Name: Alyona Valeriya Strigidae (born Алёна Валерия Tytonidae)
Alias: Unholy Bastard of Ivan; The Lost Grayl; The Unholy Cleric
Weight: 132 lbs
Hair Color: Dark Brown
Eye Color: Light Blue
Species: Human (w/esoteric attachment)
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Occupation: Huntress; Assistant (Mina Harker)
Theirs is a dualistic family with history on either sides of the European continent. One, an ancient clan with origins reaching back to the days before Christ. The other, a lost name. A family of Russian nobles who, during the time of Ivan the Terrible, came under scrutiny of the paranoid Tsar and soon became a target of the Oprichniki, merely for their status. The Massacre of Novgorod is still widely considered the most vicious and brutal campaign in the history of the oprichnina, due to the number of casualties and extreme level of violent cruelty involved. In this, the family name was nearly extinguished; however, a brother and sister were able to escape. Their flight carried them, over time, to England.
In the Queen’s Country, they struggled as urchins on the streets, surviving on what amounted to crumbs per day. It appeared that they would slowly starve in this faraway land, were it not for a wealthy family offering employment including possible room and board in exchange for work. To do so, they need only forsake their family name completely and take on that of a new name to denote their worldly status. And so they did. They became Tytonidae, in service of the Family Strigidae.
"Oderint dum metuant - Let them hate, so long as they fear."
The Strigidae family, they soon discovered, were an ancient and very well-connected clan of vampires and practitioners of the dark arts, perched atop a hoard of ill-gotten riches accumulated over many generations.
Now Tytonidae were a part of that family. Humans of various families, from noble houses both standing and fallen to society’s dregs with nowhere else to turn. Family Strigidae represented opportunity, shallow though it may have been. Once accepted, members were “reborn,” and inducted into one of two castes. The “True Family,” Strigidae, enjoyed all of the benefits the family name could grant, along with a heightened sense of responsibility. Tytonidae, “Barn Owls,” were those human and otherwise who shared in more menial tasks. Still falling under the Strigidae family, they shared the same crest and were allowed certain privileges and allowances, but their position was ever clear and there were no opportunities for growth. The class in which you were born was the class in which you would die.
Until Ivan. For generations the enterprising Strigidae built itself with the ultimate goal of connecting itself at various key points over the globe, just as a spider’s web from which no-thing shall escape. Eventually, those descended from a certain family were even “allowed” to return to Russia, to set up a stronghold in Saint Petersburg during the reign of Peter the Great. But with distance came deviance. Eventually, an affair between members of family Strigidae and Tytonidae brought forth a child, and he was called Ivan. Ivan the Bastard was raised as Tytonidae. Despite his blood, considered half-noble, he shared the same privileges and responsibilities as all Tytonidae, no more.
When he reached age 11, Ivan experienced a radical change. He discovered a “gift.” The nature of it is unknown, and accounts vary widely by individual, but it is largely believed to be a spirit that attached itself to the boy for some reason or other. Although he long desired more power and agency, Ivan served dutifully in his role, until he reached manhood. Until he found his Holy Grayl.
Strigidae were a powerful family indeed, but they were not without their enemies. Among the most notable of these enemies were the Grayl family of monster hunters. Although their fame had waned since generations before as a result of “tainted” blood, they were as persistent as ever, and remained a formidable threat, due in part to a generational curse of their own. Ivan took it upon himself to use his gift not merely in service of his family, but to increase his status within. His methods were brutal, especially so when dealing with Grayls. Charismatic, powerful, and above all clever, Ivan levied a debt on his own family through careful management of situations including outright extortion to make himself a necessary function. In doing so he earned the Strigidae’s respect, and their name.
Even after Ivan’s death, he continued aiding the family’s expansion. Following his death, one child in every generation was born with a hidden power, deemed “Ivan’s Legacy,” manifesting just as it had before, at age 11. And from then on, no matter what one’s prior station, if one displayed such gifts they were an incredible asset in the eyes of the family. Through this method, Tytonidae could become Strigidae, and any member could achieve among the highest honors and privileges, as well as responsibilities.
