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    Calanthe
    • Name: Calanthe
      Alias: El Agua Oscura (Blackmire)
      Age: 16
      Apparent Age: Any
      Sex: Female
      Race: Unknown (Human, originally)
      Height: Variable. Tends to range from 5’ 0” - 5’ 5” depending on her body thickness.
      Weight: Invariably 110 lbs.
      Eye Color: Any
      Hair Color/Style: Any
      Skin Color/Complexion: Any

      Appearance: Any. Calanthe is made of an inky, cohesive liquid, black in tone, and iridescent, as if oily. This body can literally take any form she wishes, and change its colors down to intricate levels of accuracy. Her mass is sufficient to produce the body of a smaller humanoid figure, and she typically holds one human shape or another. She is not limited to one figure, or even humans at all- she can take whatever shape she pleases, but often must limit herself to objects with similar mass, or else there will be part of her left over, stuck to the imitation-object.


      Weapons: None.

      Armor: None.

      Carried Possessions: Babbling Stone. A small, water-smoothed black rock, bored with a small hole and looped with a lightweight chain. It is marbled with streaks and flecks of gray, and either adorns Calanthe's current neck, or rests in her body's liquid mass. Anyone who contacts the stone is able to both understand, and communicate, in other spoken languages without practice. It is limited to a purely basic understanding, however, and provides no accent or advanced pronunciation skills other than what is absolutely necessary for communication. The user will eventually begin to understand word associations through use, though, and may come to no longer need the stone for tongues they gain an understanding of.

      Note: Calanthe knows Colombian Spanish naturally, and knows English and Ancient Persian to a degree of fluency not requiring the Babbling Stone any longer.

      Powers/Magic/Skills:

      Deception: Calanthe is skilled enough in lying and deception to list it as a skill. She has no external giveaways when lying, though sometimes her actual story has minor holes. She is good enough to regularly fool even perceptive individuals.

      Pickpocketing: Immaculate sleight of hand, coupled with an amorphous body, means that she will never, ever, alert someone to her pilfering by touch. She's very experienced with the motions, and will have someone's pockets emptied in the blink of an eye.

      Stealth: First a starving street urchin, then raised as a professional interuniverse thief, the girl has been sneaking and swiping since as long as she can remember. Adept in moving noiselessly and avoiding attention, she has infiltrated highly secure locations even before her liquifying curse, which has only made the process magnitudes simpler. It is child's play to circumvent most human security measures for her, and she is relatively familiar with the workings of advanced heat, laser, and pressure sensors, as well as some types of magical wards. She can remember how facilities are laid out by memory, even, and actually has difficulty getting lost in urban environments. Now, she's able to scale even the most difficult walls, and can change her body's color with incredible precision at a moment's notice, making her virtually invisible if she moves at a slow pace.

      Inkform: The amorphous fluid of her being’s consistency will take any shape she desires, and is capable of universal locomotion by essentially rotating positions of the molecules to provide a “wheel” or “tread” of liquid motion, moving at speeds of up to 20 mph. By exercising her ability to control the flow of her own mass, she can also perform “jumps” of up to ten feet vertically. She is also able to climb most surfaces by taking advantage of imperfections, and using her liquid nature to fill and retain a grip with these tiny grooves.

      Calanthe’s liquid body has extremely high surface tension- whether strictly formless, or imitating an object, it takes about the force of a good kick to puncture her “skin.” Doing so does nothing but deform her shape, as she has no internal organs, but it does reveal her nature, force her to reform that part of herself, and may even dislodge a blob or two. While this can occasionally be a problem, it does prevent major issues regarding clothing, physical contact with others, and resiliency when imitating an object. Her own skill and attentiveness must be maintained to ensure that she does not ripple or buckle when attempting to maintain appearances in this manner.

      Bits of Calanthe that are somehow separated from her main mass, by force, magic, or chemical reaction, will rapidly seek to rejoin her main body, but are not otherwise under her direct control until they reach her consciousness again.

      Limits: There are some severe penalties that accompany Calanthe’s state, and drastically alter the way she experiences the world around her, as well.

      It takes a few moments to re-sort her molecules into the right positions when going for a specific object, but her more imprecise body morphs are near-instantaneous (hair, being so fine, can take the most time). Similarly, her color changes can be immediate if she just performs a general switch, but the more intricate a pattern or design, the longer she will need to effect the alteration.

