Eyes: Dark brown.
Origin: Fellen, Illane.
Birth Name: Setara Yenasi.
Affiliation: Shadow Folk, Bahlaer-kai.
Role: Bahlaeran city and undercity liaison.
History: The woman who would come to be called Lark of Bahlaer was actually born Setara (“Jewel”) Yenasi, in the city of Fellen near the southern border of the Allied City-States of Illane. Her parents were both immigrants from further south; her father Genge’s family had emigrated from the Zhangish plainslands outside Lishsin Khet when he was young due to pressures from the lizard tribes, while her mother Sibene Yenasi came north from the town of Senza on the Zhangish/Yezadran border, along with several other family members, after the death of her first husband and young son in a religious conflict. Genge’s now-merchant family was well-established in Fellen’s Zhangish diaspora community by the time Sibene’s arrived, and though they were of different tribal backgrounds, the two hit it off quickly; they were married within a year, which helped settle the Yenasis comfortably within Fellen.
Setara was born the next year, the first of the three daughters that would grace the couple. She was an active and sometimes difficult child, consumed by curiosity and eager to claim authority — both traits which put her at odds with her strict and traditional mother. Despite the family’s high status in the diaspora community, Sibene chafed at being exiled to the north and distrusted everything outside the community’s own walls. The bolder Setara grew, the more Sibene tried to restrict her — first from trading at the outside markets, which Setara had been doing from an early age, and then from going to the communal diaspora school, which had several native Fellenite teachers and others from far-flung points in Yezad and Zhang. Instead, Sibene insisted on keeping all her daughters home and teaching them only from the books her family had fled with — books which might have held Lark’s interest if only she hadn’t been forced to study them.
As it was, she sought further instruction behind her mother’s back, studying math and business with her father and his associates and continuing to go to market and involve herself with non-diaspora Fellenites whenever she could sneak away. Her father was tolerant — even tacitly supportive — but whenever her mother learned of Setara’s activities, it always devolved into a fight between the two females; Genge just couldn’t fit a foot in between them.
Tensions boiled over in Setara’s fourteenth year. Sibene had been talking about marrying Setara off since her thirteenth, since that was the legal age of marriage in the north, but she was displeased with all potential suitors; for her part, Setara was completely disinterested. She would much rather have followed her father into business than hole herself up in a house as a wife, as her mother had done. So when Sibene put forth the idea of marrying Setara off to her uncle Ramun, Sibene’s brother — who had always been far too touchy for Setara’s comfort — Setara exploded. In a kitchen argument that involved both Sibene and Ramun, the young woman grabbed a pot of boiling water and flung it at her uncle — then fled the house, never to return.
At first, she stayed with other Fellenite friends and their families, but with her own family searching for her and the parents of her friends growing increasingly uneasy with sheltering her, Setara knew she had to go further. She sold her few pieces of jewelry in order to buy passage further north, then set out for Bahlaer as part of a merchant caravan.
Unlike Fellen, Bahlaer had no separate southern diaspora community; there were a few neighborhoods with more Zhangi or Yezadri than usual, but the city itself was extremely mixed and very open, with no sub-sections enclosed by walls. Setara found it busy, confusing and unwelcoming, but gathered up her courage and started approaching businesses to seek a job. After all, southern schooling was far superior to northern, where much of the populace was functionally illiterate. She expected to be employed and semi-independent in no time.
In that, she was both too optimistic and too ambitious. No one would give a fourteen-year-old outsider control of their finances, no matter how well she could talk herself up — and she refused to take menial work or be talked down to by adults, no matter how well-meaning. Even when she was referred to local Trifold businesses and temples — female-run and generally more respectful — she couldn’t handle it; she would not be bossed around by religious women. It was too much like dealing with her mother.
