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            They say each of us is given gifts which we must use.  Nearly every faith has some variation on the parable of the talents, teaching us of the dangers and waste of failing to use your abilities.  But what if your talents make certain paths open to you, tempting paths of expedience – darker paths?  Does one mistake, one failure to resist that temptation, doom you?  Having failed once, are you more likely to fail again, either by succumbing to temptation or by failing to use your gifts admirably?  To some, this might seem to be pointless speculation, but to the many who have been given powers and gifts beyond the norm, I cannot help but think them vital to living not just a good life, but a just one.


            My name is Elanor Churchill.  Yes, one of those Churchills.  Winston was a fourth cousin, three times removed, or something completely insignificant like that.  The Churchills are an offshoot of the Dukes of Marlborough, and although we’re not an official part of the British peerage, we are an old family and a wealthy one.  I grew up in the area around Oxford, England, and the traditional seat of the senior family of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace.  My family owned a small estate on the outskirts of town, and I wanted for nothing all of my childhood.  My closest friend while growing up was Elizabeth Whitehall, the daughter of my family’s steward.  She may have been “just a commoner,†but she was like the sister I never had.  Many branches of the family would have looked askance at my friendship with Elizabeth, but my parents never did.  My father especially believed that we had an obligation – we had wealth and standing and were honor-bound to use them for the betterment of all men.  More, he was a kind man who treated his steward with the respect and warmth due a professional man, regardless of his standing, and he tried to teach his children to act the same.


            I confess, I paid his ideals little mind beyond my friendship with Elizabeth; I was too occupied with my own adventures and my family.  My parents doted on me, though they did strive to keep me from being too spoiled.  My eldest brother, Jonathan, rarely had time for me, as I was nearly ten years his junior, but my brother Julius was only three years older and quite a part of my adventures with Elizabeth.


            I must say, we gave my governess the most frightful headaches, what with our complete disdain for anything “ladylike.† My chief interest lay in living out the adventure ballads which I loved to read.  I even went so far as to coerce Julius to teach me the rudiments of fencing, which I then passed on to Elizabeth, so we could act out our adventures with more verve.  My one concession to civility was my love of the theatre, especially Shakespeare, though even there Elizabeth and I often found ourselves in trouble for reenacting scenes with too much enthusiasm. 


            As I grew up, it became more and more obvious that Elizabeth and I were completely different.  I attended the finest of private schools, and my name had been down at Magdalen College at Oxford since my birth.  Elizabeth was forced to attend a rather dilapidated public school and would be lucky to be able to afford a public university near Reading.  Despite these differences, we remained close and spent every moment we could together.


            So things continued until Elizabeth and I turned eighteen and departed for university.  I followed Julius to Magdalen and reveled in the freedom from the overbearing presence of the “family.† My father had refused to let opinion sway him on how best to raise me, but before I was ten I had lost count of the number of aunts, cousins, and assorted relations who had expressed disapproval at my unladylike ways.  Once I was at university, though, I saw those relations less and less frequently.  So I pursued an ambitious course of study in literature and philosophy while continuing my training in fencing, all without frowns of disapproval.


            It was during this first year of writing the papers at Magdalen that I first began to change.  I felt, well, faster as if my speed, reflexes and coordination were all improving beyond measure.  Truth be told, I had never been that great at fencing, but in my first year I tried out for and was accepted onto Magdalen’s competition fencing team.  My appearance also changed; my rather plain brown eyes and black hair transmuted into something far more…unusual.  My hair had always been rather bushy and unmanageable, but it was suddenly silky smooth and sleek.  My eyes went from brown to amber, and the pupils slowly rotated to vertical slits, like an overgrown cat.  I took to wearing specially fitted contact lenses which helped disguise the extent of my strange eye shape, but nothing could make them look truly human again.  My new “exotic†appearance, as well as the suddenly supernatural grace of my movements, attracted FAR more attention than I at all desired.  Some of the incidents were truly funny, but most were horribly embarrassing for a sheltered girl in her first term at school.  I couldn’t wait for the Michalmas term to end, so that I could regale Elizabeth with these stories and see what she made of these changes.


            Finally, the holidays arrived, and Elizabeth and I arranged to meet in Oxford one morning soon after she arrived home.  I showed up bright and early at the University Church gardens, but Elizabeth wasn’t there.  When an hour had passed, I called her parents to see if she had overslept, thinking to tease her about bad college habits already acquired.  However, her mother answered the phone absolutely frantic.  Elizabeth had taken a walk the night before and never returned.


            The police later discovered her body in the Thames north of town.  There were signs that she had been murdered, as her clothes were torn and her body generally showing signs of a struggle, but no leads were announced as to who murdered her or why.  That seemed the end of it: a tragic death that caused huge grief for family and friends, all the more so for want of explanation or reason.  It wasn’t until the following year that I learned the truth.


            I was at home in my final weeks before the start of the Hillary term and was searching out my father when I heard him in heated discussion with my mother.  He was cursing the corruption of the legal system, a topic I had heard him discuss often enough.  I made to enter the room and interrupt his diatribe, but my mother’s shocked whisper caused me to pause just outside.  It turned out that one of my distant relatives, a member of the Duke’s family, had been Elizabeth’s murderer.  He had tried to force her to accept his advances and, when she had resisted, accidentally broken her neck.  However, the Duke’s influence and power in London had hushed the entire matter up.


            I was devastated; my best friend, killed by a member of my own family.  A distant member, to be sure, but a blood relative all the same.  And worse, he escaped completely from the consequences of his actions.  I won’t say that I suddenly conceived of the idea to punish him on the spot, but I think my eventual decision was born in that moment of horror.  I went back to school and hurled myself into my studies, desperately searching for some philosophical answer to this suddenly burning question of injustice.  I read Kant, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Locke, and the other greats of social philosophy, and I found no answers.  The only thing I found was a quote, so often used it was almost trite, by Edmund Burke: “All it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.† But how did good people stop the abuses of those in power?  The law is all well and good, but it only prevents those who do not control the entities that enforce it.  What about those people beyond the reach of the law?  What about, God help us all, those with powers and abilities beyond the ken of mere mortals?  My catechism and creeds taught me that none were beyond the reach of God, and I wholeheartedly accepted that, but must justice wait until the next life?  What about justice on earth?  Evil deeds should bring retribution upon their perpetrators.


            As I was desperately researching these moral questions, I developed a keen interest in the world around me and in history.  I had never really bothered with politics or current events before, being content to let my father’s opinions guide my vote.  But what I learned now disgusted and infuriated me.  It wasn’t just Elizabeth; people all over the world were dying and being oppressed by those who should have been their protectors.  And yet, nothing was done; evil was triumphing because good people were doing nothing.  Well, maybe not nothing; one could hardly help but hear the news of those brave people who risked life and limb to battle forces of darkest evil, but it was NOT enough.  Those heroes deserved accolade, but there were too few, and they were too busy, to help the Elizabeths of the world.  It was at this point that I switched the style of fencing I practiced from the epee to the long rapier and began to train in earnest.  I can only imagine what the people around me, especially my trainers, thought as I pursued this new, more deadly art with single-minded focus and intensity.  But it wasn’t until my third year at Magdalen, when I was twenty one, when I discovered the true possibility of doing something about this problem I confronted.


            I was in a fencing competition against a visiting champion from Cambridge, and my trainers had made it clear to me that the honor of the school was at stake.  It was an open field match, making footwork and speed just as important as bladework, and that was the only reason I didn’t lose immediately.  I was thoroughly outclassed by the Cambridge man, but I was also much faster and able to play catch as catch can in the field.  However, my opponent stubbornly refused to let me get behind him for a possible winning stroke.  I remember wishing with all my heart to just be behind him as he pursued me over the field, and then, suddenly, there was a small sound like a cork popping from a good bottle of wine.  One moment, I was in front of him and on the run, and in the next, I was behind him for the winning stroke.


            My opponent was utterly flabbergasted, and to this day, I don’t think he has forgiven me for some dirty trick cheating him of his win.  I was no less shocked, having no idea what had just happened.  Fortunately, we had been far enough away from the observers that they hadn’t seen clearly what had just happened, and I was able to flee the crowds after the match and think about what had just happened.  My sudden increase in physical ability and change in appearance began to make more sense to me now; one could hardly have lived in this world without being aware of concepts like “mutation,†after all.  During some extremely private practice sessions, I was able to determine that I had the ability leap through space.  It was an instantaneous leap, but I had fleeting impressions of a shadowy world that I journeyed through in those brief instants.  These impressions fit with the slight signs of black smoke that I left behind me when I “jumpedâ€, for lack of a better word.