      Calanthe no longer has to breath, and no longer has a pulse. She also does not drink water, and breaks down food quite differently. Sight, smell, and taste are special cases. Other senses remain generally unchanged.

      Sight, Taste, and Smell- Foremost among the peculiarities of the curse on her are her primary chemoreceptors and vision. While no longer possessing a “head” to house her more biologically centralized senses, she seems to carry these three in a condensed section of mass that is externally indistinguishable from the rest of her body, but contains her self-awareness, projects a cone of vision, and is the only area from which she can receive stimulation of the chemoreceptors. This greatly eases her informational categorization, and allows her to sort herself into humanoid shapes quite easily.

      Speech- Through considerable practice, Calanthe has re-learned how to produce vocal chords and shape them through an orifice that produces sounds. These sounds are capable of accurately reproducing speech, as well as a vast variety of tones, volumes, and other qualities. This allows her to be an excellent mimic, though she may have trial and error to go through to get a voice or sound precise.

      Nutrition- The girl, being made of a fluid that does not evaporate under anything but unnatural conditions typically reserved for smelting, needs no water. In fact, water quickly divides and weakens her aquaphobic body, and she avoids it like the plague. Instead, she often ingests clear alcohol, vegetable oil, or other visibly passable excuses for refreshment to hide her lack of such a need. For food, she ingests the substances, either through imitation of a creature, or through merely enveloping it with her mass, and absorbing the nutrients from it. Any remaining leftovers may be held inside until a convenient time to dispose of them, which may be done by “unwrapping” what is left.

      Battle Strengths: A body of amorphous, camouflaging ink presents numerous advantages. Calanthe presents a conundrum to truly injure, and is considerably difficult to destroy with typical weaponry, as well as possessing the concentrated force of a body that can be converted into one enormous muscle. She is able to use herself as a rapidly-moving torrent of force that can batter someone down, evade or absorb blows, and even constrict an adversary. By allowing some of her mass to obstruct a person’s airways, she may also suffocate oxygen-reliant creatures effectively.

      The swift form shifting provides her with unparalleled adaptability against a foe, literally changing shape as a fight dictates, as comfortable in tight spaces as open ones, unreliant on martial arts or skills to do serious harm.

      Being able to actively alter her body’s color from black to another hue can serve as a makeshift camouflage, throwing opponents off guard, or allowing Calanthe to use lighting and environments to her distinct advantage. Alternatively, she may retain the figure and face of someone an enemy is emotionally attached to, providing a psychological advantage.

      Battle Weaknesses: Simple, everyday water repels her. Her body separates and is forced to rise above when in contact with it, and this makes it difficult to impossible to keep herself stable. Having water splashed or thrown on her will "melt" that portion of her body, until she can reform once it's passed beneath her. Water-based solutions will have similar effects, though other liquid-based chemicals will not, though they’ll still make it cumbersome for her to move. A faucet, a glass of water, or simply bad weather, thus, turns into a difficult problem if used against her. Were she to fall into a pool of water, she would have to wait until she emerged on its surface to attempt any sort of movement, and rain's severity can significantly hamper, or even immobilize her.

      Acid will burn through her, even if it doesn’t thin her apart. Her sense of touch and temperature is unchanged, and will cause her pain if fluctuations are severe enough.

      Extreme, unnatural levels of heat will evaporate her body, and this is the true means of killing her. While normal fires are hot enough to make her consistency a little runny and cause her severe pain, an inferno of a couple thousand degrees will destroy her. This would be unbelievably excruciating for Calanthe, as she would slowly boil into a gas and dissipate beyond the point of being able to reform herself.

      Being unable to harden herself past the notional thickness of human flesh does leave her somewhat ineffective against denser materials- she can’t cut things well on her own, and tends to use purely blunt trauma or suffocation as her techniques against an enemy. She can narrow her flesh to a point (sharp edges are normally too difficult to maintain), but again, lacks the density to puncture significantly hard materials. Armor works well against her for a short time.

      If she chooses to impersonate someone, the advantage of her mimicry tends to be only as good as her representation of the individual, and varies depending on how an enemy might react, not only to having to fight a replica of the individual they know, but also upon potentially discovering that the mimic is a fake. She is skilled in reproducing human body language and communication styles, but she’s not perfect by any means, and has to study someone to get them absolutely right.

      Stealth and ignorance of her body’s properties is generally her greatest strength, as most individuals unaware of her aquaphobic nature would be left without recourse if facing her. Simply knowing how she operates and what displaces her body turns her into a highly manageable threat.

