Karissa Picture

NAME: Karissa

GENDER: Female

BIRTH DATE/APPROXIMATE AGE: May 29, 1990. 23-years-old when she meets Tolyya. She is frozen into immortality at age 25.

SPECIES: Human

RACE: Penthesilean

Penthesileans are a superhuman race of vampire huntresses descended from the ancient Amazon who fought in the Trojan War, Queen Penthesilea. A Penthesilean is always born mortal, but can earn immortality through a heroic sacrifice resulting in death. All Penthesileans have strength, speed, and senses beyond that of ordinary human beings. Since Penthesileans can be fathered by any humanoid race with fertile males, they are an incredibly diverse people with a wide array of different genetic characteristics. Penthesileans heal faster than ordinary human races and can withstand tremendous blood loss without dying. Barring that, mortal Penthesileans can die in nearly any way that ordinary humans can, and they age like ordinary humans as well. When a Penthesilean dies heroically and is resurrected, a number of changes occur. All of her physical abilities are roughly doubled—i.e. strength, speed, healing, and senses improve. Immortal Penthesileans can only be killed by decapitation or cremation. Most Penthesileans are born, live, and die as mortals, and are never resurrected. Therefore immortalization is considered an extraordinary feat and the few who achieve it are renowned for it. The bulk of the Penthesilean population lives in the capital city of New Pontus, accessible through a series of magical portals located in northeastern Turkey. Penthesilean culture mandates that its children be raised as warrioresses and vampire huntresses.

The existence of Penthesileans and how they came to be is unknown among ordinary humans. However, most people familiar with Greek mythology do know the first half of the tale of Penthesilea. She was an Amazonian princess who accidentally killed her sister, Queen Hippolyte, with a spear during a deer hunt. This accident caused the new Queen so much grief that she wished only to die. But, as an Amazonian warrioress, she would have to die honorably in battle, or be doomed to a dreadful afterlife. She was commissioned to help defend Troy from its Greek attackers, and agreed in hope she would be slain. The young Queen arrived with twelve companions and promised the Trojans that she would slay Achilles. On her first and only day of fighting, she killed many men and clashed with Telamonian Ajax. Although there was no clear victor, she later came face to face with Achilles, who had been summoned by her former opponent. With a blow to the breastplate, Achilles knocked Penthesilea clean off of her mighty steed. Then he slew her with his blade. When he removed her helmet, Achilles was overcome with remorse for having killed a beautiful young woman. He fell in love instantly and made love to her in his grief.

The second half of the tale is kept in the Book of Penthesilea, and only Penthesileans are permitted to read it. It explains the divine events that followed the good Queen’s death. After the heat of the day’s battle had waned and died, something extraordinary happened on the blood-soaked field. God came to Penthesilea’s grave at the bequest of Artemis and resurrected her, recognizing the Queen’s courage and self-sacrifice in defense of the besieged land. God charged her with the eternal duty of protecting humankind from the minions of darkness in exchange for divine forgiveness and immortality. With Achilles’ sperm still in her body, Penthesilea later gave birth to triplets Andine, Bellatrix, and Rhea in 1185 B.C., shortly after the end of the Trojan War. This was the beginning of the Penthesilean race. Any girl child born to a Penthesilean woman is a Penthesilean by birthright and is therefore covered by the prophecy—which states that God will resurrect her to an immortal life if she dies performing a heroic feat. This was the deal worked out between Artemis and God so Penthesilea’s offspring could follow their mother’s noble path. The only one of Penthesilea’s three daughters that achieved the immortal promise was Rhea, who became the first Queen of the Penthesileans, and is now known in Penthesilean history as Rhea the Immortal.

ALIGNMENT: Lawful or Neutral Good.

PERSONALITY:

Karissa often seems quiet and reserved on the outside, though on the inside she has a deep-seated rage stemming from childhood trauma. She has a strong sense of duty and may come across as humorless and crass to some. Her sense of duty gives her the motivation to follow through on important tasks, although she is far more energized by hands-on work. She is action-oriented, but organized and methodical in her approach to vampire hunting. She is driven by her goal to hunt down and destroy the vampire clan that killed her mother. She’s also driven to protect her loved ones and prevent what happened to her mother from ever happening to another Penthesilean. She does not usually give herself enough credit for her achievements, seeing her accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of her obligations. As a martial artist who studied in Japan for several years, she loves Japanese culture and food. She’s particularly fond of high quality sushi, tempura, and miso soup. Some other things she likes include cats, horses, and children.

