will herself out of the sword but was simply too incompetent or too afraid to do so without costing her body. Despiar and sorrow grew every day as she slowly lost what little senses she retained from her life as a Lahmian. She could only think and feel the humid wind rush over her now metallic body and precipitate on her steel. The oxygen picked at her structure like how a malicious blade would pick at one's skin, turning patches of her into persistently irritable spots that she could not relieve nor repair. Alien sensations rushed through her mind. Everything that she was in contact with was cold to the touch of her skin a band of poachers stumbled across her in sword form. To them, they just saw a beautiful weapon, ripe for the taking. Rúna became the chief poacher's prized treasure and went everywhere with him. She couldn't act nor speak in her new form but she most certainly could listen and see through every part of the sword, as if her eyes and ears were traversing all across its surface. She wasn't worried about the fate of her family but about how they were faring without her. Unbeknownst to her, the Skau family searched far and wide for her but ended their search with no closure about her fate, prompting them to believe that she met her demise in the deep and unforgiving forests of Yvresse. In that husk of metal she was now trapped in, she was also trapped with her own thoughts and slowly had her sanity chipped away. She witnessed her unaware kidnappers carry out a number of illicit operations and experience close calls with the dangerous fauna and flora of Yvresse all the while being in the clutches of the poacher coterie.
Eventually, the poachers were eliminated and their goods were either destroyed or captured by military forces. It would've been the end of Rúna if not for one odd little soldier taking a liking to the sword's intricate and sturdy appearance.

Journey of Steel: The Soldier


Barnabas Jarsdel, a Lapine with the rank of major in the Bloodshade Difesameijala. Barnabas enjoys being the thick of combat and after combing through the coterie's equipment. He spotted Rúna in her sword form but of course, to him, this was nothing but a beautiful sword for him to add to his equipment. Barnabas was a bit of a loon too. In his time alone, he spoke to the sword alone, venting his frustrations, fears and anger. It did feel awkward at first, not being able to reply or tell Barnabas that he was speaking to another soul. It felt dirty to hear one's deepest and darkest thoughts but Rúna did not judge him. She relished in the bit of social contact that she's had in months, playing the part of the silent therapist.

The two would continue to be a duo in a number of conflicts and battles in the next six years or so, with Rúna being used as an unorthodox close-quarters weapon of Barnabas's choice, resulting in the death of a variety of enemies by her blade although he would keep racking up major trauma. Eventually, however, his luck would run out and he'd bite the dust soon enough. When his fate arrived, Rúna wasn't exactly sad to see him go but she was more worried about being left on the battlefield, to rust along with his rotting corpse. Not too long however, a combat recovery team picked up his body along with his sword, Rúna, from the field and eventually sent back home for burial, with Runa now in the possession of the humble farming family, the Jarsdels.

Journey of Steel: The Farmer


Barnabas's father, Panos, was no fighter. He simply framed Rúna above a fireplace in their homestead's living room, occasionally taking her around the surrounding area during his own patrols of the grounds, although that was just an excuse for him to breathe some fresh air. Barnabas was the only one capable of truly defending the plantation from any trespassers or unwanted guests. His father picked it up to honour his son's memory. Rúna would continue to accompany Panos for years till his death. In that time, she'd garner all one could know about agriculture, considering that Panos was a member of an agricultural trade union. Panos decided to auction off Rúna in order to gather enough money to support his family before he passed away.

Journey of Steel: The Fat Cat


Sold to the Virtanen family at the price of ₴1.3M, Rúna switched homes once more. The Virtanen family was built off of the wealth accrued by the grandfather of the current head of the house, Harlan Virtanen, a private detective turned mystery author who struck gold with his first few novels, laying the foundations of the Virtanen family becoming the Nouveau riche of Bloodshade at the time.

With the Virtanen family, Rúna found out just how despicable and ravenous the inner machinations and politics of the upper class can truly be. Every horrid secret, every disgusting perversion, every little crumb of intrigue. An inanimate object was the greatest unintentional spy the celebrity echelon of society encountered apparently. Rúna had no care for the world when it came to the Virtanen family. A bunch of backstabbers and low-life criminal scum. She'd have stabbed a number of them if she had a chance but that anger subsided when she realised that she was still trapped in her metal husk. Fortunately for her, a member of the family was rather interested in manipulating unnatural phenomena. Every rare moment where Aerin thought about taking Rúna for a spin, she'd glean and listen to whatever arcane theory he had to research that would allow him to enhance his own ability. Unknown to him, Rúna was listening and with the abstract knowledge at her disposal, Rúna knew how to speak and move herself as a sword. A floating, talking sword! Sweet progress! Rúna might've preferred returning to her own body but this would do for now.

