About Zora Draznoi
30341-18 - Dark Archives
Like most Ustalavans, Zora Draznoi is black-haired and pale-skinned. However, when we say pale-skinned, we really mean pale-skinned-- her flesh is unnaturally white, the color of bleached wool. Her eyes are gray, calm, and seem to contain the immense sadness of a long life despite her apparent youth. She dresses without adornment beyond plain, gray robes and a humble wooden amulet in the shape of a spiral. Though her features are reasonably comely, it is rare that Zora inspires sexual interest in others: instead, Zora's unfailingly solemn, intense bearing tends to make the average person lower their voice a bit and look around sheepishly, as if they had been caught running in a cemetery.
Zora stands a few inches above five feet, and the gray robes she wears obscures any other significant details about her figure. A well-made backpack, a spear, and a shield with a blue spiral of Pharasma-- slung over her back unless there seems a need for it-- completes her ensemble.
Some fifty years ago, plague swept through the Palatinate states of Ustalav. Among the many souls claimed were a young merchant named Nikolai and his two children, each less than five years old; Nikolai's wife, however, survived. In her devastation at the loss of her family, Marta spent long hours at the cemetery. Initial sympathy became sad head-shakings as the weeks turned to months and Marta remained in deepest mourning. However, a priest of the Pharasman faith, a gentle and kindly man who gave his name as Zaros, began to sit with Marta during her grief-wracked cemetery visits. He said little: merely provided her company, a shoulder upon which to weep, an ear for her anguished recollections of the deathbed miseries of her children and husband.
In time, Marta found a different sort of comfort in the arms of the priest. When she began to show with child, it was a minor scandal, but the community assumed that she and the priest would certainly wed, for Pharasman priests are not known for flouting of societal orders.
Instead, the priest was nowhere to be found. Marta's remaining family were outraged, and marched to the local church, demanding the name of the priest who would so shirk his responsibilities. The baffled Pharasman clergy answered that nobody matching the name or description of the man had ever served at their temple, nor anywhere in the region.
The only one who seemed not at all bothered by this turn of events was Marta herself. Her despair had been replaced by a quiet, resigned serenity, and her thoughts turned inward, to the child swelling her belly. The pregnancy was a difficult one, but through it all, Marta seemed assured that all would be well. This seemed to be ill-founded when the child, a girl, was born still-born in the dead of winter...
...but the attending mid-wife plunged the newborn babe into a drift of snow outside the door, and the little girl screamed. It was Zora's first brush with Pharasma, but it would not be her last.
Marta doted on Zora, lavishing all the love for her departed family, as well as her temporary comforter, on her daughter. Zora might have grown spoiled, but instead, the child seemed always old for her years, little given to either joy or weeping, steady where her mother was prone to sharp emotional swings. From a young age, Zora was interested in the ill: she brought injured sparrows into the house to nurse as best she could, and cleaned the scratches of stray cats and dogs. Both her successes and failures she weathered with the same unsettling acceptance. At twelve, she apprenticed to the mid-wife who had delivered her-- somewhat unnecessary, as the family was still prosperous enough that Zora had no real need to learn a trade, especially such a workmanlike one, but the child herself insisted. She learned medicine, first from the old woman, and later, the town's apothecary. Studious and diligent, Zora was a perfect student. Though her company was hardly sought at parties or at balls, the sick found her a gentle nurse, compassionate in a quiet way.... and perhaps most welcome to those for whom death was inevitable, for Zora seemed to bring a peace with her that transcended pain.
The death of her own mother, when she was nineteen, hit Zora hard. It was a freak accident-- a patch of ice in winter at the top of a stony stair, a head hitting stone-- the sort of thing that makes people sketch the spiral in the hopes of warding off ill fate. Zora took it further: as her mother was placed into the earth by the dutiful Pharasmans, Zora retired to her room, prepared a tincture of lethal herbs, and drank deep, seeking audience with Pharasma herself.
The goddess... allowed it. The Grave Lady watched, silently, as Zora pled that it was not fair, not just; the normally-calm girl wept before Pharasma's throne, in the Boneyard.
No, said Pharasma, at last, it is not fair. It never is. You knew it with your head before; now, your heart as well.
Zora woke, when by all rights she should not have. She made her way to the church, and there pledged herself to Pharasma's service as an initiate, swearing away her old life. For nearly thirty years, Zora served the Grave Goddess in Ustalav, little aging, even while those around her grew wrinkles as gardens grow weeds. She might be there yet, but a wounded Pathfinder came seeking the services of the temple, and said that she reminded him of someone he knew, a man named Zaros...
With little to hold her to Ustalav-- friends and family dead, or old-- Zora set out to seek the truth of the man's tale. The path has led her to join his same Society, where she ministers, in her way, to her fellow agents.
Other Gear +1 agile breastplate[APG], darkwood heavy wooden shield, club, crossbow bolts (10), dagger, light crossbow, longspear, cracked amethyst pyramid ioun stone, cracked mossy disk ioun stone, incandescent blue sphere ioun stone, muleback cords, phylactery of positive channeling, pink and green sphere ioun stone, wayfinder, ale (per gallon), belt pouch, courtier's outfit, holy text (Pharasma), ink, inkpen, jewelry, mapmaker's kit, masterwork backpack, paper, salt (worth 1 gp), scroll box, spider's silk rope (50 ft.), trail rations (19), wooden holy symbol of Pharasma, wrist sheath, spring loaded, wrist sheath, spring loaded, 1,497 gp