Before she met Tolyya, Karissa viewed the world as a harsh, unforgiving place. She found joy only in her work. Though her friends and family often tried to pull her out of her funk, the only one who ever reached her successfully was the gentle Russian vampire. As a Penthesilean warrioress deadly in the art of ninjitsu, Karissa may seem cruel and fearless on the surface. This is because she is deeply traumatized over the untimely and brutal death of her mother. She may seem emotionless a lot of the time, but in reality she is capable of great depths of feeling, and of suffering. She is oriented towards actions more so than words and is therefore unlikely to discuss what truly lies below the surface with others. She is generally secretive about any romantic interests. As a fighter, she can be very aggressive, and also seem slightly eccentric.

She strongly believes in Penthesilean laws, traditions, and codes of conduct, and expects her Sisters (fellow Penthesileans) to feel the same way. She’s rarely comfortable with breaking laws or going against the rules of her culture. If she is able to see a good reason for stepping outside of the established mode of doing things, she will support the effort. However, she more often tends to believe that things should be done according to code. Karissa is very loyal to her friends, family, and race. She places great importance on integrity and can always be depended on to do the right thing for those she cares about. If she had kids, she would be a responsible mother and take her parenting role seriously. She has a soft spot for children. She cares deeply about those close to her, although she usually is not comfortable with expressing her love. More often than not, she will express her affection through actions rather than words.

Karissa is not naturally in tune with her own feelings or the feelings of others. She may have difficulty picking up on other people’s emotional needs. Being a perfectionist, she has a tendency to take other people’s efforts for granted, like she takes her own efforts for granted. This is made worse by the fact that Karissa is uncomfortable expressing affection and emotion to others. However, her sense of duty and the ability to see what needs to be done in any situation usually allows her to overcome her natural reservations, and she can be quite supporting and caring with the people she loves. Once she realizes the emotional needs of those who are close to her, she will put forth effort to meet those needs. While she usually takes things very seriously, she can have a morbid, offbeat sense of humor and be a lot of fun at times.

Karissa dedicates most of her time to physical/mental training and meditation. She constantly seeks to become stronger, faster, and more agile. The rest of her waking hours she dedicates to research and investigation to track down her mother’s killers. She is not naturally drawn to socializing, but can be pressured by those she cares about into doing so. While she prefers to work alone, she can work well in teams when the situation demands it. She may come across as very messy, disorganized, and scatterbrained to some, but in reality her living space is organized chaos. Although it does not show on the outside, she has a great sense of space and function, as well as artistic appreciation. In fact, it was her ability to appreciate great art that allowed her to overcome her reservations and fall in love with Tolyya. The vampire dancer was more successful than anyone else at getting Karissa to kick back, relax, and socialize. He was also the only one who ever got her to open up about her childhood tragedy, though her Penthesilean relatives had often tried.

APPEARANCE:

Karissa is a quarter Japanese on her father’s side, and has high cheekbones to show for it. The shape of her eyes and her delicate facial features are also reminiscent of her Asian heritage. In some light, her skin tone may also seem yellowish. She stands 5’7” and weighs 130 pounds, with a medium build of lean, powerful muscle. Her hair is thick and honey-brown, with natural golden highlights that gleam in direct sunlight. Her eyes are dark brown and appear to be completely black in low lighting.

Karissa never wore a speck of aesthetic makeup before falling in love with Tolyya, despite some of her Sisters trying to influence her to do so just for fun. She always kept her hair tied back into a ponytail as well, never letting it down in public or having it styled in any special way. Due to the risks of vampire hunting, she tends to be practical and never lets her hair get far below shoulder length. The longest it has ever been was down to the bottom of her shoulder blades, but that was before her mother was killed. On the job, she uses a terrycloth headband to keep her hair pulled back and away from her face.

