January 18, 2021, 08:08:57 PM

Author Topic:  Special Feature Applications  (Read 128760 times)

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Laura [ OOC Account ]
1995 Posts  •  30
Re: Special Feature Applications
« Reply #240 on: January 22, 2020, 08:34:15 PM »

Name: @Louise
Character name: @Synnöve Solveigdotter
Feature you are applying for: 1/2 Siren
Description of the character:
Synnöve Solveigdotter is a half-siren, half-witch.  Her father is Erik Fisker, a wizard and the Professor of Nautica at Durmstrang.  Her mother, Solveig, is a pure-blood siren of the Måndöttrar clan, who reside in a series of small secret islands in the Gulf of Bothnia near Döttrar Vik, Sweden.

Roughly seventeen years ago, Erik was shipwrecked on an island belonging to the Måndöttrar sirens and was rescued by Solveig.  She kept him as a sort of pet for almost a year (an aberrantly long time for a siren).  Between them there grew a kind of affection and attachment but, fearing the disapproval of her clan yet not desiring to kill the man, Solveig released Erik from his captivity unharmed.  Shortly after he left, she discovered she was pregnant with his child; a revelation Erik would remain ignorant of until almost seventeen years later. 

Synnöve was born within the siren clan and grew up according to their rules and culture.  Yet she was not the most well-behaved young girl, frequently getting into trouble for exploring outside of their territories and playing tricks on humans in areas that were meant to be protected by treaty with the Swedish Ministry of Magic.  Synne’s mother intended for her to receive schooling at Durmstrang in order to master the magic she inherited from her father and Solveig prepared her by ensuring that Synne learnt to speak (and read and write) Russian and Swedish.  She also made sure that Synne got to see a little of human culture by visiting Döttrar Vik.  Unfortunately, however, Synne was ultimately not permitted to enrol in the school when she turned eleven.  The girl was considered by the clan to be both too unruly and too susceptible to human corruption.  Instead Synne had to continue her education through her clan. 

Synne’s rebellious nature continued to be a problem for her until, when she was thirteen and overconfident in her abilities, she made a terrible mistake which cost the life of one of her friends.  Synne spoke with some young men she saw visiting Döttrar Vik (a taboo act in itself) and agreed to meet them later with some friends – at a location outside of the protected siren territories.  Falsely believing herself to be in total control and the men under her thrall, Synne ultimately led herself and two friends into a trap.  The men killed one of her siren friends in order to harvest her hair and nails for sale on the black-market.  While Synne and her remaining friend were lucky enough to escape, they faced a furious clan upon their return.  Synnöve was punished severely for her actions and the trauma from the incident itself left her fearing and hating humans.

Sobered by the death of her friend at human hands, Synne became a much more cautious and reserved girl.  She focused all of her energies on her education and never broke a rule nor strayed from siren territories again.  A few years later when the Durmstrang Institute of Magic moved back to the vicinity of Döttrar Vik (after a few hundred years absence), Synne’s clan were concerned by the development.  After watching the situation for a number of months, it was finally determined that they needed someone on the inside.  After much discussion it was decided that Synne would be enrolled in the school.  Due to her good-behaviour over the preceding years and aversion to humans, she was considered a reasonable candidate.  One of the deciding factors ended up being that her biological father, Erik Fisker, was a professor at the school.  It seemed advantageous to place Synne where she could potentially leverage this connection. 

Synne has recently entered Durmstrang as a late enrolment and is attending classes as a Fifth Year student.  In the spirit of good-will with their siren neighbours (and perhaps influenced by their charms), some allowances were made for Synne’s unusual enrolment.  She now spies for her clan and sends them reports on events within the school.  (I imagine the Durmstrang faculty are aware of this fact but do not presently see any reason to stop it).  She faces many difficulties adapting to human life and culture.  Threads with Synne are sure to be rife with opportunities for misunderstanding.  She has only just met her father, Erik Fisker, and doesn’t know how she feels about him yet. 

As a half-siren, half-witch Synne will be deeply tuned into ongoing relations between the sirens and the school (with the potential to act as an ambassador or “bridge” between them).  At 16-years-old she has yet to undergo the rituals that would commit her permanently to the clan and as she spends more time away from them at school, she is slowly discovering her humanity.  In the future there looms a difficult decision – to be a siren or to be human?

Application:
Sirens
Summary based on MH Special Features information as well as lore provided by @Dylan

Sirens are known to be exceptionally beautiful woman; tall and thin with pale skin and long flowing hair.  Their facial features are fine and delicate in appearance, almost birdlike.  One could be forgiven for judging them to be frail or fragile but these creatures are ferociously strong in their element – the sea.  It is not uncommon for sirens to have webbed hands and feet.  When very angry they can undergo a partial transformation, changing their face to that of a bird.  They are also able to produce the most inhuman and terrifying screams and screeches; which can even cause lasting damage to the eardrums of any humans foolish enough to be listening.  If particularly infuriated, a siren may throw flames but this ability – and the application of an avian visage – cannot be maintained for long and ends as soon as their anger fades. 

Small islands are their natural habitat and fiercely defended.  Guardians of the sea and its creatures, sirens can be vengeful against anyone they believe is mistreating or damaging their environment.  Fortunately, the sea already takes care of many unwary trespassers itself through treacherous waters and weather.  However, sirens can take a severe view against any humans overfishing or dumping garbage and pollution into their waters.  People who do not respect them or their territories are known to disappear.

Sirens are perhaps best known for their song, which they use to lure unwary seafarers to their islands.  When they sing, it is said that their voices are so enchanting no man can resist them.  However, the song does not create real love; merely a powerful – and thankfully temporary – infatuation.  A siren’s physical beauty and bewitching voice can have an exceptionally strong effect on the people around her, especially males.  Men will often act strangely, forgetting caution and common sense, and take actions that they might not otherwise, in order to try to win the sirens attention.  This can be very dangerous as sirens have been known to trick sailors into driving their ships against reefs or rocks. 

Possessing their own unique type of coercive magic, sirens can bend men to their will through a type of hypnosis.  Although there is an aura of allure around their bodies, the sirens true power lies in their voices.  Their songs can influence the listener’s emotions, thoughts and decisions; making them feel happy or sad, filling them with lust or false love.  Fortunately, with a little time and distance the effects wear off.  Further, not all humans are equally affected by the siren's magic.  Most women are typically unmoved by their charms.  Those men of rational and well-structured minds may also be able to resist compulsion.  Others may feel the effects yet still be able to maintain control of their actions.

While not inherently evil, sirens have a dubious reputation in the wizarding world and it is wise to treat them with caution.  In the least they can be disruptive to the productivity and concentration of human workers.  Some women and men may consider the presence of a siren to be an outright threat and thus there are times when the inhuman creatures are met with hostility and aggression.  The hair and nails of sirens also have magical properties for which there are numerous applications in crafting and potion-making, and humans sometimes hunt them for this purpose.

