OUT OF CHARACTER INFORMATION
Intent: Expand on a member of Elpsis' posse.
Image Credit: Here.
Role: Shikoba is a Vashyada druidess and a member of Elpsis' posse. Her primary role is as a support person, utilising her talent as an earth mage, healer and her connection to the spirit world.
Permissions: ARGH gear available for Firemane per this thread.
Links: Adjudication, Into Darkness, After Darkness, Tephrike, Communion, The Long Road, Tylania, Qadiri, The Great Bone Orchard, Xioquo, Vigilus, The Resistance.
Age: 63. Vashyada have a longer life span and age slower than the average human, but also develop at a slower pace.
Force Sensitivity: Knight
Appearance: Shikoba is a Vashyada female of average height for her species. Like all her people, she has pointed ears. A combination of good genes and conditioning has left her physically hardy, though she is not overly strong. Her skin is pale and she has some freckles on her nose. She has dark hair, which she likes to wear in a one sided braid and sometimes accessorise with a feather. Her eyes are brown and she has a sharp, penetrating gaze. Ceremonial tattoos adorn her arms. They are of spiritual significance and display her initiation as a shaman. Shikoba is a member of the military, so she will wear Firemane uniform or armour when on duty. Outside of that she likes furs as well robes with tunic, trousers and shirt, as well as a cloak. Shikoba does not care much for the fashion conventions of the space people and will wear what she is comfortable in.
Loyalties: Firemane Industries, Order of Fire, Young Flames, Elpsis Kerrigan-Alcori, Inferno Platoon, Champions of the Flame, Vashyada.
Notable Possessions: Carries a Force Imbued wooden quarterstaff and owns a Shattering Bowcaster given to her by Firemane. The weapon is essentially an updated bowcaster, incorporating technology normally used for shatterguns. Her present employers have gifted her a hold-out bolter and a Shatter Pistol. She also has a tome she uses to record her knowledge of sorcery and various strange phenomena she has encountered during her travels. There are many acerbic remarks in it. Shikoba prefers to record her thoughts on paper rather than using a datapad. She writes in Prosabia rather than Basic. Owns a Vashyada equivalent of a Totem of Familiars.
Skills: Shikoba is a Vashyada druidess and is adept at using the Force. Power-wise, she is a Knight, but still learning about new things. She is skilled in using Crucitorn and Control Pain. She can use them offensively and defensively to alter her own sense of pain or that of another being. This can be used to alleviate someone's pain, but also to intensify it. She has significant talent as a terramancer or earth shaper.
Shikoba is talented in the use of Force healing and its various sub-applications. However, her brand of healing is not instanaeous and can be very taxing for her and uncomfortable for the patient, depending on the severity of the injuries she is treating. She is also very knowledgeable about herbs, plants and potions, making her good at utilising traditional medicine. Shikoba is less well-versed in using modern medicine. She knows how Bacta and Kolto work, but prefers what she is used to. Moreover, she is a powerful telepath.
One of her most unorthodox traits is her connection to the dead. This ties in with her precognitive powers, making her good at anticipating dangers and sometimes even predicting the death of another being. Restless spirits are drawn to her and vice versa. Her ability to communicate with them makes her a good investigator and detective. Shikoba can use Force Walk, summon familiars and use shamanistic rituals comparable to those used by the Nightsisters to communicate with the spirits. She can also use a variant of Corpse Vision in combat. She has an inherent knack for farsight and some talent as an illusionist.
Shikoba has been trained in the use of a variety of weapons, both melee and ranged. She favours a Force imbued staff for close quarters and a bowcaster at range. The latter is quite close to the longbows Vashyada are used to, except high-tech and with a lot more punch, so it is not that big a transition for her. Overall, she is a good support player in combat. She has been taught how to ride a Partuz, a giant spider.
Shikoba has been exposed to the tech of the outsiders since affiliating with Firemane. Her attitude towards it alternates between being curious and dismissive. She knows broadly how it works and adapts parts of it she considers useful, but is not uncritical or in awe of it. Her understanding of it is selective. For instance, she has learned piloting, but has no truck with slicing. Recently, she has started to take interest in Yuuzhan Vong bio-technology. This interest was spurred by an encounter with a Yuuzhan Vong Jedi called Saeza. Shikoba was quite intrigued by the young Jedi's masquer. Due to the time she spent with Qadiri explorers, Shikoba knows quite a bit about sailing and sea navigation. While no great sailor, she is knowledgeable in both fields.
