And the Winner Is...
We're running our first contest! Last issue, we asked you to vote for your favorite submitted character. Well, the votes are in, and the winner is...Alexia Romanoff, by Keith Young! Congratulations, Keith, from Tome of Mystara!
As promised, Keith wins a character portrait by Tome cover artist John Calvin, to go along with his expanded character bio below. Enjoy!
Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest - if there's enough demand (hint, hint!), we may ask print more expanded characters in the future.
She is a small girl, barely in her teens. Her curly, golden hair bounces in the air as she runs through the tall grass. Her smile is bright and echoes the life within her. She loves to run through the grassy field, a handful of wildflowers in each hand. The sky is a picturesque blue, and the sun is shining brightly. She can see her mother standing at the edge of the field. Her mother's back is toward her. Her silky, dark hair floats gently on the breeze. As she comes closer and closer, a sickening feeling gnaws at her stomach.
She slows with each step. Her smile begins to fade. Intense fear grips her heart. The wildflowers she carries fall to the ground. She feels a warm sting dripping across her cheek. She raises her small hand to her cheek. Blood soaks her fingers. Her face oozes warm blood from a cut on her cheek. She looks back to her mother, wanting to scream, but there is no sound coming from her mouth. Tears stream down her cheeks, mixing with the blood. She reaches out to her mother. Her mother turns slowly then drops to her knees. She sees the blank, hollow look on her mother's face. A bloody gash juts across her mother's throat. The sky becomes black. Everything turns grey as her mother falls from her grasp. Her hands are covered in blood. A maniacal, horrific laugh echoes in the darkness. She looks up at her mother's killer. A bloody dagger in his hand. His smile sends a terrifying chill through her body.
His echoing laughter is joined by others. She looks around, frantically, and sees her father and brother impaled with swords. The faces of their killers are etched with huge, toothy grins.
She turns away, running in fear. A sudden, stinging pain cracks across her back and sends her stumbling to the ground. The evil laughter still echoes as more and more pain cuts across her back. She bites down hard with each sting. She can hear the cracking whip within the echoing laughter.
She raises in her bed, drenched in sweat. Alexia knows this nightmare in every detail. The same nightmare she has had since that cold night in 988 AC. She has awakened this way every night. She hates sleep. She reaches to her nearby backpack and pulls out her flute. She plays a sorrowful tune for the rest of the night.
Mid Kaldmont 1004 AC. The Child in Darkness tavern, in the kingdom of Halag*. Alexia Romanoff sits in a darkened corner table, alone. A tall mug of ale sits on the table in front of her. Most of its intoxicating contents lie, still, within its confines. She has been sitting there for most of the day, staring blankly into her stale drink.
The Child in Darkness is known for its rowdy nights and for being the home for many disreputable characters. Many of them know about her, know who she associates with. They know that she is looking for someone. Hunting for them. They see her wandering the streets at all hours. They all know Alexia. They know to leave her alone.
She came to Halag over two years ago, arriving with King Gustav von Shultz and his "royal" accompaniment. She has come and gone with them on many occasions as well as completely disappearing on her own at times. She will keep a room in any inn for months at times, but she is hardly ever staying that long. She has been seen on many occasions in the company of respected merchant (and one time pirate scourge) Cam McGibbits and his alluring wife, Natasha.
..."Alexia? Well, I guess you could say that she's a bit troublesome at times. Heh, one time we had t'go lookin' all over the city for her. Never showin' up to our meetin's...have t'practically drag her away from the damn bar most o'the time. Playin' that damn flute at all hours! Waste precious time searchin' f'r her when we gotta go kill a dignitary or som--" Natasha nudges Cam roughly with her elbow while flashing a disapproving glare. "Oh, yeah. Right. She's an okay kid. Kinda weird, but a fine warrior. Next to yours truly of course. Wolfpack in da house!..."