The Clan – Måndöttrar (‘moon daughters’)
Disclaimer:  Rather than assuming that all siren tribes or clans operate the same, I wish to identify Synnöve’s specific clan and explain the quirks of their particular community.  As these sirens have experienced prolonged exposure to human culture through their close proximity to the Swedish village of Dottrar Vik, it is plausible that they are not a typical example of their species.  They are also uniquely adapted to their environment and therefore all following references to ‘sirens’ should be considered to be relating to this specific sub-species only.  (Credit to @Dylan for providing the lore on which I based this summary.)

Hierarchy & Culture
The sirens of Måndöttrar form a matriarchal society.  They are governed by a council of ‘elders’, made up of the oldest pure-blooded Sirens in the clan.  There is no single siren in charge; decisions are made by consensus.  This council oversees ceremonies and rituals, ensuring that important siren culture is maintained.  They also set the laws by which the clan operates.  They judge guilt and dispense justice and punishment when required.  The sirens do not keep their offenders in prison, instead serious wrongdoers may face banishment or death.  Should it come to that, the council elders will carry out the verdict personally. 

Males have no status or power within siren society.  They are expected to be submissive and serve their mistresses eagerly.  Human men are not kept long-term and will be killed or released after the sirens have had their way with them.  The few rare male sirens in the clan are effectively the property of the council and used only as breeding stock.  These male sirens, trained to be obedient from a young age, hold no social standing and cannot leave their homes unaccompanied by a female.  Highly coveted and kept in pampered isolation, they are rarely seen by most clan members for anything more than ceremonial purposes.  They are certainly never seen by humans and the wizarding world is left to doubt they even exist.

Due to the rarity of siren males it has always been necessary for the clan to use human men for procreation.  Additionally, sirens have generally found themselves more genetically compatible with humans, with pregnancies occurring more easily than with their own species.  Pure siren couplings face fertility issues and of the few births that result, ever fewer yield male offspring.  However, babies sired by human fathers will only ever be female. 

The Elders of the clan are addressed as ‘mother’ – then their first name.  All other adult sirens are called ‘sister’ – then their first name.  Girls who are not ‘of age’ (at least 17-years-old and having taken an oath to the clan) are referred to as ‘daughter-name’.  Sirens from other clans are known as ‘cousin-name’.  Male sirens have no titles and are generally not spoken to or about.  The sirens do use surnames but only as a way to differentiate the birth mother of each individual.  Therefore they use a matronymic naming system of their mother’s name followed by their word for ‘daughter’.  The sirens of Måndöttrar speak a dialect of Mermish but for the purposes of human understanding they use the Swedish word for daughter (‘dotter’) when introducing themselves. 

The sirens of the clan do not typically raise their children on their own.  Any sons are given over to the council from birth, whereas their daughters – pure-blood and mixed-blooded alike – are nurtured in a collective crèche, their care shared amongst a group of sisters.  The girls will remain together in a sort of convent until they are old enough to be apprenticed back to their mothers.  Sirens do not have any place for ‘fathers’ in their child-rearing process.  In their eyes, the male’s involvement with the child ends as soon as they have given their seed.  Most of the sirens in the clan do not even know the identities of their biological fathers, nor care to know.

The clan believes in the fair division of labour and wealth.  Whilst sirens may maintain a private home and a few personal belongings, most things they own are shared.  The sisters take care of each other and everyone is required to contribute to the clan.  They are fanatically loyal to the clan and when they come ‘of age’ each siren is required to swear an oath to serve the clan’s best interest in all things and above all else not do anything to endanger the clan.  This oath cannot be broken under pain of death.

Sirens are a deeply spiritual people and the Måndöttrar in particular worship the moon and tides.  They follow many rituals based on the lunar cycle, some of which involve blood-sacrifice and the consumption of human flesh.  Any humans who witness their rituals are unlikely to survive to tell the tale.  The sirens believe that much of their power is connected to these rituals and the influence of the moon.  Siren girls were expected to mature quickly, exposed as they are to violence and sex at a young age.  Indoctrinated in the ways of the clan they are expected not to flinch at the things they witness.  However, until they come ‘of age’, the involvement of young sirens is mostly restricted to dance, chanting and singing.

Perhaps the most significant ritual the sirens hold is the ‘coming of age’ rite.  A siren must be at least 17-years-old before she can participate in the ritual but is allowed to decide for herself when she feels ready.  As such there is no set age but historically no siren older than 25 has ever undergone the rite and they are expected to maintain their virginity until such time.  Young part-sirens are encouraged to wander into the human world and meet people, experience a little of human culture before they come back, proud of their home and take their oath to the clan.  Once the oath is taken they are committed to the clan for life and there is no turning back. 

Young women will occasionally leave and never return.  Those daughters are considered to be dead by the rest of the clan, though typically it is just the case that they integrated themselves fully into human society, perhaps even settling down on the mainland and getting married.  The clan would rather their daughters be dead than slaves to a man's world.  There is some leniency given to the part-sirens who settle in or around the village of Döttrar Vik.  They may still be considered family although it is unlikely they will be allowed to return to the islands.

Education
The siren young receive education under group of sisters using a curriculum approved by the council, largely based on a naturalist and spiritual approach to learning.  Classes are taught cooperatively in a relaxed setting, with the girls roughly sorted into mixed age and skill level clusters.  Knowledge is primarily passed down through hand-me-down records and in a somewhat haphazard fashion.  Not really the type to keep books, sirens record their histories and lore in song instead.  Songs are an essential part of clan-life.  All sirens, even half-breeds, are naturally gifted singers and they learn to hone their voices from a young age.  Still it takes time and dedication to develop the ability to lull or hypnotize and control with the song.  Half-sirens will struggle to ever master it and even if they do, they will never be able to match the power of a pure-blooded siren.  However, with a spirit of cooperation and voices raised together, siren song magic is made even more powerful.  This is a core ideology of their community – that they are stronger if they work together.

Siren magic is highly ritual in nature, using chants, spell-songs and wandless magic.  There is some use of herbology and potions, but mostly in a ritualistic setting.  It is not unusual for some sirens to also know elemental magic.  They have an affinity for water which they can learn to draw upon to increase their magical power.  Mixed-breed girls will be taught some basic wizarding magic, although wands are uncommon within the clan.  Witches with siren-blood typically struggle with wand-work as their inborn magics do not channel well through such a vessel.  Sometimes the council will allow half-breed girls to enrol in a wizarding school like Durmstrang, but they only choose their most disciplined and loyal daughters to attend.  The clan's elders will then monitor these girls closely to ensure that they are not corrupted by the human world and fall victim to the beliefs and views of wizardkind.  Girls who do not attend school will, upon turning 11-years-old, begin a type of apprenticeship under their biological-mothers, assisting them with their duties, in addition to their lessons in the convent. 