      Calanthe is not a naturally violent individual, and shies away from lethal altercations. She’s easily made desperate if backed into a corner, but has never killed anyone as of yet.

      Other: One of the invisible side effects of the curse, one Calanthe has never told anyone, is that she perfectly remembers her true body’s shape, and how it looks.

      Personality: Calanthe displays an acute situational awareness, in tune with her surroundings and cognizant of it in a very present, sensory way. She's naturally comfortable with reading her environment, and has also been trained on how to observe it more effectively by her mentor, giving her a quick eye for changes in an individual's behavior, and how they're thinking, or small changes in a setting that some others might not notice. It's easy for her to undertake another person's viewpoint, and come to at least some understanding of how they think, but she has a small habit of maintaining alertness when around others that goes beyond what's sufficient. She empathizes well, easily appreciating others' thoughts and emotions, and can be incredibly good at showing compassion and care through the means she perceives will help best, but only if she feels like giving it.

      At the same time, she is by nature heavily influenced by her surrounding environment, and feels a strong need to adapt and blend in to the expectations, beliefs, and norms of a social group she finds herself in. Sincere verbal reinforcement and compliments are the strongest and quickest way to Calanthe's heart, and she so seeks some level of rapport even with mere acquaintances. She will usually be able to tell when someone is being insincere, but also has a tendency to ignore the insincerity if she's desperate for attention. Likewise, it can be very easy to read her own feelings, as she puts little effort into hiding them, and sometimes lets them hang from her sleeve, so to speak. This can make her appear vulnerable or shallow to many, but they can't forget that she's also naturally able to turn her own emotional state into a tool to use on others, for good or for bad.

      While Calanthe is not one that overly dwells on the past, nor throws much weight to the future, she is easily influenced by habits she acquires, and many of the traits her teacher and adoptive parent, Yazmin, has taught her are part of her operating process. Her clear grasp of the moment-to-moment attitude of others has been primarily used to manipulate and bargain for profit, changing her words and actions to garner a favorable response. Her diction, vocabulary, and manners are flexible, often changing from group to group as it elicits the most friendly and amiable responses from people. She's been instructed, over time, to hold somewhat back from her highly outgoing nature, both to adapt more readily to others, as well as keep herself more well-rounded in their perception. This, coupled with her default layer of desire to gain acceptance with individuals and groups as a whole, makes her a complete social chameleon, changing much of her outward expression to whatever will get the best results and establish friendly basis of conversation.

      Some things remain noticeably constant, though- a strong sense of loyalty to what Calanthe cares about runs deeply in her veins, and she will focus all of her energy towards defending and championing ideas or people she's genuinely attached to, with a focus and conviction that belies her amiable exterior. She is quick to establish an acceptance and love of the status quo, coming to love people for who they are now, and situations for what they currently give, even when those aren't perfect, and she has a propensity to react negatively if those perspectives are challenged. This trait finds reinforcement in her memories of a tough early childhood- things will never be as bad as they were then, and so she has little difficulty rationalizing a bad relationship or negative circumstances by their relative worth. For obvious reasons, this can cause frustrations with others who are seeking some sort of of upheaval, or desire change somehow.

      Calanthe also uses her good situational awareness as a keen eye for details. She has an extremely good memory for what people have said or how they responded, and files it away with a good memory for later. Those who tell her lies can only tell them once, and even then, they must be very, very careful to keep from catching themselves. This trait also serves as a strong friendship forming tool, however, as people can find her attentive memory a sign of interest and respect, and Calanthe utilizes it in finding ways to make her friends feel special and thought-of. The eye for detail also manifests itself in a dutiful streak, as she notices when certain tasks are necessary to get things done or smooth out a process, and her loyalty plays a part in adapting those tasks on herself. This can also lead to overburdening herself in situations where others slack off or take advantage of her, especially without providing the all-important appreciation and support that keeps her going. If not abused, though, she will tirelessly carry out these minor, unnoticed duties with the diligence and patience of a saint.

