Ntashia Stridj Dire

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Ntashia Stridj first encountered marooned astronaut Garvey Dire when she mistakenly assumed he was pursuing her sister, Lana Shar, to the gates of Ledgrim. When the situation was explained she eventually relented from her intention of killing them and gradually, through a number of dangerous situations, a romance grew.

Her previous husband was slain and from that point, she suffered the stigma of not having adequately protected her husband. This was problematic because her eventual husband, Garvey Dire, was not content to sit in the background and let his wife defend him against the inevitable dangers of Mars.

At 5’6 she is abnormally short for a Martian woman, who average nearly six feet in height. However, this has not hindered her from gaining a reputation as a fearsome fighter, though she may not be as physically imposing as some of her counterparts.

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Lana Shar Dire

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Stranded astronaut, Garvey Dire, first encountered Lana Shar when he helped free her from a stasis loop he discovered while stranded on Mars and seeking shelter from an impending storm. Hurled back in time with her, Garvey discovers himself in an ancient Mars populated with rival tribes, strange artifact technology, and fearsome creatures beyond his imagination.

Despite this sudden shift in realities, Garvey becomes intrigued with this six-foot-tall warrior woman who introduces him into the Muvari Tribe. To his great chagrin, Garvey Dire discovers that this woman is married to a council member of the tribe–a renowned and wealthy trader. He immediately puts aside his amorous inclinations and this is aided by his introduction to the widowed Ntashia, Lana’s sister.

Later, when Lana’s husband is murdered by a group of conspirators, Lana, following the tradition of first seeking out the brother-in-law to marry her and take on the responsibility of her children, also becomes of the wife of Garvey Dire. Since the ratio of women in the Muvari Tribe is sixteen to every male, polygamy is not only encouraged but required.

 

The Beaten Mask

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Yearly at the waning of the seventh moons, the Verm hold a Festival of Masks, which ostensibly celebrates the time when Baldric Erg and seven rebels (making eight—and this is why eight is considered a lucky number amongst the Verm) hammered a copper mask to disguise his features, slipped into the palace of Snersh Khan and slew 73, including Snersh Khan, his seven wives and concubines, and his seventeen children.

 

Horn of the Druzel

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The druzel is a sand-crawling beast of eight legs and with a great central horn, which it uses to impale its prey. The horn is hollow and contains a paralyzing venom which transfixes its prey and eventually liquefies the organs. This venom, once drawn from the horn, is viable for about 48 hours after which it becomes inert—so it is infrequently used by the tribes of Mars.

 

Wars of Ascension

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The Brothers Venn and Jothmak vied for the position of Khan when their father died of a long illness, which was brought about by degrees of poison administered by a maidservant, Shinka, who had been seduced by Venn. Vermopolis was split asunder by the ensuing civil war, called the War of Ascension. The two forces met on the Spindled Arch, when the jilted Shinka warned Jothmak of Venn’s intention to bring an army against him, and the battle was there decided. Venn was slain and Jothmak made Shinka one of his concubines, but slew her firstborn because he thought it to be the spawn of his brother.

However, Shinka went on to bear Jothmak four sons and three daughters. The eldest son of Shinka, Thegrin, slew Jothmak’s five sons by other wives and concubines, and took the throne of the khan after his father’s death. His own brothers, by Shinka, he allowed to live—but the youngest of these, eventually stabbed him in the back while worshiping before the altar of Naalbrock and took the throne for himself.