For important missions, Karissa wears a black Kevlar jumpsuit covering her whole body save her head. Sometimes she wears dark red boots, gloves, and a dark red utility belt. She keeps twin katana swords in sheaths strapped to her back, and a multi-purposed whip rolled up on her belt. Depending upon the job she has to do, she might also carry boot-bound throwing knives, holy water-loaded firearms, or ninja stars with her as well. When she needs to remain unseen at night, she wears all black. Sometimes she uses kohl dust under or around her eyes to help mask herself or protect her eyes from bright sunlight. If she must go into a battle involving two armies clashing, she wears impenetrable full-body Penthesilean armor.

After Tolyya came into her life, Karissa started to casually stroll around the streets of New York City with him in the late evenings, just enjoying his company. As a result, she started wearing nice street clothes. She particularly likes pretty blouses, skinny jeans, leggings, sneakers, sandals, or heeled boots. On these occasions, she also wears light makeup such as subtle pink lipstick with a bare shimmer, delicate blush, and maybe even a touch of mascara. She also lets her hair down or casually styles it. On rare occasions, such as the debut of Tolyya’s first Broadway musical, she might deck out fully with an elegant dress and hairstyle, high heels, and makeup. This is almost unheard of among her Sisters and would have a jaw-dropping effect if any of them saw her like this.

WEAPONS:

Karissa has access to a huge armory of just about every type of weapon known to Penthesilean kind. However, her personal arsenal consists of weapons she has a great deal of skill and experience with. She’s at the top of her game with her twin katana blades—originally a gift from her father and brother. She also has boot-bound throwing knives, a multi-purpose whip, firearms, ninja stars, shurikens, utility girdle, and an iron stake-firing crossbow. The firearms she has are equipped with bullets containing water from New Pontus Temple; it is the most potent holy water in existence.

Lastly, Karissa has a dragonskin vest that she inherited from her mother, Alexa. Dragonskin is the lightest and most durable material affording maximum protection against sharp weapons and bullets known to Penthesilean kind. However, due to the fact that dragons have been hunted to near extinction, she refuses to wear it out of principle. Later on, however, she gives it to Tolyya and makes him wear it under his clothes whenever he goes out in public as extra insurance against vampire hunters.

STRENGTHS:

Karissa is deadly in the art of ninjitsu, and has severed many a vampire’s head with her twin katanas and whip. She is a renowned vampire huntress, a skilled navigator, tracker, and crafty survivalist. She learned a great deal of martial arts from her father, who then took her and her brother on a pilgrimage to Japan and left them with one of the most secretive and renowned martial arts masters in the world. The siblings studied under this guru for several years. As a trained ninja, Karissa is very stealthy and great at slinking around unnoticed, even in broad daylight. However, her true power comes out at night. She’s practically a ghost, able to slip into and out of places without being seen or heard.

On account of her Penthesilean heritage, her strength, speed, senses, and agility are all beyond that of an ordinary human woman. She also has an uncanny ability to sniff out vampires and demons lurking nearby. Being in deadly situation can give her mental focus far beyond her everyday abilities. Her brain and body go on high alert and become ready to face any possible threat. Unlike Tolyya, she never panics when her life is at stake. She drops into a state of hyper awareness, even meditativeness. However, sometimes in the fight to survive, she may have to momentarily hang up some of her principles.

Karissa is tri-lingual. Her mother tongue is Themazighn, the language common to all three of the modern races descended from the ancient Amazons—the Penthesileans, the Andromacheans, and the Gorgonians. She learned English at a young age, and then learned Japanese as well during her time in Japan. She’s very resourceful. While generally anti-social, she has no problem maintaining connections and contact with people she believes can help her do the things she sets out to do, such as techno geniuses and certain select government officials (among many others). Getting a hold of fake travel documents or identification is all in a day’s work for Karissa.

WEAKNESSES:

Karissa has a rare blood condition that causes her to produce too much hemoglobin. To treat herself in the city, she goes to a blood drive once a week and donates blood. In the wilderness, she must bleed herself once weekly. If she fails to do this, she could become very, very ill. However, she is pretty vigilant about this because there are physical symptoms whenever it’s time for the next treatment. For example, she can begin to feel excessive heat and will not stop sweating. This tips her off to the fact that it is time to let some of her blood go. To make up for the loss of fluids, she drinks a lot of water right after the treatment.

