oleander "oli" blane
what if you wake up one day and you're not angry anymore?
With skin the color of wood and hair the color of leaves, Oli calls to mind a tree that has taken human form. She stands tall at five feet and nine inches, but she moves close to silently and with the grace of a dancer. She has thin lips with a mole near the right corner, faint freckles, a pointed nose, and dark eyebrows. Her eyes, however, are her most distinctive facial feature. They're an emerald green so bright they seem lit from within, with teal, triangular pupils like the window of a magic eight-ball. If you look into them, though, you won't find answers. Only a landscape of a forest in ruins.
Oli's hair falls in glossy curls down her back. She usually ties it up in a messy ponytail and leaves two strands out to frame her face. Burn scars that have faded with time run up and along her neck like ridges of bark. They're hard to see except under certain lights or when she uses her powers. Speaking of using powers, her veins, eyes, and hair glow green during the process since she's invoking her close connection with plants. Her blood is the same color and has a somewhat sap-like consistency.
Oli dresses for comfort and practicality, from casual dresses to T-shirts and sweatpants, but she has a few nicer outfits in store for special occasions.
Oli is perhaps best known for her dry sense of humor. She reacts to pretty much every situation, no matter how appropriate it is, with a raised eyebrow and a comment loaded with withering sarcasm. Since her voice is toneless, it's difficult to tell whether she's being serious or ironic. One could say this demeanor is her coping mechanism, a way of both dealing with and distancing herself from the world around her, but she prefers not to think of it that way. She just likes to watch people squirm.
Though easygoing for the most part, Oli struggles to keep her anger in check. She's a vittra, after all. Her resentment runs cold, not hot, so although she isn't prone to fiery outbursts, she can hold onto a grudge until the end of time. There once was a time when she would kill the subject of her resentment slowly and painfully, or disassemble their life brick by brick until they had nothing left. Now she just shoots around her infamous death glare and makes scornful remarks. Though she may come off as irritable to someone new, her siblings know that she has mellowed out quite a lot since the War of Traitors.
Oli has a soft spot for plants. They're her bread and butter, her blood and bone. She feels more at home with them than with other people, even her own family. When she's out in the field, she is noticeably more relaxed and less snappish than usual. Oli believes there is much to learn from the wisdom of plants, but even she isn't always sure what that wisdom is. Her ideology and levels of cynicism at any given point are influenced by what she believes the environment is telling her.
Due to the War of Traitors and her experience as a nymph turned vittra, Oli harbors complicated feelings about heavenly beings. They include resentment, jealousy, disdain, and apprehension. She tries to keep an open mind and not show bias against her younger heavenly students, but she is less tolerant around older beings, especially those who participated in the war. She thinks nothing of Earth species, feels awkward around Hell species, and sympathizes with her fellow undead.
Plant Manipulation (Mastered) — This ability is second nature for Oli. She can speed up plant growth, revive dead plants, manipulate existing plants to move or attack as she pleases, and create plants of her own. She can even grow plants on her own body, though this sucks up a lot of her energy and puts her under physical strain. Otherwise she needs to be around earth and/or existing plants to use her ability, so she's at a big disadvantage in artificial (i.e. urban) environments. Fire, of course, is the natural weakness of her ability, as well as any other force or substance plants are usually vulnerable to.
Hexes (Advanced) — Oli can perform basically any hex as long as she knows how to draw its circle. However, she's better at summoning and healing circles than she is at the other kinds, which tend to be less effective or take longer to draw. She needs more time uninterrupted to draw complex circles, risking fatigue and blood loss in the process.
Curses (Novice) — Oli has worked with cursed items on and off over the centuries, but she has little experience with cursing items herself. She also refuses to bring people back as undead. As such, Oli has no real aptitude or interest in this ability.
Poison Immunity (Natural) — What it says on the tin.
CHILD. Was she one, once? It's hard to remember. What she does remember is the weight of a sword in her hands, another limb as far as she was concerned. Her father stepped forward to readjust her stance, jostling her arms into the right position. Her thumb slipped across the blade. She didn't blink. The pads of her fingers were so callused from these lessons that she could hardly feel them anymore.
She drove her sword between the ribs of the military target before her, made to resemble a demon with a pair of wings and a mouth full of fangs. One day she would face a real demon, along with other such creatures. She would hear their wingbeats and see their glistening teeth. And she would drive a sword between their ribs.
For now, though, she was just a kid.
SISTER. Her mother was of Earth, her father of Heaven. She was the third child of their brood, beneath the eldest twins and above the seven younger. She, along with the rest, was born for war. She trained next to and against her siblings, locking practice swords with them, paying a pound of each other's blood for an ounce of their father's approval.