Shikoba is aware of lightsabres, having been introduced to them after she started associating with the sky people. However, she has not been trained in the use of a 'sword of light' yet, though she knows how to use a Force Imbued blade. The Vashyada was raised as a shaman and was thus taught how to read and write. This is something she is quite proud of. She is fluent in Prosabia, the Vashyada language. Shikoba can understand and speak Basic, though certain idioms may fly over her head. Her diction is a bit old-fashioned. Her Qadiri companions taught her the Qadiri dialect that is spoken in Khajwar. Shikoba values knowledge and spends a lot of time in libraries.
Personality: Shikoba is a Vashyada sorceress and one of the members of Elpsis' unit. Her people can be broadly compared to wood elves, living in forests and organised in tribes that are nominally united under a dual monarchy, but fiercely independent in practice. Shikoba was raised in one of these clans. In terms of personality, Shikoba is introverted and quiet. She can be acerbic, haughty and plain insulting in her interactions with others. She is not laconic, but not verbose when not discussing subjects of interest to her. When she finds something important enough to contribute to, she will say what she thinks, regardless of social conventions or courtesies. She often comes across as dismissive in conversation with people she considers beneath her, shooting verbal barbs at them. If they can metaphorically return fire and make a good case for themselves, good. If not, they have validated her opinion of them. Shikoba has a somewhat old-fashioned way of speaking. She uses 'tis' in place of 'it is' and speaks in a sing-song manner.
Though curious about them, Shikoba finds several of the customs of the 'sky people' baffling. The Vashyada is not particularly fond of droids. Their minds are closed to her, so she cannot know what they are thinking. She acknowledges that the outsiders have superior technology, but also believes that their over-reliance on machinery enslaves them to it and erodes their connection to the spirits. Shikoba knows about plants, herbs and potions. She is good with a staff weapon, performs well in a support role and has an interest in sorcery. Shikoba has been trained in Force healing and its various sub-applications. She has strong Sense and precognitive abilities.
Shikoba is considered...odd by many of her peers. This also applies to her fellow Vashyada. More than a few have described her as insufferable. This is the result of her peculiar connection to the realm of the dead. Sometimes she perceives the ghosts of the people another person has coalescing around them and wailing. She can also at times predict the moment another person will die. Her experiences and abilities have made Shikoba rather blase about death. To her, it is a part of the natural order. Sooner or later, everything withers away and dies to make room for new life. As she puts it, death is not a pit, it is a door to a new reality. Though her attitude might suggest otherwise, Shikoba is quite dedicated to helping restless spirits find rest.
Shikoba is a good medic, but does not have much of a bedside manner. She often responds with sarcastic or dismissive remarks or makes disconcerting comments about how the spirits are waiting for someone under her care. This does not make her any less committed to her craft though. She will do anything in her power to heal those that have been entrusted to her, short of altering the natural order. Being good at her craft is a matter of personal pride for her. She is also forceful in prescribing treatment. This can reach the point where she overrules a patient on the grounds that it is for their own good and they do not know what is right for them. Shikoba's mental talents and affinity for ghosts can give her insights about the deaths another person has been responsible for. This can lead unsettling situations for others.
Another characteristic that distinguishes Shikoba is her hatred of Force-Users who alter the natural order for selfish gain in order to cheat death, or enslave the dead as undead servitors. The undead are debased parodies of creation and must be put down so that the soul can move on. She views essence transfer and similar techniques as aberrations of the natural order. Shikoba would have the natural talent to become a necromancer, but refuses to utilise her abilities in such a manner, as she believes it would be blasphemous. She has a detached attitude towards death because she sees so much of it, but will help guide the dying towards the afterlife. As she puts it, their souls will be judged by the spirits anyway and she has no right to usurp that duty. Interestingly, Shikoba does not care a good deal about what happens to a corpse after the soul has passed on. She does not view it as barbaric to feed it to an animal. After all, if it is buried, it will rot and become worm fodder anyway.