It took a few months, but eventually her job-search sent her across the river into the Shadowland. She found the Bahlaeran Shadow Folk to be gruff and intimidating but also very much in need of her financial and argumentative acumen. The Shadow Folk, on the other hand, didn’t agree. Led by Shan Cayer, a former street-fighter, they had little use for non-Bahlaerans and even less for those of the upper or educated classes; they even distrusted most non-Bahlaeran shadowbloods. While Lark finally managed to bend enough to accept a shop-clerk job at the fringe of the Shadowland, she couldn’t get any better foothold.
Until the Riftquake.
Setara had experienced such quakes in Fellen, but Bahlaer was closer to the Rift — if only marginally so — and had an extensive network of tunnels running beneath it, especially in the Shadowland area. Setara was down in one of the basements doing inventory for the shop when a heavy quake struck, caving in the exit and also part of the basement floor. Though unhurt, Setara was trapped.
Or so she thought. In the shaking darkness, she heard a pitiful cry — not quite like a baby’s but close enough that she couldn’t ignore it. Scrabbling through the rubble with her battered lantern, she found that the floor had collapsed into another tunnel almost too small to crawl through. At the time, it didn’t occur to her that it couldn’t be man-made.
She followed the cries to a small body among the rubble: a goblin adult, crushed. Clinging to it was a goblin baby (called a newt), scraped and bruised but mostly unharmed. Despite knowing nothing about goblins, Setara coaxed the little creature to cling to her instead, then continued down the tiny tunnel, hoping to find an escape. Instead, she found more damaged basements, more crumpled exits, and more aftershocks.
For more than a day, she and the goblin newt huddled together in the dark, scavenging what supplies they could from shattered crates and half-collapsed storage rooms. They were rescued at last when, finally finding another lantern, Setara lit it and thus defined just enough space for the Shadow Folk to find her and step through.
She and the goblin were pulled free, but the goblin refused to be separated from her. At the time, there were no relations between the topsiders of Bahlaer and the residents of its goblin undercity; the former barely knew of the latter, and the latter did not communicate. There was no way to send the newt back to its kin — and so Setara kept him, and named him Rian.
Determined as ever, she continued to bother the Shadow Folk for a job even as she did her clerk work and struggled to raise her goblin baby. Rian was a real handful, and once he’d recovered from the shock and become more mobile, he often disappeared into the underground for days at a time. She tried to teach him human speech, but he wasn’t that interested — nor did he want to learn any formal subjects, preferring to just clamber around her tiny rented room and escape to peek at all the goings-on of the neighborhood. Eventually, feeling too much like her mother, Setara gave up on restricting him and started challenging him to find out new things, and listen for secrets, and tell her what he discovered. Rian very much enjoyed that.
And then one day he brought a delegation of adult goblins home.
Unbeknownst to Setara, he had been reporting to them as much as he’d reported to her. At two and a half years old, his observations were still childlike (on par with an eight-year-old human) but enough for the goblins to take an interest, and they’d chosen to speak with her first because she had taken good care of him. They wanted to open up trade negotiations between the goblin undercity and Bahlaer proper.
Setara, stunned but eager, swiftly grasped this as her way into the organization. With Rian as her (extremely haphazard) translator, she wrote up what the goblins wanted and could offer into a proposal and brought it to Shan Cayer. She was sixteen at the time.
Shan Cayer, stunned, granted her request to join the Shadow Folk and continue negotiations from within their ranks. To celebrate her new status, she chose to change her name, as many Shadow Folk did to signify breaking away from an old life. Now Lark, from the sunder larks that lived in the Riftlands, she dedicated the next two years of her life to learning about the goblins and managing the ever-growing agreement between them and Bah-kai.
Even after the deal was finalized in 168 IR, she continued to be the main go-between for the two groups. As her workload dropped off, she started initiating other projects: closer ties with Bahlaer’s government and with the Trifold temple, better management practices within the kai, back-room agreements with the city’s law-enforcement about Shadow Folk misdemeanors and also SF support for policing. By the time the Risen Phoenix Empire started intruding on Illanic territory, she was Shan Cayer’s acknowledged second-in-command and the front-woman for most external Bah-kai policy.
Then Cob came along…