So are we still doing this?
Assuming that we are, i thought i'd do a character sketch. This is like fanfic squared, you know? Not only writing someone else's character, but that person writing your character back. o.O Anyway, if it makes you feel more comfortable writing her, and because it will help me, here you go.
Taukra Falling Star Stormheel
A brief history
Taukra's mother was a trader whose boat capsized in the swamp amidst massive seasonal storms. The few survivors of the destruction were quickly captured and enslaved by a local orc clan. Known as the Bloodwater Clan, these orcs were like any other southern horde - sadistic, stupid and strong. Taukra was born within a year; her mother died in labor.
Like most orcs, the Bloodwaters had a very loose hierarchy. Chief and shaman at the top, positions held by strength and cunning; the able-bodied beneath, then slaves, then children. All orcspawn, be they child of the chieftan or child of the lowest slave (or both), were raised the same - thrown scraps, beaten when they annoyed, ignored when they didn't. Thus Taukra suffered no particular persecution from her parentage. It was instead her lean build, her unusual height, and her more academic inclination that put her at the bottom of the bully totem pole. She learned at a young age to climb the slippery, narrow trees of the swamp where her heavier, clumsier tormentors could not follow, and how to hide in the dense reeds and thick mud of the swamp.
Her mother's friend Jesom was the only survivor of the trading crew who lived much long after the capture. Without him, Taukra would likely have risen to dark glory as a great Bloodwater shaman, as barbaric and cruel as any of her father's people. But Jesom did his best to keep her human, teaching her ethics, Common, and as much about the civilized world as he could. It was his death, at the hands of a bored clan warrior who'd missed most of the fighting during a skirmish with another clan, that spurred Taukra to finally run away from the Bloodwaters and seek the fabled "civilization" of which he spoke.
After days on the run, deep in the heart of the jungle, far from the swampy edges of the river where the land was dry enough to build on, she discovered an ancient stone temple. She was taken in and trained by its keepers, somber monks who believed Truth could be found amidst the primitive. For eight years, they tought her Discipline, Focus, Patience and Calm, the fourfold path to Truth. Eventually the monks advised that she'd never achieve Calm until she achieved peace with herself, and sent her packing.
She found herself wandering lost and aimless through the swamp, and ended up joining a small group of clanless orc marauders. They lived on the edges of orc society, preying on the clans and the creatures of the swamp, until one day they attacked a group of amnesiac adventurers. Taukra quickly turned on the orcs in favor of the adventurers, seeing a chance at escape from orcish life. And so begins the story.
Taukra has a very conflicted view of herself and her heritage. Primarily, she loathes orcs. She considers herself "too good" to speak orcish, and goes to great pains to reduce the accent her fangs give her. She shows no mercy when orcish enemies are involved, she won't bargain or deal with them unless forced to, and despite her high wisdom score, she often makes somewhat stupid decisions in service of her prejudice. If asked her race, she would certianly say half-human; offscreen, she and Ump probably came to blows several times until Ana and Trog made him stop calling her an orc for the sake of group harmony.
At the same time, however, she takes great pride in her ability to blend in with them. Matching another orc drink for drink, curse for curse, and blow for blow, growling at a goblin until he pisses his pants with fear - these things are little joys in an otherwise somber life. Likewise, she's a disciple of much of orc culture. She sees scars and tattoos as ritualistic, thinks posessions are worth far less than prestige, and believes the gods honor only warriors who die in battle. She's also steeped in the ancient orcish legends, of the time when the clans were united and their greatest champion fought barehanded against great dragons for the glory of the race.
Basically her orcishness is an essential part of herself, and she denies the hell out of it and hates herself for it.
Pride and identity are Taukra's two big motivators. The search for Anastasia serves both, obviously; upon what she'll base her identity when this quest is over is a question for another day. But mostly, on a day-to-day basis, Taukra lives by a few simple rules.
She never breaks her word.
She never leaves a fight unfinished.
She never denies a flat request for help.
She has a tendency to jump into things - a combination of orcish impatience and the knowledge that she can take care of herself (and a total lack of fear of death. Orcs fear many things, but as a rule, never death). She's also generally unimpressed by pain, foul smells, and gory, eviscerated corpses, for what should be obvious reasons. Similarly, apart from her orc complex, she's very difficult to insult or provoke.
With respect to other people, she's generally pretty neutral. She's pretty good at reading people's intentions (high Sense Motive), but unless they pertain to her, she doesn't really care. She'll trade with or fight side-by-side with someone she doesn't particularly like, and her respect is earned mostly through battle prowess (and adherence to her Rules to Live By). The only two people she's ever actually been fond of are Anastasia and Trogdor, although she has a sort of amused interest in the continued survival of the cracked-out mage in Calvadir who she helped with the black dragon. She talks little and laughs less, and doesn't go out of her way to interact with people.