When it comes to galactic politics, Shikoba is generally apolitical. She has only recently left her homeworld and is thus very much the fish out of water. The squabbles between Jedi and Sith and the various galactic powers do not interest her much. Empires rise and fall and life goes on. Broadly speaking, she is sceptical of any galactic government, no matter how benevolent it purports to be, and opposes forces she views as destructive and a threat to the natural order. She does not have any ironclad opinions on a nation's form of government because she considers her esoteric pursuits to be more important than 'whichever fool sits on a throne', but dislikes despotic or imperialist governments.
Shikoba was raised in a tough setting and will kill when needed. She is rather detached about it, but does not enjoy inflicting pain. Though she generally adopts a blase attitude towards death, she disapproves of the mass slaughter that is so common in the galaxy. Everyone must die when their time has come and move on to the next stage of being, but life is precious and must not be extinguished before then. The revelation that the 'sky people' routinely annihilate cities or even entire planets to murder millions has disturbed her greatly. She views the perpetrators of these acts as barbaric savages, and their behaviour can rouse her to anger, especially if they mock her people as 'primitives'. Vashyada are quite egalitarian and so Shikoba has no patience for the misandry of conservative Eldorai or Xioquo.
One of Shikoba's more unpleasant traits is her bigotry towards clones. Being from a low-tech culture, Shikoba does not quite understand how cloning works. Her best frame of reference are the creatures artificially created by Xioquo via alchemy, but these are abominations. As such, she is uncertain whether clones have souls of their own. Does a clone share a soul with its template? Or is half a soul bestowed upon the clone and does it diminish as more are created? And what will happen to it when the clone passes away? Is there an afterlife for it?
Needless to say this viewpoint has been the cause of tension with Tephriki members of the Firemane unit she belongs, as many Tephriki are clones and thus understandably take offence at being considered less than sentient. Her opinions are bigoted, but more born out of ignorance than genuine malice. She would aid her clone comrades against slavers who want to force 'fleshgolems' into servitude. She will also not abandon them in a fight. However, she will certainly be a bit patronising about it. Longer-term interaction with clones may or may not cause her to rethink her views. Shikoba holds a grudge against the Xioquo because her father was killed in a Xio raid. She is more open-minded about Qadiri though. Some are horrible, but others are good. Her son is part-Qadiri and she is a loving, though eccentric, mother.
Weapon of Choice: Staff | The Force | Bowcaster | Sidearm
Combat Function: Shikoba's primary combat role is as a support player. She is an earth shaper, a healer and has a strong connection to the spirits and the realm of the dead. In battle, she will usually hang back in order to support her comrades with her esoteric talents, or heal them if they are injured. Her strong precognitive and telepathic abilities can also enable her to warn them of dangers. When pressed into combat she will defend herself through a mixture of Force abilities and conventional weapons. She is trained in the use of melee weapons and quite good using a bowcaster. However, she is not a master duellist and quite reliant on the Force. This can be a problem if she is deprived of it. Shikoba is part of a military unit and thus will usually operate as part of a fire team, a squad or a platoon sized unit. She can work independently, but is at her best when she acts as a force multiplier in concert with others.
Force-wise Shikoba is one of the more experienced Champions of the Flame. However, she only has limited skill with galactic standard technology. Firemane instructors have taught Shikoba the basics of piloting. Thus she can pilot a small ship such as a shuttle well enough, but is not a good combat pilot or dogfighter. By contrast, slicing is beyond her. Shikoba is aware of lightsabres and understands broadly how they work, but has not been trained how to use them so far. Thus she would be awkward and clumsy if she found a lightsabre on the battlefield and tried to employ it in combat. Moreover, she considers playing with swords to be a bit beneath her.
- Shikoba is a Force-User with a talent for precognition, healing, earth shaping, communicating with and manipulating the dead.
- Capable healer even when not using the Force. Talented in wilderness survival. She can also defend herself using blaster, dagger, staff and bowcaster.
- Traditional Vashyada strengths. She is physically hardy and has good senses.
- Not trained in the use of a lightsabre. Limited skill and experience with galactic standard technology.
- Sensitive hearing is a double-edged sword, as it makes her more vulnerable to high-pitch frequencies such as those emitted by sonic weapons.
- Her skill set makes her more of a support player than a frontline combatant. She is also rather reliant on the Force, as it represents the core of her skill set. Losing her connection would put her at a disadvantage.