Like all Penthesilens, Karissa was born mortal. That is to say that she can die in any number of ways just like an ordinary mortal can, e.g. poisoning, disembowelment, asphyxiation, and so on. The only thing she has much resistance to is death by blood loss, but even that is possible if she hemorrhages enough. As an Amazon descendant, she is most vulnerable to the temptations of pride and rage. There are times that these things could be used against her to defeat her in a battle or an argument by a very discerning opponent. She’s also inarticulate at times, and very prejudiced. She’s a feminist who fails to recognize her own unfair biases against the male gender. She can be vengeful at times, and obtuse regarding the feelings of others.

As a young Penthesilean, Karissa does not have a great deal of experience or wisdom on her side. She can definitely be naïve in many cases. She can also be rash and audacious when she’s upset about something, often leading her into life threatening situations that she has to fight her way out of. She yearns deeply for something that she can neither identify nor put into words, and it grieves her greatly, though she hides it like a pro. Her more astute Sisters believe it is taking a toll on her and they have struggled to help her, yet she has resisted their offers of assistance and support. Karissa is a go-it-aloner and does not wish to rely on anyone other than herself. This is partly out of pride on her side, and partly out of distrust.

HISTORY:

Karissa was born May 29, 1990 in the mystical city of New Pontus to Crown Princess Alexa, daughter of Queen Marpesia. Her father was a famous half-white Japanese-American martial artist named Osamu Hayashi, whom her mother met on a vampire-hunting trek through the United States. Osamu and Alexa produced two children together. Alexa gave Osamu a son first in exchange for a daughter, so Karissa has one full-blooded older brother, Katsuo Hayashi. She did not grow up with her father or brother because warrior men are not allowed to live in New Pontus, nor was her mother romantically interested in Osamu beyond mere procreation and maybe a good spar or two.

Despite being the daughter of the woman next in line for the throne (and a Penthesilean princess), she is not the only Penthesilean princess, nor is she guaranteed the throne by birthright. This is because Penthesilean royal lineage works in a rather unique way. The Queen and Crown Princess are always immortals who have proven themselves in battle. A Penthesilean princess, like all Penthesileans, is born into a mortal body. When the Crown Princess secedes the throne and becomes Queen, all of the other existing princesses become eligible for the position of Crown Princess. The first princess to achieve immortality among the lot gets the title. If an enemy decapitates the Crown Princess before she has a chance to produce any daughters, the position is open again and the next princess to achieve immortality takes her place (usually one of her sisters). Once a Crown Princess has had one or more daughters, the daughters become the new princesses, and the old princesses become noblewomen. Noblewomen are eligible for any high position in the city government other than the Queenship. So while they may lose out on the highest leadership position, a whole world of other opportunities opens up to them.

Karissa has a number of older half-sisters who also held the princess title, and are eligible for the throne. While she loves her sisters dearly, she has often found herself at odds with some of them—primarily the more ambitious ones that saw her as a threat. This was mainly a concern of her childhood days before her mother’s death, when she was far more open and sociable. Despite the modest amount of sibling rivalry, Karissa’s childhood was happy and starry-eyed. She lived in the palace at New Pontus and often enjoyed venturing into the Forest of Enigmas outside the city. Though the ongoing military training that all Penthesilean youths are subjected to was grueling and often brutal, as a Penthesilean it was in her blood to be invigorated by the treatment and, naturally, she loved it. There’s nothing that excites a Penthesilean more than the thrill of the hunt or of a fight.

Karissa, being Alexa’s youngest, was very close to her mother. Penthesileans tend to be independent and fast maturing, and all of Karissa’s sisters went off on adventures or had otherwise left home by the time Karissa was 12. For millennia, the location of New Pontus had been a carefully guarded secret from all known forces of darkness. That changed one day due to modern technology. A Russian vampire warlord named Vadim Krevich used a bug from the Cold War to track one of Queen Marpesia’s troops all the way home to the hidden Penthesilean city. He later planned an attack that he hoped would cripple the Penthesileans’ military defenses and wipe out all the possible heirs to the throne. Being unfamiliar with Penthesilean custom, he did not realize that Alexa and Karissa were not the only possible heirs (especially since all of Karissa’s sisters had left). He sent ten of his most skilled assassins to kill Alexa and Karissa, but had them spare Queen Marpesia only in hope that she would seek him out so he could decapitate her with his blade personally.

