Skulls & Shackles
The monk on everyone's bad side.
Five feet and six inches tall, with lavender skin, piercing blue eyes, and silver hair.
Sho Astor was found as an infant on the steps of a monastery in Niswan, Jalmeray. The elders of the monastery recognized her suli heritage, and feared the child would not feel accepted in the world as she was. It was decided quickly that as soon as she was able, she would be trained in the ways of their monastery; both as a means to help her control her latent power, and to give her a home.
The training was rigorous and lengthy, many days spent from dawn to dusk training, with only a few breaks in the day to eat the minimum to keep on going. Such training was designed to of course push ones limits. However as the young girl grew older, they would frequently test her patience instead.
Sho appreciated the idea of strength that came with her training but desired more. Living in Niswan often afforded her glimpses of other cultures, the vivid colors displayed, items, people, and new ships arriving from lands she could only imagine. She often dreamt of traveling on ships and seeing wonders that none in the monastery ever had. She even secretly entertained the notion of dressing like the foreign nobility that visited the city from time to time. Though she was always quick to dispel such thoughts. “Can’t train right in all that pomp and flash.” She would think. Yet it was her appearance that was always a source of internal conflict for her. Her hair was always kept short, and monastery attire was rather androgynous, often leading her to be of mistaken for a young boy among non-natives.
During one of her many daydreams, she happened to bump into a man guarding a foreign noblewoman whilst on an errand for the monastery. Caught off guard, Sho fell to the ground, getting mud all over her outfit. The guard scoffed and said “Watch where you’re going boy.” Sho’s blood seethed and she quickly rose to speak in protest. However, before she could speak, the noblewoman berated the guard for his brutishness.
The noblewoman introduced herself as Agatha Dreamriver and asked Sho to come forward. Hesitantly, she approached the girl. Agatha was quite the sight to behold; a half elf with bright crimson hair, sapphire eyes, and fair skin. She was garbed in attire that made Sho gaze at her in awe and a little envy. Agatha’s brow furrowed as she spoke. “I’m must apologize for my brute of a guard’s behavior. To sully the outfit of a lovely lady such as yourself? Tsk. Allow me to make it up to you.” She said with a beaming smile on her face.
Sho flushed. Never before had she been called a lady, let alone a “lovely lady”. She stammered as she attempted a retort but was cut off. “Please. I must insist!” Agatha said quite fervently. Sho politely refused but Agatha would have none of it. “Nonsense! I will not see you treated so callously. She said with fire in her eyes. “It is a matter of honor! Come by my family’s shop on the wharf tomorrow and I’ll see to it that you receive proper recompense.” It was clear there was no dissuading her. Sho reluctantly agreed. “Th-thank you”. “MMMMMM. Wait! You can’t return home like that, here!” Agatha unclasped a reversible cloak draped upon her shoulders and handed it to Sho. “This should keep your dirt covered clothes hidden, and prevent you from catching a cold this weather.
Sho never got cold of course, nor did she get hot, a convenient trait awarded by her heritage, one Agatha knew nothing of, and one Sho dared not speak of given Agatha’s generosity. She wrapped the cloak around her shoulders, smiled, (something rare for Sho) and agreed to meet Agatha at her shop the following day. They departed, and Sho made her way back to the monastery. There, her mood soured again as she was scolded for failing to complete her errand.
She explained what transpired but they would have none of it. As punishment for shirking her duties, her cloak was confiscated and she was forbidden to leave the monastery until they told her otherwise. Sho’s body crackled with electricity as she left the elders, but she was determined to meet with Agatha the following day, no matter what.
Sho headed out to the wharf before dawn, cloak in hand. When at last the sun had risen and the area was bustling with people, she made her way to Agatha’s shop. Agatha greeted her warmly and told her to come in and make herself at home. Sho stood awkwardly in the shop before Agatha rolled her eyes and pulled Sho by the arm to the study where they would talk to great length. As they spoke, the eagerly inquired into each other lives; of the wonders of the world and of life abroad, as well as life in a monastery. As the day grew on, Agatha caught Sho’s gaze stray frequently to the books filling the study. She smiled and asked if Sho wished to read any of them. Sho beamed but admitted she had no idea where to start. “Reading is a luxury that my training rarely leaves time for.” Agatha plucked a few from a shelf and handed them to Sho. “ I would suggest you start with these. There some of my favorites. And you can take them with you if you like.” That was it. Sho’s mind was blown. She insisted she couldn’t, that there was no way she could afford even one of the books, much less all of them.