For centuries the Vashyada have in the forests of Yarkul, the southern continent of Tygara. Dispersing across the vast and forbidding forests, they tamed the wilderness and became a part of it. Tylania, believed by her people to be a deity, elected not to take power as being a ruler was incompatible with her Light Side beliefs. Instead, she acted as a spiritual guide, prophet and tiebreaker in the event of controversy among the Vashyada's leaders. To prevent strife, the two most powerful clans were symbolically joined as High King and High Queen. This diarchy was highly unorthodox, but worked for the most part.
While strife still occured between the clans, these clashes tended to be minor and were often resolved by duels between champions. However, despite the Vashyada's peaceful nature, their lives were not free from conflict. For they were menaced by the warlike Qadiri and Xioquo. Often they had to defend themselves against slave raids from either of the two races. Lacking the military organisation of the Qadiri or the tech of the Xioquo, the Vashyada took advantage of their greatest asset: the forest itself. To this day Qadiri still tell their children of Brahdok's folly, for the ambitious general sought to conquer Yarkul with a large army - and failed. However, then the wood elves' world was turned tupsy-turvy when the sky people.
Shikoba grew up into these strange times, which represented a period of change and transition for Tygara. Some saw opportunity, others threats to their way of life. When she was born, Shikoba knew nothing of any of this. Her world were the deep forests of Yarkul, where life was hard and dangers ever-present. Contact with the Qadiri and the Xioquo, the other races that dwelt on the planet, was limited and often, though not always, hostile. Old style Vash are wary of the outside world and its temptations, especially filthy lucre.
Shikoba was born into the Redleaf Clan. While nominally united under the rule of a High King and a High Queen, in practice the individual Vashyada tribes were fiercely autonomous. Their society was a hodgepodge of monarchies, theocracies and some tribal democracies. Their nations tended to be small, limited by terrain and population. The key loyalty for a Vashyada was their allegiance to their clan and family, not to a distant ruler who lived far away from their local community.
Here and there, feuds between clans turned bloody, though conflict tended to be limited to small-scale skirmishes, as the Vashyada were a peaceful people and their decentralised nature made vast conflicts impractical. In contrast to many Vashyada clans, the Redleaves lived close to the coast of Yarkul. This made them less isolated than many of their brethren, enabling them to trade with foreigners, but also to foreign incursions.
Shikoba's father was an artist, while her mother was a priestess and a shaman for her clan. Shikoba learned her craft from her. She was taught about the flora and fauna of the forest, and learned about herbs and how to brew potions. It was a rite of passage for her when she learned to tame and ride a Partuz drone. Shikoba's mother was a gifted healer and was blessed with farsight, but also had an unorthodox reputation. It was said that she kept Xioquo artefacts and studied the writings of the 'Dark Ones'. It was said that some of her healing abilities drew upon techniques orthodox Vashyada frowned upon.
Surgical knowledge was lacking among the Vashyada, as dissection was not allowed, but Shikoba's secretly dissected the dead because, as she put it, they needed to understand death in order to stay its hand. Some whispered that her curiosity spoke poorly of her character and was leading her to forbidden paths. As a rule, the Vashyada were firmly inclined to the Light and exiled those who practiced the dark. However, Shikoba's mother won the favour of her tribe's chieftain after saving the life of his son. The boy had been poisoned by a Partuz in a duel with the champion of another clan. He was considered on the brink of death, but rose again under her care.
As a young girl, Shikoba saw more of the outsiders than the Vashyada in the deep forest would have. Her home settlement was a small trading outpost where Qadiri merchants could come to trade and barter. At first young Shikoba was unnerved by the 'bronze elves', who looked different from her kind, spoke a strange language and had technology she did not know of. But she soon started mingling among them.
Her father often did business with the outsiders. Their house also served as his workshop, so it was not an uncommon occurence for him to entertain Qadiri guests. Some brought her toys and she learned how to speak Zandri, the most common Qadiri language. Her mother, by contrast, was more reserved in her dealings with the outsiders. She was cordial, but wary of them and warned her daughter not to get too close. Not all Qadiri had come as peaceful traders, after all. Many had come as hostile invaders intent on enslaving and exploiting the children of the nature. Shikoba followed in her mother's fooststeps as a healer and spiritual guide. She also earned her spurs as a huntress, though she never became a great one. A Qadiri she struck up a friendship with took her out on their ship sometimes. His name was Mahaj Jal Kavak. His people were the Qarash, who had mixed Qadiri-Vashyada ancestry, as some of the wood elves had settled in the land of Khajwar centuries ago. He was a dashing sort and Shikoba took a bit of a shine to him.