Daily Life
The climate around Döttrar Vik and the surrounding area is subarctic in nature, with long snowy winters and short but mild summers.  Fortunately sirens biology provides them with resistance to the cold, a necessity for swimming in the sea all year round.  They live on small islands, usually surrounded by sharp cliffs and rocks.  Such islands are also heavily protected by illusions and unlikely to be breached by unwelcome visitors.  The sirens reside in simple buildings half-carved into the rock, supplemented with wooden structures crafted from the carcases of crashed ships.  Wood salvaged from such wrecks in also used to make basic furniture, usually rather rough in appearance since carpentry is not one of their talents.  Such furnishings are supplemented by whatever they can steal or purchase from mankind.  As such their homes can appear to be a strange mix of luxury articles and hand-made items. 

All clan members, even children, have responsibilities and duties to undertake.  Some sirens will go fishing and diving for shellfish, some will attend to cooking meals while others will be assigned to cleaning and maintenance duties or set to tend gardens or mend and make clothing, jewellery and other items for the clan.  Certain sirens may focus on scouting the surrounding areas for threats and potential victims.  Generally most of the clan will assist with ‘hunting’ if a likely sea vessel comes in range of their island, joining together to lure the sailors to breach their ship against the rocks.  Wealth and goods will be looted from such ships and any viable men kept for breeding and ritual purposes as per the needs of the clan.

The sirens of Måndöttrar are very self-sufficient – as they have had to be.  In modern days less sailors are likely to be drawn into their waters and as such the sirens have developed a more ‘progressive’ approach to fulfilling the needs of the clan, even trading with humans on the mainland for supplies they cannot obtain themselves.  Most of their food they grow in their own rocky gardens or harvest from the bounty of the sea.  Sirens do not keep animals, having little room or patience for them on their islands.  However, when the opportunity presents itself they will enjoy red-meat.  Måndöttrar sirens never consume alcohol and have a very low tolerance for same.  They subsist on a diet of mostly fish, seafood, seaweed and vegetables.  Naturalists and sometimes nomads, they move around a number of islands, following different fishing grounds as they shift up and down the coast with the seasons.  However, the Måndöttrar generally stick to the vicinity of Dottrar Vik, a small town known colloquially as “daughter’s cove”, and the surrounding siren territories which are protected by a treaty with the local government.

It is hardly surprising that sirens are not known to be the most modestly dressed creatures, comfortable as they are baring their skin.  As the cold affects them little and they spend a lot of time in or around the water, it only seems natural to them to spend a lot of time in the nude  When they do wear clothing it is typically very light clothing.  Additionally they will sometimes don belts or harnesses (with or with clothing) to carry tools or items when required.  Their clothes are typically made of a cloth spun from dried seaweed and in a loosely stitched or crochet style.  Sirens prefer bare feet and abhor the idea of wearing shoes.  It is generally considered very inappropriate for a siren to adopt such a human affectation.  They like pretty things and regularly adorn themselves with shiny stones, crystals, seashells and flowers they find around their home– often weaving such items into their long hair. 

Biology
Whilst sirens are magical creatures (more closely related to merfolk than humans), many of their special qualities can be attributed to unique biological evolution, lifestyle and diet.  However, it has been very difficult for wizards to research them in depth due to the sirens very secretive and suspicious nature.  Sirens are even known to take efforts to recover their dead from human hands where possible.  As such there is a lot of mystery around their biology.

Over hundreds of years the sirens of Måndöttrar have uniquely adapted to life in the Gulf of Bothnia.  They are Endotherms or “warm-blooded” creatures who maintain a constant body temperature through internal metabolic processes, independent of their environment.  If heat loss exceeds heat generation (i.e. external temperatures drop), their metabolism can increase or “speed up” to make up the temperature difference.  As such they can be active and survive at quite low external temperatures.  However, because their bodies are continuously metabolising at a high rate to produce heat, sirens require large quantities of “fuel” or food.  It is theorised that this could be a factor in why sirens sometimes eat human flesh.  Certainly during the colder winter months they could hardly afford to overlook the extra caloric intake.  Sirens can starve to death much more quickly than humans if they do not get enough food.  Their fast metabolism could also provide some explanation for why they appear so skinny.

The epidermis or “skin” of a siren also has some unique qualities which aid these creatures in resisting cold temperatures.  Although to the casual observer their skin may look very much like human skin, when examined under significant magnification it is poreless and actually appears to be made up of tiny, overlapping scales.  The unique structure of such quite effectively absorbs internal body heat and seals it in.  Siren skin typically has a silky feel and may feel noticeably warm or hot to the touch.  Such skin is also more resilient to damage, a necessity for enduring a rough sea environment and weather.  Pure-blood sirens do not sunburn or tan, keeping their pale complexions in all conditions. 

Additionally sirens excrete a special oil which creates an additional protective membrane on the skin, keeping them waterproof and contributing to the appearance of their “shimmer” or” glow”.  A siren can spend an indefinite amount of time in the water without experiencing any of the ‘wrinkling’ that happens to human skin.  Unfortunately the downside is that sirens cannot sweat.  If they get too hot, the only mechanism they have for heat regulation is ‘panting’ (in a manner embarrassingly similar to canines). 

A siren’s capacity to overheat is a huge downside to their cold resistance.  Sirens and part-sirens typically fare poorly in arid or hot environments.  They can feel quite sickly if their skin dries out and can be affected by a number of skin conditions (including a sort of ‘scale-rot’) if exposed to poor conditions for an extended time.  Whilst their inability to perspire may look aesthetically pleasing, it can make activity on land a struggle.  As such the sirens of Måndöttrar prefer a cold climate and will not stray far from subarctic zones.  Their mixed-breed children also generally feel the same preferences and may not enjoy playing muggle or wizarding ‘sports’ due to their tendency to get ‘hot’ with extended physical activity. 

It is important for sirens not to wash with human soaps since these may strip the protective oils from the siren’s skin and make her more vulnerable to skin conditions.  As long as they maintain the natural oils in their bodies, they will always boast clear and unblemished skin.  A lack of washing would be viewed as a problem for humans, however, since sirens do not sweat there is usually very little bacterial build-up on their bodies.  Frequent exposure to the antibacterial properties in salt water and seaweed deals with the rest.  A natural siren will never have poor body odour; they typically smell sweet, if a little salty.  Additionally, siren pheromones can be quite enticing to human men. 

Sirens do not have gills to breathe underwater like the merpeople they are closely related to (no doubt a concession to the importance of vocals in siren life) but they do have slightly larger lungs than humans and can hold their breath for an inhumanly long time.  Their eyesight is also particularly sharp, adapted to see well in the dark and underwater.  Sirens generally appear very healthy.  They are resistant to most human diseases and heal more quickly.  Much of this can be attributed to their frequent consumption of fish and seaweed; foods that are both rich in nutrients.  Such a diet is full of protein, iodine, antioxidants and various vitamins and minerals.  Absorption of vitamin D from their food – as well as being physically active outdoors for most of their lives – makes sirens have strong bones, muscles and good overall health.  The omega-3 fatty acids consumed by them promote muscle regeneration and fatigue recovery as well as being good for brain and eye development. 