Following in Ivan’s footsteps each bearer of the legacy is expected to contribute abundantly to the well-being and continuing expansion of the family. They receive the best schooling and training available, including many hours each day under private tutors. Caretakers are to ensure the bearer is both physically and mentally fit: he or she must not simply be physically capable, but must also show mastery of various common and uncommon fields of study. They must learn perspicacity enough to temper the hot heads that often come with wielding privilege and power. This is so that they may continue to operate without excessive scrutiny in any environment. When acting in questionably legal ways, they must never be caught, and leave no direct traces which can be followed back to the family.
The Lost Grayl – Ivan’s Unholy Bastard
Continued campaigns against one another by Families Grayl and Strigidae foster continued and often more drastic displays of abhorrence. During one such conflict, a Strigidae managed to capture a Matilda Grayle. Rather than killed, she was spirited out of England back to Saint Petersburg. There she underwent extreme conditioning for the purpose of physically and mentally breaking her.
And then, as though she were nothing at all, she was made a Tytonidae servant. Stripped of the noble name of her family.
But she was not alone. During her time in Saint Petersburg, Matilda became pregnant with the child of a Strigidae. A girl, and once the girl was born she followed suit with her mother. She was called Алёна Валерия Tytonidae.
‘Twas a worrisome time for Strigidae following this. Ivan’s Legacy went missing. As the children of the next generation grew older, the gift which so consistently manifested itself in virtually the same time in the children’s lives simply…didn’t manifest. The predominant theory was that the Legacy…simply died, as a result of the “unholy union” involving a Grayl.
On the contrary, the Legacy was in fact borne upon the child, Алёна. For unknown reasons it manifested later for her than all the others, at 14, but as soon as it did, she became the next vital instrument for furthering their influence and power. Her name, now anglicised and including acknowledgement of her ascension, is Alyona Valeriya Strigidae. Alyona was promptly shipped to London, where she has spent the last few years of her life, studying so that she may truly earn her name and place, and to prove herself worthy of Ivan’s Legacy. Now pushed single-mindedly toward her destiny, with every action the last words her mother ever communicated to her echo within her mind like a sacred prayer:
"Family above all."
The Unholy Cleric – Powers and Other Abilities
A result of her Strigidae heritage, and most likely a random chance. Alyona was also born of a woman named Grayl and is as such considered a mistake. But Ivan's Legacy lives within her. Although she is, on her own, but a mere human, with the power bestowed by her familial "blessing" and her work at Madam Harker’s school she is much more. This has led to her self-proclaimed title, "The Queen of Darkness," while others know her as The Unholy Cleric.
It is of paramount importance for the inheritor of the legacy to be in exceptional physical and mental condition. In many circles and disciplines, these are thought to be separate paradigms, but a Strigidae must learn these things both separately and as one whole. Study of the mind, of anatomy and physics are crucial elements in combat just as the art of striking itself; the combatant is far better for knowing where and when to strike as well, how hard, and with which tools. Knowledge of the body along with combat tactics and techniques make her an efficient killer; practical understanding of physics and body mechanics (and a practised measuring of distance) ensures sharper throws with ranged weapons and placement when leaping around the city’s buildings. Indeed, every area of study and practise is made to blend seamlessly with the others.
Alyona is reasonably strong for her build, roughly above average for one of her condition engaging in regular exercise. But compared to other trained combatants she appears less so, as her training centres primarily on speed, agility, endurance (stamina) and technique rather than a lack of strength for which she could never compensate. Although merely human, her speedy and fleet-footed movements have been likened more to a cat, or even some of the creatures she hunts for a living.
Her low birth and the late manifestation of her infernal gift make Alyona relatively inexperienced compared to past bearers of the same and many of her contemporaries, as she had not been trained at all until she arrived in London. However, she has displayed a certain aptitude for physical activities and indulged wholeheartedly in her studies once presented with the opportunity to break out of the mould set since her birth. Trained in marksmanship, swordsmanship, the art of throwing knives, and hand-to-hand combat, she blends all of her abilities into a singular adaptive style which, aside from its base, is intended to pull utilities from various other persons and their styles as she comes across them. It is a style founded upon practical principles and active practise rather than rote memorization of techniques. A style that, through active observation and adaptation even in the heat of battle, would allow her to become progressively better as she learned opponents’ patterns.