However, not all was idyllic. The settlement's location on the coast made it a good trading port, but also vulnerable to hostile incursions. The Xioquo, long-term enemies of the Vashyada, sent a raiding force to grab slaves. Their sorcery darkened the sky and their muskets and cannons hit hard. The settlement was set aflame. Shikoba and her mother fought in the defence of their people. Shikoba was able to slay a Xioquo apprentice, but was wounded by a musket. Her father jumped into the fray to protect her from an attacker, but was struck down. Unable to meet the Xioquo head-on, the Vashyada had to retreat into the forest.
There the Dark Ones were at a profound disadvantage. Shikoba's mother and the chieftainness summoned a rainstorm, keeping the Xioquo from using their muskets effectively. Her mother summoned illusions to sow confusion among their ranks. Many of the Dark Ones were slain by Vashyada arrows or war beasts. A few were captured. But many Xioquo were able to retreat to their ships, along with Vashyada they had taken as slaves. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
The loss of her father left Shikoba inconsolable. Survivor's guilt played a role. She felt a burning, intense anger towards the Xioquo. Filial obligation, love and guilt drove her to questionable acts. One of the captured Xioquo had proclaimed that her mother had stolen knowledge from them. Seeing what her daughter intended, Shikoba's mother tried to dissuade her from using her abilities to raise her father. However, Shikoba refused to listen. The chieftainness' son had been practically dead, and her mother had revived him. As it turned out, her mother was indeed keeping some Xioquo grimoires hidden away, though this was for safekeeping. Shikoba determined that one was about raising the dead.
Before a burial could take place, Shikoba absconded with her father's corpse. Then she tried to raise him, calling upon the gods and goddesses to return him to her body and soul. Her efforts were not in vain. He did indeed rise...but not as she had intended, for he had come back wrong. He was not truly alive, but a thoughtless undead. Her tribe had noticed her disappearance and sent a search party to look for her. Lacking any trace of the man he used to be, her father attacked them. Realising what she had done, Shikoba was forced to put him done. Thus her father died a second death.
Following these events, Shikoba faced a trial of sorts. She had defied the natural order and broken the code the druidesses were supposed to follow. The tribe had lost many brothers and sisters, but her actions had endangered them. Mitigating circumstances were taken into account, but she could not go away scots free. Thus she was subjected to a temporary ostracism and banished from the tribe for a fixed amount of time.
Before Shikoba departed, her mother sat her down and talked with her, impressing upon her the harm her actions had caused. Shikoba had lost a father, but her mother, who had recently given birth to a little one, had lost a beloved husband. But she had accepted that she needed to let him go. One thing her mother said stuck with Shikoba, though it took her a while to understand the significance of these words: death was not a pit, it was a door. It was not the end, but the next stage of another journey.
For now, a guilt-ridden Shikoba bid her clan farewell and went off into the wilderness. Her people wanted her to learn a lesson and reflect on her actions, but they were not cruel, so she was allowed to take some tools, and supplies with her. Of course, occult tomes were not allowed. She used some tools to build herself a small boat and headed north. During her trek across the wilderness, she happened to come across some of the Qadiri travellers her father had done business with. One of the Qadiri had fallen sick after inadvertently eating a poisonous plant. Shikoba was able to use her healing abilities and knowledge of herbs to cure him.
However, they soon encountered another Vashyada clan, the White Leaves. This clan had poor relations with Qadiri, as they had fought back Qadiri incursions, and responded poorly to the presence of the outsiders. They also took a negative view of a fellow Vashyada consorting with them, especially one with such a poor reputation. Shikoba was able to help defuse what could have been a very volatile situation. She vouched for the Qadiri she was with, asserting that they had had attacked her people.
Thus violence was averted, but the White Leaves left with a poor impression of her. Realising that they had overstayed her welcome, the Qadiri prepared to leave. Seeing that Shikoba seemed to have nowhere to go, Mahaj, their leader, offered her passage with them. It was the one she had healed. After some thought, Shikoba agreed. It was probably not the type of exile her clan had in mind, but she needed time to find herself.