This power coming out of nowhere. It filled Rúna with vigour and passion. She was already at Aerin's neck, threatening him with death while blabbering out every little secret worth blackmailing them over. With fear overwhelming him, the boy used whatever mental fortitude and energy he had left to summon an otherworldly familiar to protect him. One which was surprisingly cut down rather easily by Rúna. She was too high on her recent successes to think about just how powerful the sword she inhabited truly was. Eventually, however, Rúna had no qualms with knocking the boy out by throwing her pommel straight at his forehead, ending him temporarily.

A Life of her Own


With Rúna now functionally immortal in her new vessel and free to roam Bloodshade out of her own free will, she thought about using the years of knowledge and experience under her belt to finally resume her life but reality hit her. Four generations had passed and she was alone. Her family was gone. Her friends were gone. She might as well have been born anew. What kind of cruel joke was fate playing on her?

Regardless, Rúna trudged along, hoping to offer her services and knowledge to a party. The Blood-Fire party called to her and that's where she'd encounter a young vampire, just as disillusioned as she was, hoping that this path would make a difference. Of course, being a talking, levitating sword was an odd existence but Ambrosia didn't judge her, she almost broke down hearing about Rúna's fate but the latter reassured her that she didn't want to dwell on the past. She asked if she could be Ambrosia's friend to which the Lahmian enthusiastically accepted, most probably out of pity but still, Ambrosia gave Rúna hope that even in the husk of a sword, she can make a difference with the centuries of knowledge and experience racing in her mind.

Powers and Personality


As mentioned before, Rúna's not just any old sword. There are rumours that she inhabited a Numen's sword. One which has unnatural capabilities that are not consistent with the sword's material and shape.

However, what's more important is how Rúna is among the first to understand how to inhabit an inanimate object and eventually comfortably carry out day to day affairs while seemingly stuck in it. She could also revert back to her biological form whenever she can but Rúna has vague memories of how she looked like and as a result, she decided to fill in the gaps by making herself look more 'angelic' as one can see by her depiction but rest assured, Rúna's a kind-hearted soul. Maybe too kind and with a fiery temper to boot. Due to her true age, Rúna's seen and heard many things across Bloodshade. One could say that she's a master of every facet of Bloodshade due to seemingly engaging herself with every possible facet. How exactly did she manage to get passed around Bloodshade? Maybe people like pretty swords?

It's claimed that Rúna is the sharpest sword in the universe, seemingly being effective against inter-dimensional beings that are not of this universe. Perhaps she was etched with a rune that warded off such beings or the unnatural physical properties of the sword were simply too much for any tangible being to survive. Through the sword alone, Rúna can cut open a stable fabric of reality, opening up portals to any place she has a memory of and the more vivid such a memory is, the more accurate the portal will be.

Having been in the company of strangers for centuries, Rúna's awfully protective of the very people she has the luxury to call friends. She's extremely uncharacteristic whenever Ambrosia's threatened, often jumping to death threats the moment someone tries to be a swindling snake to the Lahmian. Under the same roof as hers, no bull is allowed.


Kali Fiore
|| President of the Galactic Midnight Eagle Movement and Actress ||


The leading lady of Bloodshade's film industry and an avid, unshakeable voice and activist, championing equal civil rights for all species within and without Bloodshade. Kali Fiore is a national icon, possessing what many believe to be the 'desirable traits of the ideal citizen of Bloodshade'. Dubbed the 'Heart of Bloodshade' for her sincere and tiring efforts to bring about a voice to all the far flung colonies of Bloodshade, banish racial prejudice, bring an end to trafficking and bring about peace wherever it may be.

Early Career and Life


In the first few years of her career in film, Kali was an aimless woman with her only hope being that she could eventually make it big. She most certainly did. Her alluring looks, sultry voice and predatory personality were a major hit. Kali became one of Bloodshade's most enduring sex symbols. Her career skyrocketed as a result, with Ms Fiore appearing in a number of films that exploited her seductive character. Her roles usually involved her being a dastardly cougar, attempting to steer the protagonist away from their duties and loved ones. She was also occasionally depicted as a badass mentor figure, an untouchable and domineering individual who would rarely involve herself in the squabbles of the protagonist but still be generous enough to teach them her ways.