Alyona’s growing mastery of this “style of no-style” allows her to alternate rapidly, flowing seamlessly from one tactic to another including fighting in the “in-between phases” where most fighters may break in order to reset positions without a thought for offence or defence, as well as alternating between various facets of armed and unarmed combat with virtually no delay, even holding her own in combat with multiple opponents.
She has trained for concerted study of the mind both alone and in combat, in able to discern meaning behind various looks a singular enemy may give, gestures made in the midst of combat, actions and reactions in response to various stimuli before and during the commencement of a fight. All while utilizing deceptive looks, feints and other maneuvers, varying her own patterns and cadence, setting up variable “forks” designed to trap an opponent. These actions force opponents to react one way or another, and she uses this to inform her alternative attacks.
Perhaps her greatest specialisation, Alyona is already a veritable master of stealth. She is more difficult to detect in shadow or at night, becoming more obscured the further light is from her body, blending with the shadows themselves. She may vanish at the slightest distraction or broken line of sight. At times, disappearing from view, she may seem to vanish into seemingly impossible spaces and reappear somewhere else entirely with no plausible explanation for how she travelled so far so fast at all, let alone without being seen. This leads some within the realm of knowledge to theorize the inheritors of Ivan's Legacy travel through (and perhaps dwell within) a solitary realm of shadows accessible only to them. Mastery of stealth is routinely combined with lethal speed to infiltrate a location, kill a target and escape without being seen. Meanwhile drawn-out confrontations become a two-front battle of both physical and mental warfare as the Russian Phantom forces opponents into a state of mental/emotional confusion and frustration, leading many to adopt less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in foes becoming over-aggressive, tentative, or otherwise making mistakes.
Aside from stealth purposes, by wrapping herself in a crystallized shroud of shadows, she may form the likeness of clothing and other constructs, most commonly a layer of ablative armor to compensate for her relative durability disadvantage compared to many of her peers. Although such articles of clothing and constructs may only appear in various shades of black and grey, the variance may prove enough to facilitate escape via confusion, should Alyona manage to lose a pursuer inside of a large crowd.
Despite what it offers, there is one fatal flaw in this lineal gift, a weakness which simply cannot be overcome—sunlight. A human such as herself suffers nothing at all with exposure to the sun, but finds herself greatly diminished compared to her full capabilities. Her powers may still serve where the shadows are superbly heavy, but directly in the light of day and where they are light, she can do naught but form light armor or garments. During these times she must rely solely on her training, but for this reason, while in pursuit of more dangerous prey she hunts almost exclusively at night.
Alyona wears a pair of gauntlets which used both offensive, defensive, and utilitarian purposes. The gauntlets themselves are made of leather and steel. An outer layer of leather covering a hidden underlayer of steel circling her wrists and forearms in separate but linked pieces, in order to prevent attacks upon her arm which may in combat disarm her or remove the arm entirely (while simultaneously maintaining mobility and comfort), and another layer of leather beneath. The steel, in addition to knuckles reinforced by brass, account for more damage when striking to make up for her disadvantages in size, strength, and power. Aside from these utilities the gauntlets also house other implements for combat and travel purposes. At the moment, these include:
- Dual wrist-mounted blades of silver
- Steam-powered grapnel launcher with detachable fiber cable
- Attachment allowing interchange between grapnel and a steam-powered dartgun allowing both lethal and nonlethal toxins.
- Two swords. One, a deceptive cane-sword made of steel, useful for dealing with man and sturdy enough for combat with others, resistant to physical damage. The other, a collapsible sword of silver. While silver is not quite as durable as steel, it has utilities for a huntress facing werewolves, vampires and the like. The latter sword folds in on itself for easy concealment and surprise deployment on unknowing foes.
- Dual revolvers commonly loaded with silver bullets for various kinds of monster. Also loaded with iron bullets for spirits and witches.
- Thokcha kukri. A gift from a Buddhist monk for use in, and as thanks for, clearing a grand temple of malevolent spirits conjured by a witch in Tibet. Thokcha, otherwise known as sky-iron, comes from meteorites and is said to have been tempered by the celestial gods in its passage across the heavens, endowed with magical and protective power.
Contains throwing knives as well as additional ammunition and toxins for other weapons.