The Qadiri had a sailing ship that a goo deal bigger and more impressive than the canoes her people used. Unlike the Vashyada, the Qadiri were a nautically inclined people. Shikoba was deeply unnerved when the sailship left her homeland far behind her. As far as the eye could see, there was naught but a vast ocean. However, her curiosity soon took over. Her friend Mahaj Jal Kavak taught her the intricacies of sailing and sea navigation. She also learned about the deities they prayed to, though their devotion varied. She picked up some Zandri on the way, enabling her to converse with them in their native tongue. Shikoba earned her keep by putting her healing and precognitive abilities to good use. This helped keep the group alive in the many scraps it found itself in. Her knowledge of hunting and plant life also proved useful when the group had to forage.
During one of their travels, they came across a group of Qadiri merchants who had been shipwrecked. It transpired that they had been ambushed by Xioquo corsairs. Sensing an opportunity for coin, the crew decided to get involved. Shikoba was eager for revenge, but Mahaj cautioned her, knowing that the Dark Ones had strange technology. However, they also had vulnerabilities, and he came up with a plan to exploit them.
One of those was the fact that Xioquo shunned the sun, as it burnt their skin. With the information provided by the Qadiri fugitives, they were able to sneak up on the Xioquo's metal ship - an ironclad - when the sun was up. They hid their ship, then attacked when it was high noon and there was a clear sky which would dazzle the Xioquo. The metal warship was armed with powerful cannons, but had a complex breach loading mechanism on board to make them work. Sneaking aboard along with a few others, Shikoba was able to use her terramancy to jam it up and prevent some of the guns from firing. Having received her telepathic signal, Mahaj and the rest of the group struck. A fierce melee ensued aboard the ship.
Close up the Xioquo were less able to exploit the firepower of their rifles, though Shikoba was hurt by a pistol shot. She and Mahaj fought their way through the ship, with the latter expertly wielding a pistol and a scimitar. Shikoba used her earth powers to break the cells the captives were being held in. Many of the Xioquo were killed on that day, though some were taken prisoner. Mahaj spared one of the engineers so that she could explain to them how some of their tech worked.
The crew lacked the technical know-how to go far with the ironclad or fight with it. However, with the help of the slaves and a coerced Xioquo engineer they were able to pilot it a short distance. Fundamentally, it was just steering a ship which did not have to worry about the wind since it ran on fuel. Thus they were able to steer the Xioquo to a nearby port city in Khajwar. At first the local Qadiri believed it was a Xioquo raid, but fortunately they were able to communicate before things escalated. Entering the Qadiri city was quite an experience for Shikoba. It dwarfed the humble villages and forest cities she was used to by far. She was unsettled by the slave market though.
Slavery was a fact of life on Tygara and practiced by her own people, but the forests her people lived in made chattel slavery impractical. Thus the only institutional use of slavery was as punishment for crimes, assuming a criminal was not able to pay blood money to the family they had wronged. Sometimes Qadiri or Xioquo attackers were enslaved and sent to work menial tasks. She was disheartened to see some Vashyada slaves on offer. Mahaj sympathised with her.
The hybrid community he belonged to was less big on slavery than the full on Qadiri groups. The group sold the ironclad to a native Qadiri potentate. The locals turned it into a defensive fort, as they did not have the fuel or skills to repair it. The Xioquo engineer was indentured to the Nawab. Shikoba was given a share of the earnings, and used a lot of the money to buy some Vashyada captives so that they could be set free. She had failed to save her father, but she could at least help her fellow Vashyada return to their loved ones. The locals did not encounter many Vashyada, especially from Yarkul, so Shikoba was a bit of an exotic curiosity to them. She set Qadiri who mistook her for an indentured mamluk or servant straight though.
Mahaj appreciated her inner fire. The crew stayed in the town for a while to perform repairs to their sailship. Mahaj also took Shikoba to meet his clan, which dwelt in the wilderness away from the large cities. The culture of the Qarash combined Vashyada and Qadiri elements. They rode Yazgid rather than Partuz. Their version of Prosabia incorporated many Qadiri loanwords. Their pantheon included deities from both races. Moreover, as Shikoba discovered, they did not revere Tylania, whom the Vashyada of Yarkul considered a prophetess or even a demigoddess. Indeed, there was bad blood between the two branches of the family.