Although one would think that Kali would do nothing but be the mindless star diva of Bloodshade, she eventually got her big break, allowing her to veer away from the tasteless, exploitative genre of films she was featured in. In one of her most famous films, 'Song of the Siren', Kali found herself playing the role of a double agent, Opal Helvarn, planted inside a slaver guild's organisational structure, meant to both aid the slavers in capturing vulnerable citizens and traders minding their own business in space while also compromising the guild whenever possible, leaking information to government contacts or subtly sabotaging operations whenever possible. Song of the Siren touches upon the controversial concept of owning and controlling another human being as well as delving into the emotions coupled with such a responsibility accompanied with such a task or a lack thereof. The film touched upon an extremely uncomfortable topic for both Kali and the audience but regardless, she was lauded for her maturity, emotional range and diverse body language in the film, prompting directors and producers to look at more than just her physical assets in the future.

Another film would place her in the shoes of a recently recruited ultra-nationalist extremist, Gaia Atelier, in the film, Chain of Minds. Gaia is just another disillusioned teen, believing that the galactic federation is opening its doors like a common whore to every single galactic polity that expresses interest. She ends up joining the 'Void Halla' after being groomed by a recruiter on an online forum. Eventually, Gaia's eagerness is rewarded after she's given the opportunity to raid a number of G.E.B assets and take her first life in the process. However, the cutthroat internal politics of the Void Halla as well as the general degeneracy and moral decay of its members starts to frighten the young Gaia. She wants out but soon realises there is no exit. However, her desperation soon leads her to form unlikely alliances in the criminal underbelly of Bloodshade so that she can maybe find a way to leave this group and return back to civilisation.

It most certainly sounds like Kali has found her calling but that's not to say she isn't guilty of indulging in a tad bit of fan service here and there. It's rare that she ever decides to fall back to the early days of her career and produce something that her most ardent of admirers (simps) go mad over.

Founding the movement


At this point in her career, Kali is seen as not just another pretty showgirl but a hard-working, eccentric and zestful actress. She is very eager to explore every facet of Bloodshade's society and bring it centre stage, bringing awareness to the ills of her nation but most importantly, she wants people to think and act. Leading by example, Kali Fiore used her funds and prestige to create a sophontarian network known as the Galactic Midnight Eagle Movement, mobilising the good will and hope of the populace into helping less fortunate people and fight back against the societal evils present in the cosmos. Trillions of florins in donations were flooded into the Midnight Eagle and it was soon mobilised to fight back against human trafficking, slavery, starvation and war. The Midnight Eagle brings assistance in a number of ways. It is known to help supplement government healthcare systems, providing relief assistance during emergency situations. The Midnight Eagle's efforts in spreading basic first aid knowledge among trillions of people is seen as an invaluable service by many government officials. This is only but the tip of the iceberg.

On top of managing the affairs of the Galactic Midnight Eagle Movement, Kali continues to star in a wide variety of films that contain thoughtful social commentary. The 36 year old galactic icon's work has just begun. However, that's not to say her life is all work and no play. You can only star in so many deep films until you want to barf. On multiple occasions, Kali, who already has a Bachelor's in Nursing by this point, has volunteered on the frontline of a handful of wars. She's even had the opportunity of nursing Victoria Hoffmeister, the now Director of Galactic Espionage Agency, during the Res'vian Silver Wars, helping her recover from a horrible third degree plasma burn in her right shoulder. Victoria hasn't forgotten her tender kindness and to reward her, in typical Victoria fashion, she donated a number of martial spacecraft and infantry equipment. At the behest of the G.E.B Director, Kali created an armed branch of the Galactic Midnight Eagle Movement, dedicated to prevention rather than cure, which is used to escort trading vessels and evacuate civilian elements away from war-torn zones.

In the moments where Kali isn't managing the Galactic Midnight Eagle Movement or starring in blockbuster films, she's your classic hedonistic celebrity and that's mostly to cope with the enormous workload placed onto her shoulders. Behind the curtains, the philanthropic actress suffers from chronic stress. A condition that can and has caused a number of other health issues such as depression and high blood pressure, affecting both mind and matter. Kali has never met anyone worth settling down with and almost never enters a relationship unless they prove to be worth the trouble. Kali might be a good-natured lady but her arrogance knows no bounds and she has the receipts to prove it. She has no reason to feel insecure but she has no need to show off as people already know of her many deeds. One could say she's paradoxically humble and arrogant simultaneously. She's never going to list her accomplishments just to entertain a fool but looking at her, through body language alone, you'll notice her figuratively lifting those deeds high on her shoulders.

