Courtiers and Criminals
Dmitry Ekatnava Shkolnikov v'Novgorov von Drachenheim
He is short, about 5’4”, and about 160 lbs. He has long dark hair past his shoulders, and a tan complexion, but brilliant green eyes. He typically wears a hat, or a bandana tied around his head, to keep off the sun while at sea. He has a long, wispy goatee beard and mustache, but keeps his cheeks and neck clean-shaven when he can. When at sea, he rarely wears a shirt, even if it’s cold. “Ussuran blood, I like the cold” he says. Otherwise he wears the ragged clothes of a merchant sailor when at sea, and ashore as well, if he is not trying to impress anyone. He carries a rapier, slung in a scabbard tied to his rope belt. His hands are rough and calloused from all the time spent climbing ships’ riggings. He is lean and well muscled from a lifetime of physical labor.
Dmitry Ekatnava Shkolnikov v’Novgorov was born in the city of Ekatnava on the northwest cost of Ussura. The only major port city on the West coat of Ussura, Vesten trading ships were normally docked there, so there was always a number of foreigners in the city. These were mostly Vesten, but sailors of all sorts were among them. Dmitry’s mother, Marusa Sousdal Paveltova Borisov v’Riasanova, was married by arrangement to a much older, and very wealthy boyer named Shkolnik Ekatnava Borisov v’Novgorov. Shkolnik was a very jealous man and hid his beautiful young wife away in his house under lock and key so that no other man would be tempted by her beauty. Marusa, gifted by Matushka with Pyeryem magic, had it within her power to escape easily, though she dared not because her mother and father, though of noble blood, had slowly lost most of their family wealth through living a decadent lifestyle beyond their means, and it was only the marital contract to Shkolnik, and the allowance Shkolnik paid to them, that kept them from becoming destitute. Marusa did quietly leave the house from time to time, when she would wander the village and mix with the muzhik. It was on one of these excursions in which she met a Castillan sailor named Benito de Lucas Alfonso. Benito and Marusa had a brief romance, but Benito believed Marusa to be a common Jenny at that, and never looked back.
Not long after her tryst with Benito, Marusa discovered that she was pregnant. She was certain her pregnancy was the result of her husband’s ravaging upon her, despite having been with another man. For six years Dmitry lived in Shkolnik’s house. Their relationship was never a good one however. As Shkolnik aged, he became cold and cruel, and often tormented his son.
At about the age of five, Dmitry first spoke to Poco, one of the mice that hid in the walls of the kitchens. Poco talked to Dmitry for days at a time about Matushka and her secrets. Poco gave Dmitry his spirit skin, and using the power to change his shape, Dmitry began leaving his father’s house and explored the countryside. He always returned to his father’s house however, before it was noticed that he was missing.
Marusa often pleaded with Shkolnik to let her take her son out of the house and into the city. Dmity’s only experience outside was the very rare attendance of Mass at the nearby Orthodox Church, and the wanderings that he hid from both his father and mother. Marusa complained often to Shkolnik how miserable she and her son were, kept hidden in the house year round, never feeling the fresh air of the outside. She told him how this was not the way the Ussurans were meant to live. She was often beaten for this, but finally Shkolnik relented.
Shkolnik brought them into the village to accompany him on a business meeting. He was receiving a shipment of steel from a merchant ship. As they arrived at the dock, Shkolnik walked up to a crewman with his wife and son in tow. The crewman, a Castilian named Benito de Lucas Alfonso, was talking with the harbormaster and looking over a list of cargo, and did not look up when Shkolnik cleared his throat.
Shkolnik shoved Benito’s shoulder. “Hey! You the ship’s purser?” said Shkolnik, in a gruff tone. “I’ve already given you your damn furs. Where’s my steel?”
Benito said, “It’s next to be unloaded.” without even looking up from his list of cargo.
“Don’t get smart with me.” Shkolnik said. “I want my damn steel NOW!”
“Well, you will just have to wait, Señior,” said Benito quietly, only barely acknowledging the man. He walked a few paces down the dock, looking over the crates piled there and finally looked up. In that moment saw Marusa standing only a short distance away. A smile crept onto his face and “Hola!” he said, “what a pleasure to see you again, señiorita!”
“Again?” said Shkolnik, “Where have you seen her before? My wife never leaves the house! Where have you ever seen my wife before?!”
Marusa stood there, horror-struck. She shook her head at Benito, silently urging him to say no more, but Shkolnik turned towards her and caught the gesture.
“Treacherous woman!” Shkolnik shouted, “Foul wench! How many times have you gone behind my back?! How many were there!” And then, noticing Dmitry, he flew further into a rage shouting, “And the boy! THE BOY! Whose is he wench? Long have I suspected, long have I known!” And with a terrible grimace on is face he drew his sword, and swung for Dmitry’s throat.