Shikoba spent a lot of time debating with one of their priestesses. But soon the crew returned to the sea, ferrying goods, carrying out exploration missions and the occasional raid in return for coin from Qadiri city-dwellers. Shikoba and Mahaj grew close during this time. The captain was a dashing and adventurous sort that appealed to her, and the two ended up having a fling. The crew had embarked on another expedition when suddenly Akala turned the galaxy upside down. Their ship was in a storm when the rapture happened.
One moment Shikoba was aiding her comrades, the next she found herself in a bleak, desolate place that looked like something out of myth. She had ended up in a place called the Great Bone Orchard. It resembled a horrific mirror image of Yarkul's forests. There were no clear landmarks. Everywhere she went just seemed to lead her deeper into the dark forest that had swallowed many lost souls.
Her compass no longer worked and it seemed impossible to get any sense of direction. There were no rivers or wildlife. The only noise came from the trees. The forest was in perpetual twilight. To her horror, Shikoba eventually realised that travellers who came before her had been calcified. The air dried her skin and thirst was her constant companion, but the forest would not allow her to die or pass out from dehydration. The crystals whispered to her and the pit at the centre drove her a little mad. But in the madness there was also truth. It allowed her to see. In her moment of greatest desperation, she had a vision of her father.
The pit was supposed to devour anyone who got close. However, Shikoba was able to commune with the spirits of the place to find a path out along the edge of the pit, past the spider creatures and the bone trees, then through the canyon. Shikoba was able to find some lost Vashyada and Qadiri spirits who had been trapped with her and shepherd them out, but all this slowly sapped her mental energy. They were able to recuperate somewhat in the Jaquenta, called the Narrow Road. Spirits from manifold species dwelt there and Shikoba was able to communicate with some of them. The Netherworld was not just a pit, it was a world parallel to the material realm.
There was a part of Shikoba that felt a strong draw to stay in the Nether. Her lucidity was slipping, but her companions were able to snap her out of it. As they crossed a river, they were confronted by spirits of those who had had great meaning in their lives but now passed away. Shikoba met her father's spirit. It was a very emotional encounter, but he forgave her and urged her to move forward and return to her people. Tylania visited the group in their dreams, providing some spiritual guidance. In time, they were able to escape the abyss and back to their homeworld in the material plane.
Shortly after escaping the Netherworld, Shikoba discovered that she was with child. Her union with Mahaj had blossomed in more ways than had been apparent at the time. She had not noticed until now due to being raptured shortly after he got her pregnant. Because the Netherworld is a strange place, her pregnancy had essentially been in stasis during her time there. Shikoba had no ida what had happened to Mahajh, but she would keep their child. Eventually, she managed to make her way back to Yarkul.
Suffice to say her tribe was surprised by her return. Of course, the raptures had affected them as well. However, they lifted her exile after they heard of her deeds and the Vashyada she had helped vouched for her. Shikoba had a reunion with her mother and got to meet her baby sister. However, Shikoba was a changed woman. Her time in the Netherworld had granted her a deep understanding of the spirit world, but also warped her mind. Whereas she had once been adventurous and quite gregarious, now she was withdrawn and often acerbic.
She spent long hours meditating and communing with the spirits. Her dreams took her back to the Netherworld and she claimed that she could hear or see the ghosts of the dead. This was unsettling, to say the least. Her changed nature unnerved many members of her clan. Nonetheless, the priestesses cared for her. She gave birth to a son under the watch of her mother. Shikoba faced some stigma about having the child of a Qadiri, but she did not care about what other people thought. She called her son Ahanu Mahaj. Shikoba spent the next couple months recovering from her trials in the warp and looking after her child. However, the visions did not leave her. And change was coming to her homeworld. Shikoba had received dreams of strange metal ships that flew through the skies. These visions were confirmed when a delegation of the 'sky people' visited Yarkul. They were led by Siobhan Kerrigan, who, as far as the wood elves could tell, seemed to occupy a position akin to a monarch. Siobhan was received by the High King and High Queen as well as the Lady Tylania.