"Oh, you want to know about Alexia?" The Royal Court Mage of the kingdom of Halag, Marce'el Kolyana, straightens her hair with a hand mirror. Her extravagant jewelry glistens in the lamp light of her private library, "Well, I guess I do know quite a bit about her...seeing as how I ESP-ed Cartson for her. I will tell you what, though, I would most definately hate to be the guys she's after! I mean, what she did to Cartson...was almost sickening! Not that he didn't deserve it, though. I mean, come on...he was the one that killed her mother! She has some deep emotional issues that's for certain. Of course, if you ever see the scars all over her body...the poor thing never stood a chance at having a normal life. The first time I saw those scars...I nearly wretched! We had just saved a portion of Thyatis City from being obliterated by this mad man. He had the entire sewer system rigged with these explosive components. If Alexia hadn't dove into the sewer and cut the fuse...Boom! We were all rather pungent after that. Luckily, Emperor Eusebius let us partake in his palace spas. I don't believe she really wanted to bathe. Got in. Got out rather quickly. There was no way that I was going to go out in public smelling like that wretched sewer! Besides, how often does one get to lavish themselves in royal luxury?" A metallic statue of a Minotaur lumbers over to Marce'el with a serving tray containing a cup of herbal tea, "Normal or not, I'm glad she's a member of the group." She takes the cup and waves her metal servant away.
"Where was I again? Oh, yes that's right. You see, Alexia's family was murdered by some Iron Ring slavers when she was very young. Can you imagine what that will do to a young child? I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I know the scar on her cheek came from one of the slavers, but only she knows which one." She sips her tea, "But any who, they eventually sold her into servitude. After that...she has never said much about what happened afterwards. Must have spent quite a bit of time in Ylaruam. Did you know she can speak Ylari very elegantly?" She begins to polish a large diamond ring on her finger. "Despite her tendency for ruthlessness, she does have some morality left in her. She's not into fame and fortune like most. For instance, during the siege of Specularum, she was offered a command position, but turned it down and chose to ride with the regular cavalry.
"Speaking of which, during that same campaign, our forces had breached the first wall with a giant cannon that shot boulders. As we entered, the town guard set fire to the homes lying within the walls. Alexia jumped right into the midst of the fires to save several people. Even helped to extinguish the fires. I think somewhere, deep down, there's a part of her heart that has yet to be broken."
Marko Shallapin, cleric to the immortal Chardastes and associate of Alexia: "Alexia, hmm...I only know what Marce'el has told me. I don't recall the last conversation that I have had with her. Patched her wounds quite a few times. Donates a lot of her treasure to various causes, I've heard." He scratches his head as he thinks, "Matter of fact, I don't believe I have ever had much of a conversation with her." He walks off down the street, still scratching his head, "I wonder if she even likes me?"
King Gustav von Shultz, a Hattian doggerman and ruler of the newly formed kingdom of Halag, "I have fought alongside Alexia for quite sometime now. A very skilled warrior. Keeps to herself a lot. Needs to learn a few proper manners of etiquette. She can be very disrespectful at times. Still, I would trust her with my very life during the course of any battle." He straightens on his throne, looking down with authority, "Of course, I am not at liberty to discuss the nature of our many adventures. Affairs of state, you understand."
"Is this something official?" Anya Kolyana, Baroness of Kolyana, sits in a back booth of the Child in Darkness tavern. Two armor clad warriors stand outside the booth while a bald, well dressed man hurries to remove paperwork from the table, "Yeah, Alexia and I have had some adventures. Unfortunately, do to the sensitivity of these adventures, I'm not at liberty to divulge any information concerning them." A cloaked woman leans into the booth and whispers in Anya's ear. After she leaves, Anya gives a subtle nod to the man across from her. He takes the gathered paperwork and quickly exits. "Alexia is searching for the murderers of her family. That is all I can tell you. If you want her whole story...I suggest that you ask her."
"You want my story?" Alexia pulls the wrap of her turban close to her face, "Not much to tell. Guess I'll just start at the beginning. I was born in 978 AC. Third of Flarmont, I think. Been so long since I have thought about it. My father was Alexei Romanoff. Strong. Independent. Stern. He worked hard to maintain our farm. My older brother Mikhail was just like him. I think I just drove him crazy most of the time. Pappa just didn't know how to deal with me. Till I got in trouble, of course."
Alexia lowers her chin to the table, resting her head on top of her flattened hands as she stairs distantly at her mug of ale. "My mother was Mira Romanoff. She was beautiful. Strong willed, or at least that's what Pappa would always complain about. Her faith was just as strong.
"I was ten when they came to our home. Pappa and Mamma would always be kind to travelers. I can't close my eyes any more without seeing them. I hear their final screams...I see their butchers' evil smiles." She starts biting down hard on her tongue, "I tried to save them..." She tilts her head to the side, still resting it on her right hand while she gently rubs the scar on her left cheek."But I wasn't strong enough." She rises back up quickly, yet still stares blankly into her ale, "That's why I play my flute. Drowns out the screams."
