The Phoenix of Llael
Spy and Sorcerer of the Llaelese Resistance
Gayle Vandyse is the younger sister of Jonas Vandyse, last surviving members of the Vandyse family of Steynkeep, descendants of the third line of Doyle Vandyse. Her family held the Barony of Steynkeep. As an aristocrat of the failed state of Llael, she travels the countryside hoping to find lost family and friends, and to raise funds for those who have lost their homes and their ways of life.
Or at least that’s her cover story. When the armies of Khador swarmed across the Black River, she fled with her brother, Jonas, making a long and circuitous journey to the Llael stronghold of Rhydden. Once settled in Rhydden, the two siblings joined up with the resistance. Jonas rose quickly in the ranks of the local resistance leadership, and Gayle proved adept at gathering information, money and additional support in field operations. The brother-sister team gained notoriety in discovering the means of breaking the Aleksi Code, rescuing the captured daughter of Mago Matys, and swaying the allegiance of the Mad Trollkin of Tadash.
These accomplishments have brought them to both to the attention of factions within the resistance. Jonas recently introduced Gayle to Nash Henryn, a member of the Knights of the Black Hills. Nash has heard much of the brother-sister combo, and has offered Jonas a permanent position in the order, if Gayle will join with a band of new recruits and prove their mettle – and her own.
Ilyana Rachlavsky – Khadoran agent sent to negotiate the exchange of the daughter of Mago Matys.
Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors
Gayle is dedicated to the Llaelese cause. She will not rest until the Khadoran troops have been pushed out of her homeland.
In a fight, she is skilled with the aristocrat’s weapon of choice, the rapier. But she excels in intelligence and resource gathering, by charm or by intrigue.
Gayle was raised in the Church of Morrow, but she is shaken by the failure of the Church and its champions in Cygnar to save her people. She finds the appearance of the Harbinger of Menoth to be a sign, and she welcomes the Protectorate of Menoth into the lands of Llael to save their way of life.
Or at least that’s what everyone who knows her believes.
In truth, Gayle’s real name is Alanna Dyvacci. The Dyvacci family was one of the leading noble families of Riversmet. They fought to hold the city against the Khadoran army, and Alanna believes them to have been slaughtered in the aftermath, her family home destroyed.
But Alanna was not in Riversmet on that day – nor had she been in years.
Alanna Dyvacci – Spring of her 9th Year, 598 AR
Alanna liked it when her friends were able to visit, while all the parents had wine in the atrium. However, she did not count Ennys Badrigio as a friend. As a Badrigio, he was full enough of himself as it was. But the loud-mouthed little giant was almost a foot taller than most of his 10-year old peers, and so he always made a big show of being in charge.
And so it had been his idea to take her 7-year old brother, Mylo, and his 5-year old sister, Henna, up into the Haunted Tower. A relic from the Orgoth occupation, the decrepit ruin was off limits to children – which of course meant that Alanna had climbed the moss-covered, crumbling stairs to peer over the crenelation twice now. But she would have thought hard about taking Mylo along, and there was no way she would drag along a small creature like Henna. If Rowan had been here, she knew he would have put a stop to this silly adventure. Her older brother had started imitating the adults in his preaching about this rule and that rule, but in this case, she would have welcomed his interference. Ennys would have backed down from Rowan. Faced with this little band, however, he had easily gotten his way.
Last night’s rain made the stone stairwell no easier to climb. Mylo slipped twice, and cut his knee — no more than a scrape, but they had to stop on the third landing while Mylo had a good cry over it. By the fourth landing, Henna kept desperately pulling on Ennys’s leg or Alanna’s arm complaining she was tired and wanting to be carried. Ennys finally slapped her across the face and told her she could wait on the stairs for him to return or come along silently. She collapsed in a heap, wailing and crying, and Ennys just turned and continued up the stairs.
