Powers and Perils

The Story of Jean

Jean is the daughter of the bastard son the Ulail king sired on the eldest of the three sisters. When she was 9 Viking raiders stole her from her home. They sold her as a thrall in Djanesborg. She spent four years working the fields of the freeholder who bought her. When she became a woman, she fled to avoid being raped.

Her flight led her south to Fierazi lands. She was captured and used as a cooking slave for a year. After that, her owner sold her to a Caldan merchant. She was taken to Bara with that man's caravan. As they traveled, she learned some dancing. On arrival, the man sold her (an illegal act).

She continued south in the company of a caravan from Aratad. Her new owner was vile. In addition to forcing her to master entertainment skills, he passed her out to his guards. A night never passed when she wasn't raped by at least one of them.

When the caravan reached the Duchy of Salaq the 15 year old girl stumbled into the night, intent on ending her life to slay the bastard within her. She leapt off a ravine intent on dying on the rocks. Instead she hovered in midair and turned. Staring at her was a tall man in black robes. A gesture from his hand stole her senses. When she woke, Jean found herself on a wooden pallet in a small cell. She felt terror when she tried to rise, to dash herself against the bars, and was unable to do so.

Three days later, the man entered. He spoke to her. She was unable to understand a word. Seeing his thin smile, she cringed. He made some gestures and she felt a hard slap. When the stinging ebbed, she understood everything he had said.

He was a wizard. She would be his servant, entertainer and whore. If he was pleased, she would also be his apprentice. If not, he knew demons that would enjoy having her. When her child came he made her give birth on a blood soaked black altar. With her baby's first sound, a demon appeared and took it, vowing to use it well.

Jean spent three years in that hell. At the last, the wizard offered to instruct her. She spit on his largesse, letting him know she had no wish to learn vile arts. With a gesture he slashed her face and slammed her into a stone wall. She woke nude chained to her pallet. He smiled as he told her she would be sold to a demon in six days.

That night, breaking both thumbs, she freed herself from the shackles, squeezed through the bars and leapt out a barred window. She landed on the top of a tree fifty feet below her cell, barely alive. Gritting her teeth, she made it down the tree and into the dark mountains.

Hours later she heard the wizard's laughter. Looking, she saw a demon descending. As it stretched its talons, an arrow shot into its brain and it turned to ash. She turned and saw herself looking at a tall man with wild eyes and furs. He grabbed her by the hair, dragged her roughly to his horse and rode away with her.

She soon saw the man planned no evil. After a few days of hard riding, they reached a vast field that went on forever (the plains). As they did, the wizard appeared. The man dismounted, slapped his horse on the ass and went to face the fiend. She hung on as the horse ran away from the battle. After a few hours it was exhausted and stopped to eat outside a strange forest.

Jean threw herself to the ground gasping. As she rose, a gentle voice purred that she was welcome to find peace in the wood. She sobbed and accepted. When she did, she saw an ethereal Faerry woman standing among the trees and passed out. She woke days later on a soft bed in a Faerry hill.

Looking down, she saw the livid scar on one cheek and the mark of a lute on the other. She cried.

As she began to recover Jean discovered she had a gift. She was able to play the lute better. She was also able to create sounds with a thought. This brought her joy and peace. As she accompanied herself with the power, she played a lay to thank the lady for her gift. In her mind she felt the thanks was accepted. She also felt that the only true thanks one can give the forest is life and love.

Soon she met a handsome man of the True Sidh who dwelled in the wood. With her 20th birthday she gave birth to her second child, his daughter. He took her and the child on a journey, to gain a place for the child and win acceptance for her. Before they reached his lord, a host of goblins fell on them. All were taken prisoner.

Standing nude in chains, she watched as a serpent headed thing took her baby from the goblins. As she cried for that loss, her love was tortured to death while she watched. When the foulest goblin started toward her, bloody blades in hand, music filled the room. Arrows, blades and blasts of lightning slashed into the vile host as the True Sidh attacked. The vile died to a man.

Her rescuers unchained her, took the body of her fallen love and left. She made her way out of the cavern wearing a tattered cloak and dirty shift. Looking at the forested hills all around, she took a deep breath and began walking to the northeast. Her love was taking them that way. She would continue on the path.

After a few weeks Jean found herself in tall mountains. She was soon lost. As she lost hope, nearing starvation, she was found by an immense man in metal armor. On his back was a long sword, far longer than any she ever saw. She thought to run. When he held out a hunk of jerky and a warm cloak, she didn't. Gifts accepted, she followed him to his camp.

