Nkadu nem Shajer
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Born the first daughter of the queen of the Shajran Forest Maha’i, Nkadu — referred to by her people as “Ta-Nkadu,” the “ta” indicating royal status — has been aware of her responsibility to her people, for action and example, from a very young age. As the only Maha’i to dwell under trees and located along no major overland travel routes, the Shajran often kept to themselves. In generations past, they had affiliated with Gtarrei to the south, but reluctance to cede independence kept the Shajran on the periphery of Gtarrish influence.

The reason for the old Shajran alliance with Gtarrei had been their vulnerability: they had alway borne the brunt of the slave trade to Thanor due to their location. In recent memory, though, such activity had lapsed. Now, however, privy as she was to matters of state, Nkadu heard speak of renewed and hastened raids. Gtarrish patrols regularly swept the seacoast between Laishtek and Kvahhek, but the region’s sparse population, the Gtarrish navy’s limited resources (especially materials for their skyships), and the loose confederation of Shajran clans meant that there were always gaps in protection.

As she grew older, Nkadu underwent the traditional training for Shajran royalty — care of the forest and its residents, taking on other shapes — hearkening back to their legendary ancestor, Ta-Nzuvahi, said to have defeated by trickery an evil army that threatened the forest during the last Dark Times. She also fulfilled her first royal duty beyond succession: bearing and weaning future heiresses of the throne, three in all, in addition to three sons. All the while, she held her tongue as each new proposal proved ineffective against the threat. The slavers were craftier, better equipped, and faster than any response the Shajran could manage.

After weaning her third daughter, she requested that she be given leave to lead a small detachment on the coast to perhaps thwart the slavers, in addition to bringing back information for use in council. Her keen observation skills proved invaluable to improving the Shajran response to the raids, but Nkadu was not satisfied. She shocked the queen and her council by announcing that she would travel to Gtarrei to train with the Order of Faris Attineen… and, with permission of the queen and council, to offer resources and even forces to support Gtarrish anti-slavery patrols, and even to go on the offensive, to recover those already taken. Had she made this request earlier, it would almost certainly have been denied, but her dutiful service as heiress and defender had enhanced her reputation enough that she was permitted to depart, with only a few dissensions.

She arrived in Gtarrei with an emissary of her mother’s, who presented the tokens of the Shajran queen and the oral introduction and recommendation that Nkadu be accepted for training. (Literacy is not common among the Shajran.) Most of this preparation was unneeded, though: despite rumors, the Order tends to accept those Maha’i who are willing to act with honor and integrity, regardless of sex or tribe. Indeed, they were enthusiastic to admit their first Shajran Maha’i in decades, assuring that more could come if they wished. Under their tutelage, Nkadu not only learned to read and write, but also the methods and manners of a paladin. After she passed the first stages of her training, she sent further invitations to several of her patrolmates, who joined her.

She received some resistance when she insisted on modifying the oath she was to take before embarking on her first assignment. For one, she declared that her duties to the Order would not always supercede her duties to her people. After hearing her appeal, and in recognition of her authority as future ruler of her people, the Hierarch of the Order, Ghetrenk, laid down a compromise: her assignments for the Order would be for the benefit of her people, thus fending off conflicts.

Another request was also contentious: unlike most paladins of the Order, she would not swear not to lie. Her people had never had the luxury of martyrdom, she argued; even in temporarily deceiving an enemy can one serve the cause of truth, and honor came from ensuring survival, freedom, and moral treatment of other beings. Indeed, was not shapeshifting itself a form of deception? She would not surrender her skills and her people’s ways. Knowing how helpful shapeshifters could be for their cause — druids were uncommon elsewhere in Maha’i lands — the Order searched for another option and rediscovered a seldom-used set of oaths that met Nkadu’s approval. (As a member of the Order, Nkadu is called “Fas Nkadu,” “fas” being the Order’s honorific.)

And they were glad they had, for the druidic training of their Shajran recruits — and the access to lumber the forest allowed to be taken — began to turn the tide on the slavers in Gallidus. After they successfully diverted a number of raids and even captured some ships, some Gtarrish ships began crossing to Thanor, leaving Shajran druids to perform reconnaissance on and sabotage slaver activities there in preparation for future liberation efforts. Nkadu herself carried out a number of these missions, but primarily enjoyed her post on a skyship in Gallidus, close to home.

That is, until she heard the rumor, in a Tawruian shrine on a stopover in Laishtek, that Darkcrest had fallen. She brought the word to the Order and asked for an assignment to investigate the truth of the rumors. Thus she crossed the sea and came upon a city burned…

Personality Notes

Nkadu, now in early middle age (think mid-30s), is used to operating in circles of power: fulfilling duties to curry favor with those over her, directing those under her, and asserting herself when she feels the situation requires it. While she honors the values of her heritage, she is unafraid to propose changes when she believes that survival and improvement necessitate innovation.