Thalia in particular she's undecided on. She's predisposed to like her, as someone dedicated enough to Anastasia to come all this way looking for her, and for attempting to help with the whole Book debacle. But because she doesn't mind disliking people or being disliked, she's not going to push for friendship if Thalia makes her work for it.
A bit of loose rock crumbled down on Taukra's head, and she muttered a few choice words in goblin (really, orcish was a much better language for swearing, but Taukra firmly maintained that orcish was a language for orcs, not people). She stretched her toes a little wider and dug into the ceiling, testing her grip. It really wouldn't do to plummet to the spikes below, but she wanted her rope back.
Carefully she worked the knot she'd made the day before with a single deft hand. The utterly pointless knot she'd made the day before. The door set into the wall was still closed, slightly dented from her attempt to kick it open but essentially unmoved. Taukra sighed. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate that they were neither sadistic, lascivious or unwashed (though Trog often maintained a sort of fishy smell for some time after her periodic sojourns as a squid), but her allies maintained a roughly orcish level of discipline, organization and initiative. It was a kind of comfort to be once again on her own.
Which is why she pressed silently into the ceiling, hanging motionless in the rough shadows at the sight of the sorceress, who'd appeared at the edge of the acid-polished hole. Taukra watched as Thalia glanced around and appeared not to see her, then waved a hand and stepped out casually onto open air. With a light brush of her fingers against the stone, she floated along next to the wall above the brutal spikes, making good time toward the ruined entrance they'd come through the day before.
There were two basic lessons every spawn learned in the dangerous school of the southern orc clans. One - there is strength in numbers, and great danger in solitude, even for those who can run and climb and hide. Two - there is great danger in allies, and no new face is to be trusted.
Pride, paranoia and compassion, along with, perhaps, a long-buried desire for simple companionship, warred for a moment in the dark recesses of Taukra's mind before better instinct won out. After all, this was Anastasia's friend.
Taukra abandoned her stealth and gave a final pull on the rope, freeing it from the skeleton of the rafters and wrapping it easily around her waist. Below her she saw Thalia snap around at the noise, eyes flashing with power and hands raised, before recognition sank in. With a dismissive turn of her head, she finished her float to the entrance.
The climb along the ceiling was a short one, but long enough that Thalia's thin veneer of indifference was very visibly (at least to Taukra) slipping away in favor of impatience by the time Taukra anchored one hand and flipped lightly through the opening to land in a low crouch beside her.
They sized each other up for a silent moment, Taukra's eyes lingering on Anastasia's pendant where it hung between the curved lines of Thalia's collarbones.
"Did you wake someone before you left?"
"What do you care? You're the one abandoning your friends in the middle of the night."
"You didn't," Taukra concluded grimly. She made full use of her scarred visage to sneer disdainfully at the northern mage. "And friends or not, some of us understand duty, rochra." This was an orcish curse, but in this case the language was a sad necessity, as "wizard" wasn't considered a dirty word among goblins.
Thalia's eyes narrowed. "I woke the dwarf."
Taukra, who'd been turning towards the chamber of spikes, gave her a quick glance and sensed no dishonesty. She reversed and leapt easily across the grate to mount the spiral steps, but was stopped by Thalia’s words.
"I wasn't done, orc. Don't speak of things you don't understand. What does a filthy coward who abandons her companion to death and desecration to go chasing after dragon gold know about duty?"
Taukra stood very still, every muscle as taut as Ruanis' bowstring midfight. The claws on her left hand flashed and sizzled into life. In a tightly controlled voice, utterly devoid of the slight accent her fangs usually imposed on her speech, she growled "I. Am not. An orc."
She heard the sorceress shift behind her as she chanted the Thunder Sutra twice under her breath, and finally let her claw flicker out of existence. She took a deep breath. Thalia seemed to be holding her battle stance, but Taukra didn't turn - she simply set off up the stairs at an easy clip.
"Come on then, Northerner," she said, forcing her voice back to a casual tone. "You'll have to hustle if you want to keep up."
Eventually she slowed enough for Thalia to catch her. To the monk's significant disappointment, the sorceress didn't seem particularly winded when she did. They ascended in a grudging silence.
I don't get how Anastasia does it... did it. Hell, Ump's as uncouth and withdrawn as I am, and doesn't have the sense a fly's born with on top of that, and he doesn't even have this much trouble... Well, now there was something.
"So you woke the beardling, eh? He have anything colorful to say?"