            As I experimented with my teleportation, I also discovered that I could hide extremely well.  One evening, as I wandered the streets of Oxford, I turned a corner to see Julius enjoying an romantic moment with his fiancée.  Embarrassed and not wanting to disturb them, I tried to back away discreetly, but Julius must have heard me.  He looked up, and I just desperately wanted him not to see me.  Amazingly enough, he didn’t.  There he stood, not five feet from me in a side street that, though dark, was hardly that dark, and his gaze swept right past me.  More testing showed that my ability to hide was just as extraordinary as my ability to jump.  As I continued to explore and practice with these new abilities, my enhanced gracefulness also continued to grow.  Looking back on it, I’m almost ashamed of how long the realization was in coming, but it finally dawned on me that I was now equipped with the perfect tools to “do something†about the problems I perceived in the world.


            By this point, I was well into my final year at Magdalen and approaching graduation rapidly.  My brilliant ideas on how to right all the wrongs in the world were put on hold until after my comps and orals.  With much coaching from my tutors, I managed to survive the final weeks and graduated with honors and my bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Literature and won an appointment to pursue graduate work at Magdalen.  My parents were extremely proud and held a celebration for the whole of my family, and I seized the opportunity with both hands: my distant kinsman, the murderer of Elizabeth, was to attend.


            The night of my celebration, I learned two facts which have served me well: most men cannot resist the lure of a pretty face sending them the right signals; and when you get enough liquor into a man, he will boast about anything.  I spent most of the evening in that bloke’s awful company, attempting with all that I had to be charming and appear interested in him.  After three hours (if you think that is overly long for a celebration, you clearly have not attended parties in the upper crusts of British society; it might take that long just for everyone to tell everyone else how wonderful and noble they all are), I was beginning to despair and to be genuinely concerned as to how I was to escape my “escort’s†company before things became too serious.  However, about that time, the alcohol had loosened his tongue, and he began to speak more freely.  He started boasting about his family’s power and influence, I can only suppose in an effort to impress me; I can’t be quite sure, as my family practically is his family, but who knows what was in his head.  And then it came; he gloatingly confided that his connections allowed him to escape any stain.  “Any?†I asked, all innocence and naivety, “even…murder?† And at that, he grinned and slowly nodded.


            I’ve told myself, over and over in the years since, that I would not have followed through on my plan if he had shown the least bit of remorse; who knows, that might even be true.  I hope it is, for the sake of my soul and that innocent child I once was.  But that is a moot point, as my “friend†Devon showed not the slightest grief over his killing of my friend.  So it was that he awoke, a few days later in the middle of the night in his extremely secure mansion, with my blade at his throat.  I had already decided to hide my identity, just in case there were cameras in the room, which I doubted, but caution never killed anyone.  I had also purloined one of the Duke’s swords from a display on another floor, rather than using my own blade.  I’m sure he thought it was a gag at first, but when I cut him off stating clearly and coldly my intention to end his pathetic life, he started blubbering, half paralyzed with fright.  Most of his prater I ignored, but one question caught my attention; “Why?  In God’s name, why me?†he half cried.  I paused, trying to express years of malcontent and disgust with his actions.  Finally, I paraphrased two lines from Macbeth: “Yours has been a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Now the blood of the innocents wells up against thee, tyrant, and retribution shalt have its day.â€


            I don’t know if I can ever truly forget, or forgive myself for, the next horrific moments.  Even though he deserved death (and God knows, he did!), the human mind rebels at the thought of taking another’s life.  Praise be to God for it, else our race would have been ended long ago, but at that moment, I admit I considered conscience a curse.  Tears rolled down my face under the mask I wore as I watched him breathe his last; as I stood in that room, I felt the last of my innocence truly leave me forever.  Barely aware, I tossed the sword down on the bed, jumped my way out of Blenheim Palace, and fled deep into the rough woodlands surrounding the place.  I had much to think about.


            I had expected to feel elation or at least satisfaction in sending Elizabeth’s killer to face the justice of the Almighty.  Yet instead all I felt was grief and guilt at ending another human’s life, however much he might have deserved it.  I spent the rest of the night in the solitude of the woods, desperately trying to sort out my feelings.  I was careful to return to my parents’ home before dawn, though I must have looked frightful the next day.  I lurked in my childhood home for the next few days while the sensational, scandalous story swept the area: a member of the Duke’s household, found dead in his room.  As the murder weapon belonged to the victim and no one had entered his room, it was ruled an accidental death or possible suicide, but that did nothing to assuage my guilt.


            I do not know what would have become of me if not for my father.  Some weeks after my… actions, he took me for a long walk through the grounds.  When we were far from prying eyes and ears, he turned to me and said, “I know something is troubling you, Elanor.  Let me share the burden with you.† I looked at him, at the care and concern in his eyes, the understanding in his expression, and I realized with a start that he knew.  My surprise must have shown in my face, because he let out a weary laugh.  “My girl, give your old father a little credit.  And please, it will do you good to talk about it.â€


            And so I told him.  I told him of my strange powers, my sense of outrage, my desire to do something, and my horror at what I had actually done.  My father listened to the tale without comment or judgment until I had finished.  “Oh, my little Elanor,†he sighed.


            “Are you going to report me to the authorities?†I asked softly, determined to accept whatever he did as no more than my just reward.


            “No, I cannot bring myself to do that,†he said with a sad smile.  Then his expression became even more serious.  “But you need to understand, my daughter, that you stand at a crossroads.  Your choices, here, now, will determine what kind of person you are for the rest of your life.  You have been given gifts, extraordinary ones, and it fills me with more pride than I can say that you want to use them to seek justice.  But what you have done is not justice, and you cannot repeat it, or I will have no choice.  It would break my heart to turn against you, and I pray it will never come to that.â€


            “It never will, Father,†I whispered.


            We talked, then, my father and I.  He firmly agreed with my decision to use my talents, not just hide or ignore them, and he encouraged me to find someone who could more easily understand the dilemmas I would face.  After a long talk, we embraced, and finally, for the first time since that fateful night, I felt a measure of peace again.


            What holds us to the light, when the temptations are so strong and our base desires, or even our good intentions, would lead us astray?  Nothing more than this – the love and support of those close to us.  My father’s embrace offered that to me in the grounds that day and every day since.  While I have had other mentors, he has been my true moral compass, the only member of my family who knows of what I am – what I have done.  His encouragement, his support, and his love have been the difference for me.


            I am still haunted by my demons, of course.  I lost something that night in Devon’s bedroom, something no amount of support can give back to me.  As I have continued my work, both as a “hero†and as a normal person, I have met people just as loathsome, corrupt, and foul as he, and the temptation to… remove them is always there.  Perhaps, if I had not failed so spectacularly, such solutions would be less attractive to me, but as it is, I must do battle with my darker nature daily.  Which hardly makes me different than any other person, of course, but few people can enact their darker desires with such deadly, and anonymous, effect.  I have often thought that it might be easier to lay aside my powers and just live an average life – after all, look at the difference my father has made without any such gifts.  But then I walk the grounds of my family’s home in Blenheim, I visit Elizabeth’s grave, and I remember all the evils in the world – I cannot sit idly by when I can make a difference.


            Will my life not only be a happy one, a good one, but a just one?  I can only pray that it will.

Edited by Corsecjedi
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Lt. Marzano of the FCPD entered the briefing room and peered interestedly at the woman waiting for him.  Most of the superheroes he dealt with wore flashy garments with bright colors.  This one was different, to say the least - dark clothes and what looked like a standard issue tactical harness with a variety of gear… and a sword.  â€œSorry for your wait, ma’am,†the officer apologized as he moved to the room’s small table.  â€œIt’s been something of a busy day here.â€


The woman turned from her contemplation of the view from the room’s window.  She gave him a swift smile from behind her mask - a mask which did not hide her odd, amber eyes with their vaguely feline pupils.  â€œTis no worry, Lieutenant.  Thou hast thy duties to fulfill, well I know,†she answered.


Marzano felt an eyebrow rise despite himself.  That was certainly something different.  â€œUmm.  Yes.  Well, won’t you have a seat?† He gestured to the chair on her side of the table, waiting politely for her to take her seat first.  He gave a mental chuckle at his own behavior - something about the way she worded things brought back echoes of older times.  When they both had seated themselves, he said, “Well, ma’am, the duty officer told me that you asked to see me.  Something about being new to Freedom City and wanting to work with FCPD?â€


The woman regarded him for a moment; her gaze was intense and focused, as if she was sizing him up.  Then she nodded once, swiftly, decisively.  â€œIndeed,†she said simply.