Politics


When it comes to ideology and political leanings, Kali simply believes that the government needs to focus less on micromanaging the facets of a society and act as a guiding force for the people through a number of ways:
  • Advancing the nation's borders, cities and infrastructure

  • Leading public scientific advancements

  • Upholding living standards for all citizens

  • Provide crucial services to the people such as healthcare and education

  • Use their 'monopoly on violence' to uphold order

  • Facilitate trade and commerce with foreign societies

  • Protect Bloodshade and its interest from domestic and international foes

She finds it frustrating seeing politicians needlessly overbear folks with needless legislation that would be better enforced culturally. Of course, one can't wait for people to change their minds when it comes to civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and other principles that make up the society of Bloodshade but otherwise, ease off. Now Kali does understand just how boring and unenthusiastic her ideology might be

While the government should serve the people at every opportunity with no excuses whatsoever, she worries that the people will ring for the government whenever an issue may arise, weakening an individual's resolve to solve a problem by his or herself. She also worries for the stability of the government as well. Her brand of libertarianism is more grounded than its more traditional variations. Things need to be simple not because she believes the government is a threat against the liberty of an individual but because with every issue that government intervenes in, the more they bleed. Every intervention is like a cut and she most certainly doesn't want the authority of Bloodshade to die by a thousand cuts. The people need to bear the brunt of state-building as well as the government. They need to be just as, if not more, qualified than those in the government, constantly threatening the position of those in power with new ideas, skills, resources and energy. Unlike most libertarians, Kali isn't too worried about 'bloated' governance. She worries about what such a government would do. Why should a citizen accept the lesser of two evils? Should the people cheer when a large tyranny is cut back into a small tyranny?

Alaria von Carstein
|| Adopted daughter of Ambrosia von Carstein and aspiring photographer ||


Early Life and Adoption
Alaria, age 16, is the adopted quarter-Lupine daughter of Ambrosia von Carstein. Saved from the clutches of roving Niangi bandits, after they had set the town of Lania alight, by Ambrosia herself as well as her uncle, Konrad von Carstein, Alaria was placed into the care of Ambrosia at the age of 15. With her family either scattered or dead, the Lupine child suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. She cannot bear the sight of a Niangi entering her field of view without fair warning and guarantees of her safety.

Before her life with Ambrosia, Alaria Galante lived a simple life in the horticultural town of Lania. She couldn't remember much in the way of love or support in the household she was a part of but she lived a quiet, simple life and never went hungry. The Galante family had lived in Lania for generations and initially used to be a mining town which was known for its vast underground gold deposits and veins. Eventually though, continuous exploitation exhausted the town's gold supply and many left for greener pastures. However, the few that stayed, especially the Galante family, decided to call Lania their home and set aside their diggers in favour of greenhouses, turning Lania into a self-sufficient, horticultural colony for themselves in the middle of the untamed wilderness of Yvresse. Alaria simply tended to the greenhouses and hydroponic systems that her family had maintained over generations. A simple life with simple people who devoted themselves to the the great Numen of Nature, Alarielle, in the hopes that she'd passively shed her blessings and knowledge to them when it comes to maintaining vast swathes of farms and homesteads. Alaria was, in fact, named in honour of Alarielle herself in the hopes that they'd garner her attention.

Personality


Not being able to find the will or confidence to speak her mind, Alaria is an awfully timid child most of the time, even to her own adoptive mother who does her best to reassure Alaria that she has nothing to prove to her or to anyone else for that matter. Despite her best attempts at building up Alaria's self confidence, Ambrosia finds that Alaria simply prefers to keep to herself mostly due to the comfort associated with not having to worry about socialising. However, there are occasions were Alaria's original, cheery personality surfaces when all her worries and past grievances are submerged, especially when around fun-loving individuals.