Alanna made sure Henna wasn’t really hurt, and then managed to get her up to the next landing. “Mylo, sit with Henna for me. I’m going to check on Ennys – we’ll be back for you.” Mylo opened his mouth to protest, and then decided that maybe he was tired of climbing, too. He simply nodded and knelt down next to the girl.
What Alanna wanted to do was charge up the stairs and punch Ennys in the face. But she knew the final climb of stairs were some of the worst. Time had worn gaping holes through some the tower walls, and a tumble on the uneven stairs could send you plummeting to the ground. So she took her time to reach the top, and the hard work of navigating the twisting wreck of steps allowed her anger to diffuse. Punching Ennys in the face would probably not end well for her – she didn’t think Ennys was very chivalrous.
Alanna reached the rotten hole where the trap door used to provide entrance to the parapet, and pulled herself up. Ennys tossed an old stone off the side of the tower. “Took you long enough,” he snorted. He watched the hole expectantly, and then frowned. “Where’s my sister?”
“Still crying from being left by her older brother,” she snapped back, her blood starting to rise again. She knew Ennys was in a foul mood, but she was tired of his bullying.
“You left her alone?” Ennys crossed his arms and glared at her. “You’re a girl! You should have stayed with her! I can’t help a cry-baby.”
Alanna stomped towards him, her finger thrust to his face. “You’re her brother. You’re supposed to watch out for her… not hit her!”
“Badrigios don’t cry! She has to learn that,” Ennys grunted, swatting her finger away.
Alanna poked him in the chest, “Badrigios are cowards that beat on little girls and gobbers.” Everyone knew the story about Badrigios and the gobbers, but no one in polite company ever mentioned it.
Ennys grabbed her wrists angrily and pulled her towards him. “You take that back!”
Alanna stomped on his foot and tried to free her arms. “Gobber mobber, gobber mobber, gob—”
Ennys swung Alanna around and pushed her towards the gap in the crenelation. “Shut up! Shut up!” Alanna freed an arm and grabbed the stone wall, but Ennys used his free hand to club her in the face. She felt herself stumble backwards. “Stop!” she screamed.
Ennys knocked her to the ground. Alanna felt her head dangling off the edge of the parapet as the giant boy climbed on her, grabbed her throat and raised his hand to hit her again.
“Get off!” Alanna screamed, tugging instinctively at something deep inside her. As Ennys’ fist came down to bludgeon her, a massive gust of wind roared across the top of the tower. Alanna watched in surprise and fear as Ennys’s eyes widened and his whole body was lifted off her — and over the edge of the parapet.
Alanna couldn’t sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw Ennys’s shocked face, his eyes looking like they would burst from his head. She heard his scream ring in her ears. She kept seeing him fall and fall and fall, then his head explode like a ripe melon with a sickening thud on the crumble-down blocks.
The afternoon had been a blur. She told them how he had been showing off on the crenelation, jumping and balancing, daring her to follow. How she had begged him to stop. She recalled Conte Badrigio, drunk on wine, yelling at his son’s corpse for being a clumsy buffoon, while the Contessa wailed in grief. Little Henna whimpering that he got what he deserved for hitting her, which in turn earned Henna a severe beating from her father. The scolding she got from her own father and mother for entering tower, and dragging her own brother and the Badrigios with her. The Badrigio entourage departing with an escort of mourners.
Dinner was late and cold. Her father and mother urged her to tell them the story again. She repeated her tale, and her parents looked at each other. Mylo had seen her and Ennys, they said. Seen Ennys thrown off her and over the wall. Mylo had been coming up behind her. He hurried when he heard the shouts. But she’d told him to stay with Henna, she insisted. He had to have stayed with Henna. Never mind, they said. What happened? She burst into tears. It poured out of her in a flood. The climb. The fight. His fists pummeling her. Feeling like she would fall. The sudden wind. She knew she had called it. It made no sense, but she knew it somehow. She had killed him. The silence. Her mother crying – trying to hide it but failing. Her father, the Duca, letting out a long sigh that made the candles flicker. Her mother with a choked mutter that it was okay. Her father taking her hand, reassuring her. You did the right thing. Thank you for telling us the truth. Not having an appetite any more. And asking to be excused.