Marzano nodded back and asked, “Well, then ma’am, let’s start with the basics.  What should we call you?â€


“Canst call me Shadowblade, my good man,†the woman said.  â€œAnd what shall I call thee?â€


“My name is Marzano, ah, Shadowblade,†the police officer replied.  Is your, ah, manner of speech part of your powers, ma’am?â€


(1) “In sooth, friend Marzano, it is not, merely an affectation I don much as I don these mean garments.† Again, her swift smile came and went across her face.  â€œTwixt us, tis somewhat tiresome betimes.  If thou wish it, easily can I dispense with it for the present.â€


“That might be helpful, ma’am,†Marzano said gratefully.  â€œIf I can ask - why Shadowblade?â€


(2) “Of course, Lieutenant,†Shadowblade answered.  â€œThe name seemed appropriate, given my particular skills.† As she spoke, she lay a hand on her sword.  â€œThe blade, I think, is self-explanatory, and as for the rest…† She paused for a moment, her intense eyes focused on something beyond the lieutenant, and then she vanished with a soft noise of displaced air and whiff of smoke.  She appeared a moment later in the corner of the room and moved back to her seat.  â€œI can also effectively disappear in the shadows, as well.â€


Marzano nodded thoughtfully, though his expression was carefully neutral.  â€œThat’s all well and good, ma’am, but I’ve got to tell you that lethal action is not acceptable in Freedom City.  You carry a sword and could easily surprise someone with it.  For the record, how do you intend to operate in our city?â€


(3) Shadowblade’s expression grew somber.  â€œTrust me, Lieutenant, I am very much aware of your city’s views on such things, and I support them wholeheartedly.  I would lay aside my powers completely before using them to kill another person.† She met his eyes levelly and said with complete sincerity.  â€œI do not believe my powers were given to me for that end.â€


The police officer nodded again, looking relieved this time.  â€œThat’s good to hear, Shadowblade,†he said more easily.  â€œYou say you were given powers?† He paused, and she nodded firmly.  â€œWhy do you think you were given powers?†he asked.


(4) The woman frowned in thought and spent a moment in thought before answering.  â€œI believe,†she eventually said, “that all people are given gifts and talents.  Some might seem more important or better than others, but that does not change that all people have been given something.  I believe I have been gifts for the same reason as any other person: to do what is right and just, and to make the world a better place for all.† She smiled again suddenly.  â€œI suppose that sounds rather vacuous, but it’s what I believe.â€


Marzano grinned back at her and jotted a note on his clipboard.  â€œHow do you intend to ‘make the world a better place’ with your powers here in Freedom City, ma’am?â€


(5) There are those people, Lieutenant, who operate in stealth or secrecy.  Some who, whether because of power, wealth, or influence, feel they can operate without regard to the law.† Shadowblade’s voice was suddenly cold and hard.  â€œMy skills allow me to ferret out their secrets, to disrupt their plans, and, hopefully, to gather evidence which you might use to prosecute these people to the fullest extent of the law.  And, I suppose,†she added with a faint smile, “I could be of use protecting the innocent from more obvious threats or villains as well.â€


The lieutenant chuckled appreciatively as he took more notes.  After a moment, he looked up at Shadowblade again.  â€œI can’t help but notice your accent, ma’am.  I take it you’re not from Freedom City originally?â€


(6) Shadowblade nodded.  â€œYou are correct, Lieutenant.  I am originally from Great Britain and still have some ties to my native land, though I do intend to make my home in Freedom City, at least for the present.â€


“As a follow-up,†Marzano continued, “how did you get along with the Ministry of Powers?â€


(7)  â€œI would say well enough,†Shadowblade said after a few moments’ thought.  â€œThe Ministry encourages those of us with gifts to work under their aegis in at least a semi-official capacity.  I never officially joined the Ministry, but I have worked with them on occasion.  They have acted on intelligence I have gathered and provided and found it good, as well.â€


“That’s good to hear,†Marzano replied.  â€œI’m sure we’ll be able to make good use of your cooperation as well, here in Freedom City.† He ran his finger down the sheet of paper on his clipboard.  â€œGiven your appearance here today as Shadowblade, I assume you plan to keep your life beyond hero-work secret?â€


(8) Shadowblade nodded seriously.  â€œYes,†she said.  â€œMy personal life is a full one, and most of those I share it with - family, friends, etc - do not have gifts or abilities like my own.  I do not want them threatened or hurt because of my work.† She paused, then smiled at him again.  â€œPlus, it can be pleasant, at times, to escape the pressure of being Shadowblade.â€


Marzano gave her a nod of agreement.  â€œI know I feel the same way sometimes, ma’am.  It’s nice to be able to ‘go home,’ so to speak, even if it’s a little more complicated for you.  Moving on - what sort of message do you want your work to communicate to the people of Freedom City?â€


(9) Shadowblade leaned back in her chair, her expression intent.  â€œMy gifts… don’t lend themselves to presenting a message, per se.  Other heroes like Gabriel, for instance, are much more capable than I.  But… what I would want my work to communicate to others is that justice exists for all, regardless of wealth or class.â€


“And how would you define justice, ma’am?† Marzano asked.


(10) There was another long pause as Shadowblade ordered her thoughts.  Finally, she said, “Justice is an agreement, a compact, with the innocents and common person that those who use their gifts for evil will suffer the consequences of their actions, and that people working together can build a better future.  Obviously, governments play a role in this agreement, but I believe that justice is bigger than any one nation.  Ultimately, we will all face the true justice of the life beyond this one, but I believe that we all must do our best to bring as much of that justice and goodness into our normal lives.â€


Marzano nibbled on the end of his pen as he thought about her answer.  â€œWell, it’s obvious how you can make the world a better place, but what do you think other people without your gifts should do?â€


(11) “As I said, we all have gifts and can use them for good or ill.  I would like to think that my life beyond Shadowblade, beyond my powers, has just as much opportunity to make the world better - perhaps less dramatic changes, but real ones nonetheless.  All people can take the time to learn about one another, respect one another.  We can all strive to promote equality, to treat everyone we meet as a brother or sister.  In my opinion, making the world a better place is simple - giving all people the love, respect, and justice they deserve.  Simple, but not easy.â€


Marzano’s brow furrowed slightly.  â€œI agree in principle, ma’am, but some of those things sound like they might turn political.  Do you intend to use your position to promote causes or candidates?â€


(12) Shadowblade shook her head firmly.  â€œNo, sir.  I do not believe it is my place, as Shadowblade, to take sides.  I shall use my rights under the law in my civilian identity to support those causes and endeavor to convince others of my logic.  But I do not want my time or work as Shadowblade tarred by accusations of partisanship, either real or imagined.â€


It was Marzano’s turn to lean back in his chair as he considered her words.  Finally, he took up his pen again and jotted a quick note.  â€œWell, that was definitely a thorough answer, ma’am.  I have just a few more questions, but I promise none of them will be as deep as the last few!† Shadowblade smiled briefly as he continued, “Basically, ma’am, I’d just like to get a feel for your personality.  That sort of thing can be important if we want to work together.â€


She nodded and replied, “Ask away, then, Lieutenant.â€


“Now that you’re here in Freedom City, are you working with any of our heroes?  Do you intend to?†Marzano asked.


(13) “I am not working with any local heroes yet, but I certainly hope to establish firm working relationships,†Shadowblade answered easily.  â€œIn particular, it seems that I share interests with the Blue Fox and a fighting style with Jack of All Blades, though I am sure there are many others who might share motivations or interest with myself.  I hope to learn from and work with many people in my time here.â€


Marzano smiled again, more relaxed now.  â€œOf course.  This next one is a bit personal, but you mentioned things like the next life earlier.  Are you a religious person, Shadowblade?â€

(14) “Yes, I would say so,†Shadowblade said.  â€œI was raised in the Anglican Church, and I believe in God the Almighty.  Certainly, my religious identity has deeply influenced my actions and commitments.â€


“My family’s Presbyterian,†Marzano added.  â€œBut I do want to ask: several of the heroes we’ve had here in Freedom City are given their powers by ‘pagan’ gods and goddesses.  That won’t be a problem for you, will it?â€


(15) “Not at all,†Shadowblade replied.  â€œI know what I believe, and while I have faith, I am certainly not arrogant enough to presuppose I have all the answers.  Indeed, I enjoy theological discussions; trying to understand one another is important for building mutual respect and harmony.â€


Marzano nodded approvingly.  â€œThe next few might be a little personal, given your desire to remain anonymous, so feel free to refuse to answer.  What sort of hobbies do you have, Shadowblade?â€


(16) She considered for a moment, obviously debating how much she wanted to share.  â€œI enjoy reading.  As you might have guessed from how our conversation began, I love the works of Shakespeare.  And I will say that my skills in fencing began as a hobby, many years ago.  But that is all I feel comfortable sharing, sir.â€


Marzano accepted that amiably.  â€œAre you romantically involved with someone?†he asked; his understanding tone somehow made the question far less awkward than it could have been.