Specialised creatures that they are, sirens do not cope well outside their environment and can face significant difficulties if their environment is altered or tainted in any way.  Sirens can be severely affected by toxins and pollutants in their environment and food sources.  This is one of the reasons that sirens hate human pollution as it can make the clan sick.  Their main sources of nutrition - fish and seaweed - both absorb and store minerals in concentrated amounts.  As such it is possible, under certain circumstances, for such foods to contain large amounts of toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead.  If a siren consumes these she will become ill and may even die. 

Relationship with Humanity
Sirens are typically rare creatures that prefer to keep to themselves and remain largely invisible to the human world.  As such the Måndöttrar are an unusually visible clan.  Whilst they try to keep most of their clan members sheltered from the corrupting influences of humanity as much as possible, the council does allow a few sirens and part-sirens visit Döttrar Vik, a fishing village on the coast of Sweden.  Some sirens will even learn human languages but it is taboo to speak to men.  Although engaging in conversation with a man is not a severe enough offence to see a siren cast out of the clan (a little leniency being required for trading), it is highly disapproved of and may draw other kinds of punishments. 

The Måndöttrar are considered soft by some of their cousin clans.  They have been known to show a gentleness and kindness towards their captives; tending their injuries and providing them with warm clothes and food.  Captive men are treated in many ways like pets.  Unless they are unlucky enough to be selected for use in a ritual, the men will be sent away generally no worse for wear than when they arrived; aside from bewildered and penniless.  Despite such behaviours the sirens should never be mistaken for being human.  They feel no remorse for preying upon men; stealing their wealth, using their bodies and even killing them.  They see their ways as right and fitting.  A predator would never apologize to prey.

Men are needed for breeding and siren rituals but beyond that have no value to the creatures.  Siren women do not believe in the human folly of love and do not engage in relationships.  Because of their nature or culture (or both) they usually do not get attached to their lovers.  It is not socially acceptable to keep the same man for more than a few weeks. There is no concept of exclusivity or emotional commitment in siren society – and consequently also no concept of unfaithfulness.  Marriage is considered an unforgivable crime since a siren must never supplicate herself to a man.  It is seen as a betrayal of the clan and an offending member will be exiled or killed depending on the circumstances (and if she is foolish enough to attempt to return to the islands).

Those humans who are lucky enough to visit a siren island and survive will bear no memory of its location, their memories being muddled by drugs and magic.  Sirens often supplement their magic by plying captives with natural narcotics such as opium from poppy flowers as well as specially brewed potions.  It is important to keep captives obedient, docile and unaware of their surroundings.  The men they kill for ritual purposes generally feel no fear nor pain due to the powerful combination of siren compulsion and drugs.  They meet their fates willingly and it is not completely unheard-of for men to volunteer for the privilege.

Bound by a treaty with Döttrar Vik and the Swedish Ministry of Magic, the sirens of Måndöttrar allow seafarers to travel certain routes and areas unmolested, the maps of which are widely distributed and displayed along ports and villages on the Swedish coastline.  In return the clan is granted specific territories (or 'reserves') where hunting or hurting the sirens is not permitted nor any dumping, polluting or fishing.  Still, some fools will always scoff at the warnings and go there anyway or even seek out the sirens intentionally.  They are the only ones to blame for the fates they suffer.

Like most siren clans, the Måndöttrar view human affairs with disdain; yet their elders have been wise enough to keep an eye on local politics and development.  At times they have even taken an active role in influencing events.  The fact that the village of Döttrar Vik has remained so small and isolated, with a population made up almost entirely of women, is due to the presence of sirens.  Any attempts made to change or expand the town over the years have been quickly dropped by the humans after construction projects faced sabotage and influential townsfolk went missing under unknown circumstances.  Any substantial growth around Döttrar Vik typically coincides with increased instances of missing or damaged ships in the area.  As such the townsfolk have learnt to be accommodating to their siren neighbours.   

Trade
The presence of the Måndöttrar sirens is not without its benefits to the people of Döttrar Vik since they possess the exclusive rights to trade with the clan, an arrangement unheard of anywhere else in the world.  Some mixed siren have kiosks and artisanal shops along Döttrar Vik’s coastline selling jewellery or other handmade commodities which then benefit the clan.  Sirens prefer to trade primarily through female contacts and have an aversion to dealing with men directly for such things.  Sometimes they will hire ‘mediators’ to complete transactions on their behalf.  Tensions can be high and interactions between the clan and the village are not without risk.  Sirens can explode into violent rage if displeased or provoked.  As such the villagers try to keep all visitors and outsiders in line and, for their part, the siren clan is selective in who it allows to go to the village (mostly their part human girls) and they punish poor behaviour severely.

The sirens enjoy trading for materials they do not have on their islands; such as wool, silk, and furs.  They are also quite fond of trading with the mainland for apples and pears, since fruit does not grow very well where they live.  Sweet fruits like strawberries are considered a particular delicacy to sirens and they will pay highly for them.  Although they are all good swimmers, sirens can only carry so much on their backs and as such have built their own small fleet of sailing boats for the purpose of carrying trade goods to and from the village. 

The most sought-after and valuable item that the Måndöttrar sirens bring to the village is a material commonly referred to as ‘kelp-fibre’ (or colloquially named ‘seaweed-yarn’).  Fabric made from it is enviously breathable and light; the fibre feels soft and supple against the skin.  In addition to its comfort, the fabric offers all of the health benefits found in the seaweed it is created from.  A human’s natural body moisture promotes the transfer of nutrients when the skin comes in contact with the fabric, allowing the wearer to absorb vitamins and minerals through their pores (such as calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B12 and vitamins A, C and E).  Additionally, the kelp-fibres promote healing, contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.  The fabric is also flame-retardant yet absorbs sweat faster than cotton, making it suitable for a wide range of purposes, including underwear, infant clothing and athletic wear.  Yet perhaps the most compelling reason siren-made kelp fibre is coveted is that it is rumoured to even slow down ageing and reverse skin damage.

The making of kelp-fibre is a closely guarded siren secret (although humans have tried to replicate it without much success).  After collecting seaweed from their ‘sea gardens’ or wherever it has washed up on their shores, the sirens wash the seaweed, dry it, chop it up and combine it with secret ingredients and solvents until it turns into a muddy pulp.  Excess liquid is then filtered out and the pulp is dried on rocks in the sun before being spun into yarn.  The resulting yarn is soft and bright, in seaweed colours of greens, browns and yellows primarily.  It has considerable strength if prepared properly and cloth made out of kelp-fibre is said to be sturdier than cotton.

Sirens themselves are not good at textile production and are only capable of producing a sort of the basic yarn.  They are not good seamstresses either and the clothing and blankets they make from the yarn is of a simple knitted or crocheted style.  However, they are willing to sell the yarn in its raw form to the village of Döttrar Vik where it can be made into more refined fabrics using human methods.  Sirens prefer the kelp-fibre in its natural colours and form but some humans like to blend it with other fibres and even dye it, though such processes reduce the potency of its health benefits.  Döttrar Vik is the only place to buy ‘seaweed-yarn’ or kelp-fibre clothing and the village profits greatly from being sole suppliers.