She dips her finger into the ale and swirls it wildly, "Then they sold me. I never liked being confined. Would always try to escape. So, I kept getting sold. They'd beat me because I wasn't perfect. Wasn't obedient. I didn't care. Just wanted free. Free, free, free." Alexia takes out a dagger then balances it by the blade in the palm of her hand. "My last owner was Sheik Akeim al Bakrak de Durandal of Ctesiphon. He didn't like me. So he gave me to his captain of the guard, Aman Yasser. He liked me too well. I hated him. Wanted me to be a gladiator. Taught me how to use my glaive. I used it to cut out his eye. He didn't like me anymore. Staked me out in the desert to die." She flips the dagger into the air and lets it drop into the table top. It splinters the wooden table, sticking in deep. "One of his own guards didn't like him either. Set me free."
Alexia looks over to the secluded booth where Anya sits in a private meeting, "Tried being a thief for a while." She turns back to the dagger sticking out of the table, and rubs her finger across the blade, "Wasn't very good at it. Got caught on the first pocket I tried to pick. That's how I met Chikobian Ellius Treeshield. He was a tall, old elf. He said that I had potential and decided to take me in instead of turning me in. Taught me how to survive. How to fight. I think he could tell that I wanted to avenge my family, but he never dissuaded my hatred. I almost wanted to let it go...then one night, Chikobian was murdered. I couldn't save him either. In his final words to me, he told me where to find the Iron Ring slavers that murdered my family.
"I said goodbye to Chikobian that night. I swore my revenge as I gazed into his funeral pyre. Traveled to Specularum...where Chikobian had told me to go. The first tavern I walked into, there he was. Nikolai Ramius, one of my families' butchers. He was drunk, but I didn't care. I wasn't there to give him a fair fight. Gave him what he deserved. I made sure that he knew who killed him." Alexia grabs her dagger from the table with force then throws it with accurate precision into the bar. The bartender throws her a harsh glare, but doesn't say anything. "Made sure to watch the last flicker of his life escape his body. One down...five to go.
"Then I found my way to the 'Wolfpack.' They had just lost one of their own. Ivan, I think his name was. His wife had been a slave as well. They were on some quest to put a bunch of evil immortals back in this prison world. Wasn't my fight. Didn't really care, but I needed the information they had on the Iron Ring. After a while, it seemed like a dead end...then they helped me find another one, Nathan Cartson. He killed Mamma. I carved her name into his chest so he could remember why he had to die. Now I have the names to go with the faces in my nightmares."
She gets up from her seat, leaving her unfinished ale behind. "Two down...four to go. They can't escape me. I won't let them." She walks over to where her dagger sticks in the bar and removes it. She sheathes her dagger once more then quietly exits.
Alexia RomanoffHuman fighter level 21
STR 16, INT 12, WIS 11, DEX:16, CON 14, CHA 12
AC: 4 /3(Short sword) /2 (Glaive)
Proficiencies: Expert, Glaive; Expert, Dagger; Skilled, Short Sword; Basic, Tossed Object; Basic, Kung Fu (modified striking/boxing)
Damage: Glaive: 1d10+6 (Double dmg on 19/20, -2AC/1 deflect); Dagger: 2d4 (Double dmg on 19/20); Short Sword: 1d6+2 (-1AC/1 deflect/disarm); Tossed Object: 1d3 (stun)/Oil 1d8 (ignite); Kung Fu: 2 Points/10 points smash/ 1 deflect
Skills: Acrobatics, Escape, Wrestling, Riding (land), Tracking, Stealth (City/Outdoors), Music (Flute)
Armor: Leather; Golden Gauntlets with rubies (wrists)
Magical Items: Ring of Protection +1
*Note: Our Mystara campaign doesn't follow the printed timeline. Dungeon Master's own modifications. Accelerated timeline (event wise) and major NPC's with some role reversals.
About Keith Young
"I'm a storyteller. I graduated from West Virginia State College with a Degree in Fine Arts. I have since begun to fine tune my writing skill, specializing in fictional short stories. It has become my obsession. I've played a variety of role playing games since junior high. Though our numbers have decreased over the years, most of my companions from those days still play today.
"Alexia is the third character I have played in this particular campaign, which we have been continuing for nearly two nears now. I like to play a variety of characters in every game, but usually stick close to the dark, loner style. I have to blame Clint Eastwood and old school Undertaker for that."
Copyright © 2000, Tome of Mystara. All rights reserved. Character description © 2000, Keith Young. Art © 2000, John Calvin. Used by permission.