(17) She hesitated before answering.  â€œI… do not believe I shall share that information, one way or the other, Lieutenant.â€


“Fair enough,†he said.  â€œDo you have a role model, someone that encouraged you to become a hero when you developed your powers?â€


(18) “My father,†she replied instantly.  â€œHe may be just a normal man, but he has never lost faith in me.  He taught me to believe the things I believe, by both word and deed.  Whatever I might accomplish is due to his example and encouragement.â€


“So your father knows about your hero work,†he mused.  â€œDoes the rest of your family?â€


(19) She paused again.  â€œI think that’s another of those questions I’d prefer not to answer, sir.


Marzano jotted a last few notes, then slapped a hand to his forehead.  â€œI apologize, ma’am.  I meant to ask this earlier and got distracted by other things.  You said some of your powers only worked in the shadows.  Should I have lowered the lights or anything to make you more comfortable?â€

(20) She gave him a faint smile.  â€œIt was no trouble or inconvenience, Lieutenant.  While I do not particularly like overly bright lights or sudden, loud noises, I think that can be said for almost everyone.† She waved a hand about the room.  â€œThis light is as comfortable for me as it is for you.â€


Marzano let out what he hoped was an inconspicuous sigh of relief and then stood.  He offered Shadowblade his hand, and she took it in a firm handshake.  â€œWell, that about wraps up everything for this interview, ma’am.  It was a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to working with you in the future.â€

Shadowblade smiled at him, though her smile might have been more like a grin.  â€œIn sooth, it was a pleasant interlude for me as well, friend Marzano,†she replied in the rolling cadence and archaic speech she’d used when he first entered.  He laughed and opened the door for her and politely walked her to the door of his precinct.  They chatted politely as they walked, and when they reached the exit, Shadowblade dropped him a formal bow.  â€œTwas an honor, Lieutenant.  I look forward to our next encounter with great anticipation!† And with that, she vanished.

Edited by Corsecjedi
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Who are you? Sum yourself up in one sentence.

I am a teacher, a fighter, a spy, but most of all I am a woman trying to resist temptation and use her abilities for good.


Do you have any nicknames, street names, titles, or nom de plume?

When using my powers, I have adopted the name Shadowblade.  My father sometimes calls me “Little Flower.â€


What is your full birth name?

Elanor Elaine Churchill


Where do you live?

Currently, I live in a small townhome in Freedom City, though I also have rooms in Oxford, England.


How old are you? What year were you born (if applicable)?

I am 29 years old, and I was born on July 15, 1984.



Physical Traits


What is your gender? If not applicable, please explain.



How would you describe your heritage?

My family is English, a distant offshoot of one of England’s noble families.  By and large, my ancestors have all been English, though my mother is American.


How tall are you?

I am 5’9†tall.


What is your body type?

I have a lean and athletic build.  Years of fencing practice have kept me fit and trim, though I am not hugely muscled.


Do you have any particular weaknesses, such as allergies or physical disabilities?

My eyes and ears are more sensitive than most.  Sudden flashes of bright light and bursts of loud noise seem to affect me more than other people.


How do you carry yourself? Are you graceful, or heavy on your feet? Can you be stealthy, do you walk with confidence?

I am very graceful and quick.  Again, years of fencing has taught me to move lightly and with poise.  I can be extremely stealthy when I wish to be, and, while I do not strut, my successes have given me confidence which shows in my bearing.


Describe your skin, eye, and hair color.

I have fair skin and dark black hair.  My eyes are amber and are shaped almost like a cat’s eyes, though I try to hide that with contacts when I am not acting as Shadowblade.


How do you wear your hair, if applicable? Do you have facial hair?

I wear my hair fairly long, falling to mid-back or so.  As Elanor, I like to wear it loose or in a ponytail, but as Shadowblade, I keep it tightly braided and out of my face.


Do you consider yourself attractive? Do others?

I am certainly pleased with how I look, and I suppose that I do consider myself attractive.  I learned at university, much to my embarrassment at the time, that many men (and some women) found me very attractive.


Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings, or birthmarks?

I have a faint scar on my left cheek, the legacy of a misadventure with my best friend in my youth.  I wear earrings as Elanor, but no other piercings or tattoos.


Do you resemble anyone famous?

Not particularly, at least in my opinion.


Do you have a dominant hand?

I am right-handed.


What kind of clothing do you wear?

As Shadowblade, I favor dark clothes which allow me to move freely over my tactical body armor, along with a mask.  As Elanor, I get to indulge my enjoyment of fine dresses and business suits.  I always dress professionally at work, but at formal occasions, I enjoy wearing long, flowing dresses - though nothing too outre.


Do you wear makeup?

As Elanor, yes, I wear a small amount of makeup.  I rarely do as Shadowblade.


What is your vocal range? Is your voice distinctive in some way?

My voice is an alto, though I never have been much for singing.  I would say my voice is fairly normal, though my years of teaching have trained me to project well and to enunciate.


Do you have any distinctive habits, nervous tics, or mannerisms? Where did they come from, and what causes them? Do other people notice and remark on these habits? Do they annoy you or other people?

I tend to nibble on pencils or pens while working, though I try to stop myself whenever I catch myself at it.  I think that’s just an idle habit, but it annoys my mother and several aunts to no end!  As Shadowblade, I have adopted the habit of speaking in Elizabethan English.  When I first began my work, I wanted to hide my voice somehow to further obscure my identity, and my childhood love of Shakespeare made this an easy choice.  I know that this has annoyed several people I work with, and I try to be considerate and practical, dropping the affectation when asked or necessary.





Where do you come from?

I grew up around Oxford, England, in my family’s home.  More recently, I was a student and research fellow at Magdalen College in Oxford proper.


Have you made any major moves, or do you live in your hometown?

Recently, I accepted a post at Freedom City University and moved from England to Freedom City, at least for most of the year.


Do you feel loyal to your country of citizenship? Do you consider yourself patriotic? How do you feel about the government of your country?

I do feel loyal to Great Britain, though I am in the process of gaining dual citizenship in the United States as well.  I do consider myself fairly patriotic; I am not blind to the flaws and problems which my country faces, but on the whole, I am proud of my home and its achievements.  The government of the United Kingdom works fairly well, I think; I could go on for hours about the strengths and weaknesses of the parliamentary system, but I shall spare you that and merely say that my government, while made up of flawed people, generally does fairly well.


How do you feel about the place you come from?

I love my family home.  It’s not a huge place, but it is warm and full of life.  The small estate and gardens were the site of my earliest adventures, my childhood romps, and the family home is still my refuge and my true home.


Where is your hometown? What was/is it like?

My hometown is Oxford.  It is fairly large city in southern England and, of course, known for its world-famous University.  The city is growing rapidly and has a strong economic base.  The center of town is dominated by the University, many of the colleges and buildings dating back centuries.  I love the city: its energy, its history, and its skyline.


Growing up, were most of the people you knew similar to you, or were you somehow a minority? How did that affect you?

By and large, I was part of the majority.  Some of my family, especially the more nobly born ones, seemed to think we were better than the people around us, but my father was careful never to let me believe that.  I was privileged, yes, but hardly a minority.


Is there something you've always been really good at or really bad at? How has that affected your life?

I have always been good at reading and writing, which, along with my interest in the past, helps to explain my success at university and eventual career. 


Were there any traumatic experiences in your early years (death of a family member, abandonment, orphaned at an early age)?

It might be stretching the bounds of “early years,†but during my first year at university, when I was eighteen, my best friend was assaulted and murdered.  I was devastated by Elizabeth’s death; it caused me to question many things about life and set my feet on the path I walk today.