Synnöve
As a half-breed Synne's traits and abilities would be very limited / diluted when compared to a full siren.  Yet Synnöve's inherited traits would be boosted by having been raised within the clan, with long-term exposure to their mannerisms and behaviour plus receiving lessons from the sirens themselves.  Although this would be make them more ‘learned-skills’ than inherited ones.

Synnöve's siren blood has manifested in the following ways:

Physically, Synne is an effortlessly beautiful girl, bearing as she does a strong resemblance to her siren mother.  Her skin is always smooth and clear and her long hair is naturally resistant to tangles.  Her appearance does not require much maintenance at all.  She stays thin despite eating large quantities.  In that respect Synne does require a lot of food to keep up with her fast metabolism, otherwise she may feel faint.  She is more resistant to the cold than the average human, yet less than her siren sisters.  .  In hot temperatures and an arid climate, Synne will feel quite uncomfortable.  The part-siren girl is vulnerable to overheating.  She has an aversion to the use of broomstick or floo to travel since it can make her feel ill.  Water is her element – not air, earth or fire.  She is very comfortable in the water and is a particularly strong swimmer as well as being a skilled sailor. 

Synnöve possesses a passive type of ‘Siren Allure’ which she cannot stop or control.  Fortunately it is nowhere near as strong as the allure of a full-blooded siren.  For Synne her allure only accentuates her natural beauty, amplifies existing feelings in those around her and exaggerates their responses – thus the subject must already view her with attraction or admiration to be strongly affected.  It generally does not have much influence on women and can be resisted by strong willed people or those who make the effort, in being aware of it, to steel themselves against the effects.  It may make people want to be near her, do things for her or impress her by showing off.  It makes some people more open to suggestion from her, respect her or view her with awe and help them overlook her flaws and indiscretions.  Others may behave foolishly around her, like a drunk who has cast off their inhibitions or someone without any common sense.  On the flip side, Synne can also bring out unfavourable traits in certain people.  They may become more competitive in her presence or jealous or possessive.  In the worst cases, people may argue or fight with each other about her.  At the end of the day, though she is not ashamed of using this ability for personal gain, Synne is frequently frustrated by how people act around her. 

Synne struggles with basic wand magic but is quite talented with hypnosis and illusions.  Unspoken magic is not something she is very good at either since she will always feel the need to verbalise her spells.  She naturally has significant control over her voice and is a stunning singer.  If she uses just the right tone and inflection with her words, she can speak in a commanding voice which tricks many people into instinctively responding with obedience.  Yet this ability is more of a ‘learned skill’ than a magical one (though it is generally made more effective because of her allure).  It doesn’t tend to work very well on people who are leaders or commanders themselves, or anyone with a strong personality. 

The most powerful of Synnöve’s talents is the ‘Siren Song’.  If she actively focuses her magic while singing, she can have a hypnotic effect on anyone listening.  It is not as strong as a full-siren’s song and thus can be resisted or shaken off much more easily.  Even then, the impact she can have is fairly limited.  Synne cannot influence people to do specific things but can create the sensation of a ‘pull’ or ‘draw’ in the listener’s mind which lures them towards her.  Additionally she may be able to make a person feel sleepy or take the edge off of their pain, yet these effects can be tricky to produce and require a lot of concentration on her part.  If Synne herself is experiencing a particularly heightened emotion, such as extreme happiness or sadness, it may be channelled into her singing and the listener may feel a little of what she is feeling.  Synne has been cautioned against singing at school since it can have funny effects on people.

There is obviously potential for a part-siren’s powers to be used to ‘control’ other characters.  However, I do not intend to misuse these abilities and will enter all threads with clear communication, understanding and agreement regarding any involvement of Synne’s abilities in the thread.  Her powers could make for interesting plots but I would only engage in these with the consent of the driver(s) involved.  At all times I intend to write Synne’s posts in a way to allow for responses to be roleplayed freely and as would make sense for the character.  After all, attraction and influence is not an exact science and siren allure can affect people differently.  Personality, environment, circumstances, and existing relationships etc, would all be factors to be considered by other drivers when deciding how their characters would respond to Synne.  She may seem irresistibly beautiful to some, yet merely pretty to others.  Some people may ‘love’ her, still others may hate her on sight.  I do not presume to decide this for anyone. 

Additionally, Synne herself is cautious about thinking she can control people because this has backfired on her in the past with dire consequences.


Future plots:
A few general plot ideas…

Daddy's Little Girl – having never known her father before (and having very little concept of what a father is supposed to be), Synne will be spending a lot of time with Erik.  Beginning as little more than an ‘assignment’ to garner more information about goings-on in the school, Synne will gradually soften towards her father, perhaps even develop genuine affection.  (Either way she will likely have him wrapped around her little finger.)

I Spy – as an informant for her tribe, Synne will be reporting regularly to her clan about any developments she observes at Durmstrang.  Students or staff may take objection to being spied upon. 

Just the Basics – due to her spotty education with her siren clan, Synne will require remedial classes and tutoring in some areas of magic.  It is unlikely she will respond well to finding out some of her skills are no better than those of a First Year student. 

The Bad Student – unfortunately Synne is unlikely to have must respect for school structure and may get in some trouble from the faculty for flaunting rules, encouraging bad behaviour in others, and generally being disruptive.  In particular, Synne may be reluctant to listen to the instructions of male staff.  It could be quite amusing to roleplay how she would respond to being given detention or punishments.  (I find the idea of the part-siren having to shovel dragon dung because of some infraction quite hilarious.) 

A Whole New World – Synne will still be coming to terms with quite a significant culture shock.  Everything at Durmstrang is new and unusual.  She only has a limited understanding of human culture and customs which is sure to cause problems for her.  (What are a part-sirens table manners like?  Etc.)  Further, she will need to overcome her prejudices towards humans, males in particular – as well as their prejudices towards her. 

FAQ – Synne would undoubtedly be faced with a lot of curiosity and questions about her life and clan.  It would be interesting for her to try to explain herself to others. 

Wing-woman – as a result of her abilities Synne is likely to often become unwillingly involved in people’s romantic lives.  However, she is not completely unsympathetic.  She may be convinced to assist other girls with their efforts to gain the attention of particular boys, giving them tips and boosting their confidence.  She may also inadvertently help others discover their sexuality, by noticing how they react to her allure differently.

Parade of Fools – a variety of plots can arise out of having to deal with the antics of people particularly affected by her charm.  Some people attend her like servants.  Others may be made jealous or feel threatened by her which could cause some conflict. 

Not So Cold-hearted – despite being very aloof and regarding her follow students largely with disdain, Synne craves connections and love (although she doesn't know it).  She is very lonely and even if she wished to develop friendships and relationships with her peers, she would face difficulties achieving anything genuine due to the inherent power imbalance between herself and most other people.  Still I look forward to finding someone to melt her heart and it would be interesting to roleplay her complicated relationships. 

