Tess the Exile
Widely considered one of the greatest warriors the world has ever known, the elven exile known as Tess came from a humble beginning as a drudge hauling rock in the massive quarries of the elven empire. In her spare time she made a name for herself as a bare-knuckle boxer in the taverns and back alleys of Drudgetown, and many claim that in her lifetime she was undefeated in the ring or out. Her skills drew the attention of a nobleman who thought it would be good sport to bed such a wild young thing, and when she expressed her disinterest he attempted to force the issue. His broken body was found in an alleyway the next morning, and bounty hunters were sent after the fleeing Tess.
She made her way south into the war-torn remains of the human nations. After her first few encounters with the hunters sent by the empire to retrieve her, word got around that the danger wasn’t worth the gold, and the empire struck her from the records rather than admitting that she had gotten the better of them. She quickly developed a reputation as an unbeatable fighter in the gambling-houses of Doloth, but this led to its own problems; there was no profit to be made when no one would bet against her, and so work dried up. She began to take jobs as an enforcer and a mercenary, one of which took her deep into orc-occupied Garrick. The rush she got from fighting the hulking, ferocious orcs was like no other, and when her contract expired she remained in their territory, despite the warnings of her companions.
Tess, however, earned the respect of the orcs with her strength at arms, and she lived among them for years, learning from their mightiest warriors to channel her rage to increase her strength and speed. Rumor is that she took the greatest of the barbarians as her lover, and that many lines of mighty half-orc warriors descend from the two of them. It was while she was living among the orcs that she was sought out by Uldar Lao, who was attempting to put an end to the threat posed by the renegade priestess Kaede Hiriko. Sensing that a new challenge was at hand, Tess departed from her orcish brethren and joined Uldar’s band.
The battle against Kaede and her twisted army of beasts pushed Tess’s abilities to their limits. In the end she was victorious, but suffered the loss of half of her party, and their deaths shook her. She returned to Doloth and took up work as a stone-hauler again, enjoying the simplicity of a menial life but missing the thrill of the bout. When a group of rich merchants began hiring mercenaries to seize back their land from the orcs, Tess enlisted again, eager to test her skills against her old allies again. However, the campaign proved horrifying. Without the leadership of Khan Qazri the once-proud orcish chieftains had been reduced to petty, bloodthirsty warlords. The war between the mercenaries and the orcs was more akin to butchery, with the humans using their superior organization and technology to slaughter any who were unable to flee fast enough. When one of her commanders ordered that a fleeing band of unarmed refugees be ridden down, she broke his neck, and found herself on the run once again. Disillusioned with human and orcish culture both, Tess went into hermitage on the southern coast of Garrick.
Tess vanished from history after that campaign until the rise of Kieyenna the Doomstaff. When Miro Zandobar attempted to recruit her to hunt down Kieyenna, Tess refused, preferring to remain in exile. However, despite her best efforts she still did care about the world outside just a bit, and beset by guilt she returned to civilization. When she heard tales of just how dangerous the Doomstaff was, she realized that she was fated to have one last fight. Tess lured Kieyenna to a deserted village on the frontier, and there the two of them battled for the better part of a day, laying waste to everything around them. While Tess was the superior fighter, Kieyenna had a nearly limitless well of power to draw upon from Cobb’s staff, and Tess felt herself tiring. In a desperate move, she channeled all of her fury into a two-fisted blow and broke the staff in two. The resulting release of magical energy utterly annihilated Tess, but with her final burst of energy she had destroyed one of the most powerful artifacts known to man. Even Kieyenna herself would later admit that she still considered Tess to be undefeated.
Tess the Exile was the second incarnation of Feng Vola.