Briefly describe a defining moment in your childhood and how it influenced your life.

I vividly remember the first time my father told me the parable of the talents.  He told the story with such passion, such verve, and he acted it out with my brother Julius and I playing some of the roles.  At the time, I thought it was merely a story, but the memory stayed with me.  Years later, when I first began to develop my powers, my father’s beliefs about responsibility and using our gifts came back to me, and I finally understood what he had been trying to teach me.


What stupid things did you do when you were younger?

I think I avoided most of the stupid things adolescents do.  I did engage in some very foolish “adventures†with Elizabeth and Julius that, in hindsight, were wildly dangerous for young children.  But we were enraptured with tales of daring swordfights, high romance, and adventure, and nothing could stop us from trying to reenact or even create stories of our own.


Where did you go to school? How much school did you have, and did you enjoy it?

I attended the Magdalen College School during my childhood, as my father was an alumnus and encouraged me to take advantage of the school’s excellence.  After that, I stayed in the Magdalen family, so to speak, and wrote the papers for my undergraduate and doctoral studies at Magdalen college.  I have two Masters degrees as well as my Ph.D. and, while I found graduate school especially to be quite stressful, I have always loved learning and education.


Do you have any mementos of your childhood? What are they, and why did you keep them? If you have none, why not?

I have quite a few, though many are in storage at family’s estate.  I do keep a few with me, wherever I might live, though.  I have the first Bible that my father gave me, when I was barely five.  I have a play wooden sword that my brother Julius bought me when he first started to teach me fencing.  I also have a script that Elizabeth and I wrote, with several pictures from our “performance†included.  I keep them to remind me of the good times, of where I came from, but the latter keepsake, especially, also reminds me of why I do what I do.  It is a touchstone and, like the Bible full of my father’s notes, comforts and encourages me when I feel distraught.


When did you decide to become a hero? Why? Did anyone influence you one way or another in the decision?

It seems… arrogant and hypocritical, at least to me, to say that I decided to become a “hero.† Let us say instead when I decided to use my gifts for the greater good.  I made that choice on a blustery day when I was twenty-two.  I had to find redemption, to atone for my sins, to show that I could make the world a better place.  I knew that much had been given to me, and that much would be required in return, and I vowed to try to be worthy of my gifts.  Of course, none of this would have happened without my father; on that day in the grounds, he built on the firm foundation of his many years of teaching and example and placed my feet firmly on the right path.


Is the reason you give people for becoming a hero different than your real reason? If so, why?

To a certain extent.  I… have never share with anyone beyond my father the precise reason for why I feel the need to atone, and I rarely share even that I do feel a need for redemption.  I suppose I do not share this because I am still deeply conflicted over my past actions; my guilt is still very real, and I have no desire to display it.  The other reasons, though - a desire to use my gifts to make the world a better place - I most definitely share.


Do you represent yourself as being different from who you really are? Why?

Again, to a certain extent.  I feel that most of us with powers who choose to maintain separate identities represent ourselves differently.  Certainly, people who meet Shadowblade won’t know Elanor and vice versa, of course.  Yet I think that the most important parts of me are apparent no matter the guise I might don.


Do you have any deep, dark secrets in the past that may come back to haunt you?

I killed a man.  At the time, I thought it the only just action, and, God help me, sometimes I find myself still thinking that, despite the flogging of my conscience.  He had murdered my dearest friend and escaped all consequences, and I had just come into my powers.  I’m haunted by the guilt of that action; I sometimes feel that his blood has stained my soul and that I will never truly be clean again.

If you do have these secrets, what do you fear would happen if the truth became known? How far would you go to protect those secrets?

I fear losing the respect of others.  I fear being unable to make my father proud of me, to carry on with the burden he taught me to bear.  I fear being thought a monster.  Yet I will not take any more actions.  Years ago, I protected myself against incrimination with the cool, cold logic which had suffused my being, and I refuse to do more.  I am already ashamed of what I have done, ashamed of the sacrifices my father has made to keep my secret; I will not further tarnish myself with selfish actions.


Do you have any sort of criminal record? If so, is it public knowledge?

Despite my crime, I do not.  My father chose to keep my secret and extend his love and trust to me.  I was a well-behaved girl in my youth and have no other indiscretions to blot my record.





What are your biological parents' names?

My father’s name is Hamilton Churchill, and my mother’s is Adele Richmond Churchill


Were you raised by them? If not, please explain and describe who raised you.

Yes, my parents did raise me.  Oh, I had several governesses and tutors, as both of my parents were quite busy with various social campaigns or activities, but in the end, my parents always tried to make their children a priority, and I enjoy a close bond with them to this day.


What was their standing in the community? What did/do they do for a living?

They were very well-respected.  It could hardly be otherwise, given our name and familial ties.  And while they could have simply lived on the family wealth and led a life of indulgence, they refused to do so.  My mother was a social case worker who specialised in helping children in impoverished areas.  My father was a lawyer who, instead of working for a large London firm, spent his time on causes he believed in, generally charging little for his services.


Where are your parents now?

They both are still living at the family home in Oxfordshire.  Father keeps saying how he is soon to retire, but I shall believe it when I see it.


Did your family stay in one area or move around a lot?

We were fairly settled.  Father had to travel occasionally on business, but he and Mother both wanted a stable home life for their children.  Until I came to Freedom City, I had never changed my permanent address.


How did you get along with their parents? How do you get along with them now (if applicable).

I got along splendidly with my parents.  They were as loving and supportive as you could wish, and they did their best not to spoil us children too badly.  They encouraged my interests, laughed at my antics, and comforted my hurts.  That sort of bond only grows stronger with time, and to this day, I look to my parents as examples, as role-models, and as my closest companions.


How do your parents view you now, or how would they?

I think that they are proud of me.  I know my mother is; she does not know of my work as Shadowblade, but she takes great delight in my academic achievements and more in the time I spend working for charity.  My father is, I hope, proud of me as well.  I cannot help but think my actions at Blenheim Palace tainted his opinion of me, but he knows the depths of my regret and sorrow.  He, more than anyone, is my source of comfort and support.


Do you have any siblings? If so how many and what are their names? Describe your relationship with them.

I have two brothers, Jonathan and Julius.  Jonathan was almost a decade older than I, and so we were not overly close as children.  As I have aged, we have grown closer and remain on good terms.  Julius, though, was only three years my senior and a close companion throughout my early life.  He secretly taught me the basics of fencing when he began training, and he was an enthusiastic participant in my adventures.  Our bond has not weakened over the years.


What was your birth order in the family?

I am the youngest of three.


Where are your siblings now (if applicable)? Do they have families of their own? What do they do?

Both Jonathan and Julius are still in England.  Jonathan lives in Oxford with his wife and two sons.  He is an accountant who, like my father, gives freely of his time; his wife is a doctor at the local hospital.  Julius moved to London after he graduated from Magdalen.  He married two years ago, and his wife just gave birth to a daughter last year.  He currently works as an analyst for the Security Service, much to Father’s bemusement; his wife is a school nurse.


Do you stay in touch with them or have you become estranged?

I do stay in touch with both, albeit more regularly with Julius.  I make a point of visiting Jonathan and his family at least once a year.  Julius and I had a few years when we grew apart; looking back on it now, I believe he mourned Elizabeth at least as deeply as I, though I was blind to it in my own pain.  Still, as we both healed, we re-established our close bond, and I delightedly look forward to teaching his daughter the many incorrigible things he taught me.


Do you love or hate one member of the family in particular?

I love all my family, but I suppose Julius and Father hold special places in my heart. 


Is any member of the family special to you in any way (perhaps, as a confidant, mentor, or arch-rival)?

Father, definitely, has been a confidant and a mentor.  His example and his guidance have shaped my beliefs and motivations for my whole life.  When I fell into temptation, he was the one to whom I confided, the one who helped me find forgiveness, and the one who challenged me to live my life for something greater.  He is the only one who knows about my work as Shadowblade, and he is the one I call or visit when I feel doubt or need encouragement.


Are there any black (or white) sheep in the family (including you)? If so, please explain.

I suppose I am, in a way.  My great-aunt certainly thought so, at any rate; many of my older female relatives decried my incorrigible ways over the years.  And Father taught all of us to be somewhat unconventional in our careers and lifestyles, at least compared to the rest of the extended family.


Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? If so, please explain, including how it has affected your life.