But in the rare moments her father left them alone, they tried to be a family. Adonai bandaged her wounds. Felicity combed her hair. As for her, she gave her siblings pouches of natural poison: hemlock seeds, root of wolfsbane, and her namesake, oleander. In her mind they were practical gifts. This was the only way she knew to love—by showing her siblings another way to hurt the ones who hurt them.
NYMPH. On her eighteenth birthday, she enlisted in the army at last. As a heavenly being—lifebringer, wildwalker—she fought under Akari's banner with pride. She set up wards to trap vampires and demons in forested areas, then raised the woods against them. She worked with earth manipulators to shape the battlefield to the advantage of their troops. She charmed weapons, dressed wounds, tested supplies for enemy poison, and devised lethal snares. She wasn't a champion like Adonai or a tactician like Emilia, but the lay of the land belonged to her. When the trees shook and the vines curled, she was usually at the root of it all.
Here is the thing about plants, she thought. They have so much to give, as long as you know how to take it. Foxgloves can treat heart failure or cause it. Castor beans produce both castor oil, a common vegetable oil, and ricin, an agent of biological warfare and terror. If you know your plants, you hold the world in the palm of your hand. And nobody knew plants like her.
She was the forestkeeper. Wherever she walked, flowers bowed in her wake.
CASUALTY. Of course it was fire that led her to ruin. So many Hell species wield this weakness of hers that she should've seen it coming. She had always been careful, relying on scout information to ambush her enemies and eliminate the possibility of counterattack, but this too was part of her downfall. It mean that when she was caught unawares and alone by hellhounds, she had none of her usual preparations to fall back on. No plant in the world can defy a wildfire.
Her allies found her charred within an inch of her life. They took her to a field hospital, where they sent word out to her family and waited for her to die so they could give her bed to someone more likely to survive. By the time her father arrived, she was just about gone.
He asked her if she wanted to live. She said yes. For years afterward, she wondered if she would've been better off saying no.
As she faded out of consciousness, he leaned in close and whispered poison into her ear. He told her to hear the weeping and wailing of her comrades-in-arms around her, mutilated at the hands of Hell creatures. He told her to remember the hellhounds that had cornered her on the edge of the battlefield, their jaws laced with flame. He told her to think of who was responsible for her undoing, and how she would never be able to settle the score. Unless she fought. Unless she raged.
She heard. She remembered. She thought. And in the seconds leading up to her death, she did not—how does that poem go?—go gentle into that good night.
She raged, raged, against the dying of the light.
VITTRA. Twelve hours after she died, she woke up in her childhood bedroom. She got out of bed and went to the mirror, looking much as she did alive except for her burn scars and her eyes. Instead of seeing a forest flourishing in her irises, she saw it decaying. Though she didn't know what she was now, she knew what she wasn't anymore.
She still felt weak, so she spent a few days resting and replenishing her energy. She wandered the house like a ghost, and she might as well have been one too for all her parents noticed her. Her mother stayed away. Her father wouldn't, couldn't, look her in the eye. Once she was a heavenly being; now she belonged to a different realm. She wanted to grab his face and pull it close to the landscape in her eyes and say, you're the one who made me this way. Look at me, look at me. But she didn't and he didn't.
As soon as she got better, she returned to the battlefield. Though she could no longer create wards, her newfound hexes were just as useful and her plant manipulation was even stronger. Her heart wasn't in the fight, though. Before she had carried Akari's banner for two reasons: to make her father happy and to eradicate every Hell creature. But now her father didn't acknowledge her and she was no holier than the ones she used to slaughter without a care. Though she had returned to life for vengeance, she didn't know if she deserved it anymore. For the first time she understood why it was called the War of Traitors.
Here is the thing about plants, she thought. They wage war too. If two fir saplings are planted together, one will end up a titan and the other a stump. Mint, strawberries, and blackberries overrun each other, and kudzu swallows houses whole. There was always war and there will always be war. The war will never end.
SURVIVOR. The war ended.
It ended not with a final battle, a clash to the death between the foot soldiers who had been risking life and limb for their realms all this time, but with the involvement of gods. Enki and Thanatos closed the gates. Akari and Volos were sealed. And that was that.
She hadn't known how tired she was until she didn't have to fight anymore. While some of her siblings such as Adonai and Jessica took up arms elsewhere, walking the only path they had ever known, she retreated deep into the wilderness. She knew of a few siblings, like Emilia and Rhiannon, who were likewise engaged in more peaceful activities, but she didn't contact them. She had no right; she wasn't one of them anymore.
