Vayne is a sexy shadar-kai swordmage who uses her charms and wits as much as her sword magic.
Level 17 Shielding Swordmage (Sigil Carver)
Above-average Strength (13)
Superhuman Constitution (20)
Above-average Dexterity (13)
Superhuman Intelligence (22)
Low Wisdom (9)
High Charisma (14)
Silver Blade of the Eldritch Knight (paragon-tier item): A longsword +4 that combines the powers of a blade of the eldritch knight with those of a Githyanki Silver Sword.
Farbond Spellblade (heroic-tier item): A slightly shorter (wakizashi style) longsword +3 used for combat at a distance.
Eldritch Medallion (heroic-tier item): As an eldritch medallion +4.
Navigator’s Eyepatch (paragon-tier item): Constructed for the helmsman of a Githyanki pirate ship, this eye-patch grants the wearer darkvision and a +3 bonus on Arcana checks.
Sigil Carver’s Outfit (heroic-tier item): A suit of snakeskin leather armor +4 with the enchantment aegis expansion.
Vayne is of medium height and has a lithe/wiry build with jet black hair, gray/pale skin, and very dark eyes. She is considered by many to be very attractive and “well crafted in an excellent mold that the gods must have broken after she was made.” She is the type to use her good looks and excellent body to her advantage as well, having lulled many an opponent into a false sense of security or deflected biting questions from infatuated contacts.
She has many tattoos, including star-bursts around eyes, dragons on her stomach, and twin ravens on her shoulder-blades. She has four letters tattooed on the knuckles of her hands: V-I-R-I on the right, D-I-A-N on the left. She has been in many battles and suffered many wounds, but the scars she bears tend to be faint if numerous. In the shadar-kai fashion, she once had many piercings but she has removed most of them after the loss of her honored status—in this way, she put that part of her life behind her and embraced a new path. She adds new tattoos and piercings periodically to remember and boast of her achievements.
Vayne’s age surprises most who learn it: she’s 48 years old, but due to the Shadowfell’s dulling effects on her aging process, she looks much younger (perhaps 30). She once had a conversation with Brandis (who is a couple years older but doesn’t look nearly as good) in which she said “Reckon I look better than you did at this age,” and he replied, “Reckon you look better than I did at any age.”
Natives of the Shadowfell, shadar-kai are what some call “adrenaline junkies”—they require extremes of experience to keep them attuned to the physical world and stave off death by melancholy. As a result (and this has been growing worse lately), Vayne shakes from time to time. Battle calms her, as do extremes of pain or pleasure. She has often asked other members of the party to strike her, after which she is again able to focus.
Like other shadar-kai, Vayne is a creature of extremes of expression. She ranges from demure (when she prefers to do much of her conversation with her eyes rather than her lips) to loud and attention-grabbing. She fluctuates from flamboyant overconfidence to cool competence to subtle manipulation. Easily angered and easily depressed, Vayne throws herself whole-heartedly into any emotional state.
Vayne appears to have no shame, and while she is fundamentally good-hearted, she makes no compunctions about manipulating, seducing, and lying her way to success. She often falters, however, when put to the test as to whether she will advance herself at the expense of others–in such a situation, she might advocate the path of least resistance, but eventually turn about and do the right thing, damn the consequences.
Her attitude in this regard is perhaps best exemplified in a recent incident where the heroes had the risky chance to turn aside an earthmote that was hurtling toward a pirate city (one that had not treated us well, incidentally, and was full of the usual scum and villainy). We had the power to do something about it, but only at great risk to ourselves—we’d almost destroyed ourselves much the same way not two hours before. Initially, Vayne said “Sometimes bad things happen to bad people, and we just have to let them,” but after an impassioned plea from Ysabelle, she changed her vote and broke the tie, saying “Let’s be heroes.”