      The girl finds a great deal of stability and mooring in the established ways of doing things, and even if she herself changes the cultural moores she's adhering to often, the constants: Yazmin and her teaching, their materialistic goals, stealing as a way of life, and anything else that occurs with regularity in her life- are looked at with a nearly sacred level of respect. Calanthe has a high tolerance for open-minded thinking, and is comfortable changing many things about her perspectives, but moving pillars of her life without a very strong bond already established will be met with complete and vicious retaliation. Some part of her understands when things aren't perfect. She's a highly perceptive individual, with a good memory for detail; but she fears displacement and isolation in the deepest parts of her soul, and will never, ever let that happen again. Similarly, she treats verbal duplicity with a high degree of disgust, and despises those who misuse authority.

      Her strong attachment to central ideals and people is expressed in extremely strong, but often underdeveloped, opinions on what needs to be done, and what others should do. Since her immediate situational awareness is so precisely tuned, she finds it extremely easy to assume that her natural feelings or intuition about other things are correct, as well, and has no reservations about expressing these convictions to others, regardless of how educated or misinformed she may be. She will also expect those she gives these thoughts with to share her opinion, and not only finds it difficult to understand, but jumps to the conclusion that the rejection is a personal slight. This behavior comes out most strongly when she's emotionally invested or attached to the person she gives advice to, and can often cause intense arguments with a Calanthe who believes with all her heart that she knows what's best for the other. To add to this, she is not in the habit of giving out personal beliefs in this manner often, due to her oft-changing circumstances and typical agenda-based interaction. When she behaves this way, it's truly opening her heart, even though it may come across as overbearing and presumptuous. Poorly handling a situation like this can cause massive rifts with her.

      Likes: Clothes, food, compliments/words of affirmation, helping others, small but essential tasks
      Dislikes: Fighting, scoldings from Yazmin, arguments, cutting remarks, underappreciation
      Fears: Water (slightly), failing to meet expectations, unintentionally offending those she cares for, her true body and face, rats
      Virtues: Kind, diligent, thoughtful, resourceful, observant, willing to sacrifice for what's important to her, empathetic
      Vices: Thieving, deceitful, opportunistic, often refuses to extend care or compassion to others, occasionally manipulative or overbearing


      History: Calanthe's earliest memories are of her Catholic orphanage, in the port city of Turbo, Colombia. One of many children in the impoverished, decaying charity, she was minimally cared for by the overwhelmed nuns running the institution. The children were fed, but largely left to themselves if they were too young to be shepherded into crowded schools for the disadvantaged, or if they couldn't manage to keep grades up if they obtained a seat. Small, loose groups of kids would often band together, countering the loneliness of their situation and seeking protection in numbers. These child gangs, of sorts, would be prime candidates for running errands for older, more serious organizations in need of small, virtually free tasks, paying these orphans in scraps of food, or introducing them to the drugs they hawked as a way to ensure loyalty. Those who did not rely on the cartels were generally thieves, who either learned quickly how to stay out of sight and steal what they needed, or they got caught, and often paid in blood. Calanthe managed, by fortune, to survive long enough to grasp some sort of stability in this latter way, becoming a faceless urchin of the city, good at stealing and staying out of sight. She had a plain, unremarkable look that aided her in remaining unnoticed over time, allowing her the crucial time to grow skilled in how to snatch, pickpocket, and flee to the nearest shadowed cranny. This afforded her a relatively safer existence than most until the age of six. Still, she was often sick, malnourished, barely clothed, and the future was always grim.

      One day, though, she pilfered from the wrong passerby. A woman passed through one of Calanthe's more frequented alleyways, covered in dusk's shroud and making hurried progress through the dark, unpaved streets. It was a perfect opportunity, and the child barely even stirred the air as she swept from a nook in the wall, slipping a hand into the woman's pocket, pulling out a few insignificant pesos with hardly a rustle of fabric. Undetected, she made to run, when she found herself suddenly restrained, tightly wrapped by the arms and swept into the air. Shocked, she cried out, only to have what felt like cloth coil about her chin, smothering her mouth. She was turned to face the woman, and unbelievably, the restraints were merely fabric, suspended in thin air from the woman's waist, her arms crossed indignantly, face hidden by the hood over her features. There was a silent, fearful pause, as the adult considered the fate of the dirty, miserable child who had dared to take her coins. Little Calanthe thought her short life was about to come to its end, but the woman with the strange, moving clothes spoke to her in thickly accented, broken spanish:

      "Ven...dras, conmigo."*

      Without waiting for an answer, she drew the girl close, and, holding her firmly by the arm, brought her along through the night. It felt like they walked for hours, winding through city streets, invading the night, until finally the woman opened a well-hidden alley door that lead into a small, well-furnished room. Instantly, the climate changed, from a hot, muggy summer heat, to a cool, breezy spring. Soft gleams shone through the window from a moon that was in the wrong stage for the time of month. A quaint, foreign-looking lamp glowed softly on an antique desk, expensive-looking parchment with unknowable letters scattered all over it. A plush rug covered a corner of the room, and pillows were arranged neatly over it. It all looked so clean, and Calanthe felt out of place simply being there. She glanced up at her captor, barely able to think, but fearful all the same.