Agatha grinned and responded in kind with a somewhat devious tone. “How fortuitous then that I’m in need a new bodyguard. My previous one up and quit on me and I could use a good woman to shelter me as I make my deals in town? Care to be that woman?” Sho’s eyes flashed and she stammered before remembering the monastery and insisted she couldn’t possibly. Agatha nodded, realizing the monastery would indeed be a problem, then shrugged. “I suppose I’ll have to talk to them.” She said maintaining her grin.
Sho was baffled, never before had anyone treated her with such a kindness, nor been so crazy as to strike a bargain with her monastery to let one of them work outside the temple. Sho and Agatha were met with disapproving stares at the gates of the temple and told to speak with Gyatso, the eldest monk. At first he chastised Sho for disobeying the elders on top of already failing to do her duties prior, however Agatha interjected much to his surprise.
He looked at Sho, who up until this point had been cringing at the berating he had given, but now looked like she had been encouraged by Agatha’s words. He asked Sho to attend to the garden while they spoke until she was sent for. Before she departed. Sho looked to Agatha who gave her a confident smile.
An hour had passed, and finally Sho was summoned. She saw no sign of Agatha on her way to Gyatso’s chambers and the uncertainty of what was to come beset her with anxiety. She entered and found both Gyatso and Agatha where she left them. “Its decided.” Agatha blurted enthusiastically. Sho looked to Gyatso, who smiled and nodded. “Indeed child. You will work for her as a guard for the duration of her time in the city.” Sho’s eyes flashed. “I… W-what? H-how? Why?” she stammered, baffled by this turn of events.
Gyatso stood and took a few steps towards Sho. “Child, the elders and I often worried that you would always be an outcast who never fit in. But in the course of two days, you’ve not only made a friend, but that same friend has defended you, and is willing to help you grow in a way that we in the monastery can not. We had hoped you would come to find the monastery a place to belong, but your heart wanders. It is my hope that Miss Agatha can help you to find your place in the world.” Sho teared up and gave the elder monk a hug before being interrupted by Agatha.
“Come, pack your things! There’s much to be done. And as my new guard, you must see to my protection as I go about. Therefore… chop chop!” She said with a giggle, her serious tone faltering as they all had a good laugh.
They spent the next several months together, with Agatha teaching her much about the world. Sho poured through book after book on ancient ruins and cultures of the world in between continuing her training, whilst Agatha learned the basics of self defense from Sho in between threatening to give her the most splendid outfits to wear. Sho would always flush and insist that simple, functional clothes worked best for her.
At last, after over a year working together, Agatha returned to her home in Magnimar. She promised to visit again, and teasingly encouraged Sho to come visit should she ever leave Niswan. Sho nodded and teased back that she might just do that. “And when next I see you, you had better be wearing something other than rags or I’ll be severely cross with you.” She said with a grin, “I’ll wear your fancy clothes when you can take a punch without crying.” Sho fired back, also grinning.
Sho returned to the monastery. A few months passed and she decided that it was time fore her to leave. She said her good-byes to her monk siblings and to Gyatso, and left Niswan, charting a boat to the kingdom of Nex in the pursuit of the world. She hoped to explore great cities, ruins, and whatever else life had to offer; as well as make her way to Magnimar in order to visit to her dear friend Agatha. She wrapped the cloak she had received over a year ago and made her way to see the world.
In her recent studies Sho had read tales of the ancient cyclops empire of Ghol-Gan and the vine-choked ruins of their great temples which have lain abandoned among the isles of the Shackles and beyond for thousands of years. Intrigued, she gained as much information about the Ghol-Gan empire, she studied their culture and language, even going so far as to learn to speak it. In Nex she eventually found a guide to lead her through the Mwangi expanse to the Shackles capital city of Port Peril. After a month of asking around the port for information Sho finally got a lead, a contact who claimed to know a man with an old map of lost cyclops ruins. It was arranged to meet the owner of the document at the Formidably Maid.
The tavern was a wash with gamblers, harlots, pirates and many even more unsavory types but Sho found an empty table. The Maid was a mixing pot for all kinds of people, she observed over a dozen races all going about their business before her contact showed up with the map. The map was exactly what she was looking for, incredibly detailed with information about ruins on islands across the shackles! The runes were if an older style then Sho expected though, and as she looked it over the old peddler demanded they close the deal with a drink.
Distracted by her find Sho never realized that her original contact had slipped something into her drink, the rest of the evening blurred together into a heavy haze. When she woke up she was in the hold of the Wormwood, Sho knew she hadn’t gotten the map, and most of her possessions were gone, even worse she didn’t know where she was and she could hear others breathing and see other figures in the dim light of the hold.