HERMIT. As a soldier, her inability to sleep, eat, or drink had made her efficient. As a recluse, it made her bored. Most people who lived alone in the woods spent their days trying to sustain themselves, from gathering firewood to hunting for food, but she had nothing to do. She wandered among trees and waded into lakes, talked to squirrels and stargazed. As centuries passed, the War of Traitors became more of a distant memory.
Here is the thing about plants, she thought. A wildfire can change their habitat for the better. It clears dead matter from the ground so new plants can grow, releases seeds, breaks down nutrients, and removes diseased trees. Out with the old, in with the new.
APOTHECARIST. After a long time of healing among nature, she decided it was time to heal with nature. It would be a shame to let her knowledge go to waste, after all. She rejoined civilization and, with financial assistance from one of her more prosperous siblings, opened a small shop in London that sold ingredients and medicines to patients and other herbalists. She found it difficult to socialize at first—centuries of nothing but wilderness for company will do that to you—but she eventually began to make friends. She even had a few lovers, though they didn't last long.
In the middle of the 1460s, she started receiving large orders from an organization called the Terror Response Syndicate. At first she fulfilled them without question, but then she got curious about what the TRS needed so many medical supplies for. She accosted the person who came to pick up the orders, who told her about the recent terror attacks and how the TRS was formed to protect the citizens from them. He tentatively asked her whether she might be interested in signing up for the medical division.
She chewed the offer over for several weeks. Though she was happy enough with her current line of work, the vision of the TRS enticed her. She had spent so long fighting for a pointless cause; why not fight for a good one for once? She wouldn't be engaged in the actual combat, as she wasn't keen on spilling blood again, but the least she could do was lend her supplies and skills.
MEDIC. Once again she was in the midst of a war, though a very different one from the kind she was used to. Where she used to charge forth with a sword in her hand and thorns at her bidding, now she hung back and treated the fallen. Sometimes she felt as if she had never left the War of Traitors, but overall the experience was good for her. She was glad to be supporting a cause of her own volition, healing her allies rather than killing her enemies.
Centuries in, however, she ran into an enemy she never expected: Jessica, her youngest sibling.
The field at the time was too chaotic for them to speak in private, but she traced Jess' whereabouts later and cornered her then. With the two of them still carrying emotional baggage from the War of Traitors and fighting on opposite sides, they nearly came to blows. At the last moment, though, a man stepped between them to calm them down. His name was Lawrence, and by some miracle he had melted her sister's icy heart.
She and Jess ran into each other often after that debacle, not much more sisterly than when they first met despite Lawrence's attempts to mediate. Then without a word to her or anyone, Jess and her husband dropped off the map. She made a halfhearted effort to find them but gave up quick, figuring that if anyone was likely to be fine after a mysterious disappearance, it was Jess.
She had expected to never see Jess again, at least not for several millenia. She was wrong.
PROFESSOR. When herbalism started to fall out of relevance in favor of modern medical practices, she gracefully retired from her position as a medic and became an environmental science professor for the TRS instead. Now removed from the battlefield entirely, she taught aspiring TRS members how to navigate unfamiliar terrains and survive in the wilderness. It was still a brutal world out there, and these kids would need all their wits about them to succeed in it.
Speaking of kids, Adonai had apparently settled down and produced many of his own. She sent a congratulatory email (ah, the wonders of the Internet) but didn't think much of it until she received word that Jess had shown up on Adonai's doorstep with several children as well. That got her attention. After spending a few years wrapping up loose ends in London, she got herself transferred to the TRS branch in Canada. For the first time since their wartime childhood, the family was getting together again. She now lives in a farmhouse on the outskirts of Lorsette, continuing her work as a professor and reestablishing sibling bonds.
Because here is the thing about plants, she thinks. When they thrive, they thrive as one. Goldenrods and asters grow hand in hand, pretty apart yet radiant together. Water lilies float on ponds because oxygen moves from young leaves to the old, nourishing the root in one long breath. There is something to learn from this, she knows. There is always something to learn from the generosity of the earth.
I. Over time Oli has overcome much of her fear of fire, but she still has a ways ago. Though she can operate a stove or tend a bonfire just fine, she always keeps an eye on the flame and jumps to attention when it so much as flickers a bit too high for her liking. She always preaches fire safety to her students and siblings' kids.
II. Oli tends to fall asleep in unusual places, an old habit from her time in the wilderness when she could lay down pretty much wherever she wanted. Places she has been found: on the kitchen floor, on a tree branch, beneath park benches, precariously close to a body of water.
III. Oli is heavily involved in a local guerilla gardening movement. She sometimes describes herself as solarpunk
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