Now she was hungry and tired. Not being able to sleep, she decided to see if she could at least cure her hunger. She climbed out of bed and quietly opened the door to the hall. With any luck, some of that Dhunian pepper cheese was still fresh. It made her mouth water to think of pairing that with a chunk of the brown bread from the Hoagbarth bakery.
Voices came to her from the great hall. It was late for her father to be entertaining guests. She crept towards the doors, hoping to see who was there.
“This is an enlightened city, Uncle,” she heard her brother, Rowan, arguing. “We don’t burn witches anymore like the ruffians in the countryside.”
“Oh, sure boy,” her uncle Vyctor Petrozzi retorted. “You city-folk love your jack masters and show wizards. But see how open-minded they are when they find out a witch killed a noble’s boy.”
A witch killed someone? she wondered. She forgot about the cheese and bread.
Rowan wasn’t giving up. “Well, he deserved it. Attacking a girl child? Why, if I’d been there, I’d have thrown him off the tower myself.”
“Pshaw!” exclaimed her uncle. The voice of her father cut them both off. “And if you had, Rowan, you’d be dueling the Conte’s brother in the morning. I’ll hear no more such talk.”
She felt like she’d been punched in the gut. Noble’s boy… the conte… off the tower… I’m… I’m the witch?
“Alger, there’s no sense in keeping her here,” her uncle spoke more softly, pleading. “It’s the Petrozzi blood in her. Let me take her to our estate. She’ll be safe there. And we’ll teach her —”
“Safe, Vyctor?” Alger Dyvacci interrupted. “Like Kateryne?”
“That’s not fair, Alger,” her uncle started.
Rowan jumped in, “What’s grandmother got to do with it?”
“Later,” her father said sharply.
Alanna’s head was buzzing. They think I’m a witch. I killed a Conte’s son. They want to send me away. I’m in danger. Why didn’t I just stick to my story? Stupid, Mylo. Why didn’t he just wait like I told him!
Her father’s voice broke in on her thoughts. “… no, Vyctor, you’re right, of course. I just don’t like it. And Sabina will be beside herself. She’s been in the chapel since dinner.”
“I know,” her uncle replied. “But she knew this day might come – for any of them.”
“And she’s been living in dread of it ever since your mother died,” her father said. “But she will come around, too. I’ll tell her in the morning.”
“And Alanna?” asked Rowan, rawness in his voice. “When will you tell her?”
“Tomorrow morning, as well” replied her father.
“Or you could tell her now,” injected her uncle. “She’s standing outside the door."
Alanna gasped, and considered running. But her father called her name, and she sheepishly entered the hall.
The Petrozzi Family Legacy
The Gift of Magic
Windybrook was a rural and relatively secluded estate. The people of Windybrook held the Petrozzi family in high esteem, and so turned a blind eye to the family’s history of magic use – so long as it was not abused. Godwyn Petrozzi had received the Gift of Magic during the time of the Orgoth Rebellion, and had used it to the service of those who would come to form the nation of Llael. For his service, he was given the lands around Windybrook, and the title of Barone.
Since then, a number of Petrozzi family members have been granted the Gift of Magic. Each generation has worked to learn more about their powers – how to control them, to hide them, to develop new spells, and to make their spells more powerful.
Alanna spent six years working with her Uncle to learn to become master of her powers, so she would not call them out of fear or emotion again. She read the family lore and histories, and researched her ancestors’ spells, to see if she could replicate them. Vyctor showed her how to secretly enter and exit the family’s trove of knowledge, hidden deep beneath the manor house. Creena instructed her on the role of a noble lady at court, and among her peers. Alanna’s aunt taught her how to blend in – and how to stick out.
