- Markshire PCs:
Wholeheartedly, Sun-Ok then dedicated herself to her arts. In the woods and fields, she practiced stealth. Some days, she would merely sit in the woods, studying the shafts of sun and the patterns of light and dark, watching the shadows shift over the course of the day. But more often, she would stalk and hunt. She was not adept at it, at first: a few times, an enraged bear or other animal sent her back to Elvidnir. But she improved steadily. Her step became even lighter, and her body more lithe to meld into shadow, but her shoulders too grew powerful, both from the constant drawing of the bow and the constant carrying of pelts.
To others, the intensity with which she honed her skinning knife and the speed with which she moved to skin a kill was sometimes unnerving, yet her heart remained true. She never let an animal’s death be a waste—except for the rats, of course, it being well known among her people that they were ridden with pests and disease—the poor were well fed and clothed by her efforts. And she never killed an animal that would not harm her—the timid deer, the noble white stag. Nor would she buy their pelts from the hunting merchants who sold them—she did not want to encourage others to kill them, either, especially when there were already so many able predators in Markshire’s wilds.
Kayla knew this about her, of course, which was perhaps why she braved the stench of curing and tanning in Alec’s home to come repair their friendship. But it was too soon, the hurt too fresh for Sun-Ok. She merely kept working at her craft, hanging hides on the tanning rack, as Kayla tried to talk to her. It seemed petty, she knew, but she did not trust herself to say much more than that she had already apologized for the captain’s body, already given the reasons why she had thought Kayla would not take offense.
She certainly did not tell Kayla that she had considered reclaiming the body from the guards and putting it back in the ground somewhere else in the woods. After all, she had only decided against that when she realized she did not know the local burial customs well enough, such as whether the roses were necessary, or if the body needed to be oriented a specific way, or if Hillar would raise some ridiculous bureaucratic objection. So Sun-Ok, looking up briefly and sadly from the tanning rack, merely wondered aloud why someone would take a friend—covered in blood and bits of her own brains—to a dangerous place to smell dead giants.
Kayla’s stunned apology for her insensitivity was sincere—had it come from the child Kayla instead of the stern druid, the friendship might have recovered right then. Sun-Ok was content, getting back to the Way, but that for her included following her heart, and her heart was still pained by what Kayla had done. So she merely gazed for several moments at Kayla, standing by Alec’s bear-rug, the stern druid most likely unaccustomed to admitting error, and returned to her tanning.
For the other art Sun-Ok was developing at that time was of course her tailor-craft. She still made simple items of cotton, and continued making healing kits on occasion, but her hunting truly brought her skills into harmony, for it provided skins that she could cure, tan, and work into marvelous items: magic bags, armors of leather and hide, even toys. Almost every different skin had a use, and the nature of the animal from which it came would most often shine through in the items she produced on Alec’s loom.
For Sun-Ok, it was a shame that dire bears always seemed to attack people, and a pity to see their corpses lying in the snow. But it was good that their meat fed so many, and it was pure joy to see the resilient armor made from their skins. It was among the best items she could produce, and among the most difficult. Wearing it, one was much more likely to survive a blow from a bear, a giant, or even a cyclops, a claim Sun-Ok was obliged to prove to prospective customers repeatedly. And in the proving, she made a wonderfully harmonious circle back to the skills that had attained the skin in the first place. She was back to the Way, and actively following it.
The other items she crafted that were both challenging and popular were magic bags, made from the skins of the cougar, crag cat, lion, and malar panther. These bags would actually reduce the weight of the items they carried. Preparing the feline leathers was not all that difficult, of course; the trick lay in using enchanting oil—itself distilled from rare knuckle bones that were often hard to acquire—to bring out the quality of the cat.
It was during this time, as well, that Sun-Ok became fascinated with the malar panther, whose skin made the finest of the bags. It was not an animal she or her friends had ever seen—she acquired its skins only from the merchants—but it was reputed to be both elusive and fierce, a skilled stalker and effective hunter. It was those qualities—as much as the power implied by the great weight reduction it offered, and more than the desire to provide a reliable source for raw materials—that led her to focus on locating and studying the malar panther. What could it teach her about stealth? If she knew more about the animal itself, might she be able to craft other useful items from it? Inquire as she might, though, she could learn no more than rumor or legend. The malar question hovered in her mind, and she pursued it with diligence rather than obsession—although she supposed Tobur and Lomion, the close-lipped fur-merchants she pestered constantly and even flirted with occasionally to learn their sources, might disagree.