Petra Nephalti

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Her name was Petra Naphtali of the Aspen Merchant Guild. That’s more than she revealed to most people. She was from a family of successful merchants. Her parents primarily dealt with fine cloth and spirits, but also brought in sugar cane and citrus from the southern islands. They were respected for their business savvy as well as their charity. In their mind, the more people they helped out of poverty the more costumers they would have in the future.
Because her parents were loved by the low class and respected by the high class they were constantly privy to the endless supply of rumors and gossip Sharn City has to offer. Most of the time it was trivial things like some Countess caught in an affair or third hand accounts of sighting the Governor leaving a house of disrepute.

One hot morning when the market was at it’s fullest Petra was running an errand for her parents. Ahead of her, a woman moved frantically through the crowd, face ashen. Petra thought she saw guards wearing the emblem of the Church of the Holy Flame moving through the crowd as well. While distracted by the guards, the woman crashed right into Petra, knocking the both of them to the ground. Petra recognized the woman as a Baroness from a dinner party her family had recently attended. The woman likewise recognized Petra, or most likely she saw the echo of Petra’s mother. After a quick moment of decision, the Baroness pressed a small package into Petra’s hands. “Take this to your parents and keep it safe until I can return for it.” The woman whispered. Before Petra could respond the Baroness was off again. Her body was found dead in an alley before the sun had set. Thieves they said.

Petra’s parents did not not know what they should do about it, but the whole family was obviously shaken. The package contained a few letters written to the king’s advisor from someone in the church. It discussed a cover up of a town that vanished. It was pretty obvious that whatever was going on was happening without the King’s knowledge. They didn’t understand it all, there were clearly parts of the story missing, but they knew someone needed to be notified. Petra’s parents decided to wait until they were in the next city before discretely discussing the matter with one of the town leaders that they trusted. Petra and her family were assured that the matter would look into it.

Later that night a merchant friend burst into their caravan saying that there were soldiers coming to arrest them. With only moments to make any sort of plan, Petra was sent out on horseback with a pack holding a few days worth of provisions, her daggers, some money and most importantly, the letters. She was to lay low with some other members of the Aspen Merchant Guild until everything was settled. Surely there was some mistake and it wouldn’t take long to see that they had done nothing wrong.

Petra watched from the shadows as soldiers of the Holy Flame arrested her parents and older brothers. The soldiers ripped apart everything they owned. Every crate and trunk was dumped out. Their whole livelihood destroyed in a few minutes.

Petra stayed hidden within the guild. At first no one heard anything. Then suddenly there was a public trial and Petra watched in horror as her family was charged with blasphemy. The whole thing was a sham. She had never seen any of the people called up as “witnesses” and it was pretty obvious that they had been given the stories to tell. Petra’s family had never been particularly religious, but they made sure to do whatever was required to keep the peace. Just like that it was over. Guilty. Sentenced to burn. Petra witnessed it. Sometimes at night she still could hear the screams.

Petra was only two weeks past her 16th year. The tattoo she received as a rite of passage and official entry into the Aspen Merchant Guild was still healing on her wrist. The members of her guild kept her hidden for awhile, not even knowing why her family had been targeted. Petra was constantly moved from family to family within the guild. But it got to be too dangerous for them as the soldiers hunted for her and the letters she still carried.

The leader of the Aspen Merchant Guild summoned her and before he said anything Petra knew it was time to leave. He told her that though they could no longer risk actively sheltering her, they would still take care of her as best they could. Should she need anything, all she needed to do was to find one of them in the market, make eye contact and show her tattoo. They would then move some items aside and turn their attention so she could take it. But it had to be discrete. Should anyone else see, they would have to treat Petra as if she were a thief.

So in her first month of adulthood Petra was on her own. Her older brothers had seen to it that she was proficient with daggers so she could protect herself should they not be around. How could they have known how many times that skill had saved their sister’s life in the past three years? She never could keep a proper job for long, too many people knew her family and eventually someone always recognized her, especially since she carried a strong resemblance to her mother. She only took charity from her guild when she had no other options. She got to be good at stealing and lying. Not from the merchants, she couldn’t bring herself to do that, knowing the effects theft had on merchant families. She stole jewels and trinkets from fancy ladies or played the damsel for some gentleman who would inevitably fall for whatever lie Petra thought would move some of his silver into her pocket. It took a long time for her to stop feeling guilty and embrace the life she had been given. But no amount of time would make her stop trying to figure out a way to use the letters she still carried to expose the evil of the Holy Flame and avenge the deaths of her family.

Petra Nephalti

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