On the night of the assassination, Karissa had had a dreadful nightmare and went to sleep in her mother’s room. They were fast asleep when the vampires snuck past the palace defenses. Just before one of the vampires beheaded the sleeping 12-year-old Karissa, Alexa woke up and threw her daughter onto the ground in the nick of time. Instead of severing Karissa’s head, the blade severed Alexa’s right hand. The Crown Princess bellowed from the agonizing pain, awakening the rest of the palace. Despite her bloody wound, Alexa fought hard against the ten masked vampire assassins to defend her terrified daughter. Karissa was forced to watch in horror as her mother was overwhelmed by her fanged foes. They stabbed her repeatedly, and then took turns drinking from her. The second to last one ripped out her throat as the blood ran empty, and then the final one severed her head clean from her shoulders.

The last memory Karissa had of Alexa was staring into her mother’s lifeless eyes from under the bed, as the woman’s severed head lay facing the young mortal Penthesilean on the floor. The vampires then turned on Karissa and tore the bed apart to get to her. However, her mother had bought enough time for the guards to arrive. They broke down the door, and frightened off the vampires, who fled through the open window. The vampire assassins had attacked earlier than they were supposed to according to Lord Krevich’s pre-laid plans. This error threw a wrench into the rest of the scheme, and put the Penthesilean army on high alert. The vampire army was forced to retreat. Due to otherwise smart planning on the part of Krevich, the identities of himself and his vampire clan, and where they came from, were never discovered. Krevich had realized that the Penthesilean defenses were too strong, so he disappeared without a trace. Rumor had it that he was away building a vast vampire army the likes of which the world had never seen, but none of these claims were ever confirmed. Only one clue was left behind by a careless assassin—a golden pendant with the image of a snake/centipede/scorpion hybrid monster etched into it.

In the immediate wake of the attack, a catatonic Karissa found the artifact and kept it in hope it would some day help her track down the vampire clan responsible for her mother’s murder. Krevich and his clan robbed Karissa of her childish humor and joy. As a firsthand witness to the brutal murder of a beloved Sister, Karissa became eligible for the ancient Penthesilean custom of otozulkerd, a personal pilgrimage wherein a Penthesilean absconds from her homeland for a number of years to learn to survive alone and prepares herself through intensive training to take swift vengeance upon the (usually immensely powerful) culprit. To signal her decision, she snatched her mother’s silver bellicose sword from the bedroom and stuck it at the feet of the ancient statue of Queen Penthesilea, founder of the race. When palace staff discovered it the next morning, they knew immediately what it meant and reported it to the Queen. After Karissa’s disappearance, Marpesia blessed the young girl’s pilgrimage by sprinkling New Pontus Temple holy water over the sword. According to custom, the sword would remain at the statue’s feet until Karissa proved herself worthy of wielding it by tracking down and slaughtering every last one of her mother’s killers.

As soon as she left New Pontus, preteen Karissa crossed one of the magical portals into northeastern Turkey. Her first objective was to find her father, champion martial artist Osamu Hayashi. Owing to her thorough education about the ordinary human world, she was able to search on the internet and found out that he was living in New York City, in the United States. She travelled by bus all the way to Paris, France, and then boarded a New York-bound airplane that was leaving in the dead of night. Without many people and staff around at the ungodly hour, she was able to sneak aboard the plane into the luggage area, masked from head to toe. She hung out in the pet section until arriving in New York City. Sneaking off the plane was not so easy. In broad daylight, she was spotted and then chased by security guards to the fence at the edge of the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Being faster and stronger than an average human being is what made her escape possible. She outran and outsmarted the authorities and then went about the city in search of Osamu. She found him at his dojo in Greenwich Village.