Skills and Abilities
Vayne is a skilled swordswoman, trained particularly in a defensive style that pairs her innate shadow magic with sword magic. She traces sigils in the air with her sword, summoning magical energies, which she then sends toward her foes with her magic. These sigils might take the form of attacks, or (more often) are warding sigils that circle around a creature, diminishing its attacks (aegis of shielding) or deflecting attacks against the warded creature (sigil of safety). Vayne manifests a strengthened swordmage warding (Improved and Greater Swordmage Warding, as well as the Sigil Carver class features) and her protective charm is very powerful (Improved Aegis of Shielding). One wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Vayne is a master of the fine art of calligraphy, which is the foundation of her swordmage style.
As a shadar-kai, Vayne can shed her physical form and manifest a short distance away as a wraith-like “half” of herself (shadow jaunt). Darkness soaks into her—gloom and melancholy that transcends flesh. In this form, she takes less damage from attacks and feels no pain. She feels very little of anything, in fact: pain, emotion, remorse. As noted in personality, above, Vayne is a very different person when in her shadow form—completely uncaring of people’s feelings and capable of truly psychopathic decisions. By exerting her will, she can stay in this form for a while, but the longer she remains a wraith, the less she cares about living. She literally wastes away of melancholy.
Though she doesn’t look it, as a result of her training and her incredible constitution, Vayne might as well be chiseled out of granite. More than one foe has mistaken her for a petite, attractive woman, only to find that she can outlast almost anyone in a physical contest—running, drinking, or stabbing. She seems to like pain, and as she gets more hurt, she only gets more vigorous: she breathes faster, smiles, laughs, and even begs enemies to strike her.
Vayne doesn’t talk much about her past, though she’s shared a few pertinent details with a few of her companions. She hails from Gloomwrought, where she used to serve the old-moneyed House Carradh honorably as a sworn bodyguard for one of the family’s heirs. No matter his scheming, Vayne’s master was never in any danger of inheriting the house from the seemingly immortal Carradh patriarch, so he occupied himself with other diversions to stave off the melancholy of the Shadowfell. He seduced his attractive and willing servant Vayne for his own amusement, and convinced her that he loved her. The two carried on what those in the mortal World might call a very dark relationship built on both pleasure and pain. The Prince was cruel, and Vayne loved him for it.
The game might have been harmless (or at least limited in its scope), had not Vayne become with child: a beautiful shadar-kai girl she named Viridian. Knowing her master’s temper and the stubborn honor of House Carradh (which would be scandalized by one of its heirs romancing “the help,” who wasn’t even human), Vayne hid the child away with caretakers and visited her only rarely. It ended in tragedy, however, when she sneaked away from her duties one day to find her friends slaughtered and the babe gone—the victim of a banderhobb attack. She was inconsolably upset, and it took frequent delves into her shadow form to restrain her overwhelming emotions.
House Carradh (who ostensibly didn’t know what had happened) kept Vayne locked up for her own protection (and that of others) for a full week, at the end of which she finally managed to calm herself. She went back to serving the Prince, which actually lasted for several more years. Time was, as always, fluid in the Shadowfell, but Vayne’s longing ache for her slain daughter only grew and slowed down the time. For his part, the Prince seemed to focus on Vayne more than before, which she initially took as a sign of his love. She came to realize, however, that he was nursing a private jest, which she suspected was at her expense. For her part, she kept seeing little flashes of shadar-kai children, which she interpreted as her mind playing tricks on her. She would invariably go into her shadow form in order to kill any emotional reaction she might have, and kept trying to ignore her senses and intuition.
These images got worse, until one day she could no longer stave them off by being numb. One day, fully ten agonizing years after Viridian’s disappearance, Vayne finally mustered the courage to confront the Prince, he laughingly admitted his role, confident in her timidity and his own superiority. He said she had brought it upon herself, seeking to hide something like that from him. As she stood there, she thought of how he had lied to her for ten years—that he had scorned and betrayed her, had driven her more than a little bit insane, had killed a part of her and let her go on believing he loved her. And through it all, she kept seeing Viridian as she would have been—fully ten years old, laughing and beautiful.
Something in Vayne snapped, and she broke her vows to protect the Prince: instead, she seduced and murdered him.
