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Full Name: Kawldkan Marlfox
Nickname: Kawley (Used only by Pantaleon)
Description: Kawldkan is a Marlfox, with a unique pattern of fur that ranged in colour from near white, through various greys, and near black. He is middle aged, but does not look particularly the worse for wear; he has a lithe, fine figure and his fur is healthy and thick. He likes to wear dark clothes, though he is not averse to wearing a splash of colour for contrast, like a deep red sash or white neckcloth, in order to please his Emperor during formal occasions.
Possessions: Kawldkan's most significant asset is the network of spies and informants that live and work on the island of Sampetra, on board various corsair ships, and even in foreign harbours and ports. He has found that information is a commodity more valuable than gold, but it is far less appreciated by most beasts. Kawldkan makes it his business to know about all goings-on in his part of the world.
Kawldkan has a few interesting personal items, most notably a collection of weapons and tools he has favoured using over the years. The most frightening of these is a barbed whip, which has pieces of sharp metal tied along its tip. It was not designed as a combat weapon, it was used for the gruesome executions of slaves that had stolen, murdered or run away. The victim would be whipped, with the executioners taking turns to make sure each blow was as strong as the last. When they estimated the slave was on the brink of death, they would finish it by taking their skinning knives and flaying the slave alive. He also has a variety of stage masks from his time in acting, since they represent so much of his early life, as well as several throwing knives which were used to entertain as well as to kill.
Strengths: Kawldkan is a Marlfox, and possesses the natural abilities of his species to avoid being seen or heard. This gives him a marked advantage when it comes to spying and eavesdropping. He is cunning and good at planning ahead, and he is always cautious and calculated in his actions. The business of learning other beast's secrets is an entertainment to him, and he enjoys using his wits to get what he wants. He is adept at the use of throwing knives, and can also use a rapier well enough to spar with Pantaleon, though the pine marten is the superior swordsbeast most of the time.
Weaknesses: Kawldkan has difficulty in trusting others, and gaining their trust. Having spent much of his life being viewed as a strange being of legend, he is used to being treated harshly. It constantly worries him that he's not getting any younger. He has a lot of disdain and disregard for slaves, but his worst nightmares are all about the cruel things he saw and even participated in when he was a slaver. Kawldkan, whilst intelligent, does not have the kind of charisma to be a leader, in combat or politics. He is better suited to subterfuge and guile rather than battle. Kawldkan has a lot of confidence in his abilities, and this can sometimes get him in trouble if he underestimates an opponent.
Personality: Kawldkan is a beast that has come to the realisation that the best years of his youth have been spent, with little to show for them. His biggest fear is dying without having accomplished something worthy of the Marlfox name and legend. He is a quiet creature that can be very difficult to locate; he dislikes social gatherings and only make meaningful connections with a select few beasts. He knows how to use beasts to his advantage; he obeys the whims of Pantaleon because the pine marten is wealthy, and through him Kawldkan has the power to pursue his own interests on the island of Sampetra as well as abroad. Kawldkan has little interest in finding a mate or establishing his own dynasty; he cares more about his own personal comfort, rather than some ideal of family responsibility. His biggest enjoyment in life is having control over others; a fact that made him an excellent slaver.
Background: We all dance until the piper is out of breath. It was a quaint expression Kawldkan heard often in his days travelling the lands beyond Mossflower. It was rendered in different ways, depending on the culture and verbosity of the beasts he encountered. Some rendered it more like this; the candle gives warmth for a while. The most brutal translation of this poetic musing on mortality was the version used commonly in the Northlands: Remember you are mortal.
Kawldkan liked that version the most. It had no fine imagery or subtle way of sweetening the blow of the message. It was just bluntly honest. That was why he had loved acting so much in his youth. He had seen many liars and thieves, swindlers and silver-tongued slavers that drew fools into joining hordes or gangs. Their lies were like a black curtain, but the lies Kawldkan told on stage were a mirror, if only the audience would look close enough to see themselves. He had been in an acting troupe ever since he was a child, and his parents had been actors before him. He had no other last name, so other beasts just called him by the name of Marlfox.
Once, Kawldkan saw a brawl in a vermin camp. A fox had pinned a rat down and grabbed her head, twisting it this way and that, until her kicks turned to twitches, then nothing at all. The next night he put the twitching bit into his performance of Farran the Poisoner, as he got force-fed his own poison in Act 3 of The Tragedie of Ferahgo the Assassin and his Armie of Wretches Upon the Slopes of the Fire Mountain. The audience had gasped in horror at the suspiciously young looking Farran's death, and Kawldkan saw even behind the striped makeup, the burly ferret in the scene with him was impressed. The Marlfox remained confused as to why there had been laughs, instead of cries of horror, when they had all witnessed the same thing just yesterday.