In the months that followed she learned to speak to the man. All he asked was that she keep his camp, cook and help in the mine he worked. In doing so, she came to know small burly men he called dwarves who visited now and then. Whenever they did, she was sent to her bed while they sat up talking and drinking ale.

During her time with the miner, she learned a bit about herbs and healing. It was needful. He often returned from hunts with wounds that needed tending. The day after her 22nd birthday, he left on a hunt. More than a week passed. She went out to find him.

After searching for hours, she found his burned body hanging from a noose. There was a hole in his chest and his heart was gone. Scattered around were the bodies of four smaller men he clearly killed before he was taken. Truly sad, she cut him down, dug a grave and put him to his rest.

As she left the scene, a noose snaked around her neck and she was yanked off her feet. Before she could act, she was nude, hogtied and slung over the back of a horse. Five riders took her to the east. When the night came, they all raped her. On the morn, the journey east continued. She was made to serve their needs and be a whore.

More than a month passed. After a number of battles, the three remaining men rode into a camp of hide huts. She was tossed to a group of women and the men continued on their way. The women ripped the clothes off her body and battered her. As they shaved her head, rage overcame Jean. She discovered her gift with sound could harm as her scream turned the four women assailing her to dust.

Hearing others coming to the hut, she cut her way out the back and ran into the plains. The riders caught her easily. She was left unconscious, staked out for animals to eat when they chose. Bands of wet leather were tied about her head and body. As the sun rose the next morning, they began to shrink and agony came to her.

Her sobs ended near noon. A large wagon rolled up to her. Out of it stepped a small, yellow man with black hair. After minutes spent walking around her, and examining her face, he stood and looked into her eyes. A wave of his hands removed the leather and her bonds. In her mind she heard his name and offer to take her to a safe place. Having little choice, she painfully levered her nude body into the wagon.

In the days that followed, she learned to speak to the man. His name was Yuan Lo Fi. He was a merchant and mage from a place called Chunrey. Her mark interested him enough to take responsibility for her life by saving her. If she chose to remain in his wagon, she would be his servant. It would be her place to tend his needs, learn as he chose and help when chances to sell presented themselves.

As he had made no effort to use her, and her need was great, she accepted. He produced a large document and had her place her mark on it. When she did, power tore through her body. She passed out. Waking, she saw she was on soft furs. A gentle fabric clothed her body. She rose and left the small room she was in, discovering she was now in a palace.

The first person she met took her hand and led her to another room. On their arrival, she began her instruction in the arts her master wished her to know. Many were of interest to her. One was not. Sadly, when she thought to deny the training, she found it was impossible. She learned the erotic skills her mentor imparted. There was no choice. The magical contract she signed made all she was his. She must obey his will always.

During the next fifteen years Jean served the mage as an assistant, performer and courtesan. As time passed, she noted she was barely aging. He shrugged. After a while, he explained it was a matter of efficiency. She was his for thirty years. Keeping her effective during that time served the business. He would let her age normally when the contract ended, not before.

Years later, she was serving as the mage entertained a foreign man. They began gaming. As the night passed, her master lost more and more. She began watching closely and saw the man sneak a card from his cuff. She told her master at once. He noted that the test was one man to another. A blast of power later, she was on a ship with the cheater and his crew. The vessel's holds were empty and all the valuables he once wore were gone. She recited, "One who cheats poorly prospers little, barbarian friend. My servant is yours. Enjoy her and leave forever. She is all you take from me." To say the foreigner was not pleased would be a vast understatement. His ire was taken out on her as the ship made its way south. By the time they reached a large port, she could hardly walk. A pair of ships met the one she was on. Guards boarded and demanded a payment the man owed. She was given to the men. He was left with nothing.

The guards informed her she could sign a contract and be indentured or get off their boat at once. Since they were miles away from shore, she accepted her only option. Hours later, she rested on a bed. She was a whore in a sailor's brothel in Ocedan. A year of that vile existence passed before she escaped and made her way into the jungle.

Luck alone allowed her to survive that experience. In time, she made her way to a new city. It was called Tiansar. She managed to eke out a living in one of the minor squares by entertaining. After a few years, a scarred man informed her she owed tax to the Wu Wang. He would accept her body as payment in the morning.

She left the city that night, making her way west as best she could. In time, she found herself in a new nation, the Cerulean Empire. Within days after entering that land, she was chained in a coffle heading west. She spurned the advances of an officer as she entered a new city. He chained Jean on the spot, sold her to a merchant headed west and forced himself on the next woman in line.