      The woman locked the door, then removed her cloak, revealing richer, nicer clothes than Calanthe had ever even thought existed, seemingly bathed in gold and a shiny green. Her skin was a smooth, beautiful olive, and her long hair was done so wonderfully that it took the urchin's breath away. The adult had a focused, purposeful gaze, and after staring for a second at the desk, affixed that stern scrutiny at her new ward, pausing for a moment that the girl couldn't quite understand.

      "Sueno, nina. Vamos a empezar... su entren...amiento de manana."**

      {}----------(]R[)----------{}


      The woman's name was Yazmin Siavasha, and her seaside home was somewhere in the ancient Mediterranean, as far as Yazmin would tell her. A lady of uncommon and foreign beauty, she possessed highly refined manners, a pronounced sense of style, and an uncompromising sense of materialism in everything she did. Hints of magic would toy at the mind: from the mystical wraps of silk at her waist, that moved at her whim; to the isolated, well-kept villa on the sea bluffs; to how the garden never seemed to need pruning or work, and produced fruits year-round. The woman was a stern, practical matron: worldly in her views, unflinching in her rules, high in her expectations, cold in her displeasure. She immediately set about the schooling of Calanthe, bothering little to cater to the shock of such a reversal in environment for the girl, choosing to effect change quickly, through force and custom. The shift was made easier by the reliability of shelter and food, as well as safety- having these essentials precluded any dissatisfaction with Yazmin's methods. She was provided with an education in a variety of cultures, histories, and necessary subjects, expected to fulfill various tasks and chores around the estate, and learned how to conduct herself with poise, posture, and diction. Yazmin made it a point to instruct Calanthe further in the art of thievery and lying, building on the strengths the child had acquired in her years as an orphan, but never tolerated the girl stealing from Yazmin herself. Transgressions and disobedience such as these were met with swift and stern discipline, though explicitly focused on the fact that the offense was against Yazmin herself, not any inherent morality of either. During these years, Calanthe remained at Yazmin's home and the surrounding area, while her teacher would sometimes leave for a few days, to a week at a time, providing no explanation or guidance other than out of the ordinary instructions for these times.

      Upon reaching ten, Calanthe was inducted into beginning lessons on manipulation and how to act convincingly, skills Yazmin claimed were necessary for her "usefulness." The girl was now allowed to come on trips in the role of a silent servant, seeing to the woman's extra baggage or errands on journeys to distant, exotic locations. These trips were accomplished through a magical gateway Yazmin operated in her rooms, secreted away and locked through hidden means, and Calanthe was expected to observe and give analysis on why Yazmin did certain things, acted differently to different people, or make guesses as to Yazmin's intentions. These experiences had a profound impact on Calanthe, who would have to practice roles and approach any conversation with an intention or goal. She gained a significant degree of interpersonal skill and ability aside from dealing with her teacher, strengthening her low confidence and stretching her mental acuity.

