Janet Blaize, PhD and Manse Wyrd
Created by Dave Bryant
Manse Wyrd and Samanthia Stormdancer
created by Kim Liu and used with permission
Janet Blaize, PhD, is a European or common genet (Genetta genetta) in her mid- to late twenties. Armed with her shiny new archaeology doctorate and a hefty dose of ambition, she has come to the Manse with the burning desire to make the Great Discovery that will bring her fame and fortune.
Her parents met in university. He was a handsome, charming, and somewhat Machiavellian young feline genet (Genetta felina) with a slight air of danger, probably a runaway—he never spoke of his family—and certainly a commoner . . . but he Had a Plan to change that. She was the offspring of a common genet Landed House (minor nobility), romantic, dazzled by the handsome, devil-may-care rogue, and just a little rebellious and resentful of her family. While each saw the other as a means to an end, they fell genuinely in love as well. After graduating, they married, hired some people with money from her family, and set off into the bush to find an abandoned holding they could rebuild and claim.
Things didnt work out as planned. Instead of the few months he had been confident it would require, they wandered across the ruined continent for years, occasionally dropping off people who wanted out and hiring replacements. Still, he always remained certain the Big Break was just a few weeks away. Janet was born and grew up in this strange nomadic lifestyle until her early teens when, while exploring the most promising site yet, a reservoir of disease was uncovered. It killed her mother and several other people, but she, her father, and a few others survived.
The experience broke him as he finally realized what his wild-goose chase had cost. He died as well, probably of a broken heart, several years later, leaving Janet orphaned and adrift in her late teens. She knew nothing of her fathers family, and was wary of her mothers family because of a vague childhood apprehension conveyed by her mother that they might be parted. This feeling was reinforced after she inherited and read the occasional letters sent by her relatives, expressing disapproval of the marriage and urging that Janet be submitted to magical testing. (Shes long since used those letters as tinder.) However, when a message arrived from the House offering university tuition, she accepted cautiously.
Not surprisingly, there were strings attached. Her maternal relations were one of the noble families still working to preserve their magical bloodlines. They had disapproved of her parents marriage because he was a commoner completely lacking magical talent and because she represented a lost opportunity to help strengthen those bloodlines (despite an only modest ability on her own part). Janet was tested and, when the results were ambiguous, indicating no more potential than her mothers and possibly none at all, they completely lost any interest in her.
Incensed, Janet demanded the money with which the lure had been baited—and got it, since the offer was in writing. This did nothing to sweeten either sides feelings toward the other. She realized her mothers fear was founded on the idea that, if she had been tested in childhood and found to have a high potential, she might indeed have been taken to live apart from her parents. She resolved never, ever to develop any talent if she could possibly help it, and remains convinced even now that if she had displayed a significant degree of magic, she would have been clasped to her relatives collective bosom . . . and as promptly as could be arranged married off like a brood mare.
With the money grudged her by her mothers family—who accompanied it with the message that they had effectively disowned her—her modest inheritance, hard work, and brute stubbornness, Janet ground her way through the curriculum. At long last she graduated with a doctorate in archaeology, obtained a small off-road truck and half-filled it with equipment, and was left with a single bagful of money. She systematically researched the possibilities, looking for a likely site at which to pursue her dreams of the great discovery, and found it in the Manse.
Her aim is to go her father one better, achieving everything he wanted and more, but doing it in a safer and more systematic manner. She is, in fact, more like her father than she will admit even to herself, but if someone points this out, she flies into a nasty rage. Prickly and competitive at the best of times, she harbors an ill-concealed bitterness toward her parents, her mothers family, and relationships in general. She blames her father for his thoughtless obsession with his pie-in-the-sky dreams, her mother for being fatuously credulous and for being unable to recognize when to cut and run, and her mothers family for their snobbery and for placing breeding above consideration of her as a person.
Janet is about five feet tall, whippet-thin and whippet-hard, albeit curvier than the even slenderer Samanthia. She keeps her wavy, dark blonde scalp hair in a short pony tail. Habitually dressed in bush hat, khakis, jodhpurs, puttees, and ankle boots, and carrying a twenty-gauge shotgun and an old, worn, but meticulously maintained .38-caliber long-barrel revolver, she quite consciously cuts a dashing, adventurous-looking figure.