In his spare time outside rehearsal and performance, Kawldkan amused himself with petty thievery. Sometimes he would play a blind beggar child, other times he would sneak into inns or tents holding a jug of wine, and pretend to be a slave with orders to refill everybeast's drink. Then he would work his nimble claws to slip off jewellery and purses of gold. The most fun was seeing the faces of his victims when they realised their bad luck. The Marlfox sometimes let them chase him a while, then vanish as they got too close to cornering him, leaving them with nothing but his childish laughter.
As Kawldkan grew older, he began to yearn for more than the life of a travelling actor and thief. The slave trade was an appealing option for a young enterprising Marlfox. It was very lucrative, challenging, and unique since the cargo being bought, moved and sold had a life of its own, quite literally. Kawldkan had seen slavery at work far and wide in his travels, and so it seemed rather normal to him that some beasts simply had enough poor fortune to end up on the slave market.
He joined a slaver gang that went by the rather pompous name of the Steel Slaving Company. It was headed by a weasel named Jerrin, a well-dressed and smirking sort of beast whose narrow features and strong whipping arm made their captives flinch as soon as they caught sight of him. Jerrin taught Kawldkan all kinds of harsh lessons as they took their caravan group over grasslands and rocky outcrops to the next major market.
The most important lesson the weasel taught the Marlfox was this; slaves are property. Nothing more. Jerrin made Kawldkan repeat it, if ever the slave master thought his new recruit was going too soft on the slaves. The first few trips, Jerrin noticed Kawldkan sometimes hesitate before delivering a blow with the whip, especially if the slave was closer to the Marlfox's own tender age. So, the weasel would tie the slave Kawldkan had pitied to a couple of crossed logs, and make the Marlfox flay the beast alive. Jerrin said this would drive the pity out of Kawldkan. He was right.
After long and hard seasons driving beasts across mountain ranges, plains and even the seas, Kawldkan was starting to realise that he was nearing the end of his youth with little to show for it except scars, a pawful of gold and a collection of memories best buried in his darkest nightmares. The Steel Slaving Company had been effectively dismantled when Jerrin foolishly brought slaves with a pox into wildcat territory. The lords of the Northlands reserve their most poetic cruelties for greedy, careless souls like Jerrin, and the last time Kawldkan had seen his former master, the Marlfox had personally chained the weasel to the sorry gang of slaves destined for the local gold mine. An avaricious slaver forced to work digging gold out of the ground all day? Kawldkan could only admire the wildcat lord's sense of irony.
The Marlfox had greater concerns now than the fate of the creature he might have at one time grudgingly called a friend. The Northlanders seemed even more suspicious of his unusual fur than the beasts in Mossflower Country, and the more frequent reports of monsters from the Land of Ice and Snow stalking through the mountain passes made Kawldkan uneasy, and even more eager to put the frigid North behind him. He made the journey to Mossflower by himself, confident in his experience traversing the wilderness, and natural tendency to go unseen by unfriendly eyes. A Marlfox's confidence can be his biggest weakness.
As any good slaver knows, setting a few nasty surprises around camp before a night's rest is a good way to catch potential bandits for fun and profit. Unfortunately for Kawldkan, the group of hares that had been tracking the slavers since the Northlands debacle were familiar with the old trip-wire trick, and the spring-loaded snares, whose metal jaws clamp over the ankles of less wise beasts. And with no more allies on his side keeping watch, the first the Marlfox knew of his attackers was awakening to a severe beating, which rather disrupted his concentration and made any attempts to melt into the darkness impossible.
Kawldkan spent the remainder of his trip into Mossflower convalescing in his bonds as he was dragged along by a rope around his neck, unable to utter more than muffled moans around the filthy rags shoved in his mouth. The downside of Marlfoxes having a reputation for vanishing out of the most impossible situations was that the hares really did make escape impossible; there was a spear point pressed against his back the whole miserable trip. His 'hosts' were loud, dressed in garish blue uniforms, and worst of all, seemed to always have an eye on him. The Marlfox had no idea why he had been taken alive, for woodlanders seldom took slaves for themselves.