The Big Question – as Synne spends more time at Durmstrang and begins to question all the things she has been taught or ever taken for granted, she will become very conflicted about her identity.  She will face pressures to return and commit herself to the clan after completing her schooling.  Ultimately she will have to choose whether to follow a human or siren life. 

RP sample using the feature:

Synnöve sighed, feeling the weight of eyes upon her.  Oh how she tired of constantly being stared at!  Since enrolling at Durmstrang the half-siren always seemed to have an audience, no matter what she was doing.  It was hard enough adapting to a vastly different culture and lifestyle without having to also suffer the constant attentions of people she despised.  Synne missed living with the clan, her sisters…  The pain of that separation felt like a heavy weight inside her chest.  Still she clung to that pain, she nursed the hurt, for it kept her from becoming too comfortable in the human world. 

The sixteen-year-old was frequently lonely at Durmstrang, although rarely alone.  Some of the other students seemed drawn to her, like moths to a flame, and were always hovering around.  If only she could just burn them up!  Humans were, in her opinion, quite worthless creatures anyway.  It was unclear to Synne what she was supposed to be learning from them.  Most of her classes were dreadfully dull; the subjects of little relevance or interest.  However, if it was what her clan wanted, she would do it. 

Yet it was impossible to concentrate on her studies while there were eyes fixed on her every movement!

As she whirled to face the watchers, a sharp swish of Synne’s long hair betrayed some of the frustration simmering beneath her smooth features.  Her voice was soft like velvet - but cold as ice -when she spoke.  “If you're going to hang around, at least make yourselves useful.”  She waved one hand in a dismissive gesture towards the door.  “Go… fetch me some refreshment.”  Multiple sets of feet hurried off to comply, their owners engaging in a brief scuffle over who got the privilege of leading the way. 

Pathetic.

There were moments, brief moments, that the girl wished she could turn off her siren charm.  It was only proper that weak-willed humans should want to serve her, but it could be so tedious.  It was terribly boring to live in a sea of blank and vacant faces.  Yet Synne could just as well wish to cut off an arm; the qualities that lured people to her being a part of who she was.  Thankfully, not everyone who met her turned into a mindless buffoon.  (Sometimes they were jealous or angry buffoons, which was at least more interesting.) 

Synnöve sighed again (a sweet susurration of sound) and raised a dainty hand to her temple.  She could feel a headache brewing as she stubbornly tried to focus on her textbook.  It was no use – the words refused to make sense!  Synne was not going to get any more study done tonight.  Rising gracefully from her seat, she left her belongings where they lay and walked away.  She disdainfully kicked aside a pile of roses that had been laid at her feet for reasons she didn’t entirely understand nor care to consider.  Their petals crushed fragrantly underfoot, releasing their mixed perfumes into the air.

Air.  That was what she needed.  Inside the castle it always felt much too stuffy for her tastes.  Synne needed to feel the wind on her skin.  She slipped through a door to the grounds and into the blessedly cool night.  Unfortunately, to her significant disappointment, it soon became apparent that she was not the only student outside.  Voices carried to her on a breeze; laughter and raucous shouting.  It was Dragobetele night – not that this bore any significance to Synnöve, who was unaccustomed to human customs.  Turning away from the sounds of merriment, Synne placed herself on a path towards the port.  She cared not in the slightest what her fellow students were up to.   Her thoughts were only for the sweet bliss of dipping her feet into the waters of the sea.  When she briefly thought her ears caught the sound of footsteps behind her, she ignored them.

An unearthly scream of shock and rage ripped through the night when Synnöve was suddenly grabbed from behind by unknown hands.  Her shrill screeching abruptly cut off as the bag came down over her head.  Terror washed through the girl in a wave, carrying away all strength from her limbs.  She slumped like a limp doll, barely conscious of the fact that someone had picked her up and was carrying her away.  In that moment Synne was only aware of her own breath rasping against the fabric covering her face, and the frantic pounding of her heart against her ribcage.  She closed her eyes but behind her eyelids scenes from another night played out, of another set of human hands…  Even though the person carrying her had yet to do her any actual harm, Synne easily convinced herself that she was about to die. 

So this was it?  This was how Synnöve Solveigdotter was going to leave the world?  A captive with some old sack over her head?

NO.

Rage bubbled up from her depths.  She was the daughter of the siren, Solveig!  No human could presume to take her so easily.  There was no way the pride of her clan would allow it.  All Synne needed was to find her voice.  Fighting down a sense of suffocation and panic, she made herself take a slow, deep breath and then another.  It was difficult to draw enough air into her lungs through the cloying weight of the cloth but she persevered.  After a minute or two, Synnöve felt she could manage a few powerful words.  She started with a deep hum in her throat, carefully preparing her voice and warming her vocal chords.  It was important to get the tone and inflection just right.  She might only get one chance at this.

"STOP!”, the half-siren’s voice rang with command, even though muffled through the hood.  She thought she felt her captor’s steps falter.  Did it work?  Drawing another slow breath, Synne added another forceful instruction, “Put me down, NOW!"  Everything seemed to sway alarmingly for a second and then the girl felt something firm under her feet again – the ground?  She reached up to tear away the covering from her eyes.  Blinking into the contrasting shadows of the night, Synne tried to make sense of where she was and what was going on.  As her vision picked out more details in the black-against-black, she was startled to recognise the figure standing before her.  What the hell?  Was this supposed to be some kind of prank?  If so, Synne was not amused.  “HOW DARE YOU?!”, she shrieked, indignant, while throwing the bag back in their face.  She could not imagine any way her classmate could justify such a transgression.

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Laura [ OOC Account ]
1995 Posts  •  30
Re: Special Feature Applications
« Reply #241 on: January 22, 2020, 08:34:47 PM »
Name: Olivia
Character name: Grace Howard
Feature you are applying for: Unregistered Animagus | Carrion crow (Corvus corone)
     Identifying marking: Faint white flecks (representing her freckles) scattered across her body


a b o u t   g r a c e
her story:
     
Grace was born to Cedella Howard, a young Magbob/Muggleborn Jamaican woman who had left her home country in search of a different life for herself. Despite not knowing the identity of her well-to-do Muggle father until she was a young adult, Grace was raised by a loving community: dozens of ‘aunties’, ‘uncles’, and ‘cousins’ in the form of their fellow Jamaican neighbors in Lewisham, in addition to her hardworking single mother. Grace learned the value of ‘getting her hands dirty’ early in life – and was stubborn and opinionated, to boot. Despite being teased during primary school for her abundance of freckles, her mother’s job as a housekeeper, or some combination of these, Grace proved to be resilient and fiery. Joining the wizarding world meant a fresh start, and she fell upon the opportunity with alacrity. She formed a few close friendships and became enamored with the possibility of a career Curse Breaking, craving the prospect of adventure, hands-on experience, and needing to think on her feet. At about the same time she began more closely researching the process of becoming an Animagus, and found herself drawn not only to the challenge but also to the opportunities that it, too, would offer her. Since graduation she has lived in at least six different countries, mastered her Animagus training, served as an unofficial informant for the Order of the Phoenix during the Second Wizarding War, been captured by Snatchers, escaped those captors, and been involved with recent plots at Hogwarts including the infamous Dome and Gauntlet as well as – more recently – disappearing ghosts.
     