Steel met steel. Benito’s sword was out, dancing with Shkolnik’s blade. To Dmitry’s eyes, the duel lasted hours, though it must have been mere seconds. Men from the ship’s crew, and townsfolk as well, were on them, pulling the two men apart and holding them back.
“You!” Shkolnik shouted at Benito, pointing a finger, “I shall not do business with you or your ship again!” “And as for you…” he said softly and coldly, turning slowly towards his wife, “you shall pay dearly for what you have done. Very… dearly…”
Shkolnik threw off the townsfolk holding him, and grabbed his wife by the throat, and threw her to the ground.
“Shkolnik, don’t!” squeaked an old woman. Shkolnik either didn’t hear, or ignored her. He grabbed Marusa by the babushka and began dragging her towards home by the hair. Benito struggled against his shipmates, but they did not release him. A sailor with a thick Innish accent whispered to him “Jenny had it coming, give it up!”
“But… but your son!” the old woman shouted towards Shkolnik.
“HE IS NO SON OF MINE!” Shkolnik shouted, without turning.
Only after Shkolnik was long out of sight did the seamen release Benito. He slowly walked over to where Dmitry sat, crumpled on the wooden planks of the dock, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Well muchacho,” Benito said gently to Dmitry, “come on. We sail with the tide.” He helped the boy to his feet, and led him by the hand towards the ship’s gangplank.
Dmitry then spent a large portion of his life at sea. Benito took him on as a steward, and when he grew tall and strong enough, he joined the regular crew as a topsman. It suited him well, as he has no fear of heights at all. Dmitry loved the crow’s nest, where he could stare into the horizon for hours on end, and he loved the chill of the air up top; it reminded him of Mother Ussura.
Dmitry didn’t understand any of what had happened on the docks, at least at the time. Benito tried to explain it to him, as best he could when the two had a private moment. It was extremely hard for him, trying to explain to such a young boy, but Benito felt it was better to know, and to know sooner rather than later. After a long while though, the message came across, and Dmitry came to love Benito as a father.
Benito taught Dmitry Castilian, and a few other phrases in various languages that he would need to know traveling from port to port. He also taught Dmitry how to fence. Dmitry also learned much from other members of the crew, and thus began his informal education. Languages came naturally to him, and he learned most of Theah’s languages quickly, and to a large extent out of necessity.
Benito was very close friends with the ship’s bosun, Antonio Torti. Tony kept a close eye on Dmitry to keep some of the other sailors off him, and became almost as close with Dmitry as Benito was. In particular, he had to keep an eye on O’Neal. That was the one who whispered, “Jenny had it coming” in Benito’s ear. Benito never forgave him for it, and O’Neal knew it. And since Benito was best mates with the bosun, the bosun never forgave him either. On several occasions, an infraction that would have gotten anyone else a tongue lashing got O’Neal a lashing with the cat-o’-nine-tails. O’Neal openly blamed Dmitry, (whom he referred to as Jenny’s Boy when no one who cared was listening) and wound up leaving the ship at the next port.
The three men stuck together for a very long while. They took on with different ships every so often, as is normal for sailors, but always together, until Dmitry was around 16 or 17, and disaster struck. Pirates attacked the merchant ship they were sailing. Dmitry, watching from the rigging, saw Benito run through by a pirate. His blood boiling, he dashed down to the pirate and began to fight. Dmitry was the worse swordsman, though luckily he managed to put out the pirate’s left eye. With the pirate temporarily dazed, Dmitry made his escape the only way he could; he transformed, and scurried below decks. A few of his shipmates saw him change. None of those survived.
Not long after the pirate ship docked at Avalon. Dmirty made a discrete exit from the ship and was not noticed. Dmitry’s strongest inclination at this point was to return to Ussura. He longed for it. He often dreamed at night about his mother. He wanted desperately to find out what has happened to her. Always though, a small voice in the bottom of his heart told him, “Not yet. The time is not right, not yet.”
He stayed in Carleon for about three years. The small bit of thieving that he learned from old shipmates helped him survive the first few nights, and he was unusually lucky not to get caught. Since he could already fence a bit, he took up residence at a local Swordman’s Guild Chapterhouse where he started earning his keep by doing odd jobs for the Guild, and after a while bought membership. He trained in the Andrews school. It suited him well, as Benito had started teaching him using a rudimentary form of the Aldana School, and the two schools are quite similar. Dmitry had begun doing the occasional hired duel, but after a while realized that he could make more money sailing than dueling, and decided to take a commission on board a merchant ship.