      After some time, Yazmin believed her sufficiently prepared for her first mission. She sent the girl into a far-off, foreign town, with the goal of applying as an apprentice to a wizard who made the area his domain. Her teacher would oversee her through a scrying orb, and send her instructions through various means. Determined not to fail her first true test from Yazmin, Calanthe managed to overcome her insecurities, and approached the aged magician for an apprenticeship. Impressed by the crudely enchanted items Yazmin had provided, and accepting the story devised to conceal her purpose, Calanthe was accepted, and began to work under the man, fulfilling much the same role she served for her true teacher. Several months passed under his tutelage, with the girl daily learning and observing her temporary master, her acquired diligence constantly outperforming the wizard's expectations. He was a laid-back, affable man, and Calanthe found herself failing to comprehend how open he was with how his magics worked, where his valuables were, and why he treated her kindly, without the imperious, exacting standards Yazmin demanded. More shocking was how he would entertain guests, usually showering them with gifts, expecting nothing in return, and how those in his small realm found him not only approachable with their problems, but gladly sought his opinions and help. Slowly, she began to honestly appreciate his good-natured, friendly demeanor, enjoying her work instead of doing it out of a sense of moderately fearful obligation. Calanthe discovered, in time, that the wizard had developed a method of prolonging youthful appearance through long-lasting illusion, a secret he closely guarded, but did not use himself. This was the true object of her mission, which Yazmin contacted her soon afterwards about, giving clear instructions to steal the research in its entirety, and escape to a place where she would be taken back. For the first time, Calanthe had sudden misgivings about stealing, about herself, and about her own teacher. A burning guilt ate at her for days as she planned out how she fulfill her teacher's wish, and abscond with the wizard's work. Her visage was troubled, something he noticed, but she could not bring herself to talk to him, breaking down or locking up whenever he tried. The last day was more painful than anything she had ever experienced, a sickening hole gnawing relentlessly at her innards, but as night fell, she went through with what she had been told to do. She sneaked into his unlocked laboratory, gathering the materials and parchments she'd painstakingly verified as the right ones, and made to leave the mansion. She slipped noiselessly through a side door, using all the stealth skills she'd never forgotten from her earliest years, doing what she had to, though she was terribly confused by the awful feeling clawing inside. As she made her way from the building and into the surrounding forest, though, a low, even voice called from the trees before she could disappear into the night.

      "Calanthe, it's very late."

      She froze. Her heart threatened to burst out of her chest, violently condemning her with every beat, nailing her feet in place.

      A figure emerged from the dark, a wise old face with soft eyes and a kind hint of a smile on his wrinkled lips.

      "What are you doing, my child?" he asked.

      His kind eyes glanced over her clothes, the ones she had arrived in months ago, the pack on her back filled to bursting with what he must surely have recognized, though his expression did not harden. Calanthe swallowed, but her mouth was dry.

      There was silence in the still air. The old man seemed to stare quietly for an eternity, a deep sadness welling in those tired, ancient eyes, and he appeared to age considerably over only a few moments. Finally, he sighed, a deep, regretful sound, and bowed his head. Calanthe felt her eyes boil over, stinging with hot tears. Instinct took over, and her legs found their strength, pushing off and taking her unbidden into the forest.

      She only heard the clearest portions of the spell leave his lips, but her body instantly collapsed, her bones gone, her muscles feeling loose, formless, gliding over themselves in a thoroughly uncomfortable, alien slickness. Somehow, she tried to rise, and it was like pushing upward into twisted bedsheets that were as much a part of her as she was of them. Her own body fell past her eyes, and she saw the old sage, looking down with something she'd never seen in someone before, something sad and lonely, but wistful and terribly distant. Pity.

      "I... am sorry, little Calanthe. It is surely not your fault, but... This is the most I can do for you. If you will not wear your true face, then I can only hope that this will help you remember that somewhere, someplace, you have one. One day, perhaps, you will find it."

      The wizard left her and her stolen pack, quietly trudging back to his home. Confused, unable to cry, the anguish twisting her soul, she sludged in her black puddle, miserably trying to figure out how to move and reshape herself, quickly relenting into a quiet, trembling mass of fluid. Eventually, Yazmin recovered both her and the research.

      It took a year before Calanthe could fully reshape herself into a passable human figure, though speech took a bit less time. Even so, Yazmin's training barely skipped a beat- she suffered no thought of looking for a cure. Shapeshifting was a useful tool, a means of clever deception and thus, profit. The girl was made to practice various shapes, forms, and faces, along with re-learning how to imitate human functions she no longer had, and, of course, continuing studies in cultural adaptation and manipulation. On missions where her form was not a liability, she would come along, exploring different environments with her amorphous shape, practicing mobility, studying the people, occasionally performing thefts with her unique abilities.

      All the while, Calanthe pondered her curse, and what she did for Yazmin, for the very first time. She knew no other life except the previous one of death and fear and hunger, but even those few months with the wizard had hinted that there could be another way for her, one where people appreciated her, helped her without expecting something back. She yearned for that kind of satisfaction, now that she had had a taste. People she studied and observed seemed to have different degrees of happiness in their lives, even when they were simple. Some even seemed like they didn't rely on stealing from others, though Yazmin derided those sorts as ignorant and pious. There was even an inkling of hope that, perhaps, she might not have to show a false face, someday.

      *"You will come with me."
      **"Sleep, child. We will start your training tomorrow."