At that moment, the old, naïve Vayne was dead. And perhaps that moment saw the awakening of the cunning, manipulative genius she would become. She ran, but she did so wisely.
Vayne had to leave the city in a hurry, but she took care to deflect suspicion. This involved inflicting a number of wounds on herself, so as to splash her blood about the bedroom—this she did without hesitation. When the servants found the room, she hoped, they wound assume some outside entity had attacked, slain the Prince, fought with her, then fled with her in pursuit. When Vayne didn’t return, the Carradhs would assume she had either fallen in battle or slain the assassin and summarily killed herself out of grief and honor. In truth, she took what she had and fled the Shadowfell altogether.
Once, she’d been a loved and provided-for servant to one of the richest noble houses in the Shadowfell. Now, honorless, friendless, and bereaved of her child, Vayne wallowed in despair.
Over the next few months, Vayne might have succumbed to grief and faded away into the shadows, but for a chance meeting with an eladrin swordmage called Yldar Nathalan (special guest character from “The Greater Treasure”!) who picked her up out of the dirt and taught her proper swordmagic. She became his apprentice, learning the ways of the shielding swordmage. Previously, she had known only the aegis of assault, a style more suited to the extremes of the shadar-kai temperament. Under Yldar’s serene tutelage, she learned the more patient and subtle craft of shielding swordmagic, as well as meditative techniques that help her control her inner shadow and the refined art of calligraphy as a means of focus and expression. Over the next five years, he nursed her back to emotional health, as he said another beautiful woman had once done for him. Their relationship might have progressed to something more than teacher and student, but as though he sensed what she was about to ask him, he was simply gone one day. He gifted her with one of his swords (his off-hand sword, a wakizashi) and then was gone.
Vayne’s life after that moment (about five years ago) has been a mercenary one—drifting from port to port on the Astral Sea, earning a living by piracy, theft, and bodyguard work. Four years ago, she came to own an Astral pirate ship called the Chromium, which she co-captained with a crude hobgoblin named Ruthchek (who speaks with a flamboyant, guttural accent), but about three years ago he betrayed her and left her for dead, marooned on an Astral earthmote. The disagreement revolves around a drunken game of chance in which the ship became the stakes: she claims she won and he knocked her unconscious and left her behind, while he claims he won and she attempted to seduce him out of his winnings. She soon after took up with a new companion—J’Div, a stormsoul genasi warlord—and together they became traveling planar mercenaries. They became good friends, and Vayne learned to trust again. It had been ten years since the murder that had befallen in Gloomwrought, and no one had ever come after Vayne.
Then one day three months ago she and J’Div took a job with a suspicious silver-haired patron to find a girl named Ysabelle . . . and the rest is an adventure.
J’Div (PC): Vayne’s most trusted and closest friend, J’Div is a gruff, taciturn genasi warlord who is nonetheless inspiring for the words he carefully chooses to say. Vayne and J’Div are very close, having a professional relationship mixed with the personal that makes them almost seem like siblings at times. They don’t always agree but make a good team: Vayne’s goodness provides J’Div a moral compass, while his ruthless pragmatism reigns in her quixotic urges.
They have a certain degree of chemistry, but neither have ever acted on it. Recently, in a fit of gratitude, Vayne said to J’Div: “I’m so proud I could kiss you, would that not cross the unspoken yet understood line in our platonic relationship,” to which J’Div grunted his appreciative assent.
Ysabelle (PC): Ysabelle is a little girl with awesome psychic powers, so it’s not really a surprise that Vayne has bonded so strongly to her. To Vayne, Ysabelle is the little girl she would have had, and she cannot abide any harm to come to her. It’s as much about Vayne as Ysabelle herself—the girl represents an opportunity to do right by her murdered daughter.
Vayne has often introduced Ysabelle to people as her daughter, and factors that into most of their confidence schemes. Quoth Vayne: “I trust you Ysabelle. And I will never let anything happen to you—ever.”