The merchant who now owned her did not allow the guards to abuse his merchandise. Everyone was hooded and belted to prevent such action. This made the long walk more peaceful than it might have been. After two months, the coffle entered the city of Cerul. As it did, Jean was separated and shown to two bald men in black robes. When they saw the mark on her cheek an evil glimmer showed in their eyes. They gave the merchant sixty gold and dragged her away.

Jean did not like the look of the men. When they turned into an alley, she shot a kick into the knee of one, knocking him to the ground, and assailing the other with her scream. As he vibrated into dust, the injured man rose chanting. She leapt through a muslin window, ran through the bar it belonged to and slammed out the door on the other side.

Still chained and barely dressed, she hurried toward an alley on the other side of the avenue. As she did, a shabbily dressed man turned and ran with her. He offered sanctuary because he liked her guts. When she told him off, a sap slashed into her head. Hours later a foul stench woke her. She was lying on fetid straw in a sewer. Seeing her move the man shrugged that letting a bitch with potential die stupid wasn't his way. When he explained his meaning, and told the nature of the priests hunting her, she thanked him for saving her life and agreed to stay.

Jean's rescuer was a gambler and freelance thief. He used her in badger games and to distract other gamblers. While doing so, he taught her about the seamy side of cities and trained her in his arts. During the slow times, she worked in a tavern as an entertainer and whore.

After two years, her fame as an entertainer became notable. They had to leave the city. The priests were still hunting her. As they made their way west, Jean discovered she was pregnant again. She didn't want it born in Cerulea. Given her luck with children thusfar, she didn't want its arrival to slay her friend either. That decided, she left in the night and headed west.

Weeks later she made it out of the mountains and stared out on an expanse of desert. She had never seen such a lifeless waste. As she wondered how she was going to survive she heard a sound behind her. It was a winged woman with golden hair. She became the guest of that woman, remaining on her cloud for more than four years. During that time she bore her daughter and entertained in many ways.

Finally, the woman flew her to the other side of the desert. As they hugged in farewell, she gave Jean a gift. When she wanted peace it was in her power to make it so. Jean thanked her and, for the baby's sake, moved into the new land alone.

She found little welcome with the barbarians there. With her powers and talent, she managed to survive. After a few months she entered the nation of Marentia. Months more brought her to the city of Sivas. Exhausted, she found herself a job entertaining at a tavern and settled down.

Jean's talent soon won her fame. As she began her third year in Sivas, a man offered her a contract to perform on his ship and, on arrival, tour the cities of Aratad. Given the immense sum he offered to pay, she accepted.

While she traveled Jean worked on her arts and learned the nature of sea travel. By the time they reached Aratad, after a few narrow escapes and some losses, she was working as a seaman to help them make it there. When they landed, the man put her up in a fabulous hotel and went to schedule her performances. She had never been happier.

Sleeping that night, Jean dreamed of a circle of ancient trees and the cottage she knew as a girl. It was the first such dream she ever recalled. As it left her, a rough hand seized her. She landed heavily on the floor. When she instinctively rolled, an iron shod boot narrowly missed her head. She rose in time to see a large man leaving through a window with her purse and other valuable possessions.

She refrained from chasing the man. After locking the window, she went back to her bed and tried to sleep. When she succeeded, a darker dream came. She saw a Faerry knowe burning and Korchi soldiers herding coffles of nude Goidanese into the wood. The dream gave her the feeling all were damned because their mother was not with them.

Over the next month she performed eight concerts. Each night, the dreams came, growing worse and worse. Finally, after a triumph in the court of the King, she could stand them no longer. She went to the temple of Rhiannon and asked for help. The priests stated their belief that the dreams were a sending. It was not proper for them to bar the path they traveled.

Jean was on the edge of insanity. Desperate, she gave all the money she made to the man who brought her and walked off to the west, intent on finding her way to Goidan. That night she had no dreams. This showed her the truth. Someone was calling her home. She would heed the call.

Over the next three years Jean made her way through Donara, Caldo and the Kaz finally ending up in Dirlla. She lingered a bit in Caldo. When she did, the dreams returned. She saw dead Goidanese plowing a field as black robed Korchi tortured children. She gathered her possessions and left at once.

On reaching Dirlla she was not allowed to enter. The guard pointed to the mark on her face. It was magic and nothing of magic had a place in the city. She was sent on her way. The same happened at every village she went to. In some, the peasants picked up stones and threatened her life. She ended up poling a boat through a fetid swamp, entering the lands of Tomanu.

Days after she crossed the border, Jean met a Faerry. He took her to his hill. Over the next week, she recovered a bit and explained her problem. As he discussed it with the hill's Queen, the portal of the hill shattered. Human raiders and worse stormed into the knowe. The Queen ordered Jean's friend to take her to the Lower World as she turned to fight. He complied, taking them to the foul area owned by Mab that laid beneath them.

