The Black Tail – Erostes’ Backstory

Erostes (no last name) is a sixteen-year old human orphan girl who slaves away as captive servant to the three warrior harpies, Aëllo, Calæno and Ocypete.  She only knows a life of restriction, destitution, and constant abuse within the fortified walls of their military outpost on a group of islands called Sirenum Scopuli [this forsaken place is the only piece of world she has ever seen in her life – she does not know what the world looks like outside].

Erostes spends her days cooking, washing, and cleaning; the harpies’ corrupting touch makes this no easy task. Her mistresses have long, sharp claws and talons (on human looking hands and feet). Erostes’ physiology makes her instrumental in mending their clothes, cleaning, repairing and sharpening all the weapons in their armory, bathing and outfitting her masters. When they are home, the harpies work Erostes to the bone and then amuse themselves in punishing her for seemingly falling short of expectations.

She is grossly underfed and bears permanent scars on her face and body.  Malnourished, strangers would often mistake her for a child, because she hasn’t developed in the same ways as an adult. Over time, Erostes has come to think of herself as subhuman and inferior. She threads on eggshells because anything could set off their violent tempers. She never disobeys, no matter how unreasonable their demands, or thinks of escape.  Life is like recurrent hell when the harpies are home. Erostes has instinctively learned to preserve her own life from day to day by keeping her head down and immersing herself in her duties.

One of Erostes’ dreaded duties takes place weekly. The harpies stand on the Rock of Oblivion and sing their siren song in order to lure passing ships. It is a trap: the ships always shipwreck on the rock, and the sailors (if alive) are taken prisoners to be sold in the slave trade. One or two handsome men almost always ends up harpy-meal in the Meadow of Bones.  Erostes has learned the siren song by heart by now, and never fails to shudder at the howls of men as they get eaten alive.

Erostes’ role in all of this is to swim and cull in any valuable items from the shipwreck before the cargo gets buried at the bottom of the Stygian (because harpies can’t fly once their wings get wet). She hates witnessing the sirens’ cruelty, but she fears them too much to do anything but watch in silence. When the harpies leave Sirenum Scopuli for their mysterious “missions”, Erostes sneaks into the dungeons to give the prisoners food and water.  When the prisoners tell her about the world beyond, it always sounds like a beautiful but increasingly hostile environment where more and more pockets of human existence have come under harpyrai dominance.  The harpyrai kingdom appears to be extend its influence and wealth on the backs of human slavery.

Busy surviving, Erostes does not ask about her heritage or tries to work out how she got here. The world around her is the only reality she knows. Her only concept of the future is whether or not she’ll make it through the day [because the harpies choose to let her live]. Lonely and deprived of a formal education, Erostes keeps herself entertained in resourceful ways. When she finds herself alone, she practices singing harpie songs she overhears, wields their heavy weapons, and familiarizes herself with the stolen artifacts from the human ships. One item which fascinates her is the mirror.

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