Well, I am distantly related to the Marlborough line; the first duke won fame and honor in the War of Spanish Succession.  And, of course, I’m related through a Byzantine chain of cousins and kinsman to Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during the Second World War.  I would say that the only real effect this has had is that my family is relatively wealthy, which did give me options and opportunities I would not have had otherwise.


Do you have a partner and children currently? If so, please describe them.

I do not have a partner or spouse at the present time.


If you do not have a partner or children, do you want them someday? How firm are you in your opinion on this, and what might change your mind?

I am honestly unsure.  A part of me craves the sort of companionship, the true romance, that I’ve read about in tales and songs since I was old enough to hold books.  And of course, I’ve seen the sort of deep love my parents have for one another, and how their marriage has made them both better people.  But another part of me is scared of that level of commitment, of that level of honesty.  A spouse should come first, after God, in your priorities; I am not sure my role as Shadowblade would allow me to give them that dedication.  Or, worse yet, what might I do if they were put in danger?  I know the darkness that lurks inside me; I know my temptations, and I fear what I might become in such a situation.  At the present, it is a hypothetical, as I have not met anyone I wish to marry.  But if I did, I would have many hard choices to make.

As far as children go, if I marry, I think I would like to have to be a mother.  Thought that brings about a whole different set of complications, as I am not… attracted to men.  But even so, I think I want children.  Perhaps that is why I invest so much into my students.  If marriage is never to be, they are the children, the future, I leave behind.


What type of person would be your ideal mate?

My ideal mate would need to share my convictions about justice and making the world better, but I think I need someone less… serious than I tend to be.  I want someone with a zest for life and some joyous spontaneity to balance my intensity.  I want someone who is intelligent and educated; they don’t need to share my interests or field, but I do want someone with whom I can have conversations, with whom I can share my thoughts and who can share with me.  I need someone who can accept me for what I am and who can encourage me to stay true to my beliefs.  And… it sounds foolish, but I miss those days when Julius, Elizabeth, and I went on adventures together; I want someone who can help recapture that sense of wonder and joy.





Do you have any close friends? If so, please describe them, and how you came to be close to them.

I have been hesitant to form close relationships since Elizabeth’s death and the development of my powers.  I definitely formed friendships with several people during my years at Magdalen - Alistair, Gwendolyn, Nicola, and Rhys are the ones I continue to keep in touch with.  We all entered graduate studies at Magdalen in the same year and grew close.  Or at least as close as I have allowed myself in recent years.  That is something I both want and need to change, though.  I am hoping Freedom City offers me the opportunity to form some close bonds with other people.


Do you have a best friend? If so, how did they become your best friend? How close are you to your best friend?

I had a best friend, Elizabeth.  She was the daughter of Father’s steward, Mr. Whitehall, and we spent nearly every moment together as children.  She was like the sister I never had, and her loss wounded me terribly.  I have not had a “best friend†since her death, for fear of reopening those old wounds.


If you were to go missing, who would worry about you?

My family would be very concerned, of course.  Father would spare no expense or effort in looking for me, if I were to vanish, and Julius might exploit his position a little to track any leads.  My friends from Magdalen would also worry, though the distance between us at present means that they would be slow to learn about anything that might happen.


Have you lost any loves? If so, how did it happen, and what did you do?

I… no, not really.  In many ways, I am a fairly shy and private person, and I have found it difficult to express interest in anyone.  I suppose the closest I have come to this idea is with Nicola - I was interested in her for years, though I never openly showed my feelings.  She started seeing a man several years ago; he makes her happy, and so I am happy for her.


Do you have any bitter enemies? If so, please describe them and their history with you.

I am sure some of the people I have thwarted or defeated hold a grudge, but I have no bitter enemies or archrivals that I have battled time and again.


If you have enemies, how do you think they might attempt to work against you in the future?



What is the worst thing someone has done to you?

Devon murdering Elizabeth, and then his family, my family, helping him to escape justice wounded me greatly.  It is probably the worst thing someone else has done to me.


Where do your loyalties lie? In what order?

My first loyalty belongs to my faith and my convictions; God calls me to love and serve every day.  My next priority is to my family and friends; I will do whatever I can to keep them safe, to show them the same love and encouragement they have always shown me.  Finally, I am loyal to my country, and my adopted country.  They are not perfect, but they are worth protecting.


Who or what do you trust the most? Why?

Of all people, I trust my Father the most.  He would be the first to tell you that he is fallible, but he has always been my moral sounding board, my moral compass; he stands for the things that I wish to stand for.


Who or what do you despise? Why?

I despise those who use their power or money to take advantage of others.  I despise those who use their gifts for evil or personal gain rather than making the world better.  I despise corruption, injustice, and bigotry.  These things destroy lives, undermine society, and must be opposed.


What qualities do you admire most in other people? Are these qualities you possess?

I admire people who give of themselves freely, who work for the good of all.  I also admire people who manage to be committed and passionate, yet still maintain their joy and verve for life.  And of course, I value things like honesty, compassion, and intelligence.  I think I possess some of these; I try to give of myself and to stand for my beliefs; however, I am driven, perhaps too much so.  I find it difficult to remain joyful and compassionate when faced with the hardness of the world.


What qualities do you hate most in other people? Do you have any of those qualities?

As I said earlier, I despise corruption, injustice, and bigotry in others.  I despise those who misuse those abilities and cause the suffering of others.  I know I have some of these qualities.  I misused my powers, used them to kill instead of to protect; I still feel tempted, from time to time, to strike for vengeance rather than for justice or the right.


Do you have a secret identity? If so, who knows it? Do you hide it from people who are close to you? Why?

Yes, my father is the only other person knows that Shadowblade is Elanor Churchill.  Julius, I think, suspects something, but he does not know.  I keep this secret partly from shame - my life as Shadowblade is bound up in my mistakes, and I do not wish to share them.  But mostly, I keep this from my family so that they will be safely insulated from my work.  I am certain that I will make enemies, and I do not want my family to suffer from my decisions.


Do you work well on teams and in groups? Are you a leader or a follower?

I am a bit of an introvert.  I have worked on teams and with others in the past, but it is an effort for me.  I tend to be more relaxed and open with people the longer I know them, but as Shadowblade, none of my professional relationships have lasted long enough for that development.  As far as being a leader or a follower, I have been both in my time. As long as I trust the people I am with, I can fulfill the role necessary.


Are you on a super team? If so, how do you get along with your comrades? Do you trust them, or do you have secrets from them?



Are you a member of any church, fraternal organization, club, committee, political party, or other group? How much time do you spend on that?

I am a member of the Anglican Church and attend Episcopal services here in Freedom City.  I also work with several organizations as a volunteer tutor.  On average, I would say I spend seven to ten hours a week with these commitments.



Personality & Beliefs


Who are your heroes?

My father and mother are heroes to me, for reasons I feel I have explained at length.  Some of my students are heroes to me; the ones who have overcome adverse circumstances, the ones who work so hard to achieve when it would have been easy to settle.  These people are heroes to me - unsung, perhaps, but heroes all the same.


Did you ever become disillusioned with former heroes or idols? If so, why and what were the circumstances?

I had far more respect for my extended family before the death of Elizabeth.  The Duke covered up murder, and the officers of justice in the shire allowed him to do so.  I had more respect for my government and the family before that.


Do you like being a hero? If so, what is the most rewarding part? If not, what makes you keep doing it?

Again, I feel hero may be too strong a word.  I aspire to be considered such.  But on point, it is a lot of work and very difficult.  I struggle with temptation while using my powers almost daily, but I persevere because of those moments when you know you have made a difference; when you have saved a person or brought the untouchable to justice.  Those moments make all the struggle and effort worthwhile.


Is there anything that would make you give up hero work, or even switch sides?

If I ever succumb to temptation again, I would feel compelled to surrender myself to the authorities.  As far as switching sides… there are dark currents in my soul, and I believe passionately in correcting the injustices in the world.  Some of the villains in the world start down dark paths for the best of intentions, and I must guard constantly against those temptations.


What are your short term goals (what would you like to be doing within a year)?

I would like to establish myself as a hero in Freedom City, foster friendships and partnerships with some of the heroes here, and possibly even join a team.  As Elanor, I would like to continue developing my teaching skills and work with the University and hopefully publish another article in scholarly journals.


What are your long term goals (what would you like to be doing twenty years from now)?

Unless my mutation has other unknown components, in twenty years, I will be old enough that my current work as Shadowblade might be too physically demanding.  I hope to be able to hand my mantle off to a worthy successor.  And… I hope not to be alone.  As Elanor, I hope to have published several books and be a successful teacher.