Current Life and Aspirations


Alaria's currently studying in Valpori Academy and she simply aspires to be a photographer. She simply wants to be alone with her camera, taking pictures of her surroundings and immortalising these moments in her ever-growing gallery. Currently, Alaria's practising her camera skills by traversing around the von Carstein estate whenever Ambrosia takes her for a visit to the rest of her adoptive family. Speaking of which, the only people that give Alaria any love are Ambrosia and her sister, Serath. The rest despise the fact that a non-Lahmian is a part of the family but it's not like they can do anything to separate Ambrosia and her little girl, Alaria. The Lupine also practices by taking an uncountable number of pictures of Ambrosia herself, even taking outstanding pictures (according to Ambrosia) that Ambrosia uses for official and personal business. She just loves giving her girl a boost in confidence whenever she can but still, Ambrosia doesn't exactly want to draw Alaria into the limelight too much. There's no telling how'd she'd react if she was dipped into her adoptive mother's fame and notoriety.

Political leanings


Alaria's a very simple child. She has no real leanings when it comes to politics. She doesn't want to bother herself with such a concept even if society is revolved around it. At most, the only thing she might have an opinion on is the country's ability to mobilize stronger men and women to protect those that are at risk of being ravaged by banditry, war or piracy. She doesn't want anyone to suffer the same fate as herself. As unrealistic as it might be, she hopes that her family would be the last casualty of banditry.

Vishala Springborn
|| People's Mercenary ||


Stalwart, persistent and blunt. Vishala sees herself as a servant of the downtrodden. While she might not be as proficient as the rest of the circle when it comes to administrative matters, she makes up for it with her desire to protect the settlements of Bloodshade, with no regard for her own physical and mental well-being whatsoever. The lapine overcomes whatever hurdle that's thrown her way with a sense of stoicism and stubbornness. She sees no reason to burden others with her own worries and would rather heal her wounds by empowering and defending others. Such a mindset and drive has earned herself an infamous, well-deserved reputation among the banditry and criminal underworld of Bloodshade. Vishala's history with Ambrosia is rather complicated and if you didn't know any better, you'd think they have a chilly relationship at best but that's far from the truth. Ambrosia is like the sister she never had and she is rabidly protective of her, placing her body and soul on the line for the only person that's ever earned her love and respect. To sum up the lapine's political standpoint, one might consider her a libertarian. She simply couldn't care less about how people interact with one another so long as their dignity is upheld and the authorities serve, rather than rule. Simply put, she wants a state that can guarantee the safety and livelihoods of the people while giving them the freedom to blossom.

The lapine spent most of her life fending for herself in the slums of Erapine, the capital-world of the Lapine Celestial Empire. Her family were neither rich nor powerful and each member had to learn how to survive, fight and steal whenever they can in order to survive but being in a family of ten living off of scraps in the slums of an empire's crown jewel, there was little to no room for them to climb the social ladder and create better lives. Vishala eventually succumbed to a life of thuggery, associating herself with a number of criminal organisations of her home-world and usually acting as a bouncer, bodyguard or hit-woman. Unfortunately for her, when push came to shove, life in the Lapine underworld became unbearable and dangerous. It didn't take long for her to think about dipping out of Erapine, smuggling herself out by way of freight ship.

Landing onto Yvresse and evading border control agents by keeping herself deep in the freight ship's cargo, sneaking in and around the space port of Yvresse and hitching a ride on a tourist ship, embedding herself with a crowd on tour. Once she reached the surface, Vishala would find her own home in the seediest areas amongst the cities of Bloodshade, even though it was much more difficult to encounter underworld elements in Bloodshade that were sane enough for her, considering most were extremists who were not motivated by profit. Eventually, Vishala decided that the best route for her was becoming a mercenary for hire. She was strong, agile and had attuned her mind to further enhance her speed and strength, making her a valuable mercenary especially for those who needed a reliable scout or hitwoman to end a nasty individual's life. Vishala found that working as a somewhat honest mercenary was a much more profitable line of work and involved much less dirty work. With every job she fulfilled, she realised that she was slowly but surely helping out the people living in Bloodshade. Taking out a pirate captain or a bandit leader would probably save multiple lives in the long run. With the ease at which she was completing job after job, Vishala eventually valued the reward of a contract. She'd eventually completely dismiss the thought of monetary compensation. Instead of setting her own prices, Vishala simply asked her contractors to name whatever price they are comfortable with paying, preferring to ease their minds by taking out a problem at a cheap price. Undercutting the market pissed off a number of other mercenaries in the market and Vishala would be at odds with a number of rivals in the industry of mercenary work, often butting heads with the best of the best but no matter how much hostility she was met with, Vishala didn't change her mind about being a net positive for the community of Bloodshade.


Renata Alphonse
|| Member of the Eroeldat Machore ||



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