Tristan (PC): Vayne does NOT see eye-to-eye with the paladin of the dead goddess Mystra at all. His decisions are almost always incomprehensible to her and she finds herself constantly gnashing her teeth and shooting witty barbs at him (“How old are dragonborn when they look like you, Tristan? I would have guessed, em, twelve?”), which he deflects without apparent effect. It’s ironic, since of the group, they two are the most moral and have the most in common.
In their duel, Vayne tricked Tristan into thinking she had yielded and promptly kneed him straight in the junk, but he shrugged it off, prompting her to observe “or we could fight some more?”
Brandis (PC): Vayne was initially dubious about this former-thief turned monk, and suspected (quite rightly) that he had ulterior motives for everything he did. They bonded a little after their values were both tested, and discovered that not only were they of a similar age and level of life experience, but they had kindred souls. They are, in a sense, both of them moral pragmatists. Brandis was the first (and so far only) member of the team Vayne has told her whole story too.
Vayne and Brandis have kissed once, at the height of a really desperate battle when he did something incredibly foolish that nonetheless saved all their lives. Afterward, he asked her why she had done so, and Vayne responded: “I don’t know, we were about to die horribly, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Razor (PC, deceased): Vayne saw the psychotic goblin avenger as a very sharp blade to be drawn at need, but was only halfway effective in manipulating him. She was on her way to figuring him out when he met his gruesome, inside-out demise. Probably, it’s for the best.
Ruthchek (NPC): Vayne’s humongous hobgoblin first mate (demoted after he lost the ship in a mutiny, and Vayne promptly recovered it) is ugly and stupid, amazingly strong and hardy, and not afraid to throw his weight around. She keeps him around for just those qualities, and also because they two have an on-again, off-again relationship that is entirely physical (at least from her end). It disturbs the rest of the heroes like nobody’s business. She can usually diffuse him from any pointed line of inquiry by slowly taking her clothes off.
Sunic (NPC): An elf with a divine relic of now-dead Mask, Sunic is an enigma and his relationship with Vayne is even less easily understood. He is Tristan’s sworn nemesis (at least from Tristan’s perspective), who fought the heroes at one point and nearly killed Vayne with his vicious bladework. Being one of the few enemies she has faced who actually put her down seems to have earned Sunic a sort of notoriety in her eyes, as Vayne’s first act after the armistice was declared between the heroes and Sunic was to invite him up to her room, where she promptly seduced him.
Today, they have a dark, low-trust relationship that is nonetheless very close, and Sunic has willingly risked himself (or at least gone substantially out of his way) to help Vayne on more than one occasion, but he also says no to her some of the time. Vayne isn’t sure exactly what need in him she fulfills, nor can she say why she’s so drawn to him. The others are convinced Vayne’s manipulating Sunic, but she does seem to have genuine feelings for him.
As might be suggested by her name, appearance, and behavior, Vayne is an amalgam of three of my favorite femme fatale characters, two from my own writing, and one from a video game: Fox-at-Twilight/Lady Ilira Nathalan (Depths of Madness and Downshadow), Fayne (Downshadow), and (can you guess where I got the naming concept yet?) Payne (from Final Fantasy X-2). She takes Ilira’s keen mind and propensity for lying, Fayne’s seductive/manipulative manner, and Payne’s actual fighting style.
I also imbued, perhaps unexpectedly, a bit of Malcolm Reynolds’ philosophy into her persona: she is pragmatic and keeps pushing to move on—keep flyin’—but she fundamentally can’t let an injustice lie. Coupled with her good looks and tendency to use her body and wits to get her way, she’s kind of the child Mal and Inara might have had. I mean, if she ended up being stuck in a shadow dimension for several decades. :)
There’s also a little bit of Emma Frost in Vayne’s character, particularly in how she handles her wraith form, which cuts her off from empathy and emotion much like the White Queen’s diamond form. She’s also quite snotty sometimes, which is very appropriate.
This is, of course, not to mention my undying fandom of the superstar fantasy artist Luis Royo and his endless illustrations of beautiful (if way over the top) dark fantasy femmes. My portrait of Vayne comes from his Tattoos portfolio and is actually one of his least risqué images, if you can believe that. He’s awesome. Check him out.