What is your greatest fear? Why? What do you do when something triggers this fear?

My greatest fear is that my mistakes and darker urges will lead me further into the darkness.  I want my life to be a just life, a good life, and I fear that my choices will prevent that from happening.  When my doubts attack me, I call my father.  If possible, I tour the grounds of my family estate and Blenheim Palace.  My father’s encouragement and the familiar sights of home help to keep me on the right path.


Is there anything you would give you life for?

I would give my life to protect my family.  If I found some grave injustice that I could only overcome with the ultimate sacrifice, I would do it, though of course I would try to find some way to survive.  In short, if I can accomplish something that changes the world for the better, my life is not too high a price to pay.


How do you feel about money and material wealth? Do you desire it or disdain it? Are you miserly with what you have, or do you like to share? Is it a mark of success, or a means to an end?

I neither desire nor disdain material wealth.  I do like having nice things and am well aware of the benefits that go with money, but I do not consider them necessary or overly important. My family is well-off, though, and I have never been without, making it difficult for me to really know.  I tend to be generous with what I have, because, to me, money is merely a means to an end, not a goal worthy of pursuit in and of itself.


How do you generally treat others?

I tend to be rather distant and introspective, which can lead some to think I am rather cold.  However, I strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect, which I believe to be the common right of all people.


Are you a trusting person? Has your trust ever been abused?

I tend to believe the best about the people I meet.  I can be somewhat cynical about groups of people - history can be harsh, after all - but individual people, though, I want to trust.  I think that we can rise about our natures.  As Shadowblade, I am slower to trust.  Of course, this trust has been abused from time to time.  But nothing changes my innate optimism that we can make the world a better place.


Are you introverted (shy and withdrawn) or extroverted (outgoing)? Do you have a lot of self-confidence?

I tend to be introverted.  Being with other people is tiring for me, at least until I know them very well.  This is about self-confidence; I am very confident in my abilities and strengths.  But I just like to spend my leisure time with books or with a few close friends.


How do you act around attractive, available members of your preferred sex?

I wish I could tell you I was suave and debonair, but my shyness tends to come to the forefront.  I have also been dreadfully embarrassed a time or two by speaking out of turn.  So I generally become even quieter until I know a bit more about anyone I am attracted to.


What are your most annoying habits?

I chew on pencils and pens while I am distracted.  I sometimes overanalyze things, thinking myself into indecision.  Finally, I have been told I get too obsessed with the details, especially when watching a movie purporting to be “historical.â€


Do you feel contempt for any general category of people? Who are they, and why?

I try to avoid feeling this.  I do not like to judge people by category and instead take them by their own individual merits.


What is your favorite food? Do you prefer any particular type of food? Do you take the time to enjoy your food, or do you eat as fast as you can?

I love Indian food and spicy curries.  I do take the time to enjoy my food, as that is both healthier and allows me the time to savor the taste and flavor.


What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?

I love cider, both alcoholic and not, and a good wine is always appreciated.


What is your favorite treat (dessert)?

I love tiramisu and many other desserts.  I am afraid I have something of a sweet tooth that I have to keep in check.


Are there any specific foodstuffs that you find disgusting or refuse to eat?

Father loves his blood pudding, but I cannot stand even the idea of it.


What is your favorite color? Are there any colors you dislike?

I have always been partial to dark forest green, but I do not care for pink.


What sort of music do you like? Is there any that you hate?

I like classical music and instrumental soundtracks, and Father also taught me to enjoy classic rock.  I also enjoy folk music and traditional tunes.  I am not a fan of American country, though.


If you have a favorite scent, what is it?

I love the scent of rose-water and lavender for perfumes and fragrances.  More generally, though, I love the smell of the earth after rain, the scent of woodsmoke, and cinnamon.


Do you have a favorite animal?

I love dogs, especially corgis.  We had several as pets as I grew up, and now that I am settled in Freedom City, I hope to get a dog of my own.


What is your most treasured possession? Why?

I would have great difficulty choosing between my father’s Bible, the script Elizabeth and I wrote, and my family’s heirloom rapier.  The Bible, and Father’s note in it, has taught and inspired me over the years; the script reminds me of the joys of life, along with a motivation for why I do what I do; and the rapier represents my father’s trust in me, as well as the instrument I use to pursue justice.


Do you enjoy "roughing it", or do you prefer your creature comforts?

I do not enjoy roughing it.  I can “rough it†if absolutely necessary, but it is not something I do for fun.


Is there a job or a task you would absolutely refuse to do?

I would draw the line at garbage or cleaning up sewage; I wish I could say it was because of my enhanced sense of smell, but I had an aversion to being filthy even before my powers developed.  And there are many occupations and tasks which take advantage or demean desperate people; I oppose them as strenuously as possible because of my morals and beliefs.


Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, how do your beliefs affect your life?How important is it to you?

Yes, I do.  My spiritual faith has greatly shaped my philosophy and convictions, and those convictions are what drive me to my way of life, both as Elanor and as Shadowblade.  These beliefs, my spiritual convictions, are the most important thing in my life.  My faith is at the core of me and influences nearly every aspect of my life.


Was your faith influenced or molded by anyone special?

My father is a deeply religious man.  Obviously, he taught me what he believed, by word and deed, but he also encouraged me to choose my own path so that my faith would be my own.  Now, as adults, we do not agree on every point of faith, but iron sharpens iron, as they say, and my father has always been my spiritual guide.


If you belong to a religious organization, how often do you attend? Do you have a specific place of worship, or friends within the organization? How much do you agree with the beliefs of your organization?

I am a member of the Anglican church and attend services at a small Episcopal church in Freedom City.  I try to make Sunday morning services and a devotional evensong at least once a week.  I have a few acquaintances in my local church and hope that these relationships might develop into strong friendships over time.

I love my church; it has been my spiritual home for my entire life.  Yet that does not mean that I agree with every particular of the church’s doctrine.  Any group of people together is going to make mistakes, but I am a member of the Anglican Communion because I feel they get many doctrines correct, and I love the liturgical beauty of the church’s rites.


Could you kill? Have you killed?

Yes, I could, and unfortunately I have.


What circumstances led to you forming that conviction, or taking that action?

I killed Devon Churchill, a distant relative, after I learned that he was the one who murdered my best friend.  He, and his grandfather, used their title and power to escape justice for his crimes.  It seemed no one could touch him, and he boasted of his crimes.  I had just come into my powers, and so I acted.  I killed him.


Are there circumstances under which you believe it is permissible to kill? What are they?

I do not.  I know now that the cold logic which led me to Devon’s death was a form of madness, a temptation to be resisted.  Killing is too permanent, a punishment best left to the Almighty’s wisdom and justice.


How would you react to watching someone kill another person? Would your reaction be different if the killer was a friend or an enemy of yours?

I would try to stop them, regardless of who they were.  My opposition to killing is not something I can set aside simply because a friend might be falling into the same temptations I have.  Indeed, I would feel even more strongly motivated to stop the action of a friend, as I know all too well the sort of guilt and doubt killing can engender.


How would you react if something important was stolen from you?

I am not sure.  I would like to think that I am above being too upset - after all, they are just material possessions.  But there are a few things, like my rapier, that I would feel necessary to try to recover.  I have some skill as an investigator and would make recovering my family heirloom a priority.


How would you react to public humiliation?

I do not think I would take public humiliation well.  I am a serious person, and I feel that I have accomplished quite a lot.  I try to avoid behaving in a way that would open me to ridicule, and if I did do something that led to humiliation, I would likely retreat in mortified embarrassment.


How would you react if a good friend or relative were purposely or accidentally killed? Has it happened to you?

I think it would very much depend on the way this person was killed.  So long as justice was done, I believe I can accept it as tragic evidence of our fallen world - I would grieve and mourn, but I think I could heal.  Elizabeth’s death, with the lack of justice and closure, affected me even more deeply.  I questioned my beliefs and truly examined my place in the world for the first time.  I am unsure if another such loss would impact me in the same way - I think that I would still seek out justice, but I hope and pray that I have grown enough that I would not seek vengeance.


What do you consider to be the worst crime someone could commit and why?

That is a difficult question - many crimes are heinous after all.  But I believe the worst that someone can do is a moral crime: squandering the talents and gifts they have been given.  The degree of selfishness it takes to ignore all the pain and hurt in the world, when one might instead help or heal, is truly horrible.