Ultimately, a pact was struck. Firemane would be allowed to trade with the Vashyada, but would respect their rule over Yarkul and their customs. Shikoba was happy to hear that the sky people had defeated the Xioquo. However, not all outsiders were this accommodating. A Wookiee slaver called Ser Grrowh launched a raid against the Vashyada, believing them to be primitives who would make easy prey. This was ironic considering his origins. Shikoba fought in the battle, which ended in a bitter defeat for the technologically superior outsiders. She distinguished herself in the fight, unleashing the gifts she had learned during her time abroad. As trade with Firemane increased, some Vashyada grew curious about the stars and decided to leave their homeland in search of adventure and opportunities. Tylania encouraged her people to learn from the outsiders without abandoning their roots. Shikoba was one of the wood elves who ventured into the stars. She took her son with her.
She claimed it was the call of the spirits, when she bothered to provide an explanation at all. Thus she was part of a group of Vashyada who made the trip to space to visit the Arx Aeternae, the 'floating city in the sky-ocean' from where the 'Skyqueen' reigned. Shikoba found the sight very overwhelming, but was not wholly uncritical. The sky people had built machines and great monuments of metal, but had lost touch with nature and the spirits. But she was intrigued by the myriad beings that called the station home.
Shikoba accepted a contract with Firemane on a temporary basis. While she learned about their tech, she taught courses about healing. While she was on the Arx, she was visited by the spirit of a murdered person, who beseeched her for aid. At first the Firemane authorities did not believe her, dismissing her vision as superstitious humbug. However, Shikoba refused to relent. She was able to lead the local police to evidence to convict the murderer. This also meant she caught the eye of the Order of Fire, Firemane's Force-using branch.
After some consideration, Shikoba joined the Young Flames, which was essentially a cadet corps for Firemane's Force-Users. The druidess did not intend to pursue a career. Hierarchies, corporations and money did not interest her. But she wanted to expand her knowledge and felt the spirits were calling to her to move beyond the world she had known. Shikoba had more experience in Force use than many of the cadets, but there were other areas she was less knowledgeable in.
She was inducted into Inferno Platoon, a newly-formed training unit commanded by Lieutenant Elpsis Kerrigan-Alcori. The members of the platoon received their initial training on Arkas. It was a new experience for Shikoba. The Order of Fire treated the Force like a skill that could be learned akin to piloting or using a rifle. Her people had militias and elite units such as Rangers and Partuz riders, but not much in terms of standing armies, so military drill took some time to get used to. She was assigned to one of the platoon's squads, which soon acquired the nickname Champions of the Flame.
After their initial training, the Champions completed a number of missions on the far rim. For their first assignment, they saw action against a First Order Remnant group that had turned to arms dealing and enslaved a number of Qadiri scouts. To this end, the Champions teamed up with a group of Qadiri freedom fighters in Firemane's services. Shikoba fought bravely in the fight, using her mental and precognitive abilities to support her unlikely comrades.
Later Shikoba participated in a joint operation between Firemane and the Resistance. A world on the far rim had been taken over by what at first appeared to be a small cell from a remnant of the First Order. The Champions and a few Resistance operatives went undercover by posing as mercenaries in order to determine the strength and goals of this remnant. Firemane had had an informant on the planet, but he had been murdered by unknown assailants. After finding his corpse, Shikoba was able to commune with his spirit and acquire information on the identity of his killer. She also saw a masked figure who turned out to be a Ren, whose name was Vigilus. The group was able to bluff the First Order remnant into hiring them, as the occupiers were fighting an insurgency spearheaded by deserted Stormtroopers.
As part of the ruse, Elpsis and her crew supported the First Order's troops in a battle with the insurgents in the main town, while secretly undermining them. This required killing some rebels though, as they had to maintain cover. Shikoba worked with her comrades Celaena and Nuroch to destroy a First Order tank, with each of the three contributing through use of their respective skill sets - earth, fire and mentalism. Later, she used her healing powers to keep a rebel sniper the group had captured alive so that he could be questioned. Eventually the team was able to link up with the rebels and come up with a plan of attack. There was bad blood, but the two groups managed to join forces and take out an important First Order factory.
However, the factory had been the main reason for the imperialists to hold on to the place. The Ren deemed that the local warlord had failed to contain the insurgency and decided to make an example by bombing the city from orbit. Reinforcements had to turn away, as they could not match the firepower he had at his disposal. The team was able to escape. Shikoba had never witnessed such devastation before, and was deeply shaken and disgusted by it. For now, Shikoba remains with the platoon. She has also found the time to visit the new worldship Firemane has built for her people.