A few days into his captivity, his group of hares met up with a larger body of what the effusive lagomorphs called the 'Long Patrol', but what the Marlfox decided would be better termed the 'Wide Patrol' on account of the revoltingly overblown appetites of his captors. There was something morbidly fascinating about the all-too-frequent mealtimes of his gluttonous captors, and Kawldkan considered it some small mercy that he was not invited to participate.
He also learned that he was not the only captive; a captain of a slaver ship had also been ambushed. He met the ferret soon enough, a striking figure with a gold orb for a left eye, a sign of her success as a slaver and her seasons of experience fighting at sea. She had been beaten and bruised like Kawldkan, but still held her head high as if she were royalty. Her barbed comments towards their captors on the few occasions she was ungagged were far from refined though, and the saltiness of her language and creativity with describing exactly how the sergeant resembled the blubberous countenance of a three-day-old whale carcass that's dried out in the sun made Kawldkan feel a bit better about their shared misfortune. Eventually the two were told of their ultimate destination; some kind of show trial at Salamandastron, where no doubt they would be found guilty and sentenced to some ludicrous woodlander punishment like doing the dishes and going to bed without supper. Kawldkan and his new ally resolved that they would escape 'justice' before ever sighting the Fire Mountain, and with any luck manage to kill, incapacitate or severely humiliate their foes.
Kawldkan was therefore understandably disappointed when somebeast got around to poisoning the battalion of blueberries before he could have the pleasure. He awoke one evening to the eerie yet reassuring sounds of twenty throats seizing up and the strangled cries of twenty na?ve lives being extinguished. The sticky end of this particular patrol was not too prolonged, but it was painful enough for the victims that the Marlfox did feel a slight shudder of delight. He could have slipped away then and there, but his curiosity got the better of him as he first caught a glimpse of their rescuer.
Kawldkan saw Pantaleon at first light, a slim, tall figure who gracefully stepped over spilt stew and cold corpses, his dark eyes coolly surveying his achievements. The pine marten was accompanied by burly rats holding tridents. They prodded at the stiff hares and sniffed in mild interest at the patrol's plentiful provisions. Pantaleon soon became quite interested in the Marlfox. He had come expecting only to rescue a captain of his, but the sight of Kawldkan's mottled grey fur, the legendary mark of a Marlfox, made the rescue of the ferret corsair a mere afterthought. The regal marten offered his paw to the Marlfox, the latter taking note of the jewelled rings on each finger. Pantaleon didn't even know who Kawldkan was yet, but the pine marten had already made up his mind. He wanted the Marlfox to come with him.
Kawldkan accepted the offered paw with both of his, and an ingratiating smile on his face. It was obvious that the marten was rich, powerful, and used to getting his way. If Kawldkan had to play nice and be another exotic trophy in the Emperor's palace of world wonders, then so be it. It was a far more agreeable choice than being alone on the run from the Long Patrol.
It turned out that Pan knew a bit more about Marlfoxes than Kawldkan had supposed. Though the pine marten loved to show off his acquisitions, Kawldkan was kept out of the public scrutiny of Sampetra, the tropical island that was Pan's own small kingdom. He was allowed his own space in the marten's palace, and he only left the white fortress in secret. He became the pine marten's eyes and ears amongst the corsairs and slavers, and with Pan's gold in his clawtips, it wasn't long before Kawldkan had a network of spies whispering coded secrets to him. He was now the Imperial Spymaster.
To the Marlfox it was almost like a game, pandering to the pine marten's petty paranoias and childish delight in knowing secrets. It was an amusing diversion for Kawldkan to run circles around the thick-headed lizards that were supposed to maintain law and order, in particular their chief, Veska. She was some primitive monster Pan had dredged up from a slaving camp. To Kawldkan, she was a servile loner who prowled around the taverns, her scaly head smacking into the doorframes, on the impossible mission of getting between every stabbing, theft and brawl in the name of 'safety'. Kawldkan usually avoided her and her dour business entirely, but every once in a while, he got some entertainment in cracking her latest case and taking the credit, as well as Pan's approval.
What Kawldkan seeks now is what Pan already has. Kawldkan is older than Pan, but the pine marten is an Emperor with connections all across the known world that bring his wealth, luxuries and a life beyond the mere struggle to survive each winter that occupies most beasts. Kawldkan was not born a King, but he has the name Marlfox and all the legends that go with it. His desire is not to take Pan's place; the Sampetran system only functions thanks to the pine marten's mercantile mind. Rather, he would amass the wealth and connections to give the remainder of his life a poetic and comfortable meaning. One day, he would take Castle Marl for his own.