Alanna thinks back fondly on those days as some of the finest of her young life.
And then her world came crashing down.
The Khadoran Invasion, 604 to 605 AR
The shock of the invasion had been life-altering in its own right. Windybrook was mobilizing for war. Her aunt and uncle left Alanna to her own devices as the manor saw to the levies and provisioning. Her cousins Rygan and Kell marched off to join the fray – only to both die at the hands of the Khadoran army. Refugees sought shelter as they fled the fighting.
The news of the sacking of Riversmet was devastating. Her father, her mother, her brothers Mylo and Rowan, her sisters Emma and Derry… all slaughtered – or worse – fed to the doom reavers. Her uncle raged about the manor. It was all her aunt could do to keep him from riding off the very minute he got the news.
The razing of Riversmet sent panic throughout Llael. It was under these circumstances that the Petrozzis agreed to take on Jonas Vandyse as a ward.
The Vandyse family of Steynkeep knew its duty was to defend the village, and would fight. But alone against the flow of Khadorans rushing across the Black River, the outcome was not promising. To keep the third line of Doyle Vandyse in tact, they sent their youngest son, Jonas, to their friends, the Petrozzis, to carry on the family name if things should go badly.
And they would. Despite the Vandyse’s best efforts, many of the military units around Steynkeep broke and fled. The Khadoran occupation was swift, and left the village mostly in tact. But reports from refugees were that the surviving Vandyse were all executed after the battle. Jonas was alone.
This mutual grief would allow Alanna and Jonas to quickly become close friends. They practiced at sword play, solved puzzles and riddles, and conspired about how they would avenge their families.
As the war came to an official end, the Llaelese resistance was born.
The Llaelese Resistance, 606 AR to Present
Vyctor Petrozzi was determined to make life as unpleasant as possible for the Khadorans. He organized several of his fellow nobles in exile and set off to punish the Khadorans wherever possible.
Before leaving, he placed upon Alanna the duty to carry on the legacy of Godwyn Petrozzi. “Ulfass will inherit my title, but you are the heir to our family’s power.” Alanna promised to carry forward the knowledge to the next generation, but inside she knew her uncle would return. He would savage the Khadorans, and she and Jonas would soon ride at his side.
But Vyctor did not return. After nine months of successful raiding, an ambush on a warcaster went horribly wrong. Her uncle was captured, tortured, and executed as a traitor to Khador. The Khadorans issued an order to burn his lands and kill his family. Fortunately, Windybrook was not immediately within reach of the empire. But the family took no chances.
Alanna’s aunt Creena left with Vyctor’s heir, Ulfass, to stay with relatives in Cygnar. Alanna did her best to seal up the knowledge and lore of the family in the secret chambers beneath the manor. Then she and Jonas agreed to set out for the rebel city of Rhydden. Together they agreed that she should take on the persona of his lost sister, Gayle. And so they set off, as brother and sister, to seek their vengeance.
Alanna was raised by her family as a Morrowan, and her uncle and aunt taught her how to keep up the appearance of being a casual observer of the faith. But coming into the Petrozzi family and its legacy of magic in her formative years, she became a believer in Morrow’s twin sister, Thamar. She adheres to the philosophy that good ends may justify unsavory means. (In a traditional alignment system, she would likely be chaotic good.)
She worshiped with a small Sept in Windybrook, but has not yet found a new Sept to join, given the chaotic nature of Rhydden, and is not actively seeking one, because she believes she is destined to find her own path to ascension by Thamar now.
She carries with her a small talisman of Scion Delesle, which she believes grants her wisdom and luck in her desire to overthrow the Khadoran tyrants who have taken her homelands. But she also prays to Scions Aidan and Stacia, for cunning and for vengeance. Alanna does not yet wear the Ternion Brand of Thamar – her uncle never fully explained it to her, and she is unaware of its full significance.