Janets inheritance, the money she extracted from her maternal relatives, and shrewd bargain-hunting have left her with a small but carefully selected bundle of equipment and belongings. Aside from a limited wardrobe, most of it bush clothing, and personal sundries, she owns a complete set of archaeological tools and several sets of cheap shovels, spades, trowels, brushes, and other gear for assistant laborers. However, her most beloved things are her firearms—she is a crack shot—and her vehicle.
A few words are merited about the unique design of the rare and obscure Burgess twelve-gauge shotgun, upon which Janets weapon is based. Intended for couriers, plainclothes policemen, and others needing heavy but concealable firepower, it combines several unusual and delightful features. It folds in half just ahead of the action, and can be carried that way in a special oversize holster and belt that also sports ammunition loops for extra shells. Instead of a conventional pump or semiautomatic action, ejection and cocking are handled by sliding the trigger assembly and a long tongue attached to it back and forward.
There are a number of advantages to this arrangement: it is extremely quick to cycle, the firer does not have to move the hand bracing the weapon (as with a pump-action shotgun), and a skilled firer can draw the weapon one-handed from the holster, unfold it, bring it into battery, cock it, and fire it, all in one smooth motion. In 1885, Charles Dammon, a well-known trick shooter who worked as a salesman for Burgess, walked into Teddy Roosevelts office when the latter was president of the New York City police board and proceeded to sell the weapon by the simple expedient of whipping out his own example and firing off a full load of six blank shells in just a few seconds. Incidentally, while the tube magazine normally holds six rounds, an extra two rounds can be loaded by hand, one in the gate and one in the chamber. Ejection is straight up, rather than to the side or straight down.
Janets ammunition includes birdshot for small game, buckshot for large game or self-defense, and slug for longer-range shots. (Even then, the shotguns maximum reach is only a few hundred meters.) She purchased a sizable store of plastic-cased shells after graduating from university, but hoards them jealously, since they are difficult to replace out of local stocks. Instead, when feasible, she uses paper-cased shells, which are cheaper and easier to obtain, but less durable and more susceptible to environmental hazards. Brass-cased shells are expensive when they can be obtained locally at all, and are thus beyond Janets reach.
One of the few material possessions that Janet inherited from her father is an old and worn-looking but well-maintained blued .38-caliber revolver, based on the real-world Webley Mark 6. The model started life as a service weapon; Janets probably belonged to an officer originally, but she doesnt know its history. It is heavy and, as a top-break model, certainly no longer state of the art, but it is very reliable and reasonably accurate by handgun standards. A top-break revolver is hinged just in front of the trigger guard; when all the rounds in the cylinder have been discharged, the firer unlatches a catch and swings down the barrel and cylinder, exposing the back of the cylinder to empty out the expended cartridges and reload while still holding the handgrip in the firing hand.
Janet carries the revolver in a cutaway holster hanging from the shotgun belt on the opposite hip for cross-draw. The revolvers handgrip faces forward, allowing her to reach across her body with her strong hand to grab it. The shotgun belt is supported at her waist with a harness reminiscent of Second-World-War German issue, festooned with small pouches containing speed loaders of .38 ammunition. These were not designed for the purpose; they are submachinegun magazine pouches into which she (carefully) drops the ready speed loaders and from which she must fish them.
Janet quickly realized she would need something that would get her around, something cheaper and able to carry more than a horse. (She is an excellent equestrian.) She found it at a military surplus auction: a cab-over mid-engine four-by-four ammunition carrier with a bench seat and an open pickup-style bed. The bed can be covered with a tarp stretched over removable squared-off hoops set at intervals along the bed, much like the deuce-and-a-half trucks used by the US Army. Extra seating can be provided with flip-down benches running the length of the beds sides, which can be locked in place whether up or down. Note that absolutely no consideration was given to passenger comfort when designing and installing these benches.
The carrier is incredibly rugged and very easy to maintain (soldier-proof). It is also quite ugly, especially the battered, worn-out, thoroughly knackered-looking example Janet purchased. However, it is also, along with the shotgun, her pride and joy, and she loves it dearly. It spends a good deal of time parked in the Manses lot, leaking small drips of oil here and there and generally bringing down property values. (Janet does lavish a lot of time and attention on it, though, so its in much better condition than its appearance would suggest.)
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