After a few dangerous days, they returned to the Middle World. The hill was scorched and ruined. Defiled bodies lay everywhere. The shape some were in made Jean want to vomit. Her friend led her out and deeper into the swamp. There was another hill to the north. Its Queen would help her reach home. Once she was delivered there, he left. He had nothing on his mind any longer except hunting Korchi.

Jean did not care for the way the Queen decided to help. A powerful spell transmuted her into an elite Korchi woman. Handing her property from one who died in her realm, the Queen had human friends escort her to Tomanu. She had three months to make her way to Goidan. If she took longer, the power of the spell would die. That would certainly be her death. After briefing her on being Korchi, the Queen sent her off with her guides.

It took Jean a week to reach Tomanu. Her guides left her there. She showed her credentials at the gate and walked past the guard before he could acknowledge them. In response, he moved on to the next person waiting to enter.

Smiling secretly, she went to the port and demanded passage to Baobhanu. The Harbormaster shrugged and consulted his records. After a long moment, he told her a boat would leave for there in two months. Her screams meant nothing to him. Scowling, she took a ship to Ereshka that afternoon. She did not have two months to wait in a Korchi hell.

Jean continued playing her role on the ship. It was not easy. The vileness expected of true elites sickened her. She was happy, two weeks later, when the vessel reached Ereshka. On visiting the Harbormaster there, his response to her demand made her pale.

Leaving the home island for any destination required a permit. She had to get one from the navy's magic officer, the God Emperor's governor or the Temple of Abaddon. None of the options fit her plans. All of those she must see would find her out. She went to a bar, had a fine meal and drank angrily.

As she weaved her way to a hotel, two men dragged her into an alley. As they took her purse, and started to take more, she used the power of peace. After reclaiming her things, she told them she needed the use of a ship, no questions asked. She would give all she had to its Captain once she arrived at her destination. After she gave the men a gold each, they directed her to a berth in the civilian port.

Jean was escorted to a large man with a number of livid scars. He heard her tale and asked where she wanted to go. When he insisted, she sighed and told him Goidan. He set the price as thirty gold or twenty and her body on the trip. She paid thirty and was shown to a cabin.

Three weeks later she set foot on Goidan, in the swamps of the Eoghan. The Captain let her off with the clothes on her back. He kept everything else. As she still looked Korchi, and had nothing, her situation was not bright. She walked into the swamp and made her way north.

After two days a group of men found her night camp. They tied her and dragged her off with a noose around her neck. When she spoke, a gag was added. She was tossed to the ground in the square of a village. With great joy, the men watched as their women shredded her clothing and shaved her bald. That done, they whipped her back into the swamp.

On the morning another man found her barely breathing body. He covered her and tended her wounds. After hearing her tale, he put her on the back of his horse and led her back to the village. When armed men met them, he upbraided the family king. It was not his place to dispense justice as he had. Deciding such was the right of Druids, not kings.

His words incited rage. Before the men could act on it, the man sang a satire on them all. Her champion was not a mere traveler. He was a bard of Armagh. Realizing their place before the law, the men begged forgiveness. On paying a weregild, and granting a week for her to heal in the village, it was granted. He rested with her that night, accepted her gratitude and left with the dawn.

Four days into the week the spell of the Faerry Queen died. Jean woke as herself, much to the surprise of the villagers. Seeing their pain, she gave them peace and played to ease their hearts. When her time to depart came, they asked her to stay. She could not. With two warriors as guides, she headed north.

An adventure taking more than three weeks passed before Jean reached the forests of Ulstan. The warriors left her there and headed home. She walked into the wood, happily breathing the air of home. Days later she found her way to the ancient circle and knelt in reverence. She was home.

She went to the Archdruid and told him who she was and what called her home. Seeing her, he nodded and welcomed her. Nine months later, she had a beloved place as an entertainer and healer. She also gave birth to a son. As she suckled the new boy, the Archdruid brought a man to her. He handed her a blouse with the sunburst on it and called her mother.

In his eyes, she was the living embodiment of all the sunburst wished to achieve. It was her right to sit with them. She accepted his gift and the weight of his expectations. In the decades since, she has been tireless in her efforts to guide, support and love her people. All who know the society, as members or otherwise, know her as Mother Jean. She is beloved by all.

NOTE - Her son is Finn Ulster. He is a 39 year old warrior, a noted singer and king of Clan Ulster. He has a wife and four children. All dwell in the village near the sunburst base. He insures it is steadfast in support of the society and his mother.

Richard L. Snider

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