They'd reached the trick step, and hopped lightly over it. Thalia gave her a searching look, and shocked Taukra by responding.
"Something about flat beer. Also I think he threatened to take my head off with an axe."
This earned a short bark of laughter, and the silence that followed was perhaps not quite so hostile, though by no means was either woman at ease.
Thalia glowered in the cave. So the half-orc -- orc -- beast was abandoning the party in the night, to search for Anastasia. Anastasia- a paladin felled not in glorious battle, but by a tidal wave from which all her useless party members had saved themselves. She died a bruised, slimy, forgotten thing, ripe for waiting evil and so she was plucked up and carried off to Heironeous knows where before the two-woman search party was able to locate her pack floating among the detritus after the the storm.
Even now, Thalia had to wonder at the other party members, the apathy of the dwarf, the absentmindedness of the druid gnome, and even the aloofness of the unfamiliar paladin, who seemed to be almost as new to this ill-starred party as Thalia was. But Taukra- Thalia tugged fiercely at the edge of her blanket, puncturing it with her fingernails. Taukra made a pretense of caring, which made her betrayal all the more acute. And she had been the one to bring her the cursed book. Thalia had tried reading it, in a generous spirit to help some old man they had insisted was in danger, only to be spat from heaven's mouth for that very act.
And now, "I'm done with this?"
If she had nothing to hold her here, when this was her own party, what reason had Thalia to stay? She was a vagabond, a woman on an eternal quest that had turned up a dead end. Now another was set before her, to regain her sainthood, if she had ever possessed it. Such a task now seemed ephemeral and beyond her capacity, like attempting to run in a dream only to find oneself held fast to the ground.
No. She would not stay for that. Not when her original quest was still being pursued, even by the orc.
Decided, she extracted herself from the blanket and jammed it into her pack. A thought was given momentarily as to whether or not she should wake someone up for watch, before her conscience kicked in sharply at Ump's ribs.
The snoring broke off suddenly and the dwarf let off few curses before bellowing, "What ye want, woman?"
Trodgor shifted uncomfortably, moaning something about dead badgers in her sleep. Thalia leaned towards Ump, whispering harshly, "It's your watch."
"Oh, well, ye could've just told me that, 'stead of kicking me like some night attacker. Lucky for you I didn't have my axe in hand..." the cranky dwarf grumbled as Thalia turned to follow Taukra. "Hey! Where ye going? And where's that orc one?"
"She's somewhere else. And soon I will be too. Good-bye."
There was a rustling sound behind her, as if Ump were going to try to stop her, but sloth overcame him before he could do so. As far as she knew, the dwarf just sat and watched until the sorceress disappeared beyond his darkvision.
It had been a long watch, but Taukra was far from bored. In fact, she'd have paid in blood for the chance to be bored. She'd practiced kata in the mouth of the cave for an hour, trying to clear her mind, watching the party snore at the edge of her darkvision.
What to do? She had a duty. A man, a poor, wretched creature with a wretched dog had asked for her help, and she was obligated to give it. The answer lay down here somewhere, with the ghost of the king and the fouled river and the secret of her comrades' past. These things were simple and true and placed an irrefutable burden on her.
But three times now she'd been in this castle, escaped traps and fought ghosts and now, destroyed a dragon, and she felt no closer to helping that strange posessed man in his pitiful little hut in the scrubland. They were, quite literally, lost in the dark down here, for nothing.
And all the while, the ring itched on her finger. She didn't know how to purify the river or save the enchanter, but she did know, from her scarred skin to her scarred bones, that Anastasia needed her. The paladin had become everything she loathed, and destroying her new corrupted form would fix that. Simple. Doable. And her duty.
She spun on the ball of one foot, kicked the air, and landed in a ready position, stealthier than a gliding owl. And behind her Ump snored so loud it could have been the dragon, woken from death.
It made her decision for her. They were... effective, if not particularly focused or motivated, and they would get to the heart of the whole situation eventually. Especially with this new paladin working with them. Meanwhile, she would find Ana... or what she'd become... and do a final service for her first real friend.
She pulled her silvered butterfly sword from its ankle sheath and laid it next to the slumbering gnome. "Goodbye, Trog, my friend. Someday we'll fight side by side again."
Another few steps and she crouched over the dark form of the sorceress. "Thalia. Wake up."
Eyes opened soundlessly, immediately alert.
"It's your watch."
She barely noticed the woman's cold gaze at her back as she rolled up her blanket and stuffed it into her small backpack, striding to the cave mouth.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm done with this. Anastasia's out there somewhere, being used by something evil, and I'm going to find her and put a stop to it. I wish you luck on your quest to regain your holy blessing." And she started walking up the tunnel.