Karissa’s father and brother were more than happy to teach her martial arts. She was the most dedicated student Osamu had ever had, and was certainly the strongest female he had ever met save Alexa. Father and son taught Karissa everything they knew about martial arts in less than a year and a half. But she was hungry for more. Osamu had nothing more to teach her, so he bought all three of them airplane tickets to Japan for the summer. They trekked through the mountains to a peaceful valley, wherein lived a martial arts master legendary for his skill in ninjitsu and the samurai sword, Naoki Taburu. He had never taken in a female student before, but Karissa’s Penthesilean abilities left him tongue-tied. He agreed to a trial period to test her fully. The first few weeks were excruciating and torturous, but that never stopped any woman with the heart of an Amazon in her. Eventually Karissa’s father returned to the United States by himself, leaving her and Katsuo to train under Master Naoki. Having her older brother with her was great for Karissa’s motivation. She was constantly driven to try and best him, and often did.

Master Naoki took advantage of the sibling rivalry to create weekly competitions testing their skills. They both improved faster than any student he had ever taught before in his long life (he was almost ninety years old and had been training students since his mid-twenties). Finally, when Karissa turned twenty-one and Katsuo turned twenty-three, they both passed the ultimate test together. By the time Master Naoki declared them graduated from his martial arts school, they were both deadly in the arts of ninjitsu and the samurai sword. Master Naoki handed them both katanas of the highest quality craftsmanship—gifts left by their father years earlier. However, after Karissa told Katsuo what happened to their mother, he turned his down and gave it to Karissa to aid in her quest for justice. Karissa swore to return it to him after the deed had been done. She took the twin blades and parted ways with her brother. Katsuo returned to New York City, while Karissa returned to the city of her birth, New Pontus. Karissa visited the city only briefly, to let her grandmother and the other Penthesileans know that she had completed her training and was now bound to the second provision of otozulkerd—retribution. Her long-awaited arrival was celebrated, but her new demeanor haunted her Penthesilean relatives. She had completely changed from the upbeat days of her childhood to a distant young woman with nothing but vengeance on the brain.

Karissa returned to northeastern Turkey through a portal and signed up to be an official vampire huntress for the Paranormal Disasters (PD) hotline—run by a diverse group of supernaturals concerned with keeping the forces of darkness in the mortal world at bay. She used the lead reports to track down and slay as many vampires as she could in search of one bearing the snake/centipede/scorpion chimera pendant symbol. Over the course of two years, she hunted and slew hundreds of vampires, collecting their fangs as trophies to prove to PD that she had completed each mission. PD paid out varying amounts of money to its bounty hunters dependent upon the value of the catch. This was her primary source of income in this time period next to what she made from mugging the vampires that she slew.

During one particularly hot summer, Karissa believed that she had finally found Krevich’s trail in Siberia when the PD hotline sent her a report about a vampire terrorizing a small, isolated village on the border of Georgia and Russia, to the far southwest. When her current trail went cold unexpectedly, a disappointed Karissa decided to accept the PD job, hoping to find another important lead. She arrived at the town and tracked the vampire through miles of dense forest, eventually coming upon a decrepit old dacha buried in the woods. It smelt strongly of the bloodsucker, so she snuck inside with her swords drawn. Karissa was about to kill the vampire, but stayed her blade when she discovered that he appeared to be of a gentle nature. She could not bring herself to complete the mission, but her strict ethical code could not permit her to let him go either. She spent several nights in the village agonizing over what to do about the situation.

Out of options, she eventually resolved to bring him home to New York City with her as a willing prisoner. Along the way, she learned that his name was Tolyya and that he used to be a famous ballet dancer as a human man in the old days of Soviet Russia. Karissa acted as a crucial support for Tolyya by helping him improve his English, getting him a fake ID so he could travel to the United States, supplying him with blood to drink, keeping an eye on him so he would not let his baser instincts take control, teaching him about American culture, and finally setting him up with a talent agent to kick his career back into restart mode. Meeting new people and forming relationships with them pulled Tolyya out of the depression he had been in from years of isolation in the Georgian wilderness. Back at his best, the talented vampire was able to land a leading role on Broadway. After getting to know Tolyya, Karissa eventually dropped all defenses and fell in love with him—albeit it was a forbidden love that she knew for his safety she would have to conceal from her Penthesilean Sisters.
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