If your life were to end in 24 hours, what five things would you do in those remaining hours?

First, I would take a hard look at my life and make sure that I was not leaving apologies unsaid or slights unredressed.  If I was, I would then deal with them.  Second, I would find my brother Julius and pass the family rapier on to him; death is a time for honesty, so I would also tell him about my other life.  Third, I would walk once more about the grounds at Blenheim and my family estate, drinking in the beauty of the world.  Fourth, I would attend a service - Evensong at Christ’s Church in Oxford, if possible.  Finally, I would say farewell to my parents and thank them for all they have meant to me.



Career & Training


Do you have any special training in your hero skills? If so, where and how did you get it?

I have trained in fencing for almost decades.  At first, it was merely a hobby, something I learned to enhance my childhood adventures.  I then continued my training at Magdalen and even joined the competition team.  I have continued to train with private masters in the years since.  I have also included training regimens in stealth and acrobatics as I know that I lack the physical power of many heroes and am unlikely to win a slugging match.  The rest of my powers I have developed on my own, though I believe I am reaching the point where I need help or at least guidance to develop more.

Beyond combat, my academic discipline has actually aided me more than one might expect.  The eye for detail, the ability to pour through a document and ferret out the nuggets of information, has been of great value in the detective parts of my work.


Who taught you the most about your heroing abilities? What was your relationship with that person?

My primary fencing instructor at Magdalen was Fiona Williams.  She had been quite the fencer in her day, even qualifying for the Olympics, and she trained me relentlessly.  She was also my primary private mentor after graduation.  I never explained why I continued my studies in fencing, but I think Fiona might have guessed, at least in part.  She certainly accepted my desire to train in actual rapier combat and drove me relentlessly.  Fiona is a very… intense woman, and she is satisfied with nothing less than perfection.  While I am not certain how much I like, but I respect her immensely, and what she has taught me is of inestimable value.


Do you have any particularly unusual skills? How did you acquire them?

I am something of a speed reader.  I have always been a fast reader, but it grew more pronounced in graduate studies.  I think it was a survival mechanism for the coursework!


Do you do something besides hero work for a living? Have you ever done anything else, or do you plan to?

Yes, I am an assistant professor of history at Freedom City University and have been a research fellow at Magdalen College in Oxford.  I love teaching and academia and, in some ways, I see it as just as true a calling as my work as Shadowblade.


What is your preferred combat style?

I am a fencer, obviously, and I favor the quick, flowing style of true rapier fighting.  However, I also know that many of the foes I will face as Shadowblade will outnumber or simply be far stronger than I.  I favor hit and fade tactics, using my stealth and ability to shadow-jump to its maximum potential.  I do not have much skill with guns and instead use my teleportation for additional mobility.


Have you ever received any awards or honours?

I have received many awards and honours in academics and am quite proud of my achievements in my chosen field.  I have also won a fair share of fencing competitions, though modesty compels me to admit I have lost many more.


What skill areas would you like most to improve in? Is there anything you can't do that you wish desperately you could?

I want to continue to develop my ability to shadow-jump if I can.  It seems to grow the more I practice at it, and I hope to find teachers or mentors here in Freedom City.  And… it seems foolish, but I wish I could write songs and stories.  I have some talent for historical writing, but good fiction eludes me.  My friends tell me I need to enjoy life more, and that will help.  Perhaps they are right.


How do you act around people who are more skilled than you in areas you'd like to improve? Are you jealous, or do you try and learn?

I have been both in my time.  I am but human, and jealousy comes to us easily enough - depressingly so.  However, I know which I wish to be my response, and I strive to set aside any jealous feelings or wounded pride and learn all that I can from people who excel and might have things to teach me.



Lifestyle & Hobbies


What is a normal day for you? How do you feel when something interrupts this routine?

On an average day, I wake up several hours before my first class.  I meditate and pray for some time, then I go through a few training routines with my blade.  After cleaning up, I head to the University, teach my classes, and sit my office hours.  Depending on my commitments on a given day, I either catch a brief nap after my day at the University, or I go to one of my volunteer activities.  Finally, as night falls, I don the guise of Shadowblade and go about my work.

In general, I am fairly accepting things which break my routine.  Teaching demands a fair amount of flexibility, and I guess I have cultivated this in my life beyond the classroom as well.


Do you have any hobbies, or interests outside hero work? What are they, and where did you pick them up?

I love to read and spend quite a bit of my free time curled up with a book.  I also enjoy writing, even if my attempts at fiction continue to be sub-par.  And I adore the theater, especially Shakespeare.  I learned these things, as so much else, at my father’s knee.  He loved reading to us as children, and for him, the stories were always more than simple stories.  They were doorways to adventure and imagination, and he loved acting out sections with us.


What do you do for fun?

Again, I love to read, write, and attend the theater.  I also enjoy playing games with friends - not video games, proper games.


Do you have a costume? What does it look like?

My “costume†is less for dramatic effect than for practicality.  I wear a modified fencer’s garb, black instead of the usual white and without the head-guard and gloves.  Instead, I favor a mask and fingerless gloves for additional range of motion and awareness.  Over that gear, I wear a fairly standard tactical harness with my various gear and tools strapped to various pouches and webbed slots.  My dagger and rapier ride in sheaths on my sword belt.


How do you normally dress when not in costume?

Professionally while at work.  I favor business suits and long skirts with blouses, mostly in solid tones and colors.  After work, I like to relax in jeans and a blouse; I rarely wear sweats or a t-shirt.  For formal occasions, I have a small collection of formal gowns.  I love long, flowing gowns which are tighter above the waist but fall loosely to the ground.  Again, I favor solid tones with forest green being my favorite.


What do you wear to bed most nights?

I… I… as silly as it sounds, I wear some old pajamas from my secondary school days during the winters.  They are so old the print has faded almost completely, but they are extremely comfortable.  During summer, I wear a short nightdress to help stay cool.


Do you wear any special jewelry? What is it, and what does it look like?

Not particularly.  As Elanor, I do tend to wear a chain my mother gave me.  It is finely wrought, but rather plain, with a stylized cross hanging from the chain.  I wear it habitually about my neck, though I remove it before donning my Shadowblade persona.


Do you have a special place where you keep your valuables?

I do have a small fire-proof safe in my townhome and a safety deposit box at my family’s bank in Oxford.


What's your preferred means of local travel? How about long distance?

As Elanor, I favor public transit, especially back home.  It is a little more difficult here in Freedom City, but I do not like driving, particularly on the wrong side of the road.  As Shadowblade, I generally find it fastest to teleport about the city, avoiding the press of people and traffic altogether.  For long distance, I tend to fly.  I generally fly business class on standard flights, but in an emergency I can afford to charter small planes for getting home to Britain or vice-versa.





Have you ever made a will, or tried to make arrangements for your death? What provisions did you make?

I have made a will.  It is a relatively simple one.  The most important provision is that each of my family members will receive a letter from me currently held by my family’s attorney at present.  The letter explains who and what I am, and why I chose to keep that from them.  It is also a farewell and one last chance to express how much I love them.


If your features were to be destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?

That is a gruesome thought…  As Shadowblade, the only identifier would be my rapier, really.


What would you like to be remembered for after your death?

I would like to be remembered for my commitment, for my teaching, for my contributions to history.  But most of all, I would like to be remembered as a woman who used her gifts well and who lived a good and just life.


Do you believe you pose a threat to the public? Why or why not?

I… could easily pose a threat to the public, I suppose, in a fairly limited sense.  I do not have the vast powers of many of the heroes in Freedom City, but I think I could do quite enough damage if I were to turn to the dark.  I could easily be an assassin or dark figure stalking the night, and only my conscious and my beliefs, and the grace of God, keep me from such a fate.


What do you perceive as your greatest strength?

My intensity and my commitment.  I give myself wholeheartedly to whatever I choose to do, and this can make me very effective and driven.


What do you perceive as your greatest weakness?

My temptation toward expediency and my self-doubt.  I feel the latter reinforces the former, and vice-versa.  Together, they can make me hesitate or, worse still, fall into darkness in the name of the “greater good.â€


As a player, if you could, what advice would you give your character? Speak as if he/she were sitting right here in front of you. Use proper tone so they might heed your advice...

Elanor, I am in no way condoning some of the things you have done, but I think you need to forgive yourself.  Your commitment and intensity are commendable, but fear and guilt are weighing you down.  I don’t think you will be able to enjoy your life in the way that you want until you finish healing.

Edited by Corsecjedi
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