personality:
     
As the cliché goes, big things come in small packages: the half-Jamaican is not one to be underestimated. She tends to have a strong personality, with a naturally loud (though not with the intent of being obnoxious) and commanding presence. Grace typically prefers to assume a role as a leader; though she isn’t necessarily averse to sitting back and letting others do the work if it’s not something she’s particularly interested in. When it comes down to it, however, she can generally be counted upon to do her share. Don’t expect her to keep her tongue in check if she’s feeling particularly passionate about something: Grace is vocal and outspoken, with a questioning mind and naturally suspicious, mistrustful, and skeptical demeanor. She can be painfully stubborn and almost never backs down from a fight – metaphorical or literal – for better or for worse. Grace has a penchant for impulsivity (at least when it comes to mundane things), and is often of the opinion that it’s better to act first and ask questions later.

Sometimes this can snowball into conflict, at which point her argumentative tendencies emerge; she despises being wrong, and at the extreme she can be outright defensive. It does not help that she – unlike her stoic mum – is easily provoked: the main reason she got into as much trouble as she did growing up, teased about her freckles and her lack of a father figure to the point where she ultimately figured out that punching people in the jaw tended to shut them up pretty quickly. “Get over it” is not a turn of phrase that comes easily to Grace. She has a tendency to be grudge-bearing and she struggles to let go of incidents easily, especially if they were highly emotionally-charged; likewise, positive acts stick with her just as steadfastly.

In her early school years, Grace struggled with self-consciousness. But since she learned she was a witch, her self-confidence skyrocketed; she has since grown into a proud, independent young woman. Ambitious and slightly power-hungry, she greedily drank in all that the magical world had to offer. Unsurprisingly her experiences in both the Muggle and magical worlds have led her to be highly selective – of friends, of whom she places her trust in, and so on – and hard-shelled. With the exception of precious few people, Grace tends to be more self-serving than openly altruistic; she’s not ruthless or cold, but her first instinct is typically not to put others before herself. She is adaptable and resourceful; traits which have served her well on the job.

A likely product of her childhood, Grace often displays frugal tendencies and despises wasteful behavior: this applies to food, money, etc. It irks her to no end when people blow their money on ‘stupid’ things, buy extravagant material objects just to keep up with the Joneses, and deliberately live well outside their means – even though she knows full well that it’s none of her business what other people spend their money on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she is very much the minimalist and is relatively unsentimental. Even now that she makes enough money to indulge on material things if she so wishes, her flat is sparsely but comfortably furnished, and sensibly but cozily decorated. Her closet contents are significantly diminished when compared with the average witch or wizard, and she keeps only a few personal possessions. While not stereotypically a neat and tidy person, she does not like clutter because it is not an essential item and adds nothing of value to her life.


w h y   i t   f i t s
the feature:
     
I’ve been an active member of the MH community for over twelve years, and this will be my very first SF application. It is not something I have taken lightly; I never really had a character that it would ‘make sense’ for, and thus never pursued it. Grace has been a long-term project (as many of my WIPs tend to be) and over the past two or so years that she’s been hibernating in my box, I tried to go ahead with writing her without the feature just to get the wheels turning – but stalled and had difficulty making progress. Once I made the decision to go ahead with the SF, things began to fall more easily into place. Not only did the difficulty of the training fit her personality, but it also provided interesting character development opportunities for her as a Muggleborn navigating the Second World War during her young adult years and also given her line of work.

Her academic interests and strengths lend themselves well to the rationale of pursuing Animagus training. Grace quickly gravitated towards Transfiguration and before long it proved to be her best class, which was only augmented by her dogged pursuit of absorbing all that the magical world had to offer. She is also one of those rare people who held some degree of interest in History of Magic, albeit less about the nitty-grittiness of dates and more about how people lived and what things were like at various points in history. From there, her keen interest in old magic was hardly a stretch, which ultimately led her down the rabbit-hole to Curse Breaking; often described as a variation of Muggle anthropology and archaeology mixed with code-breaking or hacking, it is certainly something that appeals to Grace.

As described above, she is an ambitious young woman constantly seeking to prove herself (whether she realizes it or not); even if she wasn’t particularly interested in the topic for other reasons, the sheer challenge posed would likely be enough to lure her in, if only just to prove that she could do it. Her sense of personal accomplishment (and pride) would be significant motivating factors. At the same time, however, this is not a reckless and rash decision of hers made with no foresight: she knows this is a dangerous undertaking even under the most supervised circumstances, and has thus done her research thoroughly. She has adopted the same approach for her career choice: a calculated adrenaline rush. She craves a challenge and adventure as well as knowledge, but at the same time takes high-risk operations very seriously. Resourceful and unafraid to ‘get her hands dirty’, when the going gets tough one won’t find her turning up her nose. As discussed below being an Animagus is useful for her career path, has served as a helpful means of non-magical travel, and was integral in her escape after she was imprisoned by Snatchers during the Second Wizarding War.

With regard to her pursuit of the unregistered route: Grace harbors a general mistrust for and suspicion of others, and vastly prefers to do things alone more often than not so that none may be privy to her secrets – or her weaknesses. She is quite vocal by nature (and particularly struggles with self-control when she holds a strong opinion) and resents feeling as though she’s at a disadvantage, doing just about anything in her power to allow herself the best possible opportunity for success.
     
the crow:
     
It is said that – as a totem – ‘crow people’ tend to find a balance between cities and wild places, but are often drawn or tied to more urban settings. Described as fearless and insistent, they are relentless in pursuit of their goals in the face of any and all adversity: and often succeed. The crow is said to symbolize intelligence, adaptability, survival skills, resourcefulness, ambition, and cunningness. It also represents change, which may be positive (growth) or negative (destruction).

Like other members of their genus, crows are highly intelligent in a manner that rivals (or matches) most primates: they can discriminate between numerology up to 30, manufacture and use tools, exhibit episodic-like memory, flexibly provide for future needs, exhibit vocal learning, master elaborate tests of object permanence, flexibly switch between rules to make decisions (hallmark of executive control functions), and recognize both human and crow faces. Carrion crows are inherently scavengers but often consume whatever food sources are available, such as insects, earthworms, fruits, seeds, and even small mammals.

In the wild, crows are territorial and will not hesitate to actively harass predators or competitors that get too close for comfort; whether in defense of their offspring or territory, or in an attempt to steal kills from birds of prey or even foxes. They often come together to defend themselves by means of group mobbing behavior, and similarly will occasionally cooperate with other crows to execute kills. Crows are vocal creatures; they tend to choose a high vantage point and call three or four times in rapid succession.


p l o t s

At this point in Grace’s life, historical events hold much of the initial weight and incentive for Grace’s decision to pursue Animagus training and ‘why it fits’ her as a person.

telling her best friend: In her Sixth Year Grace is caught by her best friend, Honey, as she attempts to find a spot to carry out the second phase of the Animagus ritual. This is a thread that can easily be Timeturnered.

‘near misses’: Similarly to above, there are plenty of Timeturner opportunities for ‘near misses’ that Grace has had over the years. These can include instances where she was still undergoing the training, as well as after successful transformation. She is exceptionally secretive about her ability, and would go to great lengths to ensure it stays as such.

the Second Wizarding War: The events leading up to the Battle of Hogwarts provided two key opportunities for Grace to utilize her Animagus ability. The first was as an informant, allied with (but never actually a member of, as she never knew the name) the Order of the Phoenix. Because crows were not traditional messengers in the wizarding world, she was never searched or targeted in the way that owls were, and thus was able to smuggle coded messages with relative success. The second was that her ability to transform was integral in allowing her to escape after she was captured by Snatchers; though she was nearly caught on several occasions. Her escape directly segued into the ‘survivor’s guilt’ she experienced between that moment and the Battle of Hogwarts, and heavily influenced the decisions she made in the interim.

other regional/board-wide events: Grace has been involved with two principal Hogwarts plots to-date: the dome (investigating the ancient magic, then helping evacuate students when it came down) as well as more recently investigating the mysterious disappearances of the resident ghosts. Her Animagus form was helpful for fast and efficient reconnaissance in locating and signaling students needing assistance in the aftermath of the dome; she was able to fly through the castle, and Apparation/Disapparation cannot be accomplished on Hogwarts grounds.
     
There is also ample opportunity for current and future utility.

her career: As a Curse Breaker, Grace faces a myriad of challenges in her day-to-day work. Her ability to transform into a crow would be particularly helpful for reconnaissance, especially when she receives a new assignment or is sent to an unfamiliar region. She would have the literal advantage of a ‘bird’s-eye view’, as well as the ability to communicate with similar avian species to gather useful information about the area. It may also allow her to get past enchantments designed to keep humans out.

current worldwide events: With the political climate out-of-sorts once again thanks to Swedish Minister Nyström, Grace may have an opportunity to reprise her role as an informant and/or messenger. She is wary of being put in such a precarious position for a second time, but could ultimately be convinced given that the threat is not immediately on her home turf. Additionally, her job stations her literally all over the world, thus providing an opportunity to use her abilities in any geographic location.

being ‘found out’: To-date, Grace has somehow (to her knowledge) managed to keep her Animagus ability unknown to others with the exception of Honey. This leaves the door wide-open to possibilities in which her cover is blown, or someone connects the dots and discovers her ability and confronts her in real-time. The discovery could be benign, or used against her as blackmail.


t h e   c r o w   i n   f l i g h t

Agoyán, Ecuador | February 1995

Fixing a beady eye on the entrance to the mountain pass below, the roosting crow did her best to obscure herself among the canopied leaves of the ceiba tree in which she was perched. How long had it been since that Spanish-looking wizard started prowling about? Fifteen minutes? Thirty? She wished he’d just leave already. She didn’t like being followed. She didn’t like other Ministries’ employees knowing she was there, if she could help it.

Not that he really knew she was there, she supposed; only one person knew what she looked like in this form. But her particular species was not native to anywhere in South America, and so she had to tread carefully. Or flap carefully. Whatever. Regardless, Grace had always been more of a ‘work alone’ type; though, when in a good mood, could occasionally be persuaded to play nicely in the sandbox.

The Animagus wrapped her talons around her perch for good purchase and, unfurling her wings, flapped them twice – her corvid equivalent of impatiently tapping her foot. The sunlight caught the purple-green gloss of her feathers, her identifying faint white flecks nearly invisible in the brilliant southern-hemisphere summer (she was just barely south of the equator, after all) but popping back into view under the shade of the surrounding leaves.

Her keen hearing picked up the rustle of wings, sharp eyes zeroing in on the shifting of leaves in a very focused breeze. The branch upon which she was perched swayed slightly as a second added weight settled gently onto it. Grace the crow whipped her head around, eying the newcomer. It was a hawk of some kind, eying her up with what seemed like interest – but in a curious manner or a hungry one, she couldn’t quite discern. She was still getting used to speaking and miming ‘bird’, for crying out loud. She let out a warning quork, posturing to make herself look larger and angrier.
‘My spot. Don’t mess with me. Shove off,’ was the message she was attempting to relay. The hawk tilted its head. She still couldn’t read exactly what was going on, but she didn’t like it. The half-Jamaican ruffled her feathers – and when it still didn’t take the hint, she lunged, jabbing her beak into the empty space between them and flexed her wings in what she hoped was a menacing fashion. With a seemingly indignant squawk the hawk took flight, and Grace sighed internally with relief. She’d conveniently forgotten that some birds of prey went after other birds, and not just small mammals. Thankfully, she’d had plenty of practice telling people to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Fortunately, also, she’d managed to not fall out of the tree this time. Progress!

Resettling herself, the twenty-one-year-old resumed her watch. She wasn’t quite sure why it didn’t occur to her before, but birds in other parts of the world sounded different from her native – almost as though they, too, spoke a different dialect or with an accent, though not quite in the same way as humans did. It was difficult to describe; at the same time, though, Grace was still getting the hang of this whole ‘transforming’ business so it was possible that it was operator error… she didn’t like to entertain the possibility much. Perhaps things would become clearer with time; it wasn’t like she was perfectly fluent in Spanish after seven months in southern Mexico, anyways – not to mention the Spanish spoken in Peru and here in Ecuador were both different dialects, from each other and from that of Mexico City and the Yucatan. She’d only transformed for the first time about seven months ago, as it was. She was already better able to retain her human thought processes than she’d been even last month. Though the sight of insects after a long day did pique her appetite sometimes… yech.

At last, her obstacle to accomplishing her task for the day emerged, blinking, into the February sun. He consulted something from his pocket and set off down the path, perpendicular to where she roosted. Covertly, she watched him go, and a few minutes later and took flight, wobbling only slightly this time as she swooped downward and spread her wings. It had taken longer than she’d liked to admit (and even more crash-landings) to get the hang of the whole process, but things were finally beginning to click. The Curse Breaker stayed relatively close to the trees for her preliminary assessment in case she needed the cover, steadily climbing higher as she felt comfortable.

Right, then, to business. She’d identified a likely cave entrance and marked the location, but before she entered she wanted to scope out at least two-and-a-half miles in either direction – checking for other entrances, any obvious landmarks, any potential barriers (magical and otherwise), and so on. Hopefully she could make short work of it and get back to camp before she got hungry enough to